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 Let the Truth Out



Kohplorsay Desjardins

There is a war, a civil war upon the face of this earth that has been going on for approximately over 72 years. Today, this war is still taking many lives of the innocent. One of the honorable persons that this war stole from the Karen people of Burma (Myanmar) is Saw Ba U Gyi. A man who stood tall for the rights of the Karen people. He mentioned 3 ways that the Karen people may finally see their freedom to live peacefully within their own land. Armed struggle, political dialogue and a negotiated settlement with the Burmese government, or international intervention and arrangement on Karen people's behalf. Saw Ba U Gyi was a hope for Karen people in Burma but he was untimely assassinated. The only remains of him are his honorable words for his people. Till this day, we are armed to protect ourselves as we struggle to survive in our own land, Kaw Thoo Lei.

    Yes, we are armed but we are also struggling to keep our people safe from the Burmese Military Regime. As Saw Ba U Gyi said "armed struggle" which is true. Armed struggle is what we picked up about 70 years ago. We are armed and we are struggling. Due to our determination for never laying our weapon, we have to struggle but we are able to preserve our culture, protect our people, and remain in our land. "70% of Karen refugees speak Sgaw Karen, 7% speak Pwo Karen, and the others speak either Karenni or Pa-o/ Taung Su." If the Karen people give in to Burmese's rule, we may never see or hear the unique different dialects in our culture. Our differences in Karen culture is what makes us unique and exciting. I would have never thought that Pwo, Pa-o, and Taung Su are also Karen. Therefore, arming ourselves was keeping our culture which makes us who we are. We have many more generations to come in different countries. Generations that could potentially be doctors, nurses, teachers, lawyers, judges, pilots, engineers, entrepreneurs, artist, and many more. When we arm struggled, we created a path for Karen tribal groups to expand and grow into many parts of the world. Although, I pray that we will all see these opportunities as a blessing for us to grow in knowledge and wisdom. So we may one day apply such talented skills for the growth of Kaw Thoo Lei, our motherland. On behalf of the first young generation into the land of opportunities, I would give thanks to our elders and parents for struggling through pain and suffering to get us to this point in life. Therefore, there is an unfortunate side of the ‘armed struggle’ path. The cons of armed struggle. This path has taken many lives of innocents. I can only imagine as I hear my mom or the elders share their terrifying stories of how some people barely escape the bullets and rockets while some others have to witness their loved ones being killed right in front of them. Approximately 4,500 killed and 200,000 civilians are displaced. These numbers I found on the internet are quite generous because this civil war must have taken more lives than the statistics on the internet. Nowadays, anyone can alter the internet with the right sets of skills or create false information for the world to see. Besides, we have struggled for more than 70 years. During these many years, statistics will not have an accurate number of deaths from this civil war since the war is still going on. Especially, a country where many journalists are jailed for investigating or going further into the history of Myanmar due to massacres that happened and still on going. I believe the number of deaths still increases in the midst of the war. It has saddened me to the core of my heart, knowing that innocent civilians in Kaw Thoo Lei are in danger every second of their daily lives. As a result, we must protect ourselves. But there will be lives taken away in this perpetual civil war between the people and the military government.

