Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Ethnic leader predicts united armed struggle after Burma's election

Ethnic leader predicts united armed struggle after Burma's election

By The Nation
Published on September 24, 2010

Exclusion of ethnic groups from the coming general election in Burma will lead to a consolidation of rebellious armed forces along the border with Thailand to fight against the new militarybacked government, an ethnicminority leader said.

"We all know that the election will not benefit us, so we have to unite to fight against them," said the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP) chief of armed forces, Bee Htoo.

"The election will change nothing in this country. I expect there will be a major offensive from Burma's military shortly after the election," he said.

The elected government will claim it is a democratic one but the suppression of minorities will continue, he said.

The KNPP, one of three rebellious ethnic groups along Burma's border with Thailand, announced it would continue its armed struggle after the November election in Burma. The other two groups are the Karen National Union (KNU) and Shan State Army (SSA).

The Burmese authorities announced last week that about 300 villages across Kachin, Kayah (Karenni), Karen, Mon and Shan states would be excluded from the November 7 election because conditions are not in place for a "free and fair" vote.

The KNPP declared earlier that it rejected the militarysponsored constitution and would not participate in the election, Bee Htoo said.

"The constitution gives most state authority to the military, so I think it's useless to talk about the election under this charter," Bee Htoo said in a rare interview with selected Thai journalists recently.

The military junta has no sincere intention to include ethnic minorities in its political process. No opinion of the minorities was taken into the 2008 constitution, he said.

"So we see no point in joining such a political process, but the only option available is the continuation of armed struggle," he said.

The Karenni are coordinating with other armed groups, including the KNU and SSA.

"We are now working closely together, politically and militarily. I personally met leaders of the SSA three times this year and we have an exchange committee with the KNU," Bee Htoo said.

"I think there is no other way but to join hands and units and fight together. All groups and factions in the groups should know that we have a common enemy," he said.

The NNPP has fought for autonomy under the Union of Burma since 1957. Bee Htoo has commanded the party's armed wing, known as the Karenni Army, of some 1,000 fighters since 1983.

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