The Karen National Union formally announced their suspension of participation with the ethnic alliance – the United Nationalities for Federal Council. The move has massive ramifications for the ethnic alliance. The KNU claim that its move was made so it can review and consult within their organization on the differences and its disagreement over the alliance’s policies and structure.
The general secretary of the KNU, Padoh Saw KweHtoo Win, in an interview with Karen News outlined his organizations position.
It does not mean that we have completely withdrawn from the alliance, but we have temporarily suspended our participation because of the differences on the alliance’s structure, its aim and objectives.
Our KNU has been working together with ethnic groups in organizing to form the UNFC since the beginning. We want this ethnic alliance to be a genuine and meaningful alliance that has strength that has benefit and fulfills the will of ethnic nationalities. This is our [KNU] aspiration. Our intention is to collaborate. And secondly, cooperate to make this alliance strong under a collective leadership. We submitted a proposal to the Alliance’s [UNFC] Conference. We can say that people did not value our proposal. People did not talk about it. People said that they would discuss it step-by-step in the session when they drew up the constitution.
From then, we have difference perspectives on what was the founding principle of the alliance. We need to define a principle on what we will base our alliance.
The Karen National Union has its own policy in working with alliances; we must respect each other policies and the regulations of each organization, secondly it must not harm the policy of the member organizations and thirdly the alliance must not be dominating, it must benefit all the member organizations.
However, when we talked about it, the first thing we see is that according to the structure of the alliance we must accept the leadership of the alliance without argument, led to disagreement. The formation of the alliance’s leadership should not be that all members have to follow the decision of the top leaders. It must be like all members have the chance to work together on making decisions equally. The second thing is the structure of the alliance. We see that every member organization, big or small, has come together to work in unity for equality. Therefore the leadership must be a collective leadership. It should not be like chairman, vice-chairman and the secretary that have power.
We tried to discuss this issue – we don’t agree with each other on all the issues. Among our UNFC member organization, we tried to negotiate, but we couldn’t reach an agreement. Therefore the leader of our representatives informed the [UNFC] congress that it would be a problem to work together according to this structure. We will stop giving suggestions during the meeting in order not to disturb the work of UNFC. The congress requested us to send our representatives who are involved in the leadership role of the next term in UNFC, but we have not sent them yet.
We will talk about this case at our Executive Committee meeting and decide whether we will continue working together or not and in what extent we will participate. If we decide to continue working together, we will decide and then inform the congress.
We are collaborating with ethnic groups for a common goal. It is not reasonable to collaborate with other organization completely without independence of our own. We know that collaboration is very important. The collaboration must fit with the circumstance and must be in-line with the situation of the ethnic groups. Collaboration that is not in-line with the political situation and the situation of the ethnic groups will not help strengthen us or drive us to achieve our political destination. We have given our suggestions, but people did not seem to accept them, and we had to suspend our collaboration temporarily.
NCCT will keep going. Each and individual organizations joined the NCCT, not like the UNFC. Some of the organizations are members of UNFC and some are not. We will work together and negotiate with the government until we reach an agreement on a ceasefire and then individual organizations will sign the agreement. This will not affect [the ongoing peace talks]. We will continue as it is.
This [suspension] will not affect our collaboration with ethnic groups. For example, our KNU will work with ethnic groups as individual organizations. The KNU will also work with other political organizations and armed groups that are not members of the UNFC. The KNU will also work with community-base-organizations. These collaborations are not restricted by being a member of the UNFC. Therefore, this will not affect our overall political goal. This is how the KNU see it.