Lost identity:
Twenty years on the Border

For centuries, life followed ancient rhythms in the rugged mountain territory between
Burma and Thailand. Protected by jungle, isolated ethnic farming communities lived in
aloof and closeted worlds.

Time in the remotest hamlets followed different laws. History was told in oral poetry and Buddhist chronicles, dates were virtually unknown; if you asked a man when he was born he might tell you gwhen the lily flowers bloomed.h

For many farmers and ordinary people, not a great deal was different by the last quarter
of the twentieth century. Well worn trade routes for goods like timber and cattle linked
the border cultures tenuously with the world beyond. The British colonial period,
Christian missionary activity, migration flows and local political conflicts had brought flux and change to sections of the border. The Second World War followed by Burmafs independence struggle had intense but short-lived impacts. For the most part, remained untouched, shielded still from the surrounding politics and intrigues by the old reliable, tough terrain and terrible weather.

Since those would never change, it wasnft surprising if some greeted the dramatic events
of 1984, when Burmese troops entered deep pockets of ethnic areas, sending almost ten thousand mainly ethnic Karen people into Thailand, with less than panic. The refugees thought that the soldiers would leave before the next monsoons. And then they would just
go homecc.

By: Sandy Barron

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