Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Phoo Kee Do's Battles - Episode 2



(Concise translation of KNLA Major Robert Ba Zan’s “Me and Wankha Battle”.)

Battle of Kormoora (1989) with Videos

Mahn Robert Ba Zan.
New Wankha or Kormoora Camp was established in 1975. The base camp of KNLA (Karen National Liberation Army) Special Battalion 101 was notorious even for the battle-hardened Burmese soldiers of SLORC (State Law and Order Restoration Council) battalions as the most dangerous place on earth.

Once they knew they were to launch an operation against the Kormoora Camp some soldiers killed themselves, some deserted, and some resigned from the Army. The popular saying in the Burmese Army then was “If one wants to die one doesn’t need to take arsenic but just go to Wankha!” and it was absolutely right.

During ten years from 1984 to 1994 more than a division (about 7,000 men) of unfortunate men of Burmese army were killed or wounded while trying to take fortified Kormoora down. The innocent dependants of those thousands and thousands of soldiers and officers sadly became the widows and fatherless orphans. It was their entire fault as they were not cordially invited into our Karen State and what they got is the deserving reward for invading our ancestral land.

The SB-101 was controlled direct from the KNLA HQ and the Battalion CO was Brigadier General Saw Taw Hla. The other officers were Major Mahn Than Maung, Captains Kaw Gay Heh, Saw Hla Shwe, Phar Min, Be War, Phaw Doo Mo, Law Lah, Ba Thein, and Lieutenants Ba Say, Lin Noh, Yay Loh, Saw Phar thu, Soe Min, Hla Wai, Thaung Tin, Soe Soe, Phaw Doh, El Htoo.

Many of them died of old age, some were killed on the battlefield, a few still in the active duty, and some were resettled as the refugees in third countries like US and Australia.

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Kormoora is at the top on Moei River's Omega Bend.
Kormoora Camp was situated in northern Myawaddy Township of the Kawkareik District in Eastern Karen State. The fortified fort like huge camp was at right across the Thoung Yin River (Moei River in Thai) from the village of Wankha in Thailand. At that location the Thoung Yin River flowing from south to north had a large omega bend formed like a horseshoe.

Attacking Burmese Army had only one way to approach the camp. Through the narrow opening of the horse shoe as eastern side of the River is Thai territory and the Royal Thai Army had allowed only Karen forces on that side. For more than ten years till 1995 when the camp finally fell into Burmese hands that narrow opening of omega was the Karen’s killing field of thousands of Burmese soldiers attempting to charge at the Kormoora.

Inside the camp was the Kormoora Karen Village. The Buddhist monastery of Monk Mahn Stee Hla, the Christian Church of Preacher Saw Win Naing, the Mosque for the Muslim soldiers, Kaw Thoo Lei State High School, market and shops big and small, and all the residential houses were inside the village.

Inside the battalion compound were the battalion HQ, barracks, food warehouses, military hardware stores, armory, ammunition stores, hospital, drill or parade ground, jail cells, and the barracks for fifth Company.

The whole camp was defended on the waterfront peripheral by the circle of large concrete bunkers with many layers of huge Teak and Pyinkadoe logs as the overhead protection against enemy heavy bombardments.

Concertina Wires.
The opening of horseshoe or the Killing Field had five layers of concertina wire fence. In between the fences were the fields of landmines and Punji sticks. At every ten yards on the peripheral were heavily reinforced bunkers capable of withstanding the direct hits of 120mm mortar shells and also capable of firing 75mm - 81mm - 107mm mortars, recoilless guns, and rocket launchers. And all the bunkers were connected by communication trenches circling around the camp.

In addition to the KNLA SB-101 the Kormoora camp was being manned by the platoons and companies from the Arakan Liberation Army, ABSDF (All Burma Students’ democratic Front) Battalion-210, and the KMLF (Kawthoolei Muslim Liberation Front) Brigade.

