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Title: Burma and the Karens
Author: Dr. San C. Po C.B.E.  (1870-1946)
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 0800051.txt
Language:  English
Date first posted: January 2008
Date most recently updated: January 2008

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Title: Burma and the Karens
Author: Dr. San C. Po C.B.E.  (1870-1946)




[ Illustration--Dr. SAN C. PO, C.B.E.
1st and only Karen member Legislative Council before
Reforms Scheme ]



THE object of this book is to present and to explain to the reading
public, and to those who are in authority, the condition of the Karens,
the position they occupy, and their aspirations as a nation second in
importance of the indigenous races of the province of Burma. It is their
desire to have a country of their own, where they may progress as a race
and find the contentment they seek. It is this contentment which gives a
man or a nation that satisfaction and good-will and creates that
patriotic feeling so essential to the well-being of the nation.
Self-respect in a nation begets respect from other nations and races.
What a grand thing the achievement of their ambition will be for the
Karens, and what praises and blessing will be showered upon those who
shall have made it possible. The Karens will then be in a position to
show sincere respect to other races, especially to the Burmese, with
whom they have been at variance, and in turn the Burmese will find them
worthy of respect and esteem.

The thirty years of my life which I have devoted to serving my own
people, in the course of which I have had the opportunity of exchanging
ideas with those officials and non-officials who represent the opinion
of other races, have furnished me with varied experience, and I am
emboldened to write this book in the hope that it will stimulate in the
reader an interest in the Karens as a race--as a nation which will
have to be reckoned with in the struggle for self-determination or for
what the present Reforms Scheme may have in store for the province. It
has been truly said: "To remove misunderstandings is the real road to
abiding peace among men." Some of the statements or comments in this
book may displease a few individuals for there is truth in the Burmese
saying: "Burmese Text: BXT-1.bmp" (too straight a truth is hard to
bear). Should any of my intimate and highly esteemed Burmese friends
with whom I have associated and co-operated for many years chance to
read this book, I wish them to understand that it is not the expression
of my own personal relations with them, but that it represents the
feelings of the Karens as a race towards the Burmese in general.

I beg to acknowledge my indebtedness to Major Enriquez, from whose most
interesting work _A Burmese Wonderland_ I have quoted freely, and to the
copyright-holders of Mr. Donald Smeaton's _Loyal Karens of Burma_ from
which fairly extensive extracts will be found in the following pages,
and lastly to Sir Frederick Whyte from whose able discourse in his
little book _India, a Federation?_ quotations have been made. I also
wish to express my thanks to those who have made contributions to
Chapter VI.



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS [not included in this ebook]

DR. SAN C. PO, C. B. E. (Frontispiece)

[ Illustration--KAREN VILLAGE HUT ]

[ Illustration--BELLEVUE HALL ]



"They stood aloof, the scars remaining,
    Like cliffs which had been rent asunder;
A dreary sea now flows between.
    But neither heat nor frost nor thunder,
Shall wholly do away I ween,
    The marks of that which once hath been."


To gauge the present-day attitude and social status of a nation a
knowledge of past history is essential. The Past not only makes the
Present more easily comprehensible, but it also enables one to
conjecture what the future may hold in store. Just as the physician
takes into consideration the family history and previous illnesses of
the patient in forming his diagnosis, so must the student of history
have some knowledge of past events to guide his opinion.

Whether the Karens originally migrated from Southern China, a contention
which is supported by the traditions and physiological appearance of the
people, or were the earliest inhabitants of Burma, only to be conquered
by more powerful invaders, is not an important point, since the writer
is concerned only with the Karens as they are found in Burma to-day. The
position of the Karens before the advent of the British was that of a
subject race in true Oriental fashion. They were treated as slaves,
hence, they made their homes on the mountain-side or on tracts of land
far away from the towns and larger villages occupied by the Burmans.
High stockades surrounded those Karen villages, and sure death was the
fate of all intruders.

Many stories have been told of Burmese cruelty to the Karens, and of
Karen retaliation, in which the latter figured more as sinners than
saints. Love of independence is inherent in all hill tribes, and the
Karens are no exception. It figures prominently in their war-songs and
in the national poems handed down from generation to generation, and a
Karen will forgo many things for the privilege of having his own way or
being left alone. The Karen God-tradition, so firmly believed in and
strongly adhered to, was: "Our younger white brother to whom God
temporarily entrusted the Book of Silver and the Book of Gold is coming
back to return them to the elder Karen brother." So, when news was
received that the white brother had arrived in Burma, there was no
little stir in Karendom. Adoniram Judson gained the first Karen convert
to Christianity in Ko Tha Byu (1828) who lost no time in spreading the
gospel among his people, declaring that the long-lost "Book of God" had
been brought back by the white brother, and that the Karen God-tradition
was fulfilled. Consequently, a number of young men from different parts
of the country went over to Arakan, and later to Moulmein, to find the
Missionaries who had brought the gospel of Christ and to learn more
about the truth, which it was their intention to preach among their own
people. Thra Myat Kai of Kozu, the maternal grandfather of the writer,
was one of them. The lot of the Karens under Burmese rule had been hard
enough, but when the Burmans, made anxious by the rumours of war to be
declared between Burma and Great Britain, heard that the Karens were
taking up the Christian religion, they proceeded to make life unbearable
for the new converts to Christianity. Persecution, religious and
political, began in earnest. Karens were caught and thrown into prison,
suffering untold agonies, and a few were crucified. One man, by the name
of Klaw Meh was nailed to a cross, the abdomen ripped open with
intestines hanging down, which the crows were picking while the poor man
writhed in agony in an impossible attempt to drive away the crows. His
voice gradually grew weaker until at last he died a martyr on the cross
like his Master, Jesus Christ, whom he had lately embraced. The Rev. Dr.
T. Thanbyah, M. A., D.D., who died only six years ago, was a witness of
the scene, and whenever he had occasion to make the railway journey
between Rangoon and Bassein, as the train neared Yegyi Station, he would
look out of the carriage window and cry like a child. For, it was near
the railway station that Thra Klaw Meh was crucified.

[ Illustration--REV. THRA SHWE ME ]

[ Illustration--REV. T. THANBYA, D.D. ]

There were countless instances, but to recall them is certainly not
pleasant. The cruelties and oppression practised by the Burmese for
generations past cannot be easily effaced from memory, and a generation
or two ago Karen mothers used to still the cries of their children by
saying "A Burman is coming." Even to-day, you may hear a Karen bitterly
remarking: "In olden times we were ground down by the Burmese; but now,
though enjoying equal rights under British Government, since almost all
the Subordinate Officials in Government service are Burmese, we are
really as much harassed as before."

If there is a nation which can easily adapt itself to changed conditions
and circumstances it is the Burmese. This characteristic of the Burmese,
incidentally, recalls the opinion of a travelled American: "If an
Englishman puts himself out to please a man he can do it better than any
other man on earth." A Burman is an adept in pleasing others when he
chooses; unfortunately, a Karen is not, otherwise his lot would be far
better than it is to-day.

Some years ago the writer had the pleasure of driving up to Kozu Village
from Bassein in the company of a Deputy Commissioner, new to the
station, to witness the presentation of a Union Jack and a gun by the
Commissioner of the Irrawaddy Division to the Karen villagers for having
supplied the largest number of soldiers (over fifty in number) just
prior to and during the Great War. On the way, in the course of
conversation, the Deputy Commissioner asked "Don't you think the Karens
live too much on past history?" The answer was that the Karens have
tried very hard to "live down" past history, but unfortunately they are
being constantly reminded of it. The Deputy Commissioner was assured
that it would not be long before he would personally see for himself the
truth of the statement.

A few days later there was a football match between a Karen team and a
Burmese team. The game was hotly contested (as it always is when Karens
play against the Burmese). The Burmese were the first to score, and the
play, though fast and exciting, was being cleanly fought. But when the
Karens equalised, some members of the Burmese team began to resort to
foul tactics, and with the incitement of the crowd in which the Burmans
outnumbered the Karens by more than ten to one, the game became very
rough. And when the goalkeeper of the Burmese team, on obtaining
possession of the ball, deliberately kicked an attacking Karen forward
in the face before getting rid of the ball, the game was stopped and
awarded to the Karens by the referee. The Deputy Commissioner, who
witnessed the match, had perforce to admit the truth of the statement
made on the Kozu trip. Trivial as it was, the incident undoubtedly
throws some light on the existing situation.

Another incident may be cited as an illustration of the annoyances to
which Karens are daily being subjected by petty Burman subordinate
officials. Many years ago, at the instigation of a Burmese official of
the police force who alleged that those Karens who were licensed to
carry guns were not using them legitimately, and that they even lent
their guns to dacoits, the Deputy Commissioner ordered two Karens to
bring in their guns for cancellation of their licences. But it so
happened that these two men had fought under British officers during the
troublous times of 1886 when Mr. St. Barbe, who was Deputy Commissioner
of Bassein at the time, was shot dead by the dacoits, and had held their
guns ever since for services rendered to Government at great personal

At their request the writer went to the Deputy Commissioner and
explained matters. The Rev. C. A. Nichols, D.D., K.I.H., who had also
taken an active part in the dacoit-hunting of the year mentioned,
related to the Deputy Commissioner the story of the part played by
Karens in general, and particularly by the two men concerned, with the
result that the Deputy Commissioner at once withdrew his order.

British officials in Burma cannot neglect past history. They will find
it invaluable as a guide in their responsible task of administration,
and there will be heard less often the complaint that "New Pharaohs
always forget Joseph of old." They will be better able to emulate their
worthy predecessors who inspired a shrewd critic to venture the
following opinion of them: "Nowhere in the world, probably, is there a
class of officials ... possessed of higher qualifications for their
responsible duties than the officials of the British Government in
India. There are among them not a few who combine with the highest
ability and training the beautiful characteristics of an inward
Christian life. British Burma owes much to the administrative power of
chiefs like Col. Sir Arthur Phayre, Sir Ashley Eden, and not less,
certainly, to the Christian wisdom combined with a rare general ability
of an Aitchison, a Thomson, and a Bernard."

[ Illustration--THRA KÉ and THRA TUKÈ ]


_The Whyte Committee and Communal Representation_

DURING the sitting of the Whyte Committee in 1921, in connection with
the Reforms Scheme, there occurred many incidents which were worthy of
serious notice. An influential section of the Burmese people was from
the very beginning against the Committee and its work, and the great
trouble they took in boycotting it might have turned out seriously if
the authorities had not been on the alert. As it was, the attempt at
boycotting proved to be more amusing than otherwise. Here again, the
wonderful adaptability of the Burmese nature in any situation was
manifest. They seriously meant to obstruct the work of the Committee,
but when they found that their efforts at obstruction were effectively
countered, they tried to pass the whole thing off as a joke. This
characteristic of the Burmese would be hard to find in any other nation
or race.

The Committee met with strong opposition at Mandalay, Rangoon and
Moulmein. At Wakema where the Government launch carrying the Committee
had to land for a few hours, the attitude of the townspeople was
decidedly hostile, even the bazaar-sellers refusing to sell their wares.
The unruly element at the landing-stage beat gongs, shouted abusive
words and threw fire-crackers and bricks into the steamer as it was
leaving the jetty. One of the clerks sustained an injury to his hand,
which stirred the captain of the steamer to shout in words much more
forcible than elegant or complimentary--which perhaps, were better not
repeated here.

At Moulmein the boycotters, under the leadership of U Chit Hlaing,
caused some inconvenience to the Committee and to the local authorities.
A prominent Karen gentleman was prevented by them from giving valuable
evidence before the Committee. The late Honourable U Po Bye at this
place was rather worried and anxious, as he remarked: "It is bad enough
to be boycotted, but it is the limit when people actually assemble at
the pagodas and pray that the evil spirit (meaning the Committee) be
driven away from the town."

[ Illustration--THE WHYTE COMMITTEE ]
{ Standing from left to right:
Sitting left to right:
THE HON. U. PO BYE (absent) }

In Bassein a hostile demonstration was led by a well-known female
character of the town. The late Mr. R.E.V. Arbuthnot, a member of the
Committee, taking advantage of the fact that he was mistaken for Sir
Frederick Whyte by the boycotters, held the attention of the crowd
gathered at the wharf by taking snapshots of them with his camera. He
was aided and abetted by Major A.G.B. Roberts, the Deputy Commissioner,
in thus obtaining snaps of the agitators with their faces exposed. This
interlude somehow damped the enthusiasm of the crowd, and the boycotting
proved a huge fiasco.

Taking everything into consideration it must be admitted that the Whyte
Committee did its work satisfactorily and well under a chairman with a
national reputation. A most capable and broad-minded man, Sir Frederick
Whyte was always cheerful and patient. The Committee members, however,
also learned that he could be very firm when occasion demanded. Towards
the end of the sitting of the Committee one member proved unreasonable
and a renegade in respect to a point upon which he had previously
agreed. Sir Frederick shouted out the name of the member and demanded in
no uncertain manner what he meant by going back on his words. All the
other members of the Committee were convinced that the chairman was
quite justified in calling down the refractory member in the way he did.
But on the whole, taking into consideration the diverse interests
represented, the Committee worked together in perfect harmony.

The work of the Committee dealing with communal representation for the
Karens brought out some interesting data. The Karens, wherever possible,
welcomed the Committee, giving concerts in their honour, and the elders
had personal interviews with the chairman. They felt amply rewarded when
Sir Frederick, on behalf of the Committee, expressed the warm
appreciation of his Committee of the kindly feeling and the efforts in
entertaining them. Musical entertainments were given at Rangoon in the
Vinton Memorial Hall and at the Ko Tha Byu Memorial Hall, Bassein. The
invitation of Dr. Saw Durmay, to see his white elephant, however, had to
be refused for want of time. Karens are lovers of tradition, and a large
number of them honestly believe in them, though some of the traditions
may seem rather strange and impossible of realisation. Saw Durmay
believed in the prophecy: "When three 'whites' meet there will be peace
and plenty, progress and prosperity, and an ideal Government will reign
supreme," and his invitation was prompted by the desire of bringing
together the _Whyte_ Committee, the _white_ Government and the _white_
elephant! Naturally, he was keenly disappointed when the Committee could
not stop at Toungoo to see his elephant. These manifestations show that
the Karens whole-heartedly welcomed the Committee and their work.

Of the evidence given by Karen witnesses, that given by Mr. Sydney
Loo-Nee and Mahn Ba Kin, of Rangoon, and Mahn Po San, of Myaungmya, was
most exhaustive and instructive, while a few of the other witnesses were
frank and outspoken. One of the witnesses, Saw Pah Dwai, cited recent
cases of oppression of the Karens by the Burmans. When asked if he
thought the Karens were still as much oppressed by the Burmese as in the
olden days, he replied: "The Karens are to-day ten times more oppressed
and down-trodden than in former days. The Burmese have learned to be
wiser and more cunning in their methods of oppression, and Government
are none the wiser." During the sitting at which Saw Pah Dwai gave his
evidence a sympathetic British officer, after recounting several
instances of oppression of Karens that came to his notice in his
capacity of a district officer, remarked: "If I were the Karens and
could not get communal representation which I consider absolutely
necessary at this stage of political growth in Burma, I would emigrate
to Siam, where I would fare no worse and might fare better."


Evidence given by high British officials on the subject was divided. A
few said that the Karens could fight their own battles any day against
the Burmans as they are a compact and well-organised community, but the
majority, including the Chief Secretary, Mr. F. Lewisohn, C.S.I.,
C.B.E., I.C.S., and Sir Charles Morgan Webb, C.I.E., I.C.S., basing
their opinion on extensive personal experience, were decidedly in favour
of communal representation for the Karens.

Of the Indian Community men like Mr. P. D. Patel (ex-President of the
Insein Municipality) and the Honourable Mr. S. Vedamurthi were in favour
of Communal Representation for the Karens, which was strongly opposed by
the Burmese and Arakanese, among them being the late Home Member, the
Honourable U May Oung and a highly respected and intimate friend of the
writer, U Shwe Zan Aung. U May Oung claimed that he found the Karens in
every respect like the Burmese in their habits, ideas and
characteristics, and that no separate constituency was necessary. As a
member of the Committee, the writer, by his questions, tried to convince
witness of the great difference between the two races, a point upon
which most of the other members agreed. U Shwe Zan Aung, in his
evidence, stated that Karens have much advanced in education, and would
have no trouble in electing their representatives. Mr. S. A. Smyth,
C.S.I., I.C.S., the then Commissioner of the Irrawaddy Division and a
member of the Committee, asked the witness: "Supposing the Karens wished
to elect a Karen for Hanthawaddy District, would there be any chance of
their getting their man elected, taking into consideration the majority
of the Burmese population over the Karen population?" Witness had
perforce to reply in the negative. It was obvious to all that no Karen
candidate would ever be elected, since no district in the province has a
Karen population anywhere near as large as that of the Burmese.

The evidence from all sources clearly showed that communal
representation for the Karens was an absolute necessity, and it remained
only for the Committee to decide upon the number of seats which should
be allotted. After some discussion it was decided to allow the Karens
five special constituencies, and subsequent events have justified the
decision. A short statement which appeared recently in the Press may be
quoted, expressing the opinion that Communal Representation has been
from the start absolutely essential and is still necessary for the
contentment and well-being of minorities. "London, 19th June, 1926:
Commenting in an editorial article on the sectarian disturbances in
India _The Times_ says that many sympathisers in Britain with Indian
political aspirations are obviously puzzled and perturbed at the
evidence of the extension of the quarrels. The paper adds that the
historical past of India is not favourable for a mutual understanding
between Moslems and Hindus, and the strength of communal feeling
certainly justifies the demand that the next instalment of reforms
should continue to safeguard religious and political minorities.
Political education in India, _The Time_ declares, has not yet
sufficiently advanced to dispense with the safeguards. It will also be
necessary to maintain the reserved powers of the Provincial Governments
in order to meet a dangerous emergency possibly arising from religious
disorders until the Indian national union becomes a plain and
irrefutable fact."

What applies to India with regard to Moslems and Hindus applies with
equal force to Burma with the Burmese and Karens. Earl Winterton, in his
speech on July 24th, 1926, in the House of Commons, declared that
communal tension in India constituted the greatest menace confronting
Government. "... fortunately the tension in Burma is more racial than
religious, and owing to the quiet and reticent nature of one race the
tension does not loom up so prominently as in India, but it is there all
the same ... while the two communities in India are aggressive and not
likely to be satisfied or contented with any political or administrative
concessions, one of the communities in Burma is amenable, and will be
satisfied with any reasonable concession which Government and the other
community may make."

