KNLA soldiers on parade (Photo: Karen News)

Karen Armed Groups Drop Military Parades For 2014 New Year Celebrations

The 2014 Karen New Year celebrations will be the first time the event is not marked with a military parade or a demonstration of the ethnic armed groups fighting prowess.

All Karen armed groups, except the Karen Democratic Karen Benevolent Army have agreed to hold 2014 New Year as a celebration of unity.

The Karen National Union, Karen Peace Council, Haung Tharaw Peace Group and Karen operating as the government’s militia, the Border Guard Force will join forces at Shwe Kokko Myine, Myawaddy Township, Karen State to celebrate the 68th New Year that is marked by the lunar calendar and this year will fall on January 1.

The Karen armed groups told Karen News that to symbolize their commitment to the peace process they will drop the military focus.

In previous Karen New Year celebrations, the day’s agenda has been driven by military parades, speeches and gunfire.

The decision to exclude the military parade was made after representatives from the groups, including religious leaders and the community leaders met on December 5.

Colonel Maung Chit Thu from the BGF, an advisor to the Karen New Year organizing committee told to Karen News about the motivation behind the decision.

“We are now in the peace building process, so it is not suitable to show arms and military parade in front of many Karen civilians who will be attending the New Year celebrations. We called for an emergency meeting to discuss the issue and made the decision.”

Sources from the armed groups said that the Karen New Year organizing committee initially planned at an earlier meeting to have a military parade with 100 soldiers from each of the groups taking part in a parade.

Representatives from the KNU, the KNU/KNLA-PC, the Haung Tharaw Peace Group and the BGF organized the 2014 New Year celebration will include five townships in Karen State – Kawkreik, Myawaddy, Kyain Seikgyi, Hlaingbwe and Hpa An Township.

General Saw Johnny, Chief of Staff of the Karen National Liberation Army reflected on the committee’s decision.

“The military parade is still necessary for celebrations like Karen Revolution Day and Karen Martyrs’ Day, but for the Karen New Year celebrations, it is not that relevant. That’s why the organizing committee made its decision to exclude a military parade.”

The armed groups have decided to spend as much as five billion Kyat (around $50,000) on this 68th Karen New Year celebration includes Karen traditional dance, theaters and concerts, a Karen leaders meeting, youth groups meeting, boxing and a sports competition.

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