For Immediate Release

March 28, 2009


On January 4, 1948 Burma declared independence from Britain. The Karen people were apprehensive as the Burman ultra-nationalist leaders were in most of the positions of power in the newly formed government. At that time, memory of atrocities committed by the Burma Independence Army (BIA) troops, in the early days of Japanese occupation in 1942, was still fresh in the minds of the Karen people.

In late 1948 and early 1949, the Karen people came under military attacks by the pocket army troops of Gen. Ne Win, the father of military dictatorship in Burma. There was no choice for the Karen people but to take up arms in self-defense.

The Karen National Union (KNU), which was formed by amalgamation of four Karen organizations to protect the Karen people’s rights after independence, had to lead the uprising. The Karen people were accused of being lackeys of the British and narrow nationalists. The war against the Karen by the government forces took the form of racial strife with much hatred and vengeance, verging on genocide, from the very beginning.

The goal of the KNU or the Karen people’s struggle is for establishment of the federal union of Burma based on democracy, equality, internal self-determination for all the ethnic nationalities, justice, peace and social progress.

The Process

In the effort to resolve the problems by peaceful means, the KNU leaders met with regimes in power, for peace talk, on five separate occasions.

The first negotiation, reportedly brokered by the diplomatic missions of India and Pakistan, took place in Rangoon. After a truce was declared, the Karen delegation led by Saw Ba U Gyi, President of the KNU, departed to Rangoon for peace talk with the Burmese government. In the talk, the government demanded surrender of arms from the Karen, with the threat of detention of delegation leader, Saw Ba U Gyi. There was no agenda on the government side to discuss the grievances and rights of the Karen people. While the Karen leaders were in Rangoon, the government troops violated the truce by sending in reinforcement to the front line against the Karen. To escape from the trap, Saw Ba U Gyi pretended to agree to the idea of laying down arms and insisted on going back and persuading the Karen forces. He had to leave a Karen leader, as a hostage. No Karen leaders agreed to lay down arms and hostilities were resumed. After this frustrating and disappointing experience, Saw Ba U Gyi laid down the following 4-point guideline, which has come to be known as the Principles of Saw Ba U Gyi. Up to this day, the KNU and the Karen resistance have firmly embraced the Principles and they will go on embracing them indefinitely.

For us, the Karen people, surrender is out of the question;
We shall retain our arms;
Recognition of Karen State must be complete;
We shall decide our own destiny.

The second talk took place in 1959, in the form of a secret meeting, during the care-taker government led by Gen. Ne Win. At this time also, the regime’s representatives demanded the Karen to lay down arms first, and talk about the Karen grievances later. The Karen refused and hostilities continued.

The third talk took place in 1963 when Burma was under the rule of the first military regime, the so-called Revolutionary Council (RC), led by Gen. Ne Win. At that time, the RC made overture to all the armed groups for peace talk. The term offered by RC was for the armed groups to lay down arms and cooperate with it. Since all the political leaders, Burman as well as non-Burman removed from power by Gen. Ne Win, were still under detention, there was no condition for trust of the RC. Except for one or two groups, all returned to the jungle and continued armed rebellion.

The fourth talk took place in 1996. There were four rounds of talk during the year. On the regime side, the talks were led by officers of the Burmese military intelligence department, the head of which was Gen. Khin Nyunt, Secretary (1) of the SPDC.

This time, position of the regime in power was to allow the Karen to retain their arms on the two conditions that the KNU renounce the policy of armed struggle and enter the legal fold. On the other hand, the regime refused to talk about the grievances of the Karen people and their political aspirations, saying that the SPDC was only a military government and the Karen question had to be settled by an elected government in the future.

The KNU reasoned that its armed resistance was essentially for the very survival of the Karen people. The war was imposed on the Karen people and the KNU had done no wrong by leading the Karen people’s struggle in self-defense. For that reason, the KNU did not need to renounce any thing or enter the legal fold. [At that time, the regime’s repression of the democratic forces led by the National League for Democracy (NLD), in towns and cities, was in full force. Naturally, it did not bode well for trust building.]

The fifth talk started in late 2003 and went on until May 2005. Here again, on the regime side, the talks were conducted by officers under Gen. Khin Nyunt, who had now become the prime minister. There were 7 rounds of talks. In January 2004, a verbal cease-fire agreement was accepted, known as “Gentlemen Agreement”, after a meeting between the KNU vice-president Gen. Bo Mya and Gen Khin Nyunt.

However, when Gen. Khin Nyunt was purged from power in October 2004, the talk between the KNU and the SPDC started to flounder. There was a lot of uncertainty on the KNU side, but it tried to resume the talk. The last round of talk took place in March 2005. Instead of negotiation, commander of the SPDC South-East Command told the KNU delegation to gather all the KNU and Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) personnel in three areas and do the development work of raising livestock and tilling the land. This virtually ended the talk. However, the KNU managed to have an informal talk with the hope of having the junta revise its ultimatum. The informal talk took place in May 2005, but the KNU did not get the expected result. The late KNU president, Saw Ba Thin Sein sent an official letter to SPDC chairman, Senior Gen. Than Shwe with the hope of reviving the talk. There was no reply from the SPDC chairman, but a junior officer sent words later to the KNU that the SPDC chairman was too busy. In the first week of July 2006, the SPDC side sent some Karen doctors to persuade KNU vice-president Gen. Bo Mya, who was seriously ill with lungs infection and diabetes, to go to Rangoon by air for medical treatment. Gen. Bo Mya was to be followed by some KNLA military officers by land, for secret talk with the SPDC. However, Gen. Bo Mya rejected the idea, because he had to do it without the knowledge and approval of other KNU central leaders.

