June 27, 2007

Revitalizing Karen National Movement

Revitalizing the Struggle: It is a must, not an option

“Only a consistent, cohesive and reasonable strategy that emanates from a new wave of critical and pragmatic younger generation Karens – who understand the real politics of our times – will be able to revitalize our struggle.”

By - Saw Kapi

Quite some time ago when I read some of the most ridiculous lines from a self-appointed nonetheless misguided “watchdog” threatening to "reveal" my political “secret" in the Karenissues forum, I found it difficult to pay any scant attention; with all due respect, I just assumed that the irrelevant jingo can say what he normally say within his narrowly confined, irrational circle of associates.

It is, in fact, troubling to note that there is a huge gap between the magnitude of our challenges and the smallness of our politics - the ease with which some of us are willing to accuse each other, which often result in our singular inability to build a viable consensus to tackle the critical problems confronting our people.

The Burmese military regime’s relentless and unilateral subjugation over Karen villages in the rural parts of Burma is no doubt appalling, but so far as the Karen people are concerned the whole grotesque infightings among the different Karen factions is a remarkable failure in establishing much needed functional unity.

It is never easy, although obvious and unsurprising, to see that the Karen resistance movement, at home and abroad remains as fragmented and self-consumed, thus ineffective, as ever before, but most notably in the recent few months. If the inference is concerned with a sitting government in a functional polity, this realization wouldn’t mean much; but when it is seen in regards to a nation that is facing an active campaign of ethnic cleansing at home, and an international ignorance – as shameful as this may sound – then, the problem is both real and urgent.

Karens in the rural parts of Burma, especially in areas that are frequently penetrated by the imposing Burmese troops – mostly in the eastern side of Salween river, and increasingly everywhere else – are losing their land, their rights, their freedoms and their livelihood at an alarming speed, unprecedented in their turbulent history with the Burmese military occupation. Many of these rural folks that have loyally served as the backbone of Karen resistance movement have been forced to become refugees within self-confined, isolated camps in Thailand, while some of the more fortunate ones are now scattered around the world – thus demoting the status of our national resistance to a more humanitarian strive than a national political fight.

In the early 1960s and 70s, the Karen National Union was regarded as the main body that brought to the fore the Karen struggle as – more than a mere question of a humanitarian issue that needed redress – a national fight for freedom and rights. It must also be acknowledged, as uncomfortable as this may be to some, that the Karen struggle for self-determination has now been reduced to a mere slogan politics, with the regular releases of press statements from the headquarters situated usually a few miles within Thailand. The problem is indeed more exhaustive than a mere ideological or personal quarrels between a few rival political groups; rather, it is an expression of a prevailing factionalism that seems to consume members of various Karen communities regardless of where they are based.

This author's frequent visits and involvement in many activities organized by different Karen groups seem to leave him with the same conclusion: that there is a need for a collective national strategy developed by a national movement that speaks and represents Karen people everywhere.

And only a consistent, cohesive and reasonable strategy that emanates from a new wave of critical and pragmatic younger generation Karens – who understand the real politics of our times – will be able to engage national public opinion and revitalize our struggle. Nonetheless, those in the dogmatic camp seem to regard any move to encourage critical thinking as a threat and hence continue their ardent attempt to disrupt and discourage it at all cost. And yet, after all, reforming and revitalizing our national movement is not even an option - it is a must. Read more...

June 19, 2007

Karen Reunioin 2007 in KL, Malaysia

Karen Reunion 2007 Successfully Concluded

Karen community leaders, students, well-known entertainers and active community members from several parts of the world participated in this reunion. Activities at the reunion ranged from community development presentation, group discussion and cultural entertainment to solidarity luncheon and friendly talks.

