Fighting between the Karen people and the Burmese (Myanmar) government dates back to World War II.  I went for a trip into the jungles of Burma to meet with the Karen people back in 2015, and it was quite the profound experience.

The conflict between the Burmese and its surrounding ethnic minorities has been described as the longest standing civil war in modern history, and it continues on today.  The most recent developments are on the western side of Burma with the Rohingya, but most of my experiences were with the Karen to the east.  The Burmese government, often accused of war crimes and even genocide, signed a cease fire with the Karen in 2012–a huge step in the direction of peace.

Life is hard enough out there without the decades of war.

During my time in Burma I met Saw Rai, a prominent, local Karen man who works in the interests of providing medical care to the Karen people.  I asked him to clarify some things and to give us a perspective on what it looks like for the average Karen man or woman on the ground out there–in my experience, it’s easy to focus on the happenings of politicians and generals, and you often lose sight of how these things affect the everyday civilian.

Saw Rai says that many people are not convinced that the Burmese government initiated this ceasefire out of the goodness of their own hearts.  The people seem wary over accepting peace if it might come with ulterior motives–it may be that other countries pressured them into pursuing peace, or it may be some other reason.  They just don’t know, and that uncertainty makes Saw Rai nervous.