Author: Saw Eh Na
Hundreds of refugees in southern Thailand gathered today to commemorate the Karen Martyrs’ Day on 12 August. The Karen refugees from the Tham Hin camp joined to commemorate the 63rd Anniversary of Karen Martyrs’ Day. Saw Raymond Bu, head of Tham Hin refugee committee bluntly told the large crowd of refugees.
“Our lives as refugees, is like that of chickens in a cage.” Saw Raymond Bu reminded the refugees that not only was it Karen resistance fighters who sacrificed their lives, but so had many Karen civilians killed by the Burma Army. Saw Raymond Bu estimated to data he had compiled from different sources that, “97 Karen civilians were killed in 1997 to 1998 when the Burma Army launched its offensive against the Karen National Union (KNU) Mergui-Tavoy District, in Southern Burma.”
“Among those killed were five women, two of them had been raped and killed. 167 Karen villages were destroyed and 184 houses burnt down.Thousands of Karen fled their homes and became refugees in Thailand.” Tham Hin is now home to more than 6,000 refugees in Ratchaburi province, west of Bangkok. The refugees fled the Burma Army offensive in 1997.
The Karen Martyrs’ Day is commemorated each year on August 12, the day when the Burma Army in 1950 killed the Karen’s charismatic leader, Saw Ba U Gyi. Karen Martyrs’ Day commemorates Saw Ba U Gyi, soldiers and Karen people who lost their lives in the armed conflict between the Burma military regime and the Karen people over the last six decades. KNU General Secretary P’doh Saw Kwe Htoo Win in a video address to the Karen people on Karen Martyrs’ Day said. “The KNU along with the Karen people are struggling for our freedom, to exist as a nation and to progress.
For 64 years many of our people sacrificed their lives. Until now their hopes and desires are not yet realized. We remember our Martyr’s who gave their lives. We who live have the responsibility to fulfill the meaning for our Martyr’s sacrifices and their hopes.” P’doh Saw Kwe Htoo Win said that the KNU reached a preliminary ceased-fire with the government to build peace and have started political dialogue to try to resolve the political problems.
Many Karen people and international observers have noted that as Burma continues to open up to foreign investment and development the talks between the KNU and the government have achieved little. KNU Chairman, Saw Mutu Say Poe, said in his speech to the Karen people that, “to have a sustainable ceased-fire the KNU [has] proposed the drafting…of a code-of-conduct to the government. Peace building in the country and the resolving of political problems needs the cooperation of all ethnic groups in the principal of equality.”