[ Illustration--LORD AND LADY READING. ]


"We are made for co-operation, like feet, like hands, like eyelids, like
the rows of the upper and lower teeth. To act against one another, then,
is contrary to nature; and it is acting against one another to be vexed
and to turn away."


AMONG the educated class, and in the towns, Burmo-Karen co-operation is
possible and usual, and often with most pleasing results if the leaders
of the two communities are keen and tactful. No doubt education, more
frequent contact, and similarity of aims and objectives have created a
better mutual understanding, and the Great War has also served the
purpose of drawing the two races closer together as comrades in arms.
The needs of serious efforts in combating a common foe and fighting for
their King-Emperor has taught them the rudiments of patriotism. Loyal
Burmese gentlemen co-operated with Government, and the innate loyalty of
the Karens, which had been lying dormant for so many years, came to life
again. Although there existed so many sore spots not yet healed owing to
unfulfilled promises or to neglect, unintentional or otherwise, by
Government, and to disdain and the oft-expressed opinion of the Burmese
that the Karens are only a "negligible quantity," yet when the need
arose, the response to the call of the King and Empire was marvellous.
Some of the best Karen schools were depleted of eligible young men who
lost no time in enlisting.

The Burmese opinion that Karens are only a "negligible quantity" was
heard, to quote only one instance, a few years ago at a meeting of the
Y.M.B.A., at Bassein, when one of their most prominent speakers, in the
course of his speech, said: "We need fear nothing from the Karens, for,
as far as I can see, they are only a nation of nurses and _ayahmas_
(infant-nurses)." Though puerile, expressions of this sort irritate, but
happily they are not so common now. Instead, one often hears to-day
remarks from Burmese gentlemen to the effect that the Karens are making
great strides in education, and are showing the spirit of unity which
Burmans ought to copy. While these expressions of opinion, naturally,
give pleasure, the Karens themselves do not forget their own weaknesses
and short-comings. An intimate and highly esteemed Burmese friend of the
writer, who is invariably candid and outspoken, once said, "I like the
Karens. I like their simply straight-forwardness, but {Burmese Text:
BXT-2.bmp}" The Burmese phrase is very expressive but difficult to
translate into English. The idea conveyed is that the Karens are not
sufficiently wideawake, they are slow to grasp a hint, an opportunity or
a situation. The observation is perfectly correct, and has been
frequently repeated by the writer in his speeches to Karen audiences.

It is not at all strange that a Karen is {Burmese Text: BXT-3.bmp} for
from the time he could understand he was taught by his parents to speak
the plain unvarnished truth, without "beating about the bush," and at
school his character is being trained on the same lines. Therefore, when
a Karen tries to be {BXT-4.bmp} and deviates from the truth, as
sometimes happens, he makes a poor job of it. As the American slang has
it, he is not "slick at it." On the other hand, Burmese mothers teach
their children how to be polite, how to {BXT-5.bmp} (to smooth over
things) in their speech and action, often regardless of the truth. The
Burmese have a saying "{BXT-6.bmp}" (without a few falsehoods speech is
never smooth), and a good many live up to this old saying. A nation is
judged by the characteristics and behaviour of the populace, and the
writer, in commenting upon Burmese manners and characteristics, refers
to the habits and distinguishing traits of the populace. Until recent
years the trustees or guardians of Karen schools would not allow the
pupils to play football or compete in any sport with outsiders. The
inter-racial feeling was bitter, and with just cause. Recently, however,
the school authorities have given full permission for the boys to enter
into competition with outside teams in various sports. The inter-racial
tension in the past was created by frequent unpleasant incidents, of
which the following is an example. Some years ago, during the visit of
the Lieutenant-Governor, among the attractions arranged for the
entertainment of His Honour was a football match between two teams
representing the Burmans and the Karens. As is usual in a match of this
nature, a large crowd attended, and racial feeling ran high. In spite of
every precaution taken by the organisers, aided by a large force of the
police, and notwithstanding the presence of many high officials,
including the Chief of the Province, the game ended in a free-fight, in
which the spectators took no small part. To the shouts of "Kill the Red
Shirts!" "Kill the Red Shirts!" the red-jerseyed Karen players had to
fight their way out of the ground and to make a tactical retreat in
order to avoid a more serious fracas. Such incidents are less frequent
nowadays, as the result of better education and cleaner public opinion,
and, principally, of the higher status of the Karens in the estimation
of the Burmese public and other races generally.


[ Illustration--SIR HARCOURT BUTLER ]

A very harry sign of the times is the fact that the Burmese youth, and
young people of other races, have sought and are seeking admission into
Karen schools. Parents knowing the good moral atmosphere generally
prevailing in Karen Christian schools have been led to send their sons
and daughters to them. And in the Karens the deeply-rooted prejudice and
strong aversion which has existed against admitting children of other
races into their schools is gradually and slowly passing away. The
writer considers this the greatest advancement towards Burmo-Karen
co-operation, and it may in time bring about the welding of the two
important races of the Province into one in national aim.

But co-operation is impossible when there exists a form of oppression
which has created much ill-feeling. To cite an example, the pastors and
elders of a Karen village once came down to Bassein and reported a
matter relating to their Township Officer who, it seems, had gone to
their village on a Sunday while a prayer-meeting was in progress and
ordered the villagers to come out and help carry his luggage to a dak
bungalow. The pastor and elders were in a dilemma, for if ever a nation
has a high regard for a religious service it is the Karen Christians. To
be called away from prayers, especially when threatened by a Government
official, the threats not unmingled with abuses, was indeed an awkward
situation. However, the situation was partially eased by one or two
elders and the village headman carrying the luggage to the desired place
while the meeting was continued. The Township Officer, not satisfied
with the autocratic part he had played, must needs go further by taking
down the names of some of the villagers and submitting them for
prosecution on charges of his own invention. The villagers claimed that
the Township Officer never gave any intimation of his coming to the
village, that he only decided upon stopping there on his way back from
another village when he heard the singing of hymns and knew that the
Karens were at church. There is a rule or understanding in village
administration which distinctly states that under no circumstances
should villagers be interfered with in their religious services and
that, wherever possible, Government officials should make use of those
who are not so engaged. The Township Officer might have been considerate
enough to have landed just as conveniently at a Burmese village close
by, especially when the Karens had always shown him due respect in his
previous visits to the village and had given him every help and
attention required. In fact, on a previous occasion he had expressed
himself as being very pleased with them.

At any rate, the matter was brought to the attention of the Deputy
Commissioner, who was a man of tact and sympathy, always responsive, and
one who would often go out of his way to settle a disagreement between
two parties. In this case, however, he was in a measure influenced by
the fact that the Township Officer was his righthand man in these
troublous times during the Great War. This subordinate official was a
man of great resource, and his explanation and reports on matters within
his jurisdiction had always been most convincing and satisfactory. He
was, in addition, one of the most loyal of British Burmese subjects. The
Deputy Commissioner made private and personal inquiries, and kept the
case pending, apparently in order to find some means of settling the
matter between the parties concerned, while the Karens with their elders
and legal aid drew up a very formidable case against the officer.
Fortunately, at that time there was a Burmese official of high standing
upon whose help the Deputy Commissioner always relied in important
matters and who also had great influence with the Karens by his intimate
knowledge of them and his kindly and sympathetic dealing with them. To
this man the Deputy Commissioner confided the matter, and after some
round-table talks and a series of "give-and-take" proposals, the two
parties came to an understanding, and the matter was settled, not to
complete mutual satisfaction, perhaps, but to the great relief of all

Here was an opportunity when the Deputy Commissioner, as a Christian,
might have used his influence and position to prevent further mischief
and friction of a similar nature by speaking out straight, the course
Government officials should follow, as it had always been followed
heretofore; on the contrary, what he actually said was that he himself
had to work as hard on the Sabbath as on any other day, and, therefore
he meant to infer that Christians, as well as non-Christians, should
have no objection to working on a Sunday. In the words of Kipling's
British Soldier:

"Ship me somewhere East of Suez
Where the best is like the worst,
And there ain't no ten commandments,

but even in the East of the Suez there are Christians and people of
other persuasions as well, who live the Christian life and closely
follow their religious teachings. It is this religious faith which has
made Great Britain what she has been and what she is to-day.

It is a matter of regret that in the East the native Christians in the
majority of instances, instead of receiving encouragement and help from
a certain class of their Christian rulers, are made the object of
ridicule and derision. Fortunately there are still those who, in spite
of the great temptations and circumstances, "combine with the highest
ability and training the beautiful characteristics of an inward
Christian life," and through them the Christian atmosphere still
prevails in the general administration of the country.

Major Enriquez, a much-travelled and keen observer, in his book _A
Burmese Wonderland_ remarked, "The Karens have been the missionaries'
one great success in Burma. Indeed, if they have two faults, they are
too much Christianity and too little humour." Surely no nation or race
of people can have "too much Christianity!" It is too little
Christianity that has made sad pages in the history of nations.

As for the apparent lack of humour of the Karens, the _raison d' être_
is to be found in the following extract from Mr. Donald Smeaton's _Loyal
Karens of Burma_. "The oppression of ages had made the Karen reticent,
and very suspicious up to the point where he yields his confidence. If
he thinks he can trust you he passes at once from the extreme of
suspicion to excessive confidence, and yields himself unconditionally.
He knows no half measure in this. . . . Among his clansmen and with his
chieftain he is frank and cheerful. With strangers he is timid,
suspicious and retiring; when he descended from the hills to the plains,
he, to use his own words, 'lived between the legs of other men.' One of
their teachings is 'If anyone asks you if you have seen his buffalo,
don't inquire the shape of his horns, just say that you haven't seen it,
for that ends the matter at once! This reticence often makes the Karen
appear stupid, awkward and obstinate, which he really is not. He will
take refuge in 'I don't know' and a blank stare simply to avoid further
questioning. . . . A Karen will rather conceal what he knows, frequently
to his own hurt." Major Enriquez is an Englishman and a big "Army Head"
(literal Karen translation of a military officer), and therefore it was
only to be expected that he would not get any humour out of the Karens.
Apart from the fact that it takes a long time to get really acquainted
with a Karen, Major Enriquez does not understand their language, and an
average Karen cannot crack a joke in Burmese.


The difficulty experienced by the Karens in having to speak Burmese in
public and in courts of law is a national grievance which they would
like to see rectified. Very few Karens can make themselves "at home"
with the Burmese language. It is easier for an educated Karen to express
himself in English than in Burmese, although he comes in daily contact
with Burmans and is obliged to speak their language. This is one of the
principal reasons why Karen schools are to-day clamouring for the
privilege of having their language made a compulsory subject in place of
Burmese, as they have to make a mental translation of the English into
Karen and then into Burmese whenever they are required to translate
English into Burmese. Very recently, however, the sanction of Local
Government was obtained for the Karen Language to be a compulsory
language up to the High School Final in Karen schools.

There is no doubt that by tact, education and untiring propaganda the
two races will gradually get into the real spirit of mutual confidence
and co-operation but it will be a slow process. The suggestion contained
in a subsequent chapter, however, if considered practicable and
therefore acceptable, will achieve that mutual confidence and respect so
much desired within a decade.

By their usually honest and straightforward dealing and simple ways the
Karens have gained the confidence and respect of foreigners like the
Chinese, Indians and Europeans, and this confidence, shown by the other
races, is promoting in the Burmese some respect and a better feeling
towards the Karens.


You can work it out by Fractions, or by simple Rule of Three,
But the way of Tweedle-dum is not the way of Tweedle-dee.
You can twist it, you can turn it, you can plait it till you drop,
But the way of Pilly-Winky's not the way of Winkie-pop.


THE Karens have been living for many centuries in Burma under Burmese
rule, but they always managed to live apart by themselves, and to retain
their nationality and characteristics. Then again, under British rule
during a period of more than one hundred years, there has been frequent
contact and often long association, in one place with other
nationalities, yet they have kept their nationality intact by avoiding
inter-racial marriage. They cannot yet intermingle with other races with
any mutual benefit or good result. Undoubtedly, villages inhabited
solely by Karens thrive and progress far better than those in which the
two races are mingled.

The Karen is shy and backward, and often lacking in the spirit of
competition, while a Burman is usually assertive, forward and
aggressive. The natural consequence is that a Karen is always at a
disadvantage when he has to compete with a Burman for any post or favour
from Government. It has been seen over and over again that a Burmese boy
with a Middle School qualification will obtain a post in preference to a
Karen boy who has passed the High School Final. Obviously, there can be
no keen co-operation between two individuals or two parties as long as
one of them feels himself unjustly treated, and nurses a grievance.

A police official of high standing, hero of many fights during the
troublous times of 1885 in Burma and on the frontiers, once made an
interesting comment while on the subject of Burmo-Karen relations. He
said: "The Burmese people can never be a great nation, nor can they
expect other nations to co-operate with them wholeheartedly unless and
until they can eliminate the idea that they are superior in every
respect to other nations and races."

A deplorable trait in the Burmese youth of a certain type may be noted.
The tendency to make fun of other people sometimes in a spirit of joking
but more frequently with the intention to insult and provoke. Almost any
day can be seen young Burmans strolling the streets deliberately
insulting by their actions and foul language young women who happen to
pass by. The victims are usually unoffending women and girls of other
races, but occasionally even their own women folk and European women are
not exempt. Certain very intimate and highly esteemed Burmese friends of
the writer have time and again condemned the objectionable ways of the
Burmese youth, and for that reason do not care to send their daughters
to schools where there are Burmese boys or to attend which daily the
girls have to cover a distance with the possibility of meeting groups of
boys of that type on their way. The sight of young women, instead of
arousing in them a spirit of respect, the spirit of chivalry with which
the youth of many other nations are imbued, seems to have just the
opposite effect.

And at the police training depôts a casual observer may witness sentries
on duty running to their places to salute a passer-by whom they have
mistaken for one of their immediate superiors, only to laugh on
discovering their error and make all sorts of insulting remarks. Such
behaviour is, unfortunately, too common among the Burmese police and
reflects most unfavourably on the Force. All these little objectionable
traits make it difficult for others to co-operate with people of that

Recently a case came to the notice of the public, creating a great stir
in the local Karen world. It may be cited as an example of many other
similar affairs. A young Burmese clerk on a steamer plying between
Bassein and a district village was in the habit of calling at the latter
place on a young Karen friend who had a sister. After a short time the
clerk made advances to the girl through her brother and, the suit being
favourably received, took her to wife. Some time later, however, the
clerk was transferred to another route, whereupon he with the consent
and sanction of his family took another wife, this time a Burmese girl.
The deserted Karen wife and her brother heard of this marriage, and the
brother went quietly to the man and, reminding him of his promises,
remonstrated with the latter about his conduct to his sister who was now
in a condition to become a mother. The brother was insulted and roundly
abused for being an ignorant jungle Karen, and was told that he and his
sister, having made fools of themselves, must abide by the consequences.
The girl then went personally to plead with her husband, but she, too,
had the same reception. Some few days later as the steamer on which the
clerk was working landed at Bassein a young man was seen to rush at the
clerk, stabbing him with intent to kill. Fortunately for the victim the
knife broke and the wound did not prove fatal. The Karen lad immediately
gave himself up to the police, declaring that he had done it to avenge
his sister who had been dishonoured. The accused has been sent to prison
for four years.

A Karen, whether Christian, Buddhist or Animist, regards marriage in any
form whatever as a sacred and solemn act, and the vows never to be
broken or dishonoured. It was natural, therefore, that the Karens when
they heard of the affair showed silent approval, finding justification
for the act, though it was legally culpable, in the dastardly behaviour
of the clerk.

The Burmese people, however, very often make light of marriage and
promises to women, and a case like the above, which a Karen regards as a
great moral wrong, is treated lightly by them. The marked difference in
the attitude of the two races on a point of this nature--on a point,
in this instance, which concerns the home life of a nation--this
difference in moral outlook is a serious obstacle to co-operation. It
deters a Karen from associating more freely with a Burman.


That self-made man, Benjamin Franklin, attributed his success as a
public man, not to his talents or his power of speaking--for these
were but moderate--but to his known integrity of character. "Hence it
was," he says, "that I had so much weight with my fellow-citizens. I was
but a bad speaker, never eloquent, subject to much hesitation in my
choice of words, hardly correct in my language, and yet I generally
carried my point." Character creates confidence in men in high stations,
as well as in humble life.


THE characteristics and peculiar traits of a nation are best seen
through foreign eyes, and those of the Karens have been most thoroughly
studied and described by the authors of the two books already referred
to in a previous chapter. Major Enriquez gives, in addition to a
criticism of the Karen character, much interesting data regarding the
distribution, origin and tribal history of the race. He describes the
Karens as being scattered throughout the Delta, Pegu, Tenasserim and the
hills of Eastern Burma from the Shan States in the North, right down to
Tavoy and Mergui in the South, numbering about 1,102,000 as compared
with roughly 8,000,000 Burmese. In the Census Report for 1911, the
Karens were shown as belonging to the Tai-Chinese group, and this view,
ascribing a Chinese origin to the Karens is the most convincing yet
offered and generally accepted. The two most important divisions of the
Karens are the Pwo and Sgaw, and they are sometimes classified,
according to their location, as Plain Karens and Hill Karens. Of the
people Major Enriquez gives the following opinion: "They are by no means
a warlike race, and are indeed remarkable for a certain shyness ...
aloofness and reserve are marked characteristics. Their former condition
was deplorable and, but for the advent of the British, they would
probably have disappeared like the Talaings. As it is, they are now a
greatly flourishing race, passionately loyal to the British Government."

[ Illustration--RED KAREN GIRLS ]

"The Karens, especially the Sgaw, have adopted Christianity extensively.
Owing to missionaries' activities, they are often better educated than
the Burmese, though by nature less intelligent, and have been taught to
co-operate and to cultivate their racial individuality. Indeed it would
be better if they associated more freely with the Burmans. Their outside
affections, however, are reserved entirely for the British. They have no
delusions about Home Rule. The more anti-British the Burmese become, the
more passionately loyal are the Karens."

