KNU shelve Hpa-an talks till next year
By NAW NOREEN
The next meeting of Burma’s ethnic armed groups will likely take place at Lay Wah, the headquarters of the Karen National Union (KNU), around the third week of December.
KNU General-Secretary Pado Saw Kwe Htoo Win said the talks would probably be held between 17- 25 December ahead of a conference between the ethnic representatives and a Burmese government delegation which is due to be hosted by the KNU in Karen state capital Hpa-an.
The two summits follow up on earlier negotiations held among the ethnic armies in Laiza on 30 October to 2 November, followed by a similar summit with government representatives in Myitkyina on 4- 5 November.
“We are roughly looking between the 17th and 25th December for the [ethnic] conference but will have to discuss this with other ethnic armed groups,” said Pado Saw Kew Htoo Win.
He said that the Hpa-an round of talks with the government, which was originally planned for early December, must now be postponed probably until January.
“Weighing up the circumstances, it is unlikely the Hpa-an conference will take place this year, but we assume it will go ahead in January,” said the KNU general-secretary.
The announcement would appear to deaden the possibility of a nationwide ceasefire being signed before the end of 2012, something President Thein Sein had predicted would happen.
Hla Maung Shwe of the Myanmar Peace Centre, which sits as a mediator at talks, confirmed that no date had been fixed for the Hpa-an talks, but neither had he heard of any postponement.
“We haven’t heard of the talks being postponed – we are just waiting for word,” he told DVB. “I guess it would be hard for us to say when the Hpa-an talks will happen when the ethnic groups themselves don’t even know yet when their own meeting is going to take place.”
The KNU has released a statement pledging to work with other ethnic armed groups and democracy activists to help facilitate a nationwide ceasefire and meaningful political dialogue, and to bring peace to the country.