EU’s next president meets Karen

Spain, gearing up for the 2010 EU presidency, has once again opened its doors for the embattled Karen National Union (KNU), according to Saw Hsar Gay, the group’s “deputy foreign minister.”

His meeting with Southeast Asian affairs officials Dr Garcia Galan and Dr Adrian Martin Couce took place on Thursday, 23 July.This was Saw Hsar Gay’s 7th visit to the Spanish ministry since 2001. His previous trips were accompanied by either David Tharckabaw, now Vice Chairman and Acting “Foreign Minister” of KNU, or Sai Wansai, General Secretary of the exile Shan Democratic Union.

“We have the challenge of potential developments in Burma,” Galan, who had been to Thailand and was aware of the human rights situation, told Hsar Gay. “We are very concerned with the human rights in Karen and other ethnic states and would like to be informed of significant changes as to be able to act on the situation that is becoming acute and warrants stronger intervention.”

The one and a half hour discussion revolved around the 2010 elections, the trial of Burma’s democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burma Army operations and abuses in Karen State, the Pyongyang-Naypyidaw axis and drugs, according to Hsar Gay.

“I told them that, from our point of view, nationwide ceasefire, release of all political prisoners including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, full fledged dialogue, rights of association of individuals and political organization, free meetings and unrestricted travel are among the basic conditions for any election to be acceptable,” he recounted.

The two sides agreed to meet again before the end of the year.

Saw Hsar Gay had already met the Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials in Lisbon on 16 July and had been invited to attend a diplomatic party on 21 July, which he accepted.

The KNU suffered the loss of its 7th Brigade base in June, when it was attacked in force by the joint Burma Army-Democratic Karen Buddhist Army forces. “We are not engaging in a positional warfare but mobile warfare,” Hsar Gay defended the military policy of the KNU. “Before this, the 7th’s former base and the 10st special battalion base fell but they did not keep us from effectively employing guerrilla tactics that have inflicted devastating losses among the enemy.”

During 1 – 10 July, 70 pro-junta DKBA and KPF surrendered to the KNU bringing along 67 automatic rifles, 1 M79 grenade launcher, 7 transceivers and 5 side arms, according to him. “That proves our tactics are producing results,” he said.

The KNU, formed in 1947, has been fighting for autonomy and democracy, since 1949. Together with the Shan State Army (SSA) “South” and the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP), it is regarded as one of the strongest armed opposition movements fighting against Burma’s successive governments.

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