Statue of Slain KNU Leader to be Unveiled in Irrawaddy Delta

By Saw Yan Naing 9 February 2017

CHIANG MAI, Thailand — Children and relatives of Padoh Mahn Sha Lah Phan, the late leader of the Karen National Union (KNU), will unveil a memorial statue of their father in his hometown in the Irrawaddy Delta on Tuesday.

The initiative to commemorate Padoh Mahn Sha Lah Phan comes on the ninth anniversary of his assassination, which took place in the Thai border town Mae Sot on Feb. 14, 2008. The statue will be erected in Taw Kyaung village in Pantanaw Township, Irrawaddy Division.

As a KNU leader, Padoh Mahn Sha Lah Phan was well-respected not only by his Karen people, but also by Burmese political activists for his leadership and broad-mindedness in the democracy movement. He was an outspoken leader while serving as the KNU general secretary in exile.

He was murdered by two gunmen on the afternoon of Feb. 14, 2008 at his home in Mae Sot. After his assassination, his four children established the memorial Phan Foundation, which gives an award every year to a young Karen leader along with a US$2,000 cash prize.

Padoh Mahn Sha’s children believe their father “was assassinated by agents of the Burmese military regime,” according to a statement the Phan Foundation released on Wednesday.

Although nine years have passed since the assassination, the perpetrators have never been brought to justice.

Saw Say Say Phan, the oldest and adopted son of Mahn Sha Lah Phan, was with his father when the assassination happened. He told The Irrawaddy that the purpose of erecting a statue is to recognize his father’s leadership and his work in the democracy struggle.

“He was a great father for his children. He served his people. He also did his best in contributing to the [KNU] organization. We want to recognize his work, so we are erecting this statue in his birthplace,” said Saw Say Say Phan.

The statue of Mahn Sha Lah Phan is already completed, and his relatives will hold a dedication ceremony on Feb. 14 in Taw Kyaung village.

Four of Mahn Sha Lah Phan’s children still live in exile and will not be able to attend the unveiling. Two daughters, Nant Zoya Phan and Nant Bwa Bwa Phan, live in England. His son Slone Phan lives in Canada, and his adopted son lives in Thailand.

All of the children are active in campaigning for human rights, the democracy movement, and the Karen cause. His daughter Nant Zoya Phan, who is a prominent democracy activist, also serves as a campaign manager at Burma Campaign UK, a London-based NGO.

Padoh Mahn Sha Lah Phan dedicated his life to the struggle for human rights, democracy, and self-determination for the Karen people and for all the people of Burma. He was committed to working with all ethnicities and religions. He played a key role in uniting opposition to the former military regime.