Myanmar government and ethnic armed organizations including the Karen National Union (KNU) have signed the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA), but clashes have broken out in the area controlled by the KNU’s armed wing, the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) Brigade 5.
The KNLA’s Vice Chief of Staff Lt-Gen Saw Baw Kyaw Heh shared his views and opinions on this issue.
Q: What’s your view on the military tension in [KNLA] Brigade 5 area in terms of the NCA?
A: [Restrictions] against the expansion of military power and establishment of new military bases already exist. [The Tatmadaw] cannot move freely. They must not repair or renovate military bases. They must not send more military rations. But, they have become more active than before. The military power has increased excessively. They’ve overpassed the whole bureau in the upper and lower areas. This is not a normal agenda. It creates concerns because they have a definite agenda.
It’s evident that a step has been taken forward as a military activity. Either the public or some people will think that the situation is the same as before. Ceasefire will continue. That’s how the majority thinks, but the military’s activities are quite the opposite. So, I can see clearly what tactics the NCA will be used in making a move.
Q: What are the differences between the current situation and the NCA?
A: According to the NCA, we have to stay in our areas, build trust, and do our best to prevent fighting. This is just talks. In reality, the Myanmar Army (Tatmadaw) fights to get what it wants and take the opportunity. They already have an agenda whether or not there is a ceasefire.
So, many Tatmadaw battalions try to penetrate in many areas. They try to make a move by taking one step after another. That’s why our [KNLA] Brigade 5 is an experiment. They will make an experiment and make a move to see the outcome. It’s a big step to take another step. So, they are making a move in other areas and doing experiments. All of these experiments will clearly reveal a single outcome on how they should proceed in the end.
Q: What has been carried out to settle this issue?
A: As far as I understand, the officials have the desire to settle this on the table. We will discuss it at the JMC, which is a [negotiation] table. We will negotiate and find the solution. We are still only talking about resolving [the issue] on the table, but they are continuing to take the opportunities. That’s why we can’t solve this. I think they don’t know how to solve it.
It’s because they already have an agenda. They won’t listen to us or the JMC. They will do what they want. They will only listen on the surface. They pretend to be deaf when they have to follow and carry out the actual essence. We don’t need to say a lot. Everyone already knows this. One can see if he looks closely. He doesn’t even need to find it.
Q: What kind of effects can this have on peace?
A: Whether he is a racial dictator or a military dictator, a dictator will not easily change his views and way of thinking that has been established for 60 or 70 years. It’s quite evident so these [issues] will continue to occur. It’s evident that they will continue to occur. So, how will the peace process continues in the future? We can’t obtain the rights which are desired by all ethnic people. It’s impossible that our group will obtain it alone. It can’t be given to only one territory. That’s why we’ve already foreseen what will happen in the end.
We have already foreseen how far the footsteps will reach after a move has been made. That’s why these footsteps show who I am and what moves I will make. These show the activity. So, it shows that the peace process can’t proceed like this. It shows what I will do and what I’m doing. How far I will reach is according to the agenda. Whether I will achieve it depends on their efforts and our feelings.
Q: Lastly, what do you want to say to the Karen people?
A: I want to tell all Karen people to take a look back at the previous situation. Remember the history and origin of the Karen people and how they have passed through time. We need to change our views. We need to prepare ahead to face the challenges bravely.
As I always said, there is nothing new under the Sun. So, we need to prepare ahead to face the challenges whether we are happy or sad. We must avoid what can be avoided. If we can’t avoid it, we just need to prepare ahead to face the challenge. There’s no other way. Nothing is new. So, we will get what we deserve. Don’t feel downhearted. We will definitely obtain our rights with the right path and goal and deserving action.