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Except for the arts of war handed down by the Fascist Japanese Imperial Army the Burmese Army doesn’t have the administrative and commercial knowledge. Burmese army doesn’t understand democracy and human rights. For the Burmese soldiers Army is their father and Army is their mother and the Army is their only God.

Just because of their ignorance and stupidity the whole populace was starving as the official economy had spectacularly collapsed and the black markets were thriving. Back then everything the country needed was coming mainly from Thailand and our KNU was thriving taxing the goods flowing in and out of Burma through the Thai-Burma border controlled by our forces.

The whole country was relying on the black economy and most good came through the jungle routes from Thailand. Thousands and thousands of merchants and porters came and went through the porous border. No body really knew how many thousands of black market merchants had been involved in the black market trade.

We even felt that the pedestrian traffic was so heavy on the well-trodden routes over the Dawna mountain range by the border the popular trails even sunk down a few inches.

Because of thriving black economy our Kawthoolei Government’s Custom Department had massive income from the taxes and duties. And those funds made the KNLA Sixth Brigade, seventh Brigade, and SB-101 really strong.

Most of the trading gates were in the area controlled by the KNLA Seventh Brigade. Money collected at the Mae-tha-waw, Mae-ta-yee, Maw-phoe-kay, and Mae-la gates were so massive no one except the collectors hadn’t an idea how much was being collected everyday. But one could easily guess the funds from those border-trading-gates were the blood lines of our Karen revolution.

Back then the giant teak-case (10ft by 5ft and 5ft high) of Major Lar Moo, the supply officer of Seventh Brigade, was filled up to the rim daily with one hundred kyat notes and it took the team of six female soldiers led by Lt. Nant Yin Aye from the KNU accounts department many hours to count.

Burmese currency was also very valuable as back then one Kyat fetched two Thai Bahts in the black markets. KNU could buy massive amount of weapons and ammunitions for our KNLA in the weapons black markets with that tax money from the black economy of Burma.

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Burmese Army began to use the brutal cut-4-cuts strategy against KNDO in Proper Burma in mid 1970s. And they managed to wipe out all Karen bases in the Irrawaddy delta and the Pegu Yoma range.

By late 1980s the Army had opened the economy and started attacking our trading gates on the border. We lost all four major trading gates but the army had to pay with many thousands of lives to overrun the Mae-tha-waw, Mae-ta-yee, Maw-phoe-kay, and Mae-la bases. Only Karen camps left were Old and New Wankha camps.

In mid 1989 Burmese Army started attacking our Old Wankha (Wankhahaung) Camp. We were at the Lower Worlay Camp. Ours was a company-sized special force being gathered for a special duty called “Operation Promised Land”. Name of our unit was Saw Bo Mya Youth (BMY) and our leader was Colonel Soe Soe.

It was not a well-known unit as it later became the Third Column of Tenth Battalion and then the Twelfth Battalion of Fourth Brigade.

Moei River at Wankha Village.
Even from our camp we could hear the sound of Burmese heavy weapons and artillery. Days and nights for over a week and Karen casualties was high and the reinforcement was needed to replace the wounded and killed. So Col. Soe Soe sent a truck to us and ordered me through the radio to send a section of men to besieged Old Wankha Camp.

The Section of our selected men led by Captain Tint Lwin then left by the truck for Old Wankha Camp. The Burmese artillery wouldn’t stop the pounding days and nights for more than a week but they still could not overrun the camp.

During daytimes they charged like waves after waves but repelled back every time by our wall of returned fires. One after another their repeated bayonet charges had failed. They finally unleashed all their heavy weaponry and artillery on the Old Wankha Camp. 81mm - 82mm – 120mm mortars, 75mm – 84mm recoilless guns, 105mm Howitzers, and 25 pounder mountain cannons, all together more than thirty assorted artillery guns.

Some of our fortified bunkers got many direct hits from their shells and the vibration alone caused ear bleeding and unconsciousness in our men inside the bunkers. But they withstood the brutal assault and the enemy had lost hundreds and hundreds. Some army companies were wiped out completely and we could hear the Army BOC Commander’s angry reprimand to his battalion commanders on the radio intercepts of their communications.

