OFFICE OF THE SUPREME HEADQUARTERS
KNU PRESS STATEMENT ON ITS PEACE EFFORT
March 28, 2009
On January 4, 1948 Burma declared independence from Britain. The Karen people
were apprehensive as the Burman ultra-nationalist leaders were in most of the
positions of power in the newly formed government. At that time, memory of atrocities
committed by the Burma Independence Army (BIA) troops, in the early days of Japanese
occupation in 1942, was still fresh in the minds of the Karen people.
late 1948 and early 1949, the Karen people came under military attacks by the
pocket army troops of Gen. Ne Win, the father of military dictatorship in Burma.
There was no choice for the Karen people but to take up arms in self-defense.
The Karen National Union (KNU), which was formed by amalgamation of four Karen
organizations to protect the Karen peoples rights after independence, had
to lead the uprising. The Karen people were accused of being lackeys of the British
and narrow nationalists. The war against the Karen by the government forces took
the form of racial strife with much hatred and vengeance, verging on genocide,
from the very beginning.
The goal of the KNU or the Karen peoples
struggle is for establishment of the federal union of Burma based on democracy,
equality, internal self-determination for all the ethnic nationalities, justice,
peace and social progress.
In the effort to resolve
the problems by peaceful means, the KNU leaders met with regimes in power, for
peace talk, on five separate occasions.
The first negotiation, reportedly
brokered by the diplomatic missions of India and Pakistan, took place in Rangoon.
After a truce was declared, the Karen delegation led by Saw Ba U Gyi, President
of the KNU, departed to Rangoon for peace talk with the Burmese government. In
the talk, the government demanded surrender of arms from the Karen, with the threat
of detention of delegation leader, Saw Ba U Gyi. There was no agenda on the government
side to discuss the grievances and rights of the Karen people. While the Karen
leaders were in Rangoon, the government troops violated the truce by sending in
reinforcement to the front line against the Karen. To escape from the trap, Saw
Ba U Gyi pretended to agree to the idea of laying down arms and insisted on going
back and persuading the Karen forces. He had to leave a Karen leader, as a hostage.
No Karen leaders agreed to lay down arms and hostilities were resumed. After this
frustrating and disappointing experience, Saw Ba U Gyi laid down the following
4-point guideline, which has come to be known as the Principles of Saw Ba U Gyi.
Up to this day, the KNU and the Karen resistance have firmly embraced the Principles
and they will go on embracing them indefinitely.
For us, the Karen people,
surrender is out of the question;
We shall retain our arms;
of Karen State must be complete;
We shall decide our own destiny.
second talk took place in 1959, in the form of a secret meeting, during the care-taker
government led by Gen. Ne Win. At this time also, the regimes representatives
demanded the Karen to lay down arms first, and talk about the Karen grievances
later. The Karen refused and hostilities continued.
The third talk took
place in 1963 when Burma was under the rule of the first military regime, the
so-called Revolutionary Council (RC), led by Gen. Ne Win. At that time, the RC
made overture to all the armed groups for peace talk. The term offered by RC was
for the armed groups to lay down arms and cooperate with it. Since all the political
leaders, Burman as well as non-Burman removed from power by Gen. Ne Win, were
still under detention, there was no condition for trust of the RC. Except for
one or two groups, all returned to the jungle and continued armed rebellion.
The fourth talk took place in 1996. There were four rounds of talk during
the year. On the regime side, the talks were led by officers of the Burmese military
intelligence department, the head of which was Gen. Khin Nyunt, Secretary (1)
of the SPDC.
This time, position of the regime in power was to allow the
Karen to retain their arms on the two conditions that the KNU renounce the policy
of armed struggle and enter the legal fold. On the other hand, the regime refused
to talk about the grievances of the Karen people and their political aspirations,
saying that the SPDC was only a military government and the Karen question had
to be settled by an elected government in the future.
The KNU reasoned
that its armed resistance was essentially for the very survival of the Karen people.
The war was imposed on the Karen people and the KNU had done no wrong by leading
the Karen peoples struggle in self-defense. For that reason, the KNU did
not need to renounce any thing or enter the legal fold. [At that time, the
regimes repression of the democratic forces led by the National League for
Democracy (NLD), in towns and cities, was in full force. Naturally, it did not
bode well for trust building.]
The fifth talk started in late 2003
and went on until May 2005. Here again, on the regime side, the talks were conducted
by officers under Gen. Khin Nyunt, who had now become the prime minister. There
were 7 rounds of talks. In January 2004, a verbal cease-fire agreement was accepted,
known as Gentlemen Agreement, after a meeting between the KNU vice-president
Gen. Bo Mya and Gen Khin Nyunt.
However, when Gen. Khin Nyunt was purged
from power in October 2004, the talk between the KNU and the SPDC started to flounder.
There was a lot of uncertainty on the KNU side, but it tried to resume the talk.
The last round of talk took place in March 2005. Instead of negotiation, commander
of the SPDC South-East Command told the KNU delegation to gather all the KNU and
Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) personnel in three areas and do the development
work of raising livestock and tilling the land. This virtually ended the talk.
