An interview with Padoh Saw Thamein Tun, member of the central standing committee of the Karen National Union (KNU).
The Karen Information Center (KIC) interviewed veteran revolutionary Padoh Saw Thamein Tun, a member of the central standing committee of the KNU about his criticism and suggestions of the Spring Revolution, reviews on the revolutionary struggle in the Anyar (central Myanmar) region and his messages to the public.
Q: As a veteran revolutionary like you, how would you like to comment on the Spring Revolution, which began with the armed struggle from the Anyar region?
A: Even though the people have no weapons, the revolution that started with the Tumi guns is the proudest one. The resistance fighters use Tumi guns by sacrificing their lives while the enemy uses machine guns. This history must be recorded. The will of the public is that they don’t want to see this military dictator anymore. It has been done since 1962. The country has never been better. The spirit of rooting out the military dictator comes from the public, not because it is instigated by others. So, it gradually grows.
It is similar to our Karen revolution. We don’t want to blame them. The revolution is in its third year since the coup. It is similar to our Karen revolution during the first three years. Those who have strength, many populations and guns want to lord it over the people at once.
Those with less weapons are quiet. However, they became the rulers in their own territories. Our KNU organization is strong, so we have to gather them together. It may take a long time for us to make a systematic revolution. We didn’t get it within three years. What I want to say is that the leaders need to be able to make field trips to their territories.
Now, they are holding virtual talks. These are ineffective. A truly good leader lives in the same ranks as his comrades. The grassroots and comrades prefer, love and respect the leaders who live like that. The leader should not do it remotely. What should really happen is that it should not be an autocratic leader. Does the autocratic leader really have a good relationship with the people, do the people at the bottom have respect and admiration? What is the morality of the autocratic leader? These are important.
What I want to do is to sit in a township-specific meeting and decide who will be appointed as the leader. Who will be promoted to battalion commander? From the township to the district, who will be appointed as leader? If you go through all the steps like that, the problem will be solved. These kinds of problems need to be handled by the central government.
So, I don’t know if the bottom likes it or not. When they appoint the leader they want, it happens like this. We need to choose the leaders for the long term. Some of them look good in the beginning and become traitors in the long run. The National Unity Government (NUG) and the Spring Revolution have not yet seen this level of corruption.
The revolution is in its third year. I don’t know how it will be later. That’s why I would like to give advice based on my experience. If possible, I don’t want to talk in this interview format. It will be like insulting the NUG. I want to cordially hold talks with the leaders. No one knows that. They can change the text. I gave interviews before. When I said it in the interview, they swore at me. I don’t know if they know it later. Now they have some weaknesses. They will be okay if they can fix it. If they can’t fix it, they will not be okay.
Q: During this spring revolution, many revolutionary forces emerged in the ethnic areas. I have heard of the splits and killings among the revolutionary forces in the Anyar region, which are revolutionizing the military dictator. What is the difference between these two things?
A: The difference is that our revolutionary territory has many years of experience. We have already adopted military disciplines, administrative rules and the rules that control the public through presenting, discussing and organizing. When People’s Defense Forces (PDFs) come in this kind of place, we handle them with our rules. So, there is no such problem. When doing something new, the person is also new in the Anyar area. So, it takes a long time to try it out. There are the killings of people who come from the enemy side, for unimportant cases. They solve the problem by killing the people for minor cases. I have heard that some girls are raped.
They don’t take action against the culprits. If these people become leaders, how will their area be peaceful? The public only accepted it because of fear. They don’t like it anymore. Just like what I frequently said, Min Aung Hlaing is a bully, self-centered person who only looks out for his own interests. Whether civilian deaths or house burning has nothing to do with them. Some people involved in the revolution said they will respond as the military council is carrying out indiscriminate killings. In that case, Dhamma and Adhamma will be the same. Dhamma will no longer exist. We have disciplines and rules. Senior representatives need to solve it.
It is safe for them to stay in the safe ethnic revolutionary area and administrative area on the border. But they have to go to a dangerous place. The leader must go to that place at a time when our people have to fight hard by risking their lives in dangerous places amid the burning of their houses and villages. He can’t be a leader if he can’t go like that. It’s not the government yet. International human rights organizations are also watching. You are killing each other, you are the same, but who is to be recognized? That’s why this kind of problem should be fixed early. In fact, the Spring Revolution gave us many advantages in today’s political situation. But if we don’t have a system, we will go back from advantage to disadvantage. We need to be aware of that.
Q: Looking at the current situation, the people of Anyar still have to flee the war. The military council’s offensive operations have declined. They are also afraid of the closest revolutionary forces and armed forces. What are the ways that leaders can do to end these as soon as possible?
