The Karen National Union’s vice-chairperson, Padoh Naw Zipporah Sein, concludes a three part exclusive interview with Karen News.
Naw Zipporah Sein stressed that a nationwide ceasefire is not possible while there is still ongoing conflict and displacement in ethnic states.
“How can we sign a nationwide ceasefire agreement while fighting is still going on in the Kachin and northern Shan States. Refugees and IDPs are still fleeing for their lives daily in those areas. There are skirmishes in the KNU areas because there is no code-of-conduct for the troops to follow.”
Naw Zipporah Sein said it critical that all of Burma’s ethnic people represented in any national ceasefire discussions.
“The situation is not yet conducive for a nationwide ceasefire agreement. Even if we do it now, all ethnic nationalities cannot participate due to ongoing fighting in their areas. It is important that all ethnic nationalities can participate if we want to make it truly ‘nationwide.’”
Naw Zipporah Sein said a nationwide ceasefire is doomed to fail unless all ethnic people are treated with political respect.
“It only makes sense that once we do (sign a nationwide ceasefire), we do it with all ethnic nationalities and all at once. Only then, it will be credible and durable, both for all ethnic nationalities and for the whole country. If only some ethnic groups sign, there is no guarantee for peace or for a nationwide ceasefire.”
Naw Zipporah Sein pointed out the potential for diverseness and if the government is serious about peace for the whole country it has to do more.
“It is an extremely dangerous scenario that only the KNU and a few other groups sign the “nationwide” ceasefire agreement with the government while fighting goes on in Kachin State and elsewhere. Why? Because this is a “divide and rule” tactic by the government that could create misunderstanding among ethnic nationalities.”
Naw Zipporah Sein said that the ethnic organisations have also to be careful and to not only look out for its own self-interest.
“The ethnic nationalities should consider this carefully, evaluate the situation on the ground, and make sure that all ethnic nationalities in the country benefit. Once we sign a nationwide ceasefire agreement, there should not be fighting in any part of the country.”
Naw Zipporah Sein reiterated that the KNU’s are dedicated to the peace process.
“We are very serious about both a nationwide ceasefire and the whole peace process. We commit ourselves to this work, and we cannot do this lightly. Nor should we rush through the process just because somebody gives us a timeline. Our eventual goal is peace in the whole country.”
Naw Zipporah Sein said that for peace to work every step of the process has to be concrete and complete before moving to the next stage.
“We want to make sure the preliminary ceasefire that we have achieved so far is durable, and we are prepared to seriously go step-by-step so that every step we take can help build people’s trust in the process. We want to make sure that ordinary people can reap the benefits and see the dividends of a ceasefire.”
Naw Zipporah Sein warned that if the steps are not followed correctly it will lead to trouble.
“If we sign the nationwide ceasefire agreement without making sure we follow through what we agreed upon in previous agreements at the state level and union level, it looks as though we don’t take our own agreement seriously and we did it all in vain. We must evaluate this thoroughly and carefully consider what we have to do to move forward.”
Naw Zipporah Sein said the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) has reviewed its options on a nationwide ceasefire and agreed on 8-point preconditions before we can consider signing it.
“One important point is the repositioning of the government’s troops in KNU-controlled areas. This should be discussed and done before a nationwide ceasefire is considered.
Naw Zipporah Sein pointed out that the evidence points highlights that the government is not ready for a nationwide ceasefire.
“As I have said before, regardless of whatever timeframe the Burmese side has given us, I don’t think they [government] are ready for a nationwide ceasefire because General Min Aung Hlaing reportedly admitted that they have not yet completed drafting their version of code-of-conduct. That is a very critical point to consider.”
Naw Zipporah Sein concludes her interview with Karen News by calling on the government to complete what was agreed to in the ceasefire talks.
“If we review the whole situation – steps we have taken so far – we will see that we have not yet followed through our agreements completely. To me, I wonder what it means for the KNU and other ethnic nationalities to sign another ceasefire agreement while the government side is yet to begin doing what they have agreed to do in previous agreements.”