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Representatives of the Karen National Union (KNU) met last week with members of the Tenasserim division government in Tavoy where they agreed that plans to teach ethnic languages in Karen schools should move ahead.
The meeting took place in the regional capital, officially known as Dawei, on 8 November, and was attended by Chief minister Myat Ko, and a KNU delegation led by Myeik-Tavoy regional commander Bee Leh.
Discussions concerned governance of several parts of the Tenasserim region held by the 4th Brigade of the KNU’s armed wing, the Karen National Liberation Army. KNU spokesman Saw Htoo Kapaw said that the itinerary included the return of confiscated or annexed lands to original owners, the opening of KNU liaison offices, and mutual cooperation towards regional development.
“Chief Minister Myat Ko said that teaching Karen language in schools could be permitted, but he did not want anything excessive,” said Saw Htoo Kapaw.
The two main Karen languages spoken in Tenasserim and Karen state are Sgaw and Pwo, which are linguistically related but quite distinct from Burmese.
The KNU regional spokesman said that other issues will be considered after this first round of discussions.
Among those issues is the return of land seized from 20 Karen villagers during a 1997 Burmese army offensive. Many of the displaced villagers fled to Htan Hin refugee camp at the Thai-Burmese border, while some have since been resettled in third countries.
There are an estimated 140,000 refugees currently sheltering in camps along the Thai-Burmese border, most of whom are ethnic Karen.