The year is 1944, and darkness is falling over the thick jungle of Burma’s eastern hills. Under the dripping canopy, a young Karen man holds his breath as he carefully conceals a landmine in the undergrowth beside a jungle track.
He scrambles up the steep hillside, uncoiling wire as he goes. At the top of the hill, he removes the fuse from a hand-grenade and connects it to the wire. He settles into position and waits.
It doesn’t take long. A cohort of Japanese soldiers – who have been occupying Burma since 1942 – approaches the young man’s position. With the enemy just yards away, he closes his eyes and activates the fuse.
“Oh it was horrible,” he gasps. “So many died. The stones flew up high into the sky and then fell back down.”
Saw Berny, now 94, recounts the story sitting in a wheelchair in his tumbledown little home in Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city, but he has me hanging on his every word, and feeling as though I’m by his side in the jungle… [see more]