It’s Official! KNU kicks off New Year with ceasefire talks with Burma government

Representatives from both sides during the first meeting (photo-KNU)

The Karen National Union confirmed to Karen News that it will officially meet with the Burma government to progress ceasefire talks on 12th January 2012 in Pa-an Town, Karen State.

Padoh Saw David Taw, the secretary of the KNU Peace Committee told Karen News and said that the New Year meeting was confirmed during an informal preliminary meeting held yesterday morning between 9 and 11am in Mae Sot on the Thai border.

“What we mainly discussed during this meeting was about the arrangements for the meeting in Pa-an Town. We have to confirm the [meeting] place so the government can arrange for transportation. The meeting at Pa-an will be official. The meeting [in Mae Sot] was informal.”

The meeting may have been informal but it involved senior officials from both sides including, U Aung Ming, the government minister for railways who led the government delegation and leading the KNU seven-delegate team was Padoh Saw David Thakapaw, the chairman of the KNU peace committee.

The Mae Sot meeting was the third time KNU and government representatives have met. KNU sources said both sides have become more positive about the talks and the meetings have forged a closer working relationship.

Saw David Thakapaw, chairman of the KNU peace committee, said that the New Year meeting would mainly focus on discussions about a ceasefire. From that starting point, a step-by-step process will be discussed to try to bring about a real peace process.

“We will talk about a ceasefire at the Pa-an meeting, but we can’t do it imprudently. We have to be systematic and disciplined. We have to go from a ceasefire to genuine political dialogue. What we want is lasting peace, so we have to do it step-by -step with carefully worked out principles.”

Padoh Saw David Thakapaw explained that the KNU have not yet appointed their delegates, but since the next meeting in Pa-an meeting will be focused mainly on ceasefire issues, it is likely that the KNU delegation will include Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) officers.

“We haven’t announced our representatives, but there will be more delegates from the army [KNLA]. We will have to get representatives from our army based in Northern and Southern part of Karen State.”

According to sources close to both sets of delegations attending the Mae Sot meeting, the Burma government will transport the KNU delegation on either January 10th or 11th through the Burma border town of Myawaddy – opposite Thailand’s Mae Sot.

The KNU struggle against Burma’s military rule began in January 31, 1949 – almost 63-years-ago and this is the first that they have formed a peace committee.

The KNU Peace Committee includes – vice-chairman Padoh Saw David Thakabaw as chairperson, KNLA’s G.O.C General Mu Tu Sae Poe as vice chairperson, Padoh Saw David Taw as secretary, KNU general secretary, Naw Zipporah Sein, Head of KNU Health and Welfare, Major Roger Khin, KNU Forestry Minister, Padoh Saw Ah Toe –and KNU Chairman of Pa-an District Padoh Saw Aung Maw Aye as members.

Similarly, Burma’s recently elected government reformed their central level ‘peace negotiation group’ on December 9th 2011, in order to hold ‘peace talks’ between the government and the various ethnic armed groups.

The government’s ‘peace talk’ delegation includes: Railway Minister – U Aung Min, Industrial Minister – U Soe Thein, Cooperatives Minister U Ohn Myint, Immigration Minister – U Khin Yi, Environment and Forestry Minister – U Win Tun, Energy Minister – U Than Htay, Border Affair Department Deputy Minister – Major General Zaw Win, U Khin Maung Soe from No. 2 Electricity Department and Colonel Kyaw Soe from Office of Defense Minister.

The first meeting of Burma government representatives and KNU officials was held on September 10th in Mae Sot and the second meeting on November 19th and 20th in Thailand’s Chiang Mai province.

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