The establishment of Australian Karen Organisation

Australian Karen Organisation

The Burmese military ruling regime has used the four cuts operation in the eastern Karen State since 1976 against Karen National Union (KNU). This operation is also known as Scorched Earth, or the Scorched intervention military tactic. It commences annually as the "dry season offensive" against the countrys ethnic nationalities. Since 1996, over 3200 villages in eastern Burma had been destroyed and forcibly relocated or abandoned.

The Burmese military has persuaded some of the Buddhist Karen under one of the Karen monk and created Democratic Karen Buddhist Organisation (DKBO) and formed the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), who is a politically naive group with very limited political and general knowledge. Their propaganda is that the KNU is a Christian organisation working solely for its own benefit. Moreover, the DKBA leaders were misled by the SPDCs promise that "If there is no Marnerplaw (the KNU headquarters), the Rangoon government will withdraw all their troops from the Karen State and within six months, would be installed the DKBO as government and handed over all political power to them to rule their own Karen State".

Since then, the Burmese army and DKBA combined troops and attacked Wanka, where KNUs base caved. During January and around February 1996, the Burmese and DKBA combined troops attacking with mortar shellings and burning down Karen refugee camps along the Thai-Burma border at Maeramu, Bawnaw, Shoklo, Kamawlayko and Hwaykaloke, where tens of thousands of Karen refugees lived. Within the 15 months the Shoklo and Hway Kaloke camp were burnt down twice despite the UN and Human rights commission (Human rights council) having passed repeatedly resolutions condemning Burmas military regime for human rights abuses each year since 1990.

A working committee was first formed in 1996 embodying themselves as the Australian Karen Organisation (AKO) to make representations, and bring to the attention of the world community the plight of the thousands of refugees that were being driven out of their homes to the Burma-Thai border.

The committee operated as organisation giving priority to the urgent matters and situations that they had, and their fellowmen were experiencing.

The AKOs objectives were to express their concern and disapproval of the deterioration of the living standards and denial of basic human rights and injustices that their fellow Karens and others were suffering at the hands of the military authorities in Burma. The AKO have organised themselves, joining together to show their solidarity, and to continue the struggle for the restoration of democracy in Burma.

When the news of the Burmese armys attack on Karen Refugee camps circulated, the Karens all over Australia held a teleconference and agreed for the AKO to meet with the Australian Foreign Affairs Officials. The first Karen protest against the Burmese armys attacks on Karen Refugee camp at the Thai-Burma Border was in front of Burmese embassy, Canberra on the 17 February 1997. Subsequently AKOs delegation (consisting of Karen delegates from Perth, Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne) met with the Australian Foreign Officials, after the Karen protest. Following meeting with Australian Foreign Officials, the Karens held another meeting at Canberra to discuss the drafted AKO constitution, and made suggestions to seek advice from the Karen National Union (KNU) to gain perspective of the overseas Karen needs.