Traveling Guerilla Zone Burma

in TravelFeed3 years ago (edited)

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Another day, another year, another season in Burma's Karen state also called "Kaw Thoo Lei". This trip was less of a pain than the other one in my 3 previous posts. At that time Burma (Myanmar) was slowly opening to "democracy" and the possibility to travel was way better than before and even the road to Karen state wasn't full of checkpoints with Burmese soldiers who are trained to be mad (possibly by the wide use of methamphetamine among the Burmese soldier) this drug is really dangerous and Thailand has declared it a national security threat as users turn violent and psychotic, Thai people call it "Ya Ba" which mean the medicine that makes crazy. Burma is the main producer of methamphetamine in the region with the secret support of the army. In the Karen state, all drugs are strictly forbidden to produce or use; it is a death penalty sentence onset. To me, it is maybe justified in the case of producers or dealers but for the users better put them a sentence like a year in the Karen army, but even the producer I think each case must be investigated because the drug trade is often made of slave or death threat on people and their family to work for the real gangsters. But the price of life over there and all around Burma is really cheap.


This time right after crossing the friendship bridge from Mae Sot in Thailand to Myawaddy in Burma, I have an appointment with a Karen soldier wearing civilian clothes in a tea shop just two hundred meters behind the small reproduction of the Shwedagon pagoda of Yangoon, the most famous pagoda and stupa/chedi of Burma. Every time I've been to Myawaddy there is a strange feeling, everywhere you go in the town there is always someone watching at you, even sometimes one comes in front of you without a word grab his phone and make a picture of you at 50 cm from your face, but you have to understand that you are in Burma (Myanmar) and every foreigner is suspicious and intelligence is everywhere and every little thing such as taking a picture of a soldier, an airport, a train station, a checkpoint, a border point can bring you to jail for god's knows how long. Even during the ten years of soft "democracy", it was always better to keep a low profile and take pictures of tourist places. Anyway, I wasn't really afraid of this kind of behavior because I am already used to it. I met my guy in the tea shop and having a Burmese tea together and talking about daily life things when suddenly a guy sits at a table stand up and come about a meter a half from us and grab his phone and takes us in the picture the guy with me stood up very fast and start an argument and after a few minutes where all the eyes in the tea shop were on us the "photograph" agreed to delete the picture. I have no idea about what made this guy delete the picture but he looks afraid of the guy that was with me. After the tea, he told me to walk out and he was just behind me looking at the people in the tea shop just in case another one want to snap a picture than we walk not far from the little Shwedagon and get into his car. I was thinking about the picture and already notice that before I met him two guys one on the bridge between Thailand and Burma and one in the street just after the border checkpoint have already taken my picture when I told him he said "sure it is the intel they do it for everyone crossing the bridge" but he told me that the guy in the tea shop was just a bad guy that makes a living on creating stories and with the help of the police by racketeering foreigner on lies.


Out from Myawaddy, we took the road north. The beginning was a road but after it was a little dirt road and for more than three hours it was really bumpy and I was really hoping to be at the destination as soon as possible. But I was sure that we will have to walk too. As soon as we hit the mountains the road was really bad but after maybe 45 minutes we arrive at a little Karen village with bamboo houses on both sides of the road, we park the car under one of the only wooden houses and get to see a man in his house, he offers us some rice and chicken. It was about noon and I learn that we have a good two-hour walk to the base camp but if we were lucky and he can contact them we may have the chance to get picked up by the boat, this will cut our travel about an hour or so. After eating we just rested for half an hour then took our bags he took also his M16 and a pistol and we are on our way up the mountain. The way up wasn't too bad as we climb already a big part of the mountain with the car and the way down on the other side was quite easy as there was a trail, on the top of the mountain he switch on his walkie talkie and talk with the base I suppose and he told me that the boat will come to meet us behind the next mountain but we don't have to climb again as there is a way in between the mountains. All the way he walks first and looks carefully at the trail for potential landmines. He told me that the landmines that the Burmese buy to the Chinese are very difficult to spot as they are about 6 cm diameter and are made of plastic so even when demining a place it does not react to metal detectors.


We arrive quickly at the bottom of the mountain and start to walk along the trail to the next mountain. Even it was during the dry season on the mountain and even more in between it the vegetation is luxurious. Before hitting the bottom of the mountain he uses his walkie-talkie once again but only uses it with clicking and the other side responds as well. After walking along the mountain we arrive at a river and walk along the river for some time and stop at a little spot of sand with a lot of bushes around. Then he uses the walkie-talkie once more by clicking and suddenly an engine start from the opposite side of the small river and a little boat appear from the vegetation. Even we've to stay less than 5 minutes on the river bank and me looking all around us I fail to spot the boat. On the boat were two-man wearing half civilian and army clothes laying down in the boat were two M16. We jump on the boat and we were on the way to the base.
In fact, I was invited because a French NGO ask me how can they help the children of the Karen state, and as I have the best relation to organizing such a thing I have an appointment with my friend the general at the base. Also, I have a few plans to show him to build houses at a cheap price to get the refugees back from Thailand. The boat trip took us about 20 minutes and we arrive at a hidden camp about 20 meters up the river but the only thing visible from the river is the two flags the one from Karen state and the one from the army and on the top of the trail that goes from the river to the camp is a little checkpoint with three armed soldiers. All of them shook my hand and my guy bring me directly to the officer's mass to meet with the general. On my way, I passed in front of many young new recruits and some older soldiers working at building a house. When I arrive at the mass the general wasn't there so I was offered some water and a coffee and after drinking he brings me to the house where I was supposed to sleep so I left my bag there and take a tour of the base.


From the river apart from the two flags at tree level, no one can expect a military base even if it wasn't fully finished but there was already a training field a football field and a firing field, everybody was very nice and most of them shook my hand as Karen people do, little like us with the right hand except they also use their left hand by putting it under the right elbow as they support it and they tell you "Oh Mii" meaning hello, it is different from the Karen from Thailand who says "Oh Mu Chope". The atmosphere was good and the heat from the day started to cooler. Most of the barracks were hidden at many different places non-visible from the fields and the little mountains all around are just gorgeous.


As I got back to the officer's mass, the general was there and he granted me why a 33cl. of black Spy wine cooler as he knows I never drink alcohol except for this black Spy and that was nice of him as I know this comes from Thailand so it was brought here for me. We spoke a little about daily life and soon it was time for diner, after eating captain good mood make the sword show for us and it was also time for guitar and singing, the talking will be tomorrow as now it was time for relaxing.


To Be Continued...


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