Assassination of Pado Mahn Shar Lar Phan
Death of Karen leader blow to Myanmar groups
15 Feb 08 AlJazeeraEnglish
Karen National Union Gen Secy shot dead
Bangkok, February 15 (Agencies): The assassination of a senior Karen rebel leader on the Burma border has dealt a severe blow not only to the insurgency but also to Burma’s entire pro-democracy movement, observers said Friday. Karen National Union (KNU) general secretary Mahn Sha was gunned down in his home in Mae Sot, Thailand, Thursday afternoon by unknown assailants. “A black-coloured vehicle parked in front of his house at about 4:00 pm and one man came out with a bouquet of flowers,” said Blooming Night Zan, secretary for the Karen Women’s Organization. “He greeted Mahn Sha in Karen, saying ‘Good evening uncle,’ and then shot him,” Zan told Deutsche Presse Agentur dpa from Mae Sot, 380 kilometres north of Bangkok.
A second assassin from the car, which had a Thai licence plate, then shot Mahn Sha twice in the body, leaving him dead. Thai police found the car parked near the Moei River, which defines the Thai-Burma border, but have yet to identify the assailants. Karen sources suspect the gunmen were members of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army, a Karen splinter group that broke with the KNU in 1995 and is now allied with the Burma army.
The slaying of Mahn Sha was seen as a great blow for the KNU, an insurgency that has been fighting for the autonomy of the Karen State for the past six decades, and for Burma’s pro-democracy movement. “For the Burmese audience Mahn Sha was the second most popular Karen leader after Bo Mya,” said Win Min, a Thailand-based Burma scholar.
“His death is a loss for the Burmese pro-democracy movement as a whole, since Mahn Sha was one of the few Karen leaders who was accepted by the various groups within the movement, especially those acting in exile,” said Win Min. But more specifically, his murder was another blow for the KNU. Bo Mya, the military leader of the Karen National Liberation Army, died in December 24, 2006, from illness. His demise was a major blow for the insurgency and a source of further splits within the remaining forces. In February 2007, the KNU’s 7th Brigade split off from the main force and entered into peace negotiations with Burma’s junta.
The 7th Brigade is one faction of the more active forces within the KNU, which has been waging a guerrilla struggle against the central government for the independence of the Karen State since 1949. There are an estimated 4,000 KNU troops still in the field against the junta. The KNU is one of the last ethnic minority insurgencies that have refused to enter into a peace agreements with the ruling junta, which has monopolized political power in the country since 1962. Mahn Sha’s murder has at least highlighted the plight of the Karen, whose struggle has often been overlooked by the international community, Win Min noted.
In Washington DC, US Congressman Joe Pitts, in a statement on Mahn Sha’s death, said the assassination should draw world attention to the ongoing persecution of the Karen and other ethnic minorities by the Burma regime. “For too long, the plight of the people of Burma has either been ignored or discussed ad nauseam with little or no action on behalf of the people,” said Pitts. “With over 1.5 million internally displaced persons and refugees as a result of the brutal attacks by the dictatorship’s army, it is time for change. The international community must ensure that what happened to Mahn Sha does not happen to any other ethnic, democracy, or religious leader in Burma,” he added.
Burma’s junta has been carrying out a large-scale offensive against the KNU for the past two years, forcing about 30,000 Karens to flee their homes and seek shelter in camps for “displaced persons” along the Thai border, while thousands of others continue to lead a precarious existence in their homeland.
Police find car used in KNU assassination
Killers believed to have fled to Burma
By Bangkok Post and AFP
The vehicle used by gunmen who shot dead a key member of the Karen National Union (KNU) this week has been found abandoned near the border with Burma.
Forensic police in Tak are searching for any evidence from the black pick-up that could help police discover who was behind the assassination of KNU general-secretary Pado Mahn Shar Lapan, who was shot dead at his home on Thursday in Mae Sot district.
Two gunmen stormed his residence and shot him dead while a driver was waiting in the pick-up.
Police suspect the gunmen then fled across the border, dumping their truck at Ban Wang Pa in Mae Ramat district. Police said the truck had a Bangkok licence plate.
Mae Sot police chief Pol Col Phossawat Taengjui said police will seek help from the Burmese authorities once they know the names of those suspected of being involved in the assassination.
Mahn Shar was the third most influential figure in the KNU with close ties to former leader, the late Gen Bo Mya.
The KNU is the largest rebel group fighting Burma’s armed forces.
Military-ruled Burma’s state media yesterday warned of further attacks by ethnic insurgents, following the assassination.
The New Light of Myanmar, which like other official media has remained silent on the killing of Mahn Shar, said rebels were plotting more bomb attacks in some ”important places.”
”According to the information received recently, internal and external destructive elements are scheming together to detonate bombs again in some important places and busy places in the nation,” the daily said.
State-run newspapers, radio and TV channels have ignored the death of the rebel leader, who was also a critical link between the rebels and Burma’s pro-democracy movement.
Burma has been hit by a series of small bomb blasts and rebel shootings since December, prompting the ruling junta to blame the KNU for the attacks.
Burma, under military rule since 1962, has signed ceasefires with 17 other ethnic armed groups, but the KNU is one of the few remaining ethnic insurgent groups yet to sign a peace deal with the junta.
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