Monday, October 31, 2011

Govt Holds Peace Talks with DKBA

DKBA Brigade 5 leaders, including Brig-Gen Saw Lah Pwe (black shirt), pose for a photograph at a base in eastern Burma. (Photo: The Irrawaddy)

A five-member Burmese government delegation met with representatives of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA)'s Brigade 5 in Mottama, Thaton District, Mon State, on Oct 26 for talks aimed at ending fighting, according to Karen sources.

The Burmese delegation, acting as liaisons for President Thein Sein, included two senior members of the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP)—ex-Brig-Gen Thein Zaw and ex-Brig-Gen Maung Maung Thein—as well as the commander of the Southeast Regional Military Command and the chief ministers of Karen and Mon states.

The DKBA delegation, which was led by Col Saw Moseph, met the Burmese officials at a government office in Mottama.

“They [the Burmese government] invited us to talk, but we haven't reached any agreement yet,” said Maj San Aung of the DKBA, speaking to The Irrawaddy on Monday.

San Aung said that during the meeting, the DKBA delegation presented a draft peace proposal that called for a ceasefire, allowing the DKBA to set up liaison offices in Karen State and permitting DKBA battalions to remain in Three Pagodas Pass, Hlaing Bwe Township and Manerplaw, the former headquarters of the Karen National Liberation Army.

“We need to build trust by stopping the fighting first. We will watch and see whether they are sincere. In revolution, there are no permanent enemies and no permanent friends,” he said.

DKBA Brigade 5, which is led by Brig-Gen Saw Lah Pwe, broke its alliance with the Burmese army after coming under pressure to join a Border Guard Force under Burmese military command. The group currently has about 1,600 troops and is based in the Three Pagodas Pass, Hlaing Bwe Township and Manerplaw areas.

During last year's Nov 7 election, DKBA Brigade 5 troops attacked Myawaddy, near the Thai border town of Mae Sot, ending a ceasefire with the Burmese government that had been in place since 1995.

Since then, DKBA troops have battled constantly with government forces in eastern Burma, in clashes that have forced many ethnic Karen people to flee their hometowns.

San Aung cited the impact of the fighting on civilians as the reason the DKBA agreed to talk with the government.

“We were worried about what our people would think about us if we didn't agree to peace talks this time, and we don't want other countries to view us as too militant,” he said.

Naypyidaw issued an announcement on Aug 18 inviting all ethnic armed groups in Burma to enter into individual peace talks with the government. Since then, it has approached the various ethnic armed groups in the country for negotiations, although it continues to wage an offensive against the Kachin Independence Army, another former ceasefire group.

Government delegations previously met once with Karen National Union representatives and once with the rebel New Mon State Party, though both times talks concluded without an agreement.

The Burmese government recently reached an agreement to uphold a two-decade-old ceasefire with the United Wa State Army and its ally, the National Democratic Alliance Army, both of which are based in Shan State.
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