The Karen people are hopeful, yet cautious about the recent informal meeting between the Karen National Union and the Burmese government’s ceasefire talks.
The KNU which has been lock in a civil war with a series of military governments for the 62 years, last Saturday and Sunday held informal talks with Burma government representatives led by Railway Transport Minister, U Aung Min in Thailand.
KNU representatives led by General Mutu Say Poe (Deputy Head of KNU Emergence Peace Committee), Padoh Saw David Taw (Secretary of the KNU Emergence Peace Committee) and Padoh Saw Ah Toe met with government representatives led by Railway Transport Minister, U Aung Min.
Padoh Saw David Taw told Karen News.
“This is a talk for talk – meaning the meeting was only a informal talk with government representatives. He said U Aung Min agrees to hold formal talk with the KNU in Pa-an. The KNU did not reach any agreement, and has yet to decide if it will meet for further talks.”
The KNU meetings with the government generated widespread interest and hopes of a positive outcome for Karen people.
Saw Samual Moo, a schoolteacher, from Mawlichai village, on Thai-Burma border of Tak province, told Karen News,
“We want the KNU to hold peace talk. The people want peace.”
Saw Samual Moo from Taw Oo Hta village, fled his village more than four years ago taking refugee in Thailand.
Naw Ler, a Karen woman who left her home 14-years ago and is now a refugee in Bong Ti village, southern Thailand said.
“Nobody wants to stay forever in Thailand, we hope for peace. Aung San Suu Kyi is already negotiating with the government, but the KNU is still behind.”
As hopeful as they are for peace Karen people spoken to for this article said they are also cautious about the peace talks.
Saw Samual Moo explained.
“I want the [KNU] to hold serious peace talks. I want a peace that is stable, because we have had to flee from our homeland and hide for many years. I want to go back to my home. I don’t want peace that can be broken easily and we have to run again. We don’t know if the government peace offer is genuine or not. The KNU needs to be careful in their approach and negotiations. We want an outcome that benefits Karen people.”
Naw Ler said she did not want a ceasefire that is not followed through with genuine peace.
“We don’t want to see the situation collapse like the last ceasefire that was led by Gen Bo Mya but was not successful.”
Naw Paw, a Karen refugee living in Mae La refugee camp in Thailand said.
“I don’t trust the government, but if both sides are willing to talk it is a good start. We want our rights, education, security, a right to earn our living freely when we return to Burma. We don’t want to return and still face oppression and have to run away again within two or three years.”
Naw Paw left her village in Karen State 15-years ago.
“I want a meaningful dialogue. We’re fed up staying as refugees in a foreign country.”
According to Pado Saw David Taw, the government representatives outlined their positions at the recent meeting – cease hostilities, set up liaison offices, both sides informing each other when carrying arms and traveling through each other’s respective controlled areas.
According to the KNU’s Padoh Saw David Taw, the government indicated that they want to hold further talks in Pa-an to discuss political issues.
Padoh Saw David Taw said, that apart from talking about the ceasefire, the KNU also raise for discussion issues such as villagers livelihoods, rehabilitation, education, health, landmine issues, concerns about the Burma Army setting up camps near villages. U Aung Min said these issues could be discussed in further formal talks and only if both sides reach a ceasefire.
Padoh Saw David Taw said the KNU presented to U Aung Min that the KNU would like to include representatives from districts and brigades to hear and observe in the formal talks.
Minister U Aung Min, as well as meeting with the KNU also met with the Shan State Army-South, the Chin National Front (KNF), Kachin Independence Organizaton (KIO), and Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP).
Padoh Saw David Taw said the SSA-South Led by Lt-General Yawdserk reached a ceasefire fire agreement with the government and will sign a formal ceasefire with the government in December, while the CNF agreed to hold formal talks with the government in January in Hahka.
According to Shan Herald Agency for News, the SSA-South positions on the ceasefire are – cessation of hostilities, political negotiations, setting-up of a Special Development Zone, and cooperation in drug eradication.