"The Plain Karens are highly civilised people, intelligent and
well-educated. It is sometimes stated that Hill Karens make the best
soldiers. I very much doubt it. They are extremely reserved and
suspicious and are not naturally courageous, though their courage can be
cultivated. These wild Karens run from strangers, especially from the
Burmans, for whom they retain the old hereditary fear...As a whole,
these Hill Karens are suspicious, morose and gloomy. There are many
missions in the Laiktho hills, and wherever the people are Christians
they are fierce observers of the Sabbath, so that it is impossible to
travel among them on a Sunday."

"The Karens are extremely hospitable: strangers can and do enter the
houses and help themselves to food without asking permission. The
villagers are so honest that the rice is left in the bins out in the
fields far away from houses. These Karens are of splendid physique,
tireless walkers and keen sportsmen..."

The above is a recent opinion of the Karens as known by a British
military officer, and is on the whole correct. Now, the opinion of a
British civil officer, Mr. Donald Smeaton, M.A., of the Bengal Civil
Service, an officer who spent many years in Burma, and was well
qualified to express an opinion may be quoted from his book _The Loyal
Karens of Burma_. The comparison with the Burmese in some of the
passages is interesting, and what he said about the Karens forty years
ago is true with a very few exceptions of the Karens to-day:

"The regular Hill Karen will obey but one man, whom he regards as his
head. A European police superintendent once told me that one of his
Karen guards had refused to obey some trifling order given him by the
Inspector-General of Police. The Superintendent said to the Karen,
pointing to the Inspector-General, 'That's my master.'"

"'Obey him then,' answered the Karen, 'as I obey you, who are my
master.' The Karen-nees (Red Karens) will take no transmitted orders.
They have been known insolently to refuse to obey their employers' wife
(and it must be remembered the wife is by far the better half in Burma),
although perfectly submissive to the employer himself. A case came to my
notice of a Karen-nee, who, while working in the fruit garden, knocked
down one of his master's cousins who came to take some fruits. The
master had at last to go to the garden himself. Of course, this
unmanageable sort of fidelity becomes toned down with education; but it
shows how the Karen looks to his head and him only for direction and

"Out adrift from his clan, the Karen is a dangerous fellow. Some wild
spirits there are among them who have separated themselves from their
own people and taken to a roving lawless life. The Karen dacoit is far
more dangerous than the Burma dacoit, from his perfect knowledge of
wood-craft, which enables him to live for months in the jungle without
any supplies, and to shift the scene of his crimes as fancy suits him.
Luckily Karen dacoits are very rare. Glance at a party of Karen
villagers starting off in pursuit of a gang of raiders. Each man has a
long sausage of rice from six to eight feet in length and some four
inches in diameter, round his shoulder, crossed at the left side and the
ends tied together at the waist. His musket is slung to his back, with
some salt, red pepper and dried fish. As he stands before you without
any other baggage, he is equipped and ready for a month in the jungle
without going near a house or a village. He cooks his food in green
bamboos, and will be off scouting for a month without giving his enemy a
sign of his presence till he closes with him. He shows all the skill of
the American Indian in tracking and concealing his own trail."


"Notwithstanding the Karen's suspicious nature, his hospitality is
unbounded. He will entertain every stranger that comes, without asking a
question. He feels himself disgraced if he does not receive all comers
and give them the very best cheer he has. The wildest Karen will receive
a guest with a grace and dignity, and entertain him with a lavish
hospitality that would become a duke. Hundreds of their old legends
inculcate the duty of receiving strangers without regard to pecuniary
circumstances either of host or guest. One of the missionaries once
wished to pay a visit to an old Karen chief whom he had known for many
years. As he was about to start a score of his school-boys begged hard
to be allowed to accompany him and see the hoary chieftain. It was a
serious matter for the missionary to take with him a set of hungry
school-boys, to eat the village out of house and home; so they took
provisions with them. When the boys reached the village the old chief
eyed suspiciously the hampers of rice and vegetables, and was very
indignant when he was told that they were the provisions of the party.
In vain the missionary pleaded that he knew how bad the last year's
paddy crop had been, and how ill the villagers could afford to feed his
party. The old man was inexorable; he had been disgraced before his clan
and in his own eyes. So the stores of rice and vegetables were given up
and left under a guard till the party were about to leave, when a double
quantity of fresh food was forced on them as a punishment for the
offence which had been unwittingly committed. The Karen accepts
hospitality as freely and in the same spirit as he gives it. He regards
it as his inviolable right to entertain all strangers and to be
entertained by them in turn; and he is indignant enough with the Burman
whom he has often feasted when, as occasionally happens, a like generous
treatment is refused to him. Sometimes this unreasoning hospitality
brings him into trouble. I have known of a Karen feeding a lot of
Burmese of whom he knew nothing and who had come on a cattle lifting
expedition. The Burmans were seized and gave up their unlucky host's
name. The Karen was sent to jail with the Burmans, although entirely
innocent of any knowledge of the crime committed by his guests. He had
never questioned them; they came to his house and he took them in. When
the poor fellow came out of jail, he was not one whit deterred from his
customary hospitality. 'Why,' said he, 'should I do wrong and give up my
ancestral custom because the Government did me wrong?'"

"A Burman will quarrel and fly into a passion, and when he has cooled
down he will be as good a friend as ever again. The Karens will not show
his passion, but will hold fire for, perhaps years. A cursory
acquaintance leads one to fancy that the Karens are far more peaceable
than the Burmans. It it not so, however. Certainly they do not quarrel
so openly or so often, but their hatreds are far more serious and
irreconcilable, although you see less of them. In trying to reconcile
two Karens who have been enemies perhaps for years, it is often very
difficult to get them even to state their grounds of complaint. In many
cases a mere statement of the facts and a brief explanation are
sufficient to put an end to the quarrel. The parties are found to be
utterly ignorant of each other's grievance: each had sulkily brooded
over his fancied wrongs and merely avoided the other."

"A Burman, when angry with you, shows at once by his noisy clamouring
what the matter is. He cools down very soon after he has had his say. A
Karen who is angry with you severely lets you alone, and you have
serious difficulty in finding out what is wrong. If he is aggrieved by
any act of a Government officer, he says nothing openly, but quietly
passes on the word that the officer in question is 'no friend of the
Karens.' The wrong done, or believed to be done, is never forgotten, and
the officer concerned will never be able to get any active help from the
clansmen. Their singular clannishness leads them to adopt the prejudices
of any of their number who has, or fancies he has, a grievance. Rightly
or wrongly, they believe that the British Government, although desirous
to be just to all, does not care for them. They have a rooted conviction
that they are looked down upon; that their English Rulers are fond of
the Burmans, but despise the Karens. I fear there is a good deal of
ground for this conviction. The Government has hitherto looked with
indifference on the Karens; has never made any serious effort to
conciliate them or win their confidence. Everything has been done for
the Burmans; nothing, or nearly nothing, for the Karens. They see this
and take note of it. They respect us and are loyal because they know
that life, property, and the honour of their women are safe only under
our rule. But we have failed to secure the allegiance of their hearts.
The Government has neglected them, and they feel the neglect keenly. We
have failed to obtain the real headship over them, because we have never
touched their hearts. The fealty to chiefs of their own blood they would
have transferred to the English ruler, if he had only courted it,
striven to understand them, and sympathised with their aspirations. The
consequence of our neglect of them is that they have none to look to but
their missionaries. Christian and heathen alike took to them as their
protectors; and fortunate for us it is that the missionaries have always
been the noble, unselfish, high-minded, loyal men they are."

"The ordinary Burman is cringing to his superiors and overbearing to his
inferiors. The Karen loathes this. His chief, whoever he be, is
_primus_, but _inter pares_, and it is a bitter thing for him to have to
ape Burmese servility in the local courts presided over by Burmese
judges. If you allow a Burman to dispense with the _Shiko_ or obeisance,
which by ancient custom he is bound to make to his superiors, he
despises you. Treat a Karen firmly and kindly and he behaves like a real
gentleman. He is easiest led when you treat him with familiarity as one
under your protection, and claim his respect from your own character and
ability to lead him. Important failures of justice have been known to
occur in our own courts owing to the Karen's distrust of us and his
rooted aversions to Burmese ways and Burmese authority. He speaks the
Burmese language very imperfectly--far more imperfectly than he
understands it. He is secretly enraged at having to do obeisance
(_shiko_) and say 'My Lord' to a Burmese officer, and to the Burman
subordinate officials and underlings who throng the public offices and
too often form a hedge around our courts, impenetrable to a Karen. When
questioned, he frequently takes refuge in 'I don't know' and a blank
stare, hoping to get off to his jungle and to his work. This is, of
course, against him, and often leads to miscarriages of justice. I have
heard intelligent Karens say that not one-half of the cases of
cattle-theft from their villages ever come to light or are even reported
to the police. When I asked the reason for this, they said, 'It is no
use, and we cannot bear to fawn or cringe to a Burman who, after all,
won't help us.' They would rather try and run down the thieves
themselves than be detained from day to day with, 'come to-morrow at ten
o'clock' for their cold comfort! An English official of rank once
challenged to the proof the assertion so often fruitlessly made that
Karens could not get access to him. The person to whom the challenge was
addressed asked permission to walk round his court and see if he could
not find an instance ready to hand. The official had not been seated in
his office ten minutes when a Karen was brought to him who had been
dancing attendance for full five weeks to get a chance of paying in his
fishery tax. The poor fellow had followed the English officer in vain
from stage to stage, carrying the money in his hand, while the notices
to pay and summonses were accumulating at his house. The records showed
no sign of the petitions which he had sent intimating his readiness to
pay his tax, and he appeared as a defaulter when all the time he had
been vainly trying to get a chance to square up accounts."

A trait which had not been mentioned in the above descriptions is the
respect for elders and old people which is traditional with the Karens,
and which forms the moral of the following characteristic and amusing

"There once lived a young pair of orphans, brother and sister, whose
parents had left them only four annas in silver. In accordance with the
ancestral custom of Karens, they had been driven from a long house or
barrack in which the whole clan lives, lest the misfortune of orphanhood
should prove contagious. They maintained a precarious existence by the
most laborious toil, living in a little hut at some distance from the
clan to which they belonged. A famine arose in the land and the clansmen
were obliged to go to a neighbouring country to replenish their slender
stock of grain. When the supply of paddy of Po Khai, the orphan boy, was
exhausted, his sister brought out the cherished piece of silver their
parents had left them and asked him to go and purchase grain with their
fellow clansmen. In a despairing mood, he said, 'What is the use? Four
annas' worth of rice will prolong our miserable lives but a few hours.
As starvation is inevitable, let us meet our fate at once.' His sister
pleaded that, unhappy as their lives were, they had entered the world
with great pain, trouble and care to their parents so they should not
leave it till every means to prolong existence had been exhausted. To
please his sister Po Khai went, following the clan at a distance as he
would not be allowed to mix with their party. When the party returned,
they saw in the depths of the jungle by the side of the road an old
woman, her body up to her neck completely covered with creepers, which
had wound themselves firmly around her body."

"As the party approached, the old woman screamed, 'Cut me loose, cut me
loose.' The clansmen declined, as the old woman would want to go home
with them, and would eat them out of house and home. After the whole
party had passed, Po Khai came along."

"The old woman redoubled her cries as there was but one left from whom
she would hope for release. Po Khai thought to himself, 'I must die, and
even if the old woman goes home with me, it can make but a few hours'
difference.' So he cut away the creepers and the old lady slipped
dancing out on the road, saying, 'Hurry up, grandson, for grandmother is
perishing with hunger.' The old woman was really Pee Bee Yaw, which
means 'Grandmother with the bound waist.' When the sister saw her
brother returning, she thought, 'My brother must be mad to invite guests
to dinner when four annas' worth of rice bought at famine prices are all
our store.' Her brother, seeing her frowns, hastily ran up into the
house and begged his sister not to refuse the hospitality universally
shown by the Karen. He reminded her how their parents never sent anyone
hungry away, and begged his sister to keep up the ancestral custom, even
though they were in the very jaws of death. The old woman at once
slipped into the kitchen and called the young girl to cook in haste, as
she was very hungry. With a heavy heart the young girl was just pouring
into the pot all the rice her brother had brought home when the old
woman checked her sharply, 'What a wasteful child! Seven grains of rice
are quite enough.' 'Grandmother,' replied the girl, 'I know how to cook
a pot of rice, but I don't know how to cook only seven grains of rice.'
The old woman spoke up sharply, 'Obey orders when your elders command
you, and ask no questions.' Abashed at the sharp tone of the old woman,
the girl counted out seven kernels, and the old woman approached the pot
with mystic passes and the pot became full. At seven grains to a meal,
Po Khai saw that the rice he had purchased was amply sufficient for his
wants, and knew that a good power had stepped in to save him. When the
news of the daily miracle reached the clan, they assembled and claimed
Pee Bee Yaw as their guest on the ground of prior discovery. Pee Bee Yaw
refused to go with them, reminding them that they had forfeited their
right as the first finders by their refusal to cut her loose from the
creepers. Of course, this refusal laid the foundation of much hatred
towards Po Khai and his sister. When the time came to cut the _taungya_
(hill garden) Pee Bee Yaw told Po Khai to clear the jungle from seven
hills and prepare them for planting. 'How can I clear seven hills?'
asked Po Khai. 'Ask no questions when your elders order you,' was the
old lady's sharp reply. Just as he was leaving the house, Pee Bee Yaw
gave him a dah with orders to try it. When he reached the chosen spot,
Po Khai raised his dah against a huge tree. It fell without even waiting
for the blow. 'Well, that's the sharpest dah I ever used,' blurted out
Po Khai, as he watched the crash of the huge tree. Of course, the seven
hills were all cleared off before breakfast."

"Po Khai wondered how this huge field was ever to be planted and reaped
and the grain threshed, but he dared ask no questions, as Pee Bee Yaw
always rebuked so harshly. He went on in blind faith in the old woman's
power. At the sowing season, Pee Bee Yaw danced over the whole field,
and a perfect shower of paddy started from her fingers and toes and from
every fold of her clothing, and so the field was well filled with grain.
The crop prospered splendidly, and soon the bending ears, over a foot in
length and filled to the very extremity with golden grain, gave promise
of such a bountiful harvest as had never been known before."

"Po Khai wondered how this grain could ever be harvested, but still
dared not ask. The clansmen, wild with rage at the boundless wealth
which they had just missed, and which had gone to Po Khai, now summoned
all the clans within a day's march to join them in stealing Po Khai's
paddy. Men, women and even children joined the raid. Some reaped, others
carried the bundles. Some threshed and winnowed, while others carried
home the paddy. After a most laborious night's work of many hundreds,
all of Po Khai's grain was carried off. Fancy the looks of Po Khai when
he found nothing but trampled stubble where he had left waving grain!"

"Following the trail of the thieves, he picked up seven sheaves dropped
by the way. On reporting to Pee Bee Yaw that these seven bundles were
all that was left of their crop, she coolly told him to build seven huge
paddy bins. Po Khai did so with the unquestioning obedience which had
become a habit with him. When the bins were completed, but not roofed, a
sheaf was put in each, and Pee Bee Yaw commenced dancing among the bins
and singing a call to the grain wherever it was to return to its proper
owner. At once the paddy came flying through the air, and fell in a
perfect shower, till not a single grain was left with the thieves."

"A solemn council of all the clans was held, and their indignation knew
no bounds. 'We thought to ruin Po Khai, and we have been made nothing
but his coolies, and even worse! Nothing is left us even for our wages.'
So they arranged to steal the paddy again from the bins this time.

"Po Khai spent the day, by Pee Bee Yaw's orders, in cutting a huge pile
of clubs and making a large number of cords. When they went home in the
evening, Pee Bee Yaw said 'Ropes tie and sticks beat.' When the clansmen
came to steal the paddy, the ropes bound each to a tree and the clubs
began to beat a rat-tat-too on their backs. To entreat the deaf cords
and clubs was, of course, useless. Next morning, Po Khai found his
tormentors in his power and half dead with the terrible beating they had

"They readily took the oath, considered by hillmen to be inviolable,
never to molest him more. Pee Bee Yaw then said she must return to her
abode in the skies, to wash down her house there as the hens had surely
filled it with dust. To enable her to do so, she told Po Khai to raise
the two shafts by which the native plough or harrow is dragged, into a
perpendicular position. She then took the form of a cricket, crept up to
the yoke and flew away."

(The custom of raising the yoke in the air and placing a cricket on the
perpendicular poles that support it, is still followed by the Karens. It
is considered a very good omen if the cricket crawls upwards and takes
flight from the top.)

The legend also inculcates the doctrine of hospitality--a virtue which
has been observed almost to a fault. Many a poor Karen has suffered
because he has failed to show a little discrimination in the choice of
his guests. In the year 1897, out of one thousand four hundred prisoners
in the Bassein jail sixty were Karens, and of this number more than half
had been sent to prison either through having received into their houses
strangers guilty of some crime or through being incriminated by the
latter. Sometimes the unsuspecting Karen is persuaded by a scheming
stranger to infringe upon the law, only to be betrayed subsequently by
the stranger who had partaken of his hospitality.

[ Illustration--DONALD MACZENZIE SMEATON, M.A., Bengal Civil Service ]

[ Illustration--W. V. WALLACE, Commissioner ]


THE REV. W. C. B. Purser, M.A., in an article entitled "The present
situation in Burma" which appeared in _The Young Men of India_ for March
21st, 1921, says:

"The Karens although slightly less numerous than the Shans in Burma, are
of far more political importance, partly on account of their living in
lower Burma within comparatively easy access of Rangoon, partly because,
through Christianity, they have made rapid progress during late years in
education and general prosperity. There must be considerably more than a
quarter of a million Karen Christians; of these the larger part have
been won to Christianity by the American Baptist Mission, but in
addition to large numbers connected with other missions who are entirely
independent of western organisation and belong to the Karen National
Church. There are also many thousands of Karens who call themselves
Christians, of these the best known are the followers of Bishop Thomas
Pelleko, who sees in the name of our Lord a connection with the Karen
word _Khli_, a bow, and had designed a mysterious ceremony to bring out
the significance of this fact."

