December 2006
Photos © Kirran Shah 2006

In January 1949, Burma Army trucks under the control of General Ne Win, who later became the nation's dictator, drove through Karen neighborhoods north of Rangoon and announced that Karen women would be raped and Karen children killed. Thus formally began the campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Karen people of Burma, in response to which the Karen revolution was initiated. Fifty eight years later, it is the longest running resistance movement in the world.

The Karen are not yet free of Burma Army ethnic cleansing, which in the last two decades has amounted to a long-term campaign of genocide. In Burma Army offensives launched this year, 27,000 Karen villagers in Northern Karen State have had to flee for their lives.

The soldiers in these photos have been fighting for a very long time. The founding principle of the Karen revolutionary movement is never to surrender. To do so would be to expose their people to outright slaughter.

It is a difficult fight. The Karen need help from the international community, including equipment and supplies, and an international peacekeeping force. They also need the people in Burma's towns and cities to rise up against the SPDC.