Karen Leaders New Year Call For Unity, Ethnic Rights and the End of Oppression

In messages to mark Karen News Years Day and addressed to Karen both in Burma and across the world, leaders urged unity.

“If we are united we will have victory. On this New Year, wherever we are, if we unite our voices from everywhere [all over the world], people will be frightened by the sound of our voices,” Ner Dah Bo Mya, Major General and head of the Karen National Defence Organisations (KNDO) said.

“We won’t even need to use weapons. It does not mean that we have to oppress other people, we only want our rights and freedom. May this New Year bring joy and happiness,” headded

The message was delivered at Karen News Year celebrations inside Karen State.

General Saw Jonny, Chief of the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) also emphasized the importance of ethnic solidarity: “We have not achieved anything yet, although we have signed the NCA [Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement], we are still in the battle field, but our fight now is not with guns.” Gen. Jonny said, “We will fight with political means at the table. I want to say on the New Year’s Day, lets leave behind all the disunity and conflicts that we had in the past. Let us work together with unity in order to fulfill our people’s aspiration. This is what I wish for you all. I hope that you will be happy and healthy in the New Year.”

The speeches were made as large groups of Karen people celebrated New Year across Burma, and Karen from Thailand and overseas also participating.

Saw Chi, a well-known Thai-Karen musician, said he came to Burma to celebrate Karen New Year to feel part of his ethnic heritage. “I am here to celebrate Karen New Year. The first purpose is to celebrate Karen New Year, the second is, I want to learn how our brothers from Karen State celebrate Karen New Year as I am from Thailand,” Saw Chi said.

Karen from as far afield as Australia and the UK also attended New Year celebrations.

Naw Hser Eh came from Australia to celebrate in Burma. “Wherever I am, I try to gather all my family members [in one place] during the New Year and celebrate to let other people to know that we are a family.”

Meanwhile, local Karen villagers expressed concerns of the future of ongoing peace talks and ethnic rights.

“I hope that our Karen people will get more rights and no more life on the run like in the past. I want our Karen people to have the rights to study freely [without fear] as I work with Karen Student Network Group,” Naw Debary a local said.

Karen New Years Day is an important day across the country. In 1938, the British colonial government officially recognized Karen New Years Day.

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