For the first time, four Karen ethnic armed groups have agreed to hold the district level Karen New Year celebrations on December 26, 2019.
Padoh Saw Shwe Maung, the Karen National Union’s Doo Pla Ya District Chairman said. “Karen people have survived many hardships from generation to generation. Even though we are different [armed] organizations, we are the same Karen. We have always wanted to reunite, now we will hold a joint celebration with our four armed groups. We will have the mindset we are one ethnicity and give our best to it as our national duty.”
The four groups; Karen National Union (KNU), Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA), KNU/KNLA -Peace Council, and the Karen Border Guard Force (BGF) plan to hold the 2759 Karen New Year jointly in Kyein Chaung village, Kyain Seikgyi Township in Doo Pla Ya District.
The groups got together for the first coordination meeting on November 2nd in Kyein Chaung village where all agreed to hold the celebration as a sign of their unity.
Padoh Saw Shwe Maung said that Karen National New Year Day would be celebrated as a national day and said it was an opportunity to express unity and the Karen culture.
The district level Karen New Year ceremony celebration will be joined by units of the four Karen armed groups based at the KNU’s Waw Ray, Noh T’Kaw, Kyon Doe and Kawkareik townships. Local villagers from each township will join the celebrations where ‘Karen Don’ dance competition, Karen traditional boxing and other sport competitions will be included.
Saw Htunt Hpaung Hein, a Mi Tan villager attended the coordination meeting in Kawkareik township and said. “I respect the Karen ethnic armed groups for coming together to celebrate Karen New Year Day. We will contribute with cultural, traditions and sports. I am very happy to be part of this special day and look forward to celebrating it in unity.”
The first coordination meeting was attended by around a 100 people – village administrators from each village from different townships in Doo Play Ya District, officials from KNU district level and officials from the four Karen armed groups.
The DKBA split from the KNU in 1994 and aligned itself with the Tatmadaw [Burma Army] and fought against the KNU for over a decade. The KNU/KNLA – PC led by the former KNLA 7th Brigade commander, Major General Saw Htin Maung, also known as Saw Htay Maung, split from the KNU in 2007 to sign a ceasefire with the previous military regime.
The Karen Border Guard Force, which is under the command of the Tatmadaw [Burma Army], was established with former DKBA soldiers and members of the Karen Peace Forces who accepted the border guard scheme of the military regime in 2009.
The KNU, the DKBA, and the KNU/KNLA – PC signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement on October 15, 2015. Since then, the groups have engaged in the government’s peace process where the KNU is taking a leading role in political negotiations.