KNU to Increase Central Standing Committee Members

By Saw Yan Naing 4 April 2017

RANGOON—After much debate, representatives of the Karen National Union (KNU), Burma’s longest-running ethnic armed organization, have agreed to elect 55 central standing committee (CSC) members, adding 10 additional members.

In the past, the KNU has had 45 CSC members. However, it decided to increase the number following suggestions and debate from various representatives.

The KNU is in the third week of its annual congress, which is attended by more than 200 representatives from seven districts and seven brigades.

During the first stage, representatives will cast secret votes to elect the 55 CSC members, most likely this week, according to Saw Say Say, an official from a KNU quarter office.

The KNU will also elect 11 central executive committee (CEC) members out of the 55 central standing committee members.

Saw Say Say said the top five leaders: chairperson, vice-chairperson, general secretary, and the joint-secretaries 1 and 2, will be also elected by representatives through a secret ballot. The top five leaders will automatically become CEC members.

However, it is unclear how the other six CEC members will be elected. It is also unclear how the chief of the KNU’s military wing, the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), will be chosen. In the previous congress, the 11 CEC members appointed the KNLA chief. Currently, Gen Saw Johnny is serving in that post.

KNU Brigade 3 commander Brig-Gen Saw Eh Ka Lu Thein and Lt-Gen Saw Baw Kyaw Heh, the current KNLA vice chief-of-staff, have been rumored as possible choices for KNLA chief.

If the KNU leaders appoint the KNLA chief in the traditional way, Saw Ba Kyaw Heh will likely be chosen due to his current position. But, if the KNU leaders use a secret ballot, Saw Eh Ka Lu Thein will have a chance, sources within the KNU say.

Sources said the current KNLA chief would have to resign as he is no longer qualified for the position, since he is over 65 years old.