The Irrawaddy News Magazine [Covering Burma and Southeast Asia]

Informal Talks Yield No Ceasefire With Karen Rebels
Friday, November 25, 2011


KNU General Secretary Zipporah Sein
The Karen National Union (KNU) recently formed the “Committee for the Emergence of Peace” with the aim of holding peace talks with the Burmese government. On Nov. 19, soon after the committee was formed, three of its representatives held talks in northern Thailand with a Burmese government delegation led by Minister Aung Min.

Saw Yan Naing, a senior reporter for The Irrawaddy, interviewed KNU General Secretary Zipporah Sein after the meeting.  

Question: What was the result of the meeting between members of the KNU’s Committee for the Emergence of Peace and the Burmese government delegation?

Answer: We do not have any results yet, because we haven't had substantial talks yet. It was only an informal meeting and discussion. We haven't reached any agreement yet.

Q: Why were all seven members of the Committee for the Emergence of Peace not involved in the meeting with the delegation led by Aung Min? Are there disagreements within the KNU leadership regarding the peace talks?

A: It was not necessary for all seven members to get involved in this meeting. It is the beginning. So the Committee members elected to send only three representatives to participate in the meeting. These negotiations are complicated, so of course there are differences of opinion regarding strategies. However, we have come to an agreement within our leadership and we are ready to go forward with talks.

Q: Witnesses to the meeting said the KNU representatives didn’t signed any ceasefire agreement in the meeting, but agreed in principal to a ceasefire with the government. Is this true?

A: Actually, that is not true. The meeting was informal and there was only informal talk. Nothing came out about any agreement yet. The agreement can only happen after we have more substantial talks.

Q: There is speculation that some KNU hardliners and some pro-KNU persons were not happy about the recent peace talks, which were led by KNU Central Committee member Saw David Taw. Is that true?

A: Everybody made the decision to establish a Committee for the Emergence of Peace together at the recent meeting of the KNU Central Standing Committee and everyone is satisfied with the outcome of the meeting to start negotiations for peace talks or ceasefire talks. David Taw and the team were appointed to go to this informal meeting with the representative of the government of Thein Sien by the Committee for Emergence for Peace. The KNU already has a clear policy regarding negotiations to resolve political problems and opening the door to talks. The KNU has always been willing to participate in solving political problems in Burma to bring peace and equal rights for all.

Q: Harn Yawnghwe, the executive director of the Brussels-based Euro-Burma
Office who also is one of Burma’s most prominent exiles, was also present at
the recent talks. What was his role?

A: I think he is the advisor of the Ethnic Nationalities Council. He is willing to recognize equal rights for all ethnic nationalities for Burma.

Q: Burma’s President Thein Sein told Burmese journalists in Bali this month
that it is hard to meet with all ethnic armed groups together at the same time because they have different demands. What is your response to that?

A: We ethnic people all need equal rights and equal participation. This is our common goal, so that is why we encourage Thein Sein’s government to meet with all the ethnic groups together.

Q: Is it necessary that Aung San Suu Kyi get involved in the government’s
peace process with the ethnic armed groups?

A: I think it is good for her to get involved as she is one of the dialogue partners and we all agree that tripartite dialogue which is all inclusive is the best way for all of us, so it is important that Aung San Suu Kyi participates in this process.

Q: What is the KNU’s current position on peace talks with the government? What
kind of peace talks do the KNU want?

A: The KNU is committed to a genuine ceasefire, but to succeed we have to proceed with caution and we want to be recognized as equal partners in this dialogue and end up with a political agreement and settlement that will bring genuine peace and stability to Burma.

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