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Flag of Kawthoolei

Kawthoolei (S'gaw Karen: ကီၢ်သူလ့ၤ) is the Karen name for an aspirational state that the Karen people of Myanmar have been trying to establish since the late 1940s. Kawthoolei roughly approximates to present-day Kayin State, although parts of the Burmese Ayeyarwady River delta with Karen populations have sometimes also been claimed. Kawthoolei, as a name, was penned during the time of former Karen leader Ba U Gyi, who was assassinated around the time of Burma's independence from Britain. Kawthoolei has also been spelled ‘Kaw-thu-lay’ or ‘Kawthoolie’ with the last syllable replacing the ‘lay’ with ‘lea.’ The name ‘Kaw-thu-lay’ was used by the Government of the Union of Burma in drawing up its constitution which made provisions within a Karen land.

Prior to the adoption of Kawthoolei there were a number of other names to denote what the Karen people would call a Karen country. In the early 1900s, the historical term used for a Karen land was Kaw Lah or "green land"; it is unclear as to why the new name was adopted, although it probably developed due to Karen political aspirations after the Second World War. Kawthoolei is not the only name used to refer to a Karen country: the Pwo Karen use the phrase "Kan Su Line", literally "land cool cave".[1]

The precise meaning of Kawthoolei is disputed even by the Karen themselves. Kawthoolei, literally means a land without evil in Sgaw Karen.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Languages of Security in the Asia-Pacific (March 13, 2014). "Karen – Kawthoolei".
  2. ^ kawthoolei.org (March 13, 2014). "About Kawthoolei".