Have Your Say: Essay Competition on Karen Struggle a Tribute to Karen Martyrs’ Day

The Karen Organization of America (KOA) is organizing an international essay competition among Karen students and young people. The theme of the essay is the Karen’s struggle for freedom and autonomy based on Saw Ba U Gyi's three ways he outlined for the Karen struggle.

Saw Ba U Gyi, the founder of the Karen National Union and the modern Karen armed revolution, told Karen leaders that the Karen’s struggle for freedom and autonomy to succeed, there are three approaches 1. armed struggle, 2, political dialogue for a negotiated settlement with the Burmese government, and 3. international intervention or arrangement for the Karen people.

Saw Greh Moo, a KOA spokeperson and contact person for the competition in the USA told to Karen News about the objective of the competition.

“It is relevant to Karen Martyr’s Day and the 70th anniversary of Saw Ba U Gyi’s death. And more importantly, the Karen struggle is now at a critical crossroad, we would like to revisit Saw Ba U Gyi speech and engage in deep discussion on how to move forward with our struggle. Many people have strong and diverse opinions and arguments about the current situation and the overall Karen movement. We would like to see them put in writing and clearly laid out so they can serve as a guide for us going forward – we cannot sleep walk to our destiny.”

The competition organizers said the Karen armed struggle has now passed the 70-year milestone with no end-in-sight, while the movement has become more fragmented along factional lines. It has also been almost 10 years since the Karen National Union entered into a ceasefire agreement and engaged in political dialogue with the Burmese government to try to find a political solution to the 70-year conflict. However, negotiations have not produced any concrete results or genuine peace for Karen people.

The KOA said that on the world stage, the geopolitical and strategic interests of foreign powers in Burma have made it impossible for the international community to intervene and resolve the long-standing conflict between the Burmese government and non-Burman ethnic groups. The Karen struggle is now at a critical juncture and requires fresh thinking, better strategies, and a new sense of purpose to help it move forward.

The KOA said essays should address the strengths and weaknesses of each strategy in the current context and make a well-supported argument for which is the best strategy for Karen people to achieve their desired freedom and autonomy.

Requirements for participants includes being Karen or of mixed-race Karen, under 40-years, register by June 25th, provide name, address and occupation – they can be from anywhere around the world.

According to competition guidelines, essays should be between 1800-2000 words in length, address and analyzes the three strategies laid out by Saw Ba U Gyi, state and discuss the strategy the writer supports, no citations are needed, but writers are required to provide examples to support their arguments and essay have to be original work.

The due date is July 25. It can be written in Karen and have it translated before the submission. The 1st prize is USD $1,000 and 2nd prize is USD $ 500. Through collaboration with Karen News, the winner of the first prize will have his/her work published in the Karen News.

Enquiries about the competition can be made to KOA by email: and if someone wants to talk to organizers they should contact respective person in their region.

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