The Karen National Union’s (KNU) next four-year Congress and elections will be held on 26 November. The KNU Congress is also the political organization’s decision-making mechanism. This Congress promises lots of drama – ceasefire agreements and ‘peace-talks’ with the government, divisions within the leadership and a call for power sharing with younger and more accomplished KNU members.
After elections are held a Central Executive Committee (CEC) and a Central Standing Committee (CSC) will control the KNU for the next four years. The CEC is made up of a chairman, vice-chairman and three secretaries and six other members. The CSC will elect representatives from the KNU’s seven brigades and seven districts.
The Karen community has indicated in recent months that they want the KNU leaders to be more united and less self-serving. Karen people have also advocated for a younger leadership to be elected and who will put self-interest aside to lead a united KNU.
Naw Me Me, a Karen woman refugee told Karen News.
“We want to see new faces in the leadership. We want leaders who work for the Karen people, who are experienced and have a proven record as analysts. We don’t’ want to see more of the old leadership in the top positions. We would like to see them as advisors. We need the leaders with good work records.”
Speaking about the 141,000 refugees on the Thai Burma border Naw Me Me said.
“We want the [KNU] leaders to work for the our return to our homes, with freedom and the freedom in making our living.”
Saw Samual Htoo, a Karen migrant worker in Thailand, told Karen News.
“We need leaders with an united and common position and who are in solidarity. We need experienced and young leaders, who are healthy and who can travel and speak well.”
A Karen villager, Saw Kali Ger from Noe Boe village on the Thai-Burma border told Karen News.
“We want new leaders to work and stand for our people bravely. Their actions need to match their talk. They should act on the desire of the people and not hurt the people by their actions. We don’t want leaders who work to benefit themselves. We want to see Karen leaders help and work us, so we could return safely to our homes.”
Naw K’nyaw Paw, the Karen Women Organization’s, Education Program Coordinator told Karen News.
“We need leaders who stand for the whole Karen nation, and who follow the KNU’s congress decisions – policy, political policy, rules and regulations. We need Karen leaders who work for the needs of the Karen people. We need leaders who cooperate with overseas Karen, Karen inside the country and Karen living along the border. We need to work together with all Karen and to find ways that we can develop our people.”
Naw K’nyaw Paw said it is time to promote young people to positions of responsibility and to share the power.
“We need leaders who understand how organizations work – how to follow decisions, consult and to cooperate to work together. Now we have more young people interested in politics, the KNU should put more young leaders in the Standing Committee. We need leaders who are active and in good health, because we are at a critical and important time.”
Saw Eh K’lu Say, vice-chairman of the Karen Youth Organization told Karen News.
“We need leaders who have vision for the whole Karen nation and who can unite the whole Karen nation. We need leaders who are practical. We need leader who can lead the Karen revolution to meet the needs of the Karen struggle, to meet the people’s desire and who can work within the country’s changing situation. The KNU stands three pillars are – the organization, the armed struggle and the Karen national politics.
Saw Eh K’lu Say said the newly elected leaders need to reconsider these three positions – the organizations structure, its future political struggle and the leadership issue that needs to fit the changing situation.
“With the changing situation in the country and the impact of international affairs, we have to look at our position. The new leadership needs to be able to review the issues critically. The new leaders should discuss these issues and to carry out an united struggle.”