An offer by Thailand to act as an intermediary between Burma's military
government and the ethnic-Karen armed group the Karen National Union is
being cautiously welcomed by the rebels and rights activists. Analysts have raised doubts of a
complete cease-fire unless Burma's military government modifies the
constitution before 2010 national elections.
Thailand's offer to
mediate talks between Burma's military and the Karen National Union was
made by Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya, during an official visit
A spokesperson for the Forum for a Democratic Burma,
Soe Aung, says Thailand needs to look at questions linked to the
constitution and human rights in Burma.
"If the Thai Foreign
Minister is really willing to help, they have look at the root cause of
the problem which is the ongoing human rights violations of the
military regime and ignoring the people's call for democracy and
freedom," he said.
The Karen National Union has been
fighting for autonomy for five decades. A short ceasefire was reached
between Burma's military and the rebels following talks in 2004, but
fighting has resumed.
More than 100,000 Burmese refugees, including Karen, are living in camps in Thailand.
Debbie Stothardt of the rights group the Alternative ASEAN Network on
Burma, says Thailand should not use a peace agreement as a pretext to
force refugees back to Burma.
"It is in Thailand's interests to
try and be a go-between and negotiate something but we also would like
the Thai authorities to do it in a very fair and principled manner, and
not use this as an excuse to indiscriminately push back people who have
been trying to flee the military oppression in Burma," she said.
Karen National Union and political and rights activists also want the
military to revise the constitution that was adopted last year. They
say the constitution entrenches the military in power and excludes
participation by ethnic and pro-democracy groups such as the National
League for Democracy.
The constitution is part of the military
government's so-called "road map to democracy" that includes general
elections in 2010.
Soe Aung says the main issue remains the military government's support for democracy.
there is no constitution that guarantees the rights of the people, this
constitution is not going anywhere because it lacks the people's
participation, the people's representatives, like the NLD and the
ethnic groups," he said.
Since 1998 the Karen National Union is
reported to have held talks with the military government on four
occasions, the last in 2006.