Interview Annex to: CONVICT PORTERS: The Brutal Abuse of Prisoners on Burma’s Frontlines

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Interview Annex to: CONVICT PORTERS: The Brutal Abuse of Prisoners on Burma’s Frontlines

Published date:
Wednesday, December 20, 2000

This publication contains the full texts of Interviews #1-12 which are directly quoted and referenced in the main report, "Convict Porters: The Brutal Abuse of Prisoners on Burma's Frontlines". These interviews were conducted by KHRG field researchers with convict porters who had fled the SPDC Army in Pa’an and Dooplaya districts of Karen State in June and July 2000. Some supporting information and corroborating interviews (not included in this Annex) were also provided by the field offices of the Federated Trade Unions of Burma (FTUB). 

This Annex is intended as a supplement to the main report; for a detailed analysis of the information in these interviews, see "Convict Porters", KHRG report #2000-06. Some details in this report have been omitted or replaced with ‘xxxx’ for Internet distribution.

This document is an Annex to the Karen Human Rights Group report "Convict Porters" (KHRG #2000-06, 20/12/00). It contains the full texts of Interviews #1-12 which are directly quoted and referenced in the main report. These interviews were conducted by KHRG field researchers with convict porters who had fled the SPDC Army in Pa’an and Dooplaya districts of Karen State in June and July 2000. Some supporting information and corroborating interviews (not included in this Annex) were also provided by the field offices of the Federated Trade Unions of Burma (FTUB). Photos of some of the convicts interviewed can be seen in KHRG Photo Set 2000-B (18/10/00). While this report focuses on the experiences of the convict porters, readers may also want to see the following KHRG reports for further information on the areas where they were used as porters: "Starving Them Out: Forced Relocations, Killings, and the Systematic Starvation of Villagers in Dooplaya District" (KHRG #2000-02, 31/3/00), and "Beyond All Endurance: The Breakup of Karen Villages in Southeastern Pa’an District" (KHRG #99-08, 20/12/99).

Notes on the Text

The interview numbers used below correspond to those used in the quote captions of the main report. In the interviews, all names of those interviewed have been changed and some details have been omitted where necessary to protect people from retaliation. False names are shown in double quotes.

This document consists of this preface, a summary of terms and abbreviations, an index of all interviews presented, and the full text of the interviews themselves. All numeric dates in this report are in dd/mm/yy format.

 

Terms and Abbreviations

SPDC           State Peace & Development Council, military junta ruling Burma
PDC             Peace & Development Council, SPDC local-level administration

                   (e.g. Village PDC [VPDC], Village Tract PDC, Township PDC [TPDC])
SLORC         State Law & Order Restoration Council, former name of the SPDC until 
                   November 1997
KNU            Karen National Union, main Karen opposition group
KNLA          Karen National Liberation Army, army of the KNU
Nga Pway    ‘Ringworm’; derogatory SPDC slang for KNU/KNLA 
DKBA           Democratic Karen Buddhist Army, Karen group allied with SLORC/SPDC
IB                Infantry Battalion (SLORC/SPDC), usually about 500 soldiers fighting strength
LIB              Light Infantry Battalion (SLORC/SPDC), usually about 500 soldiers

                   fighting strength
LID              Light Infantry Division (SLORC/SPDC), 10 battalions for offensive operations
Sa Ka Ka      Abbreviation for SPDC’s Military Operations Commands, 

                   for offensive operations
Viss             Unit of weight measure; one viss is 1.6 kilograms or 3.5 pounds
Bowl/Pyi      Volume of rice equal to 8 small condensed milk tins; 

                    about 2 kilograms / 4.4 pounds
Kyat             Burmese currency; US$1=6 Kyat at official rate, 300+ Kyat at 

                    current market rate
loh ah pay    Forced labour; literally it means traditional voluntary labour, 

                    but not under SPDC
ICRC             International Committee of the Red Cross
Won Saung   Camps created by the SLORC/SPDC to provide pools of convict porters 

                    for the Army

Index of Interviews

This index summarises the interviews used in the main report, using the numbers which also appear in the quote captions of the main report. All names of those interviewed have been changed. In the summaries below, WS = Won Saung, FL = Forced Labour, Under ‘Nat.’ (Nationality), K = Karen, S = Shan, B = Burman, M = Mon, P = Palaung, C = Chinese.


#

Date

Name

Sex

Age

Nat.

Prison

Sentence

Summary

1

7/00

"Myo Myint"

M

30

M

Moulmein

10 yrs. hard labour; theft and murder (Art. 380 & 302) Tortured to get confession, prison conditions, ICRC visit, beating of prisoners, promises of release, WS, load composition, portering conditions, death of Chinese porter, beaten and kicked, abuse of porters

2

6/00

"Than Htun"

M

46

K

Mandalay

1 yr.; selling stolen goods Prison conditions, load composition, portering conditions, abuse because of ethnicity, looting of villagers’ paddy, villager porters, burning of villages, conditions at Army camp, death of a porter, FL at Army camp, wounds from carrying, portering beyond end of sentence, conditions in Mandalay city

3

7/00

"Than Aung"

M

28

B

Lashio

1 yr.+; breaking curfew (Art. 42) Punched during arrest, prison conditions, promises to convicts, trip to WS, who were sent to WS, load composition, portering conditions, beaten and kicked, abuse of porters, death of Chinese porter, commandeering of villagers’ bullock carts, beaten and left behind to die

4

7/00

"How Nan"

M

20

C

Lashio

5 yrs. hard labour; drug use (Art. 15) Tortured to get confession, prison conditions, possibility of people being arrested to provide convict labour, Article 17/1 prisoners, ICRC visit, trip to WS, promises to convicts, load composition, portering conditions, beaten and witnessed beatings, death of Chinese porter, FL at Azin camp, villager FL, conditions at Army camp, wounds from carrying

5

6/00

"Naung Soe"

M

21

B

Meiktila

2 yrs.; battery Prison conditions, work in prison, conditions while portering, WS, looting of villagers' rice, beaten by soldiers, load composition, villager porters, deaths of porters from landmines, conditions in home village

6

7/00

"Myint Thein"

M

20

S

Lashio

5yrs. at hard labour; drug possession and use (Art. 15 & 16) Prison conditions, trip to WS, load composition, portering conditions, soldiers’ demands for food from villagers, beaten, beating death of 2 convicts, FL at Azin camp, conditions at Army camp, wounds from carrying

 


#

Date

Name

Sex

Age

Nat.

Prison

Sentence

Summary

7

7/00

"Phone Shwe"

M

34

S

Lashio

1 yr.; conspiracy to commit a crime (Art. 393) Tortured to get confession, prison conditions, load composition, portering conditions, death of Chinese porter, wounds from carrying

8

7/00

"Hla Shwe"

M

26

B

Lashio

7 yrs.; eloping with girlfriend (Art. 363) Prison conditions, promises to convicts, load composition, portering conditions, beating of porters, killing of porter, wounds from carrying, attitude of soldiers and officers toward convicts

9

6/00

"Aung Myaing"

M

37

B

Pakokku

1 yr.; battery Prison conditions, promises to convicts, portering conditions, looting of villagers’ rice and animals, villager porters, beaten and kicked, conditions at Army camp, wounds from carrying, conditions in home village

10

7/00

"Maung Sein"

M

20

P

Lashio

8 yrs.; drug possession and use (Art. 15 & 16) Prison conditions, beating of prisoners, load compositions, beating of porters, porters during battle, wounds from carrying

11

6/00

"Thet Htoo"

M

29

B

Pakokku

1 yr.; selling underground lottery tickets Prison conditions, promises to convicts, portering conditions, load composition, beating of porters, death of porter, looting of villagers’ poultry and paddy, villager porters, conditions at Army camp, conditions in home village

12

7/00

"Ah Paun"

M

38

C

Lashio

8 yrs.; drug possession and use (Art. 15 &16) Prison conditions, portering conditions

  

Full Text of Interviews

To give further detail and examples of the complete stories of convict porters from several prisons, we have included below the full texts of Interviews #1-12 which were used in the main report. The interview numbers correspond to those used in the quote captions of the report.

#1.

NAME:          "Myo Myint"               SEX: M          AGE: 30               Mon, Buddhist, Barber
FAMILY:        Married, one child 7 years old
ADDRESS:     xxxx town, Mon State                                               INTERVIEWED: 7/00

[He was a prisoner in Moulmein Prison in Mon State. He suffers from asthma and needs regular medication, but was taken as a porter regardless. He was interviewed after escaping portering in Dooplaya District.]

Q: Did you study?
A: I studied for two years at the monastery from when I was 8 years old until I was 10 years old. It was in Kyaikmayaw township. I worked with my mother in the flat fields. After I was 15 years old, I was a barber in Moktama.

Q: Are your parents still alive?
A: Yes, they are both flat field farmers.

Q: Do you have any siblings?
A: Yes, I have five brothers and sisters. I am the eldest. The youngest is 16 years old.

Q: Did you have a barber shop?
A: Yes.

Q: When did you get married?
A: I got married when I was 19 years old. She is a flat field farmer in yyyy [village].

Q: Why have you come here?
A: I was imprisoned and had to porter.

Q: Why were you in prison?
A: I had cut three bunches of bananas in my Auntie’s garden and sold them. When I came back I let my Auntie know about it. She asked me what I did with the money and I told her I bought cooking oil, onions and salt to eat. That is why I cut them. I said, "I don’t have enough to eat." She said, "Okay." Five days later, her husband went and complained to the police and the police came to arrest me. In the middle of the night, five policemen came to arrest me. I didn’t know who they were, but I thought they were the police. They ordered me to lay face down, so I laid face down. When they opened the mosquito net, I cut with a knife and one of their heads was cut off. Then I jumped out the window, but they arrested me and sent me to the police station. It happened on June 6th 1993.

Q: Was the person who died a policeman?
A: He was a policeman. They had brought guns and I didn’t know if they would shoot or not, so I was afraid and cut him.

Q: Did you cut his head off?
A: Yes. During the uprising [the 1988 student protests] the students kept a lot of long knives at my house. When the students from Rangoon came and asked me to send them from Moktama to Moulmein, they left their knife, so I took it.

Q: Where did they take you?
A: They put me in a cell at the Moulmein Division Office [This is the main government office in Moulmein, the capital of Mon State]. They prosecuted me and sent me to a court of law. They set up a tribunal in the jail cell. There were three judges, but I don’t know their names. I was in the prison for four days before they set up the tribunal.

Q: How did they feed you?
A: They gave us a little rice and some boiled morning glory leaves. In the morning we ate that and in the evening we ate aubergine.

Q: What cell were you in?
A: I was in cell number 3.

Q: Did they torture you?
A: They tortured me. They kept me upside down and they put me in electrified water. When the water hit me, I fell down. They did it to me for 10 minutes. After they shocked me, I was unconscious. They interrogated and beat me. They did this to me for a week, every day. Later, after I couldn’t suffer it anymore, I admitted my guilt. It was the corporal who tortured me. I don’t know his name, but he had two chevrons. After that, on August 28th 1993, they passed judgement on me. I was sentenced to 10 years at hard labour in Moulmein Prison.

Q: What article were you sentenced under?
A: Article 380 for cutting [stealing] the bananas and Article 302 for murder.

Q: When did you go to Moulmein Prison?
A: On August 28th 1993.

Q: Did the ICRC come to check Moulmein Prison?
A: They came to check it, but I didn’t know who they were. They were English [white foreigners are commonly referred to as ‘English’] and Burmese. The young men and women foreigners came. The young women were wearing trousers and had long hair, they were tall. They were not the same as the Burmese, their skin was white. They [the prison officials] kept us in a room, Building 4. We had to queue up. We could see them [the ICRC representatives] walking below us. We had to stay in the building. I wasn’t seen by them when they came [he wasn’t questioned].

Q: Do you remember when they came?
A: I don’t remember when it was. They came two or three times.

Q: Did the foreigners question the prisoners?
A: They didn’t ask anything. They didn’t enter the building. They looked over everything from the outside and walked around. They questioned the prisoners who had been in prison for many years. They kept the prisoners with long sentences separately. I don’t know what they asked.

Q: Did you know in advance that the ICRC would come?
A: I didn’t know.

Q: Before these people came, how did you prepare the prison?
A: The leaders would come so we had to clean.

Q: Was there anything unusual on that day?
A: It was a little better on that day. After they left, it was the same as before.

Q: Were their any Shan nationality in Moulmein Prison?
A: There were six Thais for drug offences, horse medicine [amphetamines].

Q: How many prisoners were in the prison?
A: There were over 700 prisoners.

Q: How many days did you have to go for treatment when you were in prison?
A: I had to get treatment in the hospital for over three months when I stayed in prison. We had to buy the medicine ourselves and treat it. People from my house brought it. The prison gives a ticket, but they don’t give medicine. If we go and ask for medicine for five days, they give us one tablet of Para [Paracetamol]. I got only one tablet of Amino[Aminophaline]. The one tablet of Amino didn’t cure my disease. I got better when I got an intravenous injection. I got a ticket from them and the people from my house bought the injection and gave it to me. When I came to porter, I had 8 more phials of Amino intravenous injection [to take]. To get the injection, we had to buy food for them [the prison officials].

Q: How much money did you spend on medicine?
A: The price for the medicine was over 3,000 Kyat for the three months.

Q: Who gave you the injection?
A: The doctor from the hospital gave it to me. I only had to buy the medicine and the needle. We used our needle only one time. They used their needle for a month. They didn’t boil it after giving the injections.

Q: Did they continue using it?
A: Now, for scabies, they gave one phial of 200,000 units [I.U., International Units] to 6 people. For 8 people, they used only one needle. They injected them one by one.

Q: Did the disease get better?
A: The disease didn’t get better, it got worse. The prisoners who were almost dead were taken outside the hospital. They couldn’t walk. They had only skin and bone left and their eyes were shrunken. The wounds got worse and the scabies became like leprosy. There were both children and older people [suffering from this]. [The symptoms described here are also those of the final stages of AIDS. With the reuse of needles and the high rate of HIV infection in Burma it is very likely that many of the prisoners are infected.]

Q: How many prisoners died?
A: When I was in the prison, about 50 prisoners died. They died from that disease.

Q: Did the prisoners get diarrhoea?
A: Yes, because they didn’t get enough food. Water was boiled and then cut spinach was put in the water. They fed us like that.

Q: Were there any Army deserters in the prison?
A: When we asked the children they told us about it. We asked, "Younger brother, what happened to you?" They said, "Brother, we went out with our friends, then the police arrested us." We asked, "Why did they arrest you." They said, "They forced us to be soldiers, but we didn’t want to and we cried. They took us and fed us snacks. We had to go to the frontline." We asked, "When you went to the frontline, could you carry?" They said, "I couldn’t carry but they carried it for me. I came back home and didn’t go again, so they put me in prison for 10 years." Those children were only going out to have fun. I don’t know their names. They had just been put in prison when I left. They were from Rangoon. They were Burmans. They said they were from #62 [Infantry Battalion] in Mudon.

Q: Were there any political prisoners in the prison?
A: Yes, there were many students in the prison from the uprising. They had been imprisoned since the student uprising. There are many men and women, but nobody can see them. They are kept separately. They are not kept the same as with the other offenders. They keep the women upstairs.

Q: Where did they keep the men?
A: They kept them in a special room. They can’t go anywhere and are kept fully covered [they are kept inside where no one can see them]. The are fed 10 times more than us.

Q: How many people were kept in each room?
A: They kept six people in each room.

Q: Did they torture and beat the prisoners?
A: When the new prisoners are brought in they know nothing. When they [the older prisoners] ordered us to work, we couldn’t do it. They ordered us to take the Main La [excrement] by hand. When we go to the toilet, we have to pass into a jar, then throw it into a hole. It is then taken from the hole and thrown on the plantation [the prison garden]. We have to take it with our hands. Really, they have a cup, but they need the money, so they forced us to do it by hand [they want people to bribe them to get out of this work]. If we don’t take it by hand, they beat us. If people from home come, the older prisoners ask for money and they have to give. The older prisoners don’t need to work.

Q: How much do you have to pay them?
A: I had to pay more than 2,000 or 2,500 Kyat.

Q: When you first came to the prison, did they beat you?
A: Yes, they beat me. I don’t remember how many times they beat me. They were the same prisoners as us. They were the ones with long sentences.

Q: Did you beat the prisoners who came after you?
A: I didn’t beat them, I just cut their hair. Whenever my mother came, she would admonish me and say, "Stay well and you will be released when the time comes. Take care of your health." Whenever she came, she admonished me. She came every six months. When she came she couldn’t give a lot of money. She would give me only 500 or 600 Kyat. My wife and mother work in the flat fields. I cut hair.

Q: How did you eat in prison?
A: Eating was a problem in the prison. We had to eat the standard prison food. They fed us half a milk tin of cooked rice. If a farmer ate it, he would have gotten only three mouthfuls. They also fed us Ta Ler Baw [a type of rice soup with whatever vegetables are available] curry.

Q: Did they give you mosquito nets and blankets?
A: There were none of these things. When we entered the gates of the prison, they confiscated everything. They gave us things like short pants. We had to wear white cloth.

Q: Could you go out?
A: We couldn’t go outside, we had to stay in the room. We could talk to the other prisoners in the same room.

Q: Did they give you work to do in the prison?
A: They gave us work. We worked in hill fields and plantations growing spinach, potatoes, aubergine and cabbage. We worked in the morning from 7 to 9 a.m. and later from 1 to 3:30 in the evening.

Q: Could people come to visit you?
A: People could come to visit and bring some food.

Q: Where did you start as a porter?
A: From Moulmein. They sent me to Pa’an Won Saung 1 on May 24th 2000. They took us with the prison trucks. We went on the Zathabyin road, but I didn’t see anything because they covered the truck fully with a tarpaulin. We stayed there for 3 days and on the fourth day, May 28th, we left there together with the soldiers by truck to Kya In Seik Gyi. We slept one night in Kya In Seik Gyi. At first we slept in the teaching school, but later there were many people so they separated us and kept us outside the village. In the morning we had to start to carry.

