The Karen National Union, despite being classified as an illegal organization, has attended a traditional wrist tying ceremony in Government controlled territory. Under article 17/1 of the Illegal Organization Act the KNU is still considered an outlaw group despite entering ‘peace-talks’ with the government.
In what is considered a welcomed historic first by many Karen, the KNU celebrated the 35th anniversary of the wrist tying ceremony at Zwekabin Hall in Hpa-an Town that was organized by the Karen State Literature and Culture Committee on Sunday, 26th of August.
As many as 1,000 people attended the ceremony including Padoh Saw Ah Toe, the KNU Forestry Minister, Lieutenant Colonel Paw Doh, in-charge of the KNU’s Myawaddy Liaison Office, U Zaw Min, Chief Minister of Karen State, State Ministers, leaders of political parties, Members of Parliament and Karen civilians.
Mahn Myo Myint, one of the attended with the KNU spoke to Karen News.
“It is good the KNU leaders are having this chance to attend the wrist-tying ceremony – local people are welcoming and are happy to see them.”
Nan Say Awa – a Member of Parliament from the Plao Swaw Democratic Party said local people were pleased to see the KNU leaders, but still hesitated to be openly close.
“We are happy that they (KNU officials) attended the ceremony and all local Karen people are happy. But some people were afraid to talk to or communicate with the KNU. They are afraid because of article 17/1 is still active. I think people would have come closer and being more open if they were not classified as an illegal organization.”
The wrist-tying ceremony began at 10 am with a full program that included wrist tying, the singing of traditional songs, a public reception and many other traditional activities.
The Karen wrist-tying ceremony is a tradition eagerly anticipated each year and is celebrated widely by Karen communities around the world in an attempt to keep it alive.
Mahn Myo Myint said that this year’s ceremony is the point of hope for Karen to try achieve their common goal of peace.
“From this kind of Karen traditional ceremony where all Karen people gather together in unity, we hope that this will lead us to open discussion of our national issues. If this can happen, I think Karen people will achieve their common goal in the near future.”
According to local sources, the Karen State Chief Minister, U Zaw Min, contributed one-million-kyat and the KNU contributed 300,000 kyat to the Karen State Literature and Culture Committee for the organizing and holding of the ceremony.
The Karen wrist-tying ceremony handed down by Karen ancestors to be held on the Karen month of Lah Khu [the Burmese month of Wagaung or August). Historians claim the Karen’s ancestors believed that in order to protect their children, grandchildren or great grandchildren from harm from evil spirits, the elders must tie a piece of white thread on the wrists, while praying or chanting to drive the evil spirits away.