Unity and Fulfillment of Saw Ba Oo Gyi’s Dream
General Bo Mya once said, "I do not just fight against one group of enemies, but I am fighting against the world." The Karen armed struggle has now gone on for 70 years, but people have suffered more than before, and the situation in Burma is worse than ever. We have struggled because we can neither make a political dialogue, nor a negotiated settlement nor make an international intervention, which erodes our self-determination and solely benefits the Burmese government. More importantly, dialogue and negotiation only make us appear weaker because, in their eyes, we look like weak people who cannot do anything and have to depend on other countries or join hands with the Burmese government. Therefore, the Karen people all over the world must unite and fix their weaknesses, become self-determined, and find a way to overthrow the existing government that controls us. And the only way we must do this is through armed struggle. Therefore, we have to make sure we have a hundred percent right to self-determination, freedom to keep our culture alive, pass our language to the next generation and the next, and lastly, freedom to our lands.
The corrupt and brutal Burmese government and the army have made it difficult for many countries to help the Karen people because the government has convinced some of the Karen leaders that they cannot protect their people and cultures without independent states and must work with them. Karen military and political leader, General Saw Mutu Sae Poe, who is working with the Burmese government said, "we need to work with the Burmese government for political improvement because they hold powers." The Burmese government had convinced him to work with them for peace so that the Burmese government does not have to devolve power to the Karen ethnic regions and ultimately control them. At the same time, he also made a good point because Burma is a small county that does not contain many influences; however, the government has a strong connection with other countries who help them with economic growth and military supplies. Besides being able to build a relationship with other countries, they also have a high educational system and their people are highly educated and know how to deal with political problems and even trick the Karen people.
The Karen have many intelligent people, but many lack knowledge, connections, and communication skills. The Burmese have taken advantage of us and pushed us down to the bottom using all kinds of methods. Many have argued that we should negotiate or seek international intervention. However, there are many problems associated with negotiating with the Burmese government and seeking international intervention because some of our leaders have been convinced by the Burmese government that they are too weak to protect their people and must join hands for peace. On the other hand, while some of our leaders try to make peace with the Burmese government, their people are starving, being displaced, and shot by the Burmese military.
Some of the Karen leaders signed a ceasefire agreement with the Burmese government to bring domestic peace and opportunities to the Karen people. The Burmese asked them to forbid the fight between the Karen and the Burmese so that the peace agreement would work out well between them. Besides Karen, other ethnicities joined hands as well to stop the suffering of their people. The Burmese helps Karen with business and tells the Karen leaders that they will help enrich their people with the land's precious resources. Casinos and clubs were built in our motherland and they are part of the business. Casinos and clubs are the faster business you can grow and make a lot of profit; therefore, it is good to build it on the land so that they will get rich quickly. Some of our leaders agreed to it and believed that these businesses would bring more jobs and opportunities among the Karen. They built dams and other businesses on Karen land as well. Moreover, villages had to move to different places because businesses were built to help them have a better life. This intelligent government helps our powerless leaders raise and stand strong like never before. Because of that, the leaders mostly agreed with everything the other side said, and did everything the Burmese government asked them to do.
The Karen entrusted the Burmese government and gave them all the power. Our Karen leaders were confident that the Burmese government is very influential and holds power. Throughout history, the Burmese government has partnered with many powerful countries who help them with the economy and military growth. Karen leaders were not able to use the Karen language because it is not officially a language in Burma. Therefore, they used the Burmese language to communicate with each other. However, our leader, Saw Ba Oo Gyi had proven that working with Burmese will never work out because we are different.
The Karen have historically enjoyed their polities in the plains or lived in mountainous areas untouched by Burmese rule; therefore, they should never agree to oppression instead of independent democratic states. History should never repeat itself. In our history, our leader, Saw Ba Oo Gyi, once asked the Burmese for half of Burma's land to own by the Karen people. Everything he tried did not go as he planned; in the end, the enemy killed him. It is the reason the ceasefire agreement had brought more wars in our motherland because our enemies know our weaknesses. While our leader was attending the peace conference, his people were suffering and killed. During this year, our people were killing, people were missing, and lastly over a hundred houses were burning and many places were destroyed. The Burmese military has controlled them completely and stopped them from going to war. The worst thing the Burmese had done was take control over ethnic lands to enrich themselves with the land's precious resources, and dams were built to destroy areas, businesses that were built forced villages to move.
Some Karen leaders tried their best to prevent the worst thing for happening. They wanted to make sure the Karen do not get poorer and stop the casino from building to not bring problems upon Karen families and clubs that will someday destroy the youth. They also make sure the lands are not destroyed. Our grandparents taught us to drink water, preserve the watershed; eat frogs, preserve the cliffs, and eat fish to preserve the pools. If it is so hard for us to understand why we should not join hands the simple way, think of it like this: you walk to someone's house and you step on their street, not walking on your road to get to the person's home; therefore, we have to obey their rules to work with them.