“You guys, if you don’t finish bastard Nga-pways (Karens) in a week the stars on your shoulders will be removed. You guys been given all the heavy support from behind, and all the manpower you need. And we still can’t get their base. I don’t care how many men we lose. Get their camp at any cost!”
“Yes Ah-ba, we hear you Ah-ba.”

As a field officer I could feel and understand the fearful reply of the battalion commanders risking their own lives and the lives of thousands and thousands of their men on the front line. Army High Command’s pressure on the BOC (Base Operation Command) boss was so intense he in turn had to turn the screws tight on his field commanders.

Eventually Burmese Army overran the Old Wankha Camp by sacrificing many hundred lives of poor Burmese soldiers. It was a victory based on the piles of their corpses, smell of bloods, and the painful moans of the wounded.

I didn’t know how many from KNLA SB-101 were killed or wounded there. Our Captain Tint Lwin’s Special Section had two wounded: Private Aung Kyi and Private Kor Doh who resettled as a refugee in a third country later.

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Phoo Kee Do and his KNLA Unit.
Year was 1989 and the date was May 25. I received a radio message from Colonel Soe Soe.

“Our men have retreated from Old Wankha. They are now in New Wankha (Kormoora). You need to be there to command our unit there. Prepare to travel immediately. I’m sending a truck.”

I left only the camp guards and the sick there and with the rest we went to Colonel Soe Soe’s camp. After a short rest we prayed together as our Christian tradition to receive direction and strength from the Almighty God as well as the holy protection.

Fighting a war is not throwing flowers at each other. I could die. If I die my wife will become a widow and my children will become fatherless orphans. My son will call another man father. But those were the secondary problems.

The primary problem was the fact that getting killed fighting the enemy Burmese is much better than being enslaved by them. My solid political philosophy for our revolutionary war was to proudly die fighting for my land and my race.

After the prayers Col. Soe Soe told me that my radio code would be Kee Do. From that day my name in KNLA became Kee Do. In our KNLA we used “Phoo” in front of the names of senior officers as a showing of our respect. Like the “Boe Daw” and “Ah Ba” words in Burmese Army. So my men called me Phoo Kee Do from that day.

We reached Kormoora in the early morning and met Captain Tint Lwin and his men back from the fallen Old Wankha. Their morale was high despite the sleepless nights and the battle fatigue at Wankha. Together with Captain Tint Lwin I thoroughly checked out the area we were assigned to defend so that I would know the strength and weakness of the ground we had to stand.

The huge bunker we were to defend was at the top right corner of the base of the river’s omega bend. Land wise the ground was the continuation of Catblu hills on our right overlooking the whole Kormoora Camp. If our bunker collapsed that would be the end of Kormoora as the enemy could easily overrun the camp.

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Now I needed to find out what weapons and ammunitions we had ready in our hands. So I asked my Captain.

“What are the weapons we have? Do we have enough ammo and also the reserved ammo for all our guns? How many hand grenades? Enough shells for all our RPGs? How about the Browning and MG3 machine gun bullets?”
“All full. We are now sitting on AK47 and M16 ammo boxes. More than enough bullets for Browning, BARs, and MG3 machine guns too,” replied Captain Tint Lwin.

My plan was to let the Burmese come through the first three layers of concertina wire fence and start firing at them just before the fourth fence. The last (fifth) fence was only ten yards away from our bunker. By then our heavy weapons could not support us any more. So I must have a 60mm mortar to shell the enemy already in the fences which were inside the range between 25 and 50 yards from our bunker.

60mm Commando Mortar.
So I sent Captain Tint Lwin to SB-101 HQ to ask for a 60mm. My direction was to bring back to our bunker if they had one.

He came back with the mortar and shells and said, “They had only 60mm Commando?”
“It doesn’t matter long or short one, as long as we can fire. How many rounds you’ve got?”
“Forty.”
“That’s great!”

