A Karen National Union military officer who had talks earlier this month in Rangoon with regime representatives without KNU approval has been dismissed from his post at the head of the Karen National Liberation Army’s 7th Brigade.

A KNU statement on Tuesday announced that Brig-Gen Htain Maung had been relieved of his post because he failed to follow KNU policies.

The statement, issued one day before the 58th anniversary of Karen Revolution Day, said Htain Maung had “absolutely refused to be responsible to the said institutions in violation of his oath to the KNU 13th Congress.” Anniversary celebrations were called off because of the leadership crisis.

The KNU charged that since February, 2005, Htain Maung had convened a separate meeting and tried to form a new central committee “in violation” of decisions of the KNU Congress, and had separately contacted representatives of the Burmese regime in order to open a dialogue with them.

Htain Maung and eight others visited Rangoon from January 3-11 and met Lt-Gen Thein Sein, secretary-1 of the State Peace and Development Council, and Maj-Gen Ye Myint, of Burma’s Military Affairs Department.

Htain Maung became involved in the Karen independence struggle in 1949, later joining the KNU central committee and commanding of the 7th Brigade since 1970. He was greatly respected by his troops and by Karen people within and outside Burma.

On November 6, 2006, he issued a statement declaring he no longer had confidence in the KNU central leadership. In his latest statement, issued on January 24, he said he had agreed to cooperate with the SPDC in developing 7th Brigade areas of operation.

KNU General Secretary Mahn Sha accused Htain Maung of neglecting his duties, working alone and forgetting “the revolution.”

His place at the head of the 7th Brigade is to be taken by Pa-an District Chairman Ahtoe, Col Johnny and Lt-Col Tun Kyaing. Pa-an District is in the area controlled by the 7th Brigade.

A spokesman for Htain Maung’s group, Maj Maung Kyaw, said the commander’s departure was “not good for Karen people.” The group would continue to work for peace and development within Karen State, he said.

In an anniversary statement KNU Chairman Ba Thin Sein said: “ It is necessary for us [Karen] to oppose all acts of destroying unity, and unite under the policies and programs laid down by the KNU 13th Congress and the KNU leadership.”