Q: Did they reduce your sentence if you went?
A: They said they would release us if we went. If we had been sentenced to 10 years, then our sentence would be reduced by 3 years. It was specified by the SPDC. They didn’t do it.

Q: How many prisoners were at Pa’an Won Saung when you arrived?
A: There were over 500 prisoners. 
Second man: There were about 30 or 40 people from Lashio [the prisoners from Lashio say 150].
A: There were prisoners from Moulmein and Rangoon. There were about 30 or 40 people from Moulmein and 90 or 100 from Rangoon.

Q: Did they give you any clothes?
A: They gave us some clothes when we were in the prison, but when we left, they confiscated it all. We didn’t get anything when we left there.
Second Man: When we left the prison, they gave us slippers and blankets for when we were portering. When we arrived at Pa’an Won Saung , they confiscated it all. They said they would give it back to us when we left, but they gave us nothing when we left.

Q: Who confiscated it?
A: It wasn’t the Army unit, it was Pa’an Won Saung 1 A’Kyin Oo See Hta Na [Prison Control Centre].

Q: Which battalion did you have to go with?
A: LIB #710. They are from Taikkyi, but their camp is at Kyaikdon.

Q: How many prisoners did they take to Kya In Seik Gyi?
A: They took all 500 or so prisoners from Pa’an Won Saung 1. They took everyone at once. They were leaving from the night until daybreak. I went at daybreak. Most of the prisoners had left by then. There were 40 prisoners in our group. After we arrived at Kya In Seik Gyi, they divided us into groups of 6 or 7 people.

Q: Did they also force villagers to porter?
A: No, there were only the prisoners.

Q: Were there also Army deserters from the prisoners?
A: Yes, but I don’t know how many.

Q: Did any political prisoners have to go as porters?
A: No, they didn’t. They don’t dare to let them out. They worry that they [the political prisoners] will go against them.

Q: Where did you continue to from there?
A: We slept there for one night, then we had to go continually for 12 days. I had to carry for 8 days. We slept two nights on one hill and another two nights on another hill.

Q: What did you have to carry?
A: I had to carry 12 bombs [Rocket-Propelled Grenade rounds]. I don’t know their name, but they were very big and round. It looked like a banana flower and the tail was very long, about a cubit [45.72 cm / 18 in]. I think it was nearly 40 viss[65.32 kgs / 144 lbs]. I couldn’t stand up. They had to lift it for me.

Q: Did you see any porters who couldn’t carry things and fell down?
A: Yes, one of the Chinese fell down in front of us. He was over 50 years old, maybe 58. We thought he couldn’t stand and walk because he had fallen down and was laying face down on the road and trembling. He had taken off his shirt and was nearly dead. When we asked the porters who came behind us about him, they said he was already dead when they passed him [seeInterview #3, Interview #4 and Interview #7]. Two people died. One of my friends also couldn’t carry and died on the path .

Q: Did you see them beat, scold or call the porters names who couldn’t carry?
A: I suffered that myself. When I was walking in the night time, there was no light and I fell down. He [one of the soldiers] didn’t lift me, he kicked me. He pulled the basket and it fell out of my hands. He told me, "Your body is very big, but you are not useful." I told him, "No, Saya, I came out of the hospital not so long ago." He then hit me three times on the back and my back hurt. I still have the wound [he then showed his wound]. When I carried the basket, it was very painful. I had to suffer and carry it in the night.

Q: How did they feed you when you were a porter?
A: They fed two big spoonfuls of rice, one spoonful of beans and a little fishpaste. I wasn’t full.

Q: Who was in charge of the convict porters?
A: He was a sergeant, but I don’t know his name.

Q: Who was the column commander?
A: I don’t know. We had to stay beside them and they would call us when it was time to eat.

Q: Did they give you any money?
A: No they didn’t.

Q: Did they give you any medicine when you were sick?
A: They didn’t give medicine. When we had been sick for three days and asked them for medicine, they gave us half a tablet of Para [Paracetamol].

Q: Did the soldiers go in the day or the night?
A: Both, they didn’t have an exact time.

Q: What did you have to do when they rested?
A: When they made camps [along the way], we had to find firewood and cook rice. We also had to search for vegetables for them. When they slept, we didn’t have a tarpaulin, so we had to sleep in the rain.

Q: Did they keep you together?
A: They kept us together, but they didn’t guard us. We had to sleep in the middle and they slept around us. They were worried that we would flee.

Q: Did any battles occur along the way?
A: There were no battles.

Q: Where did you come to?
A: We fled from Kyaikdon. I had never been to or heard of Kyaikdon before. We slept there one night and then the next day, we fled. I fled with "Phone Shwe" [Interview #7]. He is also here. He is a Shan Da Nu. We discussed it before. We fled in the night time at 1 a.m.

Q: Did you know what was here?
A: We knew there were Karen soldiers. We also heard the Burmese say they were going to fight the Karen soldiers. No battles had occurred though.

Q: Why did you flee?
A: After suffering the beatings and pain in my heart, I fled. I fled together with "Phone Shwe" who was sick. We escaped at around 1 a.m. We brought nothing but the clothes on our bodies.

Q: Where did you go when you fled?
A: After we crossed the main river and walked for a while, we came to xxxx and took a rest for a night. We slept there one night and then fled again. We came to the flat fields. We asked for help in the flat fields. We didn’t have sarongs or clothes [they only had their prison uniforms]. They [the villagers] also didn’t have any, but they gave us some rag clothes to wear and some rice. In the evening they sent us to xxxx. [Some details of their escape are omitted here to protect the people who helped them.]

Q: Was this close to the SPDC soldiers?
A: It wasn’t close, but when they came, we fled and hid on the mountain. After three days, the Karen soldiers came during the day to take us.

Q: How many soldiers were there?
A: There were about 8 or 10 soldiers. The villagers were talking about them, but I didn’t understand anything.

Q: Were you afraid when you saw the Karen soldiers?
A: We were more happy to see them than the Burmese soldiers. When I first saw them, I was afraid.

Q: How did they treat you?
A: They treated us as their siblings. They didn’t interrogate us, scold us, or call us names. They said, "Brother, put your hands behind your back. We will tie them with a little bit of rope." We said, "Yes, tie us." We were tied for four days. They told us they had not received orders from their senior leaders yet [to release them]. We were tied well, but they didn’t beat us or call us names. On the first day I was worried a little bit. Later, they came to explain to us in the night time. They said, "Nothing will happen, don’t be afraid. Don’t worry. We won’t kill you. We will report to the higher leaders, then we will question you and send you back home."

Q: Did they feed you?
A: They fed us well. They gave us chicken and pork. We could sleep as they slept.

Q: When did you arrive here?
A: We came field by field, camp by camp. From when I was portering until I came here, it has been over one month.

Q: What do you want to do in the future?
A: The most important thing is I want to go home.

Q: Do you have contact with your family?
A: I don’t have contact with them.

Q: Do you want to say anything in your heart?
A: I don’t have anything to tell.

Q: How many years were you in prison?
A: Seven years.

Q: Were you close to being released? 
A: Yes, if they had decreased the sentence, I would have been released and I wouldn’t have had to porter. I didn’t get aKwa [a reduction in a prison sentence] because I had to go to get treatment in the hospital. I have asthma. I got one reduction before after five years. They didn’t reduce it, so I had to porter.

Q: Do you want to go back if you can?
A: Yes, if I can go, I want to go back. Before I go back, I will find money to travel. I’d dare to go back and stay in my village if I get to yyyy. I don’t need anything, but my weak point is my asthma.

 

#2.

NAME:         "Than Htun"               SEX: M          AGE: 46           Karen, Buddhist, Labourer
FAMILY:       Married, three children aged 5 to 12 years old
ADDRESS:     xxxx section, Mandalay                                        INTERVIEWED: 6/00

["Than Htun" was imprisoned in Mandalay Prison. He escaped from portering in Pa’an District of Karen State.]

Q: Can you tell me how you arrived here?
A: I was sentenced to prison for a year because I gave someone a bicycle as collateral to borrow money. I did it for a friend, but it was a stolen bicycle. My friend had brought someone’s bicycle with him and said, "Ko Gyi [Big Brother], pawn this bicycle for me, it is my bicycle." I believed him and did it for him. My friend was a Burman named aaaa. He is about 18 or 19 years old. The police came and arrested me because it was a stolen bicycle, and they accused me of profiting from stolen goods. I was punished by being sent to prison for a year. My friend also had to go to prison in Mandalay. I had stayed there for seven months already, but at the beginning of the eighth month, they sent me here because I could not give any money. They [the Army] came and called us from the prison.

Q: What did you have to do in prison?
A: When I was in prison I had to dig the ground and plant and water flowers, cabbages and other vegetables. Those are the only things we had to do in prison.

Q: Could you eat what you had planted?
A: Yes, they cooked them for other people. We had enough food in prison, but it was not very good food.

Q: Did they beat and kick the prisoners?
A: Yes, they beat and kicked people if they didn’t listen to orders. They asked the other prisoners to beat us.

Q: Did the Army or the Police take you from the prison?
A: The Army asked for us, so the police took us to the Army unit. It was on May 18th [2000]. That unit was Brigade #22[Light Infantry Division #22], Battalion #81 [Infantry Battalion]. I don’t know the name of their commander. They usually called each other Bo Gyi or Saya Gyi [words used by soldiers addresings officers], so we don’t know their real names.

Q: How many prisoners did they take from the prison?
A: All of the prisons sent prisoners, so there were around 500 people. They divided us and sent 25 people to each battalion.

Q: How much money did you have to give to not go?
A: If we could give 5,000 or 10,000 Kyat, we didn’t need to go. In two more months I would have been released. I was to be released after ten months because they had decreased my sentence. I just needed to stay there for two months to be released, but they sent me here.

Q: Where did they divide you?
A: After we left the prison, we went to the Army camp to be divided. They gathered all the prisoners from Mandalay and Meiktila prisons together. There were about 500 prisoners at that time. They divided us at Pa’an Won Saung 2. They divided all of us and gave us to the Army units, so the Army units took us and ordered us to carry loads over the mountains. They ordered us to carry shells, bullets and rations. If we could not climb up the mountains, they beat and abused us. Some of the porters’ arms were broken and one porter died at that time.

Q: How heavy was your load?
A: We had to carry 30 or 40 viss [48.99 kgs / 108 lbs or 65.32 kgs / 144 lbs]. We had to carry shells, bullets and bags of rice. There are about 8 bowls of rice in a bag [12.504 kgs / 27.56 lbs].

Q: Did they take the bags of rice from the villagers or their Army camp?
A: They got those bags of rice from over there [the Army camp they left from] as their rations. After we arrived at their Army camp, they ordered us to gather all the paddy from the Karen villagers’ hill fields and to take it to the top of the mountain. They ordered us to pound that rice on the top of the mountain.

Q: How many soldiers were in the unit you went with?
A: There were approximately 200 soldiers. That is including the majors, captains and sergeants. There were 25 [prisoner]porters for them and 25 villagers carried for them also.

Q: Do you know the names of any of the soldiers?
A: We don’t know and we couldn’t ask their names because if we asked their names they scolded us and asked us why and slapped our faces. They shouted at us, "Ma Aye Loe [Motherfucker]. Do what we order and what you need to."

Q: Were you the only Karen among the prisoner porters?
A: Yes, among the 25 prisoners I was the only Karen person, but I stayed with the Pa Tee [Uncles; a Karen term referring to middle-aged men] and villagers on the way. Those Pa Tee and villagers ran to escape also. They were the Karen people who stayed in some of the villages here. They were also captured by the Army unit.

Q: They had prisoners already, but they also took villagers?
A: Yes, they also captured people from the villages. They were mostly men. They had also called women to go with them and at one time they had over 50 women with them. There were 25 or 30 women with them from the villages and they were ordered to carry rice bags. At the monastery where their Byu Ha [Operations Command] camp is, they released them. The soldiers did not order them to carry through the forest, but they ordered them to carry through the villages and took them from those villages. The name of the village where they took the women is Ngan Kyeh village, but I’m not sure exactly because I have never been here before. It sounded like Ngan Kyeh village, but I’m not sure. It is very far from here to the west. It is a Karen village.

Q: Did they call those women or capture them?
A: They went and talked with the village head first. Some people didn’t want to go, but they were forced to go. They had to continue carrying for three days until they arrived at the place where there were no villages and then they were released to go. The men had to continue carrying to there. The women asked the villagers in the village where they were released to send them back step by step through each village.

Q: How did the women sleep?
A: They told the women to sleep in the same place [in the same temporary camp] but separate from them [the soldiers]. Their soldiers guarded next to that place.

Q: Did you hear if they raped any of the women?
A: I don’t know because we had to sleep in a different place from the women.

Q: What were the ages of the women porters?
A: Most of the women were between 30 and 40 years old, but there were some 18, 19 and 20 year olds. Most of the young women were 18 or 19 years old.

Q: What about the men?
A: The youngest of the men were 20 or 25 years old. There were no very old porters.

Q: How old were the oldest porters?
A: The soldiers did not care about the age. They even saw an old man with two children and they ordered the two children to stay away and pulled the old man to go with them. Those children were left there crying. It was in one of the Karen villages. That old man was about 60 years old, but they took him as a guide to show the way and ordered him to carry two backpacks. They thought that if they are comfortable, then that is fine for them. They shouted at the children to leave the old man, so the children were afraid and crying. When they arrived at their camp they released him. We felt sorrow for them[the two children] when we came.

Q: How far did you walk?
A: The distance was very far because it was a whole day’s walk. We had to start walking in the morning and set up a small camp in the evening.

Q: Did they only feed you boiled rice?
A: Yes, we only had boiled rice. They didn’t put salt in the rice, they just boiled it. It was tasteless. They fed each of us just a small tin of that boiled rice. They fed us one time in the morning and another time in the evening.

Q: Did you have to boil the rice yourself?
A: We had to pound it and boil it ourselves. The rice we pounded, we also had to cook for them. After we cooked rice for them, if they asked us to put the rice in their bowls, we had to do that also. They just washed their hands and ate. After they ate, we had to wash their bowls, gather them and put them in the right place. They were very rude because at that time we were in their hands so we had to fear them and couldn’t stay without fearing them. If we didn’t fear them they slapped our faces and we couldn’t speak anything against them. We had to do what they said and stay where they let us stay.

Q: Did they burn down any villages?
A: After we passed through the villages, we heard that the soldiers burned them down. After we fled, that man [indicating another porter who fled later] told us they had burned down the villages. I don’t know the names of the villages, but they are just on the other side of this hill. There are some small houses they burned down. They didn’t burn down the villages when we were with them.

Q: Did they go into the villages and steal things?
A: Yes, they stole, ate, beat and demanded people, even women.

Q: What about the chickens?
A: They stole the chickens to eat. Even if they had asked, those Karen people could not understand or speak Burmese, so they just caught the chickens, cooked them and ate them. We had to cut and cook them for the soldiers, but we could not eat it [the chickens].

Q: Did they shoot any villagers?
A: They didn’t shoot any villagers, but they did scold the villagers and shouted at them.

Q: Did they rape any women in the villages?
A: We did not see that in front of us, but maybe they did it in a secret place. Their behaviour and attitude was awful and they never had pity or a sympathetic heart. They [the Army] say the Army was founded by civilians, but they are not of the civilians because they only know how to oppress the people and to use their anger. They are carrying guns, so they want people to stay under their hands and do whatever they demand without thinking and eat what they provide without question. They always behave like that so we can’t do anything about it.

Q: Did the soldiers try to frighten you when you went with them?
A: Yes, they threatened us, like: "If you run to escape, the Karen Nga Pway [‘Ringworm’ - a derogatory term used by the SPDC soldiers when referring to the KNU or KNLA] will kill you and we also will shoot to kill you if you run. Ma Aye Loe Dway! [Motherfuckers!] Be careful with yourselves, you don’t need to think about going to run." If two people were standing up to urinate together not far from each other, they kicked us and shouted at us, "None of you stand up." They did not allow us to stand up. If they allowed one of us to urinate, we had to stand up very close to them to urinate. They did not allow us to urinate at the same time. They allowed us to urinate only one at a time. You can’t go very far to urinate, you have to urinate very close to your sleeping place. If we wanted to urinate while we were walking with them we had to wait until we reached the place where we sat down.

Q: Did the porters walk separately from the soldiers or between the soldiers?
A: They put a soldier between two of the porters while they were walking. Some of the soldiers went ahead and didn’t carry their backpacks with them. For us, we had to follow the group that went ahead of us and if we could not follow them they beat us with the butts of their guns, kicked us with their boots and slapped our faces.

Q: How many hours did they walk between breaks?
A: At first, we would get time for a break after walking two or three hours. After we came to this area it wasn’t the same. We couldn’t take a break, just carry up and down, up and down over the mountains. If we could not walk and joined them late, they ordered their soldiers to wait for a while, but we did not have a break time [once the porter group caught up with the rest of the soldiers, they just continued walking].

Q: Did they wait for you when you couldn’t carry?
A: Some people who were carrying were very far behind and faced problems, so they asked us to wait but the battalion commander told the commander to start walking again and we had to start again. We did not have much time to take a rest. We just waited a while and then started again. We did not have a special time to take a rest.

Q: Did anyone get sick when you were portering?
A: Yes, there were some sick people who were staying on the top of the hill [at the Army camp]. They threw the dead down the hill. The soldiers also left some people along the way because they couldn’t go on anymore, such as the people they had beaten and their arms were broken. We don’t know the people whose arms were broken, but there were two of them and they were from Meiktila Prison. The soldiers had beaten them with the butts of their guns. If people collapsed on the mountain, they beat them.

Q: Did they give you medicines if you asked for them?
A: They didn’t give us medicine or treat us. We went to ask them for some medicine to drink or smear on our wounds. My back is broken and split like this because I had to carry a lot of shells and because I am a Karen. If other people had to carry five shells each, I had to carry seven shells. They told me it was because of my Karen people that they had to face problems and the said, "Nga Loe Ma, Nga Pway, better to die!" [‘I fucked your mother, Ringworm’; Ringworm being the derogatory term used by the SPDC Army for the KNLA or KNU] I had to face problems even though I have no contact with the KNU, so I could not tolerate it anymore and I thought if we have to die, we will. Three of us then ran down the hill and passed through some very thick brush and crossed this river [the Moei River, border with Thailand].

