Voices from Burma's Borderlands Part II

Voices from Burma's Borderlands Part II

Saw Eh Marr Ner Sou

Guest Contributor

On Feb. 1, 2021, the military attempted to seize power. After the coup, people protested against the dictatorship throughout the country. I’m one of the activists who opposed the military coup. The main reason for seizing power was “Unjust Vote” not because the country was in chaos but because they wanted to continue to oppress and dominate the country, and return it to military rule.

The military brutally slaughtered unarmed civilians protesting in the street and detained thousands of people in several crackdowns. Many haven’t been heard since then. Some of them were slaughtered on the spot.

I joined the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) after the coup, as I quit my studies at the university which is under the control of the military. Then, leaving my family and student life behind, I made my way to the borderlands, where I decided to teach the ethnic minority children who are deprived of education and made to fear the military.

My students are from different parts of the country and none are Burmese. Unlike the local school teachers, most of the teachers in the jungle are Karen and the others are Mon, Shan and Rakhine. We are currently teaching students English, Karen language, mathematics, social sciences, psychology, and civil engineering.

We encounter hardships here such as accessing food supplies, health, security and, of course, communication. Students and teachers are provided chili and vegetable soup for breakfast and dinner. Students have to assume their responsibilities to cook the meal and they are allocated to do their tasks in groups. Once a week, they are treated to chicken curry. Occasionally, in the rainy season, bamboo shoots and lemon leaves are abundant and suitable to make curry.

Different armies like DKBA, KNU, PDF, PC, BGF, KNLA, KNDO, and the brutal military are just around here. Someone has to surely pass through several security gates (DKBA gate, KNU-PDF cooperation gate, the military gate) to get here. In addition, a couple of jets were recently flying above our head and we didn’t know what they were trying to do. Some students were trembling with tears in their rooms and started packing their clothes and dry rations after that.

If the military confronts the KNU or the PDF, they tell us to retreat at once or to get ready depending on the situation. Nearly 200 students have nowhere to run when the military is approaching. Regarding teaching Karen students, it’s going well if there is no shooting between the military and KNU.

When students suffer from illness or get hurt, the best medicine we have here is Paracetamol. Paracetamol is everything. Headache? Here is Paracetamol. Stomachache? Take some Paracetamol. I had to take some when I felt sick a few months ago and I was lying on my bed in a small room for a few days, getting high temperature and splitting headache. No nutritious food to eat. I absolutely got homesick at that time, missing my mom and her home cooked food.

If someone is bitten by a snake-bite, we don’t have enough medicine to cure it. We have to rely on traditional medicine whether it is secure or not. At this time, poisonous animals like cobra, half black and half white snakes called bungarus multicinctus, and giant scorpions are roaming around the campus.

No signal at all, regarding communication. Telenor network occasionally appears in unusual ways. When the PDF-KNU cooperation column accidentally confronted the approaching military, the constant noises of shooting were plainly heard in the distance. After that, all signals had totally disappeared for several days. Obviously, the military intentionally cuts off access.

A rough shelter from split bamboo and clothes blind was built to make separate rooms for both students and teachers. In particular, the roof of the girl dormitory is leaky when it rains hard.

Additionally, this place is haunted. In the middle of the night, a pack of dogs started howling near the girls dormitory. Over three tears ago, a Karen woman committed suicide, hanging herself at the hut. Some students every now and then heard someone singing a lullaby behind the toilet when they went downstairs at around 2:30 a.m. because her house at which she committed suicide was just next to the dorm. It is said that this area had been a graveyard for some time.

After a long period as a teacher of Karen students, I began to think to myself that I haven’t finished my degree. As I am an undergraduate student for the bachelors of civil engineering, I need to finish my degree and I am currently trying to get out of here to continue my further study abroad. Although there are a lot of difficulties like internet connection, communication, transportation, lack of food supplies and facilities for teaching, we are doing the best with what we have. And I strongly believe we still have a ray of hope for all of us and we can weather the injustice of the brutal military without the help of the UN.