KNU, Karen splin­ter group to talk reunion

The Myanmar Times - - News - THU THU AUNG thuthuaung@mm­times.com

IN re­sponse to a state­ment ear­lier this month from the Karen Na­tional Union im­plor­ing an off­shoot of the Demo­cratic Karen Benev­o­lent Army to re­join the KNU ranks, lead­ers of the two groups plan to meet.

“The date isn’t con­firmed yet but the meet­ing will be held in Hpa-an, the cap­i­tal city of Kayin [State], for the pur­pose of of­fi­cially [dis­cussing the pro­posal],” said Ko Kyaw Kyaw, a peace ne­go­tia­tor for the Karen splin­ter fac­tion.

On Oc­to­ber 4, the KNU reached out to his group, which had clashed sev­eral times with a joint con­tin­gent of Tat­madaw and Bor­der Guard Force sol­diers the month prior. KNU lead­ers at the time, and again this week, said they hoped that bring­ing the splin­ter fac­tion un­der the KNU ban­ner would im­prove prospects for peace in the re­gion.

The KNU is one of eight non-state armed groups to have signed last year’s na­tion­wide cease­fire agree­ment.

KNU joint sec­re­tary No 2 Pado Mahn Mahn con­firmed the planned meet­ing, say­ing, “The call to re­unify is for peace in Kayin State by [bring­ing the splin­ter group into] the KNU fold.”

The KNU en­treaty early this month came with a con­di­tion: that the splin­ter group – with a strength of about 100 men – dis­avow a state­ment it made on Jan­uary 16. That state­ment ef­fec­tively an­nounced the fac­tion’s for­ma­tion as an in­de­pen­dent ac­tor among Myan­mar’s myr­iad eth­nic armed groups. The fac­tion has taken to call­ing it­self the Demo­cratic Karen Bud­dhist Army.

Ko Kyaw Kyaw said no de­ci­sion on re­unit­ing would be made un­til after the Hpa-an meet­ing. “Some ne­go­ti­a­tion will take place at the meet­ing,” he said.

In ad­di­tion to being mo­ti­vated by a de­sire to im­prove peace prospects, the KNU has said its in­vi­ta­tion is in keep­ing with the goal of a com­mit­tee formed in 2013 to unite the var­i­ous Karen armed fac­tions un­der one ban­ner.

Karen youth leader Saw Tun Tun said, “We want Karen armed groups united. We want Karen po­lit­i­cal par­ties united. Unity is the only way to move quickly to­ward our aim to build the fed­eral demo­cratic Union that all Karen peo­ple de­sire. We wel­come the meet­ing.”

Kayin State has seen rel­a­tive calm this month com­pared with Septem­ber’s clashes in Hlaingbwe township, but Ko Kyaw Kyaw said the DKBA splin­ter fac­tion had clashed with BGF troops at Myaing Gyi Ngu and Kaung Mu Nar vil­lages ear­lier this week. He said it was not a ma­jor al­ter­ca­tion.

The fight­ing last month led thou­sands of civil­ians to flee their homes.

Saw Thar Boe of Karen Rivers Watch of­fered his sup­port for the KNU pro­posal but said peace would re­quire more than just the join­ing of Karen fac­tions.

“As long as mega-projects are being im­ple­mented in the eth­nic ar­eas, there will be of­fen­sives by the mil­i­tary and the BGF, which is sup­ported by the mil­i­tary,” he said.

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