KNU to Attend Karen New Year's Celebrations in Rangoon

By Zarni Mann 8 January 2013

RANGOON — For the first time in six decades, representatives of the Karen National Union (KNU) will attend Karen New Year’s celebrations in Rangoon, according to a senior member of the ethnic armed group.

“Padoh Saw Thamein Tun and I will attend the ceremony as official representatives of the KNU,” said Mahn Nyein Maung, an executive member of the KNU’s central committee who was part of a delegation that has just concluded a visit to Naypyidaw at the invitation of President Thein Sein.

While the rest of the delegation has returned to the Thai-Burmese border, the two representatives have stayed behind to attend the event, which will be held in Burma’s largest city on Jan. 12.

Although the attendance of the KNU representatives has been confirmed, it remains unclear if they will give a speech, as they have not been officially invited by the event’s organizing committee as guests of honor.

Mahn Shwe Pyi Aye, a spokesperson for the organizing committee, said, however, that members of the KNU are more than welcome to take part in the celebrations, even though the group is still technically regarded as an illegal organization.

Also uncertain is whether a display of photographs of Karen revolutionary leaders, including Saw Ba U Gyi, founder and first president of the KNU, will be allowed at the ceremony, which will be held in Rangoon for the 75th time this year.

“Although the KNU is engaging in peace talks with the government, we are still not sure if it’s all right to exhibit these photos and show this history,” said Mahn Shwe Pyi Aye.