Over a thousand years ago, Karenni State was subjugated by the King of Yun (a race that came down from the north and now living in northern Thailand and Shan State. Karenni people were overtaxed and forced to work on the lands of the feudal kings of Yun. Karenni people unable to tolerance anymore, revolted against the feudal kings of Yun and drove them back to the north out of the Karenni State. They then set up an independent Karenni State. Since then, Karenni State has never been subjugated by any outside power. They elected a king among the indigenous people of Karenni State and they called their new king the Sawpya. Since then the Sawpya ruled Karenni State.
Burmese history chronicles how aggressive Burmese king invaded and conquered the kingdom of Siam, Arakan, Mon, Chiang Mai, Shan etc; and made these kingdoms part of their empire. But there no evidence either in Burmese history or in Karenni history that the aggressive Burmese kings ever invaded and conquered Karenni State. So, it is obvious that Karenni State has never been a part of Burmese proper, but remained separated independent with full sovereignty.
After the first Anglo-Burmese War in 1824-1826 the Burmese king was defeated and had to hand-over the territories of Assam, Manipur, Arakan and Tenasserim including Moulmein to the British. To make up for these territorial lose; the Burmese king tried to annex the small and backward Karenni State. The Karenni Sawpyas was alarmed on this threat. So, through diplomatic means, Sawpya Khaipodu of western Karenni State sent emissaries to the British commissioner of Moulmein in order to win the friendship of the British, to persuade them to recognize the independent of Karenni State, and to request the British to object to the Burmese king sending troops to attack Karenni State. Undeterred, in 1845 the Burmese king of Ava ordered his subordinate Shan sawbwas of Hsini, Sipaw, Young Shwe, Mong Nai etc, to raise a force in order to attack and annex Karenni State. The sawbwas raised a force of more than ten thousand strong and under the command of Khun San, then invaded Karenni State. Khun San could lead his force into Karenni State to attack Kyenphogyi, the capital of western Karenni State. But before reaching Kyenphogyi his forces were attacks by Karenni troops, commanded by Sawpya Khaipodu at Htibawku north of Mowso. In that engagement, Khun San himself was captured alive by Karenni troops and thousands of Shan forces were killed. The Shan forces retreated in great panic. Khun San was killed and buried in Htibawku lake which to this day is still called Naung Khun San (Khun San's lake) by the Shans.
On hearing this news, the Burmese king of Ava sent one thousand horsemen to reinforce his defeated forces. With these reinforcement the combined Burmese-Shan forces launched another attack into Karenni State. The invaders attacked Kyenphogyi town and burned to the ground. Many villages and towns were destroyed. When he realized his troops were unnumbered, Khaipodu ordered his subjects to abandon their villages. When summer came, the Karenni forces were ordered to poison the entire water sources e.g. well, streams springs etc. Nearly all the Burmese forces suffered from stomachache caused by the poisoned water. The Karenni forces took the opportunity to come out of hiding and attack the invaders driving the Burmese forces out of Karenni State. So, Burmese troops were stationed only 6 months in Karenni State before they had to withdraw, returning Karenni State to independence.
In 1866, the Burmese Prince Myigon, along with his brother prince MyiKhon Taing failed in their attempt to assassinate their father king Mindon. In the same year prince Myigon fled together with a few followers into Karenni State, and was given refuge by the vice Sawpya Khun Hti of Kyenphogyi, the western Karenni State. As he promised to fight against his father, the Burmese king Mindon, Khun Hti supplied him with arms and men and allowed him to set up his base at Nammakon. With the help of Karenni forces he hoped to overrun the Burmese out post in Mong Pai and Sakio which had recently been set up by the Burmese forces chasing after him. By the order of the Burmese king Mindon, the forces of Sawlapaw sawpya of eastern Karenni State who had recently allied with the Burmese king and the forces of sawbwa of Sipaw in northern Shan State, attacked the forces of prince Myigon and western Karenni State several times. Seeing that the prince could not hold off the enemy, Sawpya Khun Hti advised the prince to slip into the British territory and to reorganize his troops there. Eventually, the prince accepted the advice and left for Toungoo to plan a new campaign. This is evidence that Karenni State as an independent nation, was able to offer refuge to dissenting Burmese prince.
When the second Anglo-Burmese war broke out in 1852-1853 the Burmese king was again defeated. After the war the Burmese king had to hand-over Irrawaddy Division and Pegu Division including Toungoo District to the British. When the British government started its colonial administration there, its territory did not yet extend beyond the eastern part of the Sittaung River. In 1855 an agent of the British government was sent to Kyenphogyi of western Karenni State as a general lookout to observe and report on the boundaries of the neighboring state, and check petty wars and slave forays. As the result of this Mr. E, O' Rilay, the Deputy commissioner of Toungoo went on a tour to Kyenphogyi of the western Karenni State in 1857 to meet with Sawpya Khaipodu, to discuss demarcation of the boundery. The leaders made a contract of friendship according to the Karenni custom. Through Mr. E. O'Rilay, the western Karenni Sawpya Khaipodu also pleaded to the British-India governor General to recognize the independence and sovereignty of Karenni State. Thus the British-India government general declared that the Karenni State was independent and neither the Burmese nor the British had any right to occupy the State. He also absolutely objected to the behavior of the Burmese king who was sending his troops to attack the Karenni State. In 1862 the western Karenni sawpya Khaipodu sent an agent to Toungoo to persuade the British government to arbitrate a dispute between eastern and western Karenni States and to settle some differences between the British government and eastern Karenni State. So, in 1863 Mr. E. O'Rilay was again sent to western Karenni State to settle some differences with the sawpya of eastern Karenni State and to discuss the safe transit of Chinese traders' caravans to the British territory through all parts of Karenni State. This time, Khaipodu and Mr. E. O'Rilay signed a second contract of friendship and declared it publicly. As Khaipodu was too old to lead the ceremony, his son Khun Hti, the vice-sawpya of western Karenni State had to lead the ceremony according to the Karenni custom. When the western sawpya Khaipodu died in 1868 his two sons Khun Hti and Khun Thya ruled the western Karenni State jointly. In 1869 they sent a delegation to the British Chief commissioner to inform him that they would recognize the contract of friendship which their father and British Deputy commissioner had signed. Besides, they requested the British government once again to persuade the Burmese king to recognize the independence and sovereignty of the Karenni State. During that time the British government and Burmese foreign department was discussing whether Karenni State should remain separate and independent.
