KNU Appoints Karen Woman General-Secretary
covering burma and southeast asia
Wednesday, December 19, 2018

KNU Appoints Karen Woman General-Secretary

By SAW YAN NAING Monday, October 20, 2008


An ethnic Karen woman, Zipporah Sein, was elected general-secretary of the Karen National Union (KNU) on Friday, according to Karen sources in Mae Sot, Thailand.  

Zipporah Sein was named the first woman leader to serve as general-secretary at the 14th KNU Congress held in Karen State in eastern Burma.

She assumes the position of the late KNU General-Secretary Mahn Sha, who was assassinated on February 14, 2008, by two gunmen hired by Karen breakaway rebel groups.    

Zipporah Sein also serves as general-secretary of the Karen Women’s Organization (KWO). One of the KWO's missions is to collect data on human rights abuses committed by the junta against ethnic Karen. 

In June 2007, she received the Perdita Huston Human Rights Award for her work to aid women’s struggle for freedom, democracy and equality in Burma. She was nominated by an international women’s organization for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006.   

Nang Yain, the general-secretary of the Women’s League of Burma, welcomed the appointment. “It is the acknowledgement that the KNU recognizes the role of women in the political movement,” she said.

At the congress meeting, the KNU elected 11 executive committee members. Gen Tamla Baw was named chairman while David Takapaw was named vice-chairman, according to KNU sources who attended the meeting.     

Former Vice-Chairman Gen Tamla Baw served as former head of the KNU’s military wing, the Karen National Liberation Army. He was a close colleague of the late Gen Bo Mya.      

Maj Hla Ngwe was appointed joint secretary (1) and Saw Daw Lay Mu was appointed joint secretary (2). Other executive committee members are David Htaw, Roger Khin, Mutu Say Poe, Arr Toe, Lah Say and Kay Hser.   

The KNU, one of the oldest surviving rebel groups in Southeast Asia, has been struggling for autonomy since 1949. The KNU has never signed a ceasefire agreement with the Burmese government.   

In 1995, the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army split from the KNU and reached a ceasefire agreement with the Burmese military government.   

In early 2007, another splinter group known as the KNU/ KNLA Peace Council led by former KNLA Brigade 7 leader Maj-Gen Htain Maung also signed a ceasefire agreement with the Burmese regime.  

Since the KNU/ KNLA Peace Council split from the KNU, assassinations between the KNU and its breakaway groups have frequently occurred.

In 2004, former KNU chairman Gen Bo Mya visited Rangoon for peace talks with Burma’s former Prime Minister Khin Nyunt. The result was the so-called “gentlemen’s agreement.”  

However, in early 2006, Burmese troops launched major military offensives against Karen civilians in northern Karen State and forced an estimated 30,000 Karen villagers to flee into the countryside as well as to cross the Thai-Burmese border.    

In February 2007, the KNU broke off all contact with the Burmese regime when Maj-Gen Htain Maung and some 300 KNU soldiers defected to the Burmese army.

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