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The three strategies of Saw Ba U Gyi for Karen struggle for freedom and autonomy


Plwee Htoo

The three strategies of freedom struggle and autonomy succeed for Karen can be traced back in the 1950s, which advocated by the founder of Karen National Union and modern armed revolution of Karen known as Saw Ba U Gyi during the KNU Congress in Pa Pu. The three strategies are such as; (i) Armed Struggle, (2) Political dialogue and negotiated settlement with the Burmese Government; and (iii) International intervention and arrangement on the Karen people’s behalf. His advocated strategies remain the fundamental paths for modern armed revolution and politics among the Karen since he rested in peace in Toh Kaw Ko Village, Bridgade 7th, Kaw Thoo Lei. However, Karen still keeps upholding his strategies as the guidance of political Journey with different perspective or interpretation. Due to some reason of varying understanding and the analysis, the Journey of Karen Politics in Burma has not reached its destination from the 1950s  and nowadays. So, there should be the best analyst and the best interpreter who will project the best idea on Saw Ba U Gyi’s strategies of freedom struggle and autonomy succeed and also to make the best practical strategy for Karen Freedom. Therefore, I am Saw P’Lwee Htoo at this moment to make the best interpretation and solution for the future Karen’s freedom and autonomy.
Saw Ba U Gyi said we could have our freedom through armed struggle. This strategy is the most favourable one among the Karen comparing to the rest of the two. Karen has been carrying out this strategy with confidence and hopes for decades. They believe that there is so much potential to gain freedom through armed struggle. Before going further to the armed struggle interpretation, I would like to indicate some circumstances of the armed struggle. With hope and confidence, Karen has been working on the armed struggle for many decades, but they are still not reaching their goals. Unfortunately, some are losing their strength and even giving up in the middle of armed struggle. Some remain strong with armed struggle, so they keep holding their weapons to move on to their freedom. The time has changed and has divided them into two groups; surrender and freedom fighters groups. The surrender groups are namely KNU/KNLA Peace Council, Democratic Karen Benevolent Army, and Border Guard Force. These groups can be considered as freedom losers because they sign peace with the Burmese Government and serve them properly for they believe that freedom is reliable in the hands of the Burmese Government. So when they serve and follow the orders of Burmese Government, they feel safe and enjoy temporary liberty in their respective small territory. In this sense, they seem to be satisfied with having a little freedom and autonomy in their small regions. The scope of Karen Freedom and Autonomy are narrowing down for them, and this is how they understand about freedom and autonomy nowadays. Unlike the surrender groups, the freedom fighter groups keep upholding the idea of having freedom and autonomy, which can be succeeded through armed struggle. These groups can be considered as Karen National Union, Karen National Liberation Army, and Karen National Defense Army. They will keep fighting no matter what it takes to the goal of freedom and autonomy.  They believe that freedom and autonomy can be possible when Burmese Government are threatening and experienced extreme action from freedom fighter groups. Contrary to the idea of surrender groups, they view freedom and autonomy as absolute freedom, not a temporary. Real armed struggle perspective of fighter groups is how the freedom and autonomy must be declared absolutely by the Burmese Government. It is hard for Karen to negotiate with different ideologies. So, the armed struggle can be succeeded when Karen is able to reunite. Imaginary, armed struggle, according to Saw Ba U Gyi, would meaned fight nonstop until Burmese Government couldn’t tolerate with armed violence. Finally, they would surrender freedom and autonomy to Karen. That would be absolute freedom and autonomy. In spite of all the Karen faction groups and the different view of freedom and autonomy, Karen still enjoys some liberty and some rights from the law of the land due to the existence of these Karen different armed struggle groups. Thus, I should say that the strategy of armed struggle is more or less effective for Karen’s freedom and autonomy.  