We then prepared the mortar rounds to drop within 50 yards when fired. We made the rounds charge-zero by removing all the propelling charges. We laid down the rounds in a row and wrap around the mid section of mortar barrel with a large bath towel to hold. Once 60mm mortar was ready I tried to think of anything to prepare for the coming battle.

There was a big tree with large foliage just behind our bunker and I was afraid the shrapnel from the enemy shells from 120mm mortars and 84mm recoilless guns could fall on us if the rounds hit the tree. So I ordered Lt. Htoo Htoo (who was killed later) to sandbag the rear of our bunker as a protection.

“Okay, Bo Htoo Htoo, go ask for some sandbags to protect our rear!”

So he got some gunny bags from the SB-101 Adjutant Captain Saw Beh War and stuffed the bags with mud and soil from the river banks. While I was doing the sandbags with the men an officer from SB-101 came up and showed me a letter from the Camp Commander and asked me to sign it if I agreed with the contents of the letter.

The contents were, “At midnight tonight a special Burmese Commando unit will attack our New Wankha (Kormoora) Camp. They are the combined commando companies from LIB-12, 13, 16, and IB-76. Every bunker commander must defend his bunker. If the bunker is lost he must immediately counter-attack to regain the bunker. Sign this letter if you think you can do your assigned task.”
“Not once, I’m signing twice,” I said and signed the letter twice while thinking that the great challenge had begun.
“It doesn’t matter how many days the battle will take. We are waiting easy in the bunker to fire at them. But they have to cross the mine fields and there are punji sticks and landmines and concertina wires all waiting for them. We have all sort of weapons and mountains of ammunitions. Also this big bunker can withstand even the delay-bunker-busters from 120mm heavy mortars,” we were full of self-confidence.

Our preparations included the dried-rations, water, medical supplies, and even a medic. I gathered all my men and challenged, “We’ll let the Burmese cross up to three wire fences. Once they touch the fourth fence the firing will begin. I myself will fire the first shot. So what do you men think of my plan? Do you men dare?” and they all answered that they would   follow me to hell.

I loved my men and I was proud of them. They knew that in a battle they could die, lose limbs, become blind, and become a cripple, but they still dared to fight. Now we had all the necessary preparations completed and we were excited with heroic revolutionary spirit and we were ready for the battle tonight.

KNLA Troops  crossing Moei River.
My battle strategy of holding our fire till the Burmese commandos reach the fourth fence was necessary for our victory. Since our KNLA was partly equipped with the arms captured from the Burmese Army unless we captured their weapons in a battle that battle was never a victory. Killing them only when they were inside our fences was a dead sure way of getting the guns and ammos from the bodies of dead Burmese soldiers.

After the dinner that night I and one platoon took our positions in the bunker. The rest of my men were attached to other units. Our bunker had two levels and we could fire at the attackers from both levels. I, Captian Tin Lwin, Lt. Htoo Htoo, Privates Bajamut, Thein Nghat, and three other privates were on the upper level. On the lower level were Sergeant Collar and eight men and our medic.

Two students from ABSDF (All Burma Student Democratic Front) were also with us in the bunker to get battle experience. Private Win Htun Lin was with me at upstairs and Private Lin Htin was at downstairs.

We had with us a MG3 Medium Machine gun, a Browning Machine gun, a BAR (Browning Automatic Rifle), one each RPG (Rocket Propelled Grenade) 2-5-7 launcher. And we were ready and waiting.

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120mm Heavy Mortar.
From 4 in the afternoon that day Burmese started shelling us by two 120mm heavy mortars from nearby Mye-ni-taung hills. Two adjacent hills the Mye-ni-taung at the left of us and Catblu at the right were already controlled by them and they were using the hills as the high ground to bombard the Kormoora day and night. The relentless shelling was still going strong even at 6 in the evening. The whole camp shook horribly on its ground.

