10 SEPTEMBER 1948, Page 2

Karen Aspirations

An agreement was reported to have been reached on Monday between the Burmese Government and the Karen insurgents who seized control of Moulmein last week. What lay behind thiS coup is far from clear. That it was not engineered by the Karen National Union is apparent from the fact that Saw Tha Din, who is head of the K.N.U., was one of the intermediaries dispatched from Rangoon to negotiate a settlement at Moulmein. Not all Karens support the K.N.U., but their next most important organisation, the Karen Youth Organisation, is, like the K.N.U., represented in the Burmese Cabinet (which incidentally has been reshuffled and expanded this week). Descriptions in the Press of the Karens as "tribesmen" gives an altogether wilder and woollier impression of them than they deserve. Numbering some 22 million, these sturdy and likeable people, who follow the Christian religion, have natural aspirations to autonomy ; but among them the British connection is a strong one, and though they seek autonomy, they want to remain within the Commonwealth which Burma somewhat brusquely decided to leave. Their quest is complicated by the fact that in the large enclaves of Burma which they inhabit the population is not wholly, and in some cases not even preponderantly, Karen ; but they have temporarily accepted their invidious position with a good grace and given loyal support to the Government in its struggle with the Communists and their associates. This support is the more valuable in that the Karens, who are both more responsible and more enter- prising than the Burmese, make good soldiers and good policemen, and form the strongest single element in the forces with which-the Government is trying to restore law and order.