Q: Did they give the soldiers medicine?
A: They said they did. We carried medicine for the soldiers who got sick. One of their Saya Gyi [‘Big Teachers’, i.e. senior officers or Non-Commissioned Officers] told us, "This is not for you, if you want to die, you die. We already see you as dead people."

Q: Do you know how many porters were left on the way?
A: There were two porters whose arms were broken and one porter whose forehead was cracked and another who was sick.

Q: How did the porter crack his forehead?
A: They said he fell down, but some porters said the soldiers had beaten him with the butt of a gun. The sergeant told the battalion commander he collapsed off the top of the mountain and his forehead was cracked, but really they beat him and it was broken. Because as we were carrying everything on our shoulders, if we collapsed accidentally off the mountain, our entire body would be broken also, not only our forehead.

Q: Do you know the name of the dead porter?
A: I don’t know the name of the dead porter because he was from a different prison. As for us, they took us to their Army camp and on the way ordered us to carry paddy from the villagers’ fields or huts. They ordered us to pound it for them after we had dug holes in the ground [to use as mortars to pound the rice in]. They fed us boiled rice and ordered us horribly.

Q: Did they tell you they would release you when you arrived at their Army camp?
A: Yes, they said they would release us as soon as they arrived at their Army camp, but when they arrived there, they said, "If we have to stay for 6 or 8 months, you also have to stay with us and you can go back when we go back." I just had two months left before completing my punishment but now I’d have to stay for 6 or 8 months there, it would be extra. As for the extra time, it would be better to run and escape because staying there I was starving and had nothing to eat or drink and my wounds on my back were very painful. Because my back was cut and very painful, I thought it better to run, so I organised some friends and three of us ran to here.

Q: How many days did you have to carry as a porter before you escaped?
A: We had to carry for 9 or 10 days if you include sleeping in the villages. They let us sleep separately from them, but when we started travelling, they ordered us to sleep together under the monastery.

Q: Which monastery?
A: One of the Karen monasteries, but we don’t know its name because we have never been here before. When we arrived at this Army camp [Pu Lu Dtu Army camp] we didn’t have huts, but they had tents with them. They gave us a very small piece of plastic sheet and we had to cover ourselves with that while sitting together in the same place. We had to sit with bent heads in the rain until morning arrived.

Q: Did they guard you when you were sleeping?
A: When they were sleeping they had some guards for their security. We couldn’t urinate when we wanted to or shit as we wanted to. They stopped us and were oppressive like that. If we wanted to urinate, we had to do it in the place where we were sitting. As for shitting, we had to do it in a plastic bag and throw it in the forest the next morning.

Q: Can you tell me how you escaped?
A: They had ordered us to cut bamboo and when they started to patrol on their operation to fight the rebels [KNLA], they asked us to carry paddy and heavy things. They were staying at the top of the hill and carried nothing themselves, and if we couldn’t carry they beat us. After we arrived at the top, they kicked us with their boots and beat and swore at us and asked us to dig holes in the ground and to pound the paddy for them. After that we had to boil the rice and had a small tin of boiled rice to eat, but they ate the rice which we had pounded. That is why we ran, we knew we were going to die soon and we couldn’t tolerate it anymore. If our wounds became worse and we asked for medication, they said, "Die if you have to, but we do not have medicine for you. We only have enough for our soldiers. We see you as dead people."

Q: Did they have a medic?
A: Yes, they have medics among the soldiers, but they did not give any medicine for our wounds. Afterwards we could not tolerate that so when they ordered us to carry water for them and pointed where to go, we thought, if they are going to shoot, let them shoot, and we ran down the hill quickly.

Q: Where?
A: At the frontline camp over there. We don’t know the name of the camp, but we slept there for two nights. After we slept there for two nights, we started to run down to here.

Q: How many people escaped with you?
A: Three of us, but another friend fled after we escaped because he couldn’t stay there anymore also. Four of us arrived here, but five or eight people ran from the top of that mountain. There are only three or four people still in the Army camp.

Q: Can you tell me the names of your friends?
A: They are "Naung Soe", "Tin Hla", "Myo Lwin" and "Than Htun" [not their real names; see other interviews]. Two of us are single and two of us are married. "Naung Soe" has a child and I have three children. All of us came here at the same time. One of us is a Kalah [an Indian], one is Karen and two are Burman. Three of us are from Mandalay Prison and the other one, "Naung Soe", is from Meiktila Prison.

Q: Did they see you escape and try to find you?
A: They told us that if they found us, they would kill us. They tried to find us, but we were afraid so we hid in some bushes. It took us one day of walking to come here. We started to run at 12:00 noon and arrived here in the evening.

Q: How do you feel about the KNLA now as opposed to what the Burmese told you?
A: If we compare them [the SPDC soldiers], the people here [the KNLA] are much better. They have more pity and sympathy than them [the SPDC soldiers] and treat us like their family. Really, they [the Burmese soldiers] are very bad and only have the attitude to oppress and torture us because they have guns in their arms. They never think about how to feed people, just how to force us to work. They kept us like cows and dogs, but the people here [the Karen resistance and villagers] do not divide us by our skin or appearance. They just deal with us as their siblings and eat, sleep and live in equality and they have good hearts.

Q: How were you treated when you arrived here?
A: We have had a good time here with the Karen people because as soon as we arrived, they called us here and gave us clothes and fed us rice. They cooked us enough rice to feed us and then gave us a very comfortable place to stay. They gave us some medicines for our wounds also. We have a good bed to sleep on. They have given us a good place because they have good character, they treat us as people from their country and do not separate us, they have pity on us.

Q: What do you plan to do now?
A: I think I will ask for help from the people here and then go back to my place.

Q: Do you dare to go back?
A: Yes, I have to go back whether they arrest me again or not, because if I stay here, one day I will die. I can’t be happy or provide for my family because my wife’s health is not good and she has heart disease. My eldest son is just 12 years old, the next one is 8 years old and my daughter is 5 years old and all of them have to beg from other people to eat. They can’t go to school and had to leave school because their mother has heart disease and she doesn’t have any relatives in the town she moved to. My wife lives in xxxx. My parents-in-law live in yyyy [village], Monywa [Sagaing Division] and it is very far from there [Mandalay]. My parents live in zzzz [in the Irrawaddy Delta] and I live in xxxx and they are very far from each other so we can’t contact each other.

Q: What will you do for a living when you go back?
A: I am a ground digger. When people want to build a building, I have to dig the holes for the posts. I got 300 Kyat per day for it and it is just enough for a day. I never have extra money because goods over there are very expensive. For one ‘bowl’ of rice it is 170 or 180 Kyat. We have to buy rice and other food to eat so that money is really not enough for us. The price is going up so we can only afford a little bit of food for ourselves.

Q: What do you think your wife and children are doing now?
A: The news I heard when I was in prison before I came here was that they have to beg from other people’s houses for leftover rice and rice soup. I had thought that it would be better if I could be released, so I didn’t care what happened to me and agreed with them to go to the place they sent me. The Army and the officials said as soon as we arrived there after carrying loads for them, they would release us. When we came there [to the Army camp] they told us that if they had to stay for eight months then we also had to stay for eight months. We could go back when they could go back. They didn’t release us to go back, but tortured us and gave us only boiled rice without salt in a small tin. They beat us and we didn’t have any medicine to heal our wounds and we could not sleep very well. If it rained, the plastic sheet they provided for us was not enough to cover ourselves and they didn’t make a hut for us. We just had to sit like that. It was also not easy to urinate or shit. We thought that it was the same as being dead, and it would be better to escape, so we made up our minds and ran to here. Every time I think about my family, I see my troubles and that my children are faced with troubles too, so I thought, if I have to die, it is better to die after I have had some good rice. We didn’t care whether the Nga Pway[KNLA] killed us or not, so we struggled to run here.

Q: How will you go back?
A: We really want to go back, but after arriving here we didn’t know which way we had to go. We don’t know the way, so we don’t have any ideas about how to go back. All of us rely on the Bo Gyi [one of the KNLA officers] and do what he asks us to do. If he has work he asks us to do it, but we apologised to him and asked him to send us back and to show us the way.

Q: Do you think the Army or the Police will arrest you again?
A: I need to stay two more months in prison, so maybe they will arrest me again, but at the moment, because of my wife’s health and the problems my children are facing, I would go back even if they arrest me. I don’t want to die here without any benefit, so I decided in my heart that I would go back. When I started to come here I was unhappy and when I arrived there [at the Army camp] I also had to face many problems, so I thought nothing was different there. Before, I tried to be patient and work for them [the SPDC soldiers] as I could and they said they would release us when we arrived at their Army camp, so I worked for them for two days at their Army camp also. I did everything they asked me to do.

Q: What was the situation when you were staying in the town?
A: When we stayed in the town all the civilians had to work to afford meals and if we were tired from working and drank alcohol and got rowdy and made noise, the police would come and arrest us. They sent us to court and sentenced us to jail. Sometimes when we were late in coming back from work and it was dark, they accused us of Maung Yake Koe Muh [committing a crime by doing something in the dark of night] and then arrested us again. All of the civilians have to face problems and we have to work hard jobs to earn money, so sometimes we get tired and came back late from drinking. Like me, I am a ground digger and sometimes I drink alcohol, then they said I was drunk and annoying people so they took me to the police station and sentenced me to jail. The police arrest us and send us to jail and when we arrive at the jail, they send us to work camps and order us to do what they want us to do. Some of the Chinese people can give money, so they have good places to sleep in the jail, but for the people who do not have money, they have to sleep on the floor with no mat. I would like to say that as we are human, we would like them to have sympathy and pity and do not divide the ethnic groups in our country and let all of us stay with love and peace.

Q: What else do you want to tell to other countries about your feelings?
A: If I give my thoughts freely about the SPDC, I don’t think they rule the country peacefully and with equality. They do not have pity on the people and do not act like parents towards us. Why do I speak like this? Because they are Thu Min Thu Kyin [‘their government for themselves’, the government helps only itself]. When they call the civilians, they don’t need to oppress them. If they need help, they just have to ask for help, but instead of asking, they torture, abuse and make problems for the civilians. They live, eat and sleep in very good conditions but we do not get good food to eat, just boiled rice, and we were beaten and made to carry very heavy loads. We want to ask them to have pity in their hearts, sympathy, see our needs and to change their rules and laws.

Q: What else do you want to say?
A: We have never liked this government because they don’t have good behaviour like our parents. They are the high leaders but they oppress the grassroots people, so we can’t agree with this government. We don’t like their policies also because they do what they want to do. They think they have power and weapons and they will do what they want and demand from the people what they want, beat as they want and kill as they like. They have this policy of no sympathy for other people, and we can’t agree with the policy.

Q: Do you have anything else?
A: I don’t have anything else to tell.

Q: Thank you very much.
A: Thank you.

 

#3.

NAME:        "Than Aung"          SEX: M         AGE: 28          Burman, Buddhist, Day Labourer
FAMILY:      Married, two children, ages 1 and 3 years old
ADDRESS:    xxxx section, Pegu town, Pegu Division                         INTERVIEWED: 7/00

[He had been a prisoner in Lashio Prison in Shan State. He was interviewed after escaping from portering in Dooplaya District.]

Q: Do you have brothers and sisters?
A: I have three siblings. I am the middle one. I have one elder sister, who is 31 years old. She is already married. I also have a younger brother, who is 25 years old. At present, he is studying in school.

Q: What did you do when you were a child?
A: I started studying in kindergarten when I was five years old. I passed kindergarten but failed one year when I was in 1stgrade. I passed 2nd grade but then failed three years in 3rd grade and three more years in 4th grade.

Q: What did you do after you were fifteen?
A: At first I stayed with my parents, and then I worked with my friends at any job we could find like masonry or cutting grass. When people sold things, I also sold things. When I was 20 years old, I got married and had two children. A friend told me there was a good job in Lashio and he called me to come there, so I went to xxxx in Mong Hsat [township]. My wife stayed with my parents.

Q: Why have you come here?
A: I was portering for an Army unit.

Q: Are you an ordinary civilian or what was the reason you were portering for the Army?
A: I had gone from Pegu up to Mong Hsat township near Lashio. I picked tea leaves and baked charcoal there at xxxx village. After I baked charcoal, I cut bamboo. One day, in the evening, I went to sit in the teashop with my friend. While I was sitting, the police who were patrolling said that the time was up [to be out on the streets]. When I turned around, I didn’t see my friend, he had run away and fled when he saw the police patrol come. I alone was arrested. The offence when the police arrested me was hiding in the dark [being out after curfew]. When they arrested me, they asked me, "Where are you from?" I told them I was from xxxx. They asked me what time it was. I told them it was still very early, but they didn’t agree. They punched me and asked me, "Why are you still out now?" I explained to them I was leaving the teashop, but they didn’t believe me. They punched me there on the road and took me to xxxx jail.

Q: What was the offence they charged you with?
A: They charged me with hiding in the dark, Article 42. It was past 9 o’clock at night and they had declared no one was allowed out after 9 p.m. I was arrested on March 24th 2000. They put me in xxxx police station for three days. They fed me rice with a standard prison meal.

Q: Did they sentence you after that?
A: Yes, they passed the judgement in Lashio District Court. I was sentenced to more than one year at Lashio Prison. I was put in the prison on March 27th 2000.

Q: What happened when you first entered the prison?
A: When we entered we had to sit and we couldn’t look up at their faces. If we looked up at them, they would beat and punch us. The first time I looked up, one of them kicked me in the jaw with his leg one time. When I got to the cell, the one who waited at the door kicked me in. He wasn’t a jailer, he was a prisoner who waits at the door.

Q: How did your day begin in the prison?
A: In the morning when we woke up and had finished washing our faces, we had to wipe the floors. After that I had to choose the rice [sifting the rice and picking out the husks]. In the evening we had to move all the old excrement from the toilets and put it on the plantation.

Q: What did they feed you in the prison?
A: When we arrived at Lashio Prison they fed us enough rice. They fed us bean curry and fish paste. In the evening we were fed Ta Ler Baw curry [boiled rice mixed with any vegetable on hand] and uncooked fishpaste. We got enough drinking water.

Q: How many times did they let you bathe?
A: They let us bathe only one time [each day]. They gave us only 7 bowls of water to use for our bath.

Q: Did people get sick in the prison?
A: There were sick people, but they didn’t treat them. They gave them only one or two tablets [of medicine]. When the prison officials thought they couldn’t work anymore, they were sent to the Lashio hospital. When they were sent to Lashio hospital their feet were shackled. They were also shackled to the bed in the hospital, they couldn’t move.

Q: What was the most common disease in the prison?
A: Most of the diseases were from drugs or itching [scabies]. I saw only these. Some people had very big wounds. I saw only one man die because he had diarrhoea.

Q: Are there women in the prison?
A: There is a different building for the women. There are about 300 women prisoners. Most of them were drug offences.

Q: How many prisoners are there in Lashio Prison?
A: I estimate there are over 8,000 prisoners [there are actually between 1,800 and 2,400 prisoners, according to other testimonies]. There were over 300 prisoners in our building.

Q: What offences are most common in the prison?
A: Drug offences are the most common.

Q: Did the ICRC [International Committee for the Red Cross] come to ask questions in Lashio Prison?
A: They didn’t come [they had already made their inspection].

Q: Were there any political prisoners in Lashio Prison?
A: I didn’t see them.

Q: How long did you stay in Lashio Prison?
A: I came here in May, so it was only over one month.

Q: Did you come to porter after you were in prison?
A: Yes. They called us from Lashio to here in Karen State to go as Army porters. We left from Lashio on May 24th. We started leaving on May 24th and slept one night in Mandalay on the 24th, then on the morning of the 25th we went to Toungoo Prison. We slept one night in Toungoo Prison and came to Pa’an from there. We slept two nights on the way. They sent us with big blue trucks. We arrived at Pa’an Won Saung 1. They left 50 prisoners in Thaton and the rest, 100 prisoners, they took to Pa’an Won Saung 1.

Q: How did you know it was Won Saung 1?
A: All the people from the prisons called it that. I saw it written, "Won Saung 1."

Q: How many prisoners came from Lashio to porter?
A: There were 150 prisoners. They limited the number of prisoners from Lashio who had to come to be porters. There are 150 in a group.

Q: Couldn’t you say something?
A: We couldn’t. We also didn’t have any money to pay [to get out of having to go].

Q: When they wrote down the names in the register, was there anyone who didn’t go?
A: Many people wanted to go. When they called us they said if the sentence was for one year, it would be reduced by four months. They told us, "We are releasing you from prison." After they said that, we were confused. We thought they had released us, but later it wasn’t true. They shackled our feet with iron chains and took us by truck. The car looked like a pig truck [trucks commonly used to transport pigs in Burma]. They closed the door and took us. There were 22 prisoners in each truck. There were no soldiers guarding us, there were three guards from the prison. They didn’t allow us to go to the toilet. They gave us one plastic bag for each of us and the one who had to go asked for it from them and we had to go inside. After we finished we had to throw it out, beside the car road.

Q: Did the prison give you anything when you left?
A: Lashio Prison gave us one blanket, one tarpaulin, the standard flat plate and slippers. They also gave us two sets of prisoner’s uniforms. They were not the ones we had worn in prison. They gave us blue uniforms when we went out [prisoners in Burma usually wear white uniforms].

Q: Did you bring the uniform here?
A: No, I didn’t bring it. The villagers were worried the Army would see the blue colour of the prisoner’s uniform, so they gave us civilian clothes and asked us to burn the uniforms.

Q: Do you have the blanket and plate?
A: I didn’t bring them. The warders at Pa’an Won Saung 1 confiscated it all.

Q: Please continue telling about it.
A: We arrived at Won Saung 1 at night and then they took off our feet chains. The dawn came while they were still taking them off. That morning, after they had finished taking them off, we had to follow the battalion.