“Motherfucking Burmese has a lot of shells today. Still shelling, definitely they’re gonna charge us tonight,” remarked Bo Tint Lwin as the night got older.
I replied, “Battalion is not telling us a lie just to make us sleepless tonight,” while thinking that if they attack us after midnight the battle date would be 27 May 1989.
“Put the men on stand-to after 10,” I ordered Bo Tint Lwin.

I just lay down in my hammock inside the bunker to wait out for their coming attack. Then my mind wandered round and started thinking about the deaths of my youngest brother Lt. Hto Lwee Zan and my first cousin Sergeant Pu Cho. Hto Lwee Zan was recently killed in the battle to retake Mye-ni-taung hills and Pu Cho was killed while his unit was trying to retake Catblu hills.

We had 3 brothers and 5 sisters and all three brothers had served in the KNLA. Middle brother Baldwin Zan the Commanding Officer of KNDO Seventh Battalion was also killed years earlier and now Hto Lwee was gone too. Their heroic deaths were the ultimate reward of our revolutionary inheritance from our father Mahn Ba Zan.

“Revolution is not just for us. It’s for our Karen race. To become an independent race from a country-less race we Karens have to fight till we die. We have to face poverty and all sorts of difficulties and the ultimate reward for our struggle is death. Yes this revolution is only inheritance for you brothers from me your father,” I could still hear our father’s words.

By carrying that inheritance I had served on the fields for many months and one day I got a leave and came back home to my wife and children. Soon my youngest brother Hto Lwee Zan came to see me.

“Big brother, I am getting married soon. Can you please make a wedding ring for me?”

Since I was the eldest brother and like a father to them since father was gone I had to take care of his wedding.

So I asked my wife, “How much will it cost for a gold wedding ring?”
“At least 5000 Thai Bahts.”
“Jesus, how can I find 5000 Bahts?”

For a Karen field officer like me that amount was almost my yearly stipend. But I still told Hto Lwee that I’ll make a wedding ring for him so that he would have peace of mind. And till he later went back to the battlefield I had no idea how I was gonna get that wedding ring for him.

Not long after he came to see me, one day we heard the sounds of small arms and heavy weapons on the hills west of Kormoora Camp. From early morning to the late evening the battle had raged on for the whole day as we waited for the news from the frontline. My left side bottom eyelid was twitching and twitching and making me fearful of some bad news coming from the battle. And when the news finally came it was worse than bad.

Private Khin Nyunt from SB-101 came up to me with the bad news and said, “Major, your nephew Moe Maung Win (Lt. Moe Maung Win was killed later in the Battle of Htwee Phar Wee) was wounded in thigh.”
“So what? A soldier getting wounded in a battle is not a bad news at all!” But Khint Nyunit continued on.
“Your brother was killed though!”
“Jesus Christ!” I felt fainted as if my head was struck by ten thunderbolts altogether at that instant I heard of Hto Lwee’s death.

I didn’t even know how long I was in that incapacitated state of shock. I came to only when my sisters Connie Zan and Kathy Zan came and see me to go into Kormoora Camp to arrange for my brother’s funeral. I felt even worst when I saw my tearful sisters but I pulled myself out of shock so that we could go and arrange whatever necessary for Htoo Lwee’s funeral.

But we didn’t need to do anything when we reached Kormoora. Officers and the men from SB-101 together with Colonel Law War Dee (my sister Nan Nwe Zan’s husband who was also killed later) from KNLA HQ were doing everything for the funeral there.

We went up very close to Hto Lwee’s body surrounded by the wreaths and found his face was full of scratch marks and wounds. Only then we knew he was assigned to retake the fallen Mye-ni-taung hills back from enemy hands. He had already done the close-up reconnoitering and later led the actual assault himself. He was killed inside the enemy fence soon after the battle had started and to get back his body ten of his men had sacrificed their lives.

