Mon 30 Aug 2004
Filed under: Inside Burma,News
More than 5,000 people attended the ethnic Karen’s annual wrist tying ceremony at a Burmese temple in the Thai border town of Mae Sot on Monday, said festival onlookers.
The ceremony, rooted in ancestral beliefs in spirits and known as lah ku kee su in the Karen language, began at 7:00 this morning and was held at Taw-ya Kyaun temple on the outskirts of town. Most of those in attendance were migrant workers from Burma and Karen living along the Thai-Burma border.
Traditionally the festival takes place at the time of the August full moon, when Karen tie white threads around the wrists to ward off illness and to contribute to the continuation of Karen culture. The festival has no religious significance.
The yearly ritual gives Karen elders the chance to pass on the Karen language, customs and traditions to the youth. Addressing onlookers this morning, Paw Doh, a veteran commander of the Karen National Union Battalion 101 and a delegate to the Karen committee which is negotiating a
ceasefire with Burma’s military government, urged the Karen people to be united. Several observers speculate that a formal ceasefire between Karen rebels and the junta – which is opposed by many Karen?could lead to a split among the Karen people.
Mahn Myo Myint, the former vice chairman of the Overseas Karen Refugees’ Social Organization, said this year’s ceremony received the largest turnout ever. He added that the first wrist tying ceremony was held in 1992.
Onlookers were treated to a performance by a trio of popular Pwo Karen singers and to an award presentation to the winners of the Karen singing competition, held the previous day at the temple. Karen noodles and other snacks were served.
S’eh Ner, a medic at the Mae Tao clinic in Mae Sot, said: “I am thrilled to see so many of our Karen people come to the ceremony to show our unity, love and tradition – even though we are living in a terrible situation.”
On Sunday thousands of Karen people marked the wrist tying ceremony in Nakorn Pathom Province, adjacent to Bangkok, while Karen living on the west coast of Canada celebrated the event in Vancouver on August 2.