KNU orders staff at junta-controlled departments to leave their posts  

The Karen National Union (KNU) has issued a notice warning government staff working under the junta in Hpapun district that they must leave their posts within days or risk action being taken against them.

The ultimatum comes after the junta sent new staff members to the conflict-ridden region of Karen State to replace those who had resigned and joined the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) to overthrow the military dictatorship. 

The KNU has had its own administrative operations in its territory for decades, under a system it calls Kaw Thoo Lei, but since last February’s coup that has become part of a nationwide effort to deprive the new junta of the ability to govern. 

The KNU’s Brigade 5, which has been fighting to retain its control of the area, said in the notice on Saturday that all staff in junta-controlled departments have 10 days to leave their posts starting from the anniversary of the coup on Tuesday. 

“Some government staff members in Hpapun are already taking part in the Civil Disobedience Movement, but we had to issue the warning as the military sent new staff to the area,” said Pado Mahn Mahn, a spokesperson for Brigade 5.

The brigade announced in March 2021 that Hpapun would only be governed under the Kaw Thoo Lei system, he added. 

“It is quite an advantage for us that a lot of government staff members are taking part in CDM, as we can use the CDM staff members when we implement a federal union system or some other form of interim administration system, like an interim constitution, especially in the mixed controlled areas,” he said. 

The KNU, which was founded in 1947, has 14 administrative departments covering areas including defence, health and education.  

Its armed wing has been locked in fierce fighting with the military since last year’s coup, with much of the violence focussed on Brigade 5 territory.

Intense clashes broke out in December in Lay Kay Kaw, in Brigade 6 territory, after the military raided the town and arrested anti-dictatorship activists who had sought refuge there.

Tens of thousands of people in Karen have been displaced by military air raids and artillery fire since March last year, with some of those who fled their homes making their way across the border to Thailand. 

The KNU said it killed 267 junta soldiers during clashes in its territory last month. The majority of the casualties were inflicted by soldiers serving in Brigade 5. 

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