Major General Nerdah Bo Mya, head of the Karen National Defence Organisation in an exclusive interview with Karen News said that moves to sign a nationwide Ceasefire Agreement is worthless unless all ethnic armed groups are included.
General Nerdah stressed that peace must be based on equality and justice and that a nationwide ceasefire is worthless unless there is a comprehensive political plan in place that goes beyond development.
“These peace talks have no political roadmap. At the moment the ‘peace’ on offer is peace to allow development projects that will ‘steal’ our natural resources. That is not a political solution for ethnic people – we need schools, hospitals and a say in how our resources are used.”
General Nerdah explained that he is concerned that the government still regards the KNU as an illegal organization and sees it as a deliberate ‘political tactic’.
“They keep us illegal. They are talking down to us, this in not equality, this is not equality when they still call us illegal.”
General Nerdah, laughs and said Karen people should compare how the government speaks to international leaders such as those from japan, the US and the UK.
“If there is respect they would recognize our leaders by their rank, instead they talk down to us and patronize us by referring to our leaders as ‘grandfather’’ never as the KNU president. They don’t call President Obama or David Cameron ‘brother’ – why?”
General Nerdah pointed out to Karen News that by speaking out he has been labeled a ‘trouble-maker by the government.
“When we ask for a genuine Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement and to stop fighting ethnic people in the north, they start to attack us in the state owned media. They label us as hardliners. They’re trying to paint us as ‘trouble makers’, turning us into the bad-guys. Their policy is to crush all the ethnic people one-by-one. “
General Nerdah warned international governments and international non-government organisations to put aside their self-interest and to carefully examine what is happening in Burma.
“The international community must not understand. In the current political situation investment and development in Burma means human rights violations. The US, EU, ASEAN and Japan might not be directly involved [in these violations], but by supporting the regime they are.”
General Nerdah warns that the government’s priority is military or political control over the country.
The military backed government are still living in the past, but talking about the future. What ethnic people want is for them to start talking about the present, the here and now and to stop damaging the country while promising us a better future.”
General Nerdah admits that ‘talking’ is necessary, but for the talks to be genuine and to benefit all the people of Burma the government has to accept the aspirations of the ethnic nationalities.
“The ethnic people have the same vision, the same goal, get rid of the military backed government, stamp-out corruption – its bad for all of Burma’s 60 million citizens. We are ready to have talks but they must be equal. We must be legal and the attacks on ethnic people have to stop. We resist this master and slave mentality.”
General Nerdah reiterated his call for a nationwide ceasefire agreement to be based on a political plan.
“We need to have a nationwide ceasefire that includes all ethnic ceasefire groups. The ‘redline’ should be that all our ethnic groups are included. A political roadmap means that we work through political solutions to political problems not business or development.”
General Nerdah continued to point out to Karen News that the country’s problems are political, not business and not development.
“We don’t want investments and developments that put more hardship on the people. We have to think of the welfare of 60 million citizens not the bank balances of a few.”
General Nerdah said that if the government is sincere about peace with ethnic groups it has to stop talking about the KNU as an illegal organization.
We are legal in the eyes of our people, to not recognize this does not build trust. “
General Nerdah urged the leaders of all the ethnic armed groups to not sign the NCA until there is a concrete political roadmap agreed to by both sides.
“I call on all the ethnic leaders to consider before signing the nationwide ceasefire agreement that we have equality, a political roadmap agreed to by both sides, not just a ceasefire to allow development projects and that it includes all the ethnic armed groups.”