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Karen National Union (KNU)
Karen National Defense Organization (KNDO)
Democratic Karen Burmese Army (DKBA)

The Karen people number 2,000,000.

In 1997 Myanmar's State Peace and Development Council, or SPDC (formerly known as the State Law and Order Restoration Council, or SLORC) crushed the Karen National Union (KNU), the mainstream rebel movement, which has been fighting for autonomy from the Myanmar government for some 50 years. The Karen National Union, with an estimated 4,000-6,000 fighters, mostly carries out hit-and-run attacks.

The Karen National Defense Organization (KNDO) has 2000 fighters, 90% Karen (2% Shan, 2% Mon, 6% others).

In March 1998 soldiers, probably Democratic Karen Burmese Army (DKBA) forces, shelled the Wang Ka camp for displaced Burmese Karen located in Thailand. They killed two persons and wounded dozens more. The troops set fire to nearly all the huts in the camp, leaving thousands of persons homeless before the soldiers returned to Burma.

Kawthoolei is a name for the state the Karens want to establish.

Thousands of Karen civilians have died since the rebellion began 55 years ago, a year after Burma's independence. Hundreds of thousands more Karen peasants have been made homeless during one of the world's longest running insurgencies. The two sides have tried to open ceasefire negotiations but these efforts have stalled over the government's demand that the rebels first lay down their arms.

On 21 January 2004 the Karen National Union wrapped up a week of unprecedented talks with government officials in Rangoon. Rebel leaders said progress had been made toward a formal ceasefire after decades of insurgency. The Burmese government was tight-lipped about the talks, but a leader of the rebel Karen National Union, Lieutenant Colonel Nerdah Mya, said KNU delegates told him they went well. Colonel Mya, who spoke from Thailand, is the son of KNU Vice Chairman Bo Mya, the senior military commander who headed the delegation to Rangoon. During the visit, the delegation met with Burmese Prime Minister Khin Nyunt.

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