Hi, Hiveans friends
I will be back on my posts series about Cambodia soon but as I read the news about the actual situation on the other side of Thailand at the border with Myanmar (Burma) and it makes me think of all the friends I have there especially in the Karen State. I live in Thailand for the last 20 years and I still in love with the country, the people, the culture and it is nothing less than magical times. Living here made me meet many people some good, some bad, some strange like everywhere in the world but without ever trying to meet important people I have crossed the road of quite a few very important ones from stars, ministers, high police and army officials, very famous monk. Life is strange and you never know what's will come next. I am an open person and if there is mutual respect I can be friend with whoever.
Karen people from the village come to listen to the General
Since the year 1991 (that was my second trip to Thailand and other countries of South East Asia) I have a very good friend from the Karen ethnic from Burma, one day I asked him about the reason why he has come to live in Thailand, in my head I was thinking it can only be for the freedom of Thailand compared to Burma Sure in his story, there was the freedom but I discovered something that I wasn't aware of and that most people never heard of, today's longest war, a secret war right at the border of Thailand, a conflict that started in 1949 till today that opposes the Karen ethnic people to the Burmese army all around the Karen state in Burma.
Villagers eating after the General speech
In facts my friend used to be the doctor in the 7th brigade of the general Bo Mya from the Karen National Union Army (KNU) a doctor from the army that has learned everything on the battlefield in the jungle, that was the reason when we use to make a trip in the jungle he was knowing everything to help with all kinds of danger that jungle brings. Things like if someone walks on a landmine, get wounded by a bullet, or even fall down and had a bad break bone out of the leg with loads of blood leaking from the wound, he knows that the guy will want to drink but in no case, you can give him water so give him this leaves and those for the blood and in the worst case if needed to be blood transfused use coconut milk to transfuse the wounded person. But he knows many little things too that make life easier with mosquitoes and other insects bite.
General with a hero of the war, soldiers and villagers
I've learned many things with him and we remain good friends as always for 29 years now. This story of this secret war make me curious even I was in the region of northern Thailand where many conflicts were going on at that time in the region called "Golden Triangle" where many warlords and narcos were fighting for whatever reason, the Karen are not in the same region but just under the triangle, they are not involved in drugs trafficking and their cause seems to be legit compare to other ethnics in the triangle that were saying they fighting for freedom but at the same time they have a kind of dictatorship with a head that makes loads of money from drug trades. So the Karen are clean about that and their cause is very legitimate. Their struggle had started in the middle of world war II during the English colonial time of Burma and the armed war with Burma has started in 1949 until now just after England had given up on Burma and announced the independence. England has used Karen soldiers all the time during the war in the jungle of Burma fighting together against the Japanese occupation and has promised independence for the Karen state but after the war ends, England has just left without standing on their words. Leaving the Karen people (around 6 million today) facing the Burmese army.
Soldiers training for next day parade
My friend told me that most of the people I was knowing at that time were in fact Karen peoples that have fled the Burmese army repression for some and others have made their time in the Karen army and were searching for a better life in Thailand. One day we were in Mae Sot and I get introduced to the head of the Karen army The General Nerdha Bo Mya and slowly we become friends, he is very educated have served in the Thai army, and have been at West Point military school in the US and was now the head of the Karen army. One day as I was soon going to Myawaddy in Burma, he invited me to come to see a village they were rebuilding after the Burmese army destroys it. I was very excited but also I wasn't sure about it as it is a war zone, but he told me that I have nothing to fear they will bring me there and back to Myawaddy. So finally I accepted and they made all the necessary for me to get there and back to Myawaddy.
Soldiers getting ready for the parade
Finally after car, boat and walk, I arrived at a Karen army base next to a village that was in reconstruction and met with my friend the General. It was an experience that not many people can live to be far inside Burma's jungle with the "kings of the jungle army" (the name is given to the Karen as they are jungle people and knows everything about it, the Burmese fear them as they are on their territory and know how to take advantage of the environment, the Burmese army call them "the jungle pirate" as they arrived from nowhere and after delivering the battle they always take everything weapons, food and all that they need).
Having a chat with soldiers
The Burmese army is really bad with Karen and even they have some ceasefire from time to time, the Karen knows that they cannot trust them for anything. It is clear that what is happening here is nothing less than an ethnic cleansing (a genocide against the Karen people). The Burmese General Tien Sien and head of the country back in the days have told the media that " in a near-future, if you want to see a Karen you will have to go to a museum". When the Burmese soldier enters a village they always come first and take the money then after they want the food and finally they burn the village, drop land mines in the rice fields, murder, rape, torture, slave labor, use the people in good shape as the carrier in the front line so if there is an ambush they will be the one who gets killed first by their own people.
Soon I will post some more about this courageous and beautiful people that are the Karen.