"The Karens are a 'peculiar people' in more than the Biblical sense of
the expression. They have been held in contempt as hardly better than
animals, and have been subjected to age-long oppression by their Burmese
neighbours. So it can hardly be wondered at that they have developed a
clannishness and reserve which is almost morbid. This is, however,
breaking down as a result of the confidence which their Christian
education has given them, and under the leadership of Dr. San C. Po; and
with their new bi-lingual paper to guide them, they are sure, sooner or
later, to play an important role in the public affairs of the Province."

    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

Mr. V. W. Wallace, a former Commissioner of the Irrawaddy Division, in
an unpublished Preface contributed to a Revised Edition of the _Loyal
Karens of Burma_ which it was proposed to publish, says: "It is with
much diffidence that I have undertaken the task of writing a preface to
this new edition of Mr. Donald Smeaton's book _The Loyal Karens of
Burma_. The only excuse for my doing so is that it was the perusal of
this work that first drew my attention to the Karen race, and caused me
to study their language many years ago, so that I was, I believe, the
first official to pass the test for the Sgau-Karen language in 1891.

"Since then many European officers have passed the examinations in both
the Pwo and Sgau dialects, and even in the Bghai or Red Karen language,
as well as in the Taung-thu tongue, which is really one of the Karen

"The action of the Government in sanctioning rewards to those who
mastered these languages was largely due, I think to the influence of
Mr. Smeaton, and has naturally directed attention to the various Karen
tribes, and has caused many to interest themselves in a race that was at
one time much neglected and misunderstood."

"Readers at this date must bear in mind that the original edition was
written during the stirring times of the war of annexation in Upper
Burma by an official new to the country, and to the forms of unrest
caused by such a state of affairs. They must also remember that the Rev.
Dr. Vinton, the American Baptist Missionary from whom Mr. Smeaton
collected so much of his information regarding the people of whom he
wrote, was also an enthusiast who had so indentified himself with his
converts as to be scarcely able to see anything except from the
standpoint of the Karen. To these earnest men the methods of the higher
officials and the caution necessary in dealing with a little-known race
seemed to be the most glaring folly."

"The fault lay with the Karens themselves to a very great extent, and
not wholly with the district officials, who might ordinarily have been
expected to know the people of a country that had been under British
rule for about thirty years. The fact is that the Karens are a shy race,
suffering from a sort of desire to keep aloof from all other people, and
seldom showing any wish to interview officials unless they have proved
their friendliness by learning their language and customs and moving
amongst them. Even then, to many persons, the Karen may appear to be
surly and ungrateful, but this is only due to his natural shyness and
the repression of all outward signs of his feelings."

"Mr. Smeaton appears to have been greatly mistaken in his views of the
consequences of the annexation of Upper Burma, and seems not to have
been aware of the causes that made that step imperative if the Lower
Province was to be safely held. As we all see to-day, Upper Burma has
progressed wonderfully under the rule of the King-Emperor; railways and
irrigation works have changed the face of the country and rendered it
almost immune to scarcity or famine, while the great oil fields have
been made to yield their wealth and bring prosperity to the most barren
traet in the land. With regard to the Karens, however, nearly all of Mr.
Smeaton's desires have now been fulfilled. The Karens have their own
schools, and Karen educational officers have been appointed. Nearly a
thousand Karens are to-day serving in the Military Police, there are
many Karens employed as Myooks, and in the Provincial Civil Service, and
it is pleasing to know that the Karens have come forward loyally during
the late great war, and have furnished more men in proportion to their
numbers than the Burmans themselves for the Burma Regiments lately

"They also have the honour of being represented on the Lieutenant
Governor's Council, and have shown in many non-official capacities their
fitness and ability to undertake the duties of citizenship."

"I believe that the Karen race has, under British rule, a great future
before it, provided the people preserve their nationality, and combine
as one people to progress, not by sudden leaps, but by slow and certain
movement towards higher civilization, showing the same loyalty to the
British Government that they have shown in the past. They must learn
more self-confidence, and take greater interest in the affairs of the
country while retaining their reputation as a law-abiding and
trustworthy race."

    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

A. G. Campagnac, an octogenarian of long experience in Burma, writes:

"Opportunities, many, varied, and of special nature have been afforded
me for the study of the Burman and Karen characteristics. I have known
them for the last fifty years, with a degree of friendly intimacy, in
their homes, and their out-door lives, and in their vocations. I have
been closely associated with the Karen missionaries, with Rev. Morrow at
Tavoy, Rev. Rand at Moulmein, Rev. Bunker at Toungoo, and the
'American-Karens,' the versatile Doctors Vinton and Nichols at Rangoon
and Bassein; I have gone out with them in their missionary itineraries,
and have availed myself of being present at their Association
gatherings. These missionaries have not only got into the shoes of the
Karens, but have entered into the very lives of the people and into
their thoughts, and the people have an abiding confidence in their
American teachers."

"Hence Mr. Donald Smeaton, M.A., I.C.S., the then Financial
Commissioner, advised the Government in his book, _The Loyal Karens_:
'Work as far as possible with the missionaries to whom the Karens and
the Government owe so much. Listen to their counsel.' Smeaton rightly
calls them "The Loyal Karens," because he had an intimate and accurate
knowledge of the brave, willing, self-sacrificing services rendered by
the Karen levies under Vinton, Bunker and Nichols (the veteran of 101
fights still holding the fort) during the rebellious rising here, there
and every-where."

"Smeaton strongly urges on the Government the advisability of
encouraging the national aspirations of the Karen people, and points out
that the aspiration most deeply imbedded in their minds and their
cherished wish is that their nationality be kept intact, and that their
language be not neglected and allowed to die out."

"People naturally or instinctively know what is good for them, and these
Karens have lived for a generation in the fond expectancy of one day
having a country and a home which will be their very own. Even now they
are found clustered together here and there among themselves."

"The strength of their cohesion may well be seen in the Karen High
School at Bassein; an educational institution such as this is not to be
seen even in India. Here we see the strong spirit of co-operation, the
will to do the best for the good of the community, rice or poor, the
ability to accomplish so much educational and cultural work of a high
order. They have their own fully qualified medical men, and nurses,
sympathetic and efficient for services most valuable; they have their
engineers working at their rice and saw mills; their staff of
educationally qualified school teachers; their devoted pastors who
control schools and churches in the different villages. They are a
self-contained people. Music, in its richest form, is their heritage;
and in their High School at Bassein, with its eight hundred to a
thousand pupils, boys and girls, they have their band of musical
players, and in their great Assembly Hall they have a great pipe organ,
at which a Karen young ladies presides. Their music has attracted so
much attention that years ago, at the invitation of the Viceroy of
India, Karen young ladies sang at Government House in Calcutta, and
their musical talents were spoken of with much _éclat_. People such as
these will surely wish to be in their own peculiar element and
atmosphere. One may admire, at a football match, their co-operation,
their powers of endurance, their quickness of movement, their quick
judgment and their fair play and consideration for others."

"The Burmans have had their dynasties of Kings and their Ministers of
State, their standing armies, and their influential monastic system. The
Karens have had none of these, and hence their instinct and ideal of
life are different. They do not aspire to be kings, rulers or governors,
and have no visions of kingdoms and principalities, but from earliest
days their desire has been to be friendly and helpful to all with whom
they come into contact; they are absolutely in no way hostile to or even
jealous of the Burmans; but are always ready to give a helping hand when
needed to a Burman, whom they call "Brother," but they long to live
together among their own people, a socialistic life in a broad sense.
They wish to educate themselves to a high standard of civilisation and

"Thousands of them have embraced Christianity, the religion to which
their ancient traditions pointed; and Christian people of whatever
nationality are not aliens to them, nor is a British Government an
administration of foreigners. Christianity has taken a great hold of
their minds and their hearts. They are as a body, a truthful, guileless
people. They are keenly sensitive to the smallest harshness or to
injustice, but they are also intensely appreciative of the smallest
token of kindness or friendliness. In earliest times their intuitive
loyalty to the sovereign they pride in calling their "Great Good Queen"
was inspiring."

"In Mesopotamia the Karen contingent did yeoman service, and the first
man shot dead on that field was a Karen youth of Kozu. Loyalty to the
British Raj is ingrained in their very constitution, and fidelity to the
King-Emperor is a duty, sacred and religious."

    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

Mr. Edwin Rowlands, who has been engaged for many years in Burma both in
mission work and in the field of education, writes:

"Having spent several years among the Karens, the writer is privileged,
by the invitation of the author, to say something about this sturdy
little race.

"The different tribes of Karens in Burma number well over a million
souls; the majority, however, are still primitive. When we speak of the
Karens we generally think of that part of the race which lives under
civilised conditions--very largely Christian, with whom we come in
contact in the large towns and certain districts. These, for us, stand
for, and speak for the race. And there is a host of them--some seven
score thousand! The casual observer sees no difference between them and
the Burmese, to him they are Burmese. Apart from the government this
little people owes its identity and unity--its consciousness of
itself, and its expression,--to Missions. Missions have 'made' the
Karens--called a 'nation' into being, given them a place in the sun!
With the aid and protection of Government and their own efforts, they
owe their education, their organisation, their outlook, their progress,
to Mission work; and this is gratefully and loyally recognised."

"The Karens, through their churches, are perhaps the best organised
among the people of Burma; they are also possibly the best _trained in
the use of the franchise_. Most of the Christian community, though far
from all, are connected with the democratic Baptist Mission--here
they are trained in the use of the franchise; the hundreds of churches
elect, and pay largely, their own pastors, and the superintendent is
elected by vote. Here is an intelligent, trained, independent electorate
to help carry out the Reforms. Again, they have _training in
organisation_--their churches, their schools, their large annual
associations, call for this. Their support of education under the
initiative of their leaders is in some cases _phenomenal_. This
progressive community includes chiefly the Sgaw Karen and Pwo Karen
branches besides the Paku and Bwe; there are also some Karen Buddhists.
The writer's experience has been almost wholly among the Sgaw branch."

"It may be said, in passing, that a primitive branch of the Karens--
Karenni--still occupy the only independent part of Burma."

"As is natural with a small race, the Karens may be called _clannish_.
This is not an aggressive clannishness--rather one of aloofness. In
towns they have the Karen 'quarters'--a part of the town where they
reside--their own villages, living their own life, and whole Karen
'districts.' They do not, perhaps, take a _sufficient_ part in the
general life, but this will grow."

"The late W. T. Stead called the people of Wales 'a nest of singing
birds.' This may be as appropriate to the Karens--they have _a natural
gift of song_, and it is developed. Some of the most pleasing singing in
Burma is in their churches. Their singing at Agra a few years ago was a
revelation. It is striking to hear a growing youth humming bass as he
passes the window, or a girl naturally falling to singing 'seconds.'
Singers and poets are by nature sensitive: and these two branches may
indicate also a power of culture. The Karens are sensitive. They are apt
to cover their wound with the wing--to nurse their grievance in
silence. They are appreciative of kindness, but not demonstrative in its

"This leads to the mention of another point--their _power of passive
resistance_. If this little race was united in their opposition, there
is no race in Burma, perhaps, which could equal them in their power of
thus resisting--it is something akin to obstinacy. Yes, and they can
also rise in response to a proper appeal."

"M. Smeaton wrote a book entitled _The Loyal Karens of Burma_; the title
was well chosen. Not once, nor twice only have they proved this
_loyalty_ to Government, this has been proved not only when it was to
their own interests also, but otherwise. Their intelligence and their
appreciation naturally lead them to loyalty. It is not always, perhaps,
that this has been fully reciprocated. But this is not the only kind of
loyalty. And many can testify to the loyalties of this little people."

"One is prepared for a look of doubt when one says the Karens are
_enterprising_. They are not noted for this in business, though there
are cases enough. Scour the outposts and we find its members scattered
throughout the province, in different departments and avocations--
quite a little host in Siam. Their sturdiness and solidity fit them for
this. We find them as Mission pioneers among the northern tribes,
serving Government in different departments, civil and military and the
big companies; teachers, quite a host; mechanics; men in forests--
famous elephant catchers; outposts, mines, etc."

"Years before the Kinwun Mingyi's Mission to Europe we find two Karen
boys sailing for America from Moulmein in the _Lady Elma Bruce_ in 1865
--the one returning with his degree and training for a leading place as
Minister of the gospel, and the other a 'crack' baseball player for the
University, returning with a Normal training. In or about the same year
we find still another youth going, and returning with his M.A., to serve
his people to old age--he passed away recently. It shows some
enterprise that the Karen village of Kozu, some seventy houses, should
boast of three who went to America and four across to India. It is also
interesting to mention the Karen, Dr. Saw Durmay (Po Min), who had the
enterprise to take his white elephant to England and America."

"One might pass on to one more point--_courage_. This virtue is not
the monopoly of any one race. What the Karens did during the dacoities
of the 'eighties of last century showed this. Give them the leader that
appeals to them--note their response. Probably not only relatively,
but absolutely, this little race responded at the time of the Great War
with a number exceeding that of any race in Burma--thanks largely to
Dr. San C. Po and other leaders. As military police they are well known.
The Karens are a peace-loving people, and in the past were subject to no
little oppression. To recall the words of a candid critic, Mr. C. F.
Hertz, D.S.P., C.I.E., in a speech to which the writer listened: 'The
Karens are a peace-loving people, and for the sake of peace they have in
the past stood a lot of high-handedness and oppression from some of
their neighbours. This peace-loving disposition has been mistaken for
timidity. Now, I need not tell you that you are not, in the true sense
of the word, a timid race. I have seen Karens in circumstances in which
they have shown themselves quite the equal in pluck to any other race
inhabiting this province."

"The writer in travelling with a police officer and speaking of this
little people recalls, perhaps, his exact words when he said, 'The
Karens are the boys; I would go anywhere with Karens, or with Gurkhas.'
Effective as they can be when roused in this connection, it is still
better, perhaps, in the grim persistent battle of life."

"The Karen is apt to stick to the simple, direct, primitive manners of
his forefathers, and not be 'flexible' enough in certain circumstances.
He sometimes loses by this. One would sum up correctly, perhaps, by
saying, that the Karen does not arrange a good enough show-window to
indicate the good stuff inside the shop! In one word one would describe
the Karen as--_sturdy_."

"In the background of all is Karen womanhood. The name of Karen
womanhood stands high. Writers on Burma are one in this. Female higher
education has made rapid strides in recent times. The service of Karen
womanhood in the state runs into three channels: child-nursing,
teaching, and sick-nursing, in all of which they render sterling

"In the words of Dr. Gilmore: 'In order that the national contribution
of the Karens be helpful to other nations they must live their own
individual life, and at the same time live in intercourse with other
nations; they must live their own life to maintain their peculiar
characteristics in order to contribute them to the common life of the
races of Burma and enrich that life."

[ Illustration--DR. SUMNER VINTON and PO PIKE SAN ]


"O wad some power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as others see us."


SOME prominence has been gained by a few Karens, not so much because
they are men of talent, zeal, earnestness and sincerity as because the
methods adopted by them for their people, whose interests they
undoubtedly have at heart, have excited many and diverse remarks from
their friends and enemies.

Among these may be mentioned the great Po Pike San or Po Hsan Ye,
"Bishop" Pelleko or Klebopa, Saw Pah Dwai, A.T.M., Barrister-at-Law, and
Dr. Po Min or Saw Durmay, of white elephant fame. These men have tried,
each in his own way, to do their utmost to help and uplift their people,
champion their cause, and fight their battles, and as one modestly said,
"To make the Karens known, at least." Their aims and objects are highly
commendable, and that spirit of helping their oppressed countrymen has
always been present. But the question arises--with what success have
they met by the methods they have employed?

_Po Hsan Ye_

The story of the life of the late Po Hsan Ye has an obscure beginning
and a mysterious end, and, up to date, there has been no reliable
evidence to show whether he met his death accidentally, by falling into
a well or through foul play. At any rate, his disciples and those who
actually believed in his infallibility up to this day hold that he still
lives. It is this belief that has given opportunities to some pretenders
to extract sums of money from the ignorant people.

It has been related that many years ago Po Pike San was a Buddhist, and
that his whole aim was to become a Zawgyi (a holy man). A Zawgyi is a
person who has lived a saintly life in solitary seclusion and is capable
of performing miracles. However, in order to attain this state of power
he has to meet and overcome some of the greatest temptations and
hardships. Po Pike San, on the highest peak of the Shwegyin Hills called
Thet-keh-daung, had attained this state. For many years at the foot of a
little white pagoda which he had built, he practised the five precepts
{BXT-7.bmp} Burmese, Karens, Shans and pilgrims of other nationalities
came and worshipped at the place and saw the "holy man." But it appears
that while living a saintly life he had a female partner whom he called
"mother" and who took part in all his adventures, bore all the hardships
and, like himself, conquered all the great temptations that came her
way. Some years later Po Pike San came down from the hill and settled
down in a large village made up of his so-called "children." It was here
that a missionary met him and eventually converted him and all his
"children" to Christianity. The conversion was looked upon with doubt by
some who thought that he had an ulterior object, while to others he was
a sincere seeker of the Truth who had found it like the great apostle
Paul of old. At any rate, the subsequent actions and manifestations of
this really wonderful man never clearly demonstrated his absolute

There was something singular about Po Pike San, reverently called Po
Hsan Ye after his conversion, in that whatever he did the Burmese people
never criticised nor obstructed him in any way. Perhaps it was due to
the fact that he was once a Buddhist who had attained that height of
spirituality which could do nothing wrong. He was reputed to have saved
up a tremendous amount of money, and to have buried it on the top of
some hills. At any rate, besides giving substantial financial help to
the Vinton Memorial Hall which stands as one of the Karen achievements,
he built many buildings, particularly half a dozen magnificent edifices
which have been the wonder of travellers journeying by train. These
buildings served as rest-houses for travellers, and a meeting place for
the Karens of the vicinity, and supplied ample accommodation for the
annual Karen Christian or National meetings. While Po Pike San was
alive, the buildings were more or less made use of, but after his death
they fell into disuse and most of them have fallen into the hands of
money lenders.

