After realizing that being a freedom fighter with the Karen National Union may not be the best way to bring peace to his country, a Burmese man explores the many facets of revolutionary action.
I was born in a very terrible situation in a civil war zone in Burma. My father was a revolutionary soldier of the Karen National Union (rebel) and fought against the Burmese military regime.
My mom always took care of our family and our daily life was filled with fear, suffering and pain. When I reached the age of ten, my father was killed on the battlefield and it was the darkest day for our family.
My mom didn’t want her children to join the revolutionary group. Losing her beloved husband in fighting was a bitter experience and very painful, so she didn’t want to lose her son too. In those days, most of the Karen people thought that to be a revolutionary you have to be a soldier, you have to hold arms and fight for freedom and self-determination. They thought there were no ways to get liberation without armed struggle.
At that time, I also thought that armed struggle was the only way to get freedom. I wanted revenge against the Burmese soldiers. My father was killed, my uncle was killed, my cousin was killed, my friends were killed and my people were killed, tortured, abused, and raped by the civil war. I have learned from the elders that “without sacrificing your blood, you won’t be freed from slavery.” Fighting means for me protecting my family, my village, my territory and my people. When I was fourteen years old, I accompanied my uncle to the battlefield to see war, and saw dead bodies, injuries, pain and suffering. The experience motivated me to become a freedom fighter.
When I was old enough, I joined the Karen revolutionary group, but my mom didn’t want me to join. She just wanted me to finish my high school in the refugee camp. My mom gave up since she couldn’t stop me and let me join. She just prayed for me to be saved from all forms of danger. I served as a freedom fighter for two years in the jungle, living in poor conditions without good food or shelter, and working hard. Some nights I had bad dreams. But these difficulties didn’t get me down. After our territory was occupied by the Burmese army, I came back to the refugee camp and finished my high school.
Changing But Still A Revolutionary Man
When I finished grade ten in Tham Hin refugee camp, I met with my old friend who worked in Bangkok and he asked me to come with him to Bangkok for a two-month training course. I was very happy to get out of the camp, and I thought it would be a great opportunity for me even though I had no idea what kind of training it would be.
It was community organizing training. We learned thinking skills, structural analysis and community organizing skills. This training course gave me many new ideas. I have learned that armed struggle is not the only way to gain our rights, freedom and justice. We read about the life history of Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, and these stories gave us a lot of new ideas. We did not learn about these kinds of stories when we were in school. Such ideas were not popular then.
My life has changed now. I am changing and am not what I was before, but I still consider myself revolutionary. I want a big change in my community. I want my people to gain freedom, self-determination and justice, respect for our human rights and life security. Armed struggle is not the only solution and I am ashamed for seeking revenge. I don’t mean that I hate armed struggle, for I understand that fighting is to protect our families, our children and our people and our territory. The most important thing is to have revolutionary thinking skills, to understand the root cause of the conflict and to build up a new vision for justice and a peaceful society.
Two Months Ago My Mom Left For The USA
She is worrying for my future. Many people said that Internally Displaced People (IDP) and refugees have no future. As I am her son, she does not want me getting old without life insurance and she said, “Come to America and you will become an American citizen, you will earn money and you can go back to Burma and start your work again. You are staying in Thailand without any legal travel documents, and Thai police can arrest you anytime, and it will be difficult for your future. I worry for you so much.”
I understand my mom, and I know she loves me very much. I just want to say, “Mom don’t worry for me.” American citizenship can’t give me my life insurance. I have faith in God, and He is the only one who can give me life insurance. I don’t know what will happen tomorrow, but now I have to work here and serve my people and build my dream of providing for them a certain future.
My future is not to have properties nor to live a life of luxury. My future is to fight against any forms of injustice or oppression, to live in harmony with our environment and build up a peaceful society.
I want to set up “Appropriate Education” for my people and give them the seed of thinking. I went to India and studied at the School of Peace, and stayed in Visthar campus where I got a lot of ideas. In my campus (my dream), I will have a school and training center filled with trees, flowers and vegetables. Trees, flowers and vegetable that will give us medicine, food, fresh air and peace of mind.
I want to bring IDP children and children of war zones to my campus to study. I have no doubt that the true change in the future is education, but there are many types of education. I want the next generation to have the education of life, peace, equality, art, music, tradition, culture and the ways to overcome injustice and oppression and reflect on their life. Education that helps our society to be peaceful, to change yourself, to plant peace in your heart and share your peace with others and fight against any kind of oppression and injustice.