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Sunday, July 4, 2010

DKBA, KNU Held Secret Peace Talks

By LAWI WENG Friday, July 2, 2010

Secret peace talks between the Karen National Union (KNU) and the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) were held in Kanchanaburi Province in Thailand in June, according to sources close to the KNU.

Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Friday, a KNU source in the Three Pagodas Pass area, said, “The peace talks were held from June 17 to 23 in Kanchanaburi. Three leaders from DKBA and two from the KNU took part in the talks.”

The three DKBA leaders reportedly included influential Buddhist Abbot Ashin Thuzana; Col Lah Pwe, better known as Mr. Beard; and Saw Naw Tayar, a military official. Two KNU leaders, Gen Mu Tu, the commander in chief of the KNLA, and a KNU military officer known as Oliver, also took part.

David Takapaw, the deputy KNU chairman, told The Irrawaddy that he had no information about the talks. He said that the KNU district administration may have initiated the talks and did not have to report to headquarters until a substantive agreement had been achieved.

Chit Thu, the commander of DKBA Brigade 999, said on June 26 at a ceremony honoring fallen DKBA comrades that he favored a halt to the fighting between the DKBA and KNU. He made no mention of peace talks with the KNU at the ceremony.

Observers have said that the Burmese junta's pressure on the DKBA to transform into a border guard force (BGF) may be pushing the DKBA to settle its differences and join forces.

The military junta has set a final deadline of Aug. 10 for the DKBA to join the BGF. Observers say that some higher DKBA officials favor joining the BGF.

Nai Kao Rot, the former deputy army chief of the New Mon State Party said that the junta's Southeast Regional Command is monitoring the peace talks and watching the troop movements of the two groups.

Maj-Gen Thet Naing Win of the Southeast Regional Commander reportedly has ordered a government battalion in the Three Pagodas Pass area to observe the two ethnic groups' activities.

“They are worried that fighting could break out during the election if the two groups join forces,” Nai Kao Rot said.

The DKBA joined forces with Burmese military troops to fight against the KNU after it split from the KNU and signed a cease-fire with the junta in 1995.

The DKBA and KNU also held secret peace talks early in October, but the talks failed and the two armies again clashed.

The DKBA, which was formed 15 years ago, now controls most of the Thai-Burmese border area previously controlled by the KNU.

The DKBA claims to have 6,000 troops and plans to enlarge its army to 9,000, making it Burma's second largest non-state armed group. It has been accused of human rights abuses in its clashes with KNU forces and also of involvement in human trafficking along Thai-Burmese border.

The Burmese junta has put pressure on all ethnic cease-fire groups to transform their army into a BGF for more than one year. April 22 was the last deadline. Many ethnic groups remain defiant and refuse to accept the order.


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