In 1875 the viceroy of British-India sent a diplomatic mission headed by Sir Douglas Forsyth to the Burmese king, Mindon in Mandalay to negotiate the recognition of the independence and sovereignty of Karenni State. This group arrived at Mandalay on 10th June. In accordance with the request of His Excellency the viceroy of British-India that Western Karenni should be allowed to remain separate and independent. His Majesty the king of Burma, taking into consideration the great friendship existing between the two great countries, and the desire that friendship may be lasting and permanent, agree that no sovereignty or governing authority of any description, shall be exercised or claimed in Western Karennee, and His Excellency the Kinwoon Mingyi Minister for foreign Affairs, on the part of His Majesty the King of Burmah and the Honorable Sir Douglas Forsyth, C.B.K.C.S.I Envoy, on the part of His Excellency the Viceroy and Governor General of India, execute the following agreement:
Agreement: - It is hereby agreed between the British and Burmese governments that the state o Western Karenni shall remain separate and independent, and that no sovereignty or governing authority of any description shall be claimed or exercised over the state.
Whereunto we have on this day, the 21st day of June 1875, corresponding with the 3rd day of the Waning Moon of Nayoung, 1237 B.E, affixed our seals and signatures.
"seal" (sd) T.D Forsyth "seal" (sd) Kin Woon Mingyi
After the time of the signing of the agreement, the Burmese government was informed that a British officer who might, should the king desire it, be accompanied by a Burmese official would demarcate the boundary between western Karenni and Burmese territory. A.H. Hildebrand accordingly demarcated the boundary in 1876 and the Burmese out posts along the Karenni border were withdrawn in 1877.
In 1885 the third Anglo-Burmese War broke out, and again the Burmese king was defeated. The British captured the Burmese capital Mandalay, and the Burmese king Thipaw. The Burmese king, Thipaw was taken to India where he was under custody. That defeat ended the Burmese monarchy system. With the end of the Burmese monarchy, the Karenni State had to worry only about the British treat to its independence and sovereignty. But fortunately, the British government still respected their agreement of 1875 and Karenni State was able to remain separate and independent.
According to the Notification No. 1920 E dated 19th October 1992, issued by the Foreign Department of the British-India government, and Notification No, 83-1165-Int. dated 16th January 1923, issued by the Foreign and political Department, declared that the State included in Eastern and Western Karenni were not part of British-India and were not subject to any of the laws in force in the Shan States or other parts of Upper Burma or Lower Burma. But for the purpose of the Frail of British subject charged with the offences in Karenni, the superintend and political officer for southern Shan State, and every assistance superintendent in Karenni is a justice of the peace, with power to commit to the High Court of Judicature at Rangoon. In this case, the Karenni State remained separate and independent outside the British-India. During the second World War the Karenni chiefs contracted No. 136 Allied forces. With the help of the Allied Forces, they recruited a guerilla force of more than 2000 men and fought against the Japanese intruders. In this way Karenni State remained up to 1948.
The Situation of Karenni State after Second World War
After the Second World War and the defeat of Japan, the British colonialists returned to British-Burma and again, the whole of Burma was under British colonial rule. As before Karenni State remained separate, independent from the British-Burma, although is had to accept the supervision of the British crown as before, especially in matters of foreign affairs. On 1st December 1945 the British government sent Major Grayhan and Gilbert Krasu to Karenni State to supervise foreign affairs and to help the administration. At that time, government in Karenni State still rested in the hands of the Karenni sawpyas. Each sawpya had the right to administer his own state independently. But whenever there was an important matter concerning the whole of the state, a council of sawpya (including their subordinate chiefs) was held, and decisions were made according to the will of the majority of sawpyas and their subordinate chiefs sitting and the council. In this way the council of sawpyas functioned as the governing body of the whole of Karenni State. There were some politicians, mostly the subordinate of sawpyas and they use to call themselves the representatives of the Karenni people.
In February 1946, the Shan sawbwas invited the Karenni sawpyas to attend the first Ponglong Conference, which was to be held in the Shan States. But the Karenni sawpyas refused to attend that conference on the grounds that, as a separate and independent state outside the British-Burma, it was not fair for Karenni State to attend such meeting sponsored by the people of the British colony, the Shan State. In the same month, Mr. Stevenson, chief commissioner of the Frontier Areas arrived at Loikaw, the capital of Karenni State where Karenni leaders greeted him. The Karenni leaders asked Britain for the following:
1. The British government to make efforts for Karenni State to get war compensation.
2. To allow the Karenni State to have its own, armed forces, and the British government to defray all the expenses.
3. To finance irrigation projects in Karenni State.
4. To finance spending of health, education and economic development in Karenni State.
But none of the requests were met. Instead Mr. Stevenson, the chief commissioner or Frontier Areas, told the Karenni leader that he had no come to assist with the developments of Karenni internal affairs. He explained that sooner or later the British government would give autonomy to Burma, and the Shan Kachin, Chin and Karen of the Frontier Areas would combine and set up Frontier Areas Administration Board. FAAB). Mr. Stevenson asked whether the Karenni government wanted to join this Frontier Area Administration Board. The Karenni leaders responded that, as the Karenni State had been independent from British-Burma, it was first necessary to get the opinion of the Karenni people on whether or not to join the Frontier Areas Administration Board. They promised to inform him when a decision was made. On 25th February 1946, a council of people's representatives and sawpyas was held at the resident of U Be Tu Ree, Myosa of northern Bawlake. The questions of whether or not to join the Frontier Areas Administration Board (FAAB), and the setting up of a co-operation society, were discussed. The council decided unanimously not to join the FAAB, as Karenni State was already independent from British-Burma. By joining the FAAB, it would automatically lose its independence.
