KNU Divided Over Peace Treaty
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Monday, December 11, 2023

KNU Divided Over Peace Treaty

By SAW YAN NAING / THE IRRAWADDY Thursday, February 9, 2012

KNU soldiers stand guard with their assault weapons at Oo Kray Kee village in Karen State near the Thai-Burma border in January. (PHOTO: Getty Images)

Disagreement within the Karen rebel leadership over its recent signing of a truce with a Burmese government peace delegation has led to confusion.

Nineteen members of the Karen National Union, led by its military chief Gen. Mutu Say Poe, signed on Jan. 12 a ceasefire agreement with Burmese government peace delegation in Karen capital, Pa-an, without the consensus of other top KNU officials.

Brig-Gen Saw Johnny, the commander of Brigade 7 of the KNU's military wing, Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), was involved in the negotiations in Pa-an. He told The Irrawaddy that the KNU delegation signed an 11-point agreement, including an immediate ceasefire, with the Burmese government delegation.

He said that the KNU delegation signed the agreement to end hostilities between the Burmese army and the KNLA.

“How can we proceed with peace talks if we don’t stop fighting each other,” Johnny said. “Now the government officials are able to travel freely to our areas and visit us. They also ordered their troops not to attack our units.

“But this is just the first step of many,” he added. “We don’t know for how many months or years we will have to continue this process of peace talks.”

However, hardline KNU leaders are believed to be unhappy with the agreement, complaining that it is too early to trust the new government, and that the Burmese army have not withdrawn their battalions from Karen areas. They, however, agreed to hold further talk with the Burmese peace delegation perhaps in Naypyidaw in late February.

Sources close to the KNU leadership say that the hardliners include Vice-president David Takapaw and General-secretary Zipporah Sein who insist the Burmese army withdraw all its troops from Karen State before calling a ceasefire.

Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Tuesday, Zipporah Sein denied that a ceasefire agreement was signed in Pa-an. However, she said that an “agreement to hold further ceasefire talks” was signed.

The KNU's president, Tamla Baw, Vice-chairman David Takapaw, General-secretary Zipporah Sein, and Joint General-secretary 1 Saw Hla Ngwe are believed to be the main hardline faction that rejects the ceasefire.

According to sources close to the KNU, the KNU representatives who attended the peace talks in Pa-an included Saw David Taw, Gen. Mutu Say Poe, Saw Ah Toe, Saw Roger Khin, and Brig-Gen Johnny.

One source said that these were the “pragmatic faction” of the KNU, and that they wanted to “test the water.”

However, other Karen sources said that this faction appears more interested in development and business opportunities in Karen State.

Sources said some Karen communities are worried that the ceasefire will only benefit the government, politically and economically.

Various sources from within the Karen community say they believe the KNU delegation signed an agreement which was conducive to their own interests but not to those of the KNU or of the Karen people.

But the KNU peace delegation maintains that they are motivated by a series of political reforms in Burma, and that they take encouragement from the recognition of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the release of political prisoners, and the government's concessions on media and Burmese dissidents.

Saw David Taw, a Pa-an signatory, on behalf of the peace delegation, noted that the KNU's previous ceasefire in 2004 had been a verbal agreement. He said he believed the Jan. 12 agreement was evidence of steps toward a “real peace.”

His colleague, Brig-Gen Johnny, said that the Burmese government needed to prove their political commitment to the world.

“I think the government is in a real political crisis,” he said. “It seems like they really need to enact reforms.”

Since the Jan. 12 agreement, government troops have been given access by the KNU to receive supplies and rations in Karen State. In the past, Karen guerrillas had been largely successful in cutting government army supply lines.

However, some grassroots organizations close to the KNU say they are worried the Burmese army will launch a series of severe attacks to wipe out KNLA bases once they stock up on rations, supplies and manpower.

Brig-Gen Johnny maintained that it was very difficult to persuade the government to withdraw all its troops from the region, and said that the KNU and Naypyidaw were embarking on a journey of building bilateral trust.

“We have been fighting each other for more than 60 years, so we cannot resolve all the issues in just one or two days,” he said.

“We need more time to build trust. If the government break their word, the ceasefire can be broken at any time,” he added.

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Hser Wrote:
In late 1988 after 8.8.88 event, thousands of dissendents including students ran and join the opposition.

KNU leaders accepted them. Then it was done without the consense of Karen people under KNU.

In December 1990, NCGUB was formed in the hall of KNU convention in Mae Ner Plaw.

No people was informed by KNU that these people then MPs ould be allowed to form shadow government.

Nobody is informed the formation of UNFC in Feb, 2011.

But in case of this truce process, Why the CSOs/CBOs are given too much authority in this ceasefire process?

It would be very interesting to learn about the current CSOs/CBOs are divided in this truce process.

I would like to request the author to find and provide this information-- which orgs is with hardliners and which orgs are with 'pragmatic'.

tapu Wrote:
It is obvious that something is not clear in the mind of the government for not withdrawing their troops after the ceasefire agreement, but rather taking the opportunity to get more supplies and rations which psychologically conflicts the peace talk they offer.

A.M.O Wrote:
KNU to kindly note as:

Aung Thaung is a well known thief (ref: Min of Ind-1) who is well blessed by his boss Sr Gen Than Shwe, who is a well known thug(ref: Colin Powell on Depayin massacre), Hm !

How could thieves & thugs understand hearts & minds of our nationalities !

They will only use the tool - Divide & Rule !

