Torpor, fog and tragedy on the Burmese border

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Seen from the Thai side of the Salouen river, the outpost of the Burmese army does not look like much: on the top of a bare mountain line several shabby casemates, plank walls, zinc roofs. No living soul, apparently, if we except the crowing of a rooster whose stubborn cocorico arrives intermittently on the other side. A little higher, balancing on the void, stands the silhouette of a building resembling a Buddhist pagoda. There is, strangely, a red flag. Thai police say that, among their Burmese neighbors, it is a sign of a state of war.

This isolated redoubt is not just a lost hole stupefied by the April heat, frozen in the torpor of a foggy afternoon heralding the coming monsoon rains: it is a barracks of the Tatmadaw (armed forces Burmese), the very one whose soldiers have just slaughtered in two months more than half a thousand demonstrators opposing the military coup of February 1.