On March 16, 1946 Mr. Stevenson once again tried to persuade the Karenni leaders to join the FAAB. Once again the Karenni leaders openly refused to join. Mr. Stevenson became so angry that from then on he always opposed Karenni leaders until the Burma gained independence. The Burmese Anti-Fascist and People Freedom league (AFPFL) leaders Thakin Nu, U Pe Khin and Mahn Ba Khaing arrived at Loikaw in March 1946. They invited the Karenni leaders, politicians and town-elders to the office of the Karenni National Co-operation Association in Loikaw. After giving a short speech about the aims of their AFPFL, they persuaded the Karenni audience to join their union of Burma, which would be formed later. Those three persons were the first Burmese AFPFL's leaders to persuade Karenni leaders and people to join the planned union of Burma. But Karenni leaders and people were so busy with internal economic reconstruction, that no one was interested in them. No one promised to join the Union of Burma.
On 31st March 1946 Mr. Leech, the commissioner of Tunggyi, Shan State, invited the Karenni leaders to confer with the leaders of the Frontier Areas including the Shan sawbwas, Kachin Duwas, the leaders of Chin and the leaders from other nationalities, about joining the FAAB. Mr. Leech's invitation alerted the Karenni sawpyas to the significance of the status of Karenni State and also to the importance of the people's opinions. Therefore to obtain the opinions of Karenni people by the formation of ruling body for the whole Karenni State, the sawpyas called a special conference at the administrative office hall of Kandarawaddy in Loikaw, on 3rd April 1946. Sawpyas, Myosas, people's representatives and the chief of every village attended this conference from the whole Karenni State. At the conference, the concept of formation a council or a House of Representatives was widely discussed. Eventually, the conference voted by a majority to form the Karenni-Padaung Council. This council would consist of 16 members, four from each of the existing Karenni States (including Mongpai). The main tasks of the council were to draw up necessary laws and regulations for the whole state, to submit them to the council of the sawpyas for ratification, and to act as a body of advisers to the sawpyas. The council of sawpyas sent Karenni representatives to the meeting of Mr. Leech. The meeting started on 17th April 1946, in Taunggyi, Southern Shan States. At the meeting, Sao Shwe Taike, Sawbwa of Younghwe acted as chairman, which Sao San Tun, sawbwas of Mong Pong acted as secretary. The topic of the meeting was amalgamation with the Frontier Areas. The Karenni representatives told the meeting that they could not join the Frontier Areas, because the Karenni State is a separate and independent outside the British-Burma and by joining the Frontier Areas, it would lose its integrity of being an independence, and become the territory of British Frontier Areas or Burmese Frontier Areas. The Karenni representatives could give their ideas only on the current situation of FAAB, but did not give clear ideas on the future decision of FAAB. The representatives arrived back at Karenni State and gave report to the council of sawpyas.
The whole Karenni State was totally ruined by the war, but because of lack of finance, reconstruction efforts had little success. Hence, Karenni was in need of financial support. Meanwhile, an intense political campaign for independence was at it peak in British-Burma under the leadership of AFPFL. On the other hand, the British government was pressing Karenni State to join the Frontier Areas. On the other hand, the Burmese AFPFL also made every effort to persuade Karenni to agree to join their planned Union of Burma. Faced with competing demands from both sides, the Karenni sawpyas, leaders, and the people representatives realized that they would not be able to maintain their independence and get financial support without diplomatic relations with the outside world. Accordingly, an observer committee was set up to develop ties with the outside world. There were 12 members in the observer committee. That observer committee went to British-Burma on the 24th April 1946. The objects of this mission were as follow:
1. To attend and study the Karen National meeting sponsored by Johnson D. Po Min in Toungoo.
2. To meet the Governor of British-Burma and ask for help for Karenni State.
3. To observe and study the political situation in British-Burma and to develop ties to the outside world, either through the British government or with the help of the Burmese political parties.
The Karenni mission, after attending Johnson D. Po Min meeting on 26th April, then proceeded to Rangoon and stayed at the house of Saw Ba Oo Gyi, the Karen National leader. The next day, General Aung San leader of the Burma independence movement, came to meet them. He also induced them to join the planned Union of Burma. This was the second attempt of the Burmese AFPFL's leaders to induce Karenni leaders to join Burma. On 30th April the members of the Karenni mission and the leaders of the Burmese AFPFL's posed for a group photo. When this news reached Mr. Stevenson, the chief commissioner of Frontier Areas, he invited the leaders of Karenni mission to meet him at the Secretariat office. Mr. Stevenson told them that the Karenni mission should not come down to Rangoon without informing the British authorities beforehand. If they had informed them beforehand, the British government would have treated them as their guests as the Burmese AFPFL's leaders had. But since the Burmese leaders had received them as their guests, it would no longer be necessary for the British government to receive them. Realizing what the chief commissioner meant, the Karenni mission returned to their State, without meeting with governor. After the Karenni mission arrived back in Karenni State, the British Frontier superintendent sent a letter, No. 1116, dated 7th June 1946, to the Karenni sawpyas. In that letter it was mentioned that the Karenni leaders could go out side their territory only with the permission of British government. This confinement was the result of the acceptance of the supervisor of British crown especially on foreign affairs.
