February 21, 2007

National Reconciliation in Burma?

Will there ever be a national reconciliation in Burma?

If there should be one, on whose term wil it be? Who will need to compromise and why? How does a national reconciliation process usually work in the international arena? Let's think out loud and think free! Post your comments below.

Thank you.

February 14, 2007

HIGHLIGHTS: Karen Reunion 2007 to be held in Malaysia

Karen Reunion 2007 to be held in Malaysia

You are cordially invited to join us at the Karen Reunion 2007, which will be hosted by the Karen Community in Malaysia. Our purposes are to get to meet Karen fellows across the world, and to promote the fields in language, literature, culture, education and economic well-being. We look forward to meeting all of you!!!

Date: June 15-16, 2007
Place: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

For more detail information, please contact the following persons.

Contact persons:
Uncle Michael (Singapore) Email: sawmichael@hotmail.com
Uncle Gideon and Ko Thein Han (Malaysia) Email:Theinhans@gmail.com
Ardeth Thawnghmung (USA) Email: dehlay@yahoo.com
Saw Victor (Australia) Email: sawvic@yahoo.com

February 11, 2007

Announcement: Going Home Where We Belong

Going Home Where We Belong*

A group of young Karens and Karenni currently studying in the United States plan to take a trip back home this summer of 2007. The purpose is to share, to learn, to live and to understand, to be back in touch with the realities of our homeland.

The idea of Going Home Where We Belong comes from those who have been away from a place considered home for various reasons. Many of us are students – both undergraduate and graduate. We have been in different parts of the United States, mainly to go to school, and thus far, only a few of us have had a chance to go back home. Some of us have been in the U.S for much more than ten years and some, two years or less. Nevertheless, we all share a common feeling about home – we belong there and we miss to be there. So was born the idea of going home.

As we began to formulate this idea, we felt compelled that we would not go home empty-handed. Of course we do not mean this in the materialistic sense. There is absolutely no doubt in our mind that our peoples and families back home love to have us back and will welcome us in any shape or form. However, there is an obligation on our part, for which there is no contractual agreement to be found, that we serve as an agent of change for those who are still caught under the bleakest situation ourcountry is faced with. This obligation comes from no organization, no individual, and no authority of any kind. In fact, this obligation comes from our very status as free-men and -women who have the privilege of aspiring to, and for some of us, achieving, our dreams in life.

On the other hand, we certainly do not want to foster the view that our peoples back home are always in need and expecting hand-outs. We certainly do not want to go home as those who are coming to save them from a hellish situation, for we are neither donors with tons of money nor are we mythical beings with power to redeem. On the contrary, we believe that we have yet so much to learn from the situation on the ground, most certainly from the people who constantly live under extremely difficult and uncompromising conditions, and from those who have so clearly demonstrated the limitless courage and endurance that are necessary in order to survive and even hold onto their dreams for the future.

Furthermore, we are of the opinion that we could learn by teaching, and vice versa, teach by learning. Many of us have been trained in different fields of expertise, and many of us do have certain areas of interest in which we could share our knowledge. Therefore, we have decided that this first trip back home will be based on three main goals: to educate ourselves with the situation on the ground so that we could prepare for better services in the future; to share our knowledge with those who certainly would be interested; and to build a stronger bond between us despite the geographic disparities. Ultimately, we expect that a trip as such will humble us in many ways, will enable us to appreciate education more, and will strengthen our commitment to the betterment of our peoples’ future.

If you would like to join with us on a trip back home, please contact:

Neineh Plo at: everploe@yahoo.com for more information.

Thank you for visiting IEDS Blog.

February 09, 2007

Karen Destiny

To Dismiss and Split: A Karen Destiny?

By - Saw Kapi

Htain Maung, a long time Karen rebel commander, who fought alongside General Bo Mya against the Burmese army since his birth, was dismissed last week from the Karen National Union (KNU) for his unauthorized peace deal with the Burmese military regime. Many Karen and non-Karen alike wonder what have gone wrong with the KNU leadership. Observers of the Burmese politics anxiously await to see how pages of history will turn for the sixty year old resistance group.

How could this lifetime revolutionary, who commands one of the strongest brigades of Asia's oldest resistance force – the Karen National Liberation Army, suddenly betray the creed of his own organization and believe that he will be able to make peace with the regime he has fought against for more than half a century? This is a puzzling question that the Karen people from all over the world and the Burmese opposition forces seek to find an answer.

Betrayed by its once well-respected commander, the KNU leadership attempts to explain the disgraceful political fallout by quickly denouncing Htain Maung as a turncoat who repeatedly deviated from the principles laid down by the 13th Congress of the group. The alternative view is that Htain Maung, being a soldier with no formal education background, was simply deceived by the Burmese regime, and as a result his political judgment was scarred by the possible business opportunities and territorial control allegedly offered to him by the military regime. But then this is not the first time that Htain Maung is going to engage in the border business, nor is he the only high-ranking KNLA official involved in business as such. Certainly, Htain Maung does not need to abandon the KNU to do so. All these mining and logging business opportunities have always been there for him and he has been doing that all along. The problem seems to be much deeper and more serious than one man's selfishness and betrayal.

