Karen community groups claim the Karen National Union is ignoring their concerns about the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement with the government.
The claims came at a meeting 15 community-based Karen groups had with the KNU leaders to discuss the nationwide ceasefire agreement.
The meeting held at Lay Wah in Hlaingbwe Township on August 31 between KNU representatives and the Karen groups was an opportunity for the political organization KNU to explain their position on the nationwide ceasefire agreement.
Saw Soe Doh, who attended the meeting as a representative for the Karen Environmental and Social Action Network said that the meeting was more about information than an open discussion.
Speaking to Karen News, Saw Soe Doh said.
“Our leaders explained their position. They seem to be already determined to sign the agreement despite the concerns we have raised. They are not taking [our concerns] it into consideration. It is like they just inform us about their work on the nationwide ceasefire agreement and whatever comments we make don’t matter.”
In addition to the lack of consultation at the meeting, Karen community groups said that invitation for the meeting was given on short-notice and many were unable to send senior representatives to actively discuss the issues with their leaders.
Naw K’nyaw Paw, secretary of the Karen Women Organization who was unable to join the meeting spoke to Karen News.
“If you want a more consultative meeting, you should give more time so that [Karen] organizations can choose a suitable representative to actively participate in the discussion and to raise concerns.”
Naw K’nyaw Paw’s concerns about a lack of genuine consultation by the KNU has been publicaly shared by a wide range of Karen organizations and individuals, these have included as community groups, senior KNLA officers, former KNU leaders and international based groups.
Naw K’nyaw Paw said that if the KNU wanted to be transparent it had to “to consult with the people, and should give more time, otherwise it is just information without consultation.”
Naw K’nyaw Paw pointed out that the consultation meeting should have been held with the Karen groups before the KNU made their decision to sign the nationwide ceasefire agreement at their last Central Standing Committee Emergency meeting held in early August.
Naw K’naw Paw said that as community-based groups “worked closely with the people they know the concerns of the people and they can raise them on behalf of the people.”
Naw K’nyaw Paw said that the KNU had left it too late to talk to the Karen people.
“They [KNU] already made the decision. They [KNU] should have held this meeting before they made their decision [to sign the nationwide ceasefire agreement].”
When community groups said it is too soon to sign the agreement, Padoh Saw Kwe Htoo Win, a panelist for the KNU at the meeting responded by claiming that by signing the ceasefire will see the KNU delisted from being an illegal organization and it let more Karen people get involved help in the ongoing struggle.
A community leader told Karen News that by making decisions with out involving the Karen people was taking away their political rights and ignoring the genuine concerns they had about the ceasefire agreement.
The KNU’s Padoh Saw Kwe Htoo Win, claimed that despite the public statements by concerned Karen groups that they were being locked out of the peace process by the current KNU leaders negotiating the NCA, that his political organization was prepared to listen.
“Our KNU political struggle has been to work towards peace building from a ceasefire through political dialogue. Our struggle ahead of us can’t be done by only the KNU, as an armed organization. After signing ceasefire agreement, we will be [delisted] from being an illegal organization. This will be opportunity for us to work with more Karen people. Skilled Karen people will be able to work with us without being worried. We welcome them to work together in our political struggle for the benefit of our Karen people and in order to achieve the goal of our Karen people.”
Reaction to Padoh Saw Kwe Htoo Win’s attempts to pacify the Karen groups was met with skepticism by a community group worker who explained to Karen News that by being asked to be included in discussions after the ceasefire was signed would be too late.
“Why not include us before? Why the rush to sign, especially when so many ethnic people are against it? Who will benefit from the signing?”