The influence and personality of this man was simply wonderful among a
certain class of Karens, and he was such a man of mystery that people of
all classes were not satisfied until they had seen him, and had shaken
hands with him once in their lifetime. One of his methods of procuring
money was to invest in a few hundred rupees worth of safety pins which
he would sell for one rupee each. People would pay for them without a
word just for the sake of having a memento of Po Hsan Ye. He was also a
peculiarly effective "beggar." His requests from possible donors would
start at a thousand rupees, then a hundred and gradually lowering to one
rupee or even one pice. Generally his appeal was successful before the
minimum was reached. He would receive the money that was given him in a
silver or brass bowl containing water. "For," he said, "money is hot,
and it must be cooled down and washed in water to make it fit for good
use." These odd little acts of his were looked upon by a certain class
of people as mystic rites.

Whatever savours of mystery interests and attracts most men, and an
interesting habit of Po Pike San was his choice and use of words with a
double meaning. Some British officers kept a close watch upon the old
man, as they thought he was an impostor and did great harm to poor
ignorant people, while others did not take him seriously, but, instead,
regarded him as a harmless and eccentric specimen of humanity.

"Bishop" _Thomas Pelleko Klebopa_
( {Karen Text: KXT-1.bmp}, _meaning "Father of the Bows"_)

The "Bishop," who is of historical interest, was a member of the Church
of England, but by his peculiar interpretation of the Scriptures and
other eccentricities, he was later struck off from membership of that
Church. Whatever may have been his previous history, he first became
known to the public when he was arrested on a charge of preaching
sedition, and appeared before Judge David Wilson, I.C.S. The Judge took
the view that "Bishop" Pelleko was no more than a religious crank, a
type which is very common even in Western countries, who made a peculiar
interpretation of the Bible, and that when he exhorted the people not to
pay taxes to Government, he only meant taxes in a spiritual sense. He
was discharged after some months of detention in jail.

The peculiarity of "Bishop" Pelleko's doctrine was that the name of
Christ should be associated with a bow, claiming that the first four
letters, Chri, should have been Khli (which means a bow in Karen)--and
hence Christ would be known as Khli-Bo-Pa (Father of the Bow). This
explanation is obviously unsatisfactory. But those who are acquainted
with the rhymes or poems of the hill people will understand how easily
mistakes arise when these verses are handed down verbally from father to
son. "Bishop" Pelleko died a few years ago, but his disciples still
continue his method of worship, and seem truly sincere in their belief.
Strange as it may seem there are many disciples in various parts of
Burma who are following his doctrine. One of them who lives near by, in
Bassein District, claims the power to take away the sins of his
disciples by placing an arrow on his bow and shooting away the sins for
a fee.

_Dr. Saw (Durmay) Po Min_

Saw Durmay is a man, still comparatively young, notable for certain
actions and undertakings which are very unusual, and with such vast aims
that it would need a Solomon or a Mahawthata to foretell the ultimate

The birth-place of this outstanding man was somewhere in Kyaukkyi, but
his sphere of activities has been mostly in Toungoo, Toungoo hills, and
vicinity. I has often been asked by those interested whether Dr. Saw Po
Min was really a qualified medical man. It seems that Dr. Po Min studied
in Calcutta for some few years and while there he took great interest in
medicine, attended clinics, learned how to compound medicines, etc., by
special permission of the physician-in-charge, and eventually made the
acquaintance of the Surgeon-General. After some time, he gained some
knowledge of drugs and their actions, compounding and the treatment of
the ordinary and more common diseases. On his leaving Calcutta, he
received a certificate from the Surgeon-General, certifying to his
knowledge of drugs, compounding and treatment of ordinary and common
diseases, and that he might be trusted to treat them. He has also a
knowledge of indigenous drugs and method of Karen treatment.

His real name is Po Min, but he is also called Durmay by his intimate
friends, and this name he has adopted as a part of his surname owing to
an incident which happened while he was in London. There appeared in one
of the London illustrated papers an article on elephant catching in
Burma with sketches of the methods, etc. Dr. Po Min was the man who gave
particulars of the methods in use and his name was mentioned in an
article which stated that the "Burmese Method" of catching elephants was
very unique and humane and that the result was very good all round. Dr.
Po Min at once had it published in the paper that the method of catching
elephants as described by him was not Burmese but Karen, that indigenous
elephant catchers were Karens and not Burmans and that he, Dr. Po Min,
was a Karen and not a Burman. The _Burma Observer_, having seen the
article, commented to the effect that if Dr. Saw Po Min was so keen on
making a distinction and prided himself on being a Karen, why did he own
a Burmese name? This article in the _Burma Observer_ touched Dr. Po Min
to the quick and he immediately announced in the papers that henceforth
his name would be Saw Durmay (Durmay means a black ant that runs on the
ground, and when it bites it produces a very painful, hot sensation).
Subsequent events, however, have shown that Dr. Po Min has not quite
discarded his former name but now has it "Dr. Saw Durmay Po Min."

From the above incident, one may conclude that Dr. Po Min is one of
those strong-headed men with a great amount of courage behind him. When
the Burmese sent their delegates to England some years ago in connection
with the Reforms Scheme, in spite of the unwillingness of some of the
Karen elders and the fact that funds were not available for the purpose
Dr. Po Min formed one of the two delegates saying, "I am going even
against the wishes of some of you, and I am going at my own expense, so
you can have nothing to say." He went there late for the sitting of the
Selborne Committee, but he remained there and did, among other things, a
good turn for the Karens in republishing Mr. Smeaton's _Loyal Karens of
Burma_ which he distributed to a number of prominent people in England
and to some officials in Burma. This book, which gives a very accurate
account of the Karens, contains many valuable suggestions relating to
the policy Government should pursue, and by which the Karens could be
made to realise and appreciate to the full extent the good intention of
Government, and which at the same time would be of great mutual benefit
to the rulers and the ruled.

During the Wembley Exhibition, Dr. Saw Po Min sent two elephants with
his Karen Mahout to increase the attractiveness of the Burmese
exhibition. Recently he took his famous white elephant to the London
Zoo, personally, and created quite a sensation. Incidentally, when the
white elephant first left the shores of Burma it so happened that the
rains did not set in at the usual time. There was a delay of some weeks,
and this delay in the onset of the rainy season was attributed by some
to the white elephant having been taken away from Burma, as on a
previous occasion in the time of Waythandaya Min, when he gave away his
white elephant to another country, drought and famine followed and
lasted until the day the white elephant was brought back.

To have captured a real white elephant is indeed a very rare
achievement--it is said that such an event has happened only a few times
in the long history of Burma. White elephants are considered sacred in
Burma and Siam, and Dr. Po Min must have some definite plan as to the
ultimate disposal of the one captured by him. Meanwhile this parading
and exhibition of the white elephant by him will no doubt have the
effect of making the Karens better known to the general public. There
are many Karens who expect great things from Dr. Po Min and his
activities, while not a few are puzzled in their attempt to conjecture
the final outcome of his recent unusual undertaking.

Dr. Po Min has had strange experiences, to which he attaches great
importance. For instance, there is a story that a hen once flew up and
perched on his shoulder and laid an egg which dropped into his pocket,
and the writer has observed that by some strange influence many people
who came from the hills to Saw Durmay's place in Toungoo have turned
into prophets or become temporarily insane!


_Saw Pah Dwai, A.T.M., Barrister-at-Law_

The three men already described were men of the hills, and not highly
educated. Saw Pah Dwai, however, is a son of the Delta, well educated
and clever. He has held important public positions, and his services
have been recognised and rewarded by Government. His student life has
been one long continuous struggle against financial difficulties; he
found discipline irksome and consequently was not popular with the
authorities of the institutions which he attended. He went to England to
study law by the help of Karens which was obtained through his own
personal exertions. He has been practising mostly in Thaton but being
often engaged by Karens of other parts of the Province. Whenever and
wherever his services have been and are required by his people he has
unstintedly given of his best, and has on many occasions fought tooth
and nail to champion their cause.

Saw Pa Dwai has met with so much disappointment in his lifetime that he
has become a strong pessimist, a man of unmitigated grievances. The
unfortunate fact of the matter is that he cannot realise that "there is
more than one way of killing a cat." He has been grievously disappointed
in many of his undertakings on behalf of his people, either owning to
the predominating influence on the opposite side or because the mind of
the authorities is biased unfavourably by his ways and methods. On one
occasion he created a great stir and caused much amusement throughout
the province by making a speech in Karen (only Burmese and English being
allowed) at a session of the Burma Legislative Council, on the plea that
he could not speak English.

Strongly resenting the many ingenious methods of Burmese oppression of
his people, in his evidence given before the Whyte Committee at Moulmein
when asked if the Karens are still badly treated by the Burmans, he
said, "Burmese oppression of the Karens is ten times worse now than in
the olden days, for the Burmese have learned to be wiser and infinitely
more cunning in their methods of oppression, and Government are none the
wiser for their doing so." In a personal statement he has been heard to
say that he has given up every hope of ever getting any fair treatment
from Government, nor does he expect them to live up to the promises that
have been made. So, as far as the writer now knows, he is playing the
game of non-co-operator with Government and its doings.

Is Saw Pa Dwai entirely wrong in his opinion of the Government and their
attitude towards Karens, or would Government be perfectly right to think
that Saw Pa Dwai is wrong in his contention? The writer would suggest
that in spite of Saw Pa Dwai's apparent eccentric ways he is perfectly
right from his point of view; while Government on the other hand, no
doubt, have sound reasons for their actions. The antagonistic points of
view recall the story of the two knights of old who came to a statue
which one declared was made of gold while the other side it was made of
silver. The two fought and bled almost to death, and it was left to a
priest to show them that they were both equally wrong and equally right.
The statue was actually covered with gold on one side and silver on the
other, but the knights never thought of going over to look at it from
the other's point of view. So long as Saw Pa Dwai and the Government are
in their present position, they will never see the same thing in the
same way. With the knights of old it was pride that made them blind, but
with Saw Pa Dwai and the Government it is an impenetrable curtain which
hangs between them, and only when this curtain is lifted will both sides
be visible to each. And the only way in which the curtain can be lifted
or removed the writer will endeavour to show in a subsequent chapter.

Saw Pa Dwai's method of attaining his object perhaps does not appeal to
those in authority, but the solid facts are there. The following
excerpts from one of a series of resolutions to be sent up by him to
Local Government will show the unusual literary style and phraseology he
usually adopts. The resolutions resemble more a series of short lectures
vigorously propounded by a Professor emphasising every point rather than
a petition stating sober facts and grievances to Local Government for
redress. There are some beautiful thoughts expressed in the passages,
and the unusual phrasing of words and expressions, too, are worthy of
notice. Most individuals have little peculiarities of their own, but
when the peculiarities in a particular person are marked, he is apt to
be regarded as eccentric:

"Burma, like all its neighbours, is in a state of uneasiness and in
misery. It murmurs, grumbles, and groans; it struggles, writhes and
kicks; it is suffering from some disease or diseases, no doubt.
Doctoring committees have been appointed, one after the other, to
diagnose and prescribe remedies..."

"It looks as if the committees were welcomed in their respective places
and at their birth, as angels of salvation. But lo! They came, made a
lot of fuss, passed out and vanished, like big bubbles, struggling out
of the throat of mud volcanoes, make a great deal of rumblings that
form, glitter awhile and burst. They are mountains in labour that bring
forth a handful of vapours. In fact they are more. For neither the
labour of the mountain nor the escaping bubbles cost anything. But each
of the committees passed out and left the well-known backbone (the
Public) a degree or two, at least, paler than ever. Their failures like
in one of the other or in all of the following defects:

"Namely, first, they failed to spot the right seat of the disease;
second, they failed to exert themselves sufficiently for removing it,
when rightly spotted; third, they failed to make use of the proper
means. There is again this trouble: the doctor that diagnoses and
prescribes is not he that checks and administers the remedy to the

"When one so often hears cries against the public servants, it is only
common sense to start finding out if the cries are false or true. If
they are false, they give the "cry-wolves" hard slaps on their lips and
tell them to shut up forever and a day; but if they are true, send up
the "sheep-wolves" to the gallows at once, one and all, fruits and
roots, branches and all, as the Burmese King of old did. The decision
and decree appear to us to be those of a guilty weakling who, being
exceedingly frightened to make the bold strides, this way or that, of a
brave soldier, crawls into a convenient loophole that only suits an
energetic lukeworm."

"Once more again, offences are poison, and hence offenders are vipers,
and corrupt public servants are immuned domesticated vipers. Vipers
breed a hundred at a time and so multiply very quickly. By one corrupt
action or practice one hundred evils spring up as the children of the
viper and one evil encourages and strengthens another, and so you see
the children of the deadly reptiles are gaily dancing, and deaths and
sorrows are numerous, and to add oil to the fires, vipers are called
upon to administer unto the pains and sores...Then fancy the
unthinkable waste of time, of labour, of public money often aptly
described as the juice of the life of Back-bone-daily. Fancy the amount
of throes involved in the systematic hauling down of the innocent, free,
simply happy, rustic's soul whose spirit smiles to the freezing degree
at the very mention of "law courts," by legions a day, the soul being
made to go through the Ordeals of laws and of various Procedures, in the
hands of the despotic lords of the petty throes, the ordeals distracted
and prolonged through wearisome days, months, and years. Also imagine
both the passive and the active economic wastes arising from a million
and one trips, back and forth, to and from the law courts and from the
loss of labour or work, in the field of elsewhere, which might be double
or triple the already dreadful waste above referred to. Also listen to
the calls for new beings by the quaint names of Dear Additionals, Sweet
Deputies, and Lovely Assistants and all the other similar pet names."

"Justice implies satisfaction that persuades contentment; contentment
implies peace; and peace, prosperity; and prosperity, happiness, which
is the aim of all life, high or low, here or elsewhere. The people are
not happy because they are not prosperous, not contented and not
satisfied, and because they are not given justice, one of the three gems
of the state, viz., Justice, Freedom and Equality."


"Her office there to rear, to teach,
Becoming as is meet and fit
A link among the days, to knit
The generations each with each."


IT has truly been said "The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world."
A country or nation which disregards its womanhood could never be
counted truly great; whereas a nation that respects its womanhood has
invariably proved itself superior to other nations. It is said that at
the height of the glory of Rome, the class of people that wielded great
power were the Greek women who had the care of Roman homes as well as
that of the children, in their education and up-bringing. The Greek
women so, unostentatiously did their work that the public at large were
not aware of it. Karen women, with their simple ways, their gentle and
modest manner, have won the respect and admiration not only of their own
people but also of the people of other nationalities who have known and
observed them.

Co-education has been a great success among the Karens. It has been
proved to be such for the past fifty years or more. At a meeting of a
well-educated and talented group of Burmans, a Burmese lady made the
following remark: "I have attended a Christian Karen co-educational
school as well as a Burmese Girls' school, and my candid opinion is that
co-education among the Karens will always be a success, while among the
Burmese it always is bound to be a failure. There is something in the
nature of the Burmese boys and girls that will never be compatible with
co-education. I am Burmese and am fully aware of what I have said."


In educational as well as in religious matters Karen women have taken a
prominent part. They love English music, and have the ability to learn,
with facility, simple as well as difficult music. On the 10th March,
1927, the Bassein-Myaungmya Karen Women's Association held a meeting at
Bassein. The Christian women of Bassein-Myaungmya and other districts
were present. It was the fiftieth anniversary of the Association and the
number of women present was estimated to be about four thousand. The
programme consisted of a musical concert and several addresses of
welcome by wives of prominent pastors and elders. Their speeches were
thrilling and inspiring. The musical entertainment was very enjoyable,
and the catering was efficiently conducted in spite of the large number
of guests. One woman proudly declared that they had not in vain striven
to show the people that man's aid was not absolutely essential to women.
General acquiescence was given to her statement because her boast had
been amply justified.

Karen girls are homely and motherly, and thus European ladies highly
appreciate them as baby nurses and house-keepers. Being patient and
gentle, they make efficient sick-nurses and midwives whose services are
highly appreciated by the Burmese as well as other nationalities. Those
who in their illness have entrusted their lives to the care of these
nurses have always thought of them with gratitude. While they are a
great asset to the nation, Karen nurses present some really difficult
problems. Some of them are mere girls--unsophisticated as to the ways of
this world. They are simple and uninitiated in the evils of the world.
Some years have elapsed since Karen girls first took up this profession
of a nurse. Each succeeding year sees an increase in the number of
applications for joining the hospitals--Dufferin and General--and now
nursing has become a fashionable rage. Girls hailing from all classes
have become nurses, and I am certain that in Burma there are more nurses
to be found among the Karen than in any other single race of the
country. We cannot stem the tide, but we should see that every provision
is made for their protection.

It is gratifying to note that at Rangoon there is a Burmese and Karen
branch of the Y.W.C.A. which attempts to bring the nurses together and
provides for their physical and religious needs. It was started and led
well on its way by Mrs. Nellie Yaba-Min, and is now in the charge of
Tharamu Naw E Kyaing, of Rangoon. A nurse's remuneration is good, but
the hardship that she is called upon to endure! A doctor diagnoses his
case, writes a prescription and then leaves the patient to the
long-suffering nurse, who has to satisfy every little need of the
patient--no matter how fastidious such may be. Members of so noble a
profession are deserving of respect and kindness to make their hard lot
easier both physically and morally. Temptations beset them on all sides,
and only the initiated are aware of the nature of the evils.

Westerners have frequently associated Burma with her "delightful women."
I do not pretend to include Karen women in this category. They are
usually too timid or unobtrusive to attract notice. But, however
unostentatious they may appear in a gaily plumaged throng of Burmese
women, in their own homes they are the delight of their children. There
are at present a number of Karen woman graduates, and the number is
steadily increasing. A photograph showing Judson College with its
faculty members and Karen college boys and girls appears facing page 54.

Karen women are generally hardy--possessing an enviable physique. In the
districts women have been as successful in cultivation as the men. They
plough, sow and reap with comparative ease, and a farmer's life is not
too strenuous for them. Though timid and shy in society, Karen women
have displayed wonderful courage in the face of real danger. At a
certain village a Karen woman whose house was raided by a number of
dacoits stood behind the door, armed with a dah, and hacked at the
intruders one by one as they made their exit. This feat--worthy of an
Ali Baba,--was performed single-handed by a Karen woman!


Many Karen girls have chosen teaching as their vacation in life. The
life of a school teacher is a very trying one. Our Karen women have
contributed a great deal towards educational progress in Karendom. In
music they teach the village children the rudiments of the tonic-sol-fa
system--preparing them for the larger city schools. Some people have
remarked favourably on the musical tendency of Karens in general. We
dare not, as yet, hope for a Patti, a Melba, or a Clara Butt, but then
our nation is not yet sufficiently westernised.

