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23. Burma/Karens (1948-present)

Crisis Phase (January 4, 1948-August 25, 1948): The Karen National Union (KNU) headed by Saw Ba U Gyi began a movement for independence following Burma’s independence from Britain on January 4, 1948. Karen nationalists began demonstrations for independence in Rangoon and other cities on February 11, 1948.

Conflict Phase (August 26, 1948-April 12, 1964): The Karen National Defense Organization (KNDO), the military wing of the KNU, began a rebellion against the Burmese government in southeast Burma on August 26, 1948. Karen rebels captured Moulmein on September 1, 1948. Government troops and Karen rebels agreed to a cessation of military hostilities on September 4, 1948. Government policemen massacred some 80 members of the Karen tribe near Palaw in Tavoy district on December 23-25, 1948. The KNDO resumed military hostilities against the government, and Karen rebels captured Twante on January 1, 1949. Karen rebels captured Bassein and Toungoo on January 25, 1949, although government troops recaptured Bassein on January 29, 1949. The government banned the KNDO on January 30, 1949.  Karen rebels captured Insein on January 31, 1949. Karen rebels captured Einme and Loikaw on February 1, 1949. Karen rebels captured Meiktila, Kyaukse, and Maymyo on February 20-21, 1949. Karen rebels captured Mandalay on March 13, 1949, but government troops recaptured Meiktila on March 23, 1949. Government and Karen representatives held negotiations in Rangoon on April 6-8, 1949. Karen rebels captured Nyaunglebin on April 20, 1949. Government troops recaptured Mandalay and Maymyo between April 3-24, 1949. Government troops recaptured Insein on May 22, 1949. Government troops recaptured Twante on June 13, 1949. The KNU declared independence of the Karen state from Burma on June 14, 1949. Government troops captured Kyaukse and Thaton on June 26-27, 1949. Karen rebels captured Taunggyi, Lashio, and Namkhan on August 13-31, 1949. Government troops recaptured Namkhan on September 8, 1949. Government troops captured Taunggyi, Danubyu, and Htonegyi on November 23-29, 1949. Government troops recaptured Loikaw on January 12, 1950. Government troops recaptured Nyaunglebin on February 25, 1950. Government troops recaptured Toungoo on March 19, 1950. Saw Ba U Gyi, leader of the KNU, was killed by government troops near Kawkareik on August 12, 1950, and Saw Hunter Thahmwe took control of the KNU on August 13, 1950. Government troops recaptured Einme on November 11, 1950. Government troops recaptured Pantanaw on December 10, 1950.  The Karen National United Party (KNUP) was established in Gayetau in September 1953. Karen rebels bombed a train and killed 35 individuals near Thaton on January 15, 1955. Yugoslavia offered military assistance to the government on January 17, 1955. Government troops launched a military offensive (“Operation Aungtheikdi“) on January 21, 1955. Government troops recaptured Papun on March 27, 1955. Karen rebels attacked Lamaing on January 29, 1956 and Thandaung on November 9, 1957. Karen rebels attacked Thaton on December 19, 1957. Government military aircraft attacked Karen bases in Thailand in June 1959. Karen rebels attacked a train near Moulmein on January 10, 1960, resulting in the deaths of 17 individuals. General Min Maung, commander of the Karen rebels, was killed by government troops on April 13, 1961. Representatives of the government and Karen rebels agreed to a cessation of military hostilities on April 12, 1964. Some 15,000 individuals were killed during the conflict.

Post-Conflict Phase (April 13, 1964-June 19, 1975): The Karen National United Front (KNUF) was established by Bo Mya on June 21, 1968. Karen rebels captured the village of Myawaddy on March 18, 1974.

