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Flag of Kawthoolei

Kawthoolei (Burmese: ကော့သူးလေ, S'gaw Karen: ကီၢ်သူလ့ၤ) is the endonym for a proposed state that Karen insurgents in Myanmar have sought to establish since the beginning of the Karen conflict late 1940s.[1] Kawthoolei roughly approximates to present-day Kayin State, although parts of Mon State, Bago Region, and the Irrawaddy River Delta with Karen populations have sometimes are also controlled and claimed by groups such as the Karen National Union.[2] The name "Kawthoolei" was created by nationalist leader Saw Ba U Gyi in a 1949 declaration of independence of the region, prior to his death in battle.[3] Kawthoolei has also been spelled "Kaw-thu-lay" or "Kawthoolie" with the last syllable replacing the "lay" with "lea".[citation needed] The name "Kaw-thu-lay" was used by the government of the Union of Burma in the drafting of its 1948 constitution, which made provisions for an autonomous region for the Karenni people.[4]

Prior to the adoption of Kawthoolei, there were a number of other names to denote what the Karen people would call a Karen state. In the early 1900s, the historical term used for a Karen land was Kaw Lah, meaning "green land"[3]; it is unclear as to why the name Kawthoolei was adopted. Kawthoolei is not the only name used to refer to a Karen country: the Pwo Karen use the phrase "Kan Su Line", meaning literally, "land cool cave".[5] The flag was adopted in 1974.[6]

The precise meaning of Kawthoolei is disputed even by the Karen themselves. Kawthoolei literally means a land without darkness in Sgaw Karen.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Garbagni, Giulia; Walton, Matthew J. (2020). "Imagining Kawthoolei: Strategies of petitioning for Karen statehood in Burma in the first half of the 20th century". Nations and Nationalism. doi:10.1111/nana.12613. ISSN 1469-8129.
  2. ^ Nyein, Nyein (October 10, 2017). "Central Govt Infringing Administration of KNU Regions, Say Leaders". The Irrawaddy. Retrieved May 9, 2020.
  3. ^ a b Keenan, Paul (2008). Saw Ba U Gyi. United Kingdom: Karen History and Culture Preservation Society. pp. Page 3.
  4. ^ Leckie, Scott (2010). Housing, Land and Property Rights in Burma: The Current Legal Framework. Displacement Solutions. pp. 1096, 1135, 1136. ISBN 2839905787.
  5. ^ Languages of Security in the Asia-Pacific (March 13, 2014). "Karen – Kawthoolei".
  6. ^ Crampton, William (1989). The Complete Guide to Flags (p.132). Kingfisher Books. ISBN 0 86272 466 X
  7. ^ kawthoolei.org (March 13, 2014). "About Kawthoolei". Archived from the original on January 10, 2014. Retrieved March 13, 2014.