The Karen diaspora is showing increasing irritation at the Karen National Union’s ceasefire stance.
The International Karen Organization (IKO) issued a statement on September 9 calling for a review of the current peace process in order to achieve a genuine political settlement.
The statement was issued following IKO’s first conference in Melbourne, Australia from September 6 to 8.
The IKO, which has long maintained that signing the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA) was an abuse of the KNU leaders’ authority and compromised the fight for independence, said the agreement has resulted in an increase in Tatmadaw camps inside KNU territory, the involvement of government officials in local administration and the loss of Karen land.
“We have found that the KNU’s position on the ceasefire has deviated,” said Mann Orlando, the spokesperson of the conference organizing committee. “In the past, KNU leaders consistently held the position that the ceasefire [was signed to move on to] political dialogue. Focusing on development after signing the ceasefire [but before political resolution] deviates from the KNU’s fixed position and favors the government.”
In response, the KNU’s general secretary P’doh Saw Tar Doh Moo said, “The peace process is not a flower-strewn path.”
“They should point where we have deviated from [previous KNU’s] leaders,” he said. “We believe we have not deviated. We accept all advice and criticism from Karen communities and individuals. If anyone wants to give us some advice, he or she should try to give it constructively and provide detailed points.”
IKO’s three-day conference in Melbourne brought together 55 representatives from 17 different countries, including the KNU’s former vice chair Naw Zipporah Sein and the former joint secretary, Padoh Mahn Mahn. The meeting was attended by 22 observers and members of civil society organizations along the Thai-Myanmar border.
In its statement following the conference, the IKO called for a fundraising effort to help support Karen refugees and internally displaced people. Both IDP camps and refugee camps across the border are facing funding cuts and mounting pressure for the residents to return home. The IKO urged authorities to stop pressuring IDPs to return home and called for continued international support.