Children of Slain Ethnic Leader Plead for Karen Unity
15 February 2010: On the second anniversary of their father’s death, the children of assassinated Karen revolutionary leader have issued emotional pleas yesterday calling for unity among their people, saying disunity only weakens the Karen people and benefits their oppressor, the Burmese military regime.
Padoh Mahn Sha Lah Phan, General Secretary of the Karen National Union (KNU), was killed two years ago Sunday by gunmen believed to be agents of Burma’s military regime at his home in Thailand.
Mahn Sha’s death came at a time when Burma’s biggest ethnic armed group was struggling with internal divisions and a series of military setbacks as a result of relentless offensives by the military junta, which orchestrated a violent campaign to wipe out ethnic resistances to make ways for its plans to wield power indefinitely.
Widely regarded as a visionary leader who strongly believed the unity among the people as the ultimate weapon to defeat military authoritarianism in Burma, the Karen veteran leader said in a 2002 interview with Chinland Guardian that only a federal political system will guarantee long-term peace and harmony in Burma and that only the united power of the people of Burma against autocracy could realize that goal.
In the joint statement, the surviving children of Sha Lah Phan echoed their father’s beliefs, “Only as a united people can we overcome the challenges and protect our [Karen] people. [And] only united can we win our freedom.”
They say that the military’s plans to impose a new constitution will mean the end of the ethnic people’s dreams to have a political system that protects their rights – the ideals ethnic leaders, including their slain father have fought for, for more than the last half a century.
They say that Karens are facing more challenges today. To meet the collective challenges, they renewed their plea to Karen splinter groups to rejoin the Karen National Union. Burma’s once strongest armed group has been hit hard by factional splits and defections during the last two decades. The Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), spilt away from the KNU in mid 1990s, and has since allied itself with Burma’s military junta, the former enemy.
In memory of their late father, the surviving children of Padoh Mahn Sha in 2008 set up a charitable organization Phan Foundation, which seeks to alleviate poverty, provide education and promote the human rights and culture of Karen people.