Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Taking a UNITED Stand

The Irrawaddy News

The Irrawaddy spoke recently with Brig-Gen Johnny, the commander of the 7th Brigade of the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), the military wing of the Karen National Union (KNU), about the challenges facing the Karen struggle after 60 years of resistance to Burmese rule.

Brig-Gen Johnny
(Photo: Zarny Win/The Irrawaddy)

A ceremony to mark the 60th anniversary of Karen Revolution Day was held at the base camp of KNLA Brigade 7 in Karen State on January 31.

Question: What is your resolution for 2009?

Answer: We have to work together with Buddhist monks, students and opposition groups inside and outside Burma to boycott the junta’s election in 2010, because if the Burmese regime wins the election, we will remain under the military’s boot for a long time. So all ethnic groups, monks and students should be united and fight to overthrow the Burmese regime.

Q: How do you plan to achieve this goal? By military means?

A: Political conflicts must be solved by political means. So, [the KNU] has always kept the door open for talks with the Burmese regime. But so far, the regime has ignored this approach. So we must continue to bear arms and fight against them.

We are not holding weapons to fight against Burmans, but to fight against the rule of the dictatorship and against Burman chauvinism. That is why we believe we have to work together with Burmese opposition forces.

We will continue to fight back militarily in any way that we can. If the Burmese army attacks us, we will fight back.

Q: What are your views on the divisions within the KNU?

A: Our weakness is that we don’t understand each other. We don’t have unity. And due to the long period of the resistance and manipulation by the Burmese regime, many of our comrades have split and surrendered to the Burmese regime.

Our enemy tries to divide us everyday. We know that, but we still allow ourselves to be divided. For example, Htein Maung [leader of the breakaway KNU/KNLA Peace Council], knew that the enemy wanted to divide us, but still, he played along. It’s not that our enemy is clever; it’s because we are not clever that this is what happens.

But in the end, the KNU will write its own history.

Q: How do you think that unity within the KNU can be restored?

A: First of all, we must always be careful, because our enemy is constantly trying to divide us. We don’t need to listen to them. We have our own policy. If we follow our policy, we will definitely reach our goal.

Our leaders, like [slain former KNU Secretary General] Padoh Mahn Sha, have done a lot for their people. We who are alive have to carry on with our unfinished duty. If we don’t, we will betray our leaders and our comrades who have sacrificed their lives for the Karen people.

Q: In your opinion, what do the Karen people need most to reach their goal?

A: We have to be united. We have to understand and respect each other. And we must not listen to our enemy. If we work together with love, we will definitely reach our goal.

Q: What do you think about diplomatic efforts to achieve change in Burma?

A: The international pressure is right. But we also have to do our duty. We are the key to freedom in Burma. We can’t rely on the international community alone.

It is the duty of all the repressed people of Burma to become involved in the democracy movement. If we all realize that it is our responsibility to take part in the democracy movement, the goal of our struggle will not be far away.

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