Karen group wants ‘clean hands’ in ‘peace talks’

The European Karen Network (EKN) urged the Burmese government and international aid donors not to seek to divide the Karen under the guise of ‘peace-talk’ initiatives.

An EKN released a statement paper following the Karen National Union’s dismissal of three of its leaders for failing to adhere to its principles. The three leaders dismissed for organizational misconduct are – Karen National Liberation Army chief, General Mutu Say Po and central executive committee members, Padoh Saw David Taw and Saw Roger Khin.

Padoh Saw Zaw Naung, a spokesperson for EKN told Karen News.

“The Government has not been honest in its peace talks with the KNU.”
Padoh Saw Zaw Naung alleges that the government has tried to divide the KNU by meeting separately with two groups from within the KNU – a breakaway faction led by it’s army chief, General Mutu Say Po while continuing to meet with the official KNU peace negotiation delegation lead by its general secretary, Naw Zipporah Sein.

The EKN statement alleges that the government had encouraged the three dismissed KNU leaders to go-it-alone.

“By seeking to divide the Karen National Union and encouraging some members to set up an unauthorised liaison office, the government of Burma is not acting in an honest and constructive manner that will create trust. Instead the government of Burma appears intent on continuing to use divide and rule tactics against the Karen. The use of such tactics can threaten the entire peace process. If the government of Burma wanted to demonstrate to the Karen and to the world that it was genuine in wanting dialogue and peace, it would not seek to use divide and rule tactics, and would withdraw permission for the unauthorised liaison office to open.”

Padoh Saw Zaw Naung said he also wanted to highlight the issue that international aid donors have also caused confusion. The EKN statement confirms Padoh Saw Zaw Naung’s concerns and states.

“We are also concerned that international aid money that should be used to help the needy and promote peace is being used in a political manner in collusion with the Burmese government. We are concerned about the role of some individuals working for the Myanmar Peace Support Initiative with regards to the unauthorised liaison office. The way that this and other peace funds are operating, with a lack of transparency and proper consultation with Karen political and community organisations is creating suspicion and mistrust. By operating in such a way the peace funds may undermine the peace that they are supposed to be supporting.”

The EKN statement urged the Myanmar Peace Support Initiative to show transparency in its dealings with the government, KNU and business interests.

“We call on the Myanmar Peace Support Initiative to publish details of all meetings and conversations held with those involved in the unauthorised liaison office, and also to publish all internal memo’s, emails and other correspondence, and those with and by consultants, relating to this matter. Only through honesty and transparency can trust be rebuilt.”

Padoh Saw Zaw Naung said that Burmese government has been practicing an ongoing divide and rule strategy with the Karen. He cited an example that happened in 2004 when General Htin Maung from the Karen National Liberation Army 7th Brigade 7 colluded with the Burma Army and split from the KNU.

The EKN statement reflected concerns in the global Karen community about the recent developments and the effects on the ‘peace-talks’ with the government.

“We know that many Karen in Burma and around the world are deeply concerned by recent developments in the current peace process. We must remember that the Karen have faced many challenges, many attempts to divide us, to crush us, to assimilate and destroy our culture and our race. Despite all the challenges we have faced we have never given up and we have never been defeated. We can adapt to new situations and overcome any challenge as long as we can stay united and determined, and never give up hope.”

Despite the recent divisions in the KNU the EKN reiterated its support for the Karen National Union.

“The European Karen Network will continue to stand by the Karen National Union and support their efforts in peace negotiations. The Karen National Union is the organisation, which speaks for and leads the Karen in our struggle to gain rights, protection and self-determination that guarantees genuine freedom for the Karen people and all in Burma.”

The EKN is a network founded and run by Karen community groups from Denmark, Norway and England.

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