Languages of Security in the Asia-Pacific

College of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University

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Shan – Karn Ket Kae | Karn Khao Tuk

May 27th, 2011 · No Comments · Defence, Offence, Shan

Karn Ket Kae

Karn Khao Tuk

Relates to defence/offence

Karn, which literally means ‘activity, action or work’, is also used as a prefix turning a verb into a verbal noun. Ket means ‘to head off, thwart, hinder, obstruct’ and combined with kae, ‘to deliver from or remove a present evil, save from harm or danger’ the term becomes similar to that of ‘defence’. Inherent in kae is that something must occur first that requires an act of defence. In a military sense there must be an aggressive or offensive action that has to be defended against.

Khao means ‘to go or go in’. Tuk means ‘to attack’. Together with the prefix karn the term means offence.

A Shan journalist described the military operations of the Shan State Army (SSA) as ‘strategically on the defensive, but tactically on the offensive’. Defence is used as a national strategy to guard against what is perceived as the aggression of the Burman central government. The SSA therefore sees itself as fighting a purely defensive war and not interested in attacking Burma proper.[1] The idea of ‘tactically offensive’ refers here to the guerrilla tactics used by the SSA. In order to defend their country they are aggressively attacking Burmese Army units rather than simply waiting to be attacked in fixed bases. Colonel Yord Serk, the Chairman of the Restoration Council of Shan State, has on several occasions used the expression, ‘The best defence is a good offense’.[2] But the point to be stressed is that the common use of Karn Ket Kae carries the idea that the Shan are only resorting to force in response to the aggressive acts of others – specifically the Burmese government.



[1] Discussions with Sai Khuensai Jaiyen, Chiang Mai, 2008-2009.

[2] Ibid.




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