An overview of the Karen people


Karen people are well known as the indigenous people of Burma and second largest ethnic group after the majority Burman. Karen people mostly live in the western Burma region (Delta), Rangoon, Pa Gu divisions and eastern Burma, along Thai Burma border. They can be found, also in northern and southern Thailand as well.

Karen people are very optimistic, love their land and value peace. However, they have been oppressed by the ruling Burmese military junta for over sixty years. They have been tortured, killed, forced to be military slaves, punished and otherwise mistreated. Moreover, their villages are attacked, burnt down to ash and women raped. Consequently, they have to flee to the neighbouring country of Thailand to seek protection in refugee camps. There are over 140,000 Karen refugees, currently residing in seven refugee camps in Thailand and larger numbers living in regions inside of Burma along its eastern border as internally displaced people after fleeing into the jungle to escape the random brutality of the Burmese military.

Karen refugees started arriving in Brisbane in 2006 after the Thai government allowed them to resettle into Western countries as part of the humanitarian resettlement program of the UNHCR. The number of Karen in Brisbane and Logan city is now over 700 persons. The Australian Karen Organization Inc, Queensland Branch (AKO-Qld) was formed in late 2006; a few months after some Karen families were resettled into Brisbane. The youth and women's sub committees were formed a year later. The AKO (Qld Branch) is committed to work as the representative of the Karen community in the Community Relations Commission and other cultural and social organisations.

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