Riding The Tiger's Back - Asia 1989 - 2016
The night earlier, my friend James and I had met a young Karen man, not long out of his teens, who offered to take us to Palu camp, a Karen Guerrilla stronghold across the Moei River, South of Mae Sot. We were not far out of town before he had bike problems and I remember James and I looking at each other with raised brows and thinking that we were not going to be getting anywhere near the crossing, let alone into the camp. After a lengthy delay we were on our way once more, finally arriving at the Moei, opposite Palu Camp and quite remarkably, being allowed to walk, unquestioned, across the rickety bamboo walkway that snaked its way across the Moei above the pre-monsoon waterline and into the camp. It transpired that our Karen teenager, with whom we had been rather dismissive, was a Major in the Karen army in his early fifties with over 40 years of frontline experience.
We came to a wooden hut, where up to a dozen KNLA guerrillas were assembled prior to leaving to replace comrades at the front. I made several frames of them, our presence hardly registering in their eyes, so focussed were they on their own inner thoughts and their imminent change of environs. They had begun the process of readying themselves and had no mind to break their concentration on our behalf. Within minutes they had slipped silently away. 1989 Burma border.