KNU questions role of Govt’s business linked ‘peace talk’ advisors

The Karen National Union (KNU) are to ask the Burma Government to clarify the role of business groups involved as advisors in the ‘peace talk’ negotiations. The KNU has questioned the motives of the business advisors involvement in the ceasefire talks after concerned Karen people raised questions about the potential of a conflict of interest.

Karen observers said some of the peace mediators are retired senior army officers turned businessmen and have close link to the government. The Karen observers pointed out that the main concerns centred around the role of the Dawei Princess Company and a Rangoon based, non-profit organization known as Myanmar Egress.

Myanmar Egress is made up of businessmen and academics with close association to the former military regime. Its President, Tin Maung Thann, is also the Vice President of the Myanmar Fisheries Federation, and Vice President, Hla Maung Shwe is the Vice President of the Myanmar Federation of Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The KNU acknowledged that they unsure about the role or motives of the business group ‘peace mediators’. The KNU’s General Secretary, Naw Zipporah Sein, told Karen News.

“We don’t know exactly what their roles are, but I think the government uses them as advisors. Myanmar Egress acts as an advisor to the government, but the government has not yet officially explained its role to the KNU.”

Naw Zipporah Sein explained that the Dawei Princess Company has been involved in the peace process negotiations since the beginning.

“The Dawei Princess Company made the first contact to the KNU and initiated the meeting between the KNU and the Government at the federal level with Railway’s Minister, U Aung Min.”

The Dawei Princess Company, is also known as Hein Yadana Moe – a sub-contractor on the $60billion Dawei Special Economic Zone in Southern Burma. It is has received concessions to log in the KNU controlled Tavoy District, Tenasserim Division. The company has strong links to the military and it is headed up by business tycoon, U Ko Ko Maung, its managing director is Colonel U Ngwe Soe.

Karen News is led to understand from a KNU source that the Dawei Princess Company provided financial contributions to the ‘peace talks’ and also paid for the setup and the running cost of the KNU liaison office in Dawei (Tavoy) town.

The KNU’s, Naw Zipporah Sein said.

“We know that they paid for the expenses associated with the peacetalks, we cannot make a decision yet until we discuss and clarify with the government about their (business groups) roles and who is responsible for the financial contributions use to pay for the expenses involved in the peace process. The KNU sees the peace process is related directly to the government and they have the responsibility to pay for the expenses involved. If any business group contributes to the peace process expenses it has to come through the government and the government makes these arrangements by themselves, we are not involved.”

Concerned Karen observers say both Myanmar Egress and the Dawei Princess Company were not only involved in the mediation between both sides, but also were involved in the negotiation process.

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