The Karen National Union (KNU) will elect new leaders during its upcoming 17th congress. Karen social organizations and political analysts are wondering whether new KNU leadership will replace General Saw Mutu Say Poe and Padoh Saw Kwe Htoo Win.
“I personally prefer young leaders who can easily be active and are open minded, political experts, and can cooperate with others in politics especially those who are against the dictatorship. We as Karen people hope this congress can select such leaders. I also desire that at least 30 percent [of the committee] who select new leaders will be women. I think better changes will occur if the youth participate in decision-making roles in the administration. However, this does not mean we do not want elders to participate in leadership anymore. Our old leaders should serve as advisors instead because we need leaders who have new ideas, visions and enthusiasm to work for the people when we have been facing many political changes, especially leaders who also have a positive view of women,” said Naw Ka Ngaw Phaw, the secretary at the Karen Women’s Organization (KWO) told DVB.
“It is necessary for people to be honest and accurately represent themselves in the election because the election needs to be free and fair. It can be considered a proper election within a democratic system if the people’s will be given priority. Another thing to consider is the skills of the leaders. I think everyone prefers a good leader who stands for the [KNU] organization and the people. It is very important, but the existing political framework in the organization is not clearly transparent due to current political changes. It is necessary for leaders and the people to get closer in this future political journey,” said Saw Hay Soe, a teacher working at a Karen social impact organization.
The KNU was founded on February 5, 1947 to fight for national equality and self-determination. Its first chairperson was Saw San Phoe Thin. Since then, only nine others have served as KNU chairperson. The KNU has 55 Central Permanent Committee members and consists of 14 ministries, including a Ministry of Defense to defend its communities from the Burma Army, which continue to use genocidal tactics on the battlefield against ethnic armed organizations and civilians living alongside them. The KNU has forged alliances with anti-coup forces against the junta and supports the Spring Revolution against a return to military rule in Burma. It refused to participate in Min Aung Hlaing’s recent “peace talks” held in Naypyidaw.