Next day his and his men’s bodies were buried with full military honor at the cemetery inside the Kormoora Camp. I cried as the traditional military order discharging their souls from the army was slowly read. White tears from my heart came out of my eyes and rolled down on my cheeks and fell on my chest. Gritting my teeth I tightened my two fists and promised to my late brother that I would avenge a blood debt for him.

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Meanwhile the enemy had stopped shelling from their 120mm mortars and intermittently fired 84mm recoilless guns onto our bunkers. My thoughts wandering back to recent past were suddenly interrupted by the explosion of an 84mm recoilless round right on top of our bunker.

As the final preparation I called Captain Tint Lwin, Lt. Htoo Htoo, and Sergeant Collar and said, “Once the enemy came up to the fences I shall stomp on this floor three times. Then all of you should be ready to fire and wait in a total silence for my first BAR shot. Clear?”

The whole camp by then was in complete silence like in a cemetery. Not even a single gunshot was heard. One could possibly hear a needle drop. When I glanced at my wristwatch the time was 11:30 pm and I couldn’t see any enemy movement beyond the wires. But the battle was so close and now was the time for my usual prayers before a battle.

And I said my prayers from Psalm 23 first.
“The Lord is my shepherd. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.”
Then I said Psalm 27.
“The Lord is my light and my salvation. When evil men advance against me to devour my flesh, when my enemies and my foes attack me, they will stumble and fall. Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear.”
I ended my prayers with Psalm 91.
“He who dwells in the shelter of the Lord will rest in the shadow of Almighty. The Lord is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”

I asked my bodyguard Private Bajamut (a muslim), “Anything unusual, Mut?”
“Nothing at all, Major!”
“Aye, ask Private Thein Nghat to watch carefully on the Thoung Yin’s bank.”

Time was already midnight and there was nothing unusual on our front. The full moon was behind the clouds and the whole camp was blanketed by a total darkness. Naked eyes couldn’t even see beyond bare 5 yards. 

Even though I had an infrared night vision goggle from the battalion I couldn’t use it all the times as we had only one set of its batteries. Only once in 5 or 10 minutes I took it out of the case and looked into the darkness.

Time was past 2 in the morning and there was no enemy movement. The silence was absolute. Only at 3 sharp in the morning and when I took out the night vision goggle and looked through it I suddenly saw the lines of Burmese soldiers approaching the outer fence. Under the soft light of a full moon in the clear sky I could see many more behind them too. Time to kill had come.

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As planned I stomped the floor three times and my men at downstairs took their assigned positions and prepared to fire. My men on the upstairs were also ready to fire once I squeezed the trigger of my BAR. I mount the goggle on my head so that I could see through it and at the same time fire the BAR.

The enemy soldier right at the front of our bunker had started cutting the first wire fence. Once the wire was cut another soldier beside the cutter rolled the wire to one side to make a big gaping hole in the fence. After the first fence they continued onto the second fence. Behind them I could see a platoon of Burmese and behind them were a countless mass of soldiers.

They might be thinking we were sleeping in our bunkers without realizing that we were patiently waiting for them. I gritted my teeth and said to myself, “little brother, I am gonna pay back your blood debt very soon!”

 I could see the enemy soldier now cutting the third wire fence. I was thinking that they would be dead soon. Even though we didn’t have any personal vendetta between us they were here to kill us Karens as ordered by their officers and we had to kill the Burmese our union brothers to defend ourselves.

I knew these Burmese soldiers had parents and children like we Karens had. I knew the “Thou shall not kill” Commandment from my Christian belief. But what could I do? I had to do what I had to do.

BAR Browning Automatic Rifle.
Burmese soldiers were now reaching the fourth wire fence and I prayed, “Oh Lord Jesus Christ, I have to kill. Please forgive me!” and pulled the trigger of my BAR.

“Dat, dat, dat, jain, gwan,” the explosive sound of our assorted weapons had shaken the whole camp. Not a single Burmese already in the fences could have survived our relentless fire. I spent all 9 clips of my BAR and then asked Bo Htoo Htoo to hold the 60mm Commando mortar. But the Burmese crowd still charged at us.

