Media Release from Karen Worldwide
Representatives from Karen organizations worldwide today call for genuine peace throughout Burma and for national reconciliation towards the establishment of a federal union. They also appealed to the international community, especially the European Union and the United States, to maintain pressure on the Burmese Government until there is tangible political change for the Karen and for all the people of Burma.
Today’s appeals were the result of a four-day conference organized by the Karen National Unity Committee from 27 February to 1 March in Kawtholei, Karen State. The conference was attended by 167 Karen participants, including community and religious leaders, as well as representatives from women, youth and other Karen ethnic organizations from inside Burma and around the world.
“We welcome the peace initiative of the Karen National Union (KNU),” said K’nyaw Paw, Executive Member of Karen Women’s Organization and Presidium Board Member of Women’s League of Burma. “We are collectively calling on the Burmese Government to genuinely commit to a ceasefire with the KNU, stop military operation in Karen areas, start political negotiation, and guarantee ethnic rights for the Karen people and for all the people of Burma.”
Participants of the conference also expressed their support for the KNU in working with other ethnic and democratic alliances including United Nationalities Federal Council for the establishment of a federal democratic Burma.
“We acknowledge that there have been some political changes in the central parts of Burma,” said Zoya Phan, Chair of the European Karen Network and Advisor of the Karen Community Association UK. “However, the situation in Karen areas has not improved and the rights and protection of the Karen have not been guaranteed. These are critical issues that must be addressed in order to achieve lasting peace in our communities, and for there to be significant political reforms in Burma.”
“As Karen overseas, we pledged to do all we can to support the ceasefire negotiations between the KNU and the Burmese Government,” said Saw Kenneth Moe, Vice-Chairperson of the Karen National Fellowship–Korea. “Karen people around the world have pledged to work in unity and we hope the international community will stand with us by pressuring the Burmese Government to work sincerely for peace and national reconciliation in our country. International governments could also play a concrete role as observers to make sure the process is transparent.”
The conference also stressed that development projects, many of which are already underway in Karen areas, must take into account the local people’s rights to participation in decision-making, right to land ownership and well being of future generations. The Burmese Government’s economic policies must be based on the long-term benefit of the people, especially local communities.