By Saw Lahkbaw*
Revolution rejects the existing order. It is a struggle with forces to bring fundamental changes. With disgust, the people revolt against a privileged few that causes hardship, miseries and shame to the rest. It is a salvation of human dignity. Painful as it may be, revolution is for a better future — for a new society.
The current Karen National Union officials have moved so far from our struggle for equality to not even showing any token political resistance. These officials political conduct resembles a low level diplomatic response at best. Recent economic cooperation does not benefit the KNU they are supposed to chair nor the people they are suppose to serve. Extensive natural resource extraction is hurting the traditional owners of the land and local villagers who carry the long-term negative effects – soil pollution, erosion and deforestation. The heritage of Karen people is being sold. Business deals done without any genuine political settlement for our people is only surrender in disguise.
While many ethnic people fought for decades for their rights, the majority of people in Burma had been conditioned by the military regimes to see this ethnic armed resistance as destructive to the state. One could hear that ridiculous belief in their voices.
Now, eyes are being forced opened. The evil within the military has unveiled its real face. People in the cities are now learning with their lives — the predators disguised themselves as the protectors. Soldiers with MA-1 hunting civilians and rampaging cities street, smashing down household doors. Violence is carried out in daylight as they did in out-of-sight ethnic regions for decades. Now the brutality is filmed and ‘live broadcasted’ to millions. It is not the first time Yangon streets have been awash with the blood of students and protesters – it appears city people have forgiving hearts and poor memories.
People from urban, valleys and plains are now forced to be on the side of the armed revolution. Armed resistant areas have become safe spaces to flee to and once more training grounds. Now they are searching for an alliance to bring down a common enemy – the ruthless, barbaric modern army headed by a feudal psychopath.
Adversity creates opportunity. The Nway-Oo revolution re-energized the Karen armed revolution, likewise the northern nationalities. All freedom fighters must hold tight in this of rare opportunity to rid the world of this evil military Junta.
The KNU chair-people have decided to play peace, to ceasefire, the top commanders dine with the enemy. Many Karen wish this is an act of a wisdom from old men, hoping it hides a clever military strategy. Many have advised, but it seems calls from Karen people does not move these men to protect. As the old saying goes ‘singing to the ears of a water buffalo would better engage the audience’.
A fake peace and no-cost business deals have lured these once brave freedom fighters into a stupor, they have become intoxicated wit their own importance and trot out a stream of justifications for their sell-out to the enemy – the Burma Armed forces.
The Karen revolution needs to start again with new leaders so that it can rally all Karen people under the revolutionary banner. All ethnic nationalities will come together when true leadership appears and the fight is just.
The new generation has the energy and bravery to face the worst, while doubters only remember fear and their failures of the past. The new generation looks to the future with courage while the doubters try to discourage them.
Our revolution needs an informed leader who keeps up with the current state of the world. Recent changes brought by the advancement of science and technology, has left the aging leaders behind. It is obvious for the social media generation smartphones with geolocation apps are a security risk, but apparently not for those so-called leaders who are challenged by advancements in the current digital age.
Leaders without vision and conviction will never be able to move the people. A true revolutionary leader does not make a peace deal before a decisive military outcome has been achieved.
Our revolution is in desperate need of a leader with vision. We are lucky, our Karen revolution still has senior military officers who are professionally trained, have won popular support within and outside the country – and can unite all races.
Karen people have a general who can clearly explain to ordinary villagers about cell-phone security and modern warfare technology. A general with vision and a will to listen is a plus for the Karen and their revolution. He who is capable of confronting the heavily armed enemy has demonstrated their unquestionable courage and will inspire our youth. His attachment to the land and to protect it at any cost, earns him love and respect. He is the people’s general. When this general speaks, people listen.
