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SLUG: 2-312092 Burma / Karen Talks
DATE:
NOTE NUMBER:

DATE=01/21/04

TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT

NUMBER=2-312092

TITLE=BURMA KAREN TALKS (L ONLY)

BYLINE=SCOTT BOBB

DATELINE=BANGKOK

CONTENT=

VOICED AT:

INTRO: A delegation from Burma's largest rebel group, the Karen National Union, is wrapping up a week of unprecedented talks with government officials in Rangoon. Correspondent Scott Bobb reports from our

Southeast Asia bureau in Bangkok that rebel leaders say progress has been made toward a formal ceasefire after decades of insurgency.

TEXT: The Burmese government so far has been tight-lipped about the talks, but a leader of the rebel Karen National Union, Lieutenant Colonel Nerdah Mya, says K-N-U delegates have told him they have gone well.

/// MYA ACT ///

They don't want to say anything until they get back to Bangkok. So far, they said everything is good, positive.

/// END ACT ///

Colonel Mya, who spoke from Thailand, is the son of K-N-U Vice Chairman Bo Mya, the senior military commander who is heading the delegation to Rangoon.

During the visit, the delegation met with Burmese Prime Minister Khin Nyunt.

The group is due to return to Bangkok Thursday.

Thousands of Karen civilians have died since the rebellion began 55 years ago, a year after Burma's independence. Hundreds of thousands more Karen peasants have been made homeless during one of the world's longest running insurgencies.

The two sides have previously tried to open ceasefire negotiations but these efforts have stalled over the government's demand that the rebels first lay down their arms.

Colonel Mya says that condition was dropped.

/// MYA ACT 2 ///

This time before the talks, they said there are no conditions. We can sit down and solve our problems at the negotiating table.

/// END ACT ///

Burma's military government has been pressing former rebels among the country's ethnic minorities to participate in a national convention to draft a constitution leading to democracy. The government is also trying to draw in several groups that have not signed ceasefire agreements.

/// REST OPT ///

The convention is part of a seven-point plan aimed at easing Burma's international isolation. The government faces tough economic sanctions from much of the world because of its harsh treatment of opposition politicians, who won national elections in 1990, but were never allowed to rule. (signed)

NEB/HK/SB/KPD



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