In an exclusive interview with Karen News, Padoh Kwe Htoo Win, general secretary of the Karen National Union, explains that the Burma’s new government priorities are to change the Constitution and to begin political dialogue with the country’s ethnic armed groups.
Padoh Kwe Htoo Win, points out that political dialogue has been on the KNU’s agenda for more than 60 years.
“We are an armed political party, not because we want to hold weapons, but because of the situation. We have to protect our political position and our political aspirations. We demanded a political dialogue, not only from this current government. Since Burma’s independence, we have called for political dialogue from the successive governments of Burma.”
Padoh Kwe Htoo Win said a lack of a genuine willingness to have a real political dialogue with the KNU had extended the civil war.
“The previous governments did not agree to solve the political crisis that is the root cause to the [armed] conflicts in Burma. Mostly, they only tried to stop fighting and built ‘peace’ that enabled in developments. So, within 60 years of armed revolution, the Karen National Union had never entered into a peace agreement [with the government].”
Padoh Kwe Htoo Win said the 2012 preliminary ceasefire offered an opportunity to progress peace talks with the
“Only in 2012, were we invited by the government and we signed the preliminary ceasefire agreement, but it wasn’t ever a concrete one. Following several rounds of discussions at the time, we later agreed to sign a Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement that included a guarantee for political dialogue. It was only because there was a guaranteed that political dialogue would follow, that the Karen National Union agreed to sign the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement.”
Padoh Kwe Htoo Win told Karen News that the KNU is willing to talk ‘peace’ with the newly formed NLD government.
“We will cooperate with any government that will discuss the issues of [importance] our people. When the U Thein Sein government was in power, they said that they will talk and we would talk with them. When Aung San Su Kyi and her NLD party came into power, we will talk about it with them, too. We have demanded this dialogue, so we have to work together. The peace building and other issues in Burma are the concerns of all us, not only one race or a group of people – we have to work together, we have to find a way to get the result.”
Padoh Kwe Htoo Win said that in meeting with NLD leader, Aung San Su Kyi, the KNU had been assured that a nationwide ceasefire with all ethnic armed groups was a priority of the new government.
“We met with NLD leader, Daw Aung San Su Kyi, and they have given priority to two issues when they came into power. First, is a nationwide peace building where every ethnic armed group takes part in a Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement to discuss the political issues. Second, is to amend the Constitution.”
Padoh Kwe Htoo Win stressed that the two issues were critical to bringing peace to the country and that they needed more than parliament’s rubber stamp.
“These two issues are related to each other. In order to amend the constitution – it does not suit with this country – for example, to build a national peace, they [NLD government] cannot fix all issues in parliament. They have to also work together with other conflicting parties. So, from our side, we asked for political participation in the peace building and in the political dialogue through approaches outside of the parliament, as we cannot go into parliament. Both ways have to be complementary to one another. Whether it’s inside or outside the parliament, the constitutional amendments and the peace building in the country is interrelated.”