The Battle of Kawmoora

The History

Kawmoora was originally built to be a Karen stronghold at a strategic border crossing that controlled trade from Thailand into Burma. During better days this was where merchants paid taxes on goods transported into Burma. But with the constant onslaught of the much stronger Burmese army the hold on this territory began to slip in the late 1980's. Finally surrounded, Kawmoora became an isolated outpost and a prize that SLORC would pay any price to take.

One square kilometer in size and built into the bend of the Moei river it could only be attacked across a narrow stretch of land ominously called the "killing ground". The Thai army garrisoned troops on either side of the horseshoe bends, thus blocking any Burmese attack to the rear of the base. The only way to take Kawmoora was across the death zone.

The Karen had prepared the killing ground well. A network of concrete bunkers stretched across the narrow neck of the killing ground. Every time SLORC launched human wave assaults they were cut to pieces time and time again by the Karen. It was W.W.I trench warfare all over again.

Below, a no-man's-land littered with dead SLORC.

The Killing Ground

A wide open stretch of terrain with little cover, strewn with barbed wire, mines and booby traps. The fate of any attacker was sealed before ever setting foot into this hell hole.

Over 2,000 Burmese soldiers died here during the course of the ten-year siege.

The futility of war.




As is the tradition in Burma, the Karen collected the heads as trophies. Over 400 decorated Kawmoora.

Kawmoora was an extraordinary battle waged in a forgotten corner of SE Asia. And after a 10 year siege it fell to SLORC in early 1995. It is now overgrown and abandoned. Was it worth the price?

Statistics for the final siege
Karen forces
SLORC forces







a few mortars and recoilless rifles.






100 artillery pieces, recoilless rifles and mortars.

For the fist time SLORC used Chinese made 210mm breach loading siege mortars. These powerful weapons smashed the front-line bunkers and led to the fall of the base.

...casualties 10 killed, a few dozen wounded 300 killed, hundreds more wounded
Foreigners killed at Kawmoora over ten years
One Japanese, one American and one Belgian Possibly several Chinese military "advisers"



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