Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Inlay Lake Burning - Part 2

(This translated extract is from CPB Bo Khin Nyo’s Autobiography.)

CPB's Bo Khin Nyo.
While our unit was having a good rest in the Nyaung Shwe area we had a serious discussion about last battle and our future attack plans. Every one was eager and excited after the success in that Bluchaung ambush and looking forward to another go at the enemy.

So we started looking for an opportunity at another place like the Inlay fishermen looking for fish at new places. And we quickly found it in the Inpawkhone Village. The village of Inpawkhone with about 500 households was one of the most significant villages on Inlay Lake.

Many families there were rich since the whole village was involved in the cottage industry producing textiles from silk fabric. Families with money had invested in establishing small weaving looms powered by 20-25 hp diesel-electric-generators. The poor families without capital had to work as hired weavers and laborers for the rich families.

Inlay silk sarongs.
At that time the silk sarongs from Inlay were very popular all over Burma. In the village of Inpawkhone the whole cottage industry was basically operated as a village-cooperative. All the finished products were stored in the cooperative-warehouse before shipping out.

The profits and the expenses were transacted through the Taung-Gyi Branch of State Economic Bank and the villagers had to go to the bank once a month for their money withdrawals and deposits. For the security an army section led by Lt. Ye Hla was on the garrison duty at the village.

All the houses in the village were built on the stilts over the Lake waters. On the lake-shore near the village was a two-storey High School built of timber-plank walls and corrugated-galvanized-iron-sheets roof. At night the village and the high school was lit by the electricity generated in the village. The bright lights together with the reflections from the lake surface were always beautiful at night.

Our intention was to attack the army unit in the village. To prepare for the attack we gathered necessary intelligence and the information of enemy. What we knew were that Lt. Ye Hla lived in a house next to the Co-operative building and his sergeant and the section of soldiers occupied a separate house next to his house.

The manager of the village silk-sarong Co-operative was also a local villager and he lived above the Co-operative building. The manager had two Burmese typewriters in his office-cum-residence and he regularly went up to Taung-Gyi on the month-ends to deposit and withdraw about 1 million to 1.5 million Kyats.


Inpawkhone is on the narrow.
The battle was to be led by me and Bo Win from the Central Burma Division of the Party. We even put on the Inn-thar dresses and went into the village to scout. Finally we decided on the date of that month-end for the raid and finalized the preparations.

To achieve necessary surprise we would go into the village as Government soldiers. We had had the army uniforms and insignia and guns captured from our previous ambush of First Company from IB-71.

The army unit in the village didn’t even have bunkers and sandbagged-positions as a proper defensive outpost. They were just living in an ordinary Inlay house on the lake waters. We wouldn’t have any problem overcoming their resistance if we achieve the surprise.

To appear as genuine Government soldiers to their eyes we just had to practice behaving like one.  Luckily we had in our unit three men who were former Government soldiers and they sort of taught us how.

The day of the month-end arrived and we were ready to go in for the battle. But my malaria came back and I was suddenly bed-ridden and another district committee member Bo Nyunt Maung had to take my place.

A typical Inpawkhone house in Inlay Lake.
Finally all our forty odd men in full army uniforms led by Bo Nyunt Maung and Bo win left in three long-tailed boats for the village. Just after sunset that day they came back, all smiling.

According to them Lt. Ye Hla and the Co-operative Manager and the army section had already left the village yesterday for Taung-Gyi. Only the sergeant and two soldiers were left in the village. But they went to a wedding in a neighboring village. The one million kyats from the Village Co-operative was also gone with Lt. Ye Hla and party. Our raid didn’t achieve anything significant.

So our men distributed all the silk wares among the villagers and burnt the Co-operative building down to the ground. They brought back two Burmese typewriters though. They were gritting really unhappy as all their efforts ended up like pouring water into the sand. That was the outcome they had to accept as unexpected could happen in guerrilla warfare.


A floating market in Inlay Lake.
Part of Nyaung Shwe District at the west of Inlay Lake is called Thandaung Ngar-myaung region. People there grow rice even in the summer seasons with water from irrigation channels. During summers even the vast Inlay Lake had lost a lot of water to the evaporation and it was a miracle of irrigation to be able to grow rice there.

From the base of western ranges flowed the streams of Thandaung and Nadaungkya. In the rainy seasons these streams overflowed with abundant water from the mountain ranges and their water flowed into Inlay Lake via five manmade water channels (Ngar Myaung in Burmese). So the area is called Thandaung Ngar-myaung.

People in that area basically lived in the villages relying on these five water channels. They grew betel-leaf plants on the banks of the channels. Their betel-leaf  leaves were distributed in commercial scale all over Shan state and Kayah State. Unlike other parts of Burma they harvested their rice in the rainy seasons when water was plenty. They didn’t even have separate cemeteries for their deaths. The corpses were buried right inside the betel-leaf plantations.

A Betel-Leaf plantation.
There was a pagoda right beside the Thandaung Stream and it is simply called Thandaung Pagoda. Near the Pagoda was the weekly market called Thandaung Bazaar. The market was on the land on the Lake shore and the Pa-oh and Taung-yoe people from the nearby ranges had basically relied on that market for their weekly needs.

Inn-thar people from the Thandaung-Ngarmyaung area had been politically active against the Shan-Sawbwa rulers since 1946. They once had an organization called Inlay Peasants Association and in 1960 they established the Inlay People Unity Organization (Ah-pa-nya-pha) and participated in the 1960 General Elections. The Ah-pa-nya-pha even won one out of two constituencies in that area.

Thandaug-Ngarmyaung was the first area where our CPB Shan State Southern District had secretly established the CPB cells so that our District Committee could base there and develop the area into a war-region.

A Burmese police patrol.
Nyaung Shwe police station usually sent two police sections to guard the Thandaung Bazaar. On every weekly market day the police sections came by long-tailed boats. They had to leave their boats on the nearby lake shore as the bazaar was on the land a short walking distance from the Inlay Lake.

We then decided to ambush the police sections on their way to the Bazaar. We scouted the area and the night before one market day we took positions on the chosen ambush site. But next morning we saw a large group of women working on a paddy field only about 500 yards from us.

They were transplanting rice saplings and we couldn’t warn them in time as if we did we had to abandon our ambush. We were also afraid that if the stray bullets from our ambush found them in the rice fields the political repercussion would be unfavorable for the Party.  But we were in a tight spot then and we couldn’t do anything rather than wait and pray that nothing serious would happen to the women.

.303 Bren machine gun.
On the market day about 7:30 or 8 in the morning the two police sections had unknowingly walked into our killing filed. It didn’t take long at all for the sounds of our gunshots to roar out. Within a short 8 minutes time the fourteen policemen including police sub-inspector Sein Win were killed and four wounded policemen were captured alive.

The captured weapons were 1 revolver, 2 Stens, 1 Bren, 2 Yugo-Stens, 12 Lee-Enfield .303 rifles, and more than 1,000 assorted ammunitions. Nobody got hurt on our side. No peasant woman got hurt too as they managed to flee at our first shot.

The battle was a 100% success even though the weapons captured from the policemen were not modern automatic ones like the ones from our last ambush of the army platoon. But we were all happy as we had managed to ignite the revolutionary flames on the waters of Inlay Lake.

Inlay Lake Burning – Part 1
Inlay Lake Burning - Part 3