A dark foreboding sky filled with rain clouds, below the mountains are covered in low mist, monsoon rains form puddles on the ground as around a 100 soldiers in dressed in Karen military uniforms march. The soldiers, carrying M-16 rifles, slowly churn their way through grass and mud to parade ground cut out of the jungle in Karen State, Burma.
The soldiers are on parade to commemorate August 12, the 62nd year of Karen ‘Martyrs’ Day’.” The soldiers are from the armed forces of the Karen National Union (KNU) and have gathered together with retired and serving soldiers, officers, military leaders and Karen civilian at the Karen National Liberation Army Brigade-7 jungle base to their fallen heroes.
Saw Aung Maw Aye, the KNU’s Pa-an District chairman addressed the gathered crowded.
“We cannot count the number of our precious leaders, soldiers and civilians who gave their lives for our people. Today we come here to remember and honor them and to let our next generation know that we are a [Karen] nation.”
Brigadier General Saw Johnny, the commander of Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) Brigade 7, when speaking to the crowd said.
“We have been in revolution for 63-years. But we have not yet reached our goal of striving for ethnic equal rights and self-determination. First we have to unite all Karen factions and we have to cooperate with each other. If we are united we will achieve our goals.”
The Karen Martyrs’ Day is commemorated each year on August 12, the day when the Burma Army killed the Karen’s leader, Saw Ba U Gyi, in 1950. The Karen Martyrs’ Day is held to commemorate the Karen leader Saw Ba U Gyi and all leaders, soldiers and Karen people who lost their lives in the arm conflict between the various Burma governments and the Karen people over the last six decades.
In the past six decades of arm conflict between the KNU and Burma’s military governments there have been attempts to reach a ceasefire, but have been unsuccessful until ‘peace-talks’ in January this year. For the first time in a cease-fire agreement was signed. Brigadier General, Saw Johnny, told Karen News.
“Now we have a cease-fire with the government, but it is not sustainable yet. When it sustainable we will move to a political resolution. Conflict between the Karen and Burma government is an issue for all of Burma, it is also an issue for all ethnic groups, it is the major political issue for Burma. The government does not want to resolve the ethnic conflict by political mean, but with violence and with guns. There has been bloodshed for over 60 years. For 63 years they failed to destroy the Karen people by using weapons.”
Brigadier General, Saw Johnny, said it is up to the government to honour its commitment and promises to the peace process and he warned.
“We are monitoring, if the government does what it has promised we should not have a problem. But we will still retain our arms. If they don’t do as they promised and if the cease-fire is broken, it will not be the fault of the KNU – it will be the fault of the government.”