Burma: Rebel Leader Mahn Sha Assassinated
Rebel Leader Assassinated
A Burmese ethnic leader, who was an outspoken critic of the country's brutal junta, has been shot dead at his home near the Thai/Burma border. Pado Mahn Sha Lah Phan, Secretary General of the Karen National Union, was assassinated last Thursday at his home in the Thai border town of Mae Sot. Two unidentified men carried out the killing, but to date no one has claimed responsibility.
The shooting comes less than a week after Burma's military leaders announced plans to hold a referendum in May, with a general election to follow in 2010. Last week, Mahn Sha predicted there would be an increase in violence in the lead-up to the government's planned referendum on a new constitution. He denounced the referendum as a further fraudulent attempt by the generals to cling onto power at any cost.
The Karen National Union represents the second largest ethnic group in Burma. During the Second World War, Karen nationalists fought against the Japanese. In return, the British government promised to grant them independence. However, at the end of the war, the British failed to keep their promise, and in 1947 the Karen began their fight for self-determination.
The Karen National Union has maintained the largest and most effective army amongst the ethnic groups in Burma, staunchly refusing to enter into a cease-fire agreement with the Burmese generals.