KNU'S STRUGGLE FOR DEMOCRACY & EQUALITY OF ALL NATIONALITIES
(Aug. 24, 2005)( S.H.A.N. & Burma's News Published by Burma's Chinese 貌强 )
Hand-Tying Ceremony of the Year 2744 Karen Era The 19th of August 2005 is the auspicious day of traditional Hand-Tying Ceremony of the Karen people. The Karen people, starting from about 2744 years ago, had entered into and settled down in the land now known as Burma and they are a people with their own traditions, literature and culture. The Hand-Tying Ceremony is one of the traditions and culture of the Karen people. Since it is a good custom and practice for the Karen people to maintain and observe this cultural tradition, the KNU, highly appreciate and praise the observation of it. At the present, the Karen people do not still have the right to decide their own political destiny and have to exist under the rule of the ultra-nationalist military dictatorship, they have no freedom in the fields of political, economic, social and cultural development. It has become a matter of concern for Karen people, because the language, literature and cultural activities of the Karen people are taking a turn to fade and vanish, in the repressive environment. For that reason, with the realization of this true situation, all the Karens participate unanimously in the struggle for the right of the Karen people to decide their own destiny. History of the Karens and KNU
The Karens of Burma, have been cornered into fighting against the ruling Burmese Governments for the past forty-three years. Holding the reins of all organs of the state, and in full control of the press, radio, and television, the successive ruling Burmese Governments from U Nu AFPFL (Anti-fascist People Freedom League) to the present Military Junta headed by General Than Shwe , have always painted KNU as black as they can. They have branded KNU insurgents, war mongers, a handful of border smugglers, black-marketeers and stooges of both the communists and the imperialists. Even so, to the extent of his ability KNU has always tried to refute the nefarious one-sided Burman propaganda of false accusations and make the true facts of his cause known to he world. In fighting against the ruling Burmese Government, KNU is not being motivated by narrow nationalism, nor by ill-will towards the Burmese Government or the Burman people. KNU' s struggle was instigated neither by the capitalist world nor by the communists, as some have falsely accused him. It has an originality completely of its own. Throughout history, the Burman Chaovinists have been practicing annihilation, absorption and assimilation(3 A) against the Karens and they are still doing so today. In short, they are waging a genocidal war against KNU. Thus KNU has been forced to fight for his very existence and survival. (boxun.com)
Karen National Union(KNU) Kawthoolei
The Karens, A Nation, Their Nature and History
The Karens are much more than a national minority. The Karens are a nation with a population of 7 million, having all the essential qualities of a nation. The Karens have their own history, own language, own culture, own land of settlement and own economic system of life. By nature the Karens are simple, quiet, unassuming and peace loving people, who uphold the high moral qualities of honesty, purity, brotherly love, co-operative living and loyalty, and are devout in their religious beliefs. Historically, the Karens descend from the same ancestors as the Mongolian people. The earliest Karens (or Yangs as called by the Thais), settled in Htee-Hset Met Ywa (Land of Flowing Sands), a land bordering the source of the Yang-tse-Kiang river in the Gobi Desert. From there, the Karens migrated southwards and gradually entered the land now known as Burma about 739 B.C.. The Karens were, according to most historians, the first settlers in this new land. The Karens named this land Kaw-Lah, meaning the Green Land. They began to peacefully clear and till this Green Land from all hindrances. Their labors were fruitful and they were very happy with their lot. So the Karens changed the name of the land to Kawthoolei, a pleasant, plentiful and peaceful country. Here they lived characteristically simple, uneventful and peaceful lives, until the advent of the Burman.
Pre World War II Eras: Burman Feudalism, British Imperialism and Japanese Fascism
The Karens could not enjoy their peaceful lives for long. The Mons were the next to enter this area, followed at their heels by the Burman. Both the Mons and Burman brought with them feudalism, which they practised to the full. The Burman later won the feudal war, and they subdued and subjugated all other nationalities in the land. The Karens suffered untold miseries at the hands of their Burman lords. Persecution, torture and killings, spppression, oppression and exploitation were othe order of the day. To mention a few historical facts as evidence, people may refer to the Burman subjugation of the Mons and the Arakanese, and especially their past atrocities against the Thais at Ayudhaya. These events stand as firm evidence of the Burman feudalism, so severe that those victimized peoples continue to harbour a deep -seated resentment of the Burman today. At the time, many Karens had to flee for their lives to the high mountains and thick jungles, where communications and means of livelihood were extremely difficult and diseases common. The Karens were thus cut off from all progress, civilization and the rest of the world, and were gradually reduced to backward hill tribes. The rest of the Karens were made slaves. They all were forced to do hard labour and were cruelly treated.
