This Is Our Land
Hanging the Karen tunic on the Fishing Rod
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” Martin Luther King
The Karens were the first settlers of the land now known as Myanmar. After their long journeys, the Karens decided to settle down in the land which they thought was very fertile and peaceful. The claiming and marking of the land was told in Karen history as well as in htars (poems) and passed down to posteriors. This story bears significance as part of the Karen history because of its prophetic implication. The Karens were from the north and came down to present Myanmar because it was too thickly populated where they were. They moved down further south family after family, tribe after tribe until there was no land left to explore. Their ancestors learned valuable lessons from their experiences
in many lands they had lived and passed down these legacies to their posteriors. So many families formed themselves into tribes and built villages and towns in every convenient place in order to develop and defend themselves. The prophetic history goes on as followed.
A certain couple by the name of Pu Hsar Tuh and Pee Peh Say who lived in a village called Moo Kla Toh (The present Rangoon Airport site, Mingaladon) went out fishing every day. They loved fishing at places where new lands formed at the mouth of rivers. Usually, they went out very far from their village to explore their surroundings. One day, as they were fishing they noticed that the land was very rich in soils and could support a large number of families. They talked about their past experiences and agreed that they should leave something worthwhile for their children. They found the land was unoccupied and there was no sign or mark to show that it had been claimed. The Karens always show respect to other people’s property if it has a mark or sign that show the owner. The couple knew that they were the first to have found this land.
So they looked around to find some obvious things to make a sign. As the land was newly formed there was no sizable thing good enough for a mark. They found a big teak log and said to each other that they would build their house with it. This log was also good for a sign so they stuck in one of their fishing rods into the log. Pu Hsar Tuh put off his Karen tunic and hung it on the fishing rod to make them looked like a flag. After marking and claiming the land as their own they went back to their village.
Sometimes later, British merchants came to this land and found the place very good for settlement. Even though they saw the land had been marked with something looked like a flag, they ignored it and buried nine copper coins under the log as a sign that they were the first to have found this land.
After the British left, some Burmese merchants came to this land and seeing that it was very good they wanted it. Looking around to leave a mark for themselves they saw a big log with a fishing rod stuck into and a Karen tunic waving proudly on it. As they didn’t have any respect for others they brought in nine baskets of ground nuts to burry them under the log. When they dug the earth they found out that some people came here before them and had already buried nine copper coins as a sign. Ignoring them they dug deeper to burry their ground nuts, covered them, put back the coins in their place and covered them with the earth again.
After the Burmese left, the Talaing merchants came and seeing the beautiful land they wanted to possess it. Like the British and the Burmese, they planned to mark it with something so that they could claim it whenever necessary. They realized that the land had been marked by some early arrivals but was presently they found no one nearby. They saw a teak log with a fishing rod stuck firmly into and also a Karen tunic waving innocently on it. They dug the ground under the log and saw two other marks buried one upon the other. Therefore, they dug the earth the deepest to burry nine sickles as a sign that they were the first finding this land.
As time went by , the Karen population increased so that new more lands were needed. The Karens were by nature born explorers and loved adventure. According to their past experiences, they always took precaution and prepared themselves before any severe calamities arrived.
After all these events, Pu Hsar Tuh died in Moo Kla Toh leaving five sons to his wife Pee Peh Say. The name of the five sons were, Saw Ta Kuh, Saw Ta Lah, Saw Ta Nyaw, Saw Thaw Kar and Saw Lar Tawh. Before he died, he told his sons to go and live at the place where he and their mother had found and marked it for them. There, they would have abundant resources to sustain a lot of large families for many years coming. Therefore, the four eldest sons packed their belongings and went to the place where their parents had found and marked. The youngest son Saw Lar Tawh stayed back with his mother to look after things the family possessed and also to take care of their aging mother.
The four brothers built their houses and began growing seeds and vegetables for the annual crop. While they were busy with their work, a group of British merchants embarked on the land on a certain day. They were very angry at the sight a group of Karens laboriously working on the land. They shouted and said that this land belonged to them. They told the brothers that they had marked it by burying nine copper coins under the teak log. The Karens replied that their parents had found this land for them and marked it by sticking a fishing rod on the teak log. And besides, our father hung his Karen tunic on the fishing rod. When our parents arrived here first, they found no one lived on this land. They were honest and expected honesty in turn. But as it happened for long years, we are not sure whether these signs are still exist.
As they were arguing, a group of Burmese merchants came in by chance and started quarrelling with the Karens. They said that they found the land first and for a sign they buried nine baskets of ground nut under the teak log. The British just stared at them not knowing what to say.
Just at that moment, as if by chance, a group of Talaing merchants came in and argued that they owned this land for they were the first to set foot on it. For a sign, they buried nine sickles under the teak log. So, the four groups were in heated debate and finally agreed to dig the earth and see whether they were correct in what they said. The Karens added that their parents didn’t dig the earth to bury the sign. They stuck a fishing rod with a Karen tunic hanging on it. As time had been lapsed for many years we were not sure they would still be found. The fishing rod and the Karen tunic might have been drifted or blown away to other places. But what we said and testified were the whole truth.
Anyhow, according to the agreement, the Karens started digging the earth first and the teak log was found as the Karens told. Then came the British turn to dig. They dug the ground under the teak log and as they said so nine copper coins were found. After that, the Burmese dug deeper to reveal nine baskets of ground nut which obviously displayed that it was cheatingly done. The Talaing also showed the same trick as they dug deeper than the Burmese to expose nine sickles.
All the signs were found according to each group’s testimony and excepting the Karen the other groups were quite deceitful in trying to prove their claim. Everyone knows that former things buried deeper than latter things as times went by. Nevertheless, they made covenant that the Talaing would rule the land first and then followed by the Burmese and the British consequently. The Karen would rule the country after the British era. This is the legacy as well as the prophecy the Karen ancestors left for their posterities. This prophecy is now partially fulfilled as world history unfolded its pages day after day.
This land belongs to the Karen people and their ancestors had rightfully marked it for them...
The prophecy added that one day, the Karens will have a fair share of this land. Unless this justice is recognized and executed in due time, Burma (Myanmar) will never become progressed, prosper and peaceful. For the Karen people who are now for many reasons scattered in many parts of the world, this prophecy will remain their heritage forever, their hope in the future and their honor to become better citizens in every nation.
“For there is still a vision for the appointed time; it speaks of the end, and does not lie. If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay”. - Habakkuk 2:3
“The long years effort of the Karen people to create their own national state is a decent and deserving struggle. We bear malice towards none. It is the mark of a common aspiration for a civilized race to attain and by which is conceived and cherishable to all” - Saw Loh Doh Taw