Saw Ba U Gyi stated the second strategy is that the Karen freedom and autonomy can be succeeded through the political dialogue and a negotiated settlement with the Burmese Government. This strategy was not favourable as the first strategy initially. But it gradually attracted Karen to consider as an essential freedom and autonomy struggle’s strategy. It was reluctantly carried out by a handful of Karen leaders in the past. For instance, some leaders could be listed as Hunter Tha Mway (Chairman of KNU), Lin Tin (5th Brigadier), Tin Maung (7th Brigadier), Bo Mya (Chairman and General of KNU/KNLA) etc. These leaders once had tried political dialogue and a negotiated settlement with the Burmese Government, but their struggle was not successful as up to the expectation. So they failed and disappointed a lot of soldiers and people. Thereby, the result was not satisfied as the factions broke out among them. As a result, the success of freedom and autonomy for Karen has extended the years and the time. Despite the disadvantages of this strategy, there are also advantages. During the period of political dialogue and a negotiated settlement with the Burmese Government, some Karen people could rise up and enjoyed the temporary freedom of traditional practice, religion, education and transportation etc. There were many opportunities provided such as trading, marketing, doing other such businesses with foreign companies and developing the grassroots level of Karen areas. However, the negotiated process did not last long. So they went back again to war with the Burmese Government. Despite both positive and negative result of this strategy, Karen will not give up on political dialogue and a negotiated settlement with the Government unless they have freedom and autonomy. Nevertheless, there should be a better way for them to figure out for freedom and autonomy. This strategy, according to Saw Ba U Gyi,would be meant speak for the Kaw Thoo Lei with Burmese Government without any compromise like Kaw Thoo Lei into Karen federal state. But the original perspective of Saw Ba U Gyi had been changed into Karen federal state by some Karen leaders later on. However, the best way can be suggested as keep struggling with political dialogue and entering in the parliament as to speak for the behalf of Karen rights and freedom. If we do so, the time of freedom and autonomy for Karen may draw closer to a targeted destination. Thus, negotiation and political dialogue is also the best way to struggle for freedom and autonomy.
The final strategy which stated by Saw Ba U Gyi is international intervention and arrangement on the Karen people’s behalf. This strategy can be the highest possibility to meet Karen’s freedom and autonomy goal, but it has not been given full attention to it since the Karen revolution movement started. It was being neglected for so long until Karen came to realize its significance. Gradually, this strategy draws more attention to Karen as to play politics not only internal but also external for the sake of Karen’s freedom and autonomy. The time has gone, and Karen’s freedom and autonomy are still awaited. So Karen should wake up and do something about it. Karen people have settled in many places around the world. Some become great leaders and sits in the high position of administration may be in; school, church, military, company, hospital, or public institutions etc. For this reason, Karen can not only stick to the previous two strategies, but they also should pay more attention to this strategy as well. There is a lot of possibilities as well as guarantee to gain our freedom and autonomy through this strategy. There will be questions about how can we win freedom through this? Yes! There are ways of freedom success in this strategy. We should cooperate no matter where location you will be, come with voices, demonstration, report to any council which is under the United Nations, or allies with any superpower nation for your protection or recognition etc. This strategy will engage more in International Law, and Karen should be opened up with the international community and personality to have a good relation with other states. With many such movements, we hopefully can see how international intervention and arrangement may occur for the Karen people’s behalf. In this way, the struggle of Karen freedom and autonomy could come to an end, and Karen peaceful life and permanent freedom may come into existence within their sovereign territory. 
Before jumping to the conclusion, I would like to suggest some better ways for Karen to think wisely to achieve freedom and autonomy later or sooner. The problems with the Karen Revolution movement are about recognition and time. Why does it take too long? So we Karen should think wisely and analyze the Saw Ba U Gyi stated three strategies rightly. For me, I have no new idea to change his strategies for freedom and autonomy struggle. But I have a better idea to propound his ideas for Karen to consider as the best way to keep it in mind. My propounded idea of his strategies for Karen is that take every step to three strategies correspondingly. It is the best way to make all three strategies because all the Karen agrees with it. Every Karen’s acceptance of all the three strategies are the proof as following; there will be three groups fall in the according to categories. Some may prefer the first strategy of armed struggle as it is to achieve our freedom and autonomy.
In contrast, some may prefer the second strategy and hate the first one by believing that armed conflict causes many problems for Karen and negotiation is a very peaceful approach to achieve our freedom and autonomy peacefully. Some may have a firm belief on the third strategy, which is our freedom can be achieved confidently and certainly through international intervention and arrangement for the Karen people’s behalf. For these reasons, I can see that taking the steps to all the three strategies parallel is all the consents of the Karen. Therefore, there is no wrong to apply all the strategy even though there may be criticism from opposition groups among ourselves. My last suggestion is good to use all the approach during our revolution movement. But we should know what we are doing and what period we are. We always should remember that we are still in the revolution period, not yet in freedom and autonomy. We should understand each other and support each other wisely while leaders are stepping on all the strategies. But it should be uniform and the same order under the command of chairman of Karen National Union. After we take parts in all these strategies, finally, we strike together immediately with extreme arms, extreme negotiators in the table, and super international support and intervention together. In this way, Karen people dream of freedom and autonomy can come to reality. After all the analysis above, I would like to conclude my writing by saying that no wrong to take all the strategies but it should go with peace, honesty and integrity. It should not go at ease all the time with movement, but it should take the extreme actions eventually. In this way, the hope of Karen freedom and autonomy can be succeeded.