Story of the Week

8 Feb

This is great:

Myanmar’s Guerrilla Golfers Take Time for a Few Rounds

LAIZA, Myanmar — Water-buffalo dung dots the fairways, girl caddies in flip-flops lug the golf bags and firefights with the Burmese Army have broken out a half-hour’s drive away.

There is also a camp of 5,000 displaced people around a bend in the road.

A war is under way in Kachin State, but the Laiza Golf Club is unfazed, a reflection, perhaps, of the clientele.

Senior officers of the Kachin Independence Army, the guerrilla force trying to defend its mountainous territory in northern Myanmar against government troops, show up here wearing polo shirts and carrying Chinese-made golf clubs. The dirt parking lot is crowded on weekends with sport utility vehicles driven by generals.

“Golf clears the mind for officers to make decisions,” said Col. Maran Zaw Tawng, 45, secretary of the club, after teeing off at the fourth hole, a 392-yard par 4.

The six-hole golf course may be among the world’s unlikeliest, but it is open to the public, even in wartime. Anyone can play a round for a dollar, though most golfers here are military men or civilian officials in the government, like the two who were playing with the colonel and a major on a recent morning.

Playing golf in war zones is not unique to the Kachin. During the Iraq war, American soldiers stationed at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad whacked golf balls off the roof. But the Laiza course sits in a particularly perilous spot, on the Myanmar-China border, in a town coveted by the Burmese Army. To say the war has not affected the game would be a lie. Some of the Kachin officers play only once a week, compared with three times a week or even daily before. And the Kachin generals can no longer play with their Burmese counterparts, as they did when the Burmese officers traveled to Laiza for talks during peacetime.

Full story (with a video!) here.



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