“It is an unforgettable memory that we were tortured by them. It made me decide to fight until I die.”
Place: Refugee Camp #1, Ban Nai Soi, Thailand
Interview by John Freeco
Translation by Theingi Win
Do you have any memories of growing up in Burma?
I grew up in Dee Maw So township. I studied till I was eight years old. Then I was a cowboy. When I resettled in Karenni Refugee Camp, I started to work on a farm and later on I joined the Karenni army and fought against the Burmese government since the uprising in 1988 until today. I joined, because we do not have a real democracy.
Why do you want to be a soldier?
I had to be a soldier because the Burmese soldiers tortured, killed and burned our village so we had to escape from our village, and I joined the Karenni army to fight them back.
Did you yourself face any torture by the Burmese military?
Yes, I did. They hit and kicked our faces.
Are you ready to share about that situation?
Yes, I would like to share how the Burmese soldiers tortured us for a long time. It is an unforgettable memory that we were tortured by them.
It made me decide to fight until I die. The next generation will inherit the fight, will inherit what I couldn’t fight down and they will continue when I already rest in peace.
How did you become a soldier? What was your experience?
[I became a soldier] because I felt really bitter. I decided to be a soldier for all of Karenni people. I have gone to many places in Kayah State [in Burma] and fought when we met Burmese soldiers on the way.
How is your life at the moment?
I have taken a long break about seven months ago. Now, I do not have any special job and [the Thai government] doesn’t allow us to do farming in Thailand. Living in the Refugee Camp, I just work in a part time job and work [illegally] at other people’s plantations to survive. Also I am helping in the [food] ration managing now. I would like my family to resettle in third country because I want the next generation to be educated people.
Do you have memories of fighting with the Karenni soldiers?
Our Karenni soldiers had long been worried that the Burmese soldiers would burn villagers’ houses and kill villagers when the Burmese soldiers arrived in the area around one village. As soon as the information arrived that Karenni Soldiers were on their way to the village to protect the villagers and to fight back the Burmese soldiers, the Burmese army stepped back and our Karenni villagers did not get hurt, because they had been hiding in the jungle.
Sometimes we would rest in some Karenni village and most villagers provided us with meals and prepared a place to stay at night. When the Burmese soldiers heard about that they killed the villagers and threatened not to support the Karenni soldiers who lived in the jungle and protected the village. […]
Have you ever take a long break during serving Karenni soldier?
No! This is the first time I take a rest since I was twenty years old. I have to continue my duty when the Karenni army needs me. If I had the chance to get a UN registration number, I would resettle in a third country [to provide a better future to my family], but if I do not have the chance to go to a third country I will go back to my country to help my people.
According to you, what is the Karenni army’s responsibility?
To protect the ethnic people!