Q: Were there other prisoners from other prisons like you at Won Saung 1 when you arrived?
A: Yes, there were. Some were from the 100 prisoners sent from Mandalay. They sent at least 100 prisoners from the other prisons, some form Moulmein. There were all about 500 prisoners there.

Q: Were there any political prisoners who went with you to porter?
A: No, they didn’t include the political prisoners.

Q: What was the most common offence among the prisoners?
A: Drug offences.

Q: Were there any Army deserters among the prisoners?
A: Yes, there were. There were about 20 from Lashio Prison. They are still staying with the column because they don’t dare to run away.

Q: Continue telling about it.
A: Early in the morning of the 28th [May 2000], when they had finished taking off the feet chains, we were taken by trucks from an Army unit. We crossed two long bridges and before dark the trucks arrived at Kya In Seik Gyi. We slept there for one night. We kept going the next day and they forced us to carry baskets. They put the bullets and bombs they used into the baskets and gave them to each porter. They showed us the basket we had to carry.

Q: What did you have to carry?
A: They said the load I had to carry was mines. They were shaped like a rectangle [claymore mines, command detonated mines used to spring ambushes or for perimeter defences at camps]. They put 12 mines in my basket and put in 5 bowls of rice on top [7.815 kgs / 17.225 lbs]. I think it weighed about 20 viss [32 kgs / 70 lbs]. I couldn’t carry it. I couldn’t stand up myself with the basket. We asked them to hold it up so we could stand up.

Q: When did you leave from there to go porter?
A: We started a little after 6 a.m. on the 28th and on the 29th we came to the jungle. There is a big car road which goes into the jungle and we had to go along it. When we were walking there were many people like me who couldn’t carry. They carried bombs and other things.

Q: Do you know the battalion you had to go with?
A: Light Infantry Battalion #708. They told us that when they came to get us. I don’t know the name of the commander, but one of the officers with one star [2nd Lieutenant] was named Myo Win.

Q: How many porters went with LIB #708?
A: There were about 50 prisoner porters who went with #708 [LIB]. There were only 7 porters in our column and about 180 soldiers. [SPDC battalions regularly divide into columns when on operations. His column had only 7 porters but many more soldiers. The battalion took 50 porters with them in all.]

Q: Who led the convict porters?
A: He is a soldier with 3 chevrons on his arm and one small star [sergeant major]. I didn’t know his name.

Q: How did the soldiers treat you?
A: At first, when they called us, they treated us well. They told us to live and eat as they did, but when we started to carry from Kya In Seik Gyi, they kicked our buttocks. When we couldn’t climb or follow them, they beat us.

Q: How did they feed you? Did you eat as the soldiers ate or separately?
A: They fed us separately and there was not enough. After one plate of rice we couldn’t get any more. There was only 1 milk tin of rice [a condensed milk tin] for three people. They fed us sometimes with raw fishpaste and sometimes with beans. They cooked for themselves in their mess tins. For us, they put it in an aluminium pot for each group of seven people. We ate little, but they ate well.

Q: Did anyone get sick?
A: Yes. People went to ask them for medicine, but they didn’t give it. Sometimes, when the porters had a serious fever, they were given half a tablet, but that was all. Some people couldn’t walk.

Q: What happened to the people who couldn’t walk?
A: When you couldn’t walk, they punched, beat you with a stick and kicked you from behind. I not only saw this, I suffered it myself.

Q: When could you take a rest in the jungle?
A: They didn’t have a time limit. If it was dark, we slept. We slept in the jungle. When we slept, the prisoners had to sleep in one group. After we were asleep, they took security beside us. If it rained while we slept, we didn’t have a tarpaulin. We had to sleep like that on the earth, on the grass. As for the soldiers, they built a shelter with their tarpaulin and they were comfortable. When their soldiers rested, I had to fetch water and cook. After they got up in the early morning at 5 a.m., they queued their troops and I had to carry the basket of mines again.

Q: What about when you had to pass urine or stool?
A: We had to do it there [where they sat].

Q: Did they say they would give you any money?
A: They told us they would give us 100 Kyat per day, but I don’t know if they [the other porters] got it. I don’t think they [the porters still with the column] will get it. There were big brothers who were imprisoned before us and some of them came back and said they didn’t get it.

Q: How many days did you have to carry for?
A: For two days.

Q: Tell me about the person who died on the path.
A: He was a Chinese sent from Lashio. I don’t know his name. He was a drug offender, but I don’t know his sentence. At first he was also carrying. He carried whatever they forced him to carry, but he couldn’t do it. They kicked, punched and beat him. Later, when he couldn’t carry any longer, they kicked his head and beat him with a gun. He fell down and was shaking. They tried to force him to carry but he couldn’t. When they couldn’t force him to carry at all, they kicked him with their heels. I passed him at that time. We asked the porters who came behind us, "Is there a young brother who fell behind?" They said he was dead. The porters said it to each other, I didn’t see it [see also Interview #4, Interview #7, and Interview #1].

Q: Were there civilian porters also?
A: I didn’t see that. They had some big weapons, very big. It looked like a blowpipe [a large mortar, probably 120mm]. They carried them on bullock carts which they demanded from Kya In Seik Gyi village. They also carried very big bombs and rice sacks. The column demanded 2 or 3 bullock carts. The villagers were not happy to go [the bullock cart owners have to go along to drive the carts].

Q: Why weren’t they happy?
A: When they couldn’t drive their bullock up a hill, the soldiers behind them said, "Drive like you mean it." Sometimes the nose harnesses [ropes through the bullocks’ noses used to pull them] broke, but the bullock still didn’t go. The Burmese forced them to work, they forced them to drive. They said, "If it is going to die, kill it and eat it."

Q: Did you see the soldiers give them any money?
A: I didn’t see that.

Q: Where did you arrive at?
A: From Kya In Seik Gyi we crossed over the mountains on the 28th and slept one night at 18- Mile. We continued going on the 29th. My legs were in pain and the wounds on my back were bruised. I couldn’t follow and I told them that, but they didn’t allow me to stop. They told me, "You go." They hit me on the back, they beat me. I was crying and telling them I couldn’t go. Before we reached Kyaikdon I couldn’t walk anymore. We were not so far from a village. My cheek was trembling badly. I told them I couldn’t carry anymore and I fell down with the basket of mines. They picked up the mines, the basket and me, then kicked me with their feet. When they saw I was tired, they pounded me on the back with their gun butts and I turned face up. They took off my basket and put it beside me. It is still painful when I am talking. They stepped on my neck three times and they kicked my buttocks many times. They left me like that. I don’t know if they thought I was dead and left me, because I lost consciousness and later I remembered nothing. I had been left there.

Q: What happened after you lost consciousness?
A: I lost consciousness in the evening, after 6 p.m. It was a little dark. When I regained consciousness in the morning I was in the flat fields and there were some huts. The big brothers from the huts in the flat fields helped me. One of them told me, "Yesterday we saw you on the path and brought you here." When he saw that I was wearing the blue prison uniform, he asked me, "Are you a Won Dan [‘servant’, meaning porter]?" I told him he was right and I explained my story to him. He asked me, "What are you going to do? Do you dare to go back the way you came?" They [the soldiers] had beat me and I was in pain, so I couldn’t go anywhere. He said, "You can’t stay here any longer. Their troops are moving about. If they know about you, they will kill you." That big brother gave me his torn shirt and sarong. He burned my prison uniform.

Q: What was their nationality?
A: They were Karen. They were talking in their own language and when I regained consciousness they fed me rice and medicine. In the village they said, "The soldiers also come to this village and in the forest. It is no good if they see you. You will be killed. It is also not good for us. You will go straight away to xxxx." [Some details of his escape are omitted here to protect the people who helped him.]

Q: How long did you stay at xxxx?
A: I stayed there for more than six days. When I had stayed there for three days, these brothers [indicating "Myo Myint" and "Phone Shwe"] arrived at xxxx. After six days the Karen soldiers arrived. When the Karen soldiers arrived, the villagers from xxxx told them a group of porters was staying there. They came to call us nicely.

Q: How did you know they were Karen soldiers?
A: The others told me. They also had guns and wore uniforms. I don’t know the name of the first unit which called us.

Q: How did you feel when you saw the Karen soldiers?
A: I was afraid. The Burmese soldiers told us this when they took us: "Don’t you escape. If you escape and the Karen soldiers capture you, they will cut your throats." They said that. They told us that because they didn’t want us to flee. They gave us this speech when they took us from Won Saung 1.

Q: How did the Karen soldiers deal with you?
A: They treated us well. They told us, "We are going to send you, tell us where you want to go." They were going to take us themselves. They called us to here. At first they didn’t believe us in their hearts. We were also afraid of them because they tied us with ropes at first. After they tied us we came to a small village. When we arrived, they untied the ropes and fed us well with rice. When we got sick they gave us medicine. Step by step, in the hands of these Karen soldiers, they sent us here.

Q: How many days were you tied up?
A: They tied us up for four days. They questioned us but didn’t do anything to us. They questioned us a lot, but they didn’t beat or scold us. They just didn’t trust us.

Q: Where did you arrive to?
A: We crossed to this side of the river where the Karen soldiers summoned a Karen man we called "Bo Gyi". We went with Bo Gyi and Saya aaaa. When we got here, the Saya [term of respect for teachers or leaders] from here gave us clothes and treated us with medicine.

Q: How many days has it been since you fell down until now?
A: Since May 30th, but I don’t know what today is. It has been over one month. We left on the 28th, and since then I have written it down. They sent me to xxxx on the 30th.

Q: Do you dare to go back?
A: Right now, I can’t go back. For that reason, if there is work here, I will work and then save some money. I will go home when I decide.

Q: What kind of work can you do?
A: I can do masonry work.

Q: Does your wife know you are here?
A: She doesn’t know. I don’t have any contact with my home. If I had contact, I could go back.

 

#4.

NAME:         "How Nan"          SEX: M          AGE: 20               Chinese Buddhist Farmer
FAMILY:       Single
ADDRESS:     xxxx town, Shan State                                           INTERVIEWED: 7/00

[He was a prisoner in Lashio Prison. He is ethnically Chinese and can’t speak Burmese very well. He is also known as "Kyaw Win".]

Q: Where were you born?
A: I was born in xxxx [town].

Q: Do you have a nationality card number?
A: Yes, but I don’t remember the number. The nationality card was not for xxxx [town]. We had moved back to yyyy [he got his ID card in yyyy where his parents live, he later moved back to xxxx].

Q: What is your education level?
A: I don’t have an education. I can’t read or write.

Q: Didn’t you study at a monastery?
A: No, I didn’t.

Q: Are your mother and father still alive?
A: Yes. They are staying in yyyy.

Q: How many brothers and sisters do you have?
A: I have eight siblings. I am number seven. The eldest is my sister. She is 45 years old. I am the seventh. My younger brother is 18 years old. My parents make hill fields and flat fields.

Q: What work did you do?
A: I stayed in town but we also have a house in a small village. I worked in a hill field. We planted corn and paddy.

Q: Are they big fields?
A: Yes, they are.

Q: How did you get here?
A: Ohhhh, what am I going to say? I went to the jungle from the town [to his village]. I went by Trology [small Chinese paddy-ploughing tractors used to pull carts]. I didn’t drive. Six of us went into the jungle because we had our homes in the jungle [near their fields]. Sometimes we carried rice and food when we went back and forth between home and the jungle. The Trology broke down on the path, so I slept on the path that night. In the early morning, an Army unit came and found us and arrested us on a drug charge. They were soldiers from Battalion #204. I forgot the name of the commander.

Q: Was the Trology your own?
A: Yes.

Q: What did they think when they saw your Trology broken down on the path?
A: I don’t know, they just accused me. They had arrested someone on the path for carrying drugs. It was very near to us. When they came back and met us on the path, they accused us. They came to accuse us of cooking #4 [slang used for all types of heroin, but is also one grade of heroin] and arrested us. We told them it wasn’t true, we hadn’t cooked #4, and we hadn’t done anything. We were working our hill fields honestly. We refused their accusations like that. Finally, they said they could find out with a medical check by checking our urine, so they ordered it. They asked for my urine and checked it. Then they said we smoked #4.

Q: Did they check your blood?
A: They didn’t check the blood, they checked the urine. They saw it in the urine.

Q: I am going to ask you honestly, don’t be afraid! Did you use drugs?
A: I didn’t use drugs. I didn’t sell it. They just accused me.

Q: Did you grow opium? If we show it to you, would you recognise it?
A: We know opium. There is a lot in the jungle, but we didn’t use it.

Q: Have you seen red and yellow opium?
A: Yes, there is a lot in my area.

Q: Do you know Ya Ma [the Thai name for methamphetamines]?
A: I have heard of it, but I have never seen it.

Q: When did they arrest you?
A: They arrested me on June 22nd 1999. There were six people. It was in the jungle by Tain Pyu at Lawai Kaw. They went to arrest us in the jungle halfway to Nan Kan town.

Q: Did they get any evidence when they arrested you?
A: They didn’t get anything.

Q: Did they torture you when they came to arrest you?
A: Yes, they did. They arrested us and tied us up, then they interrogated me, "Is it true or not? Are you going to cook # 4[manufacture heroin]? We received information that you are cooking #4." We told them that it was not true. We disagreed with them. They beat us. They tied our hands behind us with iron chain for two days and two nights and beat us. They didn’t feed us rice or anything. They didn’t even allow us to drink water. They tied us with an iron chain and beat us with a stick. They took a big stick like this and pressed it on our shins [rubbing up and down or pressing on someone’s legs with a stick is a common form of torture used by the Army and Police].

Q: Did they press on your legs with a log?
A: Yes, they pressed our legs but we told them it wasn’t true. When we became dizzy and lost consciousness, they sprayed us with water until we regained consciousness. We still told them it was not true. We answered them truly. They did that for two days and two nights.

Q: How many days were you in the cell before they tried you in court?
A: They investigated me for one month and when their findings were not true, they prosecuted me with Article 15. It means using drugs. They tried me in the district office in Lashio town and sent me to Lashio Prison. Lashio Number 1 camp. The sentence was five years.

Q: Where did they send you after you were sentenced?
A: We had to stay at Lashio Prison. I had arrived at the prison before they sentenced me and already stayed in Lashio Prison for 11 months. They sentenced me on May 19th 2000 and on the 24th they sent me to the Pa’an Won Saung.

Q: How did you get by in prison?
A: If people from home came and brought things, we could stay well. The people who came from home had problems. My house is near, so they came.

Q: What did you have to do in prison?
A: I didn’t have to do anything. The people from my house came and did it for me [paid the bribe so he wouldn’t have to work], so I didn’t need to do anything.

Q: What were the most common cases in prison?
A: They were mostly drug cases, the cases under suspicion and the people who were trading it who were arrested. The people who were selling drugs were arrested for real. Those people were imprisoned for many years and they had really done it. As for us, we were imprisoned for 3, 4 or 5 years, but they had only accused us. They had no evidence.

Q: Why do you think they accuse people who didn’t do it?
A: I can’t say about that. The people in prison were talking and they said that they [the SPDC] need people on this side[in the Karen State] because battles occurred very often in Karen State. So, they accused us and put us in prison. Then they called us [to come as porters]. I heard they needed porters in Karen State. That is why they accused and arrested us. The prisoners were telling each other that.

Q: How many prisoners were in Lashio Prison?
A: Over 10,000 prisoners [there are actually between 1,800 and 2,400 prisoners, according to other testimonies]. They were mostly drug cases.

Q: Why were drug cases the most common?
A: They were buying and selling it. I can’t explain it to you. When they [the soldiers] are travelling on the path, if they see people who are smoking #4 [heroin], they arrest them under Article 15. There are a lot of people suffering from this. The people who didn’t do it have also suffered. After they were arrested, if their families couldn’t pay, they were put in prison for five years. The people who had money escaped [they were released after paying a bribe]. They weren’t taken to prison.

Q: Were there women in prison?
A: There were over 300 women. They were mostly drug and prostitution cases.

Q: Were there any political prisoners in the prison?
A: There were no political prisoners. They sent them to Mandalay Prison. They didn’t keep them at Lashio Prison. They kept 17/1 [these are prisoners who have been imprisoned for association with opposition groups, making them political prisoners]. Now they are called the "Kywe Gaw unit". Many of them were arrested. The Kywe Gaw soldiers are also fighting the Army. After the fighting, the SPDC soldiers went to arrest the Kywe Gaw troops who were separated [the soldiers who had become separated after an attack] and put them in prison.

Q: What is the Kywe Gaw unit?
A: They are Shan. They are not from Taunggyi. They are from Tang Yan. They are the same as the Karen soldiers here. They have not surrendered. They are very popular and are still fighting [they are probably soldiers of Shan State Army (South) which does operate in the area of Tang Yan and does not have a ceasefire with the SPDC].

Q: How did you live in prison?
A: They fed us enough at Lashio Prison. They fed us bean curry in the morning and in the evening they fed us Ta Ler Baw [a rice porridge with vegetables]. The prisoners whose families came to give money to the prison don’t need to do anything. The prisoners whose families don’t come to give anything have to wipe the floor, clean, work on the plantation and are forced to cook curry.

Q: Explain to me how you suffered while in prison.
A: What can I say about that because we were staying close to our homes so we felt nothing. The other people suffered. As for me, my family came to do for me [pay the bribe at the prison] so I felt nothing.

Q: When did the prisoners have to work?
A: Every morning at 5 a.m. we went to work. At 11 o’clock it was time to eat so we came back to eat. After we ate rice, we had to go back and work again. They planted hill fields. The planted every kind of fruit. After that they fed the prisoners.

Q: Did they have medicine to treat the prisoners who got sick?
A: They gave the prisoners who got sick in Lashio medicine when they went to the clinic.

Q: Do they come to check your blood in prison?
A: No.

Q: Did you hear about AIDS or HIV in prison?
A: I didn’t hear of it. I only heard about sickness and scabies disease.

Q: Did they give medicine to the prisoners who got scabies?
A: The other building didn’t get medicine. In our building there was a Major [Burmese Army] who was sentenced to 10 years. He bought the medicine and donated it.