When the Brithish occupied Burma, the conditions of the Karens gradually improved. With the introduction of law and order by the Colonial Central Authority, the Karens began to earn their living without being hindered, they could go to school and be educated. This infuriated the Burman, to see the despised Karens being treated equally by the British. Progress of the Karens in almost all fields was fast, and by the beginning of the 20th Century, the Karens were ahead of other peoples in many respects, expecially in education, athletics and music. It could be said that the Karens had a breathing spell during the period of the British Regime. But during the Second World War, in 1942, the Japanese invaded Burma with the help of the Burma Independence Army(BIA), who led them into the country. These BIA troops took full advantage of the situation by insinuating that the Karens were spies and puppets of the British, and therefore were enemies of the Japanese and the Burman. With the help of the Japanese, they began to attack the Karen villages, using a scheme to wipe out the entire Karen populace which closely resembled the genocidal scheme Hitler was enacting against the Jews in Germany. The Karens in many parts of the country were arrested, tortured and killed. their properties were looted, their womenfolk raped and killed, and their hearths and homes burned. Conditions were so unbearable that in some areas the Karens retaliated fiercely enough to attract the attention of the Japanese Government, which mediated and somewhat controlled the situation. Post-World War II Eras: Demand for the Karen State, Tensions and Armed Conflicts
The Bitter experiences of the Karens throughout the history of Burma, especially during the second World War , taught the Karens one lesson: as a nation, unless they control a state of their own, they will never experience a life of peace and decency, free from persecution and oppression. they will never be allowed to work hard, to grow and prosper. Soon after the Second World War, all the nations under colonial rule were willed with national aspirations for independence. The Karen sent a Goodwill Mission to England in August 1946, to make the Karen case know to the British Government and the British people, and to ask for a true Karen State. But the reply of the British Labor Government was to throw their lot with the Burman.The Karens deeply regretted this, for as it predictably has turned out today, it was a gesture grossly detrimental to their right of self-determination, only condemning them to further oppression. It is extremely difficult for the Karens and the Burmans, two peoples with diametrically opposite views, outlooks, attitudes and mentalities, to yoke together.
However, differences in nature and mentality are not the main reason for the Karens’ refusal to throw in their lot with the Burman. There are other more important reasons for sticking to the Karens’ demand for their own State within a genuine Federal Union.
1. The Karens are concerned that the tactics of annihilation, absorption and assimilation, which have be practiced in the past upon all other nationalities by the Burman rulers, will be continued by the Burman of the future as long as they are in power.
2. The Karens are concerned about the postwar independence Aung Sun-Atlee and Nu-Atlee Agreements, as there was no Karen representative in either delegation and no Karen opinion was sought. The most that the Burman would allow the Karens to have was a pseudo Karen State, which falls totally under Burman authority. In that type of Karen State, the Karens must always live in fear of their cruel abuse of that authority over them.
On January 4, 1948, Burma got its independence from the British. The Karens continued to ask for self-determination democratically and peacefully from the Burmese Government The Karen State requested by the Karens was comprised of the Irrawaddy Division, the Tenasserim Division, the Hanthawaddy District, Insein District and the Nyauglebin Sub-Division, the areas where the bulk of the Karen populace could be found. But instead of compromising with the Karens by peaceful negotiations concerning the Karen case, the Burmese Government and the Burmese Press said many negative things about the Karens, especially by frequently repeating their accusations that the Karens are puppets of the British and enemies of the Burman. The Burmese Government agitated the Burman people toward communal clashes between the Karens and the Burman. Another accusation against the Karens demand was that it not the entire Karen people who desired a Karen state, but a handful of British lackeys who wanted the ruin of the Union of Burma.
To counter the accusations and show the world that it was the whole Karen people desire for a Karen state, a peaceful demonstration by the Karens all over the country was staged on February 11, 1948, in which over 400,000 Karen took part. The banners carried in the procession contained four slogans, namely: 1.Give the Karen State at once 2. Show Burman one Kyat and Karen one Kyat 3. Wedo not want communal strife. 4. We do not want civil war.
