Mahn Robert Zan, an advisor to the Karen Communities of Minnesota and a former Karen freedom fighter urged the Karen National Union (KNU) to set a limited timeframe for their ceasefire negotiations with Burma’s government.
Mahn Robert Zan, a son of former KNU chairperson Mahn Ba Zan, made the statement during an interview with Karen News while attending the 10th Karen Unity Seminar held from May 28 to May 31 at Law Khee Lar in KNU’s Hpa-an District, in Karen State.
Speaking to Karen News Mahn Robert Zan said.
“The ceasefire process has been going on for over two years now, but we have yet to achieve a concrete agreement. Therefore, the ceasefire negotiations need to set a timeframe. For the Burma government, they have gained advantages with lots of profits within the two year period [of the ceasefire].”
Mahn Robert Zan counted some of the advantages the Thein Sein government has had from having a ceasefire with the ethnic armed groups.
“[President] U Thein Sein, has become the chair of ASEAN, the World Bank wrote-off Burma’s debts, the international community has lifted restrictions and sanctions. There are more investments going into the country giving millions in profit. But there is little opportunity for our Karen people as they [government] blocked us with the 2008 Constitution.”
Robert Zan said that Burma’s government was previously disregarded by the international community is now being recognized and its image has been on the rise since it has begun peace talk with ethnic armed groups, including the KNU, and after Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was elected to parliament. Robert Zan warned that the slow progress being made on the ceasefire agreement could be a sign that the government is only changing at a surface level and to further its own political gains.
Padoh Saw David Thakabaw, Head of KNU’s Ethnic Alliance Affair Department spoke to Karen News about Mahn Robert Zan’s position of setting a ceasefire timeframe.
“We need to look into our situation when setting the timeframe. From the government side, they wanted to sign the nationwide ceasefire as soon as possible. For our ethnic side, we still have issues that need further discussion. The nationwide ceasefire should be implemented by the government and [should be] followed by political dialogue. But the government is now also trying to approach the individual groups to sign ceasefire agreements. We will try to push it [ceasefire agreement] before 2015.”
Mahn Robert Zan said that it is positive for the Karen national unity to see over 200 representatives and leaders from Karen political and community-based-organizations attend the 10th Karen Unity Seminar.
Mahn Robert Zan served as a company commander, captain, column commander, Deputy Battalion commander and tactical commander in the Karen National Liberated Army (KNLA) for more than 30 years. In 2000, he resettled to the United States of America with his family.