Letters to the Editor — October, 2010
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LETTER

Letters to the Editor — October, 2010


By THE IRRAWADDY Wednesday, October 20, 2010


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(Page 9 of 15)

And, I should say, half a battalion strength was left, commanded by then Major Chit Myaing as the new Commanding Officer, after the [former] CO, Colonel Ye Htut, had gone underground with half his men to join the Communists.

As Twante Canal was in the hands of the KNDO, ready to block any government troops attempting to transit the canal, the half-strength 3rd Burma Rifles Battalion had to be lifted overnight by inland double-decker steamers via the unused river and sea passage at great risk on February 5, 1949. The battalion consisted of four under-strength infantry companies and was equipped with only four three-inch mortars. A six-pounder scratch gun crew of UTC lads and a volunteer Naval Bofors gun crew which had been supporting our forces at Insein, were hastily organized to provide artillery support.

When this makeshift government force arrived at Gyobingauk on Feb 9, the bridge at Wetkaw, a few miles south of Zigon, had already been abandoned by government Levies and armed UMPs. In the early morning of Feb 10, the mechanized Force of the Second Karen Rifles crossed Wetkaw bridge at leisure and commenced to make a dash for Yangon, fully confident that there were no government forces or Guns strong enough to oppose them all the way to Insein, and felt quite invincible.

Fortunately for the government, the element of surprise was with the government forces. The Naval Bofors gun mounted on wheels, which is capable of firing 40-mm shells at 120 rounds/minute, stood on the road in their way and opened fire point-blank at 500 yards, knocking out their armored carrier and also damaging one of the six-pounder guns. This action was totally unexpected by the Karen Forces who neglected to position a scouting patrol in front.

For next two days there were attacks and counter-attacks, and exchanges of mortar fire between the two forces, until the naval Bofors found a clear position to directly shell the insurgent vehicles, which demoralized them completely.

On Feb 13, the Karen Forces with their families abandoned all their vehicles and heavy equipment and attempted to escape towards the Pegu Yomas. Both second-in-command and the CO were captured however. In the recently written words of a historian of the Karen struggle “... thus came the end of the very first and perhaps, most important phase of the Karen struggle.”

Anyone who is reading this may ponder what would have happened in the course of history if the “Ambush at Wetkaw” had not taken place on Feb 10, 1949. I myself could not help thinking yesterday when I visited the Bridge at Wetkaw and the site of this action on the 60th anniversary to pay homage to the comrades –in-arms of both forces who are no longer with us.

An Ex-Naval Volunteer


The ongoing Battle of Insein

Regarding the article, “The Battle of Insein Never Really Ended” [February 9, 2009; URL: http://www2.irrawaddy.com/article.php?art_id=15080]:

It is right. The Battle of Insein has not ended. I don’t see that anybody has won. Myanmar [Burmese] people have lived together with Karen since long ago. Also we will stay together in the future. I think for the last six decades Myanmar and Karen leaders were in controversy about the border line. They can never see that both peoples are difficult to separate.

O


Lives Worth Living

Regarding the article, “Surviving on a Little Hope and 33 US Cents a Day” [February 6, 2009; URL: http://www2.irrawaddy.com/article.php?art_id=15076]:

I am writing to you from a small office in Mae Sot. With all due respect, I found the article "Surviving on a Little Hope and 33 US Cents a Day" slightly disturbing.

I am referring to one sentence in particular, but this sentence changed the meaning of the whole article: "... exchange camp life for a worthwhile existence in the outside world..." Life in camps here is difficult, I know that very well. It surely is miserable in many ways—at times it is hell. We know that already. But I do not understand how the author can seriously think he has the authority to claim that currently 150,000 people's lives are NOT lives that are worth living.

It is so shockingly obvious that people fall in love, people see the sunrise, play, chat. (And by the way, they mostly smile more than the whole population of the Western hemisphere put together.) It is called resilience. It is called the spirit of humanity. I think it is dangerous to allow my fellow Westerners to develop this myth where these people with so-called "lives not worth living” will finally find a worthwhile existence once they land somewhere else, be that the US or wherever else.



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