“Until the Karen go to Rangoon and surrender, the Karen revolution will never disappear”——Ba U Gyi
Less than a month before he was killed in a Burmese army ambush in August 1950, Ba U Gyi, a former colonial-era Burmese cabinet minister and then leader of the Karen resistance, gave the above admonition to a gathering of Karen leaders from Papun District.
As the father of the Karen liberation movement, Ba U Gyi outlined four basic tenets of the resistance, which he urged his fighters and followers to adhere to resolutely.
He said: “Surrender is out of the question;” “We shall retain our arms;” “Recognition of Karen State must be complete;” and “We shall decide our own political destiny.”
The Karen National Union, the mainstream Karen resistance group once led by Ba U Gyi, adopted these maxims as the guiding principles of their fight for autonomy from the Burman-dominated military and government.
After Burma’s independence from Britain in 1948, the Karen were convinced that the o nly way to protect their rights was to wage war against the government in Rangoon. They seized Insein, a town on the outskirts of Rangoon, o n January 31, 1949. It was the first dramatic armed conflict that triggered a wider civil war.
more than 60 years o n, unlike most of Burma’s other armed ethnic groups, the Karen are still fighting. And the KNU has refused to agree o n an armistice with the Burmese junta, despite the military’s numerous overtures.