Thousands of people sporting traditional ethnic costumes and Karen rebel fighters showing off their guns marched, sang and danced last week to celebrate 70 years since the start of the struggle for greater autonomy from Myanmar.
Boasting more than 5,000 soldiers, the Karen National Union (KNU) is one of the most powerful and best-established of the country’s myriad militia groups that have fought the government since shortly after Myanmar gained independence in 1948.
The KNU’s parade served as a reminder that the biggest priority of Aung San Suu Kyi’s administration — ending decades of ethnic wars — remains elusive.
Aung San Suu Kyi has struggled to make progress with autonomy-seeking ethnic minority rebels, who have accused her government of a high-handed approach and ignoring their grievances and aspirations.
The celebrations took place at a remote base in the mountains straddling the Myanmar-Thai border.
“The history of the revolution for 70 years is a very rough one. As someone who has been involved in the revolution for 50 years, I can say it’s very tough and the sacrifices were very big,” Man Nyein Maung, one of the KNU’s executive members, told the Irrawaddy online news magazine.
The celebrations lasted several days and nights with a folk dance competition and theater performances before a military parade and speeches on a cloud-shrouded, dusty parade ground carved from the hills at the crack of dawn.
A banner hoisted above the grounds listed some of the group’s political demands, including calls to “retain our arms” and to “decide our own political destiny.”
One of the dance groups was made up of women wearing yellow scarves, with their hair tied in a bun and an exposed fringe. Their yellow shirts with green patterns contrasted with their white face powder and red lipstick.
The performers mingled with villagers and soldiers of the Karen National Liberation Army, the KNU’s armed wing. The men smoked cigarettes as they watched, some with heavy bullet belts draped around automatic rifles, and with insignia in red, white and blue displayed on their uniforms.
The KNU signed a ceasefire with the government in 2012 after more than six decades of conflict that had driven tens of thousands of refugees into Thailand.
Some have come back, although about 100,000 remain in the refugee camps on the other side of the border, according to the UN.
While major clashes have been avoided, the KNU’s relations with the Myanmar army remain tense.
Aung San Suu Kyi has struggled to secure peace elsewhere in the country and long-simmering conflicts in the north and the west have intensified in recent years.
In 2017, a military offensive drove out 730,000 Rohingya Muslims from the western state of Rakhine to Bangladesh, creating one of the world’s largest refugee crises.
A coronavirus-free tropical island nestled in the northern Pacific might seem the perfect place to ride out a pandemic, but residents on Palau said that life right now is far from idyllic. The microstate of 18,000 people is among a dwindling number of places on Earth that still report zero cases of COVID-19 as figures mount daily elsewhere. The disparate group also includes Samoa, Turkmenistan, North Korea and bases on the frozen continent of Antarctica. A dot in the ocean hundreds of kilometers from its nearest neighbors, Palau is surrounded by the vast Pacific Ocean, which has acted as a buffer against the
Dutch scientists have found the coronavirus in a city’s wastewater before COVID-19 cases were reported, demonstrating a novel early warning system for the disease. SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — is often excreted in an infected person’s stool. Although it is unlikely that sewage will become an important route of transmission, the pathogen’s increasing circulation in communities would increase the amount of it flowing into sewer systems, Gertjan Medema and colleagues at the KWR Water Research Institute in Nieuwegein said on Monday. They detected genetic material from the coronavirus at a wastewater treatment plant in Amersfoort on March 5, before
TRUE TOLL? Some Chinese are skeptical about official data, particularly given the overwhelmed medical system and initial attempts to cover up the outbreak The long lines and stacks of urns greeting family members of the dead at funeral homes in Wuhan, China, are spurring questions about the true scale of casualties at the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, renewing pressure on a Chinese government struggling to control its containment narrative. The families of those who succumbed to the coronavirus in the city, where the disease first emerged, were allowed to pick up their cremated ashes at eight funeral homes last week. As they did, photographs circulated on Chinese social media of thousands of urns being ferried in. Outside one funeral home, trucks shipped in about 2,500
KEEN INTEREST: India is trying to procure medical gear from domestic producers and abroad, and China has emerged as a possible supplier as its factories reopen India is to buy ventilators and masks from China to help it deal with COVID-19, a government official said yesterday, even though some countries in Europe had complained about the quality of the equipment. India has recorded 1,251 cases of the coronavirus, with 32 deaths, but health experts said the country of 1.3 billion people could see a major surge in cases that could overwhelm its weak public health system. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government said that it was trying to procure medical gear, including masks and body coveralls, both from domestic firms and from countries such as South Korea and