Myanmar's Revolutionary Karen

Collection with 9 media items created by Fabio Polese

Myanmar 30 Jan 2014 23:00

The Burmese village of Oo Kray Kee in Karen state celebrates the anniversary of the revolution of the Karen people in 1949. The celebrations of ‘Karen Revolution Day’ take place on January 31 and parades four different paramilitary groups, united into one rebel party as a sign of defiance to Myanmar’s government.

Burma, renamed Myanmar by the military junta in 1989, is composed of a hundred ethnic groups forcibly incorporated during the British colonial period in the nineteenth century. At the end of World War II, a treaty was proposed that would have allowed the post-colonial Burmese ethnic mosaic to establish several federal states. However, the treaty has never been observed. The Karen, who live in the mountainous areas of Eastern Myanmar for more than 2,700 years,started fighting in 1949. Theirs is in fact one of the longest-lasting conflicts in the world.

The Karen are an ethnic minority in Myanmar fighting to preserve their heritage and calling for their own federal state. They have their own political structure, the KNU (Karen National Union) which is democratically elected every four years.

The celebration of Karen Revolution Day is done in several villages in Karen State. The celebration involved military and political leaders Karen and often come to the celebration of other ethnic groups from the rest of Burma (Arakan, Shan, Kachin).
The celebration is a veritable feast. During the day there are military parades, dances and traditional songs Karen and boxing matches. The evening concerts and even dances. During the parades, hundreds of people arrive to attend the ceremony, some come in river boats, battling rain and cold to sing and dance, and watch the parade of volunteer fighters from rebel groups in a show of national aspirations for independence.

In past months, the fighting between the Burmese army and the Karen guerrillas have intensified. Karen armed groups – the KNLA (Karen National Liberation Army), KNDO (Karen National Defense Organisation), DKBA (Democratic Karen Buddhist Army) and KNLA-PC (Karen National Liberation Army Peace Council) – have joined forces to form the KAF (Kawthoolei Armed Forces).

In its statement of unification, the KAF vowed to “protect the Karen people and carry on the struggle until the establishment of an independent state”. In recent days, general Nerdah Mya, leader of KNDO, said that despite the talks for a ceasefire began in 2012, the Burmese government is concerned exclusively with the resources of the Karen province.

Myanmar began a process of democratization after the 2010 elections, but the ethnic clashes in Karen between rebels and government troops did not bode well with the minorities.

Karen People Myanmar Burma Ethnic Minority Celebration Military Parade

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Karen revolution day 2014 04
Oo Kray Kee, Myanmar
By Fabio Polese
31 Jan 2014

A volunteer of the KNLA (Karen National Revolution Army) prepares for celebration.

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Karen revolution day 2014 01
Oo Kray Kee, Myanmar
By Fabio Polese
31 Jan 2014

A volunteer of the KNLA (Karen National Revolution Army) smokes a cigarette during a break.

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Karen revolution day 2014 02
Oo Kray Kee, Myanmar
By Fabio Polese
31 Jan 2014

A child in the village of OO Kray Kee next to a Ak47.

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Karen revolution day 2014 03
Oo Kray Kee, Myanmar
By Fabio Polese
31 Jan 2014

A child inside her home in the village of OO Kray Kee.

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Karen revolution day 2014 05
Oo Kray Kee, Myanmar
By Fabio Polese
31 Jan 2014

Celebrations in the village of Oo Kray Kee in Karen State Myanmar for the anniversary. The inhabitants of various villages in the Karen region watch the parade in traditional clothing.

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Karen revolution day 2014 06
Oo Kray Kee, Myanmar
By Fabio Polese
31 Jan 2014

Volunteers of the DKBA (Democratic Karen The Army Benevolent) march in the parade of Karen Revolution Day.

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Karen revolution day 2014 09
Oo Kray Kee, Myanmar
By Fabio Polese
31 Jan 2014

The inhabitants of various villages Karen watching the parade in traditional clothing.

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Karen revolution day 2014 07
Oo Kray Kee, Myanmar
By Fabio Polese
31 Jan 2014

The inhabitants of various villages Karen watching the parade in traditional clothing.

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Karen revolution day 2014 08
Oo Kray Kee, Myanmar
By Fabio Polese
31 Jan 2014

Volunteers KNLA (Karen National Revolution Army) during the celebration of the day of the revolution.