A Look Inside: Resistance Leaders Speak

In Burma today, 14 ethnic and armed resistance groups comprised of more than 18,000 members operate on or around the Burma-Thailand border- a region just over 2,000 kilometers long. These groups include the All Burma Student’s Democratic Front (ABSDF), the Karen National Union (KNU), Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP), and the People’s Liberation Front (PLF). The Shan Herald had the opportunity to interview several leaders from these resistance groups. The general atmosphere is one of happiness at Aung San Suu Kyi’s release tempered with disappointment at the 2010 elections. All of those interviewed have expressed their readiness for peace, but determination to continue fighting until their people are free and respected in their own country.

In a recent interview, Ko Than Khe, Chairperson of the ABSDF told the Shan Herald that the 2010 elections were “just to show legitimacy inside and outside the county.” He believes that a combination of nonviolent and armed resistance will be the key to forming a true democracy in Burma. Ko Than Khe says the ABSDF will continue their armed struggle in the fight for democracy in cooperation with other armed resistance groups. Despite different ethnic and political backgrounds, they are all struggling for the common goal of a free and democratic Burma. Read more about ABSDF.

Brig Gen Hsar Gay, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the KNU, also believes the 2010 elections changed nothing, with the only results of the political affair being a split in the Democratic Karen Burma Army, as well as new fighting in Myawaddy and Three Pagodas Pass directly after the polls. Although Hsar Gay and the KNU are pleased by the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, they have every intention of continuing their armed struggle for a federation of ethnic states because “Setting Aung San Suu Kyi free doesn’t mean that the attack on the ethnic people…will stop.” The KNU continues to arm itself in preparation for the attack they are certain will come, and maintains alliances with other armed resistance groups. Read more about the KNU

Maj Gen Dr Timothey Laklem of the Karen National Union/Karen National Liberation Army- Peace Council (KNU/KNLA – PC)  is fighting for a free Burma and self-determination for ethnic minorities. The KNU/KNLA – PC is willing to work with those who support a democratic federation, and are just as ready to resist those who would try to dominate them. Laklem claims that the political events of 2010 were “not an election, but a selection,” and that the military in Burma must “be representative of the people … protect the people and … recognize the equal rights of the ethnic indigenous people.” Read more about the KNU/KNLA – PC

KNPP Central Committee member Raymond Htoo is “happy” at Aung San Suu Kyi’s release from house arrest, but “neither her release nor the elections will affect our work very much.” He hopes for a second Panglong Conference (the first took place in 1947 under Suu Kyi’s father, Aung San, and discussed Burma’s struggle for freedom from Great Britain and the country’s future as a republic), and states that “the KNPP strategy is to pursue both political negotiations and armed struggle … [and to] cooperate with all democratic groups.” Read more about the KNPP

Saw Kwe Htoo Win of the KNU Mergui-Tavoy district says that “The election was a fraud… government officials took the ballots and [voted] for [the villagers]. This is not freedom and we can’t accept the result.” He says that his group is prepared to engage in peace talks with the government, but will continue to struggle using both political and armed means until a truly democratic government is put into place. Read more about the Karen

U Aye Saung, the General Secretary of the PLF, says his group works closely with the KNU, and will continue to use armed struggle “because the [junta] still attacks us.” He says that to fight is the only way, and that “all armed groups will continue to fight together… against the [Burmese] army.” Read more about the PLF.

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