Gen. Bee Htoo is 66 years old, and 50 of those years have been spent on the frontlines Thai-Burma border. I had met him 30 years ago, and he has not changed much. Unpretentious, blunt, stubborn which closely resembles the Karenni politics that he espouses. He has always walked an independent path. Although the Karen Army signed a cease fire agreement with Burmese military, it is the only armed organization that has no signing the National Cease fire Agreement.
How do you see the situation of Burma after the coup in February 1st?
Gen. Bee Htoo: It cannot solve the crisis in such a short period. It will continue at least two or three years if the Burmese civilian keep on fighting. One thing for sure that this is the last uprising. If they fail, they will never get up again.
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Does it means that the Karen people will also fight alongside Burmese civilians?
We have been fighting for 64 years. What more are we prepared for?
Did you foresee the February 1st coup?
Yes, we got sense about three weeks before the coup and made an appointment for the Ethnic Armed Organizations leaders’ meeting on January 18th, but due to circumstances, we only met the Karen.
Why was that?
As you know the Thai border is closed due to Covid and some other sensitive issues. Geographically, we cannot meet each other without cross the Thai border. There was also political sensitivity with the Thai government. These days, the border situation is not what they used to be. Traditionally, the Thai government has supported our ethnic armed groups by using the Burma border as a buffer, but the situation has changed since Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha came to power in 2014, established close relation with the Burmese military.
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How about the situation with the Karen Army controlled frontlines?
It’s still quiet here. But over 400 Burmese people have joined the Civilian Disobedience Movement including civil servants, policemen and soldiers cross over to Karenni liberated area.
Do you think they will join the armed struggle?
Yes, about 300 people of them wanted it, so we gave them 25 days of basic military training.
Is this a chance to once more mobilize the Karen Army?
It’s not easy without resources and weapons. Moreover we cannot accept everyone becausethey may be spies. For now, all we have to do is give shelter and feed them.
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Is there any possibility that the Ethnic Armed Organisations will form a united front to fight against Burmese military?
Our Abel Tweed, the chairman of the Karenni National Progress Party was the first to propose the united front. However, it doesn’t seem like an easy task because each group has different idea and reality. Probably too much selfish thinking about each one’s business.
We have two enemies: one is the Burmese military and the other is the EAOs themselves. In front of Burma’s political crisis, the EAOs have a hurdle to overcome. However, it is too high a mountain for the EAOs to climb.