Land Grabs, Aung San Statue on Peace Talk Agenda: KNPP

The group will hold peace talks with government and Burma Army representatives this week.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

The Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP) says it will raise the issues of land confiscation and public opposition to a statue erected in honor of Burmese independence hero Aung San when it meets with government peace negotiators and Burma Army representatives this week.

“We will discuss what is happening on the ground in Karenni State, especially opposition to the bronze statue and the land confiscation issue. And we will also bring up the army’s prosecution of Karenni youths and farmers,” KNPP spokesperson Neh Nel Plo told NMG.

According to the KNPP, representatives of the group will meet with members of the government’s National Reconciliation and Peace Center (NRPC) on July 17 and the Burma Army’s Peace Negotiation Team on July 18.

The group said that it could not afford to ignore these two contentious issues.

“We have to consider what our people want. We can’t ignore their desire. So we have to discuss these issues with the government,” said Neh Nel Plo, adding that these two problems in particular were seen as “obstacles to the peace process”.

“Even if we did get peace based on the current ground situation, it wouldn’t be a long-lasting peace” if these issued weren’t addressed, he said.

Opposition to the Aung San statue—which is seen by many as an attempt to impose Burmese nationalism on ethnic minorities—has led to the arrest and imprisonment of six Karenni youths who are facing trial for organizing unauthorized protests.

Meanwhile, farmers are being charged with trespassing and damaging public property for attempting to reclaim confiscated land.

“The army has laid charges against farmers for plowing their own fields. It’s like the homeowners have been turned into guests in their own homes. Nobody is protecting them. Farmers didn’t even have an opportunity to meet the vice-president during his recent visit to the state. It all depends on our state government,” said Khu Tuu Reh, the chairman of the Karenni State Farmers’ Union.

Regarding this week’s talks, he added: “We are happy to hear the KNPP will discuss land issues with the NRPC. We want to get our farmland back from the army. We also want police to release our detained farmers. We thank the KNPP for raising these issues in the peace talks.”
According to Neh Nel Plo, the KNPP spokesperson, the land issue will be discussed directly with the army’s representatives during talks on Thursday.

“The land confiscation issue is directly linked to the army, so we will discuss it with the army’s representatives. We will also discuss other issues with them, including the murder of KNPP soldiers, the murder of a civilian, and the establishment of new military camps in Karenni State,” he said.

Seven KNPP representatives, led by Vice-chairman Khu Oo Reh, will meet with representatives of the NRPC and the army.

Also on the agenda will be the possibility of the KNPP signing the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA). However, the group said it still hesitates to sign the agreement because of unresolved issues in Karenni State and the lack of progress made by other NCA signatories.