A two-day “Preparation to Strengthen the Process of the Preliminary Ceasefire” workshop concluded on the 20th of January in Lay Wah, Karen State, Burma. The event was led by KNU Chairman Saw Mutu Sae Poe and organised by the KNU Central Executive Committee. This was followed by a more in-depth three-day planning workshop ending on January 23rd, 2015. The workshops provided knowledge regarding military matters in International Conflicts and Peace Building; the process used for strengthening ceasefires in different countries, and studied different countries experiences on Peace Processes and what made them successful or not. Around 90 participants including some members of the Central Executive Committee, District Chairman’s and Brigadiers, Battalions Commanders, including KNLA/KNDO military personnel from every District/Brigade, and General Headquarters attended the two-day workshop. From that group selected participants joined the three-day planning workshop, totalling around 60 people.
The main objectives and activities of the workshops were to enhance knowledge and understanding of the Peace Process, and identify ways forward to strengthen the Preliminary Ceasefire and build trust. During the first workshop, the participants formed small groups in which they presented ways to prepare for a durable ceasefire and build trust. Furthermore, in their small groups, they broke these down into concrete stages
Saw Tamula, Secretary of KNU Chairman, explained that the workshop was encouraging for attendees. “What was so encouraging about the workshop was that every high ranking officer from every Brigade and Battalion that were invited to the workshop participated. This is an indication of how much the Karen people want to build steps for durable and lasting peace through the careful steps from the preliminary level ceasefire. The participants talked about creating a space for the Peace Process in their areas to gain a concrete ceasefire, so that the fighting does not return. They stressed that they want the situation to remain stable for the Peace Process”.
Following on from that was the three-day planning workshop. The workshop was intended for military personnel who will be a part of the negotiations and the Peace Process. However, many asked to continue participating in this workshop. They discussed the Peace Process, gaining a comprehensive ceasefire, and looked at examples of what was currently happening in their areas. In the afternoons the participants did group activities.
According to Col Saw Ner Deh Chief of KNDO, who participated at the workshops, “It was very helpful to know how to work on the Peace Process step by step. According to what was taught, the ceasefire is the first step that we can engage in to work towards political dialogue.” Like other attendees, Col Ner Deh was reminded of the long-term dedication the process will require. “Something important that I learnt was that the Peace Process is a long process, and we need to be patient working step by step as it will not be achieved overnight”.
The KNU plans to continue holding further capacity building workshops related to the Peace Process throughout the year.