Q: Why was the Major imprisoned?
A: He had been making counterfeit Nationality ID cards. That is why they put him in prison. The court passed a judgement of seven years, but he had already been in the prison for three years, so it will be 10 years [he had been in prison awaiting sentencing for 3 years]. Before, he was the biggest person in Shan State making ID cards. I have forgotten his name. He is from Rangoon and a Burman. He was about 50 years old.

Q: Did they give you enough clean drinking water?
A: We could drink as we wanted. We had to fetch the simple water from the tank and put it in the water pot. Then we drank it. When the ICRC organisation came, we asked for clean water to drink. Before, we had to take a bath every two days with six cups of water. Then after ICRC came, we took a bath every day with eight cups.

Q: How did you sleep?
A: The people who didn’t get money from home had to sleep gathered together. We had to sleep 10 people in a six foot space.

Q: How many rooms are there in Lashio Prison?
A: There are 4 rooms for the men [in each building] and 5 buildings. There were 5 buildings for the men imprisoned and 2 buildings for the women.

Q: What was your building number?
A: Building #4. It was wide and about 250 people had to sleep inside. If we slept above [on a wooden platform raised above the floor; less crowded and more comfortable since many prisoners can’t afford to sleep there] we had to pay money to the servants who take responsibility for the prisoners. They ate a little [took a little money] for each of them.

Q: Did the ICRC [International Committee of the Red Cross] come to check Lashio Prison?
A: They came to check, I saw it. They came in 1999. They were English [Burmese typically use ‘English’ to refer to all Europeans].

Q: Did you know it was the ICRC?
A: I knew it.

Q: Before they came to check, how were the conditions in the prison?
A: Before they came to check, we didn’t get enough rice in prison. They fed us a little with paddy, grain and stones in it[very low grade rice with unhusked bits and small stones still in it]. They fed us like they feed pigs. After they [the ICRC] came to check, they fed us enough in Lashio Prison. We could choose our rice [sift it and take out the husks and stones].

Q: Did they feed you enough rice on the day the ICRC came?
A: Yes. Without grain in it. They cooked us curry with pumpkin, radish flowers and other things.

Q: Did they give you any new clothes on that day?
A: They didn’t give clothes. They called only the prisoners who they wanted to ask questions. They [ICRC] shared cheroots.

Q: Did you have to queue up and meet them in a group, or did only the ones they wanted to meet go?
A: We were queued up by roll and they [ICRC] watched us. Then they asked, "What is your nationality?" Then they called us out and asked us questions. They called us separately to the office and asked us questions. They called many people, but they didn’t call me.

Q: What did they ask the prisoners?
A: They asked whether we got to eat well before they came. They asked things like that. "Did you get enough water to take a bath?"

Q: Did the prisoners answer them truly?
A: They told them truly.

Q: What happened to the people who answered them truly when the ICRC left?
A: They [the guards] didn’t do anything to them.

Q: Did they feed you as well after the ICRC left as when they came?
A: We couldn’t get good food, but they fed us enough rice. For rice, they gave it to us regularly and we could eat as we liked until we were full. It didn’t include stones or grain. We could choose the rice. They ordered the prisoners to choose the rice [sift the rice and pick out the husks].

Q: Did the situation get better after the ICRC came?
A: Yes, they fed us better rice and we could take a bath comfortably. Before the ICRC came, only the people whose families came from home could take a bath well [with enough water]. If they wanted to take a bath they had to give 1,000 Kyat. They had to give 1,000 Kyat per month. At that time we also had to buy rice to eat. The people whose families didn’t come were very thin and hungry and many people died. After the ICRC came, the prisoners didn’t die from hunger. They treated us better, but if the family from home didn’t come and give money, they didn’t treat us better.

Q: How many people died from hunger before the ICRC came?
A: How can we say? They died very often. Many people died. Every two or three days one or two people died. I don’t remember the names of any of the people who died.

Q: Before the ICRC came, did the wardens tell you who would come and what to say?
A: They told us to tell them [the ICRC] truly. The big warden came to tell us himself. "They will come to ask you questions. Tell whatever has happened to you. If you tell it all, they will tell the higher leaders and you will get to eat well." The jailer from Lashio told us to tell like that.

Q: What is his name?
A: I forgot it. He told us, "Tell everything you want. We won’t do anything back to you. When they go back, we won’t do anything to you. If you propose it, you will get to eat well. Now they feed you as you all know [badly]. If you propose it to them, they will feed you well."

Q: So, was the Lashio warden a little kind?
A: Yes. He didn’t beat the prisoners much and he didn’t scold. We loved him, but how can we say it? We couldn’t speak to him. We stayed to ourselves in the prison and he stayed separately from us.

Q: When did they hand you over from Lashio Prison to the Army?
A: I left on May 24th 2000 from Lashio Prison and arrived at the Army unit on May 28th 2000. It was #706 [Light Infantry Battalion]. I don’t know the name of the commander.

Q: Tell me a little bit about your journey from Lashio?
A: We went from Lashio to Mandalay and spent one night there. From Mandalay we went to Toungoo and slept there one night. They sent 150 prisoners from Lashio. Finally we arrived at the Won Saung in Pa’an. When we left from Lashio they put our feet in chains. Some were heavy and some were light. The lightest weighed about 2 viss [3.266 kgs / 7.2 lbs] and the heaviest weighed about 3 viss [4.899 kgs / 10.8 lbs]. They chained us because they didn’t want us to flee on the way. We were chained for six days. They didn’t unchain us when we slept. When we arrived at the Won Saung and the soldiers called us, the police unlocked them. When we arrived there we met the people from Rangoon and from the other places, so there were about 600 prisoners in all.

Q: Were there political prisoners included?
A: I didn’t hear about that.

Q: Were there any soldiers who had run from the Army?
A: There were many deserters but they didn’t run [they didn’t escape later]. The corporals who ran from the Army were imprisoned for at least two years. That is why they didn’t run. I didn’t hear that they ran. Mostly, it was the civilian porters who ran away. The deserters didn’t dare to run.

Q: Did they say how much they would pay for one day?
A: They didn’t say. When the soldiers came to get us at Pa’an Won Saung, we heard they would give us money. They [the soldiers] told us. They said, "You will get 100 Kyat per day. If you go to work, you will get 100 Kyat per day." Yes, we heard them say this. Later, some people who had gone to porter and got sick came back and were staying at the Won Saung. We asked them and they said, "We didn’t get it. We were lucky we didn’t die." He [the man they asked] said the people who had been put in prison for many years fled. If they hadn’t fled, the soldiers would have sent them back to prison. We didn’t think they were going to force us like this. They said they would release us, but they called us and forced us to porter. They just pretended. They called only the prisoners who had had their case seen at a court of law. That is why we thought they would release us all. But, it wasn’t true. Finally, we had to come, porter, and meet these problems.

Q: The ones who got sick and came back to the Won Saung, had the soldiers treated them with medicine?
A: The people who came back said they [the SPDC] had sent them to hospital. We didn’t see it ourselves. The people who we saw were very thin. There were many people who came back from portering. There were over 20 people. They were also prisoners, but I don’t know from which prison. I saw them at Pa’an Won Saung 1.

Q: Did they give you slippers, blankets, tarpaulin and clothes when you went to porter?
A: When we were staying at Lashio Prison, they gave them to us. After the night when we arrived at Pa’an Won Saung, they[the camp guards] confiscated it. The people from the Won Saung, the jailers, took it. They told us they would give it back when the soldiers came to call us, but when the soldiers came, they didn’t give it back to us. The soldiers and the Major who came to call us were angry. They asked, "If you don’t give anything to them, how are they going to walk and sleep?" But they didn’t give it back.

Q: What happened after you arrived at the Won Saung?
A: I stayed at Pa’an in the Won Saung for two days. I think it was on the 28th [May 2000] that they took me out of there.

Q: Who took you out?
A: The Army unit. They were #706 [Light Infantry Battalion], Company #4. I don’t know the name of the commander. They took people from our group and separated them and gave them to each of the units. They gave 50 prisoners to each unit.

Q: Where did you go after Pa’an?
A: They took us by truck to Kya In Seik Gyi. We slept there for one night. After we slept there, we had to carry as porters and come here [to an area near the Burma-Thai border].

Q: What did you have to carry?
A: I had to carry bombs. There were 10 big bombs in the basket. Each one was over 2 viss [3.266 kgs / 7.2 lbs]. It was about 25 viss [40.83 kgs / 90 lbs]. I couldn’t stand up, they had to lift it for us.

Q: Did the soldiers hold it for you when you sat down?
A: They had to hold it for us. I couldn’t sit.

Q: How many days did you have to carry for?
A: I had to carry for three days. We had to carry the whole day. We left early in the morning and carried the whole day.

Q: Did any battles occur on the path?
A: No.

Q: How did they feed you?
A: When they fed us on the path, we could eat as they ate. They fed us fishpaste. When we arrived at the Army camp, they fed us a little rice. Only a handful. They fed us 8 milk tins of rice for 13 convicts. It wasn’t enough. There was no curry. On some days they fed us fishpaste and beans.

Q: Who cooked the rice?
A: When we came, we had to fetch water, but we didn’t need to cook rice. They asked the people whom they could trust to do it. After they cooked it they came to feed us the standard [the standard prisoner amount].

Q: How was that different from how the soldiers ate?
A: The soldiers ate well. They got beans, fishpaste and other things. When they had money they could buy things to eat. As for us, we had nothing to eat.

Q: What did they do for you when you were ill?
A: They didn’t do anything for us. They didn’t give us medicine. The convicts who were sick and couldn’t do anything had to die. They were left and died.

Q: Was your back bruised?
A: Yes, two places on my back and one place on my shoulder.

Q: When you were tired and the load was heavy, did they lighten it?
A: They didn’t lighten it. We had to carry it like that. They allowed us to rest when we got ahead and the others were left behind [they were allowed to rest for as long as it took for the others in the group to catch up]. It was about five minutes.

Q: Did they beat the people who couldn’t carry?
A: The people who couldn’t carry, they beat and threw them. When we couldn’t walk they forced us to walk. Both of my feet were hurt and I couldn’t go, but they told us, "Go, go, go as you can. If you can’t go, we are going to beat you." When we saw them beat people, we didn’t want them to beat us, so even if we had serious pains in our feet we walked with a stick and followed them slowly. When the people couldn’t carry anymore, they pulled and called them. When they couldn’t pull them, they left them. The people who could walk came slowly. When we came over the mountain and arrived on the bullock cart track, they put people who couldn’t walk anymore on a bullock cart and sent them to the camp. If we made it over the mountain, they didn’t leave people. Only when we hadn’t reached the mountain and we had just made it to the foot of the mountain, we saw that they left one person. At the time when we were coming one of our friends from Lashio died on the path.

Q: What happened to him?
A: He had never walked like that and he had never worked like that. He had a lot of money and was rich. He had never worked. When we came, he carried from Kya In Seik Gyi. It was not far but his muscle cramped and he was carrying a very heavy weight. His muscle cramped and he couldn’t come. When he couldn’t carry, they [the soldiers] took him on a bullock cart, but the bullock cart couldn’t go, so they ordered him to walk again. When he couldn’t walk anymore, they beat him and he fell down.

Q: What did they beat him with?
A: They beat him with the butt of the gun and kicked him. They beat him on the head and back. They did nothing for him. He died when they beat him. They hit him with a gun and he died. When we passed him he hadn’t died yet, but some time after we passed him he died [see also Interview #3, Interview #7 and Interview #1].

Q: How did you know he was dead?
A: They told us. The porter’s friend and the soldiers told us. The soldiers said it themselves. They told us, "If you can’t carry like that one, we will beat you to death as we did to that one." They told us like that. "Go ahead and reach the destination. Really, if you can’t carry, you must follow as you can. You can’t live without following." His name was Yun Chin Chan. He was Chinese. He was our friend. I knew him when he stayed in prison. He was from Lashio, Section 5.

Q: Did you stay in the same section with him?
A: No, not in the same section. Before we were sent to prison, we were friendly with each other. I had been to his house one or two times, but I don’t know his mother or father. I was put in prison before him. I talked to him in Chinese. The soldiers didn’t say anything when I spoke in Chinese.

Q: What was his offence?
A: His was also a drug offence. He was also arrested when he was driving a Trology. Many people have suffered like that. He was driving a Trology from his house. He was single and about 23 years old.

Q: How many people did you see suffer this with your own eyes when you came?
A: I saw one of my friends and one old man. That old man couldn’t walk. Three or four people carried him to the camp because that place [where he stopped] was close to the mountain camp. They took him to the Army camp and then he became foolish. He was a prisoner but we don’t know from where. He was about 50 years old. He was sentenced to three years and it would have been finished in only two months. I don’t know what his offence was.

Q: Who was in control of the convict porters?
A: Saya Saw Khin. He treated us as prisoners. They forced us to do as they wanted.

Q: Did you pass any villages or rest in any villages on the way?
A: We slept halfway on the path one night. Then we came back to sleep in a village. We slept in a village near the end of Kyaikdon village. I don’t know the name of the village. There were many betelnut and coconut trees there.

Q: How did they let you sleep?
A: There were 12 convicts in our group. The kept us all in the middle and they slept beside us. They didn’t tie our hands.

Q: Where did you arrive after three days?
A: I arrived at Azin [Saw Hta], to the Byu Ha Gone [the Strategic Operations Command headquarters]. There were 50 soldiers at the Byu Ha Gone. We had to stay there for 10 days. There were 18 of us [prisoners] in all. They were from Insein, Rangoon and also from Lashio. Mostly they were from Lashio. There were also people from Moulmein.

Q: How many of the prisoners were from LIB #706?
A: We were the 18 prisoners who had painful legs. I don’t remember how many went to the frontline [these 18 prisoners had been left behind to work in the camp while the others had been taken on operations to the frontline].

Q: What did you have to do at Azin?
A: We had to fence the camp and do the cleaning. They fenced it in four rings. If we looked into the camp, the first ring is separated from the next by one arm span, the second from the third also by one arm span, but the third and fourth are closer together. They didn’t plant landmines between the rings, but in the second circle they planted sharp bamboo.

Q: Did you have to cut down trees?
A: Yes, for trees to fence the camp.

Q: Did the villagers go to work in the Army camp?
A: Yes, three people came every day. They worked together with us. Our group couldn’t slice the bamboo thread.

Q: How did they treat the prisoners differently from the soldiers?
A: They forced the prisoners a lot. They didn’t do it themselves. If it was heavy, they forced us to do it. We couldn’t live without doing it. They said, "You are imprisoned. Why can’t you do it? The nation feeds you rice freely." Some people complained to them, "You are not feeding us enough rice but you are forcing us to work a lot."

Q: Did they treat you honestly or rudely?
A: They treated us honestly. I didn’t suffer.

Q: How many buildings were in the Byu Ha Gone?
A: Many buildings. They slept two or three to a hut.

Q: Have you been to the Azin monastery?
A: Just to the Christian church. They kept us in the Christian church. When we went to fetch water they told us it was Sunday. We could talk with them [the villagers]. When the villagers went to work, we asked them the way [to flee]. We asked them what the Karen soldiers would do to us if we met them. The villagers said, "They won’t do anything. They will take you safely to where you want to go and the place where you want to work." We asked them the situation and then we fled.

Q: What happened to you after 10 days?
A: When we arrived at the Byu Ha Gone, they didn’t feed us well. We only got a little rice. We had to work very early in the morning until 12 o’clock when they fed us rice. They fed us rice again in the evening after dark. We had to work there every day. We had to carry bamboo and wood and then we had to make fences. We had to eat beans and not enough rice. So, I couldn’t suffer it anymore and I fled from them. I fled with my friend, "Myint Thein" [see Interview #6]. It was only the two of us.

Q: Did the other prisoners also flee?
A: I heard of only one who fled, but I forgot his name.

Q: Did you flee in the day or night time?
A: One o’clock in the morning. It was on June 12th 2000.

Q: How did you leave the camp in the night?
A: Like this, we passed over the fence and left. We could step on it so we went over it. There was no sound because it was a new fence and we had just made it [an old fence would have creaked and made noise as they crawled over it]. They had taken out the old one. We had fenced it ourselves, so we knew about it.

Q: Didn’t the soldiers wake up?
A: They didn’t wake up. They were staying in another place nearby. On that day the soldiers were afraid. They had heard that 15 Karen soldiers had come near the village and would come to attack them, so they were afraid and hid. We also fled that night.

Q: What did you bring when you fled?
A: We didn’t bring anything.

Q: How many days did you run for?
A: We fled for just one day. We ran to avoid the camp and entered a village. We sat until morning and then we crossed the hill fields. When the people in the hill fields saw us, they gave us clothes and showed us the way. We asked, "Where is the road to xxxx [village]?" They told us, "You can’t go to xxxx. There are many Burmese soldiers. You will meet them again. Go first to yyyy village." [Some details of their escape are omitted here to protect the people who helped them.] When we arrived in the flat fields we met with the people here. There were three of them. I forgot the name of the Saya [term of respect for male teachers or men in positions of authority]. They were from Uncle’s group. They were Karen soldiers. They carried guns and wore uniforms. There were many Burmese soldiers moving so they sent us back to here.

Q: How did the Karen soldiers treat you?
A: They treated us well. They didn’t beat us. They didn’t tie us with ropes.

Q: How many days did it take for you to arrive here?
A: It was very long. We fled on June 22nd. We knew the date because the people from xxxx village told us.

Q: What do you think you will do?
A: If the people [KNU] send us, we will go back home. I don’t think that I will work here, I just think that I will go back home. I want to go back to Lashio.

Q: Do you have any contact with home?
A: I don’t have any. If I can make contact, I want to go home.

Q: What kind of work can you do?
A: I can’t do anything. I just followed my elder brother and drove the horse cart and did the hill field and plantation. Between when I was 15 years old and now I dug stones when the work was available. After that I came back to my brother and drove the horse cart, carried rice and sold it. We carried rice on the horse cart and sold it in the rural villages.