In a Karen family the husband and wife are on an equal footing. They
strive to aid each other--the husband is not the sole arbiter of
domestic disputes. The wife is a partner:

"Yet child-simple, undefiled,
Frank, obedient--waiting
On the turning of your will."

Our women may not yet have attained the ideal of womanhood
as set forth by Ruskin in his book _Sesame and Lilies_,
but it is our fervent hope that they are making effective
strides towards it. Adam echoes our sentiments when he says:

"God! I render back
Strong benediction and perpetual praise
That Thou, in striking my benumbed hands
Has left this well-beloved Eve, this life
Within life, this best gift between their palms,
In gracious compensation!"


There is nothing so revolutionary, because there is nothing so unnatural
or convulsive to society, as the strain to keep things fixed, when all
the world is, by the very nature of its creation, in eternal progress;
and the cause of all the evils in the world may be traced to that
natural, but most deadly error of human indolence and corruption--that
our business is to preserve and not improve. It is the ruin of all
alike--individuals, schools, and nations.

--_Dr. Arnold._

THE educational, social and spiritual progress of the Karens has been
due, to a very great extent, to the Missionaries who have so faithfully
and sympathetically worked among and with them. The Karens are not
ashamed or afraid to proclaim to the world publicly or in private that
they owe what progress and advancement they have made, to the
missionaries whom they affectionately call their "Mother" under the
protection of the British Government whom they rightly call their
"Father." The latter, as is usually the case with a father, never really
knows, or if he does know often forgets, the special or peculiar needs
of his individual child at home.

Every Karen must be ever grateful to the missionaries and the people
that send them, of whatever nationality, for the sacrifice of time,
talent, money, and men on their behalf. There is no need to speak of the
past, the self-sacrifice and the great persecutions which the
missionaries have undergone, for they have been recorded in history as
well as in the Great Book which never leaves out a single act of man.
Men like Dr. J. B. Vinton, of loving memory, Dr. D. A. W. Smith, of
Karen Seminary fame, the beloved Drs. Harris, Gilmore, Abbot, Beecher,
Carpenter, Cross, Thomas, Rev. Dr. C. A. Nichols, K.I.H., and their
wives who helped them in their difficult and arduous work, spent all
their lives and the best that they could give for the Karens. Among the
younger generation are found men like the Reverends Marshall, L. Levi
Lewis, and a large number of lady missionaries and teachers who are
devoting their lives for the Karens, and are highly appreciated.


Then again Catholic missionaries like the late revered Father D'Cruz, of
Bassein, who gave all his life to the Karens, and the Reverend Father
Provost, K.I.H., a counterpart of the Reverend Dr. C. A. Nichols, in his
keenness for the progress, spiritual and temporal, of the people among
whom he works. The author is not so well acquainted with the work and
workers of the Church of England, the activity of which is concentrated
principally in Toungoo. With broad-minded, keen and sympathetic workers
like the Reverend W. C. B. Purser, M.A., of Kemmendine, it is bound to
have a great influence on Karen life.

Can the Karens as a nation ever forget them and their heroic and loving
deeds? Those who can forget would indeed be ungrateful creatures. The
deeds of some of these men and women would fill pages of noble sacrifice
and enterprise. It is to be hoped that some of that our capable Karen
young men will take up the history and work of the missionaries among
the Karens. It will be indeed a most interesting, valuable and stirring
subject which will be appreciated by other people as well as by the
Karen themselves.

There are missionaries to-day out in the jungles and up in the hills, as
well as in the towns of Burma, doing their best to uplift the people and
to fight their battles, often difficult battles and all a labour of
love. And Karens will be the first to admit that even their own people--
their own flesh and blood,--would not do what these men have done and
are doing for them. The writer is, and always was, an admirer of the
great talent of the late Home Member, the Honourable U May Oung, but
certain words which the latter uttered in public were quite uncalled
for, and must have been due to ignorance or prejudice. He said, "Karens
are under the thumb of the missionaries, and are led by the nose into
anything that the missionaries wish." With which remark the writer
disagreed, and added that even if correct it was far better for Karens
to be under the thumb of missionaries and led by them to be led by the
Devil who takes so many forms in Burma.

Religions has played a prominent part in the general progress of the
Karens, and Christianity "has satisfied a great national religious need,
and in doing so has developed a national civilisation. Three processes
have ever since been simultaneously in operation: Christianity,
Education and Civilisation. The Karens regard these three as indivisible
parts of the message which for ages their ancestors had firmly believed
God would at some time or other send to them."

Mr. Donald Smeaton, in his _Loyal Karens of Burma_, narrates the story
of how the Karens finally embraced the teachings of Christ:

"...A Karen called Ko Tha Byu, debt slave to a Burman, had been set
free by Dr. Judson and employed as a water-carrier. Ko Tha Byu found a
Christian tract one day as he was working in Dr. Judson's house. It was
in the Burmese language, and he read it with difficulty. At last,
however, he mastered it, and its teachings struck him as singularly like
the teachings of the God-tradition of his people. His eyes were opened;
he discovered that, at last, the long-predicted return of God to his
nation through the white man had been fulfilled. Fired with his
knowledge, and overcome with joy at the glad tidings which he was now
able to bring to his degraded and debased fellow countrymen, he went
forth as an apostle among the people and laboured for generations,
proclaiming the restoration of the Karen nation and the return of God to
them after centuries of expectation. He became the means of opening up
to the American Missionaries a field of enterprise of which they had
never dreamed. The field has been ardently worked ever since. In a
minute by the Chief Commissioner of British Burma, dated May 1, 1863,
may be found the following: 'The district of Toungoo was occupied by
British troops early in 1853. At that time nearly the whole of the Karen
tribes on the mountains east of Toungoo--that is an area of more than
2,000 square miles--were in a savage state. The Burmese Government never
had authority over any of the tribes living more than a day's journey
from the city and river. In process of time, from constant labour of the
American missionaries, many thousands of mountain Karens were instructed
in Christianity, abandoned their savage mode of life and their cruel
wars and lived as Christian men and women...I assert, from long
experience among similar tribes, that such results could not be obtained
by the civil administration, unaided by missionary teaching.'"

[ Illustration--DR. C. A. NICHOLS, K.I.H. ]

[ Illustration--SRA SAN TE.--T.P.S ]

[ Illustration--DR. CRONKHITE ]

[ Illustration--THAPG'H THA MYAT KYI ]

The author then comments upon the national spirit of the Karens, and
with keen insight prophesies their future:

"In this linking of religion with all that is good, useful, profitable
and happy in daily life lies the secret of the marvellous success of the
Karen mission in the past, and the bright hopes for the future.
Christianity is looked upon as a great end in itself, but equally as a
powerful lever for raising the condition of the people. It is no dying
race--no race in its decadence like the Sandwich Islanders--that
Christianity has got hold of here, but a young and vigorous race,
springing up with marvellous elasticity from the grinding oppression of
centuries. In common with the American missionaries, I sincerely believe
in the capacity of development of the Karens, and in the power of
Christianity to develop them. There is intense vitality in the race.
Under all the crushing tyranny which they have borne, decimated as they
have been by constant internal struggles, they have still been
increasing in numbers, and peace and protection under British rule have
enabled them to multiply rapidly. Another secret of the great success of
the American Mission movement has been truly a national one, a genuine
uprising of the people themselves. Nine-tenths of the work which has
been accomplished has, under the guidance of the missionaries, been done
by the Karens themselves. They have brought to the movement their great
powers of combination, and, what is of immense importance, they worked
on their own lines, incorporating in the new national structure all that
was valuable in the old."

I believe that devotion to the Christian faith has supplied the one link
that was wanting to complete what may be called the federative capacity
of the Karens and make their national unity strong enough to resist all
disintegrating forces. Nothing that the Government has yet done has
succeeded in rousing the people to a sense of their dignity as men or a
nation. The Government has given them nothing around which their
national aspirations could rally. Christianity at the hands of the
American missionaries has done this. Once a village has embraced
Christianity it feels itself head and shoulders above its neighbours...The
coming of Christianity has honoured their national traditions.
They feel themselves and their ancestors justified before all men. A new
life opens out to them--a new career for which their forefathers had
sighed in the ages of hardships and oppression and slavery. They are
proud to devote their lives to working out the high destiny which they
believe God had, in the long past, prepared for them. The possibility of
a separation of Christian sections of the people from the heathen was
some few years ago foreseen by the more enlightened, and a movement was
at once set on foot to prevent the commencement of such a process. A
National Karen Association was founded (1881)--representative of all the
clans, Christian and heathen, with the avowed object of keeping the
nation together in the march of progress; of allowing all Karens,
without distinction of belief, to meet on a common platform. In a future
chapter I shall enter more fully into the objects of this association. I
mention it here to show that, far from any separatist tendencies showing
themselves, the enlightened Christian party--which is the party of
progress--is daily evincing a keener desire to preserve the national
unity and elevate the entire race. There is in this a ground of high
hope. The mass of the Karen Church of the future will be, in my opinion,
intelligent, educated cultivators of the soil. From these will spring up
through their schools their professional and business men. These will
form the cutting edge of the nation, gaining incisive power from the
weight and the cohesion of the present mass from which it sprang. Not
many years can this vigorous young giant be kept in leading strings.
Several of the Karen missions are already financially independent and
entirely self-maintaining. The time is not far distant when the
leadership will pass from American hands into those of Karen blood. I do
not believe that the Karen Christian will ever become a caste that
implies segregation. They will rather develop into a body like the
Parsees in India; but they will be more powerful than the Parsees
because their backbones is an intelligent peasantry..."

"...Slowly the idea has been gaining ground even among the most
ignorant and backward of the Karens, that there is some hope for their
despised and outcast race. Their desponding cry used to be, in the
language of their old proverbs, 'We are the leaf, other races are thorn;
if the leaf falls on the thorn, it is pierced; if the thorn falls on the
leaf, the leaf is pierced all the same!' 'We are the eggs, other races
are rock, the egg fell on the rock and it was broken; the rock fell on
the egg and the egg was broken.' 'If I tread on the ordure of a Burman,
he exacts a fine; if he treads on mine, he exacts a fine.' The idea has
now permeated even the lowest that Christianity and education combined
will enable the Karen to hold his own..."

[ Illustration--THE NEW KO THA BYU HALL ]


According to the Census of 1911, there were 210,000 Christians and in
the Census of 1921, 257,106; Karens form over sixty per cent of the
total Christians of the Province--a fact which speaks well for the
efforts of the missionaries amongst the Karens. Sir Charles Morgon Webb,
in his Census of Burma for 1911, quoted Mr. C. C. Lowis in describing
the Buddhism of the Burmans as follows: "Animism supplies the solid
constituents that hold the faith together, Buddhism the superficial
polish. Far be it from me to under-rate the value of that philosophic
veneer. It has done all that a polish can do, to smooth, to beautify,
and to brighten, but to the end of time it will never be anything more
than a polish. In the hour of great heart-searchings, it is profitless
as the Apostle's sounding brass. It is then that the Burman falls back
on his primæval beliefs. Let but the veneer be scratched, the crude
animism that lurks must out. Let but his inmost vital depths be touched,
the Burman stands forth an animist confessed."

Fortunately, the above cannot be said of a Karen who has confessed
Christianity. He is sincere, and faithfully follows the doctrine to the
best of his ability. There are, of course, some who "fall on the
wayside," so to speak. But the wonder is that more have not fallen on
the way when one considers their surroundings, the great temptation "to
do as others do" all about him, and that even the climate of the country
itself is against him. However, in spite of uphill work, in spite of the
demoralising influence and discouraging events which have to be
contended with every day of their life, the Karens have made good in
educational and material progress as well as in religious matters.

Forty years ago in the town of Bassein, with a population of 30,000,
there were only two Karen houses outside of the Mission Compound, but
now there are hundreds of houses in various quarters of the town. The
same may be said of Rangoon and of all the large towns of the Province.
There are schools and institutions with fine, commodious buildings for
the Karen youths in most of the larger towns. Where there were hardly
five score pupils in a school there are to-day several hundred, and
undoubtedly the largest is the Nichols' Sgaw Karen High School, in
Bassein, with its roll of 1,400 pupils. Karen High Schools have been
established in Bassein, Henzada, Tharrawaddy, Toungoo, Moulmein and
Rangoon, and of the number of annual graduates from High Schools a good
proportion go up to the University to complete their education, and take
their degrees in arts or science.

[ Illustration--U LOO-NEE AND MRS. LOO-NEE ]

It has often been asked by Government officials and people interested in
the Karens what becomes of the large number of Karen boys and girls
going out from the schools and colleges every year? There are not many
of them in Government Service, in the mercantile firms, or in the
clerical profession. Well, it is a question interested persons may well
ask. The answer is, a few join Government Service where they can get in,
the same number in mercantile firms a large number become teachers in
Government and Mission schools, and the rest to cultivation. Given equal
qualification, a Karen lad will seldom get a post for which a Burman is
applying. There is something about a Burman that preference will always
be given to him over a Karen.


"Looking at the progress made by the peoples of Burma in all points, we,
the Karens of Burma, are sensible that the country is not yet in a fit
state for self-government. Burma is inhabited by many different races,
differing in states of civilisation, differing in religion and social
development; hence Burma will have still to undergo many years of
strenuous training under British governance before this boon can be
conferred on it with security and success...From what has transpired
in the past, when injustice and despotism reigned supreme, the Karens of
Burma do not clamour and agitate for the fruition of questionable
political privileges and the ushering in of dubious political eras. The
history of our Province indicates that it is in a state of transition
still, and as yet the benefits of free government are not quite fully

--_Karen Memorial presented in 1917 to Lord Chelmsford and the
Right Hon. Edwin S. Montagu, M.P._

It is the unanimous opinion of the Karens that Burma is not yet fit for
Home Rule. They themselves humbly acknowledge their unfitness and feel
that British help, British protection, and the steadying influence of
British control are still most essential. Perhaps the people of the
country would be able to govern themselves in some sort of fashion, but
the Karens have a strong misgiving that the experiment will not prove a
success. A prominent Indian gentleman of the Swarajist Party once asked:
"Don't you think bad self-government is better than good foreign
Government? Do you not prefer being master in your own home to taking a
back seat in your family affairs?" No doubt, it was an argument which
would appeal to a man in whom there is the slightest vestige of
patriotism. But surely, taking into consideration the existing
conditions, Home Rule to-day would be a curse rather than a blessing,
just as the affairs in a family could not be safely entrusted to a
_pater familias_ who is apparently incompetent!

The question has often been asked "Why and how could the Cubans be
taught to govern themselves within a few years of their being taken over
by the United States of America, while India and Burma could not do so
after a hundred years of British régime." The reason is obvious when
consideration is made of the marked difference in religion and race and
the divergent interests existing in India and Burma at the present day.
Furthermore, the object of the people of the United States was to train
and actually push the Cubans to look after themselves after exactly so
many years. It was their policy, as proclaimed on the day war was
declared on Spain, to _free_ the Cubans, and the latter in turn worked
strenuously to that end. Such was not the intention of the British with
regard to India, nor have they ever made any pretence of the desire to
restore the countries to the people themselves. On the contrary, Lord
Clive declared, "English will leave India alone only when the sun and
the moon rise in the West and set in the East." Of course, now that
times have changed, the outlook of nations is beginning to realise her
position, and, in fact, has conceded very important administrative
privileges. She realises that her policy must be altered, or else she
may fail to accomplish the great mission that she has been destined to
fulfil. Satisfaction can only come when every country and every nation
has its own Government, and the greatest responsibility rests upon Great
Britain as the greatest of all nations, and one which has the keeping of
the welfare and destinies of the largest number of nations in the
world--the responsibility of assuring their fitness for the time when
she can say "I have done everything to make you fit to look after
yourselves and I am perfectly satisfied that you are ready for

Can it be honestly claimed that India is to-day fit to look after
herself? And is Burma anywhere in a position to shoulder that great
responsibility called self-determination? If not, it is the duty of
India and Burma to retain the help and co-operation of their life-long
friend and benefactor, and the responsibility of the British Government
does not cease until the child for which she is responsible can stand,
walk, and run without help. Doubtless, the day will come when "Japheth
shall no longer dwell in the tents of Shem."

In an issue of April 2nd, 1927, of the London _Morning Post_ Sirdar
Ikbalalisha declared, "Indian Self-Government is impossible, because
India is torn by conflicting forces of caste, creed, religion and
traditions. It is futile to attempt the impossible by a make-believe
re-approachment between Hindus and Moslems because both the political
and educational evolution of India has not reached a stage at which the
right of minorities is respected," which in the writer's opinion may
take a couple of centuries yet. Meantime, however, he suggests the
formation of a Federated Government of India with a strong Central
organisation very much after the style of the United States of America,
but with the whole country divided according to racial, religious and
traditional affinities.

"Self-Government" in India and Burma may be possible, but it must be a
modified form of self-government. And the only feasible and satisfactory
form would be as suggested by the Sirdar himself and strongly advocated
by Sir Frederick Whyte in his pamphlet _India, a Federation?_ "The
Make-believes" of Burma would make us think that Burma would have
nothing in the way to prevent it from getting self-government for one
united people. It is true there is hardly any caste or creed, but there
are strong racial traditions which can only be gradually eliminated by
tactful management politically.

But great as the responsibility and sacrifice made by Great Britain were
in taking over the country, greater will be the responsibility of
determining the day when the country may safely be left to govern
itself. The task of Great Britain is arduous, unpleasant and thankless,
but she must stick to her guns until such a day as every country and
every nation which has looked up to her as its saviour and protector is
made happy with every prospect of a future of contentment.

In the words of a Viceroy embodied in a speech to a British Association
in India..."remember that the Almighty has placed your hand on the
greatest of His ploughs in whose furrows the nations of the future are
germinating and taking shape to drive and to feel that somewhere among
these millions you have left a little justice or happiness or
prosperity, a sense of manliness or moral dignity, a spring of
patriotism, a dawn of intellectual enlightenment or a stirring of duty
where it did not before exist. That is enough. That is the Englishman's
justification in India. It is good enough for his watchword while he is
here, for his epitaph when he is gone. Our hand is in sober earnest on
the plough to-day; it will need a strong hand, a willing team to drive
the furrow straight. It is up-hill work and there are roots and rocks in
plenty to turn the blade aside. Each and all of us need a firm faith and
sane enthusiasm if we wish to carry through successfully the task to
which we have set our hand..."