On July 14, SPDC Col. Myat Tun Oo came and contacted secretly with some KNLA officers, who told him to go through the KNU official channel. Myat Tun Oo replied that he did not want to meet KNU leaders.

However, the SPDC continued to keep contact with former 7th Brigade commander, Htin Maung secretly, showing that the SPDC was neither sincere nor serious about peace talk. It was using peace talk simply as a strategy for dividing the KNU.

The KNU has the policy of resolving political problems politically and has laid down proper procedure, principles and guideline for dialogue.

While giving lip service to peace, the SPDC launched a three-year military campaign, starting in February 2006, against the salient districts of KNU - Toungoo, Nyaunglaybin, Thaton and Papun Districts, with the objective of wiping out Karen resistance. The campaign ended on January 31, 2009, without the SPDC achieving its objective.

Now, the SPDC is forcing the Democratic Kayin Buddhist Army (DKBA) to increase military activities against the KNU. It is also pressuring turncoat, the so-called KNU/KNLA Peace Council to sow dissension among the KNU and have the Karen refugees repatriated.


Peace negotiation between the KNU and successive Burman regimes failed consistently, because sincerity was lacking on the side of the regimes in power. In the time of Premier U NU, the overwhelming chauvinism of the Burman leaders did not allow for a compromise solution. Fascist trained power monger, Gen. Ne Win, was allowed to use military force and dirty tricks to outlaw the peaceful movement of the Karen people for equality and rights.

Gen. Ne Win seized state power in 1962, on the pretext of saving the Union from disintegration as the ethnic nationalities - the Shan, the Karenni, the Kachin and Chin were demanding their rights of equality and self-determination, guaranteed by Panlong Agreement and the Constitution.

Fascist Gen. Ne Win quickly turned Burma into a police state, brutally crushing all forms of opposition and dissent. He established himself as the supreme leader (Fuhrer), father of the Fourth Burman Empire and introduced the fascist/Nazi like ideology of extreme racism and militarism. Ne Win’s so-called “Burmese Way to Socialism” smacked of the National Socialism (Nationalsozialismus) of the Third Reich.

The present SPDC military dictatorship is also a kind of fascist/Nazi like dictatorship. It is an extension of Ne Win’s dictatorship. Its ideology is based on extreme racism, militarism and feudalism. Its policy against all opposition is based on pathological hatred and total elimination of all forms of opposition and dissent. The SPDC’s goal is to build the Fourth Burman Empire out of the multi-ethnic state of Burma. The master-race ideology of the SPDC leaders makes them to have no agenda for a compromise solution. The so-called constructive engagement policy makes it only to become more arrogant and conceited. Now the dictatorship has become so much self-confident as to hoodwink the international community blatantly with its Road Map.


The SPDC military regime is planning to hold a general election in 2010, after adopting its Constitution by fraudulent means in a rigged referendum held in May 2008. The Constitution was drafted by the so-called “National Convention” which was stacked with its hand picked delegates. The Constitution gives the military men 25% of the seats in all elected bodies of the government, at all levels. The important positions such as the presidency, defense, etc. are also to be occupied by military men or former military men. Moreover, the Constitution is for a unitary State, though the country is given the name “Union.”

Chief of the armed forces is empowered to declare the state of emergency or, in other words, to seize state power at his whim. Amendment of the Constitution requires more than 75% vote of the legislature. In short, the Constitution ensures the military establishment to have controlling power in the executive as well as in the legislative branch of the government and remain to be an elite class of the society, indefinitely.

The government coming to power through the 2010 general election will continue to suppress severely the democratic rights of the people and commit human rights violations like the SPDC is doing now. The military elite will continue to have monopolistic control of the government, the economy and the natural resources. The ethnic resistance organizations will continue to oppose the military’s attempt at total control of their people and lands. There will be no viable peace and the country will remain unstable politically, socially and economically.

Burma is being regarded as an international problem and a threat to international peace by a number of political analysts because of drug, human rights, refugees, human trafficking and illegal migrant workers problems. Fascist/Nazi like ideology is infectious and there is a likelihood of other countries in the region being infected by it.

The situation being as such, it is necessary for peace and justice loving countries of the World to look into the situation prevailing in Burma, critically, and find a viable solution to the problems besetting it. It is necessary for the international communities such as the UN, EU, ASEAN and world powers such as the US, China, Russia, Japan and even India need to know the true ideology of the SPDC, otherwise their good intention would be easily defeated.

It is still not too late for the international communities, and peace and justice loving countries to act. A concerted and timely action is required to resolve the problems of Burma for restoration of durable peace and stability to the country.

The Executive Committee
Karen National Union