KNU Congress Site Row Shows Splits Remain

By The Irrawaddy 5 November 2012

Divisions in the ethnic rebel Karen National Union (KNU) have come to light once again as leading members dispute where to hold the group’s upcoming 15th congress on Nov.26, according to local sources.

Gen Mutu Say Poe, chief of the KNU’s Karen National Liberation Army military wing, wanted to hold the congress at Brigade 7′s Lay Wah area in Pa-an District where he has strong support. However, other group leaders wanted to hold the event in Papun District.

The rebel leadership held a ballot on Oct. 31 to settle this disagreement with Gen Mutu Say Poe gaining 15 votes compared to his opponents who only received 12. Sources close to the party say the location is important as KNU leaders believe they can gain more votes if the congress is held close to their supporter base.

The KNU is currently split between backers of Gen Mutu Say Poe on the one side and General-Secretary Zipporah Sein on the other.

Gen Mutu Say Poe has regained his current position as military chief after he and two other KNU leaders, Roger Khin and the recently deceased David Htaw, were dismissed by the central committee on Oct. 20 for violating the organization’s protocol—opening a liaison office in the Karen State capital Pa-an without informing other central committee members.

The KNU released a statement on Oct. 27 that the two remaining dismissed leaders would continue shouldering their original duties entrusted on them at the 14th congress up until the 15th.

The KNU held a meeting of 27 of its 36 central committee members on Oct. 31. The initial day involved hearing reports from 14 departments and discussions on how to continue the peace process with central government.

The KNU is one of the strongest ethnic armed groups in Burma and has fought a civil war for greater autonomy for more than 60 years. It signed a ceasefire agreement with a government peace delegation led by President’s Office Minister Aung Min in Pa-an on Jan. 12.