Position of Karens in Burma

Source : The Times (U.K)


Sir, Mr J. B. Shrive (letter, “Burma and the Karens”, November 16) writes of the “continuing persecution of the Karen people”. But there are over ten times more Karens (or Kayins — to those who do not speak English) living in the Union of Myanmar than the armed separatist Karen National Union (KNU) and their supporters who, on account of their own actions, have been displaced to the areas bordering on Thailand. Even the prominent Karen officers who served with the Burma Rifles in the Second World War never supported the procolonialist KNU and as such the use of the term “Karen” to represent the KNU is completely unjustified. It is very wrong to suggest that there is any design to racially exterminate the Karens, many of whom are highly accomplished doctors, engineers, musicians and high government officials within the Union. The head of Kayin State Peace and Development Council, for example, is himself a Kayin (or Karen) and so also are many Baptist Church leaders within Myanmar.

Moreover, in the past two years, thousands of KNU guerrillas have returned to the legal fold in response to the Government’s offer of the olive branch.

The callous attachment of ethnic and religious labels to long-standing political conflicts (in this case, since independence of the then “Burma” in 1948) will only aggravate and prolong the suffering of the KNU foot soldiers and their families, as well as the unnecessary burden on a neighbouring country having to harbour the displaced people. The most compassionate thing for any well-meaning person in Britain to do now is to persuade the remaining KNU leaders to allow their supporters to emulate the thousands of returnees who are doing so well in their original homelands.

Yours sincerely,
Embassy of the Union of Myanmar,
19a Charles Street, W1X 8ER.
November 16.