The Karen National Union (KNU) is a signatory to the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) and has temporarily suspended its participation in the formal process of the peace process. During this period of suspension, the KNU General Secretary P'doh Saw Tah Doh Moo, explains the conditions for the KNU to resume its participation within the formal process as follows.
Q: Regarding the peace process, what are the conditions for the KNU to resume participation within the formal process?
A: There are two aspects regarding the causes of the blockage in the peace process. They are concerning the principle and the mechanism for the implementation of the NCA. In my view, the part relating to the principle depends on the highest level leaders having the right to make decisions. The difficulty concerning the mechanism part has to do with the different interpretations and understanding of the definitions of the NCA terms and provisions, and the implementation of them. In order for the KNU to return to the formal process it is necessary to meet with the highest level leaders responsible for compromising principles, and this will lead to how the informal meetings will be resolved. It is for this reason that the position laid down by our Central Standing Committee (CSC) says, “The reason why we suspended our participation within the formal process and are seeking solutions of the differences through informal meetings, is in order to put the deviated direction of the peace process, which is in line with the aims of the Karen people and agreed within the NCA provisions, of the establishment of a democratic and federal union with full rights of equality and self-determination.”
A: If I may answer in one sentence, the “visions for peace are not the same”. In our view, though the most challenging and essential is the “establishment a democratic federal union with full rights of equality and self-determination” as called for by the NCA, and in the view of Tatmadaw “peace means termination of the Ethnic Armed Organisations”. The government also has a different view from us. Accordingly, only after laying down a common vision for the “establishment of a democratic federal union, with full rights of equality and self-determination”, a common long-term timetable that is accepted together by all, and a system of benchmarks indicating progress of the political dialogue adopted through consultation among all the stakeholders, and the amendment to the ‘Framework of Political Dialogue’ in accordance with those agreement points, then will we be able to successfully, step by step, hold the official political dialogue and discussions, free from influences of either side.
Q: With regard to the incidents taking place currently in Arakan State, do you want to make any remarks from the perspective of the peace process?
A: There is a principle laid down by the father of the KNU, Saw Ba U Gyi. It says that “The Karen people shall decide their own destiny”. The Arakan people must have the right to decide their own destiny as well. The main point is self-determination. I think the era of other people interfering in one’s own affairs should be gone for good. Regarding the incidents taking place in Arakan State, instead of “an eye for an eye”, I would like to urge the people concerned to practice the principle of resolving political problems through peaceful means, based on the new political culture, and to change the philosophy and attitude necessary. Though we say that we choose armed struggle depending on the type of the challenges we face, the answer is finding the result to solve political problems by political means. Since the problems have taken place within the Arakan Army (AA) is a political problem.
Q: In order for the success of the peace process nationwide, what is necessary from government side, (including Tatmadaw), and the Ethnic Armed Organisations (EAOs) to do?
In the Short-term phase, there must be an agreement to resolve problems needing immediate attention. Those are, putting into place unconditionally the nationwide ceasefire; The matters of Internally Displaced People (IDP) must be addressed immediately; and to make the nationwide ceasefire firm, the organisations must monitor the ceasefire, including the allowance of international participation to freely monitor the ceasefire. There are many countries willing to help. If there is sincerity, the international involvement must be allowed. In the bilateral agreement between the KNU and the government, there is a provision for allowing international participation in monitoring. The Military units of both sides who are in offensive positions must be rearranged into defensive positions. It is necessary for some Tatmadaw outposts stationed in the ethnic areas to withdraw with the agreement of both sides. As a result of this, trust between both sides will grow. Another thing is the confiscation of lands, farms and fields in the ethnic areas must be reviewed. Laws that may impact the peace process directly or indirectly and trust of the ethnic nationalities must be reviewed and amended. Laws which should be suspended must be suspended. The recognition of customary land ownership and the promotion and independence of ethnic literatures and culture must be allowed, and the reduction of restrictions on religious grounds must be carried out. We need to start discussing practical federalisation processes along with the implementation of interim arrangements, this must contain of the EAO’s existing administration including education and health services. As the federal system means the sharing of powers to the level closest to the people, it is best to carry out federalisation from the existing base.
In the Medium-term phase, there will be political stability, the coming in of economic investments, economic stability, with the aim of increasing the trust of the people, and the selective amendment of the 2008 Constitution must be started. Discussions and decisions on power sharing, which is a necessity for proceeding towards a federal system, must be made. The 2008 Constitution, which is supposed to provide equal treatment and rights of the ethnic nationalities must be amended in practice. The laying down of democratic and human rights norms and standards, acceptable to the international community and which will reinforce the stability and prestige of the country, as the foundation must be started. Freedom must be given to the mechanism of the rule of law. By these processes, the country will start to receive international recognition. The political dialogues of the peace process must continue to deal with the question as to how much compromise will be made for these.
In the Long-term phase, under the agreement of the Security Sector Reform process the Tatmadaw will transform into a professional army under civilian control. The EAOs will perform according to the new security system, under the Security Sector Reform agreed by both sides. Heading towards the establishment of a stabilized civilian administrated country, discussions focused on policies, principles and mechanisms must be discussed and agreed. It is necessary to strive to gain agreements to make the three branches of the government – the executive, judicial and legislative – to become more democratic, and to establish a system of power sharing based federal principles. From this point, the amendment of the Constitution is to be carried out. By this procedure, the peaceful future, in a country which the Constitution gives protection to every person and the country having the rule of law is gained and durable peace will be established.