The sawpyas, leaders and people's representatives of Karenni State reviewed all the missions carried out by the observer committee. They found that the observer committee had not carried out their mission according to the rules and regulations lay down by the British government on Karenni State, creating a misunderstanding between the British government and the Karenni leaders. To redress the mistake U Be Tu Ree from northern Bawlake emerged as a political leader. He organized the abolition of the Karenni-Padaung Council, and in its place to set up the United Karenni Independence Council, forming a more centralized government of Karenni State. Nearly of all the Karenni leaders supported his policy. On 10th September 1946, U Bee Tu Ree called a conference in Loikaw. All the sawpyas, people representatives, and the sawpya's subordinates from the four Karenni States including Mongpai) attended the conference. In the conference, he stated that Karenni independence was only the theoretical. To get true independence, we must form a centralized administration as soon as possible. On 11th September 1946 all the chiefs from the four Karenni States agreed to form the United Karenni Independence Council (UKIC). U Be Tu Ree was elected as the president, Saw Thein was elected as vice-president, with saw Ba as Secretary and Saw Hla U as the treasurer. In additional, another 12 people were elected as the members of council. The members of the council took oath promising to preserve their ancestral domain and to do their utmost for the betterment of the Karenni State. On 12th September the council passed a 14-point resolution. The British government was greatly impressed by the establishment of the United Karenni Independence Council.
From 23rd December 1946, all the people in Karenni State would celebrate Karenni New Year Day invitations were sent up to the governor's executive members (ministers). The United Karenni Independence Council hoisted its new Karenni flag at the ceremony. Bo Gyoke Aung San arrived at Loikaw at 7 am on December 24th. That evening he gave speech to a crowd of 500 people at the Damayone, and this was the third time the AFPFL tried to persuade the Karenni to merge with the Union of Burma. Mr. Stevenson, Saw Ba Oo Gyi, U Pe Khin, Younghwe sawbwa, and Maing Pong sawbwa all arrived at Loikaw on the 24th December. On the following day, they met with the Karenni leaders and tried to persuade them to join the Frontier Areas.
Meanwhile the Shan sawbwas invited the Karenni sawpyas to send a Karenni representative to the conference, which was to be held at Ponglong, southern Shan States, on 12th February 1947. But the Karenni sawpyas refused to send a Karenni representative to the conference on the grounds that Karenni State was already separate from British-Burma. At the Ponglong conference the AFPFL's leaders succeeded in persuading the leaders of the Frontier Areas to accede their states or territories to Burma, and to form a Union of Burma. Thus agreement signed by leaders of the SFPFL and the Frontier Areas' came to be known as the Ponglong agreement. Karenni State was not a signatory to his agreement.
Although the United Karenni Independence Council had been formed, it could not solve the three remaining questions which were whether or not to accept the accession of Karenni State to Burma, whether or not to join the FAAB, and finally how to safe-guard the independence and sovereignty of Karenni State. At Ponglong conference the leaders of FAAB and the leaders of Burmese AFPFL merged to gather to form the union of Burma. That left only the issues of whether or not Karenni State should join Burma and how to safeguard the independence and sovereignty of Karenni State. To solve these questions needed the opinions of the Karenni people at large. Meanwhile an invitation from D.R Rees William M.P arrived at the headquarters of the united Karenni independence Council, inviting Karenni State to send a delegation to meet the inquiry commission of E.R Rees William M.P in May Myo on 14th April 1947. From this invitation the Karenni leaders understood that as the leaders of Frontier Areas had merged together with the Burmese AFPFL to form the union of Burma, only Karenni State was left to stand against the formation of Union of Burma, and hence the Inquiry Commission of D.Rees M.P would put pressure on the Karenni delegates to accept the accession of Karenni State to Burma. According before attending the Inquiry Commission of D.R Rees William M.P they had to solve the two questions. To solve these questions the United Karenni Independence Council UKIC called a conference on 6th April 1947, which was attended by sawpyas people's representatives, members of UKIC and the headman of every village in Karenni State. In that conference U Sein, the people's representative submitted a proposal to accept the accession of Karenni State to Burma. All those who attended to conference turned down the submission, and unanimously decided not to accept the accession of Karenni State to Burma. Then U Bee Tu Ree, the president of UKIC and also the authoritative Myosa of northern Bawlake put forward the suggestion to safe-guard the independence and sovereignty of Karenni State. All the attendants of the conference agreed to the suggestion. So a resolution was passed by the conference that the independence and sovereignty of Karenni State and the traditional rights of self-determination for its people should be safe-guard and if it had inevitably to join either Burma or British Frontier Areas, it would only be when the accession may occur without endangering the independence, sovereignty and traditional rights of self-determination of the Karenni people. The conference chose 10 people mostly members of UKIC as the delegates to meet the inquiry commission of D.R Rees William M.P in May Myo. Before they went to meet Inquiry Commission, they drafted 10-piont petition sending out the will and decisions of the Karenni people from all four states. This petition was signed by the 10 delegates and then submitted to the inquiry commission of D.R Rees William M.P.
Because of intimidation by the Burmese leaders and the invitation of D.R Rees William M.P the Karenni delegates had to go to May Myo. In meeting of the inquiry commission, they were questioned by the chairman of the meeting, the Hon'ble U Tin Tunt, Thakhin Nu, U Khin Maung Gale, the Hon'ble Sawbwa of Mongpown, and Sima Hsinwa Naung. Most of the questions were indirectly putting pressure on the Karenni delegates to accept the accession of Karenni State to Burma. The delegates had expected this, and had to answer the questions with great care. Then they submitted the 10-point petition to the chairman, and returned to Karenni State. This was a join effort by D.R Rees William M.P, the AFPFL leaders and the leaders of the Frontier Areas, to force Karenni to join Burma. But they could not get any promise from the delegates to join. At the inquiry commission, the Karenni delegates had promised to send representatives to the constituent Assembly of the Union of Burma, which was to open in the first of June 1947. That was against Karenni public opinion. So when the delegates arrived back at Karenni State the public criticized them. But they were satisfied that they had submitted the 10-point petition to the Inquiry Commission, because they believed that the Burmese leaders would not accept the petition, giving them a reason not to join the planned union of Burma. However, the Burmese leaders had already decided to annex Karenni State by whatever means they could. This was how the Karenni sawpyas, leaders, and people tried to maintain the independence of Karenni State. Karenni people had elected the United Karenni Independence Council UKIC, which was never recognized by the Burmese AFPFL leaders. At that time, all the sawpyas of Karenni State were quite young, and so the Burmese leaders thought it would be easier to put pressure on these young sawpyas. So when they needed to contact with Karenni State, they contacted the council of sawpyas as before - not the UKIC.
