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Karen Organization of America Names Essay Winners

The Karen Organization of America (KOA) announced the winners of its 2020 international essay competition organized to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Karen Martyr's Day.

Phil Thornton one of the judges said the writing was thought provoking and covered important issues for the Karen’s current political struggle.

“Many of the essays identified weaknesses in the KNU’s approach to the National Ceasefire Agreement process. Others questioned the KNU’s political structures and its capacity to handle negotiations with the Burma military use of tactics that locked Karen into ineffective positions.”

Phil Thornton told Karen News most of the young writers were well aware of how internal rivalry and demoralizing splits had destroyed Karen unity at critical points during the civil war and most writers showed they understood how self-serving Karen factions had worked to the detriment of the well-being of Karen people and to the Burma military’s success.

“Many of the writers pointed to the disastrous DKBA split in 1994 and to recent factions that continue to see Karen fight Karen. The essays pointed out this lack of Karen unity distorted how the international community perceived and could put the ethnic struggle in a ‘too-hard basket’. Thornton said the young writers had voiced their support “for a genuine political and armed unity among all Ethnic Armed Organizations and said it was a necessity to force the military and government to take seriously ethnic aspirations.”

The three winners of the competition were: Ist prize Saw Klo Kwe Moo from Kham-University Oslo, Norway, 2nd prize was awarded to Ehler Tha Win from the University of Washington, Seattle, USA and the 3rd prize winner was Saw Blut Doh Say from University of Chamber of Commerce in Bangkok, Thailand.

The KOA congratulated the winners and thanked all of 47 writers who took part in the competition. The essay competition focused on Saw Ba U Gyi’s three strategies that he outlined for the Karen struggle to succeed.

Saw Blut Doh Say, told Karen News that as a Karen, he felt a responsibility to help bring an end to the world’s longest civil war that has raged in in Karen state for more than 70 years.

“I took part in this essay competition to share my political opinions with my people around the world. I would be very proud if my essay adds some unique strategies for my people’s struggle.” Saw Blut Doh Say said.

Saw Blut Doh Say said that he had based his writing around the idea that each strategy used alone would not bring success for the Karen people and he considered the weaknesses and strengths of each one, but concluded if all three were combined it would offer a greater chance of working.

“We do not have enough strengths to rely on only one strategy. We should be prepared to use all the three strategies to fight for our dream. When we have strong military power, political power, and when international organizations are prepared to stand with us, we can then use all the strategies to pressure the Tatmadaw to give us our self-autonomy.”

Saw Blut Doh Say said he was delighted to win third place in the essay competition.

“I am so proud to see my essay making a contribution. It boosts my confidence to share my thoughts and opinions with more people. It also encourages me to do more for my people. I would like to encourage all of our Karen people to share their thoughts and ideas. Our people need your advice to rebuild our KawThooLei.”

KOA said winners would receive $USD1,000 for 1st prize, USD $700 2nd prize and USD $500 for 3rd Prize. Through collaboration with Karen News, the winner of the first prize will have their work published by Karen News.

A total of 86 young Karen from more than a dozen countries registered to enter the KOA essay competition and 47 submitted their writing.

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