Is there one whom difficulties dishearten--who bends to the storm?
He will do little. Is there one who _will_ conquer? That kind of man
never fails.


To conquer by the moral manifestation of the will is to conquer like a God.
To conquer by the manifestation of brute force, is to conquer like a beast.


In the years that the Reforms Scheme has been is existence the lot of
the Karens has been more and more unenviable each year, in spite of the
five representatives on the Legislative Council allowed by the
constitution. The First General Election to the Legislative Council
resulted in the Karens having seven seats, five as communal
representatives and two from General Constituencies. The success of the
two elected members was used as an argument that the Burmans were
broad-minded and free from racial prejudice; consequently, there need be
no fear of suitable Karen candidates not being elected on their merits.
The truth of the matter, however, was that the two Karens got in because
there were no Burmese candidates, the Burmans still being busy with
boycotting at the first election. Therefore, it was only to be expected
that at the Second General Election, when Burman candidates entered the
political field in large numbers, the Karen contestants who stood for
election were defeated by overwhelming majorities. Even the candidates
of the Karen constituencies were tampered with in so many ways by
interested Burmans that some were actually elected, not as the choice of
the Karens, but as the Burmans wished. In District Councils, District
School Boards, or any other boards or committees no Karen could gain
membership if the Burmans seriously opposed them. Consequently, Karen
interests suffer everywhere.

What hits the Karens hardest is the matter of education in the
districts. Hundreds of Karen village schools in many districts which
have for many years been thriving under Government help and protection
and under missionary supervision were suddenly thrown out without help,
and educational progress among the Karens within a few years will be
seriously affected if matters are allowed to go on in this way. Many
Karen Associations, and Boards of Trustees of Karen Schools, have sent
in their protest to Government, but so far the matter is still


On one occasion the writer had to interview a high official on behalf of
a Karen village teacher who had been refused his pay for four months,
and was eventually told by the chairman of the District School Board
that he had already drawn his pay. At the interview, the official
remarked, "You people want Home Rule and all that sort of thing, now you
are having your Home Rule. What do you want me to do?" Of course, it was
pointed out to him that not all parties had been clamouring for Home
Rule. Returning to the case in question it was obvious that the Chairman
had never paid the teacher. The four months' salary which the teacher
claimed that he had not been paid was signed for in Burmese while in all
the previous months the signature was in English. Unfortunately for the
Chairman and fortunately for the teacher the Chairman did not take the
trouble to look at the signatures in the previous months. At any rate,
it was a clear case of swindling by the Chairman, and the official
agreed that there was strong evidence against the chairman. But the
official, a kind old gentleman, said that the whole system was a new
venture and he would suggest that the writer should see the President,
Secretary and Chairman of the District School Board and settle the
matter privately. The suggestion was followed and the matter settled.
There have been numerous other instances and many other ways by which
school teachers or school managers have been constantly harassed. "Home
Rule" or "Popular Government" as it is understood in Burma has placed
good law-abiding people in a very awkward position. There are many
_athins_ or Associations with varied objects, some against Government,
some neutral but hardly any outright pro-Government. Fortunately, the
Karens have their own associations in most places, but where they have
not, they are intimidated, threatened, and have been actually
maltreated, and in many instances Government can hardly reach out to
help them. In Tharawaddy District, for instance, Karens had occasion to
call for advice and help from Government and the National Karen
Association as they were seriously threatened if they dared to pay in
Capitation Taxes. Sir Harcourt Butler's Government, however, nipped this
serious agitation or movement in the bud before very extensive mischief
was done.

There is a good deal of talk to the effect that Karens have not tried to
take advantage of opportunities offered by the Reforms Scheme. There is
some truth in this, but it is equally true that there are so many
difficulties in the way that on the whole the efforts would be as futile
as if no attempts were made at all. There is a potent factor which is
to-day hampering the Karens from taking active part in public matters,
and that is the majority are poor and, realising their position, they
refrain. There are a few in the jungles or villages who have money,
perhaps, but these are an inarticulate lot who will not count in any
movement, while those who are in towns and cities have to attend to
their business or profession. There are at present among the Karens no
leisured class of rich or well-to-do people who can take on whole-time
honorary services or afford to make large donations to charitable
institutions, and this is a great drawback in a nation.

The splendid group of buildings in the Sgaw Karen School compound at
Bassein, the life-long effort of the Rev. Dr. C. A. Nichols, K.I.H.,
which has elicited the admiration of all visitors, is the result,
principally, of the united efforts of poor cultivators, and the "widow's
mite." It is about sixty years since the Karens, by the help of their
missionaries and under sympathetic Government protection, started their
educational institutions, and no one who is acquainted with this
department can deny that Karen schools have progressed and increased
beyond expectation, for a so-called "backward race." Karens can boast of
a good number of high schools of their own in the Province to-day, and
hundreds and thousands of village schools have thrived. But from present
appearances the Reforms Scheme, as it affects the districts, may deal a
death blow to the district village schools. The Karens have great
misgivings as to the fate of their village schools, and they fear that
instead of progress and increase there will be retrogression and
decrease within a few years' time.

The Karens, therefore, from the very outset, have not appreciated the
advantage of the Reforms Scheme at all. In the first place it was with
difficulty, even with the sympathetic consideration shown by most
members of the Reforms Committee, that Karen interests have been
safeguarded by Communal representation. Communal interest should not
enter into Democratic institutions, but are the members or communities
of the embryo democratic institutions really sufficiently broad-minded
to deal fairly with all communities and races? It is very doubtful; in
fact it has already been proved within these few short years that
selfishness and racial prejudice have predominated as in the past. To
reiterate a pertinent portion of an article already quoted: "...the
strength of Communal feeling certainly justifies the demand that the
next instalment of the reforms should continue to safeguard religious
and political minorities. Political education in India has not yet
sufficiently advanced to dispense with the safeguards ..."

With regard to Burma, the opinion of the writer, which is shared by all
the Karens and outside sympathisers, is that it is absolutely necessary
to continue not only to safeguard the interests of the minorities, but
in the case of the Karens it is absolutely necessary for the good of all
concerned that a division or separation of administration of the
Province be established. For neither the historical past nor the present
feeling and condition of the people would justify Government action of
indiscriminately grouping into one political body communities which have
formed incompatible elements in the past, and such a policy would
continue to be detrimental both to Government and to the country unless
a change is made. The Karens still prefer to work hand-in-hand with the
British, as they fully admit their superior capacity and their
magnanimous spirit of "give and take" as now modified by present
conditions and manifested the world over. However, since the Reforms
have been introduced and since the Karens, in common with all the people
of Burma, have to accept it and work it, they can say with Daniel
Webster "Live or die, sink or swim, survive or perish, we give our hand
and heart to the constitution," unless and until a better scheme is

The subject of the Reforms Scheme as it affects the Karens recalls an
incident which happened during the sitting of the Whyte Committee at
Rangoon. Sir Frederick Whyte, the members of the Committee, and a number
of high officials were invited to a Welcome Concert by elders of the
Karen Community of Rangoon, Insein and vicinity. The Vinton Memorial
Hall was packed to overflowing with Karens. Even the doors and windows
were so jammed with people that standing room could not be found. After
the concert, as the guests were leaving, a well-known high official was
pacing up and down the church portico apparently in deep thought. The
writer approached him and asked if he was waiting for his car. "Yes, my
car is here, but the thought uppermost in my mind is that I had no idea
that there are so many Karens in the town and its vicinity, and the
large audience of Karens, to-night, and the great talent and wonderful
progress they displayed in their concert have made me wonder that during
the eighteen years I have been in Burma I have not come more in contact
with them or known more of them." The writer then asked him if he knew
that the young man who was his bench clerk for some years and with whom
he played many a game of football was a Karen. He had to acknowledge
that he was not aware of the fact. That official, a man of the best type
of I.C.S., was highly intelligent and fair-minded, but, like many other
officials, in the course of his daily routine he had not given a thought
to the possibility of one particular native of Burma being any different
from another. No, the Karens are not known at all, and naturally, if
they ever have any grievances, they cannot make themselves heard.

The case of two Karen Military Policeman who were recently accused of
murdering a notoriously bad character and his son at Kyawzan and
sentenced to transportation for life created a great stir among the
Karens of the whole Province. Government cannot realise the situation in
spite of protests and repeated complaints by the Karens.

It is usually the case that if only evidence as elicited by witnesses is
taken in a case of a Karen against a Burman, ninety-nine times out of a
hundred the Karen will lose, in spite of the fact that a Karen may have
truth and right on his side. Government or its official should realise
that it is not wise, for obvious reasons, to send out a batch of Karen
soldiers or Military Police to a Burmese village or town for keeping
peace or preventing crimes unless there is a British or an Anglo-Indian
Officer in command. The Karens are called out where crime is most
prevalent or to prevent a rising, etc., but help and sympathy is at a
discount when one of these Karens gets into trouble in the course of his
duty. It is this apathy on the part of the officers and officals when a
Karen subordinate or soldier gets into trouble through the lack of
foresight of those in authority that has made the Karens dissatisfied.

Another case of a similar nature may be cited. On December 5th, 1920, a
Karen Thugyi, of Myaungmya District, of twenty years' good service, was
brought into the Bassein Jail for twenty years' transportation, simply
because he had gone out to arrest a well-known bad character and in the
scuffle the bad character, in trying to take possession of the Thugyi's
gun, was shot and killed. Government or Government officials must have
learned by past history or present events that a Karen will not allow
his gun to be taken away from him in a fight. He would give his life
before he surrenders his gun. What would Government have said if the
Thugyi had left his gun with his adversary and run away?

Is it not possible that had the two Military Policemen been Burmans and
the notorious bad character and his son, Karens, that the former would
have suffered no penalty in a court of trial? Had that unfortunate
Thugyi been a Burman and the victim a Karen, within a year the Thugyi
would be receiving an award from Government for special service and
bravery in having killed a fugitive from justice.


"Nationality is that principle, compounded of past tradition,
present interests and future aspirations, which gives to people a
sense of organic unity, and separates them from the rest of


In unity there is strength. "Hang together and be strong, or hang
separately" is an old and indisputable maxim. Sir Frederick Whyte in his
treatise _India--A Federation?_ strongly suggests that India can be a
strong nation and reach her full stature and unity only by federation,
that is, in the union and co-operation of communities. He says "In
India, of all lands, there are to be found in her social fabric elements
which have disturbed, if they have not actually destroyed, the unity and
the sense of common nationality in other peoples and other times."

The above statement is perfectly applicable to Burma. The Burmese nation
(by which is meant all the indigenous races of Burma) can never be
strong or regarded by other nations as such, unless and until the
principal races of the country are satisfied and contented by having a
fair share of the country and its administration. The Arakanese can
preserve their country which is separated from the rest by a natural
barrier. The Shans have their own states in which to do the same, and
the strength of their nationality and self-Government has been
strengthened by the recent grant of Federation. The Burmans have the
whole country to themselves. Where have the Karens a place they can call
their own?

Mr. Smeaton, even when the Karen nation was in its infancy, strongly
advocated a scheme, which, had it been followed, would have met with
great success. He said:

"There is a capacity for self-government in every people, but it varies
with race and climate. The highest excellence in any administration must
always consist in the perception of this capacity, and in leading it
into those channels for which it is best suited. We have conceded what
may be called a limited self-government to the people of India; but we
have made the concession without discernment of the varying capacities
of the races and classes to which it has been granted. We have dealt
with all alike, neglecting distinctive natural characteristics. We have
failed to seize the true spirit of self-government in the East. Both in
method and in scope we are wrong...The result of our method is this:
that the reforms which we endeavour to introduce strike no real root.
The soil and climate are not congenial to the plant. The year 1986 will,
I fear, find the millions of India not one whit more able to govern
themselves than they are now. We have nowhere fostered the growth of
real material life. We are endeavouring to create a new English India.
The product will not be much to our credit."

"Why should we not try--if only as a political experiment--to give the
Karens a chance of growing as a nation in their own way? Why should we
not try and bring their wild growth under cultivation, grafting on the
ancient roots as time and experience improve our perception and increase
our skill? We have here a little people--probably under a million in
all--who aspire to keep their own nationality intact. Why should we not
allow them and encourage them to do so. The result may be of the highest
interest in the future, and cannot fail to be fraught with great benefit
to the people themselves; it will strengthen British Rule and safeguard
it in the times of trouble which may yet be in store for us in Burma."

Yes, why not? Surely, those British officials who have given the subject
a thought and have carefully looked into the matter, could not help but
be convinced of the reasonableness and potential significance of Mr.
Smeaton's comments."

Will Government or its officials redeem past neglect by lending an ear
to a national request? The Karens have not proclaimed it from the
house-tops, but they have time and time again, through their
representatives, called the attention of Government to this earnest wish
of theirs. If Government is convinced that the Karens are deserving of a
fair trial, have they not the courage of their convictions before it is
too late to do the Karens a good turn, and in turn get the full benefit
of the co-operation of a loyal people of proven worth?

And what is this request which the Karens submit for consideration? They
ask for a fair share of the administration of the country which they
have on several occasions helped to save from insurrection and
rebellion. It has been estimated that there are seven Burmans to one
Karen, and the Karens have tried unsuccessfully to obtain this ratio in
the results of competition with the Burmans. The reasons have been fully
stated in the preceding pages of this book. The obstacles are
insurmountable, and the only practical solution is to allot the Karens
one-seventh of the province for administration. There are seven
divisions in the province, excluding Rangoon, one-seventh of it means
one division. In this division the entire administration should be by
Karens directly under British supervision. Tenasserim Division would be
the division of choice, as it is mostly inhabited by Karens, and one in
which administration is not so well developed as in other parts of the
province. The administrators can therefore exercise or adopt any scheme
or plan that will suit the peculiar needs of the country and its
intended administration. The inhabitants of that part of the country,
like any other part, will not be in any way disturbed. The Karens in
other parts of the province can remain where they are if they wish it
just as people of other nationalities domiciled in Tenasserim can remain
there, as long as it is recognised that Tenasserim is a Karen country.
Such a policy will result in the creation of a strong nationality full
of life, patriotism and love of King and country. The division will
advance and progress independently under the able guiding hands of
sympathetic and efficient British officers.

The present-day ideal is self-determination; but the Karens, in their
desire for self-determination, realise that self-determination in their
case must be determined according to the method and mode mapped out by
experienced British officers with whom they have fought, with whom they
have worked, and with whom they would ever co-operate. If the Karen
nation, like all other nationalities of Burma, is left as it is, and not
given their legitimate aspirations in a proper direction as inspired by
its feeling of patriotism and loyalty to the government and law and
order, it is greatly to be feared that a new group or generation of
Karen extremists or obstructionists will arise.

The Reforms Scheme has not been a benefit to them nor will it be for
generations to come. Their wish is to work with and be under the direct
supervision of the British in a section of the country to which they
feel they have a right by their number and the solid work that they have
put in ever since the British Government annexed the country. The
Burmans have claimed the right of self-determination and so far they
have been allowed a good share of it. Surely, they cannot object to the
Karens having a proportionate share?

Like the powerful British nation formed of four mighty nations in
England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, a great Burmese nation may be
formed of the four principal races of the country, the Burmese, the
Karens, the Arakanese, and the Shans; each nation with its own country
and its own distinctive national characteristics, ready to unite for the
good of the whole country. "Gallant little Wales" occupies a position,
in many respects in relation to its more powerful neighbour England not
dissimilar to that of the Karens in relation to the Burmese. The
distinct nationality and language of Wales is being more and more
recognised. This enables her the better to develop her peculiar genius,
and contribute her special gifts to the common stock. The Karens of
Burma are more numerous in proportion, and fully as distinct. It is
their plea that this distinction as between Burmese and Karens be fully
recognised, and acted on--to the benefit of Government and the
contentment of the people; at present officials and Government servants
in strong Karen communities are largely ignorant even of the language of
the people. Let a condition be made that for service in the "Karen
country," the candidate, whatever his nationality, should pass an
examination in Karen.

The educational qualification required in the service of the Karen
country should be lower than those required for Burma as a whole. The
Karens are still classified as a backward race, and it would only be
fair to allow them lower qualifications for service. There will then be
no dearth of candidates for the different services. For clerkships and
ordinary posts in all departments an Anglo-Vernacular Seventh Standard
qualification, and for posts like the Deputy Myookship a High School
Final qualification only should be required. It might be mentioned that
in Sir Reginald Craddock's original scheme for the Deputy Myookship the
qualification specified was the High School Final Examination, although
at present candidates from the ranks of University graduates have
received preference over those with the High School Final qualification.
Higher services such as the Burma Civil Service, Judical Service, and so
on alone should claim university-graduate under such a scheme.

If the above suggestion is accepted there will be no dearth of
candidates for all the services for the whole Division as is feared by
some officials with whom the writer has discussed the matter. If it is
found that Karens cannot supply the requisite number of men in addition
to the British officials, candidates of Burmese or any other nationality
amy be temporarily accepted until Karen candidates with the necessary
qualifications are available. Of cou rse, the above is only a bare
outline of the scheme, but the matter can be left in the hands of the
highly-experienced British officers who will be in direct charge of the
administration of the Karen country.

