Armed groups to form parallel Burmese govt

(DVB), Several Burmese armed groups, including the Karen National Union, could soon merge with Burma’s government-in-exile to form a parallel government prior to elections this year.

According to a minister with the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma (NCGUB), Khun Myint Htun, a new constitution is currently being drafted which will outline steps to integrate ethnic resistance leaders into a broader coalition.

“We have discussed the plan with [ethnic] groups who met the six qualifications: they must be a group that has a political party, their own territory, and their own public support,” he said. “They also must have education and medical programmes for the public, and an [armed] resistance wing.”

He said that part of the agreement was to “seek a federal union” in Burma, which is currently ruled by a rigid central military government. The country’s multiple ethnic groups have long called for political autonomy in the volatile border regions.

At least four armed groups have reportedly pledged to join the coalition, although only the Karen National Union (KNU), one of Burma’s largest armed opposition groups, has confirmed interest.

“We have always planned to form a parallel government even prior to the election members of parliament in 1990 [Burma’s last elections], so this is just shaping an old idea,” said Saw Hla Ngwe, joint-secretary of the KNU.

“If the negotiations [with the NCGUB] turn out well, then we will form a parallel government to compete with the [ruling junta],” he added.

“This way, there will be more understanding between armed groups and the democratic movement.”

The majority of Burma’s opposition parties have not yet announced whether they will participate in the elections, rumoured to be in October this year. Critics of the junta claim that the 2008 constitution will entrench military rule in Burma, thus delegitimising any claims by the generals that elections will be democratic.

Conflict is also expected to intensify in the run-up to polling, particularly as the junta attempts to convert ethnic ceasefire groups into border guard forces and bring them under the direct control of Naypyidaw.

The KNU is among only a handful of Burma’s 18 armed ethnic groups not to have signed a ceasefire deal with the government, although the pressure of the border guard issue has weakened already tenuous truces.

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