Somewhere between the Thaï border and Rangoon lies the village of Tokawdo. It is in the heart of forbidden Burma, ruled by a succession of dictatorships since 1962.
Tokawdo is a model colony in the territory of the Karen, an ethnic minority where one of the world’s oldest guerilla forces operates.
Général Htaing Maung, trained by the British, is the veteran of a five decade insurrection. But, a year ago, he joined ranks with the enemy. The junta and its agents now coexist with him.
The Karen started the rebellion against the Burmese in 1949 and with the defection of General Maung and its militia began a fratricidal war. But the Karen have fallen into the Burmese trap and are now killing each other.
“We are not betrayers. We only want to serve the interests of our people. The real betrayers are the ones selling our people into the hands of the other political junta. Our intention is peace, harmony, stability and prosperity. “ says Pastor Timothy, on the general’s side.
The village of Takwedo lies just a few kilometres away from the tomb of SawBa U Gyi. Father of the revolution, this is the man who told the Karens never to surrender. On one side, a woman explains discreetly what Burma is like under the generals' rule: “Here, black can become white in a snap! Even dirty money gets cleaned up!”
Colonel Maung Kyaw, head of intelligence services for the peace council and an officer connected to the Burmese army, gives FRANCE 24 reporters a tour of the model colony. This is the highlight of their stay.
This man played his part in the general’s shift from rebellion to cooperation and is a nightmare for the Burmese opposition. When he asks about life in Tokawdo, a villager answers he has never been “so happy”. When he asks the children about what job they would like to do when they grow up, they answer “teachers”. A great victory for the colonel: “You see, they don’t want to be soldiers!”
Despite the locals’ remarks, the colonel’s bodyguards follow him closely, even in the main street.
The colonel is not Karen but Burmese. He has been accused of being a sleeper for the junta. Like the Karen, he calls for a self-governing state but with more political realism than the guerilla: “Acknowledgment of a Karen state must be fulfilled by a referendum. You can’t just draw a circle on the map and declare that’s our land, give it to us!”