KNU, Burma Army to Discuss Tatmadaw’s Ongoing Military Expansion

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

A delegation of the Karen National Union (KNU) is scheduled to meet the Burmese military’s negotiation team on Tuesday in Naypyidaw to address issues including Tatmadaw expansion of troops and the army’s road building projects through KNU-controlled areas.

“We will mainly discuss military affairs… it is because we are going to get an agreement for the further discussion of military affairs, as stated in the NCA,” KNU general secretary Padoh Saw Tadoh Moo told NMG, referring to the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, which the KNU signed with the Burmese military and government in 2015.

He added that an issue raised in the talks would be the Tatmadaw’s road construction through KNU territories controlled by Brigades 3 and 5 in Bago Region and Karen State.

“I don’t think there is a problem if they use the roads for transporting food rations [to their troops],” the general secretary said. “The problem is that they have constructed roads with objectives beyond the transportation of food rations.”

Padoh Saw Tadoh Moo said that the KNU and the military have “different understandings” of this issue as it is stated in the NCA’s Chapter 3, and it therefore needs to be addressed. This will include discussing military repositioning, control areas, ceasefire areas, civilian protection, and communication channels.

One of the KNU’s primary complaints is that the Burma Army expanded their military presence in KNU areas after the group signed the NCA. Military tension between the KNU’s armed wing—the Karen National Liberation Army—and the Tatmadaw has remained high as a result.

“It is not only the vehicle road construction—they have also expanded their military troops in the area. That’s why we are so worried about it,” Padoh Saw Tadoh Moo said.

The general secretary said that a meeting is needed to be held with the government and army present to get a common understanding of the NCA text. The success of this meeting would be an important step forward the convening of Joint Implementation Coordination Meeting (JIMC), which is an important part of Burma’s peace process.

“We have many expectations. The problem is that we don’t have a discussion mechanism—that’s why we are trying to have one,” he explained. “Without a discussion mechanism, we can not move the process forward, so we have problems… we cannot move forward the process anywhere. Therefore, we are trying to move it step-by-step.”

In addition to the general secretary, the KNU’s vice chairperson Padoh Saw Kwe Htoo Win and 12 other officials will be in attendance. Gen Yar Pyae will lead the Tatmadaw’s negotiation team.

The KNU is one of 10 ethnic armed organizations signatory to the NCA.