Monday, 18 November 2019

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Karen ceasefire group apparently defies junta orders

Mizzima News – The Karen National Union/Karen National Liberation Army (KNU/KNLA) Peace Council, an armed ethnic ceasefire group, has apparently defied the Burmese junta’s order to transform into a state militia, saying the junta has not fulfilled its ceasefire agreements.

In a letter to Burmese Chief of Military Intelligence Lieutenant General Ye Myint, Chairman of the KNU/KNLA Peace Council, General Htay Maung, rejected the offer, stipulating that his group would not transform into a “Burma Army Militia Group”.

General Htay Maung’s letter, the authenticity of which could not be verified with KNU/KNLA Peace Council sources at the time of writing, is in response to Lieutenant General Ye Myint’s proposal to the KNU/KNLA Peace Council extended on April 7th at Moulmein in southern Burma.

According to the letter, Lieutenant General Ye Myint held a meeting with representatives of the KNU/KNLA Peace Council on April 7th at which he proposed that the group transform itself, setting a deadline of April 22nd to respond to the proposal.

The KNU/KNLA Peace Council was formerly part of the Karen National Union’s (KNU) 7th Brigade, fighting against successive central Burmese governments for over 60 years.

However, the KNU/KNLA Peace Council broke away from the KNU in February 2007, signing a separate peace deal with the junta.

Htay Maung, in the missive, said his group opposes any kind of military program and that his group would like to maintain peace and stability within Karen State, accusing the junta of breaking their peace agreement by continuing to increase military activities.

“Part of the conditions stated in our peace agreement with you is not to increase military activity or power on either side… but in three years since achieving peace, we have not seen evidence of any benefit on your part towards our Karen people except building houses and roads to enable us to live where we are,” Htay Maung is credited with writing in the correspondence.

During the meeting in Moulmein the Burmese Army threatened the KNU/KNLA Peace Council that it would be declared an ‘illegal’ outfit if the group failed to positively respond by the deadline of April 22nd.

Ye Myint also reportedly cautioned the group not to expand its army and not to maintain contact with any other ethnic group.

Htay Maung, in his replay, said, “I would like to clarify to you that no matter what name you come up with, we will not agree or respond to any kind of military program which disturbs the peace and security of the lives of our Karen.”

He said Karen people are feeling threatened and insecure with all the junta’s ongoing military programs, forcing many to join the KNU/KNLA Peace Council Peace Force for their own defense.

“If it appears that we are increasing our forces it is due to your own military programs, not ours,” allegedly argues Htay Maung.
With regard to the junta’s demand not to meet and talk with the KNU, Htay Maung responded, “We Karen, all of us, are one family. Unity within the Karen is a top priority under the KNU umbrella. Unity among ourselves will only enhance the unity desired for the whole nation. The KNU/KNLA Peace Council holds no enemies.”

The Burmese junta earlier pressured the KNU/KNLA Peace Council to transform into a Border Guard Force under the administration of the Burma Army. But the group also refused that offer.

The KNU, representing the ethnic Karen’s struggle for political autonomy, is the oldest rebel group in Burma. But the group suffered a heavy blow in 1994 when a fraction – the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) – broke away and entered into a peace agreement with the Burmese junta.

The junta has in recent months pressured ethnic ceasefire groups to transform into a Border Guard Force to be administered by the Burma Army, encouraging the groups to join in its planned elections for later this year.

While a few groups, including the DKBA, have consented to the junta’s proposal, major ceasefire groups including the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and United Wa State Army (UWSA) have steadfastly rejected the proposal.

Htay Maung, in the letter, told Ye Myint that Burma today does not need any more military programs and that it is in critical need of peace and development, urging the junta to make the upcoming election inclusive.

“If by our refusal to bow to your military programs you then call us ‘illegal’, and by doing so declare war, you are no longer just faced with a one-party issue but with all the ethnic groups from every corner of Burma,” cautioned Htay Aung.

“Mark my words. The whole world will know who has destroyed the peace and stability of the nation,” he emphasized. “It is your call.”


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