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About the Karenni
Traditional Clothing of the Ethnic Groups of Karenni State

About the Karenni

The location of the origin of the Karenni people is Mongolia in Central Asia. They gradually moved south and first established their homeland in Deemawso (Nywedaung) plain in 739 BC. Since then, the area today called Karenni State had never been under the control of any other nation until 1948.

Location of Karenni State

Historically, the Nation-State of Karenni was recognized as independent by its neighboring states and countries. Until 1948, there was no evidence in any history - Karenni or Burmese - that it had been a colony of the Burmans. We only can see that in some history books the Karenni sawphyas (princes) sometimes formed a friendship with the Burmese King.

On June 21, 1875, the honorable Sir Douglas Forsyth who represented the Imperial British government, and King Wounmingui, on behalf of the Burmese, signed an agreement that Karenni was to be under the control of neither the British nor the Burmans.

In February 1946, the Shan sawbwas (princes) invited Karenni sawphyas to attend the First Panglong Conference which was to be held in Shan State. The Karenni Sawphyas refused to attend the conference because Karenni was an independent country and they feared that by attending a meeting sponsored by the people of the British colony (the Shan States) they would risk losing their independence.

In the same month, Mr. Stephenson, Chief Commissioner of the Frontier Areas Administrative Board (FAAB) arrived in Loikaw, the capital of Karenni State. He came to Karenni State to ask whether the Karenni government had any desire to join this Frontier Areas Administration Board. Sooner or later the British government would give autonomy to Burma, at which point the Shan, Karen, Chin, and Kachin of the Frontier Areas planned to combine and form the Frontier Areas Administrative Board. The Karenni government also decided not to join the Frontier Areas because by joining it might lose its independence and sovereignty.

The Burmese Anti-Fascist People's Freedom League (AFPFL) wanted Karenni State to join the Frontier Area. They tried to persuade the Karenni people to join their would-be formed union of Burma, but Karenni leaders were not interested. The AFPFL used many tactics in their attempt to absorb Karenni State, but Karenni leaders had already decided to safeguard the independence and self-determination of Karenni State.

All of the leaders of the Frontier Areas attended the Panglong Conference and signed the Panglong Agreement. Karenni leaders did not attend and did not sign, but the Burmese AFPFL, in one of its attempts to force Karenni State into the agreement, told the British that Karenni State had signed the Panglong Agreement and had become part of the Frontier Areas.

The leaders of the Frontiers Areas accepted the accession of their states to Burma with the intention of forming the Union of Burma by signing the Panglong Agreement on 12 February. The Burmese government would soon try other methods of putting pressure on Karenni State to join its Union.

Burma gained its independence from the British on January 4, 1948 and the AFPFL became the first government of modern Burma. The AFPFL invaded Karenni State on August 9, 1948 and captured the Karenni National Organization (KNO) headquarters in Myat Leh village.

The date of August 9 (now called the "Day of Resistance") marked the beginning of the national resistance to successive Burmese governments which have not only occupied Karenni State, but exploited its natural resources as well.

The Karenni people have resorted to an armed struggle to make their motherland free from the oppressive government of Burma. The Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP) is still leading the people of Karenni in trying to reach its goal of being free from all external domination.

Written by: Theh Mar, age 17 years, 10th Standard, and
Augustine, age 16 years, 9th Standard.


Karenni Independence Through Education
PO Box 44
Mae Hong Son, 58000
Tel: 66-1-899-7507
email : [email protected]