KNU President Calls for Peace
By Shah Paung
August 13, 2004
August 13, 2004In a speech marking the 54th anniversary of Karen
Martyrs Day on August 12, the president of the Karen National Union, or
KNU, reiterated the group's desire to find a peaceful solution to the
country's ethnic nationality problem and the half century conflict
between the KNU and the Burmese government.
"As [the military government] always demanded us to lay down arms
and enter their legal fold, our peaceful endeavor failed and we still have =
to be in the battlefield," said KNU president Ba Thin Sein, in a statement =
issued on Tuesday.
Ba Thin Sein was unable to attend the ceremony because he is receiving
medical treatment in a hospital in the Thai town of Mae Sot. His
statement was read at Martyrs Day ceremonies, which were held at
several locations along the Thai-Burma border early yesterday morning.
KNU deputy chairman and army commander Gen Bo Mya was also
unable to attend because of illness.
About 200 people, including Buddhist monks, attended the ceremony in
the KNU Seventh Brigade area. Ethnic Karen living abroad also
commemorated the occasion.
In his statement, the KNU president said, "We will continue our effort to
find a peaceful way to resolve our Karen and the ethnic nationality
He also said that a peace agreement must be "established on principles,
guaranteeing the rights of Karen people, [and] agreed upon by the two
The KNU has been fighting the Burmese military for 55 years but in
October, the junta announced it was ready to formally reconcile with the
Karen insurgents. The parties have met three times since negotiations
began last December. The KNU and the junta have originally agreed to
hold the fourth round of ceasefire talks in the third week of August, but
the meeting has been rescheduled for early September, said the KNU
foreign affairs secretary, David Taw.
In January KNU deputy chairman and army commander Gen Bo Mya led
a delegation to Rangoon for the second round of talks, in which the two
sides agreed to a "gentleman's ceasefire". Despite the informal
agreement to halt fighting, the two sides have engaged in small-scale
skirmishes throughout KNU-controlled territory.
On August 12, 1950 KNU founder president Saw Ba U Gyi was gunned
down along with eight of his colleagues in Kawkareik, Karen State, while
fighting against the Burma Army.
Martyrs Day honors fallen leaders, soldiers, and civilians that have lost
their lives during the conflict.