Many people from other countries did not know about the war in Burma because they thought we gained our freedom because of the ceasefire agreement. 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.
If we look at Burma's situation right now, the international conversation can't work because our people are suffering, and we hold no powers with little connection. According to the Free Burma Ranger report, there were nine dead and twelve wounded in the Burma Army Bombing in Western Burma. Moreover, the governments have convinced some of Karen leaders to work with them and there is no way they will back down. The Burmese hold power and have many friendships with powerful countries. They also partner with many nations to buy weapons. There is no way we will gain sympathy from other countries. Our leader once said we shall decide our political destiny. In world history, no country gained independence without bloodshed. And there are more than 60 countries who fought to gain their freedom. No one is gentle enough to speak of your behalf to help you be free; they might support you, but they will not thoroughly do every single thing for you. If they do it, they will also want something for a return; therefore, we must do it ourselves. On the other hand, Karen defines food sovereignty as wellbeing. Our lifestyles are different from others. We enjoy upland ku rotational cultivation, lowland Se paddy cultivation, clay orchard, and traditional hunting and fishing. We cannot let our lands be destroyed and let dams be built that will bring troubles to our people. Do not let the world weaken us or pity us but show the world how strong and united we can be. It will be nice if the International convention could work out.
The International convention methods could save many lives that will be fighting for freedom with money and resources but only if it works out. We will not see our soldiers live lost as well. Karen all over the world can come together and take action to make it happen. The educated youth from all over the world can come together and help with language in the political field. The leaders will respect the youth voice and give them feedback on whether their ideas are correct or wrong. We have our law and the law that keeps everyone under control including our leaders and citizens.
If leaders and youths work together, they can later connect with many countries and give them something that will bring benefits them. In the past two years, the Karen gathered at the capital in front of the White House to make their voice heard in America. There are other places they came together as well. The world started to pay a little attention to them. They have made many improvements. However, the Karen have a history of not giving the children a voice. The elders are always viewed as correct, therefore this weakens them and makes other countries not want to get involved, which makes it impossible for international intervention to work right now, which leaves us with the armed struggled option.
Armed struggled is a risking strategy, but it is the only way that will lead us to a victory. Armed struggle does not simply mean weapons but includes knowledge as well. We have students in Burma who graduated from the medical training program. These students are always ready to help. We also have Karen youths who joined the United States Army and other countries' army as well. They are more than happy to help their people gain the victory. We need to come together and join hands. Remember back at the day during the Saw Ba U Gyi time, and he almost won the battle? Quoting the words of Saw Ba U Gyi, general Johnny said: "If we don't go to Rangoon and let our heads get chopped off by the Burmese army, we will never lose." Even when he was a lawyer in England and a cabinet minister in the Burmese government, he was not proud of his position and wealth. He sacrificed all of it and fought for his people until he died," "He didn't think of his interest, but only about the interests of his Karen people. He died for our Karen people to liberate them from slavery," added general Johnny. Our leader almost won but he was betrayed by many people. However, he had proven to us that it is not impossible to fight for our freedom and have self-determination.
We have to remember that we will never get freedom without armed struggle because before the British would grant the country independence, they insisted that the political status of non-Burman groups be resolved. In 1947, General Aung San persuaded the ethnic groups to join a multi-ethnic conference at Panglong, in the Shan hills, to devise a political structure acceptable to Burmans and ethnic nationalities. But the Burmese cheated; therefore, they will never give us anything, and instead have insisted on political and cultural assimilation, with centralized control, and a nationalist cultural agenda promoting the Burmese language and Buddhism at the expense of other languages and religions. However, many would argue that it is impossible to come together.
The Karen armed struggle has been so long because we are not unified. We do not have money and we have fewer soldiers. We are the Karen people who even have separate military groups for many reasons. There is no way to gain political rights because we always disagree. We cannot overthrow an existing government that controls us either, because we are inadequate. We hate to look in the mirror and find out that we are not looking perfect, but if we look in the mirror, we will be able to fix it. We have many people who love us and are ready to help us to fight for our freedom and become self-determined. We must look up to these people who are not born Karen blood but who have Karen's heart and our ancestors like Saw Ba Oo Gyi. If These people can do this much, each of us called our self-blood, Karen, can do much better than that. If we cannot support with money, our knowledge, our strength, support us by being loyal to our people and give our people our sincere heart, that is the last thing we can do. Just like our General Bo Mya once said, we are fighting against the world, countries are not on our side, therefore, we must carry on Saw Ba Oo Gyi's plan and fulfill his dream. Lastly, we all will know that one of the best strategies forward, for Karen people, to achieve their desired freedom and autonomy is armed struggle.