KNU in Serious Crisis: Interview Phado David Htaw, a member of the KNU Central Executive Committee- english

The Karen National Union, which has no ceasefire agreement with the Burmese military regime, has grown gradually weaker since the loss of Marnerplaw in 1995, the headquarters of the armed group. This is perhaps the KNU’s weakest moment in its history.

Recent key events include the death of the armed group’s leader, Gen Saw Bo Mya in 2007; the assassination of General-Secretary Phado Mann Shah in Thailand in 2008. the loss of important KNU-controlled areas; and various battalions that defected from the KNU to join the military regime. Although the KNU has conducted ceasefire negotiations with the junta, it has yet to reach any agreement. The KNU has had close relations with Burmese opposition groups in exile and increasingly relies on outside support for its survival.

Phado David Htaw, a member of the KNU Central Executive Committee, talked to The Irrawaddy about where the KNU finds itself today. Continue reading “KNU in Serious Crisis: Interview Phado David Htaw, a member of the KNU Central Executive Committee- english”

Insein Court Sentences 13 More Political Activists

In an apparent warning to Burmese citizens and a snub to the international community, the Burmese military government has sentenced 13 more dissidents—a signal that it was playing hardball on the issue of political prisoners.

According to sources in Rangoon, a special tribunal in Insein Prison on Monday sentenced 13 pro-democracy activists on a variety of “security” charges—some for participating in relief efforts to help victims of Cyclone Nargis, others for protesting the detention of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Four of the convicted were former student activists: Yin Yin Wine, Tin Tin Cho, Myat Thu and Ni Mo Hlaing. In response to the Cyclone Nargis disaster in May they volunteered as relief workers in the Irrawaddy delta and collected donations from friends and relatives. The tribunal sentenced them to three years in prison.

Three others—Htet Htet Oo Wai, Win Myint Maung and Tun Tun Win—were members of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD). It was alleged that they had taken part in a march to the People’s Assembly building in Rangoon in December calling for the release of Suu Kyi. They were each sentenced to five years imprisonment under State Emergency Act 5/J.

The other six activists were arrested on August 7, 2008, in relation to their activities on behalf of the dissident 88 Generation Students group. One of the six was a schoolteacher, Aung Aung Zaw, who had been arrested allegedly in possession of anti-government leaflets. The six were convicted at a separate hearing in Insein Prison on Monday, although their sentences are as yet not known. Continue reading “Insein Court Sentences 13 More Political Activists”

KNU Willing to Talk, but not on Burmese Territory

The Karen National Union’s deputy chairman, David Takapaw, has welcomed Thailand’s offer to mediate talks between the KNU and the Burmese regime, but said they would have to be held outside Burma.

“We are always ready for peace talks,” he told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday. “But we will not attend any talks in Burma at this time. Talks must be held in another country.”

Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya, who met Burmese government leaders in Naypyidaw at the weekend, said he would approach the KNU in the hope of getting talks started. It was in Thailand’s interest for peace to reign in Burma, he said.

Thai army officials recently asked Karen rebel leaders living in the Thai border town of Mae Sot to return to KNU-controlled areas of Karen State. The rebels belong to the KNU’s armed wing, the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA).

Burmese researcher Aung Thu Nyein said the Thai government’s efforts to help bring about peace talks between the Burmese regime and the KNU would increase pressure on KNU leaders who live in Thailand.

“Thailand needs border stability for trade with the Burmese regime,” he said. “From an economic point of view, this might put more pressure on the KNU leaders to talk to the regime.”

The KNU has engaged in peace talks with the Burmese regime four times since the present regime took power in 1988.

The late chairman of the KNU, Gen Saw Bo Mya, held peace talks with regime leaders in Rangoon in 2005, two years before his death. Contacts have been at a standstill since then.

Takapaw said whenever the KNU talked to the regime “they always insist that we give up our arms and return to the ‘legal fold.’ But how we can agree to live under a regime that isn’t the official government?”

Takapaw said that if the KNU agreed to talks on Burmese territory the Burmese negotiators would have the upper hand. “Such a meeting wouldn’t be on equal terms,” he said.

The KNU has been in conflict with the Burmese army for more than 50 years. It turned to guerrilla tactics after regime forces overran its headquarters in 1995.

Burmese army offensives have been accompanied by the destruction of Karen villages, displacement of local populations, the killing of civilians and other serious human rights abuses. More than 100,000 Karen villagers have sought refuge in camps along the Thai-Burmese border.

