KNU Urges All Karen to Participate in Political Process in New Year Message

By Lawi Weng 3 January 2019

The Karen National Union (KNU), the main Karen armed organization, has urged all members of the ethnic group to participate in the political process to help secure their rights.

The KNU issued a statement ahead of the upcoming Karen New Year. Marked on Jan. 6, it is a public holiday in Myanmar. The statement said the Karen New Year was an occasion for ethnic Karen to show their spirit, identity, culture and customs. It was also a day on which to show to the world that the Karen community is unified. “May you all have peace, happiness and enjoy our Karen New Year,” it said.

Unlike the Karen New Year, other ethnic groups’ national days are not public holidays. The statement said the holiday represented an opportunity to mark past Karen leaders’ struggles on behalf of the community. It urged all Karen to learn their history, analyze and participate in politics, and make the most of political opportunities as they arise.

“We want to send a message to our people that we need to take control our own fate [by securing political and ethnic rights]. We have to fight either politically or militarily for our rights. We should show unity and fight together,” KNU vice chairman Padoh Kwe Htoo Win said.

“We can’t leave our fate in the hands of others,” he added, referring to the Myanmar Army and government.

Political developments ebb and flow, but the KNU will continue to support the Karen people’s efforts to reach their goal of achieving full ethnic rights, he said.

The KNU has suspended its participation in peace negotiations with the government. However, it has said it would continue to hold informal meetings with the government, which it sees as the best way to negotiate its disagreements with the government over the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA). Through informal meetings, the KNU wants to get peace negotiations back on the right track, it said in the statement.

It said the current peace process under the NCA has strayed from the road of building democracy and a federal system based on equal rights, as expected by the Karen people. This was why the KNU had suspended its participation in formal meetings with the government, it added in the statement.

The KNU said a rift had opened between it and the government regarding the NCA.

“We should be seeking answers through political dialogue to lay down core principles needed for establishing democracy and federalism. We have spoken out because we still lack the conditions needed for political dialogue,” Padoh Kwe Htoo Win said.