Recently dismissed military chief of the Karen National Union (KNU), Gen. Mutu Say Poe, will be reappointed and could be elected as the group’s new president at the upcoming 15th congress, said KNU sources.
Mutu Say Poe and two other KNU leaders, Roger Khin and the recently deceased David Htaw, were dismissed by the KNU central committee on Oct. 20 for violating the organization’s protocol—opening a liaison office in Pa-an without informing other central committee members.
An internal conflict within the KNU leadership flared after the dismissals.
Brig-Gen Johnny, the commander of Brigade 7 of the KNU’s military wing, the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), said there will be a meeting in Brigade 7’s Lay Wah area on Thursday which will be attended by at least 45 KNU leaders, and which will have the goal of resolving the internal dispute. Based on a majority vote, a decision will be taken on whether the dismissed leaders should be reinstated, he said.
The meeting will involve central committee members and representative from all seven brigades of the KNLA, said Karen sources.
Most sources close to the KNU central committee agree that it is highly likely that Mutu Say Poe and Roger Khin are reinstated to their former positions. Roger Khin was head of the KNU’s social welfare department.
The KNU meeting will be followed by the rebel group’s 15th congress where new leaders will be elected. Mutu Say Poe is one of the favorites to be elected as president as he holds major support from many quarters.
The apparent resolution in animosities between several personalities in the KNU will undoubtedly be a sigh of relief to Karen watchers and observers, not to mention the Karen general public, many of whom openly expressed fears that a Mutu Say Poe-led faction would split from its mother organization, driving a wedge between Karen armies and Karen communities.
The main faction of the KNU—comprising the majority of central committee members and led by General-Secretary Zipporah Sein—moved quickly this month to appoint Brig-Gen Baw Kyaw Heh, the commander of KNLA Brigade 5, as its acting commander-in-chief after dismissing Mutu Say Poe.
Some Karen sources said they worry that the peace process between the KNU and the Burmese government will be severely affected by the internal rift. Most agree that the conservative faction led by Zipporah Sein prefer a “cautious and slow approach” with regard to signing a peace deal with Naypyidaw.
The KNU is one of the strongest ethnic armed rebel groups in Burma and has fought a civil war for autonomy for more than 60 years. It signed a ceasefire agreement with a government peace delegation led by Aung Min in Karen State capital Pa-an on Jan. 12.