MYANMAR’S opposition on Tuesday issued a fresh appeal for permission to see Aung San Suu Kyi and other detained leaders, after a UN panel said the ruling junta broke the country’s own law by holding her.

The Nobel laureate’s National League for Democracy (NLD) issued a statement asserting its right to meet with all its central executive committee members, including those in detention, to discuss the party’s future plans.

The party had sent a request to the leader of the military regime, Senior General Than Shwe, last Thursday but had not yet received a reply, it said.

‘As the NLD is a legally operating political party according to political party registration law, it is essential that we draw up party policies, regulations, aims and future plans,’ the statement said.

‘The time has come to make decisions by holding discussions with all central executive committee members… including vice-chairman U Tin Oo and general secretary Daw Aung San Suu Kyi,’ it said, using honorific forms of their names.

Aung San Suu Kyi and Tin Oo have been detained at their homes since being arrested together in May 2003, after a pro-government mob attacked their convoy during a political visit to central Myanmar.

The 62-year-old Aung San Suu Kyi has spent most of the past 19 years under house arrest because of her political activities, while Tin Oo has undergone several periods of incarceration since the 1970s.

A United Nations rights panel on Monday released documents saying that the junta’s continued detention of Aung San Suu Kyi violated Myanmar’s own law, in addition to international law.

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said that Myanmar was breaking its own 1975 State Protection Law, which only allows detention without charge for those who pose a risk to state security or public peace.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s party won a landslide victory in elections in 1990 but the junta never allowed it to take office. Myanmar has been ruled by the military since 1962. Authorities plan to hold elections in 2010 but the NLD has refused to take part as Aung San Suu Kyi is barred from standing. — AFP

SSA ready to hold talk with junta

The Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS), the political arm of the Shan State Army (SSA) South, is keen to hold talk with the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) to resolve all political problems of the country by peaceful means if Thailand would facilitate them, according to Sai Hseng Merng, Deputy Spokesman of the group.

“We are happy to come to the negotiating table if both Bangkok and SPDC have really reached agreement,” he said.

The Nation reported on 23 March that Burma has urged Thailand to help facilitate talks with ethnic resistance movements to join the seven-step roadmap toward national reconciliation when the Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya made his two day visit to Burma on 22-23 March.

“(Burma’s) Prime Minister Thein Sein and Foreign Minister Nyan Win have asked me to talk with the minorities and we are pleased to help,” Kasit was quoted by The Nation as saying.

SSA always welcomes talks to resolve the political problems, Sai Hseng Merng maintained, but the main cause of the problems must be solved first which means there is a need to look back into the past history.

“The political problem betweens Shan State and the Burmese military was due to the SPDC’s violations of the Panglong agreement. Moreover, they sent their forces and seized our land,” said Sai Hseng Merng. “SPDC always talks about holding talkswith ethnic groups, but their actions has never matched their speeches.”

The junta and the SSA had agreed to hold talks on 23 May 2007 but they failed to take place when the Burma Army delegation failed to appear at the venue.

“It showed that the SPDC was not honest and did not really want to talk with us,” Sai Hseng Merng added.

The SSA, according to him, will also consider contesting in the elections if the junta follows a democratic process and if it agrees to the following demands:
To free all political prisoners and grant amnesty to all dissidents both inside and outside the country and allow them to form political parties to contest in the elections
To amend the “Nargis constitution” together with the National League for Democracy (NLD) and other ethnic parties.

Karen National Union distrust talk of reconciliation

Karen National Union distrust talk of reconciliation
Mar 24, 2009 (DVB)–The Karen National Union has criticised plans for Thai-brokered reconciliation talks with the Burmese government, claiming that the process is only a means to move closer towards the controversial 2010 elections.

Thailand’s Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya on Monday pledged that he would help in negotiations for Burma’s largest ethnic rebel group, the Karen National Union, to join the government’s reconciliation process.
“We will talk to the Karen group and ask them back to the negotiation table but we won’t interfere in the conditions or how to achieve the reconciliation,” said an official from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Thailand.
“That’s up to the Myanmar government and the other groups.”
But KNU spokeperson Saw Hla Ngwe said that, while he did not believe the Thais would treat the KNU unfairly, the KNU and the ruling State Peace and Development Council define reconciliation differently. Continue reading “Karen National Union distrust talk of reconciliation”

Burmese political coalition group the Forum for Democracy in Burma has stated that it opposes the planned 2010 elections and will educate Burmese people about the problems with the election.

