Neh Reh shared his story as a guest Storyteller for Open History Project.
My name is Neh Reh. I was born in a village called Na Kyot close to Loikaw town. I am 22 years old now. Currently, I live in a Karenni refugee camp on the Thai-Burma Boarder. I have been living in the camp for seven years. I would like to share a little bit about my life story [with] all of you. I am not good at English. I would like you to be patient while reading through my story.
Since I knew my life as a human being when I was around four years old, I heard the sound of fighting from the civil war – the ethnic rebel groups were fighting against the government’s army near my village. At that time I did not understand anything and just listened to the bomb or gun fire like the sound of instrumental music although my parents were full of fear and hiding with me in a ground hole.
We were very afraid to go to the farmland even after a month of fighting but my dad decided to earn some money from wood. He made a trip to the forest with some friends. They met the Burmese army on their way and were accused as working for [the] rebel group. They were all taken into jail and were tortured for years. My dad could not feel any of those fools’ treatments. He fled from jail and escaped.
After his escape, we all moved to the Shan-Karenni border [and took] shelter in Wankine village. While my dad was in jail, I asked my mom about him but tears were falling down on her face and she did not answer to my question. She said, “Don’t ask me again – your dad is fine. Your dad will be here soon.” Then I stopped asking her. I saw my dad when we all moved to Wankine village and we all were happy because we [saw] each other’s faces again. In 2008, when the government officers came to [issue] national identification cards in Loikaw town, they asked thousands of questions to the people who had lost their old identification card. My dad, a person who had fled fled from jail and had lost his card already, was really afraid of being jailed again. The week before they reached Wankine village, he asked my mom to go hide in the forest every night but my mom did not allow him to go. The last day before the officers [came] to my village, he went to the forest at midnight and never returned. Three months later we found his dead body. All villagers were looking for him for about three months while he was disappeared. We found him after he had died.
I really felt very sorry for my dad. I followed [up on] his case and I found out that it was caused by the government’s fool action. That was why I made the decision to leave home to join the Karenni army. At that time, I was fourteen years old. When I got there, they did not allow me to be a soldier as I was very young for the Karenni army. I was sent to a refugee camp by the commander and went to school in grade nine. I went to school for two years until I graduated grade ten. After I had graduated from grade ten, I continued studying at the Social Development Center a NGO providing education on college level for refugees training course for ten months.
But in the end, I joined an organisation and work as a community worker until now.