Sunday, February 17, 2008

Pado Mahn Sha assassinated in Thailand

Pado Mahn Sha, the secretary general of the Karen National Union (KNU)* was assassinated at his home in Mae Sot by two unknown gunmen last week. "Mahn Sha was a Buddhist, one of the few to hold high rank among the mainly Christian KNU leadership," writes Shane Abrahams.

Abrahams is a blogger based in the border town of Mae Sot who has met Pado Mahn Sha. In a recent blog post he reflects on the life of the Karen leader:

Mahn Sha had a reputation within the democracy movement as a forward thinking leader. He was prepared to put aside the interests of the Karen for the good of the country as a whole.

I first met Mahn Sha a few years ago, and at the time he spoke of the need for the junta to begin meaningful dialogue with the country’s ethnic minorities and the opposition National League for Democracy.

He also stressed the need for unity among the opposition. He said: “Victory depends on our strength, both political strength and military strength and our organization.” “It depends on our alliance with other ethnic minorities and with the democratic movement.”

He was prepared to put aside the interests of the Karen for the good of the country as a whole. For the sake of all the people of Burma and its many ethnic groups, let us hope this ideal carries forth.
Karen National Union: Members of the Karen ethnic group live mainly in Karen State, a state of Burma that stretches along the border with Thailand. During World War II, they were allied with the British against the Japanese (they had won control over most of Burma). Sadly, in the post-independence Burma, the Karen have become a divided and oppressed people. Whereas the mainly Christian KNU is at war with the Myanmar regime, a breakaway Buddhist Karen group, the DKBA (Democratic Karen Buddhist Army) is allied with Myanmar and a sworn enemy of the KNU. Today, along the border in Thailand, UN refugee camps overflow with Karen refugees fleeing Myanmar soldiers who have burn their villages and rice fields.

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