 

#5.

NAME:         "Naung Soe"          SEX: M          AGE: 21          Burman Buddhist Rural Worker
FAMILY:       Married, one child 9 months old
ADDRESS:     xxxx village, Meiktila township, Mandalay Division          INTERVIEWED: 6/00

[He was a prisoner in Meiktila Prison and escaped from portering in Pa’an District.]

Q: Why did you have to go to prison?
A: I beat my father-in-law so I had to go to prison. My father-in-law does not agree with my relationship with his daughter and he was drunk and got angry in a teashop. I picked up a piece of a stool and immediately beat him without thinking and broke his arm.

Q: Did the police come to arrest you then?
A: That place was very close to the police station so I could not bribe them with money. For us, as the other man said [seeInterview #2 with "Than Htun"], if we have nothing to eat so we work until dark, they arrest us. If you can give money, they release you, but if you can’t give money they accuse you of Maung Yake Koe Muh [‘hiding in the dark’]. They put us in prison for a month or two. Some people who do not have food just steal things to get food. I think if the situation keeps going like this other people will have problems like this also.

Q: What did you have to do when you were in Meiktila Prison?
A: We had to plant vegetables or fruit to feed the prisoners in the prison and outside. The produce was fed to the prisoners. For the morning meal we had bean curry and in the afternoon they fed us rice curry soup [a type of rice porridge using whatever is at hand]. They did not cook it with oil because there were a lot of people, so they just cut the vegetables and cooked it for us. They gave us all the same amount of rice, but for some people it was not enough. Some people could get enough if they gave money, but you can’t get enough unless you give money.

Q: Were you able to sleep in the prison?
A: Yes. If you have money, you can have a different place to sleep, but for prisoners who do not have money, they have to sleep in the corners, uncomfortably. The prisoners who had money could go up to sleep in beds [on the wooden platforms]. The main thing is money, so the people who have money keep us where they want us to be.

Q: Were you beaten by the police or the guards in prison?
A: Yes, they beat us. They would beat you whether your family came to see you or not. If your family did not come to see you in prison, they thought you were aimless and useless so they beat you for that. If people from our house came to see us, they accused us because our families didn’t give them [the guards] money for cigarettes or for the security guards [the prisoner trustees], so they beat you again for that.

Q: Did you have to give them the money?
A: Yes, we had to give them money according to their position in the prison. If you did not give, you would not have an easy life in the prison and they would beat you horribly. The families had to give, but for me, my family has nothing so what could they give? If we did not give things we were beaten, but our families don’t know about it. The guards only tell what they want to tell.

Q: What did they do to you?
A: First, they ordered us to scrub the wooden floor with a coconut shell until it is like a mirror and you can see yourself. We can’t kneel down and rub like that for a long time, so they ask us how much we could pay the jailer, how much for the prison so we can stay more comfortably. Now we don’t have so much work like that, instead they ordered us to peel cloves of garlic. We have to peel them with our fingers and some people’s nails rotted and fell out.

Q: Did they give you money for your work in the prison?
A: We did not get money, but they did, 8 Kyat for one viss of garlic [the prison authorities sold it or contracted the work from merchants outside]. They did not give money, but instead beat us more. Each day we had to peel 800 or 1,000 viss[1306.4 kgs / 2,880 lbs or 1,633 kgs / 3,600 lbs] of garlic, so it is a lot for the prisoners. The prisoners who can give money don’t have to do it. The prisoners who can’t give money have to do 3 or 4 viss [4.899 kgs / 10.8 lbs or 6.532 kgs / 14.4 lbs] each every day and some times they have to do it at night. If you can’t finish, they rush over to beat you, so we are tortured in the prison like that also.

Q: When you started, did you come by truck?
A: When we left the prison, we came by truck, and when we arrived at the Won Saung army camp, we rested for two nights. Then the Army called us for portering and since then we had to carry always until we reached the camp where they were going to stay.

Q: What was the date that you were taken out of Meiktila Prison?
A: I can’t remember the date they took us from Meiktila Prison. It was in May.

Q: How many prisoners did they take?
A: They took out about 400 prisoners, but not all of them were from Meiktila Prison. Some were from Yamethin, Myingyan, Mandalay and Meiktila. They gathered us together from those prisons and took us. They sent us to the Won Saung Army camp. All of us were sent there. There were over 400 people at that time. They then divided those people among each company from the battalions, 25 people for each company.

Q: Do you know the number of the battalion you were with?
A: The number was Brigade #22 [Light Infantry Division #22], Battalion #81 [Infantry Battalion]. I don’t know the name of the commander, they just called him ‘Bo Gyi, Bo Gyi’. There are two or three Bo Gyi’s [Captains, though also used to refer to senior officers] in that unit.

Q: How heavy was the load you had to carry?
A: The weight was over 40 or 50 viss [65.32 kgs / 144 lbs or 81.65 kgs / 180 lbs].

Q: Could you carry that?
A: How could we carry that?! They also put their boots and bags in our baskets to carry for them. We could do nothing even though we could not carry it, because they beat us and told us that even if we died it didn’t matter to them.

Q: What did you have to carry?
A: We had to carry rice, oil and all their rations, but they carried nothing themselves except their guns. At first I had to carry their weapons and rations. It was two big boxes of bullets and they said it was 20 viss [32.66 kgs / 72 lbs], but I don’t think so. Even if the load was 20 or 30 viss we had to carry all of it and if we asked them to lighten it for us, they didn’t do it. They said they couldn’t do it and that we could only get the butt of a gun, so they started to beat us with the butts of their guns.

Q: Did you get beaten?
A: Yes, I always got beaten. I think they hit me more than 25 times on the back of my neck and my hip, because if you can’t walk, they beat you with the butt of the gun.

Q: Did they kick you also?
A: Yes, they kicked my thighs and they became hard and straight [cramped] so I couldn’t walk.

Q: Can you tell me the reason you have come here?
A: In the beginning they sent us to the Won Saung camp, and when they started to take us from the Won Saung camp to the frontline Army camp, they ordered us to carry their rations without damaging them. They also asked us to carry shoes, rice and weapons, and if we could not carry them, they beat and tortured us. We had to carry in the night and in the rain, they never let us take a rest. After travelling for a whole day they only let us take a rest for an hour or an hour and a half. We had to walk up and down the mountains and we had never climbed or walked like that before. They had good food for themselves and they took villagers from every village we entered. They killed pigs and chickens in the villages also. They ordered us to cook and they had good curries for their meals, but for us, they fed us only rice and it was not enough. We had to remain like that. After I arrived there, I couldn’t walk or move and my legs were cracked and my shoulders had wounds also. I told them I could not go anymore and they beat me with the butt of a gun on the back and kicked me with their boots. We feared them and we could not speak against them, so we just kept quiet because we thought that when we arrived there they would release us. Some porters died along the way.

Q: Do you know the names of the people who died?
A: I don’t know their names. Some porters and some soldiers died on the way and a lot of people were injured. We thought they would release us when we arrived there so we kept ourselves strong and followed them. On the way they drank water, but they didn’t give us any to drink. They had small water holders [canteens] with them and used them to drink and eat with, but for us, even when we saw water there was no chance to drink it. When we came to this Army camp, they ordered us to steal people’s paddy from the fields and put it in some big bags. They told us to take the paddy and pound it for them. The rice we got from the pounding we had to cook for them to eat, but they only fed us boiled rice [a rice gruel]. Day by day the process was that we worked and they didn’t feed us enough. When we thought about escape, they threatened us like, "Don’t run forward because on the other side [of the river], in Thailand, are the Nga Pway [‘ringworms’, slang for KNLA] and they will kill you by slitting your throats with a very sharp, small piece of bamboo." We were afraid of that so we stayed another two or three days. Later, when we compared staying there until we died from being tortured like this to being killed like that, we started to run. When we arrived here and compared the Nga Pway [the KNLA] to them [the Burmese soldiers], they are better than them [the Burmese soldiers] and there were a lot of people who have sympathy for us here. If the Nga Pwayhad been like them, we would have died anyway, so I want to say that if they [the Burmese soldiers] still have orders to oppress people like this, a lot of other civilians will also face problems. This is everything I know and want to tell.

Q: After you were taken to the Won Saung, did you have to start portering immediately?
A: Yes. We slept 4 or 5 nights on the way there [to the Army camp] by sleeping in a monastery and some houses. If the soldiers went in to sleep in a house, the owners had to move out to make space for them to sleep. They slept comfortably, but the porters had to sit down and sleep. After that we slept two nights in that Army camp [Pu Lu Dtu camp]. We thought nothing would change wherever we went and we would die, so we tried to run and escape from them.

Q: Did they have medics with them?
A: Yes, they had medics with them and there were also three soldiers with one star each [2nd Lieutenant] and some soldiers with two stars [Lieutenant] also.

Q: Did they have medicines with them?
A: They provided medicines for themselves, but not for us. When we went to ask for it when we got hurt or had injuries, they didn’t give it to us. In the night time they smeared themselves with medicine [a balm] and when we went to ask for some, they shouted at us, "This is not for you. Die if you need to die, that is fine as long as my soldiers don’t die." They just used those medicines for themselves and never gave any to us.

Q: Did they like you to ask for it?
A: We asked but they didn’t give it to us. If we asked them they shouted at us and they said, "What do you want? This is not for you. This is for our soldiers and rationed." They just said that and didn’t give us any. They thought if we would die, then just die, it was only good if their own soldiers didn’t die. We asked one or two times and they didn’t give it to us, so we didn’t dare to ask again because we were afraid that they would beat us again. Both of my legs were swollen and hurt but I had to endure it.

Q: Could you get some medicine if you gave them money?
A: I tried to buy it from them. I said, "If you can’t give it to us for free, could you give me those pills for 50 Kyat." That man said, "Don’t you mention 50 Kyat, even if you paid 100 Kyat I wouldn’t give them to you. I wouldn’t even give you them for 1,000 Kyat, because they are not for you, it is for us." There were no medicines in the villages either. The villagers smeared our wounds with traditional medicines, and when we arrived at a monastery, the monk gave us 2 bottles of liquid medicine to smear. I felt better after that and we thought we would be better when we arrived at the camp, but we started to leave in the early morning and all my wounds were reopened. I could not walk and travel so I had to smear the medicine on to keep me going.

Q: Where did the Burmese stay when you were at the monastery?
A: They stayed in the monastery also and slept together with us. We only had a good place to sleep that night. On the other nights they slept in tents, but we had to stay in the rain and when we arrived at the camp we had to sit down and cross our arms because of the rain. The water came up under us and spread out on the ground, and above us the drops of rain always fell down and all of our clothes got wet. They did not let us change our clothes or start a fire to warm ourselves.

Q: Did they guard you when you were sleeping?
A: Yes, they kept two soldiers as security guards and made a fire for them under a big tree. We had to stay in a very old hut and there were a lot of mosquitoes and insects biting us, so we couldn’t sleep. When we wanted to sleep and could sleep, they wanted us to carry water and do other things for them instead.

Q: What did they feed you?
A: They boiled rice and gave us a small tin of boiled rice to drink. How could that be enough for us? The way they forced us to work and eat was not equal. The people who were fat, like this guy [indicating "Than Htun" of Interview #2], before he had a big body, but now he has become thin very quickly. If we had continued to stay there, the only way was to die, so we thought if maybe we met with some villagers or other people after we started running they would help us, so we started to run. The people here [the villagers] are not the same as we thought, they are quite good at taking care of us and feeding us, but if we had continued staying with them [the Burmese] we would already be dead now.

Q: How many villages did you pass through on the way there?
A: On the way we passed through 4 or 5 villages, but I was very exhausted then, so I can’t recall them all. They were all Karen villages. I only know Ngan Kyeh Gone village. It is very far from here, between here and Myawaddy.

Q: Did they steal and loot things from the villages?
A: Yes, they took rice, chicken and pigs and even captured men and women. They couldn’t live without following the soldiers. The soldiers ordered them to carry things for them.

Q: How many women did they capture?
A: They captured 7 or 10 women that time, but I was not with them, so I don’t know exactly. They had to carry loads in big sacks and some people had to carry them with their sarongs on their heads [they hung the sarong from their head and used it as a sling on their backs]. Some of the men had to carry, like your age, my age, and some were old men. They couldn’t stay[in their villages] without going, they forced and pulled you. They swore at those people like, "Nga Loe Ma Tha!" [I fucked your mother] and said, "If they do not go then beat and kill them." Their commander spoke like that.

Q: Do you think they raped any of the women porters?
A: I don’t know about that because they were with another company. I heard that one of the officers gave an order not to touch the women in any way. They released the women when we arrived at the monastery.

Q: Did they kill anyone on the way?
A: They didn’t kill anyone, but some porters were very weak and became unconscious because they walked all day and they sweated a lot [they became dehydrated]. I heard that two porters died along the way. I don’t know their names because they weren’t Burman [they were convict porters of another ethnic group or Karen villagers].

Q: Was there any fighting while you were portering?
A: There was no fighting, but some people stepped on landmines and some of them died. Some were soldiers, but some were civilians. They said six soldiers died, so I think six porters died also. They said 12 people stepped on landmines and six people had died and another six were still alive. I don’t know how many people died because we didn’t see it, we just saw them carry back some people afterward.

Q: Do you know the name of the Karen village they ordered you to steal rice from?
A: I don’t know the name of the village, but that paddy, which the villagers had hidden, was kept on the top of the mountain. They had gathered their paddy in the same place. We had to go and steal those things and we can call it stealing from them because the owners did not see us when we took it. The owners weren’t there. They had already run to escape. We divided up the huts, put the paddy into sacks and carried it back to the Army camp. We then dug a hole in the ground and cut a log and stood up to pound the paddy. Afterwards we had to sift it on plates and cook it for the soldiers.

Q: Are the other porters here [indicating the others who fled with him] from your group?
A: Yes, I am from the same group as these others, but one of us here was not with us, he is from a different group.

Q: Can you tell me the names of the three people who came with you?
A: That man I call "Than Htun" and the other one is "Tin Hla". "Tin Hla" is 24 years old and the last person is 19 years old. His name is "Myo Lwin" [also called "Khin Maung Toe"] and he is an Indian.

Q: Do you think you will go back? What will you do?
A: I decided that if I go back, I will stay with my younger brother and sister, my wife and my child and work as a rural worker. I will wait and watch the situation before I go back, because right now we don’t know how to go back.

Q: Do you think they will arrest you again if they see you?
A: If they see us, of course they will capture us. If they capture me again, this time I have already decided I will fight them. If the police arrest me, I will beat the police and if the Ya Wa Ta [the old term for Village LORC, now called Village Peace and Development Council] wants to arrest me, I will beat them also. Even if they carry guns, I have decided not to just allow them to arrest and abuse me like that, I would rather die right away. I decided that if my village will become better and I have to die for that, I am happy to do that, because the police or the Ya Wa Ta arrest people with invalid reasons and I have decided to do something against it.

Q: What is the Ya Wa Ta?
A: They are elected by 10 houses as their leader and they are the village heads. They have very high powers in the village. They cooperate with the SPDC Army, but they are not soldiers, they are civilians and mostly village headmen. Their names always change. Ko aaaa was the head when I was arrested. He lives in my village and is a Burman and a Buddhist. There are no Karen people in my village, they are all Burman.

Q: Was it easy to earn a living in your village?
A: We get money each day with each job. Some people have more property, but for the people who have nothing, they have to find food each day to eat or work and cook themselves. Some people don’t have enough food.

Q: Where is your wife now?
A: My wife lives in yyyy. She lives with her father. I will have to give him an explanation, but anyway, there are a lot of women in the world.

Q: How did you earn a living in your village?
A: I climbed toddy palms to get the juice. [The juice from the toddy palm fruit is mildly alcoholic.] For climbing the toddy palms I got 150 or 200 Kyat a day, but the owners of the toddy can make 400 or 500 Kyat as profit. Because we hire ourselves we only get 150 or 200 Kyat and it is just enough to eat for one day, but no way to get rich or better our family’s situation.

Q: What do your brother and sister do?
A: My younger sister works as a field worker digging the ground with her mattock when other people who have fields asked her to work. My younger brother is breeding and taking care of cows and goats for other people. My younger bother is 16 years old and my younger sister is only 13 years old. My father and mother are already dead.

Q: Do they have time to go to school?
A: When my mother and father were alive they could go to school, but my father died and only our mother was left. My younger sister was called by someone to their house [to take care of her], but then we tried to stay together again. After my mother died, they didn’t want to go to school, but I would like them to continue going to school. My sister doesn’t want to go. She has only completed three standards and my brother has finished four standards. I have never gone to school. I am the eldest so I tried to find work to feed them and pay for them to go to school. My mother asked me to go to school, but I didn’t want to. I only stayed in the monastery to learn.

Q: Are there many people in your village who can’t go to school?
A: Yes, we have a lot of people who can’t go to school. The people who have money can send their children to school, but for the poor families, they can’t send them because the school fees are very expensive. Each student has to give 1,000 Kyat to go to school per year. For food fees like oil and a ‘bowl’ of rice it is 200 or 300 Kyat to buy food to live, so we do not have extra money and it is not easy to send somebody to school. A lot of children can not be sent to school and over 1/3 of the children don’t go to school. Most of the people can’t send their children to school, but some people can afford it.

Q: Is there a school in your village?
A: Yes, we have a school there. It is only a middle school. To go to high school we have to pass an entrance examination in the big town of xxxx.

Q: Is there a clinic in your village?
A: We do not have a clinic in our village, but we do have a clinic in xxxx town.

Q: What is the distance between xxxx village and zzzz town?
A: They are quite close to each other, but my village is in a rural place. We have a clinic for the whole town, but we do not have a clinic for our village or for each section.

Q: What do people usually do if they get sick?
A: People go to the hospital, they say it is a private hospital. A lot of people have died there if they did not have money[to pay for the treatment], but the people who do have money can live. It is because they do not really treat them, they just go here and there and do not take care of the people until they are near to death and then they just inject some medicine. A lot of people who do not have money have died.

