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Ethnic Karen Group Celebrates 55th Anniversary Of Karen Rebellion - 2004-01-31


Burma's largest guerrilla group is marking the 55th anniversary of the Karen rebellion -- amid new peace initiatives with the military government.

Karen rebel leader General Bo Mya led the celebrations (Saturday) at a camp on the Thai-Burma border.

Bo Mya also led the rebel side in landmark peace talks in Rangoon earlier this month.

But the aging leader said that despite the new cease-fire accord, there were still many issues that need to be resolved before a full peace deal is signed.

He said the two sides have to work out a plan to help the thousands of Karen refugees displaced by the long conflict.

Meanwhile, Burma's Prime Minister General Khin Nyunt warned that democracy will become a "distant reality" if the government meets with interference.

In a speech (Friday), he said Rangoon has been able to forge good relations with its Asian neighbors and international organizations, but he said Western countries are still pressuring Burma.

The United States and European nations have accused Burma of widespread human rights violations and have been skeptical of Rangoon's claims that it is on the road to democracy.

Information for this report is provided by AP and Reuters.

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