The slogans of the Karen in this mass demonstration voiced the same desire as the three slogans of the British Colonies after the Second World War: Liberty, Equality, and Peace. The Karens followed the established democratic procedures in our request for a Karen state. A few months after Burma got its independence, successive desertions in the AFPFL put U Nu, the then Premier, in grave trouble. The revolts of the Red Flag Communist Party in 1947, the Communist Party of Burma in March 1948, the People Volunteer Organization in June 1948, and the mutinies of the 1St... Burma Rifles stationed at Thayetmyo and the 3rd Burma Rifles stationed at Mingladon, Rangoon(August 15, 1948), prompted U Nu to approach the Karen leaders to help the Government by taking up the security of Rangoon, and save it from peril. The Karens did not take advantage of the situation, but readily complied to U Nu’s request and helped him out of his predicament. The KNDO(Karen National Defence Organization), officially recognized by the Burmese Government, was posted at all the strategic positions and all the roads and routes leading to Rangoon. For months the KNDO faithfully took charge of the security of Rangoon. The KNDO was given several tasks in forming an outer ring of defence, particularly at Hlegu an Twante. Most important of all was the reoccupation of Twante town, Rangoon’s key riverain gateway to the Delta towns and upper Burma. This little town had fallen several times to the communists. Each time it was retaken by regular troops, only to fall back into the hands of the rebels as soon as conditions returned to normal and control was handed back to the civil authorities and the police. This time, a KNDO unit under the leadership of Bo Toe and Bo Aung Min was ordered to retake Twante, which was once more in the hands of the Red Flag Communists. They succeeded with their own resources and without any support from the regular army other than river transport. After wresting the town from the Red Flag Communists hands, they garrisoned it in accordance with their given orders.
The two Burma Rifles that had mutinied marched down south, unopposed along the way until they reached Kyungale bridge, near the town of Let pa-dan, where they were stopped by a company of Karen UMP(Union Military police). Their truck carrying arms and ammunition received a direct hit from mortar five of the Karen UMP and was destroyed. So, they retreated after suffering heavy casualties.
But even while all this was happening, the ungrateful Burmese Government was hastily organizing a strong force of levies to make an all-out effort to smash the Karens. By December 1948, they arrested the Karen leaders in many parts of the country. Karen personnel in the armed services were disarmed and put into jail. General Smith Dun, General Officer Commanding(GOC) of the Burma Army, was forced to resign.. Many Karen villages were attacked and many Karen hearths and homes burnt and destroyed. On the 30th of January 1949, the Burmese Government declared the KNDO unlawful. Early the nest morning on the 31st of January, the Burmese troops attacked the KNDO Headquarters at Insein, a town about 10 mile north of Rangoon, where most of the top Karen leaders lived. There was no alternative left for the Karens but to fight back. An order was issued to all the Karens throughout the country to take up whatever armsthey could find and fight for their lives, their honor, and their long cherished Karen state: Kawthoolie. When the Karens took up arms, they attained great successes and occupied many towns and cities. They soon suffered military reverses, however, as they had not prepared for revolution and therefore, had now stockpile of arms and ammunition. The Karens had to withdraw from many fronts, this allowing Burmese troops to reoccupy these areas. Compounding this, the Burmese Government called for unity with all the other uprising Burman rebel groups. These Burman rebel groups saw the Karens as the greatest obstacle to their seizing exclusive power and they joined hands with the Burmese Government and fought against the Karens. As a result, the Karens found themselves fighting against all the armed elements in the country. Another reason for Karens’ setbacks was that all along, they had to stand on theirr own feet and fight alone without aid of any kind from any other country. In contrast, the Burmese Government received large amounts of foreign aid, including military aid from both capitalist and socialist countries and even from some so-called non-aligned nations. Many times then and since the situation of the Burmese Government has been precarious, but it has managed to continue mainly through aid from abroad. Many times it has been in dire straits, but it has not been ashamed to go begging. And as hard as it is for people to believe, its begging bowls have always come back filled. Present Day Situation:
Under the rule of the Burman, the Karens have been oppressed politically, economically, and culturally. In education, the Karen schools and institutions were taken by force and many were destroyed. The Karens are no longer allowed to study their own language in Burmese schools. Many of the Karen newspapers and literary books were banned. Economically, their fields and plots of land were nationalized and confiscated. The Karens have to toil hard all year round and have to take all their products to the Burmese Government for sale at its controlled prices, leaving little for themselves. Culturally, the Burmese Chaovinists have attempted to absorb and dissolve the Karens’ language, literature, traditions, and customs. The Karens have been denied all political rights and militarily, Karen people have all along been systematically exterminated as part of the annihilation, absorption, and assimilation program of the Burman. The Karens’ educational quality and living standards have dropped considerably, falling far behind the Burman in all respects. There efforts and actions against the Karens are as strong, or stronger, today as ever before in the past.
