The Frontierslady
covering burma and southeast asia
Tuesday, November 29, 2022


The Frontierslady

By Bertil Lintner APRIL, 2005 - VOLUME 13 NO.4


A female author’s exciting, but ugly account of her travels in Burma’s border areas


Down the Rat Hole: Adventures Underground on Burma's Frontiers by Edith Mirante. Orchid Press, Bangkok, 2005. P189.

Edith Mirante got her first pair of moccasins when she was two years old. They were made of beaded deerskin, and she put them on and walked out of her family home on Atlantic City’s Boardwalk. She hurried down the road, alone and proud of her new moccasins, the American Indians’ traditional shoes. That was her first adventure on the unsafe path that would eventually lead to Burma’s remotest frontiers.


Mirante arrived in Thailand in the early 1980s and, again alone, visited Shan, Karen, Pao-O, Karen, Karenni and Mon ethnic minority rebels along the border with Burma. She went further, to the isolated archipelago of the Tenasserim coast, where she and her Mon guerrilla friends “camped like buccaneers on an obscure island in the Andaman Sea. We were pirates, our treasures the interviews, images, information.


Established, respected human rights groups could not go to those places…I had become a pirate, a human rights pirate, raiding the coast for all the information I could thieve from Ne Win’s Burma,” as she wrote in her first, 1993 book, Burmese Looking Glass: A Human Rights Adventure and a Jungle Revolution.


For Mirante is no ordinary adventurer. Apart from her books, she has written numerous reports about human rights abuses in Burma’s frontier areas. That was not popular with everybody, and in 1988 she was arrested on her return to Thailand from one of her trips to a guerrilla camp on the other side of the border. She was subsequently deported and remains blacklisted in Thailand. But that did not stop her from visiting areas of Burma not controlled by the government in Rangoon, approaching from other directions. Having finished her first book, she immediately set out to write another on her later travels. The outcome: Down the Rat Hole, which, like Burmese Looking Glass, is beautifully written. It is also outright exciting because she really does go through one adventure after another.


She was trapped in a cyclone in Bangladesh while interviewing refugees from Burma.

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