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Fanfare muted for jungle veterans'
- Subject: Fanfare muted for jungle veterans'
- From: tinkyi@xxxxxxx
- Date: Mon, 01 Feb 1999 07:44:00
Subject: Fanfare muted for jungle veterans' golden jubilee
Fanfare muted for jungle veterans' golden jubilee
04:06 a.m. Jan 31, 1999 Eastern
By Sutin Wannabovorn
TADOH THUTAH, Myanmar, Jan 31 (Reuters) - Beleaguered veterans of one of the
world's longest but least-known wars marked the 50th anniversary of the
start of their armed struggle with little fanfare on Sunday.
A parade of about 200 guerrilla fighters from the Karen National Union (KNU)
took part in a brief, sombre ceremony presided over by their ageing leader,
General Bo Mya, who urged them to continue the struggle for autonomy dating
back to 1949.
The rest of the Karen force, which has dwindled to at most 3,000 fighters,
was dispersed in jungle camps watching for Myanmar government soldiers.
``The Karen people settled in this land long before the Burman (Burmese)
emerged and took it over,'' Bo Mya said in a speech at Tadoh Thutah village
on eastern Myanmar's Moei River.
``We have made efforts on several occasions to resolve our problem
peacefully with the Burman government but none of them accepted peaceful
means of resolving the problem.
``So the war of the resistance has to continue,'' he said. ``If we do not
achieve victory we will be subjected to enslavement again and we will be
wiped out from this land.''
The grizzled, 72-year-old KNU president, who has become increasingly frail
with age, trembled as he read the address.
Dressed in army fatigues, he inspected the parade while a young man played
the Karen national anthem on a guitar.
The KNU says it has held several meetings to talk peace with Yangon's
military government but all ended in failure. A KNU official said Yangon had
ignored overtures for further talks.
``The peace initiative has made no progress. The Burmese government has
insisted the KNU must lay down its arms unconditionally before any talks,''
he told Reuters.
Bo Mya blamed foreign countries, especially members of the Association of
Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), for strengthening the position of the
He welcomed the European Union's opposition to the participation of Myanmar
in an EU-ASEAN summit.
``Not only the EU, but the whole world, especially ASEAN, should stop
supporting the Burman dictatorship and boycott them to pressure them to end
dictatorship and accept democracy.''
Dozens of old soldiers received certificates for 50 years service to the
struggle. Some were too old to walk unaided.
Only one, General Pler Kho, widely known as General Oliver, was still on
active service, aged 65.
``I never imagined I would have to fight this long,'' he said. ``When I was
15, the leaders told me we'd win in six months.''
Nearly all of Myanmar's other ethnic groups have agreed terms with Yangon
and the Karen revolution is a shadow of its old self.
The KNU was set up in 1947 just before Myanmar won independence from
Britain. At its peak it was a major threat, with up to 25,000 armed
In 1995, a Buddhist faction in the Christian-dominated KNU mutinied and took
thousands fighters over to the government side. After the mutiny, the KNU
lost its Manerplaw stronghold and other bases in eastern Myanmar near the