Since 1960, the successive Burmese Governments have been attacking the Karens with the four Cuts Operations: cutting the lines for supplying provisions, cutting the line of contact between the masses and the revolutionaries, cutting all revolutionary financial income and resources, and cutting off the heads of all revolutionaries. To make the four cuts operation successful, the Burmese troops are using strong suppressive measures. They destroy the fields of crops planted by the villagers and eat their grains and livestock. They take away whatever they like and destroy the things they cannot carry away. Captured villagers, men as well as women and adolescents, are made to carry heavy loads as porters for the Burmese soldiers. Many of the villagers have been forced to work a porters for several months; they are deliberately starved, and regularly beaten, raped, or murdered. When the Burmese soldiers enter a village, they shoot the villagers who try to escape. Some of the villagers have been accused of helping the revolutionaries and then have been killed. In certain areas, the villagers have been forced to leave their villages and have been moved to camps some distance away. They are not permitted to leave the camps without permission from the Burmese guards. Some of the villagers, who have been found in their villages after being ordered to move to the camps, have been shot and killed by the Burmese soldiers with no questions asked.
Situations such as these and sometimes worse are happening constantly throughout Kawthoolei and are causing a large number of Karens and Shans in Kawthoolei to leave their villages and take refuge along the Thai border.
NDF and DAB: Fight for Democracy , Equality and Federal Union
Burma is a multi-national country, inhabited also by the Kachin, Arkanese, Karenni, Lahu, Mon, Pa-O, Palaung, Shan, and Wa, etc. After independence, these ethnic races were also denied the basic rights of freedom, self-determination, and democracy. Hence, almost all the other nationalities in Burma have also taken up arms to fight against the Burmese Government for their own self-determination, and are now united in the National Democratic Front(NDF). There are now altogether nine members in the National Democratic Front, namely: 1.Arakan Liberation Party(ALP) 2.Chin National Front(CNF) 3.Kachin Independence Organization 4.Karen National Union(KNU) 4. Karennie National Progressive Party(KNPP) 6. Kayan New Land Party(KNLP) 7. Lahu National Organization(LNO) 8. New Mon State Party(NMSP) 9. Wa National Organization(WNO).
The consolidated National Democratic Front (NDF has resolved to form a genuine Federal Union, comprised of all the states of the nationalities in Burma, including a Burman state, on the basis of liberty, equality and social progress. The NDF is determined to fight on until victory is achieved, and requests the people of all classes and all walks of life to join hands and fight the Than Shwe military dictatorship.
By 1988, the oppression of Ne Win’s military regime had become so severe that even the Burman masses rose up against it. The regime’s response was to gun down thousands of peaceful demonstrators, mainly young students and monks. Even so Ne Win could not subdue them, and he was forced to resign, seemingly handing over power to his chosen successors in the State Law and Order Restoration Council(SLORC), but continuing to pull the strings of power from behind the scenes. The SLORC promised a multi-party election and held it in 1990, only to persecute and imprison the winners rather than hand over state power to them. Thousands of Burmese students, monks, and other dissidents fled to the areas governed by NDF member organizations. There they were accepted and sheltered by the ethnic peoples, particularly in the Karen areas, where no less than 6,000 students arrived along with other dissidents, all wanting to organize and struggle against the Burmese Junta. In late 1988, the KNU took the initiative in proposing that the NDF form a broader political front along with the newly formed Burman groups to meet the developing political situation. The other NDF members agreed, and the Democratic Alliance of Burma (DAB) was formed, including all the members of the NDF as well as groups such as the All Burma Students?Front (ABSDF) and the All Burma Young Monks Union(ABYMU).
The DAB unitedly committed itself to the following four principles: 1. The removal of the military dictators. 2. The establishment of democratic government. 3. The cessation of civil war and the establishment of internal peace. 4. The establishment of National Unity and a genuine federal union. This marks the firstime that the people of all races, even the Burmans, have been united in trying to throw off the yoke of an oppressive Burmese regime.
====== The facts on the split of Karen people ideologically, religion or ethnic groupby Mahn Kyaw Shwe
First Karen Split
1948- KNU leader Saw Ba Oo Gyi demand Karen State under the terms of 1947 Constitution. KNU asked Karen territory in Irrawaddy Delta within one month of deadline for the government to agree. Over 400,000 KNU Supporters took to the streets and in over dozens of towns and villages across the country. U Nu the prime minister of AFPFL government held a series of meeting with Minister of Karen Affair, Saw Sann Po Thin, with the leaders of Karen Youth Organization. Then, he met Saw Ba U Gyi and KNU leaders later.