In April 1947 an election for the members of the constituent assembly was held in British-Burma. All together there were 255 seats to be filled. Although the population of the Frontier Areas accounted for 1-3 of total population, 210 seats were reserved for the Burma proper including 24 seats for Karens and 4 seats for Anglo-Burmans. Only 45 seats were reserved for the Frontier Areas. The Burmese AFPFL claimed that they won 248 seats. As Karenni State had refused to join the union of Burma, Karenni leaders and people paid no attention to that election. No election was held in Karenni State and if the Burmese AFPFL reserved the seats for Karenni State in their constituent Assembly, it must be counted as one of the many plans to annex Karenni State. The AFPFL leaders invited the Karenni sawpyas to send Karenni representatives to the first constituent Assembly, which met on 9th June 1947. The Karenni sawpyas refused to send their representatives. In the meantime, inquiry commission led by a Mr. Bottomly arrived in Burma. This commission invited the Karenni sawpyas and United Karenni Independence Council to a meeting in Rangoon. The sawpyas and UKIC dispatched U Be Tu Ree and Saw Thein as their fully authorized representatives to Rangoon, in order to meet Mr. Bottomly's commission, they also wanted to ask advise from the governor of British-Burma on how to safeguard the independence and separate identity of Karenni State. If possible they also planned to attend the Burmese constituent Assembly (not as representatives of Karenni State, but only as foreign observers), to protest by any possible way if the Burmese constituent assembly put Karenni State in Burma's constitution. When those two delegates arrived in Rangoon, they informed general Aung San by letter, when the general and Saw Naung Tinbwa were discussing in the room of the Secretariat (in which the was assassinated later) before a meeting of a Parliamentary Board. In the letter they stated that as an independent State, the Karenni State couldn't attend the constituent Assembly held in British-Burma as constituent members, but only as foreign observers. The leaders explained that they were going to meet with the British government to discuss the independence of Karenni State. Finally, the letter stated that Karenni State could form an alliance with Burma only when it becomes independence. They had to send this letter because the Karenni delegates had promised to send Karenni representatives to the constituent assembly when they met with the inquiry commission of D.R Rees William MP in May Myo. On 20th June 1947 the two delegates went to meet with the governor of British-Burma to discuss the problem concerning the independence and sovereignty of Karenni State. The governor told them that as Burma was not yet independent, the constituent assembly was just drawing up a constitution for Burma, which would get its independence later. This constitution had to be submitted to the British parliament for approval. The constitution could be ratified only when the British government given its approval. Since Karenni was an independent and sovereign state, the British government, without the consent of the Karenni State government could do nothing. Because of the expression of the governor of British -Burma about the status of Burma and the real independence and sovereignty of Karenni State, the two delegates believed that even if the constituent assembly included Karenni State in the new Burmese constitution, it would be cancelled by the British parliament when it was submitted for a approval. Thus, they returned to Karenni State without attending the constituent assembly. When they arrived back in Karenni State, the encouraged by the UKIC, they issued a declaration explaining the comment of governor of British-Burma on the status of Burma and Karenni State on and that Karenni State was not involved with the recent constituent assembly in Burma. On 27th June 1947, when the constituent assembly discussed the Frontier Areas, Karenni State was left out on the discussion as General Aung San said that Karenni representatives were absent from the constituent assembly. At the subcommittee meeting in July Karenni representatives were still absent and Karenni State was once again left out off in the discussion.
After the assassination of General Aung San on July 19, 1947, U Nu became the president of the Burmese AFPFL. U Nu encouraged the constituent assembly to include Karenni State in the constitution for Burma, although there were still no Karenni representatives in the constituent assembly. Thus U Nu acted without the consent of the Karenni government and people. The articles of Burma's new constitution which included Karenni State were agreed in the constituent assembly held on August 16, 1947, and were ratified by the constituent assembly which was held on 18th September 1947.
During that time Thaik Bahan, the chief of Mounpai state who was attending the constituent assembly as the representative of Moungpai state was not satisfied with the Article, section (180) (1) which stated that Karenni State would be a special area of the creation new Karen State. He came to Karenni State and informed the Karenni sawpyas and leaders that the constituent assembly of Burma had included Karenni State in its new constitution for Burma. When the Karenni people heard their state had been drawn into Burma proper by the Burma constitution, they called on the sawpyas and leaders of Karenni State to demand that the Burmese leaders revise their constitution and annul all the clauses, sentences and words concerning Karenni State as soon as possible. Therefore the sawpyas and United Karenni Independence Council (Karenni Government) held a meeting at the residence of U A Mya Lay, and chose A Mya Lay, U Sein, Saw Wonna, and Thaik Than Tin as a delegation. The sawpyas and Karenni government gave this delegation a mandate to demand the constituent assembly revise their constitution and annuls all the clauses, sentences and words concerning the Karenni State. This delegation went to Rangoon on 14th September 1947, and arrived at Rangoon 17th September. When this delegation of four men arrived at Rangoon they ignored the responsibilities entrusted to them by the Karenni sawpyas and leaders and secretly me with U Nu and other AFPFL leaders. They accepted bribes from the AFPFL leaders and agreed to amalgamate Karenni State with Burma. They objected only to section (180(1) in the constitution. Then the AFPFL's leaders recognized saw Wonna and U Sein as the representatives of Karenni State and allowed them to attend the constituent assembly on 19th September 1947. So AFPFL's leaders obtained representatives from Karenni State in third session of their constituent assembly by bribing. When the news reached Karenni State, the sawpyas, leaders and people of Karenni State were extremely angry. They accused the four of being pro-Burmese traitors and immediately declared that all the mandates and responsibilities given to them were withdrawn.
