Gen. Saw Tamla Baw, a highly respected Karen leader and elder statesman of the independence movement, has passed away at the age of 94 in his home in northern Thailand’s Mae Sariang.
Tamla Baw, born in 1920 in Mon state capital Moulmein, served in the 2nd Burma Rifles under the British government before the Japanese invasion; he became an officer in the First Karen Rifles under the British re-occupation.
He joined the Karen uprising in 1949 after Burma’s independence and joined the Karen National Union (KNU) where he fought in its armed wing, the Karen National Liberation Army, ultimately being promoted to commander-in-chief. He fought for Karen autonomy for over six decades until announcing his retirement in 2012 by which time he had risen to position of KNU chairman.
Mahn Mahn, secretary-2 of the KNU, said the death of Tamla Baw, an icon of the Karen independence struggle, was an irreplaceable loss.
“Even after he retired as our chairman, he continued to keep up to date and gave advice on the political process,” he said. “He was an outstanding leader and his passing is an irreplaceable loss for us.”
KNU Secretary-1 Thaw The Bwe said Tamla Baw was an inspiration to all young Karens.
“He was a great source of inspiration for each new generation in the Karen independence movement – he was a good soldier and a natural leader,” said Thawe The Bwe. “He offered valuable guidance and revolutionary ideas.”
Tamla Baw is survived by eight children, and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He wife Naw Phaw Kawaw passed away in February.
The KNU are yet to announce details for Tamla Baw’s funeral.