I spent the morning drinking tea at a secret "safe house" where I had an opportunity to discuss the Burma crisis with some opponents of the regime. The men I shared tea with were absolutely determined to continue the fight against the junta.
The party included monks who had escaped Rangoon at the end of September and fled to the Burmese boarder by motorcar. One monk present, U Zaw Thi Kha, said he had been responsible for having led some 500 monks in marches in Rangoon prior to the violent crackdown. U Zaw showed me a special refugee identity card he had received from UNHCR.
Also present at the safe house was Maung (not his real name), a former Generation 88 student activist who had since assumed a leadership position in the ABSDF (All Burma Student's Democratic Front) which he described as a "student army." He says he left the ABSDF in 2001, before which he claims to have been a member of its Central Committee. He told me that ABSDF is both a political and military organization, with about 200 persons in the political wing, and a military wing consisting of about 800 student soldiers. They have operated inside Karen National Union (KNU) territory (the KNU is the largest army presently engaged in fighting the Burmese junta). Maung said they have also had units on the Indian border with Burma.
Maung said he is now independent of any organization, but remains resolute in his support for those working for Burmese freedom.
Unfortunately, for the safety of those present, certain things I heard today cannot be repeated.
Nevertheless, it was evident to me from my morning tea at the safe house that the opponents of the regime -- people from different walks of Burmese society -- are committed to sharing information. They are having open discussions about tactics. They may be working towards a more coordinated strategy. Certainly, it would appear that the brutality of the government crackdown has united the opposition like never before.
"It's made our resolve solid," said one monk.
UPDATE: They have just invited me back for tea, so I expect to meet with some other Burma escapees shortly. Presently, I am putting together a list of interview questions for my next visit to the safe house. What would you like to know? If you have a question in mind, you could jot it in comments.