(Black and White)
Shwe Koako, Karen State
Jean de La Tour
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The Anglo-Burmese Wars
War with the British broke out in 1824 after Burmese troops invaded the border areas of British India and Arakan in search of separatist Arakan rebels who had made their bases on the British side of the border.
Seeking to force the Burmese troops retreat, and with an eye on tapping the resource rich country, British troops launched their first war and within two years the campaign had ended with the annexation of Arakan and Tenneserim, the latter in the hope it could be sold to the Siamese.
During the time, and in the two wars yet to come, the Karens were considered to be friends of the invading British forces, oppressed by the Burmese rulers and over taxed by the government, some acted as guides[i] leading the invaders through the Jungles and towards the camps of the Burmese.
That said however not all the Karen welcomed the British so heartily.
There are a number of instances where Karen troops were used against the Colonial forces, one such incident in Danuyubu, in April 1824, recalls how Karen troops led by Mahn Kyar joined Burmese troops in an attempt to retake the captured fortress. Heavily out numbered the Burmese withdrew with the British in pursuit. Mahn Kyar was finally killed, not long later, in a battle at 'A Thaung – Thaung Gyi'.[ii]
The second Anglo-Burmese war 1852-53 saw the fall of lower Burma and further Karen resistance in the form of 'Geko-Gebar' Karens, led by Min Tin and Min Hla, from Apai Chaung village, who joined in resistance with the native chief, Aik Tha Htaung[iii]. They organized and trained, in the use of swords, spears, and bow and arrows, a number of Karen villages living on the East Yoma range, these troops were deployed at Yangon village.
When the British moved in to the East Yoma range with the help of a car road, forcibly built by Karen villagers, they were met with strong resistance. The Geko-Gebar Karen overran British troops stationed at Myat Htin and were forced to retreat back to Taungoo. However, it was not long before the British returned in greater numbers and a fierce battle broke out and Aik Tha Htaung and his men were forced to retreat after bearing heavy casualities.
Throughout the period there were to be further disturbances, the British finally declared Burma, after its pacification of Upper Burma, to be a part of the British Empire under the administration of British-India. The years of colonialism were upon the country and the Karen prepared the ground work for uniting and recognizing their people.