3,000 Karen turn out to celebrate hassle-free New Year in Tavoy

Thousands of villagers turned up to celebrate the Karen New Year for the first time in Tavoy (also known as Dawei) Town, the capital of Tenasserim Division. The huge turnout was in response to the Burma government’s offer to let Karen people their cultural holiday in the divisional capital.

Saw Poe, who was among the thousands of rural villagers who attended the Karen New Year celebration spoke to Karen News.

“A huge crowd has turned up, more than three thousand people. The newly built Dawei’s Shwe Wei Thiri Sport Stadium is packed full with Karen and Burmese people.”

A Karen elder in Tavoy, (who asked not to be identified), told Karen News that the ousted Tenasserim’s Chief Minister, former Lt. Gen. Khin Zaw, had forbidden Karen New Year celebrations to be held in the Tavoy Education College’s grounds and asked Karen elders to move it to a Karen church.

The Karen committees that organized this year’s Karen New Year celebrations received permission from the authorities to hold the festivities in the Tavoy sport stadium.

On 25, December, Karen New Year Day, Saw Ha Bee, an ethnic Karen Member of Parliament, with the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party in Tenasserim Division in a speech to the crowd said.
“The Karen must be united. We hold this Karen New Year because we are united together.”

Member of Parliament, Saw Ha Bee, joined with other Karen elders in the Tavoy district to lobby successfully for the right to hold Karen New Year celebrations in Tavoy.

Saw Poe said.
“Since I was young, I have never seen a Karen New Year celebration like this – it is massive. I never saw Karen people come together and celebrate their happiness like this. I am proud and I am glad that we gained our rights to celebrate our Karen New Year. Every Karen car and motorbike has Karen flags and no police have caused us problems.”

Saw Poe said that Karen people from four townships – Thayetchaung, Laonglon, Tavoy and Yebyu in Tavoy District and other places in Tenasserim Division- joined in the celebrations held from 22nd to the 26th December. Events held during the New Year celebrations included sports, a Miss Karen pageant, Karen traditional Don dance, a music competition and concert and a ceremony held for young Karen who passed their grade 10 exams with distinction.

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