Three top leaders of the Karen rebel forces were fired on Wednesday, said Karen National Union (KNU) sources, for allegedly opening a liaison office with the government without informing the group’s political wing and “repeated violations” of regulations, according to a report on the Radio Free Asia (RFA) website on Thursday.
The Karen National Union (KNU) dismissed General Mutu Say Poe, the commander-in-chief of its armed wing, the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), along with central committee members David Taw and Roger Khin for “repeated violations of KNU rules and regulations,” said KNU sources.
There was no clarification on what the “repeated violations” were, but the three men had reportedly worked to establish a KNU central-level liaison office in Hpa-An—the capital of Karen state—without obtaining permission from the KNU.
The KNU had not confirmed the dismissals as of Wednesday, but the order was given in a letter signed by Joint-Secretary Hla Ngwe and 10 other central committee members, one source said.
The dismissals signal a division in the Karen military and political leadership over how much and how fast to cooperate with the government in peace negotiations. When reached Thursday for comment by RFA’s Burmese service, General Mutu declined to discuss the matter.
KNU sources said that Mutu Say Poe and his group had ignored several meetings called by the central committee, which is currently led by General-Secretary Zipporah Sein.
A Karen military source said that Mutu Say Poe may have as many as 10,000 troops who would support him.
Reports suggested that a split within the Karen leadership ranks could result in a northern faction led by Baw Kyaw Heh and a southern faction commanded by Mutu Say Poe, threatening to derail the KNU’s 15th congress which is due to elect new leadership later this month.
Observers said that in the recent talks, the government delegation, led by Aung Min, a minister in President Thein Sein’s office, wanted to quickly resettle thousands of Karen internally displaced persons and refugees from Thai border camps.
The European Karen Network (EKN), in a statement released on Thursday, accused government peace negotiators of seeking to split the Karen leadership.
“The government of Burma appears intent on continuing to use divide and rule tactics against the Karen. The use of such tactics can threaten the entire peace process,” it said in a statement.
The split underscores the difficulties inherent in a complex peace process after decades of strife, causing tens of thousands of Karen refugees to seek shelter in camps on the Thai-Burma border.