After the constituent assembly, four were send back to Karenni State by U Nu and AFPFL leaders to create social unrest. As Karenni policemen chased them, they escaped and went back to U Nu in December. After the Burma independence, they were again sent back to Karenni State by Prime Minister U Nu to create religious unrest especially between Baptist Christian and Roman Catholics. Again the Karenni government was aware of their agitation and tried to arrest them. The Karenni government also objected to U Nu's government for helping those four men. The four went back to U Nu at the end of February and asked him to provide armed forces for their safety. So in spite of the official protest of the Karenni government, U Nu sent a unit of military police together with arms and military instruction to the border of Karenni State. With the help of the Burmese armed forces, the four traitors set put a rival government and attempted to recruit soldiers within Karenni State. After independence, the Burmese government placed the armed forces including the military police under the defense ministry of the Burmese government. Ignoring the official protest of the Karenni government, Prime Minister U Nu sent a company of military police from 13 UMP into Karenni State. One platoon was stationed at the Htisakha, border gate between southern Shan State and Karenni. Another platoon was stationed at Mawchi, for the security of Mawchi mine. When the Burmese leaders realized that their peaceful efforts to absorb the Karenni State were fruitless, they decided to use military invasion to annex the Karenni State. Prime minister U Nu ordered the four pro-Burmese traitors who were stationed in Moungpai with their Burmese forces and local recruits to invade Karenni State. On the dawn of 9th August 1948 this combined force invaded Karenni State and attacked and captured Mya Lè village – the home of U Be Tu Ree, the president of UKIC, and the village where the headquarters of the Karenni National Organization KNO had been set up. On that every day, the Karenni people took up arms and started to fight against the Burmese invading troops. Thus the Karenni people recognize that date as Karenni National Resistance Day. These events reveal how Karenni leaders and people resisted pressure from the Burmese leaders to join the union of Burma. This episode was different from the testimony of Agga Maha Thirisithu U Myint Thein, Minister of Chief Justice of the union (retired). The testimony of U Myint Thein stated: On December 27, 1947 the Prime Minister U Nu called me on the phone to asked me to report to him at his office. When I arrived, I saw U Chan Htun was already there. Besides, I saw Sao Wonna, son of Kantarawaddi sawpya (Sao Wonna was not Maha Daiween's son) and another one called U Sein. Then U Nu entered the office and asked me "U Myint Thein do you know them?" I answered " I have never met U Sein but I know Sao Wonna as the son of Kantarawaddi sawpya". U Nu continued " Sao Wonna and U Sein, they came and said they wanted the three Karenni States to join Burma. On this matter, U Myint Thein and U Chan Htun, What is your opinion?" and so forth. In fact, however, Sao Wonna and U Sein who had been recognized as the representatives of Karenni State and attended the third session of constituent assembly since 19th September 1947, had already agreed to accede Karenni State. This was U Nu's tried to cover the inducement by Burmese leaders, trying to make its appeal that the Karenni leaders themselves came and asked to join Burma. In this way, the Burmese leaders had always played dirty trick on Karenni leaders and people in order to cheat the world.
The conditions of Karenni State and the plight of Karenni people after the Karenni National Resistance Day
The invading Burmese troops and the militia of the pro-Burmese traitors invaded Karenni State and attacked Mya Lè village in August 1948. Although U Be Tu Ree, the president of United Karenni Independence Council UKIC with the Karenni police and the people of Mya Lè village resisted with all their might, the invading Burmese troops got the upper hand and they had to retreat to Pruso. When they arrived at Pruso they met with the sawpya of Kyenphogyi and with the rest of the members of UKIC. They formed the Karenni Resistance government under the political guidance of the Karenni National Organization KNO, in order to maintain the independence and sovereignty of Karenni State. To resist the invading Burmese troops throughout Karenni State by every possible mean and to organize the whole Karenni people to participate in the Resistance movement, they formed the Karenni National Resistance Movement. On 9th August, the invading Burmese troops captured three places in Karenni State. The invading Burmese troops captured Mya Lè and surrounding villages. The capital Loikaw was taken by the Burmese military police that had been stationed at Htisakha and Loikaw. Finally, Mawchi was captured by the Burmese military police stationed there. Stating with that attack on August 9, 1948, the Karenni people took up arms and fought against the invading Burmese troops. Consequently, the Karenni people recognized 9th August as the Karenni National Resistance Day, and still celebrate the anniversary of the resistant day every year. Initially, the Karenni resistance was not centrally organized, and the Burmese troops gained the upper hand. The Burmese troops captured U Be Tu Ree, the president of UKIC at Pruso, and took him to Loikaw. Seeing the weakness of Karenni people, the Karenni Resistance government consolidated the various Karenni forces into Karenni Army on 17th August and that 17th August 1948 was recognized as Karenni Arm's Day. After the consolidation, the Karenni Resistance army recaptured Mawchi, Phasaung, Bawlake and Namphè. When they saw their troops had been defeated the officers of the invading Burmese troops and Karenni militia, took U Be Tu Ree out of the jail, put him in a sack, dragged him by motorcar and then threw him into the Beluchaung river, on 8th September 1948. Because of this unforgettable cruelty, Karenni people recognized 8th September as Martyr's Day.
