Contact: Roland Watson, roland@dictatorwatch.org


October 28, 2016

Note: Part of this article was subsequently retracted. Please see http://www.dictatorwatch.org/prKNUupdateretract.html

The annual meeting of the KNU Central Committee begins on October 31st, and lasts a week. Since this is also the year for the organization's Congress, held every four years, the meeting, in addition to reviewing reports from the various KNU departments, would also make Congress preparations.

This cycle, though, KNU Chairman Mutu Say Poe wants to postpone the Congress. (This is allowed under the KNU Constitution, for one year.) Mutu says the Congress should not be held until Burma's peace process is completed. Of note, he will require the assent of 70% of the Central Committee's 45 members, or 32 votes, and which decision will be taken at the end of the meeting.

Why would he do this? Why does he really not want the Congress to be held?

It's worth remembering that Mutu's election as Chairman at the last Congress resulted from electoral fraud. Congress delegates elect the Central Committee members first, and then the "Big 5" (the top five officials, and who must be CC members). They in turn appoint the rest of the members of the KNU Executive Committee, and other department heads, which appointments are then ratified by the delegates. At the last Congress, several individuals from the organization's realist wing (they do not accept the proposition that the military dictatorship has reformed), and who advocate great care in dealings with the regime (recognizing its decades of repression), were not re-elected to the Central Committee (thereby preventing them from running for the top positions). The election official Robert Htwe tampered with the outcome. He counted the ballots on his own, without an independent check - this is required under KNU procedures; burned them before announcing the result; said that the realist members had not been elected; said there was no possibility of a recount when they protested (because the ballots were burned); and immediately left the Congress.

Following this, Mutu and his fellow fraud beneficiaries (notably Htoo Htoo Lay, Kwe Htoo Win, David Taw, and Saw Johnny) traveled to Rangoon and signed a preliminary ceasefire, even though they were expressly forbidden from doing so by the Executive Committee. He then had the KNU withdraw from the ethnic alliance, the UNFC, and signed the so-called nationwide ceasefire agreement.

For all of this, Mutu received over $2 million dollars from the European Union, channeled through Harn Yawnghwe's Euro-Burma Office, and likely other payments as well. He distributed some of the money to his associates on the Central Committee. Mutu has established a system of patronage in the KNU, thereby ensuring that it is no longer democratic nor that it represents the interests of the Karen people. New development businesses have also been established, such as the Dawei Princess family of companies, that depend on continued cooperation between the KNU and the dictatorship, and which no doubt contribute to the patronage as well.

All of this means that he has a lot to lose. The realists could be reelected to the Central Committee at the upcoming Congress, and then compete for the top positions, including his own. And, this time he won't be able to rig the result. He is therefore trying to avoid this by having the current CC members, many of whom are in his pocket, postpone the Congress.

This is not only extremely significant for the Karen, it will determine the prospects for freedom and democracy for all of Burma. If Mutu prevents the normal changeover of power, he can continue to side with the dictatorship, and Aung San Suu Kyi, including on promoting commercial development, and trying to force the Ethnic Armed Organization NCA non-signatories to sign (which they absolutely should never do, until the Burma Army stops attacking and withdraws its troops).

Conversely, if Mutu and his co-conspirators are blocked, and the Congress is held next month, the realists may well regain control. They would then likely rejoin the UNFC, and ethnic nationality unity would be established.

The EAOs united would form an incredibly powerful group, both politically and militarily. (This would be appropriate, since the ethnic census results, still unpublished, no doubt show that the different ethnic nationalities in total comprise over half the population.) The reconstituted UNFC would create an effective counterbalance to Suu Kyi's alliance with the dictatorship, such that real and sincere peace negotiations become possible - if the regime generals ever demonstrate sincerity. But, and as is likely, if they don't, the EAOs will be much better positioned to defend their people.

The result of the KNU Congress postponement vote is of critical importance. The Karen Civil Society Organizations which will attend the Central Committee meeting as observers, including KWO, KYO, Kesan, etc., should do everything they can to lobby the Committee members to vote against Mutu's plan. His "wait for the peace process to end" excuse is just that - an excuse. It will never end, which means Mutu will try to postpone the Congress year after year. The Congress should be held, this year.