    To bring down the death toll, this brings us to a political dialogue and negotiated settlement with the Burmese government – the second statement that Saw Ba U Gyi mentioned. There should be a peace talk and agreement where both parties could potentially bring down the number of deaths and most importantly, to end this civil war. Unfortunately, there are pros and cons to every decision we make. We must explore both possibilities to get the right outcome of our decision for Karen people. So yes, peace talk can spare many lives, especially the innocent people of this war. Not only that, many more lives that have been displaced. Thousands are living in Thailand Refugee camps due to the senseless killing in Myanmar. We can only imagine peace in Kaw Thoo Lei where we can start to develop, to be a self-determining State. The citizens of Burma in Kaw Thoo Lei can have a proper lifestyle rather than running away from bullets, bombs, or torment. As Kaw Thoo Lei develops, many jobs will be created and nature can be well taken care of by the local people. Unfortunately, this vision of a peaceful and thriving Kaw Thoo Lei may only be a dream in my life time, but it is my hope and duty to actualize that life for our future generations. I have not yet found any evidence in the development of Kaw Thoo Lei but in the KESAN article of June 2020, this has deeply touched my heart to see such an amazing accomplishment by our people. "Salween Peace Park Wins 2020 Equator Prize" This shows the world that without the civil war weighting us down, we can build a better future for ourselves and the environment. I can only imagine Kaw Thoo Lei without the war. But why can I not live peacefully in Kaw Thoo Lei without the war? It angers me deeply that a place where I was born I cannot live because of the Burmese Military terrorizing innocent local people. I have seen a video document of a Karen leader who was having a peace talk with a Burmese Military General. Also, I've heard many cease fire agreements that were broken. "Since the start of 2020, the Burmese army has deployed over 2,000 troops, and fired hundreds of mortar shells, hundreds of villagers have fled to hide in the jungle, and thousands more are preparing to flee. Villagers have been tortured, shot at indiscriminately and killed." Ceasefire agreement is easily broken by the Burmese Military. Negotiation will not work if there isn't any international repercussion for violating the agreement. The ceasefire agreement looks as if the Burmese military uses it as a way to avoid their own casualty and an opportunity for them to regain their strength after terrorizing innocent villagers. This led me to one question: when will we choose the third option of Saw Ba U Gyi advice? Rather than falling into the traps of Burmese military terror. Unfortunately, any negotiation can be broken because words cannot speak for a war, actions do.

    If action is what can change this war, let's start with seeking help from our neighbors. The third statement from Saw Ba U Gyi is the most logical choice to choose at this point. International and Intervention and arrangement on Karen people's behalf seem to be our last option. I believe the world can pressure Burmese government to stop this madness of destroying innocent lives. "Application of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (The Gambia v. Myanmar)" this was just a milestone for international awareness about Burmese military regime and their none stop killing of the innocent people over 70 years. This case of genocide, Burmese government was placed under pressure of a crime which puts them in a sketchy situation. The International Court of Justice involves many nations that stand for human rights. In article lV of Convention genocide; "[p]ersons committing genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in article III shall be punished, whether they are constitutionally responsible rulers, public officials or private individuals." Help will come as long as we ask for it because as it is said, punishment will come no matter their status in this world. If we reach beyond our own understanding, seeking help from our neighbors, we will be able to prosecute and have those who are responsible for the death of innocents for over 70 years. Unfortunately, with court and justice, we need solid evidence to show genocide happens in Burma. Karen people do not have such technically advanced electronics to produce solid evidence without facing danger. Kaw Thoo Lei still has a lot to grow in the technology side of the world. We are merely peaceful villagers, farmers, hunters, and most importantly human beings. Us, being human, is enough to deserve to live without fear, constantly running away from bullets and witnesses of murder, massacre especially your very own family. All we've got are our true stories with no evidence to prove it. This led us back to armed struggle. I personally believe the third option is the best since we have had armed struggle for the past 70 years. In addition, we tried the peace talk, the ceasefire agreement, yet the civil war has become the longest civil in the world. If we advance in our education, we can achieve technology that could help us end this war once and for all. "Persons committing genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in article III shall be punished, whether they are constitutionally responsible rulers, public officials or private individuals."

    In conclusion, over 70 years is enough. The stories you hear, the scars you see, and sadly, many more in the making right now, are true. We are armed and struggling, we negotiate and sign yet bullets are still flying behind the scene, we've reached out and SOSed the world but proof of our 70+ long years of suffering must be given. So yes, we are still armed and still struggling, protecting our culture and our people. We are the World War II aftermath, a byproduct, a repercussion. The world's longest running civil war and the end date yet "unknown". As I’ve done my research in producing this written piece, I pray many will as well to find the truth of Myanmar. The only last thought comes to mind is if Saw Ba U Gyi wasn't assassinated, I would be living in a place where I was born. A place I call motherland.