However, the KNU managed to have an informal talk with the hope of having the
junta revise its ultimatum. The informal talk took place in May 2005, but the
KNU did not get the expected result. The late KNU president, Saw Ba Thin Sein
sent an official letter to SPDC chairman, Senior Gen. Than Shwe with the hope
of reviving the talk. There was no reply from the SPDC chairman, but a junior
officer sent words later to the KNU that the SPDC chairman was too busy. In the
first week of July 2006, the SPDC side sent some Karen doctors to persuade KNU
vice-president Gen. Bo Mya, who was seriously ill with lungs infection and diabetes,
to go to Rangoon by air for medical treatment. Gen. Bo Mya was to be followed
by some KNLA military officers by land, for secret talk with the SPDC. However,
Gen. Bo Mya rejected the idea, because he had to do it without the knowledge and
approval of other KNU central leaders.
On July 14, SPDC Col. Myat Tun Oo
came and contacted secretly with some KNLA officers, who told him to go through
the KNU official channel. Myat Tun Oo replied that he did not want to meet KNU
However, the SPDC continued to keep contact with former 7th Brigade
commander, Htin Maung secretly, showing that the SPDC was neither sincere nor
serious about peace talk. It was using peace talk simply as a strategy for dividing
The KNU has the policy of resolving political problems politically
and has laid down proper procedure, principles and guideline for dialogue.
giving lip service to peace, the SPDC launched a three-year military campaign,
starting in February 2006, against the salient districts of KNU - Toungoo, Nyaunglaybin,
Thaton and Papun Districts, with the objective of wiping out Karen resistance.
The campaign ended on January 31, 2009, without the SPDC achieving its objective.
Now, the SPDC is forcing the Democratic Kayin Buddhist Army (DKBA) to increase
military activities against the KNU. It is also pressuring turncoat, the so-called
KNU/KNLA Peace Council to sow dissension among the KNU and have the Karen refugees
Peace negotiation between the KNU
and successive Burman regimes failed consistently, because sincerity was lacking
on the side of the regimes in power. In the time of Premier U NU, the overwhelming
chauvinism of the Burman leaders did not allow for a compromise solution. Fascist
trained power monger, Gen. Ne Win, was allowed to use military force and dirty
tricks to outlaw the peaceful movement of the Karen people for equality and rights.
Gen. Ne Win seized state power in 1962, on the pretext of saving the Union
from disintegration as the ethnic nationalities - the Shan, the Karenni, the Kachin
and Chin were demanding their rights of equality and self-determination, guaranteed
by Panlong Agreement and the Constitution.
Fascist Gen. Ne Win quickly
turned Burma into a police state, brutally crushing all forms of opposition and
dissent. He established himself as the supreme leader (Fuhrer), father of the
Fourth Burman Empire and introduced the fascist/Nazi like ideology of extreme
racism and militarism. Ne Wins so-called Burmese Way to Socialism
smacked of the National Socialism (Nationalsozialismus) of the Third Reich.
present SPDC military dictatorship is also a kind of fascist/Nazi like dictatorship.
It is an extension of Ne Wins dictatorship. Its ideology is based on extreme
racism, militarism and feudalism. Its policy against all opposition is based on
pathological hatred and total elimination of all forms of opposition and dissent.
The SPDCs goal is to build the Fourth Burman Empire out of the multi-ethnic
state of Burma. The master-race ideology of the SPDC leaders makes them to have
no agenda for a compromise solution. The so-called constructive engagement policy
makes it only to become more arrogant and conceited. Now the dictatorship has
become so much self-confident as to hoodwink the international community blatantly
with its Road Map.
The SPDC military regime
is planning to hold a general election in 2010, after adopting its Constitution
by fraudulent means in a rigged referendum held in May 2008. The Constitution
was drafted by the so-called National Convention which was stacked
with its hand picked delegates. The Constitution gives the military men 25% of
the seats in all elected bodies of the government, at all levels. The important
positions such as the presidency, defense, etc. are also to be occupied by military
men or former military men. Moreover, the Constitution is for a unitary State,
though the country is given the name Union.
Chief of the armed
forces is empowered to declare the state of emergency or, in other words, to seize
state power at his whim. Amendment of the Constitution requires more than 75%
vote of the legislature. In short, the Constitution ensures the military establishment
to have controlling power in the executive as well as in the legislative branch
of the government and remain to be an elite class of the society, indefinitely.
government coming to power through the 2010 general election will continue to
suppress severely the democratic rights of the people and commit human rights
violations like the SPDC is doing now. The military elite will continue to have
monopolistic control of the government, the economy and the natural resources.
The ethnic resistance organizations will continue to oppose the militarys
attempt at total control of their people and lands. There will be no viable peace
and the country will remain unstable politically, socially and economically.
Burma is being regarded as an international problem and a threat to international
peace by a number of political analysts because of drug, human rights, refugees,
human trafficking and illegal migrant workers problems. Fascist/Nazi like ideology
is infectious and there is a likelihood of other countries in the region being
infected by it.
The situation being as such, it is necessary for peace
and justice loving countries of the World to look into the situation prevailing
in Burma, critically, and find a viable solution to the problems besetting it.
It is necessary for the international communities such as the UN, EU, ASEAN and
world powers such as the US, China, Russia, Japan and even India need to know
the true ideology of the SPDC, otherwise their good intention would be easily
It is still not too late for the international communities, and
peace and justice loving countries to act. A concerted and timely action is required
to resolve the problems of Burma for restoration of durable peace and stability
to the country.
The Executive Committee
Karen National Union