ANDREW DRUMMOND recently delivered, some 40 years late, a DSM to a

Karen guerrilla leader who had fought with the British against the

Japanese in the Second World War. Here he tells the fascinating story of

the tribe who have been confronting the Burmese Government in the

decades since and who cherish the memory of their wartime British


Wangka, Thailand

GUERRILLA fighters living in the jungle in Eastern Burma have just

held an extraordinary ceremony honouring one Englishman and two Scotsmen

who died more than 40 years ago when they were leaders of this rebel


Soldiers of the Karen National Liberation bowed their heads for two

minutes in remembrance of Major Hugh Seagrim, Major Jimmy Nimmo, and

Captain Eric ''Mac'' McCrindle, who died leading these people on

sabotage missions behind Japanese lines. And they held a guard of honour

as their own Major Aaron Po Yin finally received his Distinguished

Service Medal -- 44 years after he won the award.

The Karen are one of several rebel armies fighting the Burmese

military Government. In the Second World War they were led by British

officers to strike the Japanese, who were backed by the Burmese, in the

rear. They thought they would be rewarded with their own independent

State when the British left Burma. But it was not to be. And they have

been fighting the Burmese ever since.

At several points along the Burmese Thai border here, opposite the

Thai town of Mae Sot, Karen troops face Burmese army units in trench

positions less than 100 yards apart. The ceremony to which I was invited

was held during a lull in the fighting brought on by the tropical


Major Hugh Seagrim, from Norfolk, was nicknamed ''Grandfather

Longlegs'' by the Karen (the Japanese were known as shortlegs). He won

the George Cross posthumously in 1945. After leading the Karen for two

years he heroically gave himself up for execution by the Japanese to

spare reprisals against Karen hill villages.

Falkirk-born and Fettes-educated Major Jimmy Nimmo and Captain

McCrindle, from Helensburgh, both led Karen Force 136 SOE units in these

hills before being killed in action. The Karen tend Nimmo's grave 20

miles north of here. The body of McCrindle was never recovered after a

Japanese ambush.

The Karen were left to fend for themselves after the British left

Burma in 1947. After an incident in which one of their villages was

burned down and the civilians raped and shot by Burmese Socialist

troops, they took up arms in 1949 and have been fighting the Burmese

ever since. Curiously, despite being left by the British at the mercy of

their traditional enemies, the Burmese, they still keep an attachment to

their former masters.

Many of their officers have English names: Majors Robert, David,

Richard -- even a Major Marvel. And their President Bo Mya has sent

several delegations to London to ask the British ''not to forget their

Karen friends.''

Major Aaron was a wireless operator/ bren gunner. He trained with

McCrindle and Nimmo in Poona and Rawalpindi before they parachuted

together into Burma in 1943. Their pilot was Squadron Leader Jimmy King,

a red-headed Scot from Paisley who won the DSO and DFC for his flying

actions over Burma. Aaron escaped from the ambush near the town of

Papun, Eastern Burma, in which McCrindle died and continued to fight the

Japanese until their final defeat.

The DSM which I took to Major Aaron last month was awarded for

''bravery in numerous ambushes and small actions behind Japanese lines

between 1943 and 1945.'' Aaron himself still suffers from wounds

received while attacking Japanese forces in 1945 and qualifies now for

40 years' back pay of a disability pension. If he gets it it will make

him the richest pensioner in Burma, outside the military regime -- and

certainly one of the richest terrorists.

Meanwhile, however, he and all the Karen officers face execution if

caught by Burmese Government troops. This is a dirty war. Amnesty

International has published a report saying that Burmese Government

soldiers have indiscriminately looted, executed, and raped Karen

civilians. And reports reaching the border area here suggest that as

many as 500 civilians may have been force-marched to death carrying

heavy equipment through the hills for the Burmese army.

Pitted against the Karen 6th and 101st battalians is the Burmese 22nd

Light Infantry division which earned notoriety in Rangoon a year ago

when it fired on student demonstrators in the capital.

While this war continues on the border, the Burmese Government and its

State Law and Order Restoration Committees continue to tighten their

control over the population. Recently 12 students were sentenced to

death for taking part in last year's riots, and arrests of dissidents

continue. Aung San Suu Kyi the strongest opposition voice in the

country, who is married to Oxford don Michael Aris, continues to remain

under house arrest in Rangoon.

Two thousand students have joined the Karen army here. Said Major

Aaron, 66, a registered Chelsea pensioner: ''We have been fighting the

Burmese socialist Government for 40 years. We can fight for another