A.M.O Wrote:
KNU to kindly note as:

Aung Thaung is a well known thief (ref: Min of Ind-1) who is well blessed by his boss Sr Gen Than Shwe, who is a well known thug(ref: Colin Powell on Depayin massacre), Hm !

How could thieves & thugs understand hearts & minds of our nationalities !

They will only use the tool - Divide & Rule !

kawkasa Wrote:
All strategy were planned by the military. They released politicians some died from the wound they received from torturing. Where is the justice, Burmese military had planned to deceive the world. People who believed the government change, most of them are either NGO workers or married to foreigners or their work affiliated with NGO. KNU leader must be very stupid if they ceasefire and let Burmese soldiers go everywhere they want in Karen controlled area. All I can say it Burma must have more people like Ko Zakana, Dr Cynthia.

Saw Jungle Man Wrote:
Please don't struggle only just to write a news per-day to satisfy the Editor(s). There are so many issues that you don't really understand what was concepts and what was consequences affected on to your people right now SAW??? YmN(???).

Day Mu Wrote:
Author Yan Naing,

Did you talked to these people that you said are hardliner? You better checked with them and interview them first before publishing to make sure you source are accurate. So far those who you said harderline does not againt ceasefire but in the right procedure and with support from wider Karen people. If you do not find out more, you article is misleading and inaccurate. Zipporah is never hard liner and insteand she is very democratic leader, listen to the people and able to work with everyone. In the future make sure you talk to all side before publishing misleading information.

Thein Shwe Wrote:
I don’t believe that Davd Tharkapaw, Zipporah , Hla Ngwe and other leaders of the KNU are hard-line leaders as the writer mentions in his article. It is very important to make a meaningful ceasefire agreement in order to achieve genuine, long-lasting peace. People must realize that 63 years of fighting between the government forces and the Karen cannot be stopped with simply a paragraph of writing. The agreement should include rules and regulations for both sides. The KNU leaders would like to make a concrete agreement for peace and realize that the ceasefire is not a long-lasting solution. The Karen, the KNU, and the Burmese government desire peace, but peace must be obtained through the laws of justice. The rule of law is crucial at every level of political, social, economic and military administration. The KNU is a collective body of leadership. If the KNU is divided on the ceasefire agreement it is not because of hard-line leadership, but rather their commitment to principle and policy.

A.M.O Wrote:
Well, you guys (Karens) don't get fooled by thugs & thieves;

these guys (Than Shwe, Aung Thaung) are playing the game of "Divide & Rule" on you, beware !

saeddi Wrote:
It's the best not to truth the government. They do nothing without their profit.They don't keep their promise. Look back the history you know the government kill its own people.

ZWK Wrote:
If all the top leaders of the KNU, including the President, Vice -President, the General Secretary and the Joint General Secretary-1, are against the agreement with the Government, how was it possible for the KNU peace delegation to sign it in the first place?

Irrawaddy should provide its readers with more credible and responsible news coverage instead of relying on unconfirmed “sources”.

kerry Wrote:
Maybe take baby steps to start to open a little, build trust in the possibility of change a little, after such a long war: be sure it is observed very carefully by the international community.

The problem is that the military still run the country, albeit in new clothes- which no-one wants.

greh moo Wrote:
Wake up people, especially the media like Irrawaddy. KNU has made it clear from the very beginning that it hasn't signed any ceasefire agreement except an agreement to hold further talks. Ever since the talk was held, most major media outlets have been giving out a bunch of conflicting signals that further complicates the matter. The Irrawaddy has been around for quite a while so it should be a mature and reliable source of public education. Instead it hasn't improved much in terms of giving credible information to serve the general public.

Hein Wrote:
Yeah, there won’t be any peace in Kayin State if it’s true that the Kayin leadership is demanding the withdrawal of all government troops as part of peace agreement. I just don’t see the government agreeing to such a demand. The only reason they would even make such a demand is if their goal was independence/secession from Burma.

That would be really disappointing. Hopefully, majority of the KNU/KNLA don’t feel this way or I don’t see peace for them in the near future.

Also, I wonder who these “Karen sources” that Irrawaddy interviewed are. I highly doubt any sane Kayin civilians would be against truce/peace in their home state. Who would want to live in refugee camps forever? I bet these people calling for continued conflict are the folks living comfortably in countries like US or Australia.

lersay Wrote:
Karen all over the world let us be caution and support each other for the benefit of the Karen people. We cannot afford to fall and divide again. We should have all known the tactic of Burmese military to toward our Karen people. Don't rush; the opportunity is in our hand. The international community is also watching them closely.

Ko Soe Wrote:
As an ordinary citizen of Burma,I totally agree with the so-called "hard line" leadership within KNU that it is too early to trust the military government knowing how much the government has deceived the people and failed to deliver on its many promises including not transferring power to the people after the 1990 election and another one involving vicious attacks on the Kachin people. Even though, I am not a member of one of the tribes who have experienced first hand torture and abuses, I will not rush to trust the government.

Kane Wrote:
"Sources close to the KNU leadership say that the hardliners include Vice-president David Takapaw and General-secretary Zipporah Sein who insist the Burmese army withdraw all its troops from Karen State before calling a ceasefire. "
Use your brain plz don't assume government is so stupid like your ideas..

Don’t be so ridiculous. Go arrange the reasonable offers. The whole world knows KNLA is dying. I am not a government side. But just to be realistic. Really need to bring cease fire and peace. End up Karen will be the one suffer. Unless you don’t have brain they say out this offer.

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