Karen National Union

Karen National Union
Official flag of KNU

The Karen National Union (Burmese: ကရင် အမျိုးသား အစည်းအရုံး; abbreviated KNU) is a political organisation with an armed wing, the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) that represents the Karen people of Burma. It operates in Eastern Burma, and has underground networks in other areas of Burma where Karen people live. In Karen, this Karen area is called Kawthoolei. Some of the Karen, led primarily by the Karen National Union (KNU), have waged a war against the central government since early 1949. The aim of the KNU at first was independence. Since 1976 the armed group has called for a federal system rather than an independent Karen State.



The United Kingdom representative of the organization is Nant Bwa Bwa Phan.

The KNU was dominated for three decades by its longtime leader Bo Mya, who was president from 1976-2000. The KNU was for many years able to fund its activities by controlling black market trade across the border with Thailand, and through local taxation. After the failed 8888 Uprising of the Burmese people in 1988, the Burmese military government turned to China for help in consolidating its power. Various economic concessions were offered to China in exchange for weapons. The Burmese Army was massively expanded and began to offer deals to groups fighting the government. The groups were offered the choice of cooperating with the military junta or being destroyed.

The KNU's effectiveness was severely diminished after the fall of its headquarters at Manerplaw, near the Thai border, in 1995.

Also in 1994, a group of Buddhist soldiers in the KNLA, citing discrimination by the KNU's overwhelmingly Christian leadership against the Buddhist Karen majority, broke away and established the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA). They were led by a monk widely thought to be an agent of the Burmese dictatorship.[citation needed] The DKBA quickly agreed to a ceasefire with the Burmese army and was granted business concessions at the expense of their former KNU overlords. The KNU and DKBA have since been in regular fighting, with the DKBA actively supported by the Burmese army.

Pado Mahn Shar, the secretary-general of the union was shot dead in his home in Mae Sot, Thailand, on February 14, 2008, possibly by soldiers of the DKBA.[1][2][3]

Since then, the KNU and KNLA have continued to fight the Burma state military (Tatmadaw) by forming guerrilla units and basing themselves in temporary jungle camps on the Thai-Burmese border. Following its principle of no surrender, the KNU continues despite a precarious state of existence. Nonetheless, their fight continues to garner the sympathy of people around the world since the KNU has been fighting for the Karen people, one of the many ethnic nationalities of Burma that are experiencing ethnic cleansing under the military regime's Four Cuts campaigns (Pyat Lay Pyat), a strategy where intelligence, finances, food and recruits are eliminated through a scorched-earth policy.[citation needed]

Several attempts have been made to conclude a form of peace with Burma's military junta, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), but with little success. The 2004 peace talks yielded only an informal ceasefire which the regime used to reinforce their frontline troops. Analysts realized this was a ruse, and sure enough, offensives against KNU held areas have resumed in earnest.

The Karen conflict is the longest internal war in the world, having been waged since January 31, 1949[4]. The KNU wants a political settlement and supports a federal Burma.[citation needed]

Following the assassination of Padoh Mahn Sha elections were held and the current Secretary General of the KNU is Naw Zipporrah Sein.[1] She was formerly head of the Karen Women's Organisation.[5]

Direction (2011)



KNU 9th congress held in September 1974[6]


KNU 11th congress.[7]


KNU 12th congress.[7]


The 13th KNU congress was held from 12 to 16 December.[8]


The 14th KNU congress was held from 6 to 20 Oct. It was held on KNU-controlled territory[8]


Karen National Union's fighting force has been reduced to 3000-5000 fighters[9] and on June 25 KNLA's Brigade 7 headquarters is overrun[10].


On 2 November 2010, the Karen National Union became members of an alliance which includes: the Karen National Union (KNU), Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP), Chin National Front (CNF), Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO), New Mon State Party (NMSP) and the Shan State Army North (SSA-N). [11]

See also


External links

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