KNU Bridges Internal Rift

By Saw Yan Naing 29 October 2012

Following a two-day emergency meeting, the Karen National Union (KNU) has bridged a rift in its ranks by offering two dismissed leaders a return to their original positions, according to sources within the Karen rebel group.

The Oct. 25-26 meeting in Lay Wah in eastern Karen State was attended by 47 of the KNU’s top leaders who collectively agreed to reappoint military chief Gen. Mutu Say Poe and the head of the KNU’s social welfare department, Roger Khin. No one has yet been placed in the position of a third dismissed member, David Htaw, the former head of the justice department who passed away recently.

The KNU dismissed the three leaders on Oct. 2 for violating the organization’s protocol—opening a liaison office in Karen capital Pa-an without informing other KNU central committee members.

Maj Hla Ngwe, the joint secretary 1 of the KNU, told The Irrawaddy on Monday that the two dismissed leaders will be reinstated to the same positions which they were appointed at the KNU’s 14th congress four years ago.

“If the KNU leadership kept debating who is right and who is wrong, the outcome would be a split in the organization,” said Hla Ngwe. “The Karen people do not want the KNU to be divided, and so, for the sake of unity, the KNU leaders have decided to forgive each other and move forward in their respective positions until the upcoming 15th congress.”

The Karen rebels are scheduled to elect a new leadership at an upcoming congress, which is expected to take place in late November or early December. The central committee will decide on a date at its next meeting in early November.

Mahn Nyein Maung, a spokesperson for the KNU, confirmed to The Irrawaddy that the KNU leaders have resolved their differences and are now united.

However, other sources close to the KNU said that the leadership meeting failed to produce a concrete decision over the split. They said that the rift was still apparent but was being smoothed over as all parties were aware how damaging the instability could be to the organization’s reputation.

The KNU released an official statement on Oct. 27 in the wake of the emergency meeting, saying that after resolving “the problem of weaknesses” that had arisen within the KNU, all participants of the meeting agreed to march on in accordance with the basic principles and polices of the KNU.

The KNU is one of the major ethnic armed 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.