In statement release yesterday, Sunday 19 October, an alliance of Karen women’s organisations gave their support to plans of four armed groups to reunite under the Kawthoolei Armed Forces (KAF) banner.
The Karen Women’s Organization (KWO), the Karen Women’s Empowerment Group (KWEG) and Karen Women’s Union (KWU) said in their statement that they, “welcome the announcement, on October 13th, 2014, of the Karen armed resistance groups coming together under the name of Kawthoolei Armed Forces (KAF).”
The alliance of the women’s organization said the reunification of the four Karen armed groups “meets the long held desire of Karen people everywhere, especially of Karen women. We believe this is an opportunity for both peace building, and improved co-operation that can help reduce violence against women.”
The alliance spokeswomen pointed in its statement that the Karen armed forces were once united before under the same banner.
“The KAF was originally formed on July 5, 1949. At that time the KAF combined different Karen armed groups but over the years the alliance has split up. We are pleased to see that the Karen armed groups have reunified under the KAF and hope it will increase cooperation and understanding. We believe this unity will help to bring the genuine peace we all seek,” said Nan Dah Eh Kler, KWO Chairperson.
Naw Ohn Hla from the Karen Women’s Union (KWU) said the Karen community had been waiting for a long time for the different armed groups to shelve their factional differences and unite to fight a common cause.
“Our community has been hoping for the reunification of different Karen armed groups for a long time. We, the Karen people are not afraid of unity among the armed groups. Rather, we are afraid of the splits and disunity that have had a serious impact on the daily lives of local people. I am both encouraged by and fully support the unification of Karen organizations by the forming of KAF. This is right time to show our unity.”
The four Karen armed forces who have now combined to form the KAF are the KNLA, KNDO, DKBA, and the KNU/KNLA-PC.
The Karen Women’s Groups statement said they supported the reunification and recommended the following five positions that KAF should follow.
1. KAF, as a group, works to seek political solutions through dialogue and the support of the KNU and political bodies of other armed groups, while negotiating for peace with the Government of Burma.
2. KAF develop and enforce a military code of conduct for its members to abide by, with the aim of containing the escalation of confrontations with the Tatmadaw.
3. KAF avoid any practices which infringe on the human rights of civilians and work actively to respect, protect and promote human rights, rule of law and civilian security.
4. that the members and officers of KAF refrain from personal involvement in corrupt business activities and abuse of power.
5. All members of KAF sign, as the KNU has done already, the two Geneva Call Deeds of Commitment, on the Protection of Children in Armed Conflict and the Prohibition of Sexual Violence.
Susanna Hla Hla Soe, the director of the Karen Women’s Empowerment Group (KWEG) said that the Karen people needed unity.
“I never believe there is danger in unity. It is the lack of unity that can destroy our chances for sustainable peace in our country. This unification can help lead to more unity throughout the Karen community.” Susanna Hla Hla Soe, Director, Karen Women’s Empowerment Group (KWEG)
KWO is a community based organization formed in 1985 with the aim of empowerment of Karen women to be free from oppression, achieving equal status with men and to support the wellbeing of women and children. KWO has more than 45,000 members, including Karen women from refugee camps in Thailand and Karen State.
KWEG was formed in March 8, 2003 with the aim to build women’s capacity, a micro-finance program for families, women’s protection and empowerment programs and educational support of children and emergency assistance to victims of disaster.
KWU was formed in April 2014 with the purpose of supporting and shaping democracy and human rights in Burma. KWU works to promote Karen culture, literature and to encourage peace building and reconciliation in the country.