KNU to Elect New Leaders

By Saw Yan Naing 6 April 2017

MAE SOT, Thailand — Representatives of the Karen National Union (KNU) will elect their new leaders on Thursday at their 16th Congress in KNU headquarters in Karen State’s Lay Wah, also known as Law Khee Lar, with observers expecting few changes in leadership but predicting central standing committee (CSC) members who raise doubts over the peace process could be pushed out.

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.

Representatives will cast secret votes to elect the 60 CSC members before electing 11 central executive committee (CEC) members from the CSC.

The CSC members will also contest the five top positions of chairperson, vice chairperson, general secretary, and two joint-secretaries, who will be elected by representatives in a secret ballot.

The Irrawaddy received a document from KNU officials that was circulated among KNU members and observers. According to the document, the KNU’s current 11-member CEC has drafted three ideal scenarios for the five positions labeled plans A, B, and C.

Plan A lists current chairperson Saw Mutu Say Poe, Saw Kwe Htoo Win, Saw Tah Doh Moo, Saw Roger Khin, and Saw Hser Bwe, in the top five positions.

Plan B is for the leadership to be helmed by Saw Mutu Say Poe, Naw Zipporah Sein, Saw Kwe Htoo Win, Saw Tah Doh Moo, and Saw Hser Bwe.

Plan C, meanwhile, lists Saw Kwe Htoo, Naw Zipporah Sein, Saw Tah Doh Moo, Saw Roger Khin, and Saw Hser Bwe in the top tier of leadership.

In any of these three scenarios, KNU’s approach to the peace process would not change significantly as these individuals are aligned with existing leaders, according to observers.

Observers speculate Saw Mutu Say Poe will be re-elected as chairman and an associate, such as Saw Kwe Htoo Win, will win the position of vice chairperson. Tah Doh Moo, Saw Roger Khin, and Saw Hser Bwe are close to Saw Mutu Say Poe.

It is unclear how the other six members of the CEC will be selected.

There is also a secret plan by the CEC to expel some leaders from the CSC, according to the document seen by the Irrawaddy.

“Hardliners” such as Naw Zipporah Sein, Mahn Mahn, Gen Baw Kyaw Heh, Saw Thaw Thee Bwe, and Saw Ner Dah Mya, who are skeptical of the government’s peace process and the KNU’s signing of the nationwide ceasefire agreement, are believed to be at risk of expulsion by the CEC.

Such a move could lead to a rift within the KNU, especially as the “hardliners” boast significant support from the Karen community overseas.

The election results will be announced on Thursday evening.