On July 10th the Karen National Flag was hoisted side by side with the Canadian Flag in the city of Orillia, Ontario. The event organized by Project Umbrella Burma founded by Cathy and David Downhams was attended by Karen communities from London, Woodstock and Hamilton. Speeches were also delivered by the Mayor of Orillia and Members of Parliament from the Parliamentary Friends of Burma.
It is learnt that the Karen Flag will be flying for 10 days from July 10 to July 20 at the Opera House of Orillia to commemorate the history and traditions of the Karen people who are the victims of ethnic cleansing in Burma.
Below is the speech delivered by Mahn Kyaw Swe, President of Karen Canadian Community at the event;
Good morning your honorable guests, Karen friends, and Canadian supporters!
First of all I would like to say thank you to Cathy and David from Project umbrella Burma for doing this public awareness event for the Karen people who are the victims of ethnic cleansing in Burma.
Today, we celebrate the Karen flag raising ceremony of Honor. A day set aside to commemorate the history and traditions of the Karen people of Burma. We can look back in our history at over 73 years. One day in 1936, during the British Rule of Burma, the Karen Central Organization decided to demand Karen National day, Karen National Anthem and Karen National flag from the Burmese government led by Dr. Ba Maw. In order to achieve those demand a group of Karen members and the House of Representatives requested to local Karens to design Karen national flag. Initially, 100 flags were chosen from all different regions of Burma. Then 12 flags were selected out of 100, then 3 of them were chosen. Finally, they picked the Karen National Flag we have been using until today. The Karen flag includes a drum, a rising sun with 9 rays and the colors of white, red and blue.
The red represents bravery, and the white represents simple life of Karen people and the blue represents loyalty to their ruler or the government. The rising sun represents social development of Karen people and 9 rays represent 9 rivers, those were used when Karen people came from Mongolia to the Burma. The drum is a symbol of Karen culture and tradition.
In 1938 Karen National Flag, Karen New Year Day together with Karen National Anthem were recognized by British government and allowed to raise the flag on Karen New Year day. Forever since entire Karen population considers national flag as a sacred symbol. Starting from the first Karen New Year Day celebrated in 1938 Karen flag is raised every Karen New Year Day celebration which is a special event in Burma.
In March 1997, during a televised surrender ceremony with a battalion of Karen freedom fighters, General Maung Aye from Burmese Army, the Chief of staff laid down Karen national flag on the ground and stepped under foot. All Karen people were considered it was very humiliating an insult to entire people and outraged. In another event, Brigadier General Maung Hla of Burmese Army said that one day the Karens would only be seen in the museum. Those incidents proved that the clear message of the Burmese military regime’s seriousness about ethnic cleansing campaign against Karens and other ethnic minority of Burma.
Very recently, at the beginning of June 2009, the Burmese regime started another military offensive against Karen resistant using its proxy group of Karen Democratic Army. In this latest military campaign, the innocent villagers mostly women and children were targeted and forced to flee their homes and villages. For the result, over 6000 Karen civilians had to flee to Thailand and living in newly established refugee camps camp.
However, Karen people still survive inside Burma, or in refugee camps in Thailand, in Canada, in Australia, or in the United States of America because of those people like Cathy and David who protect, who care and serve victims of ethnic cleansing. We not only Karen people who could come to Orillia, but also Karens people from around the world are so proud to present at Orillia to see raising Karen National Flag. We thank you for doing this special event.
Today July 10th 2009