Myanmar announced that it had made peace with a splinter group of Karen rebels, state media said on Saturday. The Myanma Ahlin daily says 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 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 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 United Nations 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.
Cease-fire talks broke down between the KNU and the government 2004, and the Myanmar 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 Brig. Gen. Htein Maung had agreed to a peace deal. Maung was reportedly on hand Monday when Nay Soe Mya and his followers arrived at Htokawko.Neither a government spokesman nor a KNU spokesman could be reached for comment.