By SAW YAN NAING
The Burmese regime should sign ceasefire agreements with all ethnic armed groups, including the Karen National Union (KNU), if it wants peace for the country, said KNU leaders after talks in Thailand with Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya.
KNU General-Secretary Zipporah Sein said her organization was happy to talk to the regime if the junta really wanted a constructive dialogue.
Kasit, who visited Naypyidaw last month, told Zipporah Sein and other KNU leaders at a meeting in Bangkok on Monday that Burmese Prime Minister Gen Thein Sein wanted to meet the KNU and discuss its stand.
Five Thai officials were also present at the meeting with the KNU leaders.
During his two-day visit to the Burmese capital, Kasit had talks with Thein Sein and Burmese Foreign Minister Nyan Win. Kasit said he had been asked to help in efforts to encourage ethnic rebels to involve themselves in the junta’s seven-step roadmap.
In their meeting with Kasit, the KNU leaders repeated their stand that any talks with Burmese government should take place in Thailand or a third country.
“If we go and talk in Burma, there is no third party and we will be under the management of the Burmese regime,” Zipporah Sein said.
She and other KNU leaders expressed skepticism about any Burmese government offer to engage in talks. Such an offer “could be part of the Burmese regime election process. If we have chance to meet, I think that they [junta] will talk about the general election.”
Burmese observers in exile say they believe talk between Burmese government officials and KNU leaders could be held in the near future, most likely in Thailand.
Htay Aung, a Burmese researcher for the exile-based Network for Democracy and Development, said there would be a “gap” between the KNU and Burmese opposition groups in exile if the KNU signed a ceasefire agreement with the Burmese government.
The Thai authorities were also likely to increase pressure on Burmese opposition groups and the democracy movement would be weakened if the KNU reached a ceasefire agreement with the Burmese regime, Htay Aung said.
The KNU has been fighting for autonomy since Burma gained independence from British colonial rule in 1948. Several other splinter groups have signed separate peace agreements with the military regime since 1994.
About 70 Karen rebels led by Nay Soe Mya, son of the late KNU leader Gen Saw Bo Mya, defected to the Burmese military government on March 30, the state-run newspaper, The New Light of Myanmar, reported on Saturday.