The Union Kayin League (UKL), a successor to one of the oldest Karen political parties in Burma, has been dissolved. The party was a reformed version of the Union Karen League of Mahn Win Maung and vice-president Aung Pa which was closely affiliated to the AFPFL and U Nu in the 1950s. The reformed UKL contested the 1990 election and later was a participant at the National Convention. The party was viewed as being extremely close to the regime and was a signatory to statements criticizing the NLD (ironically the NLD was dissolved on the same day).
While the UKL has sixty days to contest the UEC decision it is unlikely to do so. There are three more Karen parties approved to contest the election: The Kayin People’s Party (KPP) of Simon Tha, the Phalon-Sawaw (Plone-Sgaw) Democratic Party (PSDP) and the Kayin State Democracy and Development Party (KSDDP). The latter was allegedly created by the regime’s information minister Kyaw San and its membership includes leaders from the DKBA, KPF and Padoh Aung San. While the PSDP has reportedly been successful in its campaigning activities, it is likely the SPDC would prefer the KSDDP to garner the most votes and rumours suggest that the Regime may be bankrolling the party.
Regardless of who wins Karen seats, there will be very little change for the Karen people at the grassroots level. While civil society networks may be strengthened in the cities and the Irrawaddy delta, for those villagers in the conflict zone constantly forced to flee Burma Army offensives the situation will, sadly, remain the same.