Forgotten Guerrillas

“I’ve lost 12 friends of mine during Saffran revolution in 2007. Now I’ve been here for a real revolution”

A new cadre of All Burma Student Democratic Front (or ABSDF)


All Burma Student Democratic Front (or ABSDF) is an armed group, which has been fighting against the Burma’s military rulers since 1988. It was founded in November 1st in 1988, as a product of the popular 88 uprising in Burma. Back then, not only students but also various walks of lives, who had fled the country to jungle, have joined the uniquely named ‘student insurgency’ group. However, it had undergone factional division in early 90s, which is said to be a common phenomenon among Burmese movements. The two factions were later on united after the fall of Manerplaw in 1996, which was considered as a significant loss for ABSDF let alone for the Karen National Liberation Army (or KNLA).

ABSDF apparently has been decaying out for the past decade. The Bush’s doctrine of ‘War on terror’, global abhorrence on armed struggle and ‘non violence’ dominating NGOs trend in Burmese movement along with its own shortcomings all have affected the student armed group to put them at a loss. It’s slowly become a “forgotten guerrilla”.

ABSDF has headquarted in Wei Gyi at the bank of Salween River in Karen state. It also has positioned some parts of Papun district in Northern Karen state and elsewhere in Burma. Despite its weakness, ABSDF has welcomed new recruits, who have joined in it after the monks-led Saffran revolution in 2007. Some dozens of new arrivals have taken military training in early 2008 according to the organization. The forgotten guerrilla group has now looked forward to having new generation to challenge forced recruits touted-Burmese army.

ABSDF cadres in Wei Gyi headquarter (Photo by Lee Yu Kyung)

ABSDF cadres are having lunch in Wei Gyi head quarter. As the organization has had financial problem for long, its cadres usually take a simple meal, often twice a day. (Photo by Lee Yu Kyung)

ABSDF cadres are having a tea at a shop nearby their Wei Gyi head quarter. (Photo by Lee Yu Kyung)

KNLA and ABSDF combined team patrols parts of Brigade 5 area, as there’s possibility of SPDC military offensive after “Brigade 7”, the southern Karen State, has fallen to the DKBA and Burma Army combined-forces. (Photo by Lee Yu Kyung)

U Tin Shwe (72) is a monk living in a jungle of Wei Gyi. His life has dramatically turned its faces a few times. Originally from Karen community, he had served Burma Army from 1962 till 1978. After resignation from the Army, he has been a KNU informer in his hometown for nearly 10 years until he fled to a jungle to join ABSDF after 88 uprising. As he’s got too old to take jungle trekking as a guerrilla force, he has decided to become a monk since 2002 after consulting with the group’s leadership. (Photo by Lee Yu Kyung)

ABSDF cadre goes along the Salween River, where a number of its cadres have drowned for decades. (Photo by Lee Yu Kyung)

An ABSDF cadre is listening to radio news. As like many Burmese in and out of the country, ABSDF cadres do catch radio news from VOA, RFA and BBC. (Photo by Lee Yu Kyung)

Sein Lin (31) used to be a SPDC army. He had deserted the Army in 1999 to come over to ABSDF’s side. He is mainly in charge of cooking. As the SPDC has a history of forcible recruitment of youth and children in Burma, many of its soldiers have deserted the Army and often ran into the insurgency controlled territory. (Photo by Lee Yu Kyung)

Tun Tun Wing (28) has lost his right arm, as he got shot by Burma Army while he’s been in Bilin township in Mon state to collect some materials for his organization in September 2007. Without first aid for his injury, he had had to travel through jungle with help of his colleagues and villagers for 3 weeks to reach to the border area. And then he headed for Chiang Mai hospital in northern Thailand, where he has received a treatment for two months. After one month in a hospital, however, he’s told by doctor that his injured arm got to be amputated due to spread infection. Tun Tun Wing has joined the ABSDF back in 1998 after witnessing atrocities by Burmes forces, who forced villagers to be porters in his home town for so long. (Photo by Lee Yu Kyung)

A new cadre of ABSDF, who has joined the armed struggle after the monks-led Saffran revolution in 2007, holds AK47 rifle. (Photo by Lee Yu Kyung)

A new cadre of ABSDF, who has joined the armed struggle after the monks-led Saffran revolution in 2007, is sitting before the childhood picture of the former ABSDF member, who’s now living in the US, and the picture of the pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. (Photo by Lee Yu Kyung)

ABSDF cadres are watching the footage of the organization’s struggle. As electricity is not available in a jungle, they rarely use generator, which can be operated with oil, since years ago. (Photo by Lee Yu Kyung)

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