"Karen Country," how inspiring it sounds! What thoughts, what manly
feeling, what wonderful visions of the future the words conjure forth in
the mind of a Karen. It was a highly-placed official to whom may be
credited the origin of the name. A young Karen subordinate civilian
officer had been recommended by his Deputy Commissioner and his
Commissioner for dismissal from the service. The young officer went
personally to the Chief Secretary and related the whole story of how it
happened that he incurred the displeasure of his superior officer. A
Burmese Sub-Divisional officer had found fault with him for something
which, in the ordinary course of events, would have been overlooked and
for which at most some chastisement would have sufficed; but the
Sub-Divisional officer enlarged upon the fault or neglect and made such
a strong report to the Deputy Commissioner that the Deputy Commissioner,
without hesitation, recommended the young man's dismissal. It so
happened that this high official was in the Chief Secretary's office at
the time, and after hearing the story he said, "You Karens should all go
to a 'Karen Country' since you cannot get along in other parts of the

In support of my contention for a "Karen Country" some lines may be
quoted from the book _India--a Federation?_ by Sir Frederick
Whyte--whose name has more than once been quoted--First President of the
Imperial Assembly of India, well-known to Burma as chairman of the Whyte
Committee on the Reforms Scheme. "Love of country or patriotism is
compounded of many things--sentiment, historic associations, community
of economic interest, attachment to the soil itself, trials and triumphs
shared in common--which when wielded together make nationality. Love of
country is an affection, nationality the intellectual conception in
which it is cast by political science. It has been defined many times,
but never to the complete satisfaction of those who know what it is and
how it can sway the hearts of men and move mountains. A nation has been
defined as "a body of people united by a corporate sentiment of peculiar
intensity, intimacy and dignity, related to a definite home country."
That is a comprehensive definition in which the essentials are the
unity, the corporate sentiment and the definite home country. These
factors may be present in a Scotsman, for instance, both in relation to
his nearer and dearer homeland of Scotland and in relation to the larger
patria of Britain. Here two patriotisms happily interwoven in manner far
more complete than that in which a Bengali can say that he belongs to
the whole of India and the whole of India belongs to him. It is because
of the fusion of the two patriotisms that Great Britain is truly a
United Kingdom; and it is because that fusion is far from perfect in
India that Indian Nationality is as yet _no more than adolescent._ The
absence of nationality, or its decay, or even its adolescence, is a
condition in which it is not proper or even possible to create enduring
political institutions, whether Federal or unitary, if those
institutions are to depend for any of their vitality on the popular
will. The life is not there, or is but awaking. 'Only those,' says Mr.
Alfred Zimmern, in his _Nationality and Government_, 'who have seen at
close quarters what a moral degradation the loss of nationality
involves, or sampled the drab cosmopolitanism of Levantine seaports or
American industrial centres can realise what a vast reservoir of
spiritual power is lying ready, in the form of national feeling, to the
hands of teachers and statesmen, if only they can learn to direct it to
wise and liberal ends. The strongest federal unions are those in which
the local patriotism finds a comfortable place within the embrace of the
larger national patriotism'...The Thirteen Colonies of the Atlantic
Coast of America, for instance, grew up in independence, the one from
the others, separated by great distance and peopled by citizens of very
different origins. The climate of Boston differed from the climate of
Savannah no more than the Bostonian himself differed from the gentleman
of South Carolina; and if the Rhode Islander was a Puritan and
democratic individualist, the Virginian was a patrician and a Cavalier
to his very marrow. When some form of union was forced upon the
colonies, these differences in habit and outlook made a unitary
Government impossible, and exerted a determining influence upon the
character of the federal constitution. So in Switzerland, each canton
grew in sturdy independence in its home of mountain and valley, and only
when compelled by the instinct of self-preservation to join forces with
its neighbours did it yield even the meagre federal rights of the Swiss
Constitution to a National Government. It has been held by the
apologists of Swiss local autonomy that, after the Reformation, the
Swiss Confederation only survived the strife between Catholic and
Protestant because its loose bonds lay lightly on both. The Catholic
canton indeed long withstood the growth of federal power, but
eventually, it tardily, in 1874, consented to pay the small price
required for the establishment of National Government."

The above is a true sentiment. The Karen Elders, who have all along
co-operated with the Government and are continuing to do so, have met
with many obstructions and obstructionists, while engaged in finding
recruits and other necessary requirements. If Government would carefully
look into the reasons for the antagonism shown by these men, the
Government would only blame themselves for not seeing into their
grievances which have been real and heartrending. There are so many
causes that have led to the adverse feeling of the Karen people. One
_great and most damaging_ cause is that the Karens have to work,
communicate and co-operate with and through the "Middleman," so to
speak, who has not the necessary sympathy and kindly regard. Remove that
cause and the result will be a true co-operation in any movement for the
good of the Government and the people.

May God hasten the day when we can lift up our voices and sing with our
whole heart and soul:

"My country 'tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty,
    Of thee I sing;
Land where our fathers died!
Land of our Ancestors' pride!
From every mountain side,
    Let freedom ring!

"God save our gracious King,
Long live our Noble King!
    God save the King!
For Britain and her King,
Have made our nation free!
Now let our voices ring
    God save our King!"



There is no doubt that, like all Oriental nations and races, the Karens
have observed that form of low-bowing as a token of respect on meeting
an elder or a person of high position. As a nation they have loathed
that form of obeisance called _shiko_, in performing which one has to
kneel down with his two hands pressed together and lay his face on the
floor or on the ground. The tenets of Christianity and the ways of the
Western people have no doubt influenced them to detest this Burmese
custom. They have, from time to time, tried to adopt a national costume
which would distinguish them from the Burmese simply to avoid having to
_shiko_, for they know that as long as they wear Burmese dress they are
expected to do as the Burmese do even by British officials. The writer
is aware that confidential instructions have been issued by the Local
Government that Karens should not be made to _shiko_ or be expected to
do so, but what is a British official to do when all the other people
are doing it, and only the Karens should be exempted. Very often an
official does not know nor can be expected to be able to distinguish a
Karen from a Burman.

Here, again, there may be excuse for repeating the words of Mr. Smeaton
who hits the nail right on the head, so to speak. He says "The ordinary
Burman is cringing to his superiors and overbearing to his inferiors.
The Karen loathes this. His chief--whoever he be--is _primus_ but _inter
pares_, and it is a bitter thing for him to ape Burmese servility in the
local courts presided over by Burmese judges. If you allow a Burman to
dispense with the _shiko_, or _obeisance_, which by ancient custom he is
bound to make to his superiors, he despises you. Treat a Karen firmly
and kindly, and he behaves like a gentleman. He is easiest led when you
treat him with familiarity, as one under your protection, and claim his
respect from your own character and ability to lead him."

So it has been a serious question with the Karen Elders as to what form
of costume or dress to adopt which would be most suitable from the
æsthetic and hygienic point of view. The old form of dress would be
awkward and unsuitable, to say the least. The writer has seen many forms
modified by enthusiasts, but he cannot conscientiously say that he
approves of them. The adoption of the European style of dress by some of
the Karens is a great improvement; but such a course is not practicable
for all, nor would it be suitable. The majority have now agreed upon and
have adopted the costume for men as illustrated on the opposite page.

On state and special occasions the Karen cloak, _Hsay Plo_ should be
worn over the whole. As for women, their characteristic frock _Hsay Sah
Kyi_ will be worn on similar occasions.

The advantages in the costume illustrated are as follows: In the first
place trousers of sorts have always been worn by the majority of the
tribes of the Karens, so no radical change would be involved in adopting
this and, therefore, would not clash with the inherent dislike of Karens
to adopt a new garb in exchange for dresses of national tradition. Then
again, in the minds of many, including the writer himself, a skirt (like
_longyis_) is associated more or less with women, while trousers impart
a manly appearance.

In the illustration No. III we have a costume for ordinary outdoor wear
with a felt hat which looks well with the dress. Illustration No. I shows
a young man in evening dress. The ordinary dinner jacket with low cut
vest or white vest looks well. In fact, for coat, vest, tie, shirt,
collar, cuff, etc., the European fashion or style can be made use of,
with the exception of tail-coats which would look rather awkward. In
Illustration No. II a Burmese jacket may be preferred to a European coat.
It looks quite well, and even a turban may be worn on the head to
advantage, as many are doing. The trousers are neither in the Chinese
nor the Shan fashion, with fairly broad legs and no bagginess at the
seat. We have a pattern now in use which is sold almost anywhere. In
case of wading in water or traversing muddy ground the legs of the pants
can be rolled or tucked up, or hooked on to the hips with some catch or
hook devised for the purpose.

We can see, therefore, from the description, that we shall not be taking
up the costume of any particular nation, but one which will be
distinctive, suitable and at the same time be neat, and capable of being
gradually improved if required. We shall set a day apart (preferably the
12th of May, from a historical point of view) in which all the Karens of
Burma would assume the costume in one single day, like the Chinese when
they had their "pigtails" cut off.

Regarding the form of greeting, "Good Morning" and "Good Evening" have
become almost universal. On the street or in public a slight graceful
bow of the head or the Indian method of salutation is to be commended
from all points of view.

For paying respects to a superior officer or to a high dignitary a
quiet, respectful low bow on first meeting or on entering the office
should be observed as it is now done by many. The hands may be placed in
front or on the sides while the act of obeisance is performed. In the
olden days, when the Karens were mostly on the hills and more or less
uncivilised, a stranger who entered a house must run to the kitchen and
eat a good pinch of salt to show that he is a friend and not a foe. The
house owner, seeing that this is done, takes him into his confidence,
saying that the stranger "has eaten my salt and must be treated as a
friend." As for the act of shaking hands, a Christian Karen considers it
a very important manifestation of friendliness and sympathy. Of course,
a Karen would not or could not expect such a manifestation from a high
official or a stranger of position, except at some social functions or
presentation at a Durban or on similar occasions.

[ Illustration--No. I. EVENING DRESS ]

[ Illustration--No. II. ORDINARY COSTUME ]

[ Illustration--No. III. READY FOR ROUGHING IT ]

Several other important suggestions and advice are embodied in a
presidential speech delivered on the 29th October, 1925, by the writer,
and from it the following extracts are quoted: "...I urge upon all the
elders and leaders of our little nation to make the best use of what has
already been given to us and not to clamour for more things before we
are sure that we are in full possession and enjoyment of the privileges
already gained, some of which we had to fight for many years to obtain.
For instance, among other things, with regard to the privilege of being
allowed to take up our own language as a compulsory subject up to the
tenth standard, it is up to the committee and to our elders to make
intelligent selection of the books already in existence, and if the
books are not good enough, or if the supply is not sufficient, to write
new ones for the purpose. I am sure we have men with the necessary
education and talent to manage this. Furthermore, those who are in a
position to push the study of the language in all Karen schools, should
see that it is done, and done properly. It is time that timidity and
backwardness is pushed aside for the good of the nation. For I fully
believe in the saying that if you wish to kill a nation kill its
language, and you don't have to do more."

"Then again, as regards service in different branches of the Army.
Formerly, we were given only a proportionately small number to fill up.
How hard we fought for--and failed to get--equal rights. Only now, after
some years, we are given equal privilege with the other indigenous races
to fill up the different branches of the army. I am sure there are now
some in this meeting who would like to get up and contradict me or call
my attention to the fact that when we wanted to 'do or die,' the
Government would not let us, and that only now, when we do not care for
it, they give us the privilege. Even now, it is a singular fact that we
cannot show a single Karen officer with a King's Commission, while there
are already three or four Burmans. The question arises, 'Are your youths
unfit for it, or is it a deliberate slight on the part of the
Government?' Well, friends, it is a question which you may well ask, and
one which I have often asked myself. You may be sure that I, like the
rest of you, have felt pretty sore, but what could not and cannot yet be
cured, must be endued. Let me remind you, however, that for many
generations our fathers have suffered under previous _régimes_ up to the
present Government, under whose rule the Karens have emerged from
persecution and cruel treatment of which the present generation has but
a very faint idea. I do not wish to recall past history, but sometimes
it is necessary to do so. For present conditions and even future events
have to be judged by past history. I know that some of my Karen friends,
particularly one I have in mind now, has constantly called our attention
to the fact that from the day the British Government entered Burma, the
Karens have been called upon to help and have voluntarily offered their
services, taking a prominent part in helping to subdue and pacify the
country. The Government appeared greatly appreciative of the service
rendered, but, once peace reigned and things assumed their normal
aspect, the Karens were forgotten, just as Joseph was forgotten by the
Pharaoh of olden days. It does not seem proper that such shortcomings on
the part of our benevolent Government should be dwelt upon, but human
nature is human nature everywhere and at all times. One well-known
writer--a retired British officer--goes so far as to say that the Karens
sided with the British authorities not for any particular love of the
British, but because they cordially detested the Burmese. The author, I
consider, is very much in the wrong, for a Karen by nature and tradition
has all along considered an Englishman a brother and a protector. We can
assure the Government at this moment that the Karens are, if anything,
more loyal than ever. But the Karens often have occasion to wonder if
only a crying child gets more milk; at least, it would appear so,
judging by all that we see and know. However, friends and countrymen, do
not be discouraged, do not falter, but keep on being loyal, co-operate
with the Government, lay yourself out for peace and good government, for
the day is bound to come, and I see it already coming, when the Karen's
loyalty, his unswerving faith and unalloyed love for the British
Government and for his King will amply be rewarded. We want to show the
British Government and those in power that in spite of their apparent
neglect (from our point of view) we mean to stick to them and to
co-operate with them till they are forced to realise that they cannot
get along without us."

"Another suggestion, which to some of you may seem insignificant or
trivial, is to make use of the prefixes Saw and Naw with our names; but
I tell you, it will be worth your while to observe it. My idea is, and
it is the opinion of every patriotic Karen, that as MONSIEUR is to a
Frenchman, MISTER to an Englishman, MA and MAUNG to a Burmese lady and
gentleman, NAW and SAW are absolutely essential to identify ourselves as
a nation. I, therefore, urge that everyone of our people will take it up
in earnest. I know that some individuals, schools and institutions have
already taken it up, but we should not rest contented until everyone who
considers himself a Karen observes this request. I do not wish to take
up any Western custom in which there is any doubt concerning its benefit
to you. But the custom of having a family name, I am fully convinced, is
one that will greatly benefit us in helping us to know who is who at
first sight, and there is satisfaction in being able to trace the
'family tree' which is so much valued in Western countries."

"Furthermore, a very deplorable characteristic in our people is lack of
punctuality and discipline. It has been said that many a great battle
has been lost and many a valuable life sacrificed because the expected
help did not turn up in time, or some one had not strictly obeyed
orders. I have often heard it said by people of the West that, 'out East
here, people are easy going that to them 'to-day and to-morrow are all
the same.' I remember well some years ago in Bassein, there was a
Deputy-Commissioner who was a great football player and was very keen on
getting the Karen boys to play. He always used to ask me to tell the
boys to turn up at three p.m., so that they would be sure to turn up at
four p.m. Sad to say, he was pretty near right every time. Friends, this
is a great slur on our people. Can we not mend our ways, young and old,
in this matter? With regard to discipline, why can we not assimilate the
ways of our officials and business men of the West? It is the deviation
from, the frequent and glaring neglect of, discipline which brings us
ruin or disgrace. Why are there no large and successful business firms
owned by the people of the country? Because of lack of discipline,
principally. Why are we not on the top rung of the ladder in the many
walks of life? Why, because in spite of all the examples we see about us
and the lessons taught and dinned into our ears, discipline is still a
comparative stranger to us. There is a standing joke in a society I
belong to; when members are late to a meeting they are asked whether
their time is the 'Karen Time' or the correct time. Let us try and get
over this fault, which is common to all the nations of the East,
particularly those of Burma...We have at present many educational
institutions, but not more than one or two institutions where a young
man can be trained up for industrial purposes. However, the need for
industrial and vocational schools is so much felt that I'm glad to say,
in some of our schools, the Government has started vocational
instruction which will supply a long felt want."

"But, as a matter of fact, I have noticed with some discouragement that
our young people are not taking full advantage of this in the Government
schools and other institutions open to us. We, as a people essentially
cultivators, should make use of experimental farms which are opened out
in different places. We cannot all expect to get into the service of the
Government or of the firms, nor, even if that were possible, would it be
good for the nation. We should take up professions in which a man can
make an honourable livelihood. You know that it is a standing joke among
the Karens themselves that they cannot even make a mortar to pound their
chillies. Now, let us encourage our young people to take up any honest
work that is going, so that we may be a self-contained little nation.
There is one exception to all I have said with regard to our young
people taking the advantage of the vocational schools and institutions,
and that is training for midwifery and sick-nursing. I am sure there is
a very large number of trained Karen nurses and midwives. At least,
there are more of them among the Karens than in any other single race of
Burma. No doubt, midwifery and sick-nursing are noble professions but
every one who is in the know must admit that the temptations on all
sides are very great, and we elders and parents of these women have
found it a most difficult problem to improve the existing conditions."


"Some of you might say that most of what I have said is trifling and
elementary. I tell you, friends, I believe in a sound foundation, so
that the rest of our undertaking will be sound. There is nothing too
small to take into serious consideration for the advancement of the
race. After all, from what I can see of our people at present, the bulk
of them are still primitive and simple, and we cannot boast of any past
great achievement or civilisation. That is why I could not and would not
discuss certain subjects which would be better for us to leave alone,
and let those discuss them who are able and in a better position to do

"There are many difficulties confronting us, which we, as a nation, wish
the Government to understand so as to be able to help us. For instance,
in the selection of candidates for Government service of any importance,
the Government wish to know if the candidate has or had any relative in
Government service, and, I understand, they attach great importance to
it. How can we possibly have any relatives in high Government positions
when we are as yet only a little nation of to-day having had no previous
record or position of any kind. So, in fairness to ourselves, this
particular requirement should be eliminated, at least, so far as the
Karens are concerned. There are many things with which we should
acquaint the Government as to our needs, our wishes and aspirations, at
the same time letting them know the shortcomings of the people. We are
so apt to keep too quiet and let things pass. Please remember, 'ASK and
it shall be given unto you, seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall
be opened unto you.' Then again, the old saying 'Out of sight, out of
mind,' is very true, especially in dealings with Government servants. I,
personally, owe a great deal to a high official of the Government who
served many years in Burma. I remember having gone to him two or three
times for special consideration on behalf of our people. He showed much
sympathy, and, noting my keen disappointment at the result of my
request, said to me, 'When you ask for a thing and you do not get it,
ask again, and keep on asking till you do get it, for just as there are
times when you get what you deserve by asking, there will also be times
when an official will grant your request because he is tired or your
persistent demands and wishes to get rid of you.' So this is another
illustration of a crying child getting the most milk, and therefore it
pays to cry."

"In conclusion, I wish to impress upon you one further point, and that
is, in your own town or locality please make it a point to see and visit
your officials, whether they be Englishmen, Burmese or of any other
nationality. Do not wait till you get into trouble or need their help,
because there it does not look well nor is it right to go to a man, only
in time of trouble. I assure you, it pays to be in touch with them. Bear
in mind the truth of the saying, 'Out of sight, out of mind.'"


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