I then pulled the pins from the 60mm rounds and shelled one after another at the charging enemy within 50 yards from us. While I was shelling Bo Htoo htoo was hit by an enemy bullet on the buttock.

“I’m hit!”
“Then go downstairs, and send Sergeant Collar up here!”

Once Sergeant Collar came up and held the mortar I used up all forty 60mm rounds by shelling left and right at the enemy. First the whole front was lighted as if bullets fired from both sides were colliding each others. Then everything went dark within the 50 yards.

“Do you guys need anything? What do we need to send up there?” People from behind asked us.
“We urgently need rockets for the RPGs!”
“Okay.”

Captain Tint Lwin was then busy with the RPGs. Since I also ran out of 60mm shells I took some RPGs and fired at the enemy still charging ahead. Privates Bajamut, Win Htun Lin, and Thein Nghat were even busy scrubbing the gunpowder grimes off the RPG barrels so that we could use them again.

Even under our heavy fire the enemy firing pressure wasn’t relieved. We could still hear the charging crowd and their loud swears. They were so close they even managed to throw their hand grenades into our bunker. At least 10 of their lime-sized hand grenades dropped inside the bunker. But luckily none went off and our lives were spared.

M72 Light Anti-tank Weapon.
Since we used up all the RPG rockets and the resupply had not arrived yet I went behind our bunker and brought out a M72 LAW (Light Anti-tank Weapon) and fired at the small group of enemy soldiers already inside the innermost wire fence. The explosion was so massive one Burmese was thrown off into the thorny Bamboo bushes and his corpse just stuck there.

But the enemy was still firing and yelling and swearing at us. I picked up an M16 rifle and fired at them. Just three trigger squeezes and the whole 20 rounds clip was empty. I kept on shooting and three privates near me were totally busy filling the empty magazines with loose rounds.

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Time was almost 5 in the morning and their shooting was slowly dying down and their yelling and swearing were also fading away. Only then I realized that we had won the battle. And I said to myself, “I’ve avenged my brother’s blood debt!”

Private Saw Nge who was killed later in another battle went out and started picking up enemy’s guns from the killing field. My bodyguard Bajamut also went down to the wires and brought back two G-4s and two M-79s. Only then I remembered the minefield.

“Hey, Saw Nge, relay back the guns. Others, try to step on Saw Nge’s prints. SB-101 might have mines laid there,” I yelled out and all my men formed a line to bring the guns in.

Just outside the wires were some wounded Burmese soldiers. Dawn was broken and the day light was everywhere and we could now see the ground clearly. There were at least three or four wounded Burmese.

“Hey, hey, don’t go there yet. We don’t know they are dead or alive. They could shoot back. Just wait a minute,” I yelled at my men and then picked up a sniper rifle and gave every wounded Burmese a coup-de-grace.

It appeared that the enemy had retreated and taken their positions again at the base of Catblu hills. Enemy guns were also coming into the bunker one after another. Almost every gun covered with blood and guts and pieces of brain matters the captured guns rapidly formed a pile inside the bunker. According to Captain Tint Lwin we picked up 79 assorted automatic rifles and two Browning pistols.

I sat down on the bunker roof and stared at the hundreds of enemy corpses on the bloodied ground. Near the bunker were four Burmese corpses. Many corpses with their guts spilling outside were stuck on the concertina wires of the nearest fence. Just beyond the wires were the enemy corpses scattered on the ground. And the lone corpse still stuck in the thorny bush of bamboo.

Young Burmese private Win Htun Lin from the student army ABSDF was seriously disturbed by the horrible sight of hundreds of Burmese corpses and he went mad that day. I still vividly remember. Only one man Private Aung Kyaw Myint on our side was killed in that battle.


Translator's Notes: Kormoora the fortified Karen camp finally fell into Burmese hands in February 1995 and these videos are the footage of that final battle. I have to warn the readers about graphic images though.

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