KNU, DKBA in separate peace talks: no progress
Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Officials of both the Karen National Union (KNU) and the Democratic Karen Buddhist Association (DKBA) are in preliminary peace talks with Burmese government officials in Bangkok and in Mawlamyine in Mon State, respectively. However, little progress has been made.
According to KNU and DKBA officials, no agreements have been reached, but both sides agreed that they will not undertake activities outside their respective control areas.
A KNU officer told Mizzima that its team met with government representatives including Rail Transportation Minister Aung Min and retired Major General Chit Than in Bangkok.
The government delegation told the KNU to contact the Karen State government, following earlier instructions issued by President Thein Sein, calling for preliminary negotiations to be held with state officials. The KNU – adhering to its previously stated policy – replied that it wanted to discuss the peace issue with Union government officials through the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), an alliance of ethnic groups.
“Yes, we met. We have said we prefer to discuss the issue through the UNFC. But the government wants to meet with us just one by one,” said the KNU officer.
Minister Aung Min is often described as a flexible government official. Retired General Chin Than is a Karen affairs expert.
Observers said Aung Min attended a performance on Saturday of some members of the Thee Lay Thee traditional dance troupe, who recently returned from exile. They also said that during his visit to Bangkok, he was with various businessmen, and it may have been related to the Dawei (Tavoy) Development Project in Dawei, Tanintharyi Region, which is carried out by the Italian-Thai Company. In mid-September, the KNU objected to the construction of the Dawei-Kanchanaburi Express Road in the Dawei Development Project, saying it harmed the environment.
In late September, a delegation led by Colonel Aung Lwin, the Karen State minister for security and border affairs, met with KNU officials on the Thai-Burmese border to offer to hold peace talks, but the KNU again replied that it wanted peace discussions with the central government.
Although Union-level government officials have not meet with the KNU, Union officials have met with DKBA officials. The Union delegation was led by the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) Secretary No. 1 Aung Thaung and the chairman of the National Race Affairs and Internal Peace-making Committee, Thein Zaw.
Both sides agreed not to undertake activities outside their respective areas, said DKBA Brigadier General Mo Shay.
He said: “For instance, government troops are active around Thay Baw Boe. Unless they go beyond their territory, there will be no problem. We take the other side. Similarly, if we do not go beyond our areas, there won’t be any problems.”
During the meeting, DKBA officials requested permits to open DKBA offices in Hpaan, the capital of Karen State, Kyainseikkyi, Three Pagoda Pass, Kyaikdon, Kawkareik and Myawaddy townships in Karen State. The request would be forwarded to President Thein Sein.
The Karen State government minister for security and border affairs Colonel Aung Lwin, the government Commander of the Southeast Command, Major General Win Aung Hlaing, and Karen State Chief Minister Zaw Min were involved in the meeting held in Mawlamyine. On the DKBA side were Mo Shay, Major Sein Win of the Adjutant General’s Office, and Intelligence officer Captain Pida.
The DKBA separated from the KNU in 1994. DKBA battalions led by Colonel Saw Chit Thu were transformed into Union Border Guard Force [BGF] Battalions 1012, 1013 and 1014 under the Ministry of Home Affairs on August 18, 2010.
Breakaway DKBA battalions led by Brigadier General Saw La Bwe have fought against government troops since November 8, 2010, the day after general-elections, and are now involved in talks with the government for the first time.
The government did not ask the DKBA to transform into a Border Guard Force.
“If the government forces us to transform into the BGF, the situation will be worse than it is now,” Mo Shay said.
In September 2010, the remaining breakaway DKBA battalions reorganized and Mo Shay was promoted to chief of staff.
The DKBA said it would continue to meet with government representatives.
On October 23, between Thay Baw Boe and Taungni villages, an area controlled by KNU Brigade No. 6 near the Thai-Burmese border, DKBA troops planted mines to guard against government troops, according to Brigadier General Mo Shay.