President U Thein Sein invitated a Karen National Union delegation to Naypyidaw to meet with key government ministers, including the vice president Sai Mauk Kham and the military chief, Vice-Senior General Min Aung Hlaing. The KNU delegation led by General Mutu Say Poe, the KNU chairman, met for two days, from the 5th to the of 6th January, with President Thein Sein and selected ministers in the country’s capital, Naypyidaw. The KNU delegation later met with community groups based in Rangoon.
In exclusive interviews with Karen News, Padoh Mahn Mahn, joint secretary of the KNU and a member of the KNU delegation discussed ceasefires, Kachin fighting and the on-going political talks.
“We made this trip because we were invited by the President. We met with the President, Vice President and the Chief-of-Defense. Before we went, we had an agenda to talk about the ceasefire agreement between the KNU and the government, to discuss stopping the fighting in Kachin State and to keep the peace process going,” Padoh Mahn Mahn said.
“We talk through these issues with the President and the Chief-of-Defense. The President made the point that the political process will have to go according to what the State has laid out, we could draw the conclusion from what he [President U Thein Sein] said that all political issues have to be resolved in the parliament. However, we made the point that the process should not only be restricted to inside the parliament – there should also be space for debate outside parliament. It was clear that the government has a different approach to us [KNU] in terms of finding political solutions.
Padoh Mahn Mahn said the KNU delegation discussed the fighting in Kachin State with the country’s top lawmakers.
“This is not the first time that the government appears to divide and rule. There are several similar examples from the past. But from our side, it is important to turn it around and we need to try to bring everyone together. Within our organization, we had thought much about going or not going [to meet with the president]. We thought about what would be the impact of the KNU showing up while the fighting in Kachin State has intensified. Finally, we decided that at least we would have opportunity to talk about situation in Kachin State with the government and at the same time discuss the ongoing peace process – that drove our decision to go. We did raise the issues with the President and the Chief of Defense.”
In an early interview Padoh Mahn Mahn told Karen News that the KNU delegation discussed with General Min Aung Hlaing the current conflict in Kachin State and made it clear to army chief that the KNU will move to political dialogue only after the fighting in Kachin State stops. Padoh Mahn Mahn said that it is important that the peace dialogue continues.
“We acknowledge that there are several steps needed to be taken before all the problems are solved. We need to have patience. If not, the problems won’t be solved. If we can settle the ceasefire, then we will need to move to the next step –political discussion. If the political discussion doesn’t result in a political settlement, we all know that a ceasefire will not last forever.
Padoh Mahn Mahn said the KNU’s discussions with the Karen community groups in Rangoon were a necessary part of being open and transparent during the peace-process.
“When we met with the Karen community groups, we talked about the meeting with the President. We had a discussion based on questions they raised. Particularly, the community people worry about the Illegal Organization Act 17/1. They want this law to be deleted. It makes them worry of the risk to them when interacting with us [KNU] – this was the main issue we discussed with them.”