WHATEVER HAPPENED TO TIGER

– This morning 30 years ago a young Karen guerilla, called ‘Tiger’, smuggled photographer Ole J. Sørensen and myself into Burma, taking us to Manerplaw, the legendary stronghold of the Karen guerillas. They had fought the Burmese army since World War II. 10.000 figthers were living in a primitive bamboo village on the slopes of The Mountain of The Sleeping Dog.

During World War II, The Karen had fought the Japanese army in Burma, and in return for their support, the British promised the Karen to support their claim for their own homeland, once the war was over.

Just like the US broke their promise to Ho Chi Minh and the Vietnamese guerillas to support Vietnam’s independence in return for their support against the Japanese, the British broke their promise to the Karen in Burma. 

When I met the Karen in 1991, they had tenaciously fought the Burmese military for more than 40 years.

During the following days Tiger took us deeper into jungle to visit the Burmese students, who had fled the massacres in the streets of Rangoon, when the army had cracked down on their protests against the harsh military rule. The memory of these starving and frightened youngsters has stayed with me ever since.

Like many other guerillas, Tiger was sick with malaria and frequently shook with nasty fever attacks. Nevertheless he insisted to stay with us on the muddy trails in the damp and cold mountain forest.

A few weeks later after Tiger had taken us back to safety in Thailand, the Burmese army launched a surprise attack on Manerplaw, and many Karen guerillas died in the vicious battle. I have often wondered if Tiger survived the slaughter, but I was never able to obtain any information about his fate. 

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