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As the International Community Turns Away, World-wide Karen Solidarity is Needed in Karen State

The military coup in Burma on Feb 1 upended almost 10-years of relative peace in Karen state and again threatens to open up an all-out war between the Karen National Union and the Burma Army. The military regime is showing signs it wants an armed confrontation. It has deployed and reinforced its army in Karen territory. Immediately after the military coup six months ago, the KNU declared its support for the people, while ensuring to not openly provoke the military regime.

By Saw Greh Moo*

Since the beginning of the coup, some KNU’s military brigades, especially Brigade 1 and 5, openly sided with anti-coup protestors and engaged in intense fighting with the Burma Army. As a result, fighting between the KNU and Burma Army’s troops was confined to these Brigades. Since recent developments all KNU’s seven Brigades and districts have experienced fighting and seen an increase in the deployment of Burma Army soldiers in their respective areas.

In recent days, thousands of the military’s troops, including its sponsored militia, the Border Guard Force, have been sent to all KNU-controlled territories to crush the People’s Defense Force, Civil Disobedience Movement, National Union Government officials and their protector, the Karen National Liberation Army. As the military regime increases its troops and advances into KNU territory, the Karen National Liberation Army has responded and defended themselves against the invading Burma Army.

Sources within the KNU and KNLA, have indicated negotiations with the current military regime will not work, and increased fighting and a major humanitarian crisis will be the likely outcome if the Burma Army continues to invade Karen territories in pursuit of PDF, CDM and NUG officials. A senior Karen military commander said; the KNLA will not go looking for trouble and start a conflict with the Burma Army. But the KNLA will not allow the regime’s troops to invade Karen territory in search of PDF, CDM and NUG officials taking refuge and protection in areas controlled by the KNU.

The impending assaults on the KNU by the military regime and the potential humanitarian crisis has also come at a time when world attention has turned away from Burma and is focused now on central Asia. The crisis in Afghanistan, a result of U.S military withdrawal and a swift Taliban takeover has consumed the world’s attention, especially in the U.S and Europe. As a result, it is likely that crisis in Burma, especially the impending military offensives in Karen state by State Administrative Council’s soldiers, will receive less international scrutiny. As a result, it is likely in the coming weeks and months the KNU and the Karen people will have to face this challenge without international support.

World-wide Karen Solidarity Needed

In the absence of an international response and support, worldwide Karen solidarity to help their people and support the KNU has never been more important. Since the military coup, the diaspora Karen community has played an important role in mobilizing support in their respective countries to provide humanitarian assistance to Karen IDPs, CDM personnel who are sheltering in the KNU territories, and support for the KNU to defend Karen territories.

This support may be small in comparison to what the international community can do, but in the absence of any outside assistance it is now the most effective and fastest way to help our our Karen people and the KNU as this assistance goes directly to the people who need it.

The Karen people and KNU now face an all-out attack by the Burma Army, it is important Karen people from all walks of life, especially our diaspora community, step in to fill the void left by the international community, and support our brothers and sisters.

The complexity of international politics, coupled with a world consumed by other major crises -COVID-19 and Afghanistan – means the Karen cannot expect much help from the international community, the United Nations or Western governments. The responsibility to protect our fellow Karen from a brutal military regime has fallen on us – the Karen people – both inside the country an overseas – to double our efforts to support each other as we face this major challenge.

We maybe not be as strong and wealthy as the Jewish, Kurds, Tamil, or Chinese diaspora communities but we are neither weak nor poor. As long as we have unity, solidarity, a generous heart, and a strong will for our people nothing can stop us from helping and protecting them at this time. An activist friend said, “we cannot let our people eat grass and fight with one hand tied behind their back and expect them to somehow win.”

It is important to learn from history and understand that all successful struggle for liberation requires support from the diaspora community. The Karen struggle is no different. Our solidarity and mutual support will now define who we are and show the world what we are capable of in our pursuit of justice, freedom and equality.

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*Saw Greh Moo is a Karen community activist and can be reached at grehmoo@hotmail.com

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