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Karen National Martyr’s Day: A Tribute to Heroes
By Saw Kapi
Recognizing the humongous national task ahead of them in the early stage of resistance movement, Saw Ba U Gyi and his trusted colleagues – the most notables were Saw Hunter Thar Hmwe, Mahn Ba Zan and Saw Sankay – endeavored to build a political consensus among different Karen communities. Under their leadership, the Papun Congress, perhaps the most comprehensively represented and well-attended one in the history of KNU was held on July 17 to 19, 1950 . It was at this KNU Congress that Saw Ba U Gyi pronounced what later became, and still remains, the cornerstone principles of Karen Revolution: 1) There shall be no surrender; 2) The recognition of Karen State must be completed; 3) We shall retain our arms; and 4) We shall decide our own political destiny. Only a few weeks after the declaration of the four principles, Saw Ba U Gyi and his closed comrades embarked on the fateful trip, which tragically resulted in their grisly killings.
They were traveling in a small party, passing Nabu town area on their way to – widely thought to be – Bangkok , the capital of Thailand , in an effort to find political connection with the outside world. They never reached the intended destination of the trip. What happened during the trip and the preceding KNU Congress, however, undeniably had shaped and to some extent defined contemporary Karen political landscape. On August 12, 1950 , Saw Ba U Gyi and his party were ambushed and killed by the enemy troops near a village called Hto Kaw Koe. Thus, August 12 is recognized and observed by most Karen people as National Martyr’s Day reverently in honor of all fallen soldiers of the Karen resistance movement.
Outnumbered and ambushed by the enemy troops, these leaders refused to give up but instead fought back and stood up for the right of Karen people. They witnessed the suffering and assumed an attitude of self-sacrifice. Today, we commemorate and mourn their death; we remember them as our heroes because they were faithful to the cause of Karen people until they died.
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