Coalition group will not contest 2010 election
Mar 24, 2009 (DVB)–Burmese political coalition group the Forum for Democracy in Burma has stated that it opposes the planned 2010 elections and will educate Burmese people about the problems with the election.

The statement was made at the end of a five-day seminar, which took place from 18 to 22 March, held at an unspecified place along the Thai-Burma border.
The FDB is a coalition of exiled organisations and activists. The seminar was attended by 32 coalition group members and five observers.
Dr Naing Aung, leader of the FDB, said the coalition had chosen to stand strong against the ruling State Peace and Development Council’s plan to hold elections in 2010, and vowed that the group would cooperate with the public for their campaign.
“We will be educating our people more about the election,” he said.
“The aim of the election is to bring the 2008 constitution to life which would lead us to remain as slaves of the military the same as 20 years ago,” said Naing Aung.
The 1990 elections were won by the opposition National League for Democracy in a landslide victory but the military government ignored the results and has continued to rule.
“We will be looking for various methods to fight for our rights,” he added.
“It is unlikely that we would be on safe ground when calling for our rights since Burma is ruled by an oppressive government.”

Thailand to persuade Karen rebels to contest 2010 election

by Usa Pichai
Tuesday, 24 March 2009 09:25

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Thailand’s government, following a call by the Burmese junta, has agreed to hold talks with the Karen National Union concerning their participation in Burma’s general election scheduled for 2010.

Kasit Piromya, Thailand’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, said during his visit to Burma on Monday after meeting with Burmese Prime Minister Thein Sein and Foreign Minister Nyan Win, that Burma’s military rulers had asked the Thai government to meet with representatives of the warring ethnic party.

“The KNU has not yet been involved in the junta’s national reconciliation plan. If the talks succeed, it is expected they could solve the problems along the Thailand – Burma border too,” according to Kasit in a telephone interview with the National News Bureau of Thailand.

However, for reasons of national security, exact plans for discussions have not yet been revealed, Kasit said.

The Karen Nation Union and Shan State Army, having rejected the junta-backed seven step road map to democracy, are the principle armed factions continuing to wage war against the central government. Continue reading “Thailand to persuade Karen rebels to contest 2010 election”

Most serious of all, the Karen leadership is losing the support of neighbouring Thailand, where it was formerly able to organise, arm and – when necessary – retreat

Burma: world’s longest war nears its end

It began with British betrayal after the Second World War and has stubbornly outlived every other conflict. But now, as it marks it diamond jubilee, the world’s longest-running war is nearing its endgame.

The guerrilla army of the Karen ethnic group, which has been fighting since 1949 for independence from Burma, is facing the greatest crisis in its history. If Karen resistance collapses, as some believe is likely, it will be a triumph for the Burmese junta as it consolidates its hold on power.

After a three-year offensive by the junta, the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) has been forced into increasingly small pockets of resistance, according to Burma experts.

Deprived of funds and equipment, it is able to do little more than slow the advance of the Burmese Army as it lays waste to hundreds of villages, driving thousands of terrified civilians before it.Most serious of all, the Karen leadership is losing the support of neighbouring Thailand, where it was formerly able to organise, arm and – when necessary – retreat. Trapped between the Burmese Army to the west and an increasingly unfriendly Thailand to the east, with hundreds of thousands of their people in wretched refugee camps, the Karen are experiencing a humanitarian and military catastrophe. Continue reading “Most serious of all, the Karen leadership is losing the support of neighbouring Thailand, where it was formerly able to organise, arm and – when necessary – retreat”

Detention of Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma illegal, says UN

UN calls for immediate release of Aung San Suu Kyi

The United Nations has ruled that the continued detention of Burma’s pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi violates the country’s own laws as well as those of the international community.

Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, has spent 13 of the last 19 years under house arrest, with the ruling junta yearly extending her detention despite international outcries.

“The latest renewal (2008) of the order to place Ms Suu Kyi under house arrest not only violates international law but also national domestic laws of Myanmar,” said a legal opinion by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions that has been sent to the Burmese government.

Although the ruling is unlikely to spring Suu Kyi from detention, it is uncommon for the world body to accuse a member country of violating its own laws, and while the junta has always marched to its own tune it has also resented being regarded as an international pariah. Continue reading “Detention of Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma illegal, says UN”