By Saw Greh Moo*
In more than seven decades of armed struggle, tens of thousands of Karen people, both freedom fighters and civilians, sacrificed their lives and thousands more maimed and crippled fighting for freedom and equality. The price has been high and difficult to swallow, but no struggle for freedom has ever been cheap or easy.
Throughout the revolutionary periods, we’ve witnessed some opportunistic leaders and groups struck deals with the Myanmar military and abandoned their people and spirit of the Karen revolution.
It appears a long struggle has broken the fighting spirit of many Karen leaders and has weaken their position as they look to a comfortable existence, but wanting to keep their power, influence and economic interests.
As Burma’s political crisis worsens as the result of another military coup and fighting resumes in Karen state, the courage of our leaders are are under scrutiny.
In time of crisis, true leaders will be judged based on their courage, spirit and solidarity with their sacrifice for putting peoples’ interests before their own.
Any true, courageous and wise leader will look to their people and comrades for advice, cooperation, and agreement in dealing with challenges. They should not make rash decisions based on personal opinion – our struggle has always been for the collective interests of the Karen people.
As we face this current crisis and challenge we have the potential to change Burma’s political future and determine the future for our Karen people, it is important our leaders stay united, show courage, and stand with the people in their struggle for freedom, equality, and democracy. We have been through this challenge before and, if united, we will be able to face this together.
During this time, it is important to remind ourselves that dealing with a democratic and civilized government during peace time is one thing, but cooperating with a brutal and genocidal military regime that have no values for human life is another. The difference is stark – one uses the ballot box, the other kills its citizens.
We hope our leaders can differentiate between the two and do what is right for the Karen people. The Karen struggle is for the collective benefits and interests of the Karen people and it should not be gambled away for the benefits and self-interests of a few selfish individuals or groups.
*Saw Greh Moo is a Karen community activist and General Secretary of the Karen Organization of America. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org