Myanmar announced that it had made peace with a splinter group of Karen rebels, state media said yesterday.
The Myanma Ahlin daily reported that Saw Nay Soe Mya, the son of a late Karen leader, his 71 followers and 88 of their family members turned themselves in to authorities on Monday. They will be allowed to keep their weapons.
Nay Soe Mya defected to the military junta to enjoy the “fruits of regional development” after “witnessing the nation-building endeavors being carried out by the state,” an official statement said yesterday.
Nay Soe Mya could not be reached, and it was impossible to independently verify the report. Even if true, the latest peace deal is unlikely to end fighting between Karen rebels and the government since his group represents such a small number of fighters.
The Karen National Union (KNU) has been fighting for half a century for greater autonomy from Myanmar’s central government. It is the largest ethnic rebel group and the only major one which has yet to sign a cease-fire with the junta.
The UN and human rights groups say that over the years the military has burned villages, killed civilians and committed other atrocities against the Karen and other ethnic minorities.
The newspaper said Nay Soe Mya returned to the legal fold “as he has confidence in the government’s roadmap and understood the genuine goodwill of the people and the military,” referring to the junta’s plans to hold elections next year.
Ceasefire talks broke down between the KNU and the government in 2004, and the army launched a major offensive in eastern Karen state in 2005. It has also successfully enticed elements of the KNU to the bargaining table as part of a campaign to split up the group.
In 2007, the government announced that a splinter group led by Brigadier-General Htein Maung had agreed to a peace deal. Maung was reportedly on hand on Monday when Nay Soe Mya and his followers arrived at Htokawko.
Nay Soe Mya, one of three surviving sons of Bo Mya — who died a legendary warrior in 2006 aged 81 — has joined Htain Maung, a former brigade leader, who was sacked from the Karen army in January 2007 after making an independent peace deal with the government, a Karen guerrilla on the Thai-Myanmar border said.
Htain Maung is believed to have been allocated land for settlement and permitted to carry on a logging trade.
“We consider them traitors who have become defeatist, and corrupt too. They want money and they have been given [trade] concessions,” the rebel fighter said.
Nay Soe Mya is related by marriage to Htain Maung, he added.