Friday, March 1, 2024

To Hopeland and Back (Part XII): Here comes the Second Labor of Hercules

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(15 March-3 April 2015)
Day One: Sunday, 15 March 2015
Hercules was assigned to kill a creature with nine heads called Hydra. He chopped off one only to have two popped up instead. So he brought a burning brand with him with which he seared the neck as he cut each head off. In this way Hydra was unable to sprout new heads and was conquered.

Hercules is far from my mind when I arrive in Tachilek where I’m catching a plane to Rangoon. He should have been closer because the ongoing Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement(NCA) negotiations which began in November 2013 has been a tough nut to crack just like the skin of the lion of Nemea which he finally was able to kill by strangling. The NCA has proven to be another Nemean lion.

My worry is that the plane won’t be able to land what with the seasonal smog that has for days been choking up the sky. Several flights have been cancelled during the past few days.

There I run into a very likeable young man by the name of Lao Ta who is also waiting for a plane like us. He is Akha, known as Hani in China, and the leader of the Loi Taw Kham People’s Militia Force. The village tract lies west of Tachilek and northeast of the Shan State Army stronghold Loi Kawwan.

He tells us there are some 280,000-300,000 Akha people in Shan State. And that 28 December has been designated as Akha National Day since 1977. The bulk of them appears to be in Nampan, which is part of the territory under the control of the National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA) based in Mongla, on the Sino-Burmese border. Hsan Perh, an Akha, is one of its vice chairmen. The other chairman is Hsang Lu, a Shan.

Luis Vas de Comoes
Luis Vas de Comoes

We are fortunate. The plane, Asia Wings, flies in  after waiting in Kengtung, 100 miles away, for two hours for the smog to be blown away by the wind.

We take off at 18:00. I take the 3 hour flight (through Mandalay) opportunity to finish Robert Kaplan’s Monsoon. One interesting item about Burma, according to Portuguese poet Luis Vas de Comoes (1524- 1580), whom he quoted, is that the men wore “tinkling bells” on their genitals, which I have never heard of before. Or seen either.

At 21:00 we disembark at Rangoon’s Mingladon Airport.

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