Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Karen National Union distrust talk of reconciliation

(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.

“When we say national reconciliation, we look at a tripartite dialogue where we can have talks to bring a solution to the country’s problems,” he said.

“The Burmese junta only sees the national reconciliation as just a step that is needed to be taken to successfully reach their aim to hold elections in 2010.”

An official from Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs would not divulge the details of the negotiations, nor how Thailand would approach the KNU.

“We haven’t finalised this approach yet but we just have the policy to facilitate the process.”

The KNU are the largest ethnic political party in Burma, and are the only one not to have agreed to a ceasefire with the SPDC.

Their conflict with the government is thought to be the world’s longest running.

Unless there is a change in direction by the SPDC then the conflict will continue, said Saw Hla Ngwe.

“If the SPDC believes the elections will make them legitimate and force it through without releasing political prisoners and without letting every party in the country participate, then the problems will go on.

“If it happens that way, then we will have no choice from but to carry on with our political and armed struggle to defend ourselves,” he said.

Reporting by Than Win Htut

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