Military Prosecution of Karenni Farmers Interfering With Peace Efforts, Analysts Say

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The Burma Army’s continued prosecution of Karenni farmers, now at the state court, may prove to be an obstacle in peace talks with ethnic armed organizations, analysts have pointed out.

Mertia, who is working with the Kayah State Peace Monitoring Network, said that the prosecution could get in the way of potential agreements between the government and the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP).

“It causes difficulty in discussion, and it especially causes difficulty in making decisions. It’s because this issue must be solved over the longer term,” Mertia said. “On the other hand, local people want to solve this problem right now. It may be one of the obstacles in moving the peace process forward.”

People have called on the government and KNPP to resolve land disputes, address national reconciliation, and hold more peace talks, Mertia added.

Artillery Battalion-356, and Light Infantry Battalion-250 in Loikaw Township and Artillery Battalion-360 in Demoso Township have prosecuted 37 Karenni farmers and three staff of the Karenni State Farmer’s Union (KSFU) for trying to reclaim land that was confiscated by the Burma Army.

Township courts had sentenced the farmers to time already served, but the military appealed to the state-level courts, dissatisfied with the verdict. The case is moving forward at the state court.

“I think it can impact mutual trust building during political negotiations, because Karenni farmers have suffered a lot. It creates doubts about the peace process. It’s not a good action,” Deede, who works with the KSFU, told Kantarawaddy Times.

The Kayah State Democratic Party (KSDP) and the Kayan National Party (KNP) released a joint statement and demanding that the government to solve the land disputes between the Burma Army and the Karenni farmers.

Khun Bee Htoo, chair of the Kayan National Party, said that if the military wants national reconciliation, they should drop the case.

“Both the Burma Army and the government need to stop their unfair actions immediately. They should not appeal at the state court against the farmers. If they want to create national reconciliation, they should stop the prosecution of the farmers,” he said.

Multiple land disputes between the Burma Army remain unresolved with Karenni farmers, as do issues between the state government and Karenni activists.

Monthly meetings, which were agreed to by the Karenni State government and the KNPP, have not been held because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The last meeting was held on March 4, and regional development issues were discussed.

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