A: The first thing to do is to fix yourself. To fix weaknesses, the leader must be among the people. A leader is not a leader if he is not present in the public. You can’t be a leader if you give a speech after the training session or when you attend the training session. The leader must live among the people and eat and live like the public does. Only then, will they become leaders. George Washington is in oneness with his American comrades. The people don’t even know him as a general. He earned respect as he did like so. We need to follow suit. When we started the Karen revolution, the leaders were all the same as the soldiers in the forests.
That’s why, when compared to the current revolution, the 8888 Uprising had no future process. It had a political goal. Now we have to deal with military affairs whether they live in the city or in the forests. What will the soldier do if he doesn’t go to the army? The important thing is that the leader must be in the army. The leader may die and must risk it. Nowadays, the people are holding virtual talks, and then they don’t know the real situation. They don’t know whether they can do it.
There must be 1,000 soldiers and 1,000 weapons. We are said to have no fighting power although we have 1,000 soldiers and have no 1,000 weapons. How to do it and who will help are important. We need to think about it all. Only by doing that can the problems be solved. I saw what a Chin leader said on Facebook. Sagaing is very important. From Chin to India border and from Kachin to the China border, these are related. They are in a position to hail their victories in respective places. Therefore, the enemy destroyed the places that would cause them first the most trouble, namely Sagaing Region. Then, Karenni State. Karenni State is close to Nay Pyi Taw. The enemy destroyed Nyaunglebin as it is connected to Bago Yoma. Others are less important. They do it one by one. Military leaders say, you fight in your own way, I fight in my own way. You fight using your advantage while I fight using my advantage. It is important for the leaders to learn how to take advantage and use it. Leaders need to have political and prior knowledge. Being able to speak English and receiving donations from foreigners is the second problem. What is important is how you build it in your own country. We should not give incentives to the public and tell the public when the revolution achieves success. I need to do things carefully. If what I say is true, the public supports it. What I’m saying is just saying, I don’t want to give leadership to this kind of people unless it’s on the ground.
Q: If we look back at history, there have been many stories about the revolution in Karen since 1949. Even now our revolution is moving strongly and still gets the public’s support. Tell me why the Karen revolution has been strong for more than 70 years, starting from this split story.
A: Because the needs of Karen life have not been met, the Karen revolution continues to this day. If the necessities of life have been fulfilled, there will be no Karen revolution. What we want is democracy. We have been engaging in the peace process, but nothing has happened. This problem is caused by the people with a large population. I know people will swear at me if I continue to talk about it. The people are one-sided. If you trust a person, you don’t think about whether what that person says is right or wrong. It’s good if those are cleared. Clapping can be done by both sides. It will not make a sound by clapping with one hand.
If you can be really peaceful, there is no problem. Both sides have the same national peace spirit: “You come to me,”. This kind of peaceful spirit doesn’t work. I want to whisper that to them. However, I can’t do it. What they said is “don’t touch their leader,” “what their leader says is even truer than the Bible. How is that going to work? We are the ones who have been working here since before their leader came to Myanmar. I can’t point out how it came. How can I fix it?
Finally, it is all in the Ethnic Revolutionary Organizations (EROs)-controlled area. You can’t do it inside the country. How are you going to make a revolution in this way? You may die in the war. If you don’t die, you will be amputated. We have to keep more than 100 people. If you can’t risk that much, don’t come into our territory.
Q: There are frictions throughout the revolution. Even now, there is no negotiation. Are efforts to root out really an answer?
A: Even if the Anti-Fascist People’s Freedom League (AFPFL) government, the Revolutionary Council government, which is stronger and powerful than us could not destroy us, how can such a strength fight against the trained army? In fact, we have to fight on one side and organize on the other side. I don’t hear much about organizing. Now, I only hear fighting. So, we have to organize, not just fighting. These people are Myanmar citizens. If his people come to our side and the power is reversed, we can do it again. Now the NUG only has fans, and it still can’t increase the number of well-trained and skilled people in the military. It said it will defeat the junta by the end of 2023. We need to monitor who will win between October and January 2023. We can not say who will win.
Q: Now that there are splits and killings among the armed organizations in the Anyar region. Tell me what opportunities the junta can have.
A: The military has a habit of making the problem bigger through instigation when the killings occur. A person who makes instigations stays on one side and the other stays on this side. If we are going this way without seeing these things, finally he will become the one from the other side. It often happens like that.
Q: The people get confused about it. As a veteran revolutionary like you, is there anything you would like to add for public understanding?
A: I would like to call on the public to keep their eyes and ears open. Each person needs to review whether what they said is true or false. Don’t say you don’t believe after believing based on the person. I want them to look at whether what they say is in conformity with what they do. The public can guide our revolution if we have such thoughts and views.
The role of the public is important. It is decided by the public. That is why, in the words of the left lift idea, only the masses are the people who make history. Leaders must be more than that in making public history. I’d like to say that what they are involved in is just a robot.
Sent by KIC.