Government’s factional ‘business deals’ adds tensions to ethnic peace plans

A Karen leader warns that the Burma government’s offers of ‘business opportunities’ to the various Karen and other ethnic armed factions in territory controlled by the Karen National Union will create conflict and fuel tension. A government newspaper, *Kyaymon*, reported that a breakaway group known as the KNU/KNLA Peace Council signed an initial seven-point agreement on 6thFebruary in the country’s capital Naypyidaw. The agreement included the setup of various leisure businesses in the Karen towns of Pa-an, Myawaddy, Three Pagoda Pass, Kawkareik, Maw Taung, and Kawthaung.

Maw Taung is a Thai-Burma border trading post in Southern Burma, the area that is still largely control by the KNU’s 4th Brigade in the Mergui-Tavoy District.

Saw Beeler, joint secretary of the KNU Mergui-Tavoy District told *Karen News*. “The agreement reached between the KNU/KNLA Peace Council and the resulting security issues are now the responsibility of the government. For us, [the KNU] we can’t offer or guarantee security for the KNU/KNLA Peace Council

The KNU/KNLA Peace Council and the Burma government agreed to continue and maintain the agreed peace deal and that the KNU/KNLA Peace Council can keep their arms.

Referring to the Maw Taung businesses and other new investment opportunities in the south, Pastor Timothy Laklem, KNU/KNLA Peace Council Foreign Minister explained to *Karen News*.

“The KNU/KNLA Peace Council plans to open businesses and take back Karen lands as much as we can. We don’t bring our soldiers into the area as it already has Karen National Union troops based there. We will not have any conflict with the KNU as the area is large and the KNU themselves should
also plan to retake their Karen land.”

Pastor Timothy said. “The KNU/KNLA Peace Council is also interested in investing in business
such as fisheries and tourism.”

The KNU/KNLA Peace Council is led by Brigadier General Htein Maung and split from the KNU in February 2007 and immediately reached a ceasefire agreement with Burma’s military regime at the time, forming it’s
headquarters in Hto Kaw Koo in Karen State.

The KNU/KNLA Peace Council delegation was led by its chairman Brigadier Gen. Htein Maung, and included central committee members – Pastor Timothy Laklem, Saw Ray Nu, Dr. Naw Ka Paw Htoo, Saw Eh Kaw Htoo, Saw Joseph, Dr. Saw Aung Than, Naw Karen Na – the government delegation was led by U Aung Thaung and U Thein Zaw. The two delegations met and reached a peace agreement and business deal on February 6th.

In 2010 the KNU/KNLA Peace Council refused to become a Border Guard Force under the control of the Burma Army.

Military sources allege that the potential for future sources of conflict between ethnic ceasefire groups could be the New Mon State Party’s (NMSP) proposal to the Burma government to grant them Ah Mla village for Mon new settlement. Ah Mla village was Karen village until villagers were forced to
flee from it during a 1997 Burma Army offensive – Ah Mla is in the heart of the KNU controlled Mergui-Tavoy District.

The area has already seen trouble between the KNU Mergui-Tavoy District and NMSP. The KNU claims the NMSP is taking advantage of their previous ceasefire arrangement with the Burma government and taking lands of Karen villagers to expand their settlements in Karen State.

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