Mon 2 Aug 2004
Filed under: Inside Burma,News
July 31: Ethnic Karen rebels from Myanmar have said they will hold a new round of cease-fire talks with the country’s military government in the third week of August.
The Karen National Union _ the only major ethnic guerrilla group that hasn’t signed a full cease-fire agreement with Myanmar’s government _ entered peace talks late last year, and both sides have declared a provisional truce. The KNU has been fighting for autonomy for more than 50 years.
David Htaw, head of the KNU’s foreign affairs office, said Friday that the junta had proposed a meeting on July 28, but the date was inconvenient for the rebels, who instead suggested the third week of August.
He said the venue might be Moulmein, in Myanmar’s eastern Mon State, where the last round of talks was held in late February.
There was no immediate comment from the government.
The guerrillas described the last round of talks as “successful,” but they were marred by an attack by KNU guerrillas on a government outpost just before they began. The attack was apparently sanctioned by KNU field commanders opposed to the cease-fire negotiations.
The next round of talks is supposed to cover substantially the same ground as the previous one: demarcation of territory, troop positions and resettlement of ethnic Karen displaced by fighting, said Htaw, who was deputy leader of the last delegation.
Despite the warming relations, the two sides have not signed a formal agreement.
The KNU also has declined to participate in the junta’s National Convention to draft guidelines for a new constitution.
The convention is a first step on the junta’s so-called roadmap to restore democracy, an effort to gain legitimacy in the eyes of the international community. The junta is widely condemned for failing to hand over power to an elected government.
The proceedings have been boycotted by the main opposition party, the National League for Democracy, because its leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, is under house arrest. Outside critics have also described the convention as undemocratic.