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Burmese Rebel Leader Bo Mya Dies

24 December 2006

A longtime leader of Burma's largest ethnic rebel group has died. VOA's Suzanne Presto reports from Hong Kong.

A former leader of Burma's Karen National Union, Bo Mya died early Sunday in a Thai hospital. A rebel official says the 79-year-old had been suffering from a long illness.

Bo Mya led the Karen National Union in its fight against Burma's military government for decades, stepping down from his leadership post in 2000. The K.N.U. is Burma's largest ethnic insurgent group. It has been fighting for autonomy for almost six decades.

Bo Mya remained an advisor to the group in recent years.

A social worker involved with the Committee for Karen People, Saw Steve, says she heard about Bo Mya's death Sunday morning. She says the loss is not likely to affect the plans of the Karen National Union.

"I don't think so, because the Karen, they have the organization. They are going according to their policy and according to the decision from the congress," she said.

There are more than seven million Karen in Burma. Thousands have fled to Thailand to escape fighting between rebels and troops.

The K.N.U. is one of several minority groups that have fought the government since Burma won independence in 1948. The group reached an informal peace deal with the military junta in 2004, but an official pact was never signed.

At least 17 other rebel groups have signed ceasefire agreements with the junta.

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