By WAI MOE
The Burmese junta’s Secretary 1 Lt-Gen Tin Aung Myint Oo has signaled that talks with armed groups who have not signed ceasefire agreements are possible at any time, according to Burmese state media.
The state-run New Light of Myanmar reported on Wednesday that Tin Aung Myint Oo said during a meeting on March 21 with Htay Maung, the chairman of a splinter group of the Karen National Union (KNU), that the “peace door is always open to remaining groups” that have not yet signed ceasefire agreements.
Currently, three non-ceasefire armed groups—the KNU, the Kareni National Progressive Party and the Shan State Army-South—still fight with Burmese troops in eastern Burma. Among them, the KNU is the largest.
Tin Aung Myint Oo said ceasefire agreements can make it easier for rebels to be able to shape the future in the own areas instead of living under hardships without hope.
On March 21, Tin Aung Myint Oo met with Than Htoo Kyaw, the chairman of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), a Karen splinter army. He said the military regime will continue to encourage the development of DKBA-controlled areas.
The KNU/KNLA Peace Council separated from the KNU in February 2007 and Buddhist Karen rebels split from the KNU to form the DKBA in 1995.
Last week, Prime Minister Gen Thein Sein asked Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya to serve as a mediator to convince rebel ethnic minorities, particularly the KNU, to join the junta’s seven-step roadmap to democracy. Since February, Thai authorities have tightened restrictions on KNU leaders who live on Thai soil on the border.
During the past decade, there were unsuccessful peace talks between the junta and the KNU. In early 2004, the late KNU leader Gen Saw Bo Mya flew to Rangoon to meet with ousted Prime Minister Gen Khin Nyunt.
The KNU is a leading organization in exiled pro-democracy umbrella groups such as the Democratic Alliance of Burma and the National Council of the Union of Burma.
Observers say that if the KNU gave up its 60-year rebellion to bring freedom to the Karen people it would be a blow for the pro-democracy movement on the Thailand-Burma border. The junta officially blamed dissident groups on the border for the mass demonstrations led by Buddhist monks in September 2007.