Friday, May 18, 2012

KNU chief calls for close secrutiny of Myanmar

Although Myanmar successfully organised its national election on April 1 and signed a peace agreement with minority groups, the country has not yet fully moved towards democracy and this would create an unclear situation for foreign investors, said General Htay Maung, chairman of the Karen National Union.

In an interview with The Nation in Bangkok recently, Htay Maung expressed deep worry about the future of Myanmar after many Western countries started flocking |to the country to reap the benefits |of Myanmar's liberalisation under the current administration.

He said it was too early to judge whether Myanmar had stepped into modernisation as the current government still lacked sincerity in pursuing peace talks with other minority groups.

"Although we [Karen] have signed a peace deal with the Myanmar government in the |second level of peace talks since 2007, the government has not shown any progress in tightening cooperation with the Karen. The government still wants to centralise the administration and take all the natural resources of all our countries rather than allow other minority groups to rule themselves," Htay Maung said.

Unlike Aung San Suu Kyi, who prefers to see federal states and create fair practice for all participants, the current government only wants to retain its full authority, Htay Maung said.

He said that as long as the Myanmar government lacked sincerity to reconcile with other minority groups, real peace would not happen. Then, foreign direct investment would still be at risk if it has to reach all parts of Myanmar that belong to minority groups.

He cited the case of the Dawei Project for which the Myanmar government has granted concession to a Thai company but the minority group in the area has not yet accepted. He explained that Dawei belonged to the Dawei and Karen people, and the Thai company should talk to the local people as well.

He added that due to the close and good relationship with Thai people, the Karen people are prompted to talk to Thai investors |to help develop their lands and |promote better living for local people.

The Karen are the second largest minority group in Myanmar, numbering about 12 million. The population of other minority groups, which have not yet signed a peace deal with the Myanmar government, in Kachin number about 1.5 million.

Htay Maung said that the current government continues to attack the Kachin, who are located in the upper north of Myanmar. Kachin state is rich in natural resources, in particular jade and gold.

He called on the Myanmar government to stop shooting, and make peace with all minority groups to help promote the country's growth. He also called on foreign countries to closely monitor the moves of the Myanmar government, to check whether it violated human rights.

Htay Maung also defended the leader of an armed Karen group, Brigadier-General Nat Khann Mway, who has been accused by Thai Deputy PM Chalerm Yoobamrung of being involved in drug trading. He said Nay Khann Mway was not involved in any drug activities as alleged in the arrest warrant. The real drug traders have been protected by some persons. Karen people have never supported any activities involving narcotics. He said the Thai government should be more cautious before making such statements as it could destroy a good person's reputation.

He added that there may be some hidden agenda in the arrest warrant as that Karen area is rich in natural resources, mainly diamonds and ores.