Armed revolution involves sacrifices – it should not be prolonged. Without a clear outcome, subjecting civilians to the ordeal of immense suffering is suffering in vain, hence, morally indefensible. It is a state of tragedy that young men of different races have to kill each other within their own country. Armed revolution is to escape the alternative of living under tyranny.
Karen people have been fighting for more than 70 years, it must not go longer. Young women and men that take up arms without financial benefit should not be treated as life-long military slaves. Selfless service should not be abused. Outcomes of the war need to be decisive. When the war is over, young men and women who complete their mission must be free to enjoy life and pursuit of happiness as ordinary citizens.
The four-generation long armed conflict is a given for many young Karen. Because of this civil-war, any progress Karen people had made before has been lost. If there is unity between people, not only Karen, but all people only then will we be able to claim freedom, justice, prosperity in a new nation – a land where life, liberty and love will prevail over tyranny, greed and hatred.
In a new society, there will be no more gunmen bullying and beating people in the street, no more kicking down doors, no more displaced villagers hiding in mountain camps. Individual choices will be respected, diversity celebrated and humanity cherished.
A real revolution not only brings political changes, but also is a cultural revolution that transforms society by discarding preexisting cultural norms that allows tyranny to survive.
For one who despise and shun armed conflict, look to countries that are free today. The two major superpowers did not go to the streets to protest for change – they waged guerrilla warfare to overthrow the old order, the oppressors of their time.
A revolution does not sit and wait for UN recognition nor cry for EAOs’ help – revolution is self-empowered.
The outcomes of revolution are dictated by the people’s will and determination. Determination is a prerequisite for achieving self-determination.
Now is a defining moment, a critical juncture of the revolution, this is the moment to redefine Karen armed revolution.
Leadership is a key to the success of a revolution. All revolutions need a revolutionary leader.
A revolutionary leader does not wait for situation to be perfect. They challenge the status quo and overcomes obstacles. The opposite, when leadership is weak, an organization is prone to division and factionalism.
If an armed revolution does not command mass support, the revolution will turn into a resistance that will eventually wither and die. A resistance only waits for goodwill of the enemy. Most of the Karen armed resistance history, has concentrated on the so called Kayin State where less than 10 % of Karen People live. The majority of the Karen live in the Irrawaddy, Bago, Yangon, Taninntharyi and Mon State. If all Karen from all over Burma take up arms for freedom and self-determination, recognition of Karen State — a nation with a sovereign state — could be completed quickly.
It is an honor to behold flags of Karen people flying high during protests in the Nway-Oo Revolution. They are everywhere all over the country, from the northern Kachin State to the southern Tannintharyi. The flag of the Karen people is a flag of the revolution. If all these Karen protesters all over the country take up arms, the military would not be able to withstand.
Armed revolution needs a leader who sparks inspiration. Leaders who cannot inspire coerce their subordinates to execute the orders. Coercion is the least effective form of governance, and only dictators practice it. When a leader inspires, the people serve with pride. A good leader gives confidence to followers to take decisive actions according to situation on the ground, not frightening followers with arbitrary disciplinary actions. Leaders who spend most of their time forcing subordinates into following rules and regulations are not leaders of a revolution, but bureaucrats.
When the people aspire to live free — to achieve their full potential, they are filled with pride to serve the cause. Look at our Rakhine people, latecomers to the armed revolution. Their eyes are now brimming with pride. With their decisive leadership, they were able to bend a ruthless enemy.
Leaders who abdicate their responsibilities due to aging, sickness, or competency or corruption – moral or financial – are doing the enemy a favor. Leaders who have done disservice to the revolutionary organization must go, either by will or by force – a chance to resign with dignity.
As we sing “we shall overcome”, we need to bring men to match the mountains.
After having abolished the long rooted military dictatorship from the land of Burma, a new name is needed for our new nation. It will not be called anything-of-Burma or –Myanmar – as is neither. There already exists a good name — Land without Evil.
*The views in this article are those of the author. Saw Lahkbaw can be reached at email: email@example.com