The KNU/KNLA Peace Council, a splinter Karen rebel group led by Brig-Gen Htay Maung, said it has not surrendered to the Burmese Army but has changed its strategy by first striking a peace deal.

Major Maung Kyaw, liaison officer of the Karen National Union/Karen National Liberation Army Peace Council, said no negotiation can be possible without first reaching a peace agreement. But it does not mean surrendering of arms.

“Our principle is that there can be no dialogue and no development as long as there is continuous fighting. So, we need to find a way to stop this fighting,” Kyaw told Mizzima over telephone.

Kyaw added that despite criticism that the KNU/KNLA Peace Council is following a new strategy, it does not mean that “we are surrendering.”

Brig-Gen Htay Maung, commander of the 7th brigade KNLA, the armed wing of the KNU, and a team of delegates on January 3 left for Rangoon for peace talks with the Burmese Army without the approval of the KNU central committee.

Following the trip, the KNU central committee dismissed Brig-Gen Htay Maung from his post for flouting the central committee’s orders and trying to negotiate peace with the Burmese military junta without consulting the KNU.

However, Brig-Gen Htay Maung and his group continued the peace process and formed the KNU/KNLA Peace Council on January 31. The Peace Council also declared that a peace deal has been struck with the Burmese junta and went back to Toh Kaw Koe village, Kawkareik Township , Karen State with its followers.

Kyaw said, members of the Peace Council are able to move freely in the Toh Kaw Koe area, where the Karen revolutionary leader Saw Ba U Gyi had died in August 1950, without fear of military attacks and are able to hoist the Karen national flag.

“But we are in no way going to give up our arms,” said Kyaw adding that the word “surrender” used by a few media groups to label the Peace Council, was disgusting.

“It’s been 58 years that we have been fighting. This is not child’s play and just to say we are surrendering is ridiculous,” said Kyaw.

Kyaw said following the agreement between the Peace Council and the junta for a peace deal, the lives of Karen people in the area had been peaceful with development projects on the anvil.

Currently Brig-Gen Htay Maung is demanding that the Burmese junta build a channel that will supply water to the vast fields in the peace zone, said Kyaw.