KNU Concerned Group Backs Call for Military Leaders to Face ICC

By Nyein Nyein 17 September 2018

CHIANG MAI, Thailand — The KNU Concerned Group, led by the former vice chairperson of the Karen National Union, has endorsed the report of the independent International Fact Finding Mission on Myanmar (IFFM) and its recommendations, including that Myanmar be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity in Kachin, Shan and Rakhine states.

Minority ethnic groups including Kachin and Karen civil society organizations and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army have voiced support for the call by the United Nations Security Council to refer Myanmar to the ICC since the IFFM’s report — which was released on Aug. 27 — was submitted to the 39th session of the UN Human Rights Council this month.

“The pattern of crimes committed against the ethnic Karen and other ethnic populations are part of the Myanmar Tatmadaw’s strategy to terrorize, subjugate and ethnic cleanse, as happened to the Rohingya people in Rakhine state,” the KNU Concerned Group’s statement released on Sept. 14 reads.

Naw Zipporah Sein, the head of the KNU Concerned Group, said, “We have been suffering from the same pattern of human rights violations in the past, and at present, by the Tatmadaw. The perpetrators and violators are from the same institution, regardless of the time and region.”

In the past, the Karen have lacked this kind of international support, including calls for the referral of Myanmar to the ICC. Naw Zipporah Sein said, “I support it because the incidents cited in the report are similar to what happened to us.”

Her group’s statement adds that the Tatmadaw’s “widespread and systematic violations, including crimes against humanity and war crimes” have been committed against the ethnic Karen, Kachin, Shan, Karenni and others for decades. It cites their own experiences of having thousands of villages burnt down; hundreds of thousands of orchards and areas of farmland destroyed; thousands of people—including children and the elderly—killed; hundreds of women raped and killed; and many hundreds of thousands of people uprooted from their homes and displaced.

Since 2017 the KNU Concerned Group has analyzed current political trends and frequently shared its opinions with the public. Naw Zipporah Sein said the group comprises former KNU Central Committee members, adding that none of them has a current political role in the KNU.

She told The Irrawaddy, “The military controls everything, including the peace negotiations, and the military also commits these crimes. If they are willing to change, they must prove it.”

While the KNU’s top leadership has had a very close relationship with the chief of the Tatmadaw (or Myanmar military), the group has been engaged in frequent clashes this year with Tatmadaw troops, particularly in Papun district, in the area controlled by the KNU’s Brigade Five.

The KNU Central Committee denies any affiliation with the KNU Concerned Group.

“This is the opinion of a group of people who use the KNU name and it is a typical move,” said Padoh Saw Hla Tun, a secretary of the KNU.

“We have no comment, as they currently do not hold any leadership position in the KNU,” he said.