About 500 Karen delegates from lower Burma gathered in Rangoon on March 3, 1948 for KNU 3rd Congress. U Nu argued that Kino's demand of the right of establishing independent State in the east and separate political privileges for the Delta Karens are too much, and Karen were getting "a half dollar more", in his word. However SawBa U Gyi replied that we had not received even a quarter yet. Most of the KNU leaders did not understand that the hiding card of U Nu was he already received favour from Saw Sann Po Thin, and the leaders of KYO for the question of separate Karen State. KYO leaders considered that KNU was demanding a little too much. U Nu exploited the disagreement between KYO leaders and KNU. (Burma insurgency and the politics of ethnicity)
Second Karen Split
1963 - KNU and CPB (Communist Party of Burma) reached as joint military alliance and found (NDUF) National Democratic United Front) in 1959 with the members of CPB, the NMSP and KNUP (Karen National United Party), but not the KNU. There was an ideological split between, Mahn Ba Zan and Saw Hanta Tha Hmwe who rejected any formal relationship with CPB. Then the 3rd Kawthoolei National Congress was held in April, 1963 near Papun. A major split occurred between KNUP and KRC factions. Local Burmese Army commanders immediately urged Ne Win to exploit the Karen split. Since 1960 KNU had steadily expanded its territory and backing the NDUP and NLA united fronts. Ne Win made a right move to offer peace talk to win over top rebel leaders. First he personally wrote to Mahn Ba Zan, the leader of socialist KNUP. He described 14-year civil war as a disaster. Ne Win mentioned that, "real peace which is demanded by the people can not be established alone, but only through mutual cooperation and personal relationship. I've taken hold of the tiger's tail and I can't let go. Please help me. He told to Mahn Ba Zan later in Rangoon. It is pretty similar attempt of lat prime minister Khin Nyunt's approach to Gen. Saw Bo Mya by calling Parti and phodohkwa. After this peace talk smaller number of Kawthoolei RC faction led by rightist Saw Hunter Tha Hmwe laid down their arm to the Revolution Council government. (Burma insurgency and the politics of ethnicity)
Third Karen Split
1994 Religion was used as a Weapon by junta. It was not the first time for Burmese army using religion as a weapon against its Enemies. After Ne Win took over power of the country in 1958-1960. Army's psychological warfare department printed over a million copy of booklets (Dahamma in Danger). The main objective of its offensive was to attack of the `godless" communists and tried to mobilize the country's monks against the CPB. (Burma insurgency and the politics of ethnicity)
SPDC regime frequently abused Buddhist religion against its political oppositions whenever, or wherever they have a chance. Since 1991, Burma army started its offensive against Manawplaw, the headquarter of NDF, DAB, NCGUB, and ABSDF using over 10 battalions with support artillery units. SPDC's original plan of to control Htwee pha kwee kyo was failed with thousands of dead and injured. The commanders of operation were Maung Hla and Tin Oo who was killed in helicopter crashed in Paan. Their second plan was to divide KNU by all means. One of the Burmese soldier captured by KNLA revealed the plan B of SPDC army to split KNU between, the young and the old, between Christians and the Buddhists and between the Pwo and the Sgaw. For the democratic opposition groups, Manalplaw is so important in politically and strategically because KNU has been hosting all other oppositions, armed or unarmed organization including NCGUB. Manalplaw was not fall by military attack of SPDC regime. It was fall by attack of political warfare using psychology, religion, espionage, drug, rumors as propaganda, and misinformation. SPDC's attempt to divide between Buddhist Karens from their Christian brothers is as follow:
One Chinese Buddhist KNU senior member played important role Karen Buddhists started to rose up against KNU leadership, by initiating to build pagodas on the strategic hills around Manalplaw. SPDC sent its under cover intelligent officers to Mae-lea-hta, where Myaing Gee Ngu Sayadaw in order to influence and control peaceful monk who have been practicing Buddhism peacefully. SPDC's under cover agents, who had been pretending as monks exploited all Buddhist religion events between Maethawar and Mae-lae-hta area as meeting point to exchange secret information. All Karen Buddhists who were the followers of Myaingyi Ngu Sayadaw were exempted from the forced labouring and other charges from SPDC army.
Rumours were systematically released saying all Karen Buddhist who wear the armed bands made of the Buddhist robe and provided by Myaingyi Ngu Sayadaw would be bullet proof. Yabaa or speed pills were provided by SPDC army to the Karen Buddhist soldiers to become rebellious and confused. SPDC's military radio transmitted misinformation like the cdr of No. 4 brigade, a Karen Buddhist was persecuted by Karen Christian leaders. Rumours were spread to persuade all Karen Buddhists by s saying those Karen Buddhists who did not come over Mae-tha-war would be persecuted by Christians leaders of KNU.
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