“They wanted to destroy and collapse everything in Karenni State. They wanted to split and cut all connections and transportation among the Karenni people. The military forced and oppressed all villages that were in ShaDaw area.”
Place: Daw Leh Da village, ShaDaw Township, Karenni State, Burma
Interview by Shar Reh
I came here to the refugee camp, fleeing the Burmese military’s Four Cut Operation. As we had lived in a village in a very remote area, the Burmese military troops suspected that we were related to and supported the rebel group KNPP, who fought against the government since 1947, after British government gave [Karenni] independence in Burma.
In addition, they wanted to take over the power and control all Karenni people in Karenni State. They launched the Four Cut Military Operation in the area. Due to that oppression, the residents in the area had to face serious troubles and run away from their home villages. At the time, whenever, wherever the military came to any villages or any place, they captured the villagers and used them as porters or path finders. Also, if they suspected people or when a person asked many questions, they tortured and even killed. My father was killed by the Burmese military while they used him as a porter. My father and I had been hiding, but they found us and arrested my father, unfortunately. At that time, I was still so young he could carry me on his back. The Burmese troop were very heartless. They forced my father to carry things as a porter and leave me alone in the jungle. I did not know or understand much of what happened. I knew that they were a real Burmese military troop. Two, three days later, the Burmese troops were fighting with the KNPP army at a village named Daw Ka Aunt in ShaDaw Township. During the fighting, my father got shot and died. When I grew up, I asked some older people if they could remember the year this happened and luckily they could tell me it was in 1988. I was about four or five years old, I did not know anything. It wasn’t ‘til later that I understood the situation. It was so cruel, I cannot forgive what they did to my family with this. My father as a villager had done nothing wrong, but anyways they killed him. I feel so sorry for him and suffered a lot.
In 1995 the Four Cut Burmese military operation continued. They wanted to destroy and collapse everything in Karenni State. They wanted to split and cut all connections and transportation among the Karenni people. The military forced and oppressed all villages that were in ShaDaw area.
At that time, we were five of us in our family. But we were torn apart since then. My younger brother and I ran to the relocation camp in ShaDaw town. My mother and one of my younger brothers and a sister fled to the Karenni refugee camp in Thailand and are staying there still. From 1996 to 2003, I could not make contact or see my mother and younger brother and sister. We were concerned and had faced a lot of difficulties while we stayed away from our mother. We stayed in a boarding school, but we could not pay our school fee. We wanted to dress like the others but couldn’t afford to buy clothes.
In 2003, we gratefully came to the refugee camp and stayed with our family again. It was so long that we had not seen each other. When I arrived in the Karenni refugee camp, I got the opportunity to go to school again. I studied in high school from 2003 to 2004. After I finished high school, I started to work in my community here in Refugee Camp #1. At first, I worked at the Karenni National Education Department, KnED. Later, I shifted to Environmental Health, EH. I have been working with them for six or seven years now. Now, I am an EH director in Camp #1.
While here in the refugee camp I have been very concerned. We don’t get enough rights. Living here is at least a little better than in Burma. Anyhow, we still have lost some rights.
For example first of all we cannot go outside, means no permission to go outside. We are afraid to go home to our old village. We only have the permission to stay in camp. It is similar to a bird’s cage. We could say it is like a prison.
Secondly we are treated like guests in this country, we don’t have rights. It is like taking a temporary shelter in someone’s house, we would obey the role of a guest. As human beings, we, the Karenni people, do not get the same rights as others. For me, I should have an identity card to show while being in the refugee camp. I feel like I have lost the important right of life.
I realized that the refugee camp here is not a safe place for us. For instance the Burmese troops can enter anytime they want to trouble us. Also we are not safe from natural disaster such as land slides and the storms. Furthermore, we are always worried about fire spreading [as our houses are made from bamboo and stand too close together] and water floods while being here, because we do not know when it will happen. We still can not escape from the worries and fears. Someone from somewhere else, might think that being a refugee is so easy already. No. That is so wrong. We have to wait for [food] rations. [And these rations consist only of yellow beans, rice and oil]. We cannot eat yellow bean every day. We would like to eat chicken every day also.
It’s hard to find money. We have received food as support from INGOs [international non-governmental organizations] and NGOs [non-governmental organizations]. Nevertheless – it is not enough. We would like to go out of the camp to earn an income and make some money while we have no identity cards. But the Thai police can arrest us easily. It is like we had broken the law or regulation or the code of conduct between Thai authorities and refugee camp commanders. We are suffering and in distress a lot.
As I am a Karenni, I would like to see Burma become a democratic country. A real democracy. Then we would see the situation getting better. If not, we the people who live in Burma and outside of Burma, will always face difficulties and unhappiness.