Q: How much is a big tin of rice in your village?
A: A bowl of rice is about 200 Kyat [a bowl of rice is 1.562 kgs / 3.445 lbs, there are 8 bowls in a big tin]. A viss[1.633 kgs / 3.6 lbs] of chicken is 500 Kyat, a viss of pork is 500 Kyat and a viss of beef is over 400 Kyat.

Q: Will you go back or stay in a refugee camp?
A: I would like to go back and I’d dare to go back to my own village.

Q: What do think of the SPDC?
A: I can say I don’t like them, because according to our situation they should be people we can rely on. But really they oppress and abuse the civilians who do not have many ways to improve their standard of living. If they keep doing this, I don’t think it will benefit our situation, so if they would change some things, I think it would be better. I say this because some people have property and some don’t, and also some people have food and some don’t. We don’t need to divide the muscles on our backs and chests [we don’t need to divide our strength], we just have to help each other and be sympathetic to each other. If we deal with this problem and solve this problem, I believe that all our Buddhist people will be fine. But if we keep going like this, I don’t think that it will be easy, and there will be a lot of fighting and arguments.

 

#6.

NAME:         "Myint Thein"             SEX: M          AGE: 20         Shan Buddhist Mechanic
FAMILY:       Single
ADDRESS:     xxxx town, Shan State                                        INTERVIEWED: 7/00

[He was a prisoner in Lashio Prison in Shan State, and escaped from portering in Dooplaya District.]

Q: What did you do when you were a child?
A: I did nothing, I just went to school and back. I studied in xxxx town.

Q: What did you do after you were 15 years old?
A: When I was 15 years old, I worked in the flat fields. I did that for two years and then I fixed motorcycles. That was what I did until I was arrested.

Q: Are your parents still alive?
A: Yes, they work on a hill field. I also have two brothers. One is about 29 or 30 years old and the other is 28 years old. One of them works in the flat fields and the other fixes motorcycles.

Q: Why did you come here?
A: I arrived here because I had to porter. I was imprisoned and then from the prison they sent me to porter.

Q: Why were you imprisoned?
A: Because of a drug offence. It was Article 16, possession of drugs, and Article 15, using drugs.

Q: Did they really find drugs in your possession?
A: They didn’t find drugs in my possession, they found an empty bottle in my possession. It was an empty bottle of drugs, heroin. I didn’t do it. My brother and I went to buy motorcycle parts in Mu Seh. It was on March 8th 2000. When we arrived, my brother went into a room to smoke heroin. The empty bottle was in my bag after that, but I didn’t know it. The police came to arrest me and found the empty bottle.

Q: Did your brother smoke the heroin?
A: Yes, he smoked it. He is a No. 4 man [referring the type of heroin, No. 4]. He did it with a pipe. I had known he did it for about five years. He knows I don’t smoke and that is why he said to me, "You wait outside. I am going to smoke in the room." I waited for him outside and then the police came and arrested me.

Q: Do you also smoke heroin?
A: I don’t because heroin is not good.

Q: If you didn’t smoke it, then how did the empty bottle get in your bag?
A: I also don’t know about that. I didn’t know the empty bottle was in my bag. When the police looked in the bag, at the same time they showed me the bottle.

Q: Did it happen in the market?
A: Yes, on the road. Nothing happened to my brother because he had gone into the room to smoke. I was alone when the police checked me. My brother was still smoking and ran before they could catch him.

Q: Did they beat you when they arrested you?
A: Yes, because I denied that I had smoked the drug. I had to stay so long in the jail and I didn’t want to stay anymore so I admitted it. My parents didn’t know I was in jail and I knew if I admitted it, I would arrive in the prison quickly. If I went to prison quickly, people said we would have to go to porter. That is why I admitted it. After I admitted it, they sentenced me in Mu Seh town court. I was in Mu Seh jail for two months.

Q: How many years did they sentence you to prison?
A: From the Mu Seh jail I was sent to Lashio Prison. They put me in prison for five years. I was imprisoned on May 19th2000. They sent 22 of us. There were many cases like drugs, murder, robbery, lying, theft and others.

Q: Did this include women?
A: Yes. Most of the women were drug offenders, trading drugs. I don’t know how many. There were no women in my room. The building for the women is separated from the men’s.

Q: How long did you stay in Lashio Prison?
A: I stayed there for only four days.

Q: How many prisoners were in Lashio Prison?
A: There were four buildings. There are rooms in buildings 1 and 2. There were over 8,000 prisoners  [there are actually between 1,800 and 2,400 prisoners, according to other testimonies].

Q: Did the ICRC come to check the prison?
A: I don’t know.

Q: What did you have to do in prison?
A: I did nothing. I got up in the morning and wiped the floor. After that, I sat and relaxed outside. In the afternoon, after we had finished eating, I had to wipe the floor again, then I relaxed and took a bath. After bathing, we relaxed. Then we had to queue up and eat rice. After dinner was finished at 5 p.m., we had to enter the building.

Q: How many hours did they give for exercise?
A: We could exercise for as long as we wanted. We could play only caneball, there was nothing else inside.

Q: Was there a work time?
A: In the morning from 8 a.m. to half past 10 a.m. After resting, we started to work again from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. We had to do agriculture. We planted cabbage and radishes. There is other work like blacksmithing and masonry. The blacksmiths had to make shackles for people’s feet and the masons had to make buildings.

Q: How did they feed you?
A: They fed us the prison standard. They fed us the vegetables we had planted.

Q: Did they allow you to read books?
A: No, they didn’t. We could send letters. We could contact our friends and parents outside.

Q: Did they shackle your feet?
A: They did.

Q: After you were in Lashio Prison, where did they send you?
A: From Lashio Prison they sent us to porter. They sent us on May 24th 2000. They sent us to this side, to the Pa’an Won Saung. There were 150 prisoners in our group. They lined us up and counted us. They said the sentence would be reduced by 1/3, but I was confused about this.

Q: Were there Army deserters in your group?
A: Yes, there were deserters.

Q: Where did you go from Lashio?
A: From Lashio, we slept one night in Mandalay. After Mandalay, we slept one night in Toungoo. We came in four trucks. They carried 50 people in each truck. One car was for the police.

Q: After Toungoo, where did you go?
A: To Pa’an Won Saung 1, it is a prison [actually a holding centre for prisoners before they are sent to porter]. Fifty people got off at Thaton. At Pa’an they handed us over to the soldiers and we had to porter. They shackled our feet for four days at the Won Saung. The weight of the shackles was over 1 viss [1.633 kgs / 3.6 lbs]. They didn’t unlock them when we slept, they just left us like that.

Q: Which unit did they hand you over to?
A: It was Battalion #706 [LIB], Heavy Weapons Company #2. They handed over more than 100 of us. I don’t know the name of the commander, but the one who took responsibility for us was Saya Saw Khin. He was a corporal and an Arakanese.

Q: Did you see other prisoners in Pa’an arrive like you?
A: We stayed there for two nights, but I didn’t see any more prisoners arrive. There were prisoners there before we arrived. There were about 300 in all [the other porters say there were 500 prisoners].

Q: Where did the soldiers order you to go?
A: We went to Kya In Seik Gyi. We slept there one night and then we had to carry.

Q: What did you have to carry?
A: We had to carry big weapons. The shells looked like a banana bud but longer [60mm mortar rounds]. There were 12 rounds and each one weighed about 50 kyat tha [816 grams / 1.8 lbs]. My load was over 30 viss [48.99 kgs / 108 lbs]. It was not easy to stand up. Since I began carrying it was not easy to stand up. I could sit down myself - other people didn’t have to hold me, I just made myself fall down. But when we stood up, they had to lift the load for us. We also had to carry about 5 bowls of rice [7.815 kgs / 17.225 lbs]. They said it was our own rations. They gave 5 bowls to each of us [to carry].

Q: When you went to porter did they give you slippers, tarpaulin, clothes and blankets?
A: They gave them to us at Lashio, but they confiscated it when we arrived at the Won Saung.

Q: What time did you leave in the morning?
A: At 7 or 8 a.m.

Q: What time did you rest in the evening?
A: We took a rest at night. We slept wherever we had arrived that night.

Q: How long did the trip take?
A: Three days.

Q: Did any battles occur?
A: No battles occurred.

Q: Did the soldiers feed you well?
A: They fed us well, but we couldn’t eat. We were so tired that we couldn’t even eat anything during the three days. They put the rice on a scale and gave us one or two spoonfuls of rice [big spoons used for serving rice] and beans and to those who like it, they gave fishpaste. We got 1/3 of a milk tin of rice. It was not enough for us and we didn’t have much energy. They ate separately from us. The soldiers ate better than us. I don’t know why. They would fry dried shrimp and dried fish from their camp. As for us, we had to eat beans and fishpaste.

Q: Did you sleep well?
A: We couldn’t sleep well. When we were on the path, we slept in the rain. We didn’t have a tarpaulin, we just slept like that.

Q: Did they help you when you were sick?
A: They did nothing for us when we were sick. They didn’t give medicine. When we couldn’t carry anymore, they left us.

Q: Could you rest in the villages when you were portering?
A: We took a rest one time in a village, but I don’t know its name. The soldiers didn’t do anything to the villagers, they just rested in the village and cooked. Some soldiers demanded chickens and ducks and some stole them. They cooked them and ate the jackfruit.

Q: What did you have to do when you rested?
A: There was nothing to do, only fetching water. The people who had pain in their feet did nothing.

Q: How did the soldiers deal with the porters on the way?
A: At first, they dealt with us nicely. Later, when we couldn’t carry, they beat us.

Q: Were you also beaten?
A: Yes, because I was tired and couldn’t carry anymore. I fell down and they left me. When I was feeling better, they grabbed me to stand up. They picked me up and ordered me to walk again. They beat me with a gun three or four times near my shoulder. Another time they beat me on this place here and it became swollen. They beat me a little when I couldn’t stand up. They kicked my buttocks two times and then punched me on the temple. When I arrived at the mountains I couldn’t carry anymore, my feet were bruised. When I couldn’t follow, they kicked my buttocks and I just had to suffer and keep going. We slept one night and the next morning I couldn’t walk, so they ordered me to go on the bullock cart.

Q: Was it painful when they beat you?
A: We couldn’t worry about whether it was painful or not, we still had to carry. The loads were heavy and we walked slowly. They said, "Hey, you are slow. Hey Kaung [a term used with animals and not humans], walk quickly." Then they hit us, "Daung, Daung, Daung" [making the sound of being hit].

Q: Did you see them torture any porters who couldn’t carry?
A: Yes, I did. I saw two people. One fell on his back and couldn’t speak and died. One of the uncles was foolish [he had become disoriented and dizzy]. He was about 40 or 50 years old. The soldiers didn’t treat them. Before they died they were beaten more, they beat them to death.

Q: Did your back get cut when you were carrying?
A: My shoulder was ripped and my back was bruised. My feet were also bruised.

Q: Did they have a medic?
A: They had a medic, but he didn’t put any medicine on us and they didn’t give any medicine to take [as tablets].

Q: Where did you arrive after the three days?
A: At the Byu Ha Gone [the operations command base for the troops in the area] at Azin [Saw Hta] village. They had a signboard that said ‘Azin’. I know it was the Byu Ha Gone because I heard the soldiers talking. There was no signboard saying that, they just said, "Byu Ha Gone, Byu Ha Gone."

Q: Did the soldiers set you free?
A: They didn’t set us free.

Q: What did they force you to do there?
A: They forced us to fence the camp, then they forced us to carry bamboo and poles. We had to carry water and do everything for their living. Some people had to wash clothes for them. When we fenced the camp we had to divide into groups with some people fencing and some carrying poles.

Q: What time did you have to work?
A: They didn’t regulate the time. It was usually from 7 a.m. to half past 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., but sometimes they forced us until 5 p.m. and sometimes to 11 p.m..

Q: Did you see the villagers?
A: Yes. We had to work every day when we stayed at the Byu Ha Gone. The villagers from Azin village also had to come and work at loh ah pay [forced labour] every day.

Q: Did the soldiers scold you and call you names when you were working?
A: They scolded us and reviled us. They also beat us. Our legs are still painful. They were a heavy weapons unit and not a mobile unit, so we had to work at the Byu Ha Gone [the heavy weapons units have heavy mortars and machine guns and do not go out on patrols like the rifle companies]. We had to fence the camp, clean the camp and build huts for them.

Q: How many days after you arrived at the Byu Ha Gone did you escape?
A: After ten days, in the night time. I fled with "How Nan" [see Interview #4], he is Chinese [ethnically Chinese].

Q: Why did you flee?
A: I couldn’t suffer any longer because of the food and the way they treated us. They oppressed us and forced us to work under duress. We did not have enough rice and they forced us to work every day. We had to get up in the morning at 5 a.m. and work. After working for a while, we had to queue up at 7 a.m. After queuing up, we had to work again. When we ate, we only got one plate of rice to eat. It was only one mouthful, a handful, and it was not enough for us. We talked about it, many of us discussed it. There were about 5 people. We fled on Monday June 12th, 2000. We had to do sentry duty, because "Ah Paun" fled first [another porter who fled before him; see Interview #12]. I had to be the sentry from midnight to half past 1 a.m. Two people had to be sentries each time. The soldiers were also sentries, but stayed separately. I would be the sentry and the other person would sleep. At 1 a.m. I went back and called "How Nan" and then we fled. After we went over the fence, we ran into the bushes. We kept running. When we arrived at the mountain we stopped. We couldn’t go anywhere. We stayed in the jungle and in the rain. In the morning we went down from the mountain and searched for a way. When we were looking, we saw a field hut. At the field hut they gave us shirts and trousers and showed us the way. Then we ran and arrived at xxxx village. [Some details are omitted here to protect those who helped him.] We met the Karen soldiers in the flat fields.

Q: How did you know they were Karen soldiers?
A: They said so themselves. They had guns and uniforms. I was not afraid of the soldiers. We already knew they wouldn’t do anything. The villagers had told us. Before we met with the villagers we were afraid of them, because the [Burmese] soldiers told us, "If you flee and the Karen soldiers see you, they will just kill you. There is no way to run to their side. If you flee and meet the Karen soldiers, know that you will die." They spoke like that.

Q: How did the Karen soldiers treat you?
A: They called us and told us they would send us here. They dealt with us nicely. They didn’t scold or beat us. They cooked and fed us chicken curry. We ate 2 or 3 plates of curry. I was so hungry. After they fed us, they went with us to a village and asked us to stay in the village. When Saya xxxx’s soldiers arrived there, they called us back.

Q: What can you do?
A: I can fix motorcycles and work in the flat fields.

Q: Do you have any contact with home?
A: I don’t have any contact.

Q: What do you plan to do now?
A: I just have to go home.

 

#7.

NAME:         "Phone Shwe"          SEX: M       AGE: 34          Shan Da Nu, Buddhist, Farmer
FAMILY:       Married, two children ages 1 and 3 years old
ADDRESS:     xxxx village, Nawng Kyo township, Shan State               INTERVIEWED: 7/00

[He was a prisoner in Lashio Prison in Shan State. He was interviewed after escaping from portering in Dooplaya District of Karen State.]

Q: What kind of work can you do?
A: I can work and plough the flat fields. The hill fields here are not the same.

Q: What did you do as a child?
A: When I was 5 years old, I went to school, but I left school when I was in 3rd grade. I helped to take care of cows and to drive bullocks for my father. Later, when I was stronger, I helped him to saw and cut firewood, bake charcoal and plough the field until I was 15 years old.

Q: Where did you study?
A: I studied in the xxxx Monastery.

Q: What did you do then?
A: When I was 16 years old, I was still baking charcoal. I married when I was 27 years old. After I married, I stayed with my father because he was too old and I didn’t want to leave him. I made charcoal and worked in the fields. In the summer time I worked in a sawmill.

Q: Are both your parents still alive?
A: My mother is dead, but my father is still alive. He is a farmer.

Q: Do you have any brothers or sisters?
A: I have two siblings, I am the middle one. My older brother is 45 years old and my younger sister is 27 years old. My brother is a carpenter and takes any job that comes along. My sister is a farmer.

Q: What does your wife do?
A: She takes up any job that comes along.

Q: How did you come here?
A: The Burmese government took us from the prison and ordered us to porter.

Q: Why were you in prison?
A: It was a conspiracy case, Article 393. One of my cousins has a worker who accused me of doing something, but really I didn’t do it. I was working honestly and truly. My father was sleeping in the village and my wife and nephews and I had come to sleep in the jungle with a couple of bullock carts [to gather wood]. It was about a mile north of the village. We didn’t know anything while we were sleeping. In the morning, my wife went to the market and my nephews and I were sawing firewood. When we were sawing, two soldiers and a policeman came to arrest me. The policeman was from N--- and soldiers from #114 [LIB]. The policeman was B---, I know him well.

Q: Why did they arrest you?
A: They accused me of entering and making a stealthy and noiseless robbery. They came and arrested me in the morning at 9 a.m. but I didn’t know why. When they came to arrest me I asked them, but they told me to clear it up when we arrived in the village. When we neared the village I asked again. Then they asked me, "Do you know U aaaa?" I said, "I know him. He is my cousin." They said, "A worker in his house said three people entered his house and robbed it silently. We heard there are two knives in your house." It was true that I had two knives, they confiscated them, but later gave one back. I never use those knives and they were dusty. They took me to the chairman’s house and I was there all day in handcuffs. From there toyyyy police station at about 9 p.m. I slept there that night. The next night they interrogated me.

Q: Where did the robbery happen?
A: It happened in xxxx village at my cousin, U aaaa’s house. Someone did break into the house, but they didn’t take anything. They didn’t know exactly who did it, but a servant accused me of doing it.

Q: What happened after you arrived at the police station?
A: I had to stay for over three months in a cell.

Q: Did they torture you in the jail?
A: They tortured me. We had to go by the prison regulations. When they interrogated me, I had to put my hands on my neck and walk on my knees and elbows. My knees and elbows were seriously bruised afterwards and it took a month to get better. The investigating officer pulled out my hair about 30 times. My head became badly swollen. I couldn’t lay my head down and sleep for three or four days. He also hit my head with a 2" x 4" board about 30 or 40 times and my head was swollen. They order the other prisoners to torture us and we couldn’t eat for three days, we could only drink water.

