Exclusive interview with Khu Mi Reh, a person in-charge of KNPP liaison office in Loikaw, focusing on “What did the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP) do in terms of peace and how do they plan to do in the furture, and how should the next government deal with state affairs?”
Q : From year-2015 until now, what are the main things your party and the government have done for peace? What have you achieved?
Ans : Before 2015 at the the government’s five-year term from 2010 to 2015, the KNPP and the government met first time to hold political talks for a state-level ceasefire at 2012. From 2012 to 2015, there were many agreements done on our KNPP political demands with the government and the responsible government peace implementation council, Aung Min. However, in the hands of the NLD government, which is in its second term after the 2015 election, the talks are a bit shaky. On the other hand, we have considered that the condition changed that KNPP could only discuss the possibility of signing the NCA. It became like that. So the reason for the success is that in 2015, when the new government came to power, the NRPC was reorganized by the government. On the KNPP side, we have re-formed with our party leader. Only after the Peace Talks Committee was reconstituted with the delegates did they try to bring these processes into force and then implement them. This is I compare with nationwide level. Because I see the NRPC as a situation where the whole country is meeting with the leaders and organizations in each state, so in my viewpoint, it is not going to be very successful.
Q : What about the meeting with the state government?
Ans : Regarding to the talks with the state government, the NRPC, based on the unresolved roles in the state that have been discussed with the government as a whole, we tried to do that with such thoughts. But before I was in charge of the Loikaw liaison office, there were some things we did. We also met with the state government in the construction of the General Aung San statue. we also met with the NRPC. I think these are just some of the issues that are being worked on under an agreement. Besides, we also met with the state government only once when I am in charge of the Loikaw liaison office.
Q : What was the state of the peace process in the state under the NLD government after the 2015 election?
Answer: : I think this is a challenge. Another thing is that during the last government from 2010 to 2015, we could have the opportunity to meet with the people. We can show the people the whole political process that the KNPP will go through. We get the advice of the people. We have had the opportunity to hold such meetings often. But the government from 2015 to 2020 did not allow us to do much. They asked for permission to do so, we even had to reported to NRPC. But it was not allowed to do so. This is an obstacle for us.
There are some parts where it is impossible to do with only us. We also believe in the role that the expectation and thoughts of people are also very important. We also accept this idea, However those obstacles limited us not to be able to have the voice of the people, attitude and submissions of people where we are not allowed to hold public meetings to have it. This is an obstacle or challenge for us.
Another challenge is that we want the government to take responsibility and negotiate between the two armed groups. Another thing is that we want a government where the government can take responsibility for any conflicts that the military does. But the past experience has shown that this is not like we expected.
Q : How did the government take responsibility for the killing of a KNPP comrade in 2017?
Ans : The killing of our comrades in December 2017 is also the work of the Tatmadaw. There are situations where the government avoided by saying it does not belong to the government’s responsibility. This should not happen. The government is in a position to manage the entire administrative machinery, so in this case, they are in a position to do whatever they wants. For better or worse, we want them to go through and negotiate as a mediation process. So we want to ask the new government and have many expectation.
The main thing is to get involved in the stability of the state. I want it to be implemented. The role of mutual recognition is also important. If we go with the concept of selfishness where we are the government and have the right to manage everything, the peace and stability of our state would not be implemented. As a consequence, only the people can get into trouble. I would like to request to consider it.
Q : Only the NLD will be allowed to form another government after this election. What do you expect from this?
Ans : The next expectation is that in any case, we will need a federal system in our state, and then we will need a state structure. So, in the next government, the MPs in the state and the people in the government will be in line with the will of the people to get the state constitution needed for the state. I want them to try and get it fixed. The law cannot be finalized at once. But it needs to be implemented from the beginning. So, if necessary, we have made some preparations for the KNPP to join the state constitution. Based on that, we can only continue to discuss this. There are some situations going like this.
Q : As there is a constitution founded already, how can a true federal democracy be implemented?
Ans : If this state government also had to go beyond 2008, the federal democracy which we wanted would not be possible. If we are to move towards federal democracy, we should have a separate state structure. But if we write the constitution of this state under 2008, we will have some difficulties. There will be no way to get on the path to federal democracy rather than difficulties. There are such situations.
Q : There are some statements issued by the Tatmadaw in recent days. It refers to ethnic armed groups for peace talks under the new government. And the Tatmadaw has formed a peace negotiation committee. So, according to the election results, only the NLD will be able to form a government again. So how do you prepare for this situation?
Ans : Overall, we, the KNPP, are making preparations according to its sectors. We have been living in this relationship for a long time. We cannot participate personally either. Preparations are underway. According to the statement of the Tatmadaw, if we look at it, it is a political game. But we will look at the international community, democracies or other countries. By comparison, the military should be under the control of the government. But now he seems to be a separate group. So it is very difficult. I think the answer will come only after comparing the government that came to power in the 2010 election with the government that came to power in 2015.
The government that came to power in 2010 included former generals. There are veterans. So they can contact the Commander-in-Chief directly when they join the government ministry. You can ask questions and negotiate. However, the NRPC and PC, formed by the NLD in 2015, included the general. But personal intimacy is so weak. This is my opinion. Also, I think there is a weakness in conducting direct interviews.
Q : You said recently that the peace talks with the NLD government in 2015-20 were weak. It may be also because of COVID. So to the new government? Do you have any offers? Or do you have any requests no matter which new government is formed?
Ans : In any case, I think this peace talks is a process that needs to go on. But It’s hard for me to decide which in what form and which way to go. It is a process that we have to go through in consultation with the whole party. This is not a good thing for me to say alone.
Q : Yes. The result of this year’s election is that the NLD is in a position to form a government, and in our Kayah State, the NLD has won the most. So, if the NLD is formed, the biggest matter in Kayah is the statue of the General. And the farmers are being prosecuted and imprisoned. So what would you suggest them if they were allowed to form a government after 2020?
Ans : The NLD’s ongoing political journey is very difficult to say. Because the system we want is for governments in each state to be self-governing. There must be. If we want to go to federalism, we have to have it. However, we think that the current NLD model is more centralized. Because here, there is a lot of central control over the land confiscation of farmers and the statue of the General. Even though I was not involved in the talks, our leaders went and negotiated, waiting for the central government’s directive. Otherwise, we will submit a report to the NRPC. We see a lot of the reason given by the central government.
We are facing such a situation. So, no matter which government is in power, whatever party is in this state, we should try to have a government that has the right to self-determination based on the demands of the people. You also need the attitude that you can do it. If we think we will do it with above direction, we will never have autonomy. So, if this person comes into the government, he should play the role of the central government, but the problems on the ground are the voices of the people. I want them to do good for the people with the feeling that they have been elected by the people.
Q : Yes, would you like to add more?
Ans : The main thing is for the military and the government in this state to work for the stability of the people’s livelihood, and for us to have mutual understanding. Another thing I would like to add is that it is important for us to focus on recognizing these points of agreement and to coordinate on them. Because without our agreements, the agreements we have negotiated will be in vain. So, we need to revitalize them and continue to implement them. Because we can not accept the part where we come to power and do whatever we want. It is not a child play. It is a national issue. It is a state issue. It is a public issue.