At that time the Burmese government's 13 U.M.P military police unit stationed at Loi Moi in eastern Shan States was mainly comprised of the Karenni nationalities. When they heard about the annexation of Karenni State by the Burmese government, they rebelled against the Burmese. Then under the leadership of Captain Hla Win, they came back to Karenni State with arms and ammunitions. Their total strength was three companies. They arrive in Karenni State at the end of September. When they arrived at Htisakha, they were joined by some soldiers of the company under the command of Captain Kyit Lwo of the same 13 UMP, which had been sent to invade Karenni State by the Burmese government. The returning troops captured Loikaw and after driving out the invading Burmese troops and the militia of the pro-Burmese traitors, they joined forces with the Karenni Resistance government. This was the first attempt by the Burmese government to invade and annex Karenni State. The Burmese government helped their retreating troops to settle at Kalaw, in the southern Shan States, where they prepared for another invasion. The Burmese government also set up a puppet government and recognized it as the government of Karenni State. The pro-Burmese traitors left their troops behind at Kalaw and went to stay in Rangoon. During that time, the Burmese government could not send reinforcements for a second invasion immediately because the civil was inside Burmese had intensified.
Foreseeing the Burmese government might invade again the Karenni Resistance government increased its armed forces. Within a month they increased their armed forces to over 2,000. They were able to increase their armed forces very quickly, because most Karenni men had fought against the Japanese during the Second World War. Then Karenni Resistance government decided to contact all the opposition parties and movement which were fighting against the Burmese government. Therefore, as request of the Karen Youth Organization, KYO, the Karenni Resistance government sent its armed forces to Toungoo in November 1948, as reinforcements for the Karen National Defense Organization, KNDO which was trying to capture Taungoo. When the Burmese government learned that the Karenni Resistance government was sending its troops to Taungoo, they sent military police, the 2nd Chin regiment, and the armed militia of the pro-Burmese traitors into Karenni State for a second time in December 1948. They attacked Loikaw and again captured it. The remaining Karenni troops retreated to south and to Phasaung, in Moungpai State. After capturing Loikaw, the invading Burmese troops, especially the second Chin regiment proceeded to Phasaung village where the Karenni troops were stationed. But before they could reach Pha Hlaing village, they were surrounded by the Karenni troops in a paddy field and were completely over-ran. The Karenni troops captured all 36 Burmese troops alive, and sent them to the headquarters of the Karenni Resistance government in southern Karenni State. As companies of their fellow troops had been annihilated the rest of the Burmese troops dared not march to the south, but remained stationed at the old Nywedaung village. When the Karenni troops in Taungoo heard about this second Burmese invasion, they combined with the Karen National Defense Organization KNDO and captured Toungoo on 26th January 1949, and then returned to Karenni State with one company of Karen Rifles as reinforcement. When the Karenni troops from Toungoo arrived back in Karenni State, the invading Burmese troops continued to resist from their base at old Ngwedaung and Loikaw. Assistedly, the company of Karen Rifles, the Karenni troops drove the invading Burmese troops out of Karenni State and recaptured the whole Karenni State at the middle of March.
At that time, varied ethnic and class movements such as Karen National Defense Organization (KNDO), Mon National Defense Organization (MNDO), People Volunteer Organization (PVO), Red Flag Communist Party (RCP), White Flag Communist Party etc were fighting against the AFPFL's government. A Kachin Regiment under the command of Naw Seng, which had also rebelled against the AFPFL government, arrived in Karenni State in the beginning of August 1949. Then combined forces of Kachin regiment, KNDO and Karenni troops marched into southern Shan State and captured Taunggyi, the capital of Shan State, on 13th August 1949. The capture of Taunggyi was not to colonize, exploit and enslave Shan people as the Burmese AFPFL's government did. The main intention of the combined forced was to liberate the people of Shan State from the enslavement of the AFPFL government. Thus, with the help of the combined forces, a Pa-o revolution, under the leadership of the Pa-o National Iiberation Organization was set up in southern Shan State by Pa-o people, to fight against the Burmese AFPFL government. Meanwhile the AFPFL government received military aid, including various kings of weapons, ammunitions and money from India and
Western countries, enabling it to expand its armies. Then, with the newly expanded armies it could re-capture town after town and district after district from the hands of the ethnic and class movements. The AFPFL troops recaptured Taunggyi on 23rd November 1949 from the hands of combined forces (including Pa-o National Troops). Thus in January 1950, the AFPFL government launched its third military invasion of Karenni State. Although the Karenni Resistance Army fought hard, the Burmese troops had superior arms and abundance of ammunitions, and so gradually the Burmese invading forces gained the upper hand. The Karenni troops were compelled to retreat bit by bit on 12th January 1950 the invading Burmese troops attacked Loikaw and captured it. However, the troops of Karenni Resistance government resisted fiercely. Therefore, although the Burmese AFPFL government used a full brigade of its troops in invading the Karenni State its troops could not break through the defense-lines of the Karenni forces, and the southern part of Karenni State remained in the hands of the Karenni Resistance government. The invading Burmese troops set fire to many villages, ruthlessly tortured and killed hundreds of the local population and raped many women. These were unforgivable crimes and insults done by the Burmese government against the innocent people of Karenni State. Besides, to confirm the Karenni State as a part of the so called union of Burma, the AFPFL government abolished the section 180 (1)A from its constitution, and confirmed the puppet Karenni State government which was set up by the pro-Burmese traitors. In order to mislead the world, the Burmese government changed the name of Karenni State to Kayah State on 5th October 1951. The name of the puppet government, which comprised of pro-Burmese traitors was also changed from the Karenni State government to Kayah State government. This was an attempt of the Burmese government to eradicate the name of Karenni State (which had been known to the world as, separate, independent sovereign Karenni State since ancient times) from the world's history.
