RANGOON — A delegation from the Karen National Union (KNU) and its armed group urged President Thein Sein to extend his presidency for another term, during a meeting in Naypyidaw on Wednesday.
During the meeting with high-ranking government officials, the delegation from the KNU and the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) said they wanted the president to stay in office after the 2015 election because they feared a change in the government’s top leader might affect negotiations with ethnic armed groups.
“Peace talks have happened under the regime of President Thein Sein, and he is the one who already understands what has happened in past years. If there’s a change in president, we all will have to start the whole thing from the beginning,” Mahn Nyein Maung, a member of the KNU’s central executive committee, told The Irrawaddy on Thursday.
He said the president told the Karen delegation that his health was not strong enough to retain the post for another five years, but that he would do so if the people desired it.
“First we urged President Thein Sein to speed up the [peace] process and let the signing of the nationwide ceasefire and peace happen, within this year. Telling him to be president for the next five years is another option for the sake of a nationwide ceasefire and peace,” the KNU member said.
The signing of a nationwide ceasefire accord between the government and ethnic armed groups across the country has been delayed several times. The KNU delegation said it would take time to reach an agreement after decades of conflict.
“It’s been over 60 years, and we have lost trust. Now we are trying to build back trust through the peace process … If there are changes in the government, we have to take time to build back trust again with the new people,” Mahn Nyein Maung said.
The Karen delegation, led by KNU chairman Mutu Say Poe, arrived in Naypyidaw on Monday. They met with Thein Sein, Commander-in-Chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing, and Union Parliamentary Speaker Shwe Mann on Wednesday.
According to the delegation, Thein Sein said he wanted to complete the peace process quickly to ensure national stability and development.
“Gen. Min Aung Hlaing also assured that he wants to take part in the peace process for the stability, peace and development of the country,” said Mahn Nyein Maung.
“Since the general and the top leaders made these assurances, we believe there will be a countrywide ceasefire agreement very soon, which is the most important first step to achieve the long-lost nationwide peace,” he added.