The objectives of the Karen Reunion 2007 are:

(1) social: to get to know each other; to facilitate ways for further cooperation among like-minded individuals on their respective interests
(2) Cultural: to learn what have been done on cultural preservation from our other fellow Karens and assess if we can imitate, emulate, or help assist these activities.
(3) Educational: to learn what have been done on educational promotion from our other fellow karens and assess if we can imitate, emulate, or help assist these activities.
(4) Business/ livelihood improvement: to learn what have been done on entrepreneur skills promotion from our other fellow Karen and assess if we can imitate, emulate and help assist these activities.

Below you can see some of the immages of notable moments.

Group picture of some of the participants

Malaysia Karen Organization hosted participants with a Done Dance presentation

A presentation on Community Development project by Saw Hsar Law La (of Taw Oo)

Saw Thu Yeh (Thailand) presented his analysis of current Karen situation

A presentation by an active woman community organizer, Nant Su Su Hlaing

Naw Hser Ku Paw (Singapore)during her presentation

Saw Sunlight talks about Karen community development in Burma

Saw Gedioin Morris, one of the key organizers, welcomed the participants

Dr. Naw Ardeth Maung Thawnghmung, the ultimate organizer of the Karen Reunion - 2007, also facilitated group discussion

Thanks to the Malaysia Karen Organization for the courage and generosity as host of Karen Reunion 2007

As some presented, some listened attentively

June 10, 2007

Karen Reunion in Malaysia

KAREN REUNION: It is literally about reunion, not about division or exception

By Saw Kapi

When the idea of Karen Reunion was conceived some years ago by some of the organizers of this somewhat controversial and yet seemingly historical event, it was simply about creating an opportunity for Karens from different parts of the world, particularly in the Asia Pacific region, to come together, meet, befriend and talk about issues collectively encountered by Karen people everywhere. It was never meant to be a mere gathering of like-minded Karens.

If one talked about organizing a Karen Reunion in Malaysia fifteen years ago, it could be a surprise to many and the idea would have been dismissed and/or regarded as irrelevant. Although there were some Karens residing in overseas at that time, the number of those living abroad was not significant enough to establish a strong sense of community. But this situation has changed almost entirely within the last decade. Thousands of Karens, young and old, have left their homeland and immigrated to several countries in Asia, Europe and continental America. Consequently, Karen community organizations – religious, social or otherwise – are mushrooming in many countries such as Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, Sweden, Norway, Canada, England and the United States of America.

From a more historical perspective, this emigration (or forced emigration, depending on how you look at it) of Karen people to different parts of the world is the biggest and most significant since the time they left Mongolia in B.C. 2017 and making their way eastwards to Yunnan and eventually settled in today's Burma around BC 739.

This changing political and demographic conditions dictate that when we talk about Karen, Karen identity or Karen progress, it cannot be narrowly confined within the scope of one ideological assembly, one geographic area, one religion or one linguistic group. Thus, it is critical that we construct the broadest possible Karen identity that is capable of accommodating multiple ideas, diverse backgrounds and a variety of cultural characteristics.

No individual should/can dictate whom to be invited to this Karen Reunion. But, whether to come or not is each individual's decision. "If they come, I will not join" attitude is utterly divisive and intrinsically destructive. It is even more ironic to hear that some alleged SPDC supporters are willing to meet, talk and discuss with other Karens; but a few of the so-called staunch Karen nationalists are unwilling or reluctant to meet, talk and discuss.

Certainly, this Karen Reunion is not about dividing Karen; it is about giving Karen people from all over the world an opportunity to reunite themselves. The invitation to this reunion is public as it has been made available online. Please see http://ieds.blogspot.com/2007/02/karen-reunion-2007-to-be-held-in.html. If any individual or organization does not want to join and meet with other fellow Karens, it is up to them. The spirit to meet, talk and discuss is the key here. No pre-conceived notion or judgment should sway our intention to bring together Karens from all kinds of background to meet and talk. If we avoid each other, the gap will get wider. Avoidance is not the answer.

So, join the Karen Reunion 2007 in KL, Malaysia, let your opinion be heard and contribute your constructive ideas for the progress of Karen people! Read more...