Fifty Years in the Karen Revolution in Burma

The Soldier and the Teacher

by Saw RalphNaw Sheera

Fifty Years in the Karen Revolution in Burma is about commitment to an ideal, individual survival and the universality of the human experience. A memoir of two tenacious souls, it sheds light on why Burma/Myanmar's decades-long pursuit for a peaceful and democratic future has been elusive. Simply put, the aspirations of Burma's ethnic nationalities for self-determination within a genuine federal union runs counter to the idea of a unitary state orchestrated and run by the dominant majority Burmans, or Bamar.

This seemingly intractable dilemma of opposing visions for Burma is personified in the story of Saw Ralph and Naw Sheera, two prominent ethnic Karen leaders who lived—and eventually left—"the Longest War," leaving the reader with insights on the cultural, social, and political challenges facing other non-Burman ethnic nationalities.

Fifty Years in the Karen Revolution in Burma is also about the ordinariness and universality of the challenges increasingly faced by diaspora communities around the world today. Saw Ralph and Naw Sheera's day to day lives—how they fell in love, married, had children—while trying to survive in a precarious war zone—and how they had to adapt to their new lives as refugees and immigrants in Australia will resound with many.

Saw Ralph retired as Brigadier General of the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), the military branch of the Karen National Union.

Naw Sheera is a school teacher and former leader in the Karen Women's Organization (KWO).

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