The Karen Women’s Organisation has criticized the decision by the Karen National Union to suspend its membership from the United Nationalities Federal Council last month, claiming the decision was made without proper consultation with the Karen community.
Speaking exclusively to Karen News, Naw K’nyaw Paw, Secretary of the KWO, said that the decision came as a surprise to many Karen leaders, including within the KNU itself.
“Many KCBOs are expressing concerns about the KNU walk out from UNFC Congress and its suspension from the UNFC and they have demanded more transparency about how these decisions were made,” she said.
“According to the KNU President, General Saw Mutu Sae Poe, it seems like some KNU leaders had already made a decision to suspend from the UNFC as part of their internal strategy and so he [Gen. Mutu] was implementing that strategy.”
General Secretary of the KNU, P’doh Saw Kwe Htoo Win, was quoted in an official KNU press release on September 22, as saying that the KNU Central Standing Committee had already decided that it would leave the UNFC if the KNU’s reform plans were not accepted. “The KNU delegation to the first UNFC Congress in August 2014, spent three days trying to convince the assembled delegates of the need for reforms. Having failed to do so, the delegation led by KNU President General Saw Mutu Sae Poe decided to implement the next step in the KNU’s strategy – temporary suspension – and reported back to the Central Standing Committee to re-affirm the decision to leave the UNFC,” the KNU statement said.
In its statement, the KNU claimed that it withdrew from the UNFC to ensure that Karen people could remain in control of their own destiny and that the decision had been sanctioned by the majority of Central Standing Committee (CSC) members in an emergency meeting held on August 22.
Naw K’nyaw Paw said that the KNU’s claims that the decision was made following discussions with the majority of the CSC members were simply not true.
“We are all concerned because although the KNU statement claims that the KNU CEC and CSC emergency meeting was called, according to the KNU’s own working procedures and rules, important decisions cannot be made without a majority of CSC members being present at the meeting. In this case the majority were not present in any such meeting. How the meeting was called, is also questionable and a cause for concern.”
The KNU decision to withdraw from the UNFC has proven divisive, with community leaders and analysts both criticizing and supporting the decision. Those in support of the decision have argued there was no need for the UNFC because there is already a Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT), which consists of all of the members of the UNFC, plus an additional five associated members, and questioned why there was a need for two separate groups in the first place. Critics of the UNFC also said that the Kachin Independence Organisation, which currently holds the chair of the UNFC, dominated the group and thus restricted the agenda’s of other members, including the KNU.
Naw K’nyaw Paw, said that the need for two groups was clear as each had a separate function. “We understand that the NCCT is a working team that was set up by agreed stakeholders and its sole mandate is to negotiate with the Burmese government on the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement issue. You can see this clearly by the name of the group. It works on one issue only. On the other hand, the UNFC is an alliance body where most ethnic armed resistances groups come together and work on common goals and have created an organizational constitution and structure and put their program together.”
Naw K’nyaw Paw said that Karen community leaders against the decision were bewildered by the argument that the KNU could not work within the UNFC framework.
“We do not understand how the KNU can claim that it cannot work with those who are in UNFC but they can work with those who are at NCCT as these are all more or less the same people, and share the same aims,” she said, “For KWO our view is that having a strong and firm alliance for the ethnic groups in this time of peace making, an alliance like the UNFC, is very important in order to achieve the common goal.”