KNU rejects reports armed groups will support govt over ICJ case

By THOMAS KEAN | FRONTIER

YANGON — A senior Karen National Union official has rejected reports that nationwide ceasefire agreement signatories have agreed to help the government respond to allegations of genocide.

The KNU has also issued a statement calling on the government “to uphold and abide by international humanitarian norms and principles”, suggesting it will not take its side in a genocide case before the International Court of Justice.

West African nation The Gambia has filed an application to the court alleging Myanmar has perpetrated genocide against the Rohingya, and to seek “provisional measures” to halt Myanmar’s “genocidal acts” against Rohingya who remain inside Myanmar. Oral arguments will begin on December 10.

Some Myanmar-based media outlets reported that the 10 signatories to the nationwide ceasefire had agreed during a meeting in Chiang Mai earlier this month to support the government in the case filed against it at the ICJ.

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The reports seemed to be based on a closing speech given by Restoration Council of Shan State representative Colonel Sai Ngeun at the November 16-18 meeting, in which he said the groups had discussed ways to counter the accusations against Myanmar.

7Day Daily also quoted Pa-O National Liberation Organisation’s Colonel Khun Okkar as saying the groups would help the government with the ICJ proceedings, but Frontier understands he was not speaking on their behalf.

KNU general secretary Padoh Tah Doh Moo told Frontier that the issue had barely been discussed at the meeting, which was held to prepare for an upcoming Peace Process Steering Team gathering and talks with the government’s peace commission. Discussions mostly focused on terms of reference for the PPST.

Tah Doh Moo said the ICJ issue might be discussed at the PPST meeting scheduled for December 2-4, but it was not confirmed that it would be on the agenda.

“I think some media might have misinterpreted what Col Sai Ngeun said. That is not our collective position. I don’t know what the RCSS position is either. I can only say our position,” he said.

Tah Doh Moo refused to discuss how other NCA signatories felt about the ICJ case, but Frontier understands there are a range of views among the groups.

Asked about the KNU’s position, Tah Doh Moo reiterated the statement released at the end of the group’s annual central standing committee meeting, during which leaders reviewed the ICJ case against Myanmar and “the international view of Burma regarding human rights”.

The November 22 statement called on the government to uphold human rights standards, and said the KNU had “consistently defended and abided by international human rights norms and standards” and would “continue to do so in the future”.

“We are very firm about seeking justice and rights and equality for everyone in the country. Every institution and organisation should abide by international norms and humanitarian law,” Tah Doh Moo said.

The Tatmadaw’s military operations in northern Rakhine State against the Rohingya were reminiscent of its “four cuts” campaigns against the Karen people, he added.

“The pattern of the military operation is similar to what we have faced.”

By Thomas Kean

By Thomas Kean

Thomas Kean has been working in Myanmar as a journalist and editor since 2008. Before joining Frontier in May 2016, he edited the English edition of the Myanmar Times for six years.
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