Jan. 31 - Weeks after signing a ceasefire with the Myanmar government, Karen National Union soldiers withdraw from the frontline. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) STORY: An army procession kicked off celebrations to commemorate the 63rd anniversary of the Karen revolution on Tuesday (January 31) in Oo Kray Kee, a township in Karen State, Myanmar. Roughly 200 soldiers marched in full uniform to mark the occasion. On January 13, the government and the 19-member KNU delegation agreed in principle to 11 points and signed two broad agreements to end hostilities between the military and the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) and start dialogue toward a political settlement to the 62-year conflict. But the commander of the Karen National Union (KNU), Colonel Nerda Mya, said although his soldiers have withdrawn, the agreement is just preliminary and requires further negotiations. "We've been fighting for 63 years. I think if they agree to talk with us, we are happy for peace negotiations and resolving our problems on the negotiating table, but that's what we've always wanted. But if we cannot talk to them and they only reject our proposals, then we have to stand up for our rights," he said during Tuesday's celebrations. With the upcoming by-election in April, Colonel Mya says his soldiers are hopeful that pro-democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi will bring about change. Myanmar's army has been accused of oppressing the Karens and other ethnic minorities by committing human rights abuses ranging from rape and forced labor to torture and murder. The West has responded by maintaining tight sanctions. But in recent months, Myanmar's government has been taking steps to resolve conflicts with separatist groups. These steps could begin the lifting of two decades of sanctions imposed on Myanmar by the European Union and the United States, which have made peace with ethnic militias a pre-requisite for a review of the embargoes. The November 2010 elections, the first in 20 years, replaced a ruling military junta. The rebels hold deep distrust towards President Thein Sein's government, which is comprised of the same people as the old military regime, but they are broadly behind opposition leader and Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi's vision of federalism within Myanmar's republic, a plan supported by her late father, Aung San.