On the one hand, if the crux of the issue is to uphold the political strategies laid down by the 13th KNU Congress, the bloodless but perhaps apt dismissal of the disgruntled general signifies that there exists a superiority of politics and political ideology over military in the KNU. Current top KNU leaders such as Saw Ba Thin, Mahn Sha, David Tharkabaw and David Htaw, for instance, are all civilian leaders with no combat experience, while Htain Maung is widely regarded as a capable military commander. On the other hand, it could well be that the recent turn of events are grave consequences of lacking open and honest political debate within the KNU. Aside from accusing Htain Maung and his followers of being selfish, there seems to be no other serious, substantive review of policies and strategies of the organization.

The dismissal of the general, no matter how disgraceful it is, may have been a political necessity for the KNU in order for it to remain relevant in Burma's political landscape. But obviously Htain Maung’s breakaway has robbed the already troubled KNU of one of its few military commanders with reputable combat experience.

At the moment, the political scene along the Thai-Burma border is rather poignant and even evocative of worries that a weakening KNU means a weaker Burmese opposition overall. For the Burmese generals from Naypyidaw who closely follow this political development, they have reasons to suppose that decades of brutalities that they impose upon Karen and other ethnic nationalities may have destroyed not only the livelihood but the hopes, and in some cases the convictions, of some of those who have fought against them over half a century. For the time being, the future of the sixty year old Karen resistance movement, as it continues to dismiss and split, is rather less assured.

Thank you for visiting "Karen for Karen" Blog.

February 04, 2007

Toward a well-meaning national consciousness - Abridged

Towards a Well-Meaning National Consciousness

by - Saw Kapi

Speaking of national consciousness, it is timely to recall some of the most promient figures in Karen history. Dr. San C. Po, arguably the Karen equivalent of Dr. Sun Yet Hsin (of China), was one of the foremost Karen intellectual nationalists, who articulated eloquently, albeit unsuccessfully, the need for Karen independence. Intellectual leader such as Saw Aung Hla, the one and only Karen historian to date, sought to establish a credible Karen migration history. Dr. T. Thanbyar and Poe Lay Tay, despite their close affiliation with Christian religion, were able to expound the entire Karen people on how we as a people – or areguably as an "imagined community" – should collectively develop and move forward. Mahn Saw Bu, a well known community leader from the Delta Region, for instance, attempted to sacrifice his own life to save the lives of fellow innocent Karens, who were about to be executed by the Japanese troops. He was said to have prefixed his name with both “Mahn” and “Saw” to capture both sentiments of Pwo and Sqaw, crossing tribal lines in displaying his nationalism. Saw Ba Oo Gyi, a man of selfless character, notwithstanding the world class education he received, disregarded a professional career and did his utmost for the Karen people. He uncompromisingly led the Karen National Union during its early turbulent years and committed his whole life for his people.

When a nationalistic sentiment is driven by constant reasoning – of learned individuals – and guided precisely by the realities of the environment, it can instigate endless creative power of nationalities, thereby transforming itself into unstoppable driving force for change. This sort of nationalism is capable of advancing a nation forward, not driving her backward – politically and economically.

Historically, Karen nationalism has been the one that entails utmost dedication and profound sacrifice. These leaders, whose names mentioned above, had contributed their skills and expertise in numerous ways to uplifting their people, both under the British colonial rule and in the early period of post-independence Burma. And yet unfortunately, the struggle hitherto is unfinished. Between the resource-hungry neighbors and the ruthless military regime, the Karens are up against enormous uphill battles in their fight for self-determination. In the wake of this socio-political reality, it is truly compulsory that the Karens, especially revolutionary Karens, adopt the kind of nationalism that not only accepts ideological diversity but also encourages political pragmatism and fosters strategic creativity.

A far-sighted nationalism is the kind that encourages our people to seek out learning, acquire knowledge, and explore new ideas and ways to achieve our desired goal. Besides, a pragmatic nationalist learns from the goodness of other people and contributes positively and practically to the well being of his or her people. Shortsighted nationalism, however, boasts only about its goodness and yet tenaciously hides its flaws; therefore those who subscribe to it are not capable of learning anything from their shortfalls but bound to repeat them.

A well-meaning nationalism promotes peace, and together with a clear vision and subsequent actions, it can lead a nation to social hermony, political maturity and economic prosperity. While a broad-minded nationalism can preserve diversity and encourage creativity, the narrow-minded one maintains "we-are-better" attitude, is very trivial in essence and utterly divisive in nature. Thus, we shall embrace the former and reject the latter.

No individual or organization should have the monopoly over the destiny of our people. Each individual Karen must play his or her own role to contribute to our collective wellbeing. To echo the words of former president Nelson Mandela, no one is irreplaceable. That includes this author, the readers and all those leaders and ordinary people that we know. One must not fail to note that if the love for our people alone could carry Karen people to their desired goal; we would have already reached there for a long time. Regrettably, that has not been the case.

In the end, our given history compels us to tread on the path of this unfinished struggle – a struggle for national coherence and advancement. It is critically necessary that we continue on with a sense of pragmatism and far-sighted vision. The future of Karen people will be much brighter if we can avoid dwelling in our own feeling of insecurity, but focus on achieving excellence in seeking knowledge and developing our expertise.

It is time for us to embrace the kind of national consciousness that encourages Karen people to think, to reason, to question, to learn, to compete, to cooperate and to be creative in this increasingly interconnected world. The world we live in is a competitive world. The economy we are compelled to be a part of is a knowledge-based economy. It is in these contexts that, I believe, we must seek to develop and adopt a true, meaningful and peaceful existence.

Thank you for visiting "Karen for Karen" Blog.