Burma Army Bans Statue of Karen Hero, Saw Ba U Gyi, From Karen New Year Celebrations

Local Karen communities’ plans to raise a statue of their hero and martyr, Saw Ba U Gyi, was objected to by Burma Army commanders in the Three Pagoda Pass town of Win Yay Township, Dooplaya District.

Committee members in charge of the Karen New Year celebration in Win Yay [Wor Ray] Township said that the army commanders in the area objected to plans to erect the statue of Saw Ba U Gyi that was going to be set up for the Karen New Year celebrations in Three Pagoda Pass town. The committee members said that this year event is special, as they will hold an event for the whole Win Yay Township.

Sources from the New Year Organizing Committee told Karen News that General Tun Tun San, the tactical commander based in ANan Kwin and Lieutenant Colonel Aung San Win, from Light Infantry Battalion #97 based at Three Pagoda Pass Town met at the KNU’s Liaison Office on November 14 to discuss with New Year Organizing Committee and KNU Win Yay Township officials. At the meeting, the Burma army officials said that the plan to erect the statue of the Karen leader was blocked by their superiors.

A member of Karen New Year Organizing Committee told Karen News what they were told by the Burma Army commanders.

“They told us Saw Ba U Gyi is a national leader as well as revolutionary leader. This will cause [revolutionary] motivation to the youths. So, they said that their superiors won’t give permission. They also don’t like the terms we use, such as “organizing committee” and “Win Yay Township” [as it’s KNU administration boundary]. They said it should be “Kyain Seikkyi Township” [as set by the Burmese government’s administration boundary].”

The statue of Saw Ba U Gyi that was going to be set up on New Year day is nine feet tall. The New Year organizing committee said that it was planned to be erected on December 19 – the statue is now 70 percent completed.

When contacted by Karen News in regard to the Burma Army objection, Lieutenant Colonel Aung San Win of LIB #97 said, “We don’t know each other… I cannot give you an answer. If we knew each other personally, I would answered. Please understand us.”

Padoh Saw Maung Shwe, head of the New Year Organizing Committee told Karen News that the idea to erect the statue was to let young people know that Saw Ba Gyi wanted a self-determination for the Karen people and to use peaceful ways to get it – the same path as that of current KNU leaders.

Padoh Saw Maung Shwe said this will be a major setback for trust building during the peace process.

“We, Karen people are building trust. Karen people will not put trust on us if this is not permitted. If we can’t do it, we will let it be, but it will remain in our heart.”

During the peace process between the KNU and the government, locals setup the statue of former KNU general secretary Padoh Mha Shar Lar Phan at his birthplace in Taw Kyaung village, Pantanaw Township on February 4 and a memorial statue was also setup in Saw Ba U Gyi’s birthplace at Bae Ga Yaek village, Kan Taung Gyi Township on August 12 in the Ayeyawaddy Region.

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