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KNU-Gov’t sign cease-fire agreement

(Mizzima) – The Karen National Union (KNU) and Burmese government peace delegations signed a cease-fire agreement in Hpaan on Thursday, officially ending the country’s longest-running civil war.
Burmese government and KNU peace delegation members at the Zwekabin Hotel in Hpaan, Karen State, on Wednesday, January 11, 2011. Photo: Mizzima“All government ministers of the peace delegation said that they agreed to accept all of the KNU’s demands in principle,” a reporter told Mizzima.  

According to a report by Agence France Press, government Immigration Minister Khin Yi told reporters: "The president has said we are brothers who have been angry at each other for 63 years, and he asked us to give the KNU what they want. That's why we came here.”

A leader of the government’s peace delegation, who has concluded several other cease-fires recently, Minister Aung Min said the KNU peace delegation would be taken to Pegu to meet with the region’s chief minister and then to Naypyitaw, the capital.

While some details in the agreement were hammered out in three previous meetings, other details were left to further discussions at the “central level,” according to delegates. The Karen civil war, which has gone on for more than six decades, has been one of the bitterest rebellions in the country’s history, causing generations of Karen to flee to the jungle in fear of the lives. More than 100,000 Karen now live in refugee camps on the Thai-Burmese border, and tens of thousands have moved to third countries through the help of international resettlement programs.

According to the mutual agreement, both sides will cease fighting; the KNU will open liaison offices in designated cities; there will be closer communication designed to prevent armed clashes, and both sides will work together in coordinating how government funds and programs will be established in the state.

Observers said that while many delegates said there was a new atmosphere between the negotiators, others said the cease-fire would depend on how future events unfold.

KNU delegation member Brigadier General Johnny told AFP ahead of the talks, “This time they didn't ask us to give up our arms, and they just want to work for equal rights for ethnic groups. This time we trust them.”

But he added: “We have been fighting for 60 years and one meeting alone will not end it.” The KNU has signed six cease-fire agreements in the past with the government, all of which have been broken.
“Security Ministers also attended the meeting,” a reporter told Mizzima. The authorities said it was an effort to build further trust, he said. KNU delegates will go to Mawlamyaing, the capital of Mon State, to meet with the Mon State chief minister at a dinner party this evening, he said.

One of results of a cease-fire agreement could be an easing of tension in an area controlled by the KNU bordering on the Dawei deep-sea port special industrial zone project in southern Burma. The KNU has blocked construction on a road in the area that would link the mega-project to Thailand, which will receive oil and gas from the project, which is estimated to cost $50 billion when it is completed. The project will link the Andaman Sea to Southeast Asia, greatly reducing the cost of energy shipments.

The cease-fire agreement may also reduces some of the pressure on meeting the humanitarian needs of Karen refugees, which has been a point of concern by international governments who want to be given unfettered access to the area.

A cease-fire agreement has already been reached with the Shan State Army (South) in eastern Burma, but peace talks with the Kachin Independence Army have proven to be one of the most difficult, despite an order last month by President Thein Sein for the military to end all offensive operations.
Last Updated ( Thursday, 12 January 2012 18:16 )  

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