Friday, May 22, 2009

Karens still wary of junta

The Karen National Union found itself in the spotlight recently, after Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya offered to help negotiate for the KNU to join the Burmese government's reconciliation process, part of which is a general election set for 2010
By: Songpol Kaopatumtip and Suthep Chaviwan
Published: 12/04/2009 at 12:00 AM
Newspaper section: Spectrum

Karen National Union Vice-President David Tharckabaw maintains that before reconciliation can begin the ruling Burmese generals must first show their sincerity by accepting the Tripartite Dialogue. A graduate of Rangoon University, Mr Tharckabaw has held various positions in the KNU, which he joined in 1978. He was elected as vice-president and head of the Foreign Affairs Departme

nt in 2008.

Following are full details of Mr Thackerbaw's recent comments to Songpol Kaopatumtip and Suthep Chaviwan:

Q: In an interview with Mizzima News on March 24, you said that the KNU will not take part in the 2010 general election in Burma unless the ruling generals implement changes in their seven-step roadmap to democracy. Can you elaborate on these changes?

A: The 2010 election is part of the State Peace and Development Council's (SPDC) seven-step road map. The general election is going to elect members of parliament to form a government in accordance with the SPDC-drafted state constitution, which is neither democratic nor federal.

The constitution was adopted by fraudulent means in a rigged referendum in May 2008. It is against the will of the majority of the people of Burma.

For that reason, the KNU believes that it will not resolve the political problems of the country and lead to viable peace and stability in the country. Participation in that election will amount to endorsing the SPDC's road map, which was flawed from the very beginning.

The SPDC needs to start all over again. It must accept the Tripartite Dialogue, in which the democratic forces, the ethnic nationality forces and the military junta discuss plans for national reconciliation and the future of the country. There must be an interim government and a new National Convention representative of the people, including the non-Burman nationalities. There must be a democratic environment in which the people can express their opinions freely.

The draft Constitution must enshrine the democratic and federal principles and it must be put to a free and fair referendum, under the observation of representatives of the UN, EU, Asean, etc. The election to form a government in accordance with the constitution must be free and fair and in accordance with the internationally accepted norms and standards.

Q: Among the various ethnic groups in Burma, the KNU and the Shan State Army are the only two major resistance groups opposed to the election. What will be your post-election strategy?

Are you afraid that the KNU will be marginalised after 2010?

A: The resistance groups which have agreed to a ceasefire, such as the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO), the United Wa State Army (UWSA) and the New Mon State Army (NMSP) do not intend to enter the election.

The resistance groups which have no ceasefire agreement, such as the Karenni National Progress Party (KNPP), the Arakan Liberation Party (ALP) and probably the Chin National Front (CNF) also are not going to enter the election. Though small, the KNPP, ALP and CNF are quite effective.

Our post-election strategy will depend on whether the SPDC continues to commit military attacks against the Karen people, human rights violations and crimes against humanity.

If the SPDC continues to commit the crimes mentioned above, we will intensify our armed struggle, in self-defence. We will continue lobbying internationally for all kinds of sanctions in support of democratic change and ethnic nationality rights in Burma.

The KNU stands for truth, freedom and peace with justice, and it will continue to receive the support of the people.

It will never be marginalised.

Q: What can Asean and the international community do?

A: Asean and the international community can do much, if they try to find out the true nature and ideology of the SPDC.

The SPDC is not a simple military dictatorship, because it is following the ideology of master racism, militarism and feudalism. Its aim is to build the Fourth Burman Empire, under total military control.

Asean has been following an appeasement policy under the name of constructive engagement. The appeasement policy encourages the SPDC to be more arrogant and conceited. Asean must tell the SPDC frankly that it must follow the true will of the people, or else. Asean countries should not hesitate, because the SPDC's totalitarian ideology can spread to neighbouring countries quickly.

Countries like Japan and Germany should stop giving quiet support to the SPDC. The US should withdraw all its investment and the EU countries should strictly enforce the sanctions, called for by the EU common position on Burma.

Q: Will the election bring about harmonious accommodation among the country's diverse ethnic groups?

A: There can be no harmonious accommodation after the election. There will also be no viable peace and stability in the country.

As I have said, the SPDC-drafted Constitution is neither democratic nor federal.

What the people in general want is democracy, which stands for government of the people, by the people, for the people, and not government of the military, by the military, for the military.

The SPDC in civilian guise will come to power in the election.

It will continue to suppress the basic rights and freedom of the people, and particularly the non-Burman nationalities.

Q: The KNU and its armed wing, the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), have been fighting for self-determination since 1948.

A previous peace dialogue was stalled following the sudden purge of then prime minister Khin Nyunt in 2004. Do you want to resume peace talks?

A: The KNU policy is to resolve the political problems by political means through dialogue. It is leading the armed struggle in order to prevent annihilation of the Karen people.

Dialogue may change the policy of the SPDC and the KNU may be a factor in pushing the SPDC on to the right track of tripartite dialogue and peaceful resolution of conflict.

Q: Do you have a solution to the Burma problem?

A: The KNU is cooperating closely with other ethnic nationality organisations and the democratic organisations.

Our road map begins with (1) the tripartite dialogue for genuine national reconciliation, (2) an interim government, (3) drafting of the people's State Constitution based on democracy and federalism, (4) election, (5) a genuine democratic government of the people, and (6) stability and development.


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