Burma’s ruling party is sending its members to Karen non-ceasefire areas in the southern part of the country bearing peace offers. The most recent case involved a member of parliament from the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party, Saw Ha Bee, an ethnic Karen, who held a meeting with local officials, religious leaders and community leaders in Pa Wat Hta village, east of Mergui to sell the government’s peace deal.
Saw Ha Bee pointed out to the villagers that any Karen armed group in Tenasserim Division can contact the government for peace negotiation.
“The government invites the Karen arm groups to abandon their fighting.”
Saw Ha Bee told village leaders that many ethnic arm groups had contacted the government to take up the peace offer.
Contrary to what the MP told the community leaders fighting between the government army and Karen fighters is tense. In recent months the Burma Army has seen its Border Guard Force torn apart by desertions and the reforming of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army. More worrying for the government is the fighting alliance between the Karen groups.
Local community groups say the governments urgency to send an ethnic MP to push for peace in the area is likely to be motivated by the KNU’s recent blockage of the highways needed to link massive $60billion Dawei development project to Thailand.
Saw Ser Her, a local community leader, said that in his address to the community leaders, the USDP MP, Saw Ha Bee, told villagers about the benefits of the government’s proposed development program and urged villagers to help build bridges, roads and monasteries.
The USDP’s Saw Ha Bee, traveled extensively in the region advocating for Karen villages to accept the government’s ‘peace offer’.
Saw Ser Her said the government’s Saw Ha Bee met with 150 village leaders and religious leaders from 12 villages.
Karen National Union officials said the MP’s ‘peace offer’ should be treated with caution.
Saw Beller, chairman of the Tenawthari township in KNU Mergui-Tavoy District, told Karen News that local KNU officers only heard about the government’s ‘peace talks’ after they were contacted by village elders.
Saw Beller said.
“The government’s aim is to persuade the local KNU to enter peace talks and abandon their armed struggle. The so-called “peace talks” are a trick. It’s the same old divisive tactic they used before. They will try to persuade the local KNU to abandon their arms and make peace with the government separately, or they will try to split the KNU into different self-interest groups.”
The current KNU policy is that only the central KNU can officially meet the government representatives for peace talks, and the KNU has officially stated that they will only discuss political negotiation with the Burma government through the ethnic alliance that was recently formed – the United Nationalities Federal Council
Three former ceasefire groups – the Kachin Independence Organization, New Mon State Party and Shan State Army North plus three non-ceasefire groups – the KNU, Karenni National Progressive Party and Chin National Front, formed the UNFC. Other ethnic political organizations affiliated with the UNFC include the Pa-oh National Liberation Organization, the Palaung State Liberation Front, Arakan National Council, Lahu Democratic Union, Wa National Organisation, and the Kachin National Organization.
According to international observers on Burma the recent alliance of non-ceasefire and ceasefire ethnic groups gives them more political bargaining power and military clout. Professor Desmond Ball of the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre at the Australian National University in Canberra has been reported in The Bangkok Post as saying that it is in the self-interest of all of the ethnic groups in Burma to join forces to fight the regime.
Mr Ball says the military regime is expert at finding and manipulating divisions in the ethnic resistance movement.
“They find a crack, whether it’s religion, political or just greed and they massage it until there’s a split. It is a tactic that has worked on all the ethnic groups. For every non ceasefire group there’s at least one ceasefire group.”
Professor Ball says over the last two decades the ethnic armed groups have been their own worse enemies and says that on the rare number of times the ethnic groups have worked together it has been a military success.
Burma government has formed “Peace Committee” in which aim to mediate between the Burmese government and the ethnic armed groups, some of which are engaged in armed conflict with the Burmese military.
The government formed a “Peace Committee” at the end of August after Burma’s pro-democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi made an appeal to President Thein Sein on July 28 for political talks and an urgent ceasefire between major ethnic groups and the Burma Army.
The ethnic groups have voiced their support for Aung San Suu Kyi peace talks in the media, but insist the ethnic alliance – UNFC – is their nominated official channel for discussions. Ethnic leaders have been reported as saying, the government’s ‘peacetalk’ attempts at a regional level is a tactic designed to cause misunderstandings and to split the groups bargaining power and should be ignored until the government gets serious about ‘real political dialogue’.