KNU: Military Coup Leaders Destroyed Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement – Time to Remove Military from Politics

The Karen National Union marked the 6th anniversary of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement on October 15, 2021 with a statement declaring Burma’s military coup leaders had thrashed the NCA and demanded the military must be removed from the country’s political system.

The KNU, an ethnic armed organization and a signatory of the NCA, issued its statement pressuring the military to issue an official declaration of its commitment to a federal democracy and to withdraw from politics.

The KNU said the NCA presented many challenges throughout its implementation process, but the worst was when the military staged its coup on February 1, violating all principles and agreements reached by the NCA. The KNU explained the current military has taken too much power and needs to be reformed, stop its interference in politics and to start protecting citizens instead of killing them.

Padoh Saw Ta Doh Moo, general secretary of the KNU said it is important the military is reformed and to be controlled and made accountable to a civilian government.

“The people are distressed by the actions of the current army institution. But reforming the army would be difficult without the support of the army’s ranks and file and its officers. We need army officers and soldiers willing to protect the people, that stand for the people and are ready and willing to work for the people.”

Padoh Saw Ta Doh Moo said the current army is unprofessional, brutal and sees the people of Burma as its enemy.

“The challenge is reforming this military into a professional army free from trying to control the country’s political system. The KNU position is that this army needs to be reformed into an army that protects the lives and homes of the people.”

The KNU explained the military coup has caused intense hardship for the country’s entire ethnic population. They are facing many forms of oppression, human rights abuses and socio-economic hardship – the country is on the verge of collapse. The KNU said the military had returned to a dictatorship and its solution to the political crisis was the use of extreme force against civilians.

Padoh Saw Ta Doh Moo said that without an elected government, the nation building needed could not be based on the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement system.

“The military coup had nullified all principles enshrined in the NCA, such as the non-use of force, solving issues with a negotiated approach and including the establishment of a federal union. The NCA is a tripartite agreement signed by the government, the military and ethnic organizations. Now the government has been jailed and removed, only the military is left. This country cannot be built on an unstable foundation like this – the military coup has violated all the principles of the NCA.”

The KNU urged the military to agree on an international negotiation process to help end military rule, to negotiate and form a unified government with key representatives from all sides and transfer power in order to resolve and end the root causes of more than 70-years of internal political conflict.

Naw Hser Hser, a Karen woman activist who is serving as secretary for the Women League of Burma said that all parties should come together to solve the problems, not only the military and ethnic organizations. She pointed out the KNU’s demands are not likely to be heard or listened to by the military junta and it would be hard to convince them to withdraw from politics.

“Requesting the military dictator to no longer be involved in politics or to withdraw from politics is not something the military will listen to – the KNU may know this demand will not happen. In this current context, we don’t need to request it, we must take [country] back from them. Burma politics is not just about the ethnic armed groups and the military. For example, if we want to build a federal democratic union, we cannot build it with only these two parties – military and EAO’s – it has to be built together with all the country’s other stakeholders.”

Saw Ka Pi, founder and director of the Salween Institute for Public Policy told Karen News that the army needs to be in their ‘right place’ and under the control of a civilian government.

“The army must be put in its right place. The Union Army must be there to protect the country. They do not work for internal security. It is not appropriate for them to interfere and to be involved in political affairs. We do not want such an army in Burma. If one day there is a political settlement, the civilian government should have the authority and control over the military. It should oversee how this army operates? Who and what it fights? Where will it be based? It needs to have a designated structured role and place dictated by a civilian elected government.”

The NCA was signed on October 15, 2015 with the Thein Sein’s led USDP government – it involved an initial eight ethnic armed organization (EAOs), including the Karen National Union. In 2018 The New Mon State Party (NMSP) and the Lahu Democratic Party (LDU) joined on February 13 bringing it to 10 EAOs who signed the NCA. The NCA 6th anniversary ceremony was held in Nay Pyi Taw on October 15, 2021. Although eight of the signatories attended, two of the signatories, including the KNU, refused to attend the event.

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