Karen National Day in Brief

Karen National Day in Brief

February 11, 2020

Starting from the end of WW-2, the entire Karen nationality called for the creation of a Karen State. However, the AFPFL government in power, under the domination of the Burman/Myanmar ultra-nationalists, falsely and derisively accused that the movement was being launched by a handful of Karen people, it was instigated by the British imperialists, it was a movement of the Karen, who wanted to remain as slaves of the British, etc.

On February 3, 1948, the KNU sent a letter to the AFPFL government demanding a state for the Karen people. In the letter, conditions were set that an answer was given in a month’s time, by the date of March 31, 1948, and if there was no answer or if the government refused to give a state, the Karen people would take a step further.

In order to add emphasis to the letter demanding a state, a decision was taken by the KNU that the Karen people in the country of Burma/Myanmar were to go up to the towns an cities and demonstrate their aspirations for a state, on February 11, 1948. In accordance with the decision, a large number of the Karen nationals in the whole country of Burma/Myanmar went up to the towns and cities and demonstrated their desire for a state, on February 11, 1948.

In addition to holding demonstrations in Lower Burma where the majority of the Karen people lived, demonstrations were held additionally by the Karen in Myitkyina Town, far in the North, and Myeik Town, far in the South, and Namkham, Kutkai, Lasho, Taunggyi and Kyaingtong Towns in Shan State, and Meiktila, Chauk, Yenan Chaung etc. Towns in Central Burma/Myanmar.

Without success, the AFPFL side used threats and checks to sabotage the demonstrations, which were participated by more than 400,000 Karen nationals. On the whole, it was the largest peaceful mass action up to that day, in the history of Burma/Myanmar. The demonstrations conducted were silent and the demands on the placards held by the demonstrators in their march in the towns and cities were:

(1) Give Karen State, At Once! (Freedom);
(2) Show Karen One Kyat, Burman One Kyat, At Once! (Equality & Democratic Rights);
(3) We Don’t Want Communal Strife! (Communal Harmony);
(4) We Don’t Want Civil War! (Peace).

The demonstrations were peaceful and most orderly in the history of Burma/Myanmar. At the mass meeting on the day of the demonstrations, the Karen leaders spoke valiantly in their speeches the desire to get a Karen State and the determination to achieve it, and the Karen people participated with high enthusiasm and patriotic spirit.

The political significance of the day of the demonstrations, the February 11 mass movement, or the Karen National Day anniversary, February 11, is:
(1) The birth of political awareness, national and patriotic spirit for the entire Karen people;
(2) The display of unity by the entire Karen people;
(3) The valiant demonstration of the entire Karen people’s nationalistic and patriotic fervor;
(4) The taking of political initiative by the Karen people;
(5) The World started to take more notice of the Karen people.

For the reasons given above, at the All-Kawthoolei Congress held from November 23 to 25, 1953 in Pa-pun Town, the Irrawaddy Delta No. (1) District Chairman Saw Kyaw Aye proposed that February 11 was designated as the Karen National Day, the Delta No. (1) Divisional Commander Gen. Gaw Htoo seconded the proposal, and as the Congress unanimously adopted the proposal, the day of February 11, on which the Karen people had held nationwide demonstrations, has become the Karen National Day.

An excerpt from the book titled “Sacred Days of the Karen People” by Pu Sgaw Lertaw.

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