Conflict Phase (June 20, 1975-January 12, 2012): Government troops launched a military offensive against Karen rebels on June 20, 1975. Karen rebels killed 45 individuals in southern Burma on April 26, 1976. The KNU and four other rebel groups established the National Democratic Front (NDF) on May 10, 1976. Karen rebels attacked a radio station and police station in Rangoon on September 28, 1982, resulting in the deaths of two rebels. Government troops and Karen rebels clashed near Nyaunglebin on February 18, 1983. Government troops launched a military offensive against Karen rebels in January 1984, and captured the Karen rebel base in Mae Tha Waw on January 28, 1984. Government troops attacked Karen bases in Thailand from March 12-24, 1984, resulting in the deaths of fifteen government soldiers and two Thai border police. Karen rebels attacked Myawadi between April 9 and June 16, 1985. Karen rebels killed 46 civilians near Moulmein on January 2, 1986. Some 20,000 Karens fled as refugees to Thailand between January 1984 and December 1987. KNU rebels attacked a train between Mandalay and Rangoon on January 10, 1988, resulting in the deaths of eight individuals. Government troops and Karen rebels clashed near Mae Tha Waw between October 12 and December 22, 1988, resulting in the deaths of some 400 rebels and 242 government troops. Some 5,000 individuals were killed in the conflict between 1981 and 1988. Government troops recaptured Maw Pokay on March 26, 1989. Some 400 government troops attacked Karen rebels in Thailand on May 20, 1989. Government troops recaptured Phalu near the Burma-Thailand border on December 29, 1989. Government troops recaptured Thay Baw Bo and Walay from Karen rebels on January 24-31, 1990. Government troops and Karen rebels clashed near Bogale on October 8-10, 1991. Government troops and Karen rebels clashed near Manerplaw beginning in January 1992. Government troops captured Sleeping Dog Hill near Manerplaw on March 14, 1992. Some 70,000 Karen refugees fled to Thailand in January-May 1992. Government troops launched a military offensive against Karen rebels near Manerplaw on December 10, 1994. Government troops captured the KNU headquarters in Manerplaw on January 26, 1995, and captured the Karen rebel base in Kawmoorah (Wangkha) on February 21, 1995. Some 9,000 members of the Karen tribe fled as refugees to Thailand. Government and KNU representatives held ceasefire negotiations beginning on March 24, 1995. Government troops attacked three Karen refugee camps in Thailand on January 28-29, 1997. Negotiations between government and KNU representatives ended unsuccessfully on January 31, 1997. Government troops launched a military offensive against Karen rebels on February 1, 1997, and captured Sakan Htit on February 12, 1997. Some 16,000 Karens fled as refugees to northern Thailand in February 1997. Government troops attacked Karen refugee camps near Mae Sot on March 11-23, 1998, resulting in the deaths of four individuals. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), the American Refugee Committee (ARC), Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), and the International Rescue Committee (IRC) provided humanitarian assistance to some 85,000 Karen refugees in Thailand beginning in June 1998. Karen rebels killed 8 civilians near Myawadi in eastern Burma on June 23, 1999, and Karen rebels killed four government soldiers in Myawadi on June 25, 1999. Karen rebels attacked a government military camp near the Myanmar-Thailand border on March 23, 2002, resulting in the deaths of 30 individuals.  Myanmar’s Prime Minister Khin Nyunt met with a KNU delegation led by General Bo Mya in Rangoon on January 18-23, 2004.  General Bo Mya, commander of the KNU rebels, step down due to ill health on December 8, 2004.  Tamla Baw took over as commander of KNU rebels.  Former KNU commander, General Bo Mya, died on December 24, 2006.  The government signed a peace agreement with a splinter faction of the KNU headed by Htain Maung on February 11, 2007.  Pado Mahn Shar, Secretary-General of the KNU, was killed at his home in the Thai border town of Mae Sot on February 14, 2008.  Government troops launched a military offensive against Karen rebels in eastern Karen state in June 2009.  At least seven individuals were killed in a bombing in the town of Phapun in Karen state on December 18, 2009.  Mahn Nyein Maung, one of the leaders of the KNU, was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison on December 16, 2011.  Representatives of the government and the KNU signed a ceasefire agreement during a first round of peace negotiations in Pa-an on January 12, 2012.  Some 35,000 individuals were killed and some 250,000 individuals were displaced during the conflict.

