The following is an interview with P’doh Saw Tah Doh Moo, General Secretary of the KNU: Karen National Union, regarding the obstruction of a planned meeting of the Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAOs) in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Q: Is it true that the Tatmadaw tried to obstruct a planned PPCM meeting in Chiang Mai? How and why was it done?
A: It is true. They objected because non-signatory ethnic armed organizations are involved in the meeting and the (Thai) authorities informed our team that the meeting is not permitted.
That was all we knew at first, but later a letter signed by the military attaché of the Myanmar Embassy in Bangkok was circulated on social media. According to the letter, we found that a request was made to the Thai authorities to obstruct the meeting because KIO and KNPP would attend the meeting of the (10) NCA-signatory EAOs, which the letter says would definitely disrupt the eternal peace being implemented by the Myanmar Government and Tatmadaw.
Q: How can this obstruction affect the peace process?
A: First and foremost, this corrodes trust building. And their opinion towards the NCA has become questionable. It is clearer that their view towards peace is not the same as ours.
We saw that the peace process is overwhelmed by the Tatmadaw’s paternalistic behaviour. Actually, the peace process must be jointly implemented only by mutual agreements. This “Big Brother” attitude or paternalism should not have a place in the peace process. So, the obstruction of a dialogue-based meeting makes us wonder whether they don’t believe in dialogue.
In fact, I believe we are all responsible to bring non-signatory EAOs to participate in the NCA. We share the responsibility under the NCA. We support the effort of the Government and Tatmadaw to include non-signatory EAOs in the NCA. On the other hand, the government and Tatmadaw should also remember that it’s a shared responsibility.
It is fundamentally important not to divide between signatory and non-signatory status, because we are all responsible to make sure the peace process is successful through a shared vision for a federal union. That is why we uphold the all-inclusive principle.
Especially for the KNU, the union-level agreement signed between the KNU and the Government in April 2012 entails 11 principles, and the first priority is “to implement nationwide ceasefire and essentially eliminate armed conflicts in ethnic areas”.
With the goal to achieve a nationwide ceasefire on the basis of progressive realization, the 8 EAOs signed the NCA and later joined by NMSP and LDU.
So, those of us who have been a part of the NCA process from the start share both the mandate and responsibility to implement the process of the NCA.
As for some of the EAOs to sign the NCA or not would be based on the policies of the Government and Tatmadaw.
In this context, the Government and Tatmadaw should even encourage the involvement of KIO and KNPP if they want to join the meeting. They are co-owner organizations of the NCA single text. Therefore, we need to find ways to proceed without dividing based on the status of the NCA. Now Tatmadaw’s objection against the meeting makes us question the political will of the Government and Tatmadaw towards peace.
Q: The letter from the Myanmar Embassy mentioned you as the organizer of the meeting. Is it true?
A: I was also surprised to see that. The meeting was actually planned by the decision of the (EAOs) summit. The summit has delegated (a team) to organize a meeting to review the PPST structure and identify ways to re-structure it in the future. I am just a member of the team. I don’t know why they specifically mentioned my name.
Q: How are the EAOs going to respond to the Myanmar Government regarding this obstruction?
A: We need to discuss among each other on how to prevent future occurrences like this. We would like Tatmadaw to explain how a meeting including the non-signatories could disrupt the peace process. Cooperation between signatories and non-signatories of the NCA ensures better transparency in the peace process. The NCA text also enshrines “Transparency, accountability and responsibility” in the peace process, which is accepted by everyone.
We do not know that there is such a thing as “Eternal Peace” in our peace process. In the NCA, we are committed to achieving “Sustainable Peace.”
This obstruction violates Section 24 (A), Chapter 6 of the NCA. This means that NCA-S EAO leaders and the concerned authorities need to meet and talk in a short time.
Q: Is there anything you would like to add?
A: The KNU will continue to speak out concerns and correct our own mistakes when necessary, for the sake of sustainable peace. As our Chairman stated during the 2015 signing of the Deed of Commitment to “Pursue Peace Boldly”, we will relentlessly work towards achieving Sustainable Peace by building a Federal Democratic Union.