Tribal Action Group (TAG) | November 24, 2016
In this video interview, the Secretary of the Karen Women Organization (KWO), Naw K’Nyaw Paw, discusses the ‘Nationwide’ Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) and the need for unity in Burma. She discusses the silence of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the duplicity of the international community about human rights. Naw K’Nyaw Paw concludes with a message to the Karen people.
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‘We have seen the silence of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’
We must not be silent. We have to speak out, for our people. It’s time now.
My name is Naw K’Nyaw Paw, I’m the secretary of the Karen Women’s Organization, and currently I think the peace process is a kind of a show of the Burmese government to get international community support.
This government and the Burma Army has divided us and we have to learn our lesson. We need to be united with the other ethnic armed organisations.
A lot of western countries, democratic countries they say they put human right first but we all know human rights never come first.
On top of that we have seen the silence of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
You can’t have peace when one part of Burma continues [to be] attacked by the Burma army and with impunity, human right violations, raping ethnic women and killing everybody.
‘It is time for the Karen people around the world to come together’
Since the ceasefire — the KNU signed the 2012 ceasefire with the Burmese government — we haven’t seen tangible results and changes on the ground, in the communities, besides [that] people have more freedom to travel. That’s it.
But then, we’re losing a lot as well. Since 2012 we have seen [that] the Burmese government has expanded its administration into the ethnic areas, in our current areas. They have created many sub-township already — that means penetrating the Burmese culture and like Burmanisation into our ethnic areas and this is a very (big) danger, you know? So, it is time for the Karen people around the world to come together and then be speaking out about what is really happening in our communities.
‘Everybody needs to come together and then have a unified voice’
We need to be united with the other ethnic armed organisations so that we are stronger. And then, we don’t want [how] the Burmese government has divided us and we have to learn our lesson, otherwise we will be suffering again and again, so it’s very important that we all work together, and then speaking out for things that we see are not right, and then really advocating for changes that we want to see. So it’s time now, or we don’t have the opportunity and we lose our opportunity.
And also, we need to support the leaders that are following the policies and strongly support them so that we can have a good leadership who are negotiating for our cause and who are representing our people and our inspiration. This is very important; that Karen all over the world, not only the Karen that are in Burma, or in the KNU administration area, but also Karen people from abroad; everybody needs to come together and then have a unified voice. And the Karen people, the situation in Burma, we cannot solve it alone.
I’m talking about the UNFC also, like the UNFC has a many-members group and we need to have a unified voice. The Burmese government have, Burma Army have international communities, but if the ethnic armed organisations have the people behind them, that means they have more mandate to say, and the communities, the ethnic people, I mean the communities, we have a voice. It’s in our area, it’s in our land so we have to have a say and we have power because it’s in our areas, what we want. We should be against the military expansion in our area and also Burmanisation and also fighting. We need to be shouting out loud that outside people hear us and the current government also hear us.
‘It’s very hard right now because everybody–like in the international community–are supporting her [Daw Aung San Suu Kyi]’
The current leadership is… since the NLD came into power, a lot of people have hope and I, I myself, I have a lot of hope in NLD because of course we don’t want to see the military regime continue running the country, and the fall of the military is one of our very hopeful things. But we know that the NLD government cannot make a lot of changes, and because they have to rule under the 2008 constitution and then in the constitution 25% of military representation is guaranteed there and also they’re taking very important ministry posts, and on top of that we have seen the silence of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and it is okay for other people to be silent, but because she is the democratic leader, she is icon of the democracy, and also she a Nobel Peace Prize winner, and she is silent that there are human right abuses, and killings of the civilians. This is not — this is not acceptable.
So, we feel very disappointed with the current leader as well and we already have doubts that they might not represent our interests. Already now it seems like some of our doubts come true, and we are struggling. And it’s very hard right now because everybody–like in the international community–are supporting her and behind her, whatever she says they follow, so we have very little voice.
And even though you wanted to criticise or, whatever, the government policy, the current government policy, if they are not in favour of the community based organisations, the ethnic people… it’s very hard to speak out against the current government because everybody says, ‘It’s a democratic government.’ You know? ‘If you’re speaking out against the current government, that means you’re supporting the regime.’ Actually we’re not supporting the regime, but we want the current democratic government to really do the right thing. Like democratically within their own party and also democratically– listen to the people voice, working with the ethnic groups.
‘We must not be silent. We have to speak out for our people’
I think the international community has their own agenda. Although a lot of western countries, democratic countries, they put human rights– they say they put human right first, but we all know human rights never come first. It’s always their national interest when it comes to the influence of power, you know? Countering the Chinese government, or interest in the natural resources, or the business for their company. So, this always comes first. Even though they say they care, but it’s not in their priorities. So, we have seen a lot of more pressure like to the ethnic people, and the Burma Army themselves continue to pressure also the non-signatory groups by not accepting them, making them feel they don’t have any choice in signing the NCA like that. So yeah, we have seen pressure.
We have a total of 21 ethnic armed organisations, that is recognised by the government, and only 8 signed, so, a majority haven’t signed. And it’s very important that we have everybody involved. We cannot solve, you cannot have peace when one part of Burma continues to be attacked by Burma Army — and with impunity, human right violations, raping ethnic women, and killing everybody–without holding them accountable, and you cannot have peace in Burma. So very important that we have to make everybody included in the process, so you have a lasting, longer and a sustainable peace.
We must not be silent. We have to speak out for our people and also we should not allow ourselves to be divided among our ethnic groups. It is very important that we are all united and then fight toward federalism and establishing self-determination within our ethnic areas.
Message to the Karen people (English translation):
The situation in Burma with the peace process did not result in what we expected. The fighting is ongoing, and we need people to work together. We would like to invite our Karen people living overseas who had opportunities to study and become educated to come back and work with us. We need all levels of support like education, health, community groups and our organisation. If we become more educated and work together it is important for everyone to come back and work together. It is very important that we work together–not only people from overseas but from here also. I would like to invite all Karen people to think about this matter so our people can develop and progress and be recognized by the world. We need to give commitment and sacrifice, and work together. All other ethnic groups have dedicated themselves to their own people, and we also need to dedicate ourselves. If we are not dedicated enough we cannot reach our goal. I would like to warn everyone to think deeply and work together. If you want to see change we have to work together. We have to be one voice. If we are quiet and do not raise our voice, our people and our cause will fade away. We want everyone to join and work together to raise our voice louder. Please come back and work with us. There are many organizations here that you can apply your skills to help.
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This interview was conducted by the Tribal Action Group in November 2016.