The Karen Revolution in Burma: Diverse Voices, Uncertain Ends


Ardeth Maung Thawnghmung

Policy Studies, No. 45


Washington, D.C.: East-West Center; Singapore: ISEAS Publishing

Available From: ISEAS Publishing;
Publication Date: 2008
ISBN: 978-981-230-804-7
Binding: paper
Pages: 81


In Asia, print and electronic versions of this publication may be purchased from ISEAS Publishing; outside Asia, hardcopies of this publication may be purchased from

This study analyzes the various types and stages of conflict that have been experienced by diverse groups and generations of Karen over the six decades of armed conflict between the Karen National Union (KNU) and successive Burmese governments. Instead of focusing on those who are internally displaced, those in the refugee camps on the Thai-Burma border or living abroad, or those in the KNU, it places particular emphasis on the "other" Karen, or the majority segment of the Karen population living inside Burma, a population that has hitherto received little scholarly and journalistic attention. It also assesses the Karen People's varied attitudes toward a number of political organizations that claim to represent their interests, toward successive Burmese military regimes, and toward the political issues that led to the original divide between the "accommodators" and "rebels." This study argues that the lifestyles and strategies that the Karens have pursued are diverse and not confined to armed resistance. Acknowledging these multiple voices will not only shed light upon the many positive features of ethnic interactions, including harmonious communal relationships and significant attempts to promote peace and stability by encouraging "normal" activities and routines in both peaceful and war-torn areas; it will also help to identify policy recommendations for future ceasefire negotiations and a possible long-term political settlement within the context of a militarized Burma.

This is the forty-fifth publication in The East-West Center Policy Studies, a peer-reviewed series that presents policy relevant analysis of key Asia Pacific issues.

About the Author
Ardeth Maung Thawnghmung is assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell.