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.