As the southern part of Karenni State still remained in the hands of the Karenni Resistance government, the Burmese government as a colonial government could not extract mineral resources from Mawchi Mine. Thus, in the beginning of November 1953, the Burmese government sent two brigades of its army, under the command of Brigadier Kyaw Zaw to launch an offensive against the Karenni Resistance government. The invading Burmese troops captured Mawchi Town from the Karenni Resistance government on 22nd November 1953. Although the Burmese government captured all the key towns in the Karenni State, the Karenni Resistance government never knelt down before them. The Karenni resistance government moved to other villages and into rural areas, from where it has continued to organize the to fight against successive Burmese governments. The Burmese government has occupied parts of Karenni State, but it has not dominated the minds of Karenni people. With up to date weapons and abundant ammunitions and manpower, they have crushed the independence and sovereignty of Karenni State, but they have not eradicated the Karenni people's desire for self-determination and a separate Karenni State. Those seeds will be planted in the minds of each successive generation until the Karenni State can regain its independence, sovereignty and self-determination. This history shows the AFPFL government arranged a clandestine invasion of Karenni State in order to annex it despite the resistance of the Karenni leaders and people without knowledge of international community. The AFPFL government could annex Karenni State successfully, because the Burmese leaders bribed some Karenni leaders into becoming pro-Burmese traitors. As for the pro-Burmese traitors and the leaders of Shan, Kachin, Chin etc who sided with the Burmese leaders, their next generation (ethnic) accused them of selling their people and territories to the Burmese. To day, they themselves are suffering under the Human Rights violations of the SLORC and SPDC. On the other side, the Burmese leaders were satisfied, because they induced the leaders of the ethnic people to accede their territories to the union of Burma. Yet to day, they themselves are suffering under the Human Rights violation of the SLORC and SPDC. All the agreements, which were made between the Burmese leaders and ethnic leaders, were broken or repudiated by successive Burmese military regimes. The Burman and non-Burman peoples must find a way and achieve reconciliation.
The plight of Karenni people during the fifty years of Karenni National Resistance Movement
Karenni National Resistance Movement is not an ethnic movement. The whole people of Karenni State formed it on 9th August 1948 when the Burmese AFPFL government began its invasion of Karenni State. Its purpose was to maintain the independence, sovereignty and self-determination of Karenni State and its people. The Karenni national resistance movement isn't a movement of separatists, because Karenni State was never a part of Burma proper. When Burma became a colony of Great Britain, Karenni State remained a separate, independent state outside of the British-India and British-Burma. After Burma got its independence from Britain, it was the Burmese AFPFL government, which invaded and annexed Karenni State and made Karenni State a colony of Burma. Karenni people have the right to retain independence, sovereignty, and self-determination and right to fight against any invader into Karenni State. As a result, the Karenni people set up a movement on August 9th 1948, the day when the Burmese AFPFL government started its invasion. Since then, the Karenni national resistance movement has fought against successive Burmese government, which have clandestinely colonized Karenni State. This movement must be counted as a national liberation movement. It was the Burmese AFPFL government, which started the war between successive government of Burma and the Karenni national resistance movement without the awareness of the international community. The year 1998 was the 50th anniversary day of Karenni national resistance movement. This means that the war between successive Burmese governments and the Karenni national resistance movement has lasted 50 years. During this time, hundreds of Karenni villages have been burned down and destroyed, thousands of Karenni citizens have been killed, and thousands acres of Karenni farmlands have been confiscated without the awareness of the international community. The successive Burmese governments have used summary and arbitrary executions, forced relocations, forced labor, and rapes against the Karenni people. The Burmese government constructed a hydroelectric power station in Karenni State with the war compensation from Japan, with little benefit to Karenni people. All the electricity is use to supply towns in Burma including Rangoon and Mandalay. For the security of the hydroelectric power station, the Burmese government has removed all the villages in the vicinity of the station and has also planted more than ten thousand landmines, which affect on the Karenni people and domestic animals. Successive Burmese government have come and extracted mineral resources, cut down teak and other hard woods for use in Burma. The resulting deforestation has caused regular draught in Karenni State. The deeds of successive Burmese governments were similar to the colonialists. To acquire up-to-date political guidelines and political leadership, the Karenni Resistant government and Karenni National Resistance Movement established the Karenni National Progressive Party, KNPP on 2nd July 1957. The party laid down the following guidelines: -
1. To encourage and support the emergence of genuine democracy in the whole of Burma.
2. To ally with the democratic movement and ethnic movements which are fighting against the undemocratic government of Burma.
3. The issue of Karenni State must be settled according to the democratic principle.
In consequence, the Karenni National Resistance movement has struggled both to retain the independence of Karenni State, and also to protect the democratic rights of Karenni people. The military dictator, Ne Win seized the power in Burma in 1962. The military regime violated all the democratic rights of Karenni people. The properties of Karenni people were confiscated. Even currency notes were confiscated. So the Karenni people have suffered continuously hardship under the Burmese military regime. The SLORC regime sent 30 regiments to Karenni State in order to suppress the KNPP and the Karenni National Resistance Movement, KNRM. This military regime committed arbitrary shooting and killing, forced relocation and population displacement, forced portering, summery and arbitrary executions, torture, rape and other abuses against women, looting and plundering, extortion and forced taxation upon Karenni people. These cruel deeds caused over 50 thousand of Karenni population to became internal displaced persons, IDP, which another 20 thousands have fled to the refugee camps in Thailand. A further 10 thousands have fled to the neighboring Shan State and Karen State. Besides, these human rights abuses, the SLORC/SPDC committed genocide upon Karenni people.
Although the Karenni National Resistance Movement has attained its 50 anniversary, only a few NGO, members of the international community and younger generation were aware of the plight of the Karenni people. As a result of the KNPP has published the true account of the history of Karenni State and the sufferings of the Karenni people.