Post-Conflict Phase (January 13, 2012-present):  Mahn Nyein Maung, one of the leaders of the KNU, was released from prison on March 19, 2012.  Representatives of the government and Karen National Union (KNU) signed a 13-point preliminary peace agreement during a second round of peace negotiations in Rangoon on April 6, 2012. The next day, Myanmar’s President Thein Sein met with delegates from the KNU in Naypyidaw.  Representatives of the government and KNU held a third round of peace negotiations in Pa-an beginning on August 27, 2012.  On September 3, 2012, the Myanmar government and representatives of the KNU agreed to a 34-point code of conduct at a meeting held in Hpa-an in Karen state.  On August 2, 2013, the KNU expressed its concerns with land laws enacted by the Myanmar government in 2012.  KNU General-Secretary P’doh Saw Kwe Htoo Win issued a statement regarding the effects of the land laws on the peace process.  On June 2, 2014, KNU and Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) representatives met with President Thein Sein to discuss the implementation of the cease-fire agreement.  The Myanmar government signed the nationwide cease-fire agreement (NCA) with eight armed ethnic groups, including the KNU, at a signing ceremony in Naypyidaw on October 15, 2015.  In early March 2018, some 400 government troops entered Karen state to build a road between two military bases.  Government troops clashed with KNU troops in Karen state on March 4-15, 2018, resulting in the deaths of several individuals.  Government troops clashed with KNLA troops in Mutraw district in Karen state on January 5-13, 2019.  The government accused the KNU of destroying government road building vehicles.  One government soldier was killed by a landmine explosion in Dwelo township in Mutraw district on January 27, 2020.  Government troops clashed with KNLA troops in Mutraw district in Karen state on February 2-21, 2020.  More than 2,000 individuals were displaced as a result of the clashes.  On June 2, 2020, Myanmar government troops clashed with KNLA rebels near the villages of Wah Klo Htar and Maw Law Klo in Mutraw district in Karen state, resulting in civilian injuries.  On February 2, 2021, the KNU condemned the military coup that overthrew the democratically-elected government in Myanmar the previous day.  KNLA troops captured a government military base in Thee Mu Hta on March 27, 2021, resulting in the deaths of ten government soldier.  The Myanmar government responded by bombing the village of Day Pu No in Hpapun (Papun) district and villages in Mutraw district on March 27-28, 2021, resulting in deaths of at least three civilians,  On March 30, 2021, the Myanmar government launched airstrikes against the village of Htee Phado in the township of Shwegyin, resulting in the deaths of at least six civilians.  KNLA troops clashed with government troops near Thaton township on April 23, 2021, resulting in the death of at least one government soldier.  KNLA troops captured a government military base in Thaw Lae Hta in Mutraw district near the Thailand border on April 27, 2021.  Government troops responded by conducting airstrikes against Karen villages in the Dah Gwe area near the border.  More than 40,000 Karens were displaced as a result of violence since March 2021.

[Sources: Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) press release, March 25, 1998, September 30, 1998; Al Jazeera, January 17, 2004, December 24, 2006, December 20, 2007, February 15, 2008, February 23, 2008, June 18, 2009, November 8, 2010, January 12, 2012, April 6, 2012, April 8, 2012, November 26, 2012, January 31, 2019; September 11, 2019, March 29, 2021, April 10, 2021, April 27, 2021; Arnold et al., 1991, 226-227; Asia Times, February 16, 2019, December 17, 2020; Associated Press (AP), June 25, 1999, December 24, 2006, March 21, 2021, March 28, 2021, March 30, 2021, April 27, 2021, May 7, 2021; Banks and Muller, 1998, 636-641; Bercovitch and Jackson, 1997, 63-64, 217-218; British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), August 13, 2002, January 16, 2004, January 20, 2004, January 22, 2004, January 23, 2004, October 21, 2004, November 8, 2004, December 8, 2004, December 24, 2006, February 14, 2008, June 8, 2009, June 11, 2009, December 18, 2009, December 16, 2011, January 12, 2012, March 19, 2012, April 7, 2012, October 15, 2015; Cady, 1958, 589-595; Clodfelter, 1992, 1125-1126; Degenhardt, 1988, 33-34; Deutsche Welle (DW), April 27, 2021; Facts on File, August 29-September 4, 1948, January 13-19, 1955, April 16-22, 1964, June 12, 1976; Far Eastern Economic Review (FEER), February 16, 1995; Frontier Myanmar, February 28, 2020; Karen News, January 16, 2019, June 8, 2020, February 5 2021, April 27, 2021; Keesing’s Record of World Events, October 2-9, 1948, June 11-18, 1949, March 1-8, 1952, September 13-20, 1958, July 21-27, 1975, January 1984, June 1985, January 1991, February 1995, February 1997; Langer, 1972, 1319-1320; Myanmar Now, April 27, 2021; New York Times (NYT), January 12, 2012; Radio Free Asia (RFA), June 4, 2014, January 3, 2019, January 22, 2021, March 30, 2021; Reuters, June 24, 1999, March 23, 2002, January 12, 2012, March 30, 2015, March 27, 2021, March 30, 2021, April 26, 2021, April 27, 2021; Survey of International Affairs (SIA), 1947-1948, 439-457; Tillema, 1991, 258, 271; Tinker 1967; Trager 1966; Voice of America (VOA), March 16, 2018, February 4, 2019, May 1, 2021.]