Speaking on the 5th anniversary of the assassination of Karen National Union leader, Padoh Mahn Sha Lah Phan, his four children thanked people world wide for their continued support of their father’s principles and their condolences.
Padoh Mahn Sha was murdered at his exiled home, in the Thai border town of Mae Sot, on Valentine’s Day 2008 by militia gunman aligned to the Burma Army. The killing of Padoh Mahn Sha was a massive blow to the Karen struggle for equality and on a broader front, to Burma’s ethnic political organisations.
Padoh Mahn Sha’s was credited with being a shrewd political tactician and a leader capable of unifying the country’s ethnic political groups – it is alleged by regional security specialists that Padoh Mahn Sha’s killing was part of a strategy by Burma’s military regime to decimate ethnic unity.
This year a ceremony was held at They Bay Hta, Karen State to commemorate Padoh Mahn Sha, it was attended by his eldest son, Saw Say Say Phan. A statement, co signed by all Padoh Mahn Sha’s children that was released said.
“It was very difficult for us to lose a father, but it gave us comfort to see how so many other people also felt the loss of our father so deeply. He was a man who was widely loved and respected.”
The children’s statement reiterated their father’s wish that would continue fighting for peace and freedom.
“Since his death, we have tried to live up to the principles and ideals that he held, and to follow his wish that we would also do what we can to win peace, freedom and rights for the Karen people and all the people of Burma.”
The Phan children, Saw Say Say, Nant Bwa Bwa, Nant Zoya and Slone set up a foundation to honour both their father and mother Nant Kyin Shwe memories and their 40-year struggle for freedom.
“We set up the Phan Foundation in memory of our father and mother. It focuses on issues close to their hearts, working to alleviate poverty, provide education, promote human rights, and protect Karen culture. The Foundation has identified young leaders by giving the Padoh Mahn Sha Young Leader Award every year. We have given grants to young people to enable them to receive an education. We have also provided funding for emergency aid to Karen people who have fled Burmese military offensives.”
The Phan Foundation also supports “Karen teachers through the Karen Education Department, Kwekalu for its news services, a community run orphanage in Doo Tha Htoo District in Karen State, Karen Student Network Group for the Student Friend Magazine, and Youth Empowerment for Future Group for its education project.”
The Phan children said in their statement that their parent’s work for the Karen community is also of vital importance to them.
“We know very well that our people still need support. When our parents first joined the resistance they thought the struggle would only take a few years. After many years of struggle they learned and taught us that we must always plan in the long-term.”
The statement pointed out that, as the situation in Burma changes it is important that Karen people are ready to adapt to new conditions.
“We must not only be ready to respond to what the government of Burma does, we must also be setting the agenda, planning for the future, talking about our vision of what a free and democratic Burma should look like. We must never lose hope in our struggle for freedom, peace, self-determination and federal democracy, where human rights are respected for our people and for all.”
In the statement released to commemorate their father’s memory the Phan children reinforced the need for unity among Karen people.
“It is difficult times like this when our strength of will, our determination and our unity will be challenged the most. Now more than ever is the time when we must keep hope, keep our unity, and keep working for our freedom. It may take time, it may be difficult, but as long as we believe, then we can win. Our father’s dream is the dream of all Karen, and all the people of Burma: to be free. Let’s join together to make our dream of freedom come true.”