Q: Did they treat you for your wounds?
A: Only the other prisoners pitied me and treated me.

Q: What did they accuse you of?
A: First, they accused me of robbery. They continued to accuse me, but I said I didn’t do it, and I also didn’t complain to anyone. I denied it strongly because I didn’t do it. I decided that my name was more important than my life and if I had to die, then I would. I didn’t do it and I said so. I denied it, but they still put me in prison for a year. Their robbery accusation was not successful, so they accused me of a weapons offence. They didn’t write the article of the law on the blackboard [in the courtroom], so I didn’t understand the charge. I was put into prison under Article 393, conspiracy. Anybody can be a conspirator.

Q: Didn’t they ask you what you had conspired to do?
A: They didn’t ask. They didn’t have any evidence against me. That small boy [the house servant] knew there was a bayonet in my house. He had also used it when travelling. The whole village had only one bayonet, and the whole village knew about it. When I had worked as a blacksmith with my uncle, U bbbb, I got that bayonet from him. He said it was an American bayonet. I don’t know where he got it from [it was probably left over from World War II]. He was very old and gave it to me when I was 18 years old. He had gotten it from someone else, but I don’t know who gave it to him or asked him to fix it. There was no scabbard for it.

Q: Which court sentenced you to prison?
A: xxxx township court, judge U xxxx, sentenced me to one year in prison at heavy labour. He was Arakanese. They arrested me on January 17th 2000 and I had to stay there [at the police station]. May 2nd is the date when I was sentenced to prison. I had to go to the prison on May 12th. On May 24th, I had to go as an Army porter.

Q: When did you arrive at Lashio Prison?
A: I arrived in the evening on May 12th.

Q: Do you know the names of any of the jailers?
A: I don’t know them because I was only there for 12 days, then they sent me to porter.

Q: Can you estimate how many prisoners were in Lashio Prison?
A: There were Buildings 1, 2, 3 and 4. There was also the building for the women. There were about 70 women in that building. There were a little over 200 prisoners in Buildings 1 to 4.

Q: What were most people imprisoned for?
A: Mostly for drug offences and prostitution.

Q: Were there any political prisoners?
A: I didn’t ask about them. I was only there for 12 days, so I don’t know much about the prison.

Q: When you were in the prison, did the ICRC come and check it?
A: No, they had already finished checking.

Q: How did they treat you in the prison?
A: If we had money, we could sleep well, but if we didn’t have money, we had to sleep in the middle of the cell. When we slept in the middle, the other prisoners’ legs were on our necks and our legs were on theirs. We were laid one next to the other. Sometimes we had to sleep on our sides, we couldn’t turn face up or turn around. They did feed us well in Lashio Prison.

Q: Did they give you medicine when you were sick?
A: Every morning, they shouted, "Say kan like, say kan like [Go to the clinic, go to the clinic]." When we were not healthy, we had to stand at 8 a.m. and when they shouted "Say kan like", we had to go to the clinic.

Q: What kind of jobs do you have to do in the prison?
A: I didn’t do anything because I just stayed there for 12 days. They gave us a break every day. There was a caneball ground and we could kick the caneball. We were allowed to read, but there were no books to read. If we could get books from outside, we were allowed to read them.

Q: Did you have contact with the outside when you were in prison?
A: We did. We could write letters to our family and friends.

Q: Didn’t you have any problems in prison?
A: I didn’t have any.

Q: Where did you go next?
A: They came to call porters for the Army on May 24th. We went from Lashio and had to sleep one night in Mandalay. Then we continued and had to sleep at Toungoo. We continued on from Toungoo and arrived at Pa’an Won Saung. They locked our feet on the way and unlocked us at Pa’an. There were 150 prisoners from Lashio. Some people were sent from other places, but I don’t know from where.

Q: What were the ages of the prisoners?
A: There were about 50 older prisoners. The youngest was about 20 years old.

Q: What were most of the prisoners’ offences?
A: They were mostly drug cases.

Q: Were there any Army deserters among the porters?
A: There were Army deserters and also police deserters. They gave more priority to the Army deserters.

Q: Were there also political prisoners?
A: I don’t know about that.

Q: Who called you to go?
A: The Burmese government. An Army unit came and called us. I don’t know the number of the unit, but they were from Taikkyi near Rangoon. The commander was fat with white skin. We had to go with Company #2. We went to Kya In Seik Gyi.

Q: How many prisoner porters had to go to Kya In Seik Gyi?
A: There were about 100 porters. We had to sleep at Seik Gyi. In the evening when we finished eating, we slept. The next morning at half past 5 a.m., we had to carry bombs and continue going.

Q: Did everyone go with the same unit?
A: No, they separated us all.

Q: How old were the soldiers?
A: The soldiers were about 20 years old, but I also saw soldiers about 45 years old.

Q: What was the weight of the things you carried?
A: I had to carry 8 shells and other little things like mess tins. There were four mess tins with fish paste and salt inside. I don’t know what kind of shells they were. They were big and heavy [81mm mortar rounds], about 3 viss [4.899 kgs / 10.8 lbs]. It was all about 30 viss [48.99 kgs / 108 lbs]. I couldn’t stand up. They stood behind us and lifted it up for us.

Q: Did they treat you well?
A: Yes, until we arrived at Kya In Seik Gyi they treated us well. At that time my feet were bruised and our slippers were broken. We took and wore their slippers. When I first started to wear their slippers, they were loose. Later, my feet became swollen and the slippers became tight. When they forced us to carry, we had to carry and when they forced us to go, we had to go. When they forced us to go in the rain, we had to go. When they forced us to sleep somewhere in the night, we had to sleep there. When we were wet from the rain and couldn’t sleep, we just had to sit like that.

Q: What did they feed you?
A: They gave us two spoonfuls of rice [big spoons used for serving rice], half a milk tin of beans and a thumb-sized dab of fish paste. After they gave it to us they said, "Go, go, go to your huts and don’t come back again. Don’t come back to get more." We didn’t have time to ask for more and it didn’t belong to us, so we didn’t dare ask for more.

Q: Did they give you tarpaulins, shoes and clothes?
A: They gave us a tarpaulin, blanket and two sets of clothes at Lashio Prison. When we got to the Won Saung, they took our tarpaulin and our new clothes, we just got the blanket. The leader from the Won Saung confiscated it.

Q: How long did you have to carry for?
A: It was a long 12 days. We had to carry for 8 of the 12 days. We continued going and ate at 11 a.m., then we took a rest for a while, and then kept going. When it became dark, we had to sleep beside the road.

Q: Could everyone carry the things?
A: For the first one or two days they could carry, later they couldn’t. Even we young people couldn’t carry the loads. They said we were close to our destination and forced us to continue. I saw at least five porters on the path [who had fallen behind]. The porters who couldn’t carry anymore were put in Kyaikdon jail. I saw one of the porters on the path [who couldn’t carry], he was Chinese and also from Lashio Prison. When I passed him, he hadn’t died yet, but he was laying face down and trembling. I didn’t see them give any medicine. They just sat and watched. When I asked another porter group that came behind us about him, they said he was dead. They were not in the same group as us, but I asked them because he [the dying porter] was in our group [see Interview #3, Interview #4 and Interview #1].

Q: How did you know he was Chinese?
A: We came in the same group from Lashio Prison.

Q: Did they give medicine when you got sick?
A: They didn’t do anything for us. We asked for medicine when we got sick and they gave us half a tablet of medicine. They never gave us one whole tablet.

Q: What did you have to do when you stopped to rest?
A: When we arrived at each camp, they gave us all duties. Some fetched water, some cut firewood, some built huts and some dug toilets. If we saw jackfruit, we had to cut it for them. All the people had duties. The Saya Gyi’s watched us. They had three chevrons [sergeants]. We never took a rest in a village, always beside the path.

Q: How did you sleep at night?
A: We had six porters in our group and we had to sleep separately from the soldiers. They slept in huts, one or two soldiers to a hut. They had sentries when we slept.

Q: Was your back bruised when you portered?
A: It wasn’t, because I always folded my blanket and put it between the rope and the basket. But the corner of the basket did push into each side of my buttocks and I was bruised there.

Q: Did you hear they would give any money to the porters?
A: They didn’t say, but I heard that they had said it in the prison. I heard the other prisoners talking to each other and say they would give us 100 Kyat per person. When we arrived into the soldiers’ hands, I asked the soldiers and they said, "Who will give it to you?" They said they were going to reduce our sentences, but mostly we were going to die while portering.

Q: Did you see any bullock carts?
A: Yes, I saw many bullock carts. I saw them when I was carrying. They carried the soldiers’ rations. They carried rice sacks and equipment for the Army. The conditions for the bullocks were not good. They had to pull very hard.

Q: Did any battles occur?
A: No.

Q: Where did you arrive at?
A: I arrived at Kyaikdon. When I came to Kyaikdon my feet were bruised and swollen and I couldn’t walk. They were going to leave at half past three the next morning. My feet were in pain and I wouldn’t be able to go early in the morning. When we had picked up our baskets, they were heavier than before. If we couldn’t carry, we would have a problem, so we fled that night at 1 a.m.

Q: How many people fled?
A: Two people. The other one is "Myo Myint" [see Interview #1]. We fled after discussing it together. We had to cross the river [the Hanthayaw River]. We couldn’t walk across and I can’t swim, but I took a risk and swam. After that we arrived at xxxx village.

Q: How did you know it was xxxx [village]?
A: The Karen men told me. We had arrived at their huts. They were farmers at xxxx and fed us one meal of rice there. They couldn’t speak Burmese at all, we had to explain to them through actions but they helped us. In the evening, they sent us to some people’s hut who could speak Burmese. When we got there they fed us rice again. After they fed us they said to go peacefully. [Additional details of his escape are omitted to protect those who helped him.]

Q: How long ago did you flee?
A: It has been nearly one month.

Q: What do you think you will do now?
A: When I am healthy, I would like to return. I want to go back to my village, but I don’t have any contact with them.

 

#8.

NAME:         "Hla Shwe"       SEX: M     AGE: 26         Burman Buddhist Construction Worker
FAMILY:       Single
ADDRESS:     Mandalay city                                                               INTERVIEWED: 7/00

[He was in Lashio Prison and escaped while portering in Dooplaya District.]

Q: What is your education level?
A: I finished 9th Standard [grade 9] in Mandalay town.

Q: Are your parents still alive?
A: My father is still alive, but my mother is dead. My father is a gold and silversmith.

Q: How many siblings do you have?
A: We are three siblings. I am the middle one. The eldest is my sister. My younger sister is 24 years old. They are both selling goods in a shop house.

Q: What did you do when you were young?
A: Since I was 12 years old, I was growing roses and taking care of my life. In 1984 I was getting 60 Kyat per day and staying with a teacher. It was in Mandalay Industrial New Town. I stayed there and sometimes I sent money to my grandmother. I had finished school. When I was 15 years old I had passed 8th Standard. I was working in the industry business and then I went up to xxxx. I stayed there for five or six years. I went to do industry business there. I didn’t do it alone, I did it with my friends.

Q: Why were you arrested to become a porter?
A: I was not arrested to be a porter. I was imprisoned because of an offence. It was Article 363, not agreeing with the parents.

Q: Did you rape someone?
A: No, I didn’t rape anyone. I eloped with my wife. She was from xxxx town. She is Shan and over 16 years old.

Q: How did it happen?
A: Nobody knew that I was in love with that girl. Then I eloped with her. My friend went to tell her mother and stepfather to make a wedding for us, but when they knew we were there, they came to arrest us. Her parents accused me. I was not so friendly with the village secretary, so the chairman was called and they interrogated him. My weak point is a good point for him [the village secretary didn’t like him so he arranged it so he would go to prison].

Q: When were you arrested?
A: On February 25th 2000. I was arrested in yyyy and kept in a jail cell in xxxx town.

Q: Did they torture you when they arrested you?
A: Yes. They hit me hard two times and then Bo xxxx pulled me into the car and said, "You go. Clear it up when you arrive at the office. Come."

Q: How many days were you held before they sent you to court?
A: One month and 20 days.

Q: Which court did they try you in?
A: xxxx township court of law. The judge’s name was xxxx.

Q: How many years was your sentence?
A: Three years. I was sent to prison on April 20th 2000. There were 12 other people sentenced with me on that day. All of them were drug cases.

Q: Did you know the ICRC came to Lashio Prison?
A: I didn’t know that.

Q: Where did you stay at that time?
A: I was staying in the jail cell in xxxx jail. I hadn’t arrived at the prison yet. I arrived at the prison at the end of April. I was there for one month.

Q: How many prisoners are in the prison?
A: There were over 1,000 prisoners in the prison.

Q: The other prisoners said there were 7,000 or 8,000 prisoners?
A: They are telling a lie. You can estimate it. There were 320 prisoners in each room and there are only 4 buildings. There are four buildings in Lashio Prison. There are eight rooms. You can estimate it using 300 prisoners per room and there would be about 1,800 prisoners [sic; 2,400].

Q: How many prisoners were in one room?
A: In Lashio they kept 50 prisoners in one room. It was about 20 feet all around. In the big room they kept 204 prisoners and some times 220 prisoners. There was also a separate extension room and they kept 70 prisoners there. If I make an estimate for the whole room, there was more than 300 prisoners. In my building there were over 200 people. [His building had two rooms and an extension built on which served as a third room.]

Q: How many women were there?
A: I didn’t go to see them.

Q: Did they have a hospital in the prison?
A: They didn’t have a hospital, they only had a clinic.

Q: Was there a place for children?
A: No, there wasn’t.

Q: How many people did they keep in one cell?
A: They kept two people in one cell [these are the single or double cells normally reserved for political prisoners]. Some are imprisoned forever and some are politicians. I don’t know about them exactly, but there was one politician.

Q: There were political prisoners in Lashio Prison?
A: I met only one, but I don’t know his name. He was sentenced to seven years. He was about 50 years old [see interview #4; another prisoner says this man is not really a political prisoner, but was arrested for making fake National ID cards in Shan State]. He had been in prison for over a year. I saw him. When I got sick, he gave me medicine. He was able to deal with the warden.

Q: Was the warden kind?
A: He was kind. He was the big warden, but I forgot his name.

Q: Explain to me how you lived in prison.
A: When we first arrived in the prison we had to wipe the floor. It was one hundred feet around. We had to wipe it going and coming 20 times. After we finished wiping, they gave us a chance to rest outside. They forced us to wipe for three or four days. Then they chose people whom they forced to carry Main La, we had to carry it. It is the excrement pot. Some people had to carry the excrement pot 14 or 15 times. Some people only carried it two times. When we carried the excrement pots, they gave us cheroots. Some people exchanged their cheroots for curry to eat. Some people collected the cheroots and sold them. Then they found things to get to cook curry.

Q: Was there other work?
A: The other work was agriculture.

Q: Did they give you a chance to exercise and read?
A: They did. For me, when I had finished working, I sometimes played caneball. I didn’t know where to find a book.

Q: How about taking a bath?
A: They gave eight cups of water for one day, every day.

Q: Did they give enough medicine to the sick people?
A: They didn’t give enough. They broke off half a tablet of medicine and said, "You are sick. Take it."

Q: Did that medicine cure the disease?
A: No, it didn’t.

Q: Where did they send the people who had serious diseases?
A: The people in bad condition were sent to hospital. Some died. After I arrived at the prison two people died. Two people died in one month.

Q: What was the most common disease that people died from?
A: Diarrhoea. Some people who smoke opium get diarrhoea. Most of the diseases are abscess, scabies, ringworm and people who get diarrhoea from smoking opium. Those people stayed at the hospital for two or three days and then usually they died. This was because the people knew that using it was bad, but they kept doing it.

Q: Why do the people who don’t smoke get scabies?
A: The mosquitoes, lice, and many kinds of insects bite these people and they scratched and then the disease spread. They scratched and sometimes the skin was bruised. Slowly by slowly it became worse and they didn’t have medicine. Some people who had abscesses on their buttocks, cut them with a knife and put torn pieces of cloth inside and then took the pieces of cloth out. They then put another torn piece of cloth in and then took it out. Then they closed it with a plaster and treated it.

Q: Who treated them?
A: The people from the medical room.

Q: Were you able to sleep well?
A: I couldn’t sleep well. The people who had money, they could sleep well. The people who didn’t have money, they had to sleep one on top of each other. We had to bend slowly and sleep. We had to put our legs on each other and sleep. They didn’t have beds.

Q: How many people could sleep in a four cubits space? [1 cubit = 1.5 feet / ½ metre]?
A: If it was a four or five cubits space we would have died. We can’t. There are many diseases. Sometimes they beat people and ordered them to sleep. For example, four people could sleep in a place, but eight people had to sleep there. If we didn’t sleep, they beat us.

Q: Did they feed you enough food?
A: They didn’t feed us cooking oil. We had to eat Ta Ler Baw [rice soup with a few vegetables in it] every day.

Q: Who did they plant the vegetables for?
A: It was for the prisoners.

Q: Could the prisoners eat them?
A: Yes, we ate them, but we didn’t get enough. There was a lot of water in the curry.

Q: How did you feel when you were in the prison?
A: When I stayed at the prison, I looked at the brick buildings every day and thought about when I would leave those brick buildings. On this day I met those brick buildings and on the next day I also met those brick buildings. Sometimes I felt in my heart that I wanted to cross over [the wall] and run from those brick buildings. I felt that until I didn’t want to stay anymore.

Q: How many prisoners from Lashio had to porter?
A: There were 150 prisoners. They chose the prisoners who had sentences less than five years, but they didn’t get enough people. When they chose people who had less than 10 years, they were able to get the 150 people they wanted.

Q: Did they give any choice to the porters?
A: They asked, "To whom are you going to donate your life? Really, when you die, to whom are you going to give your heritage?" Some people who had a mother and a father said, "To my mother and father." They asked this since the time we stayed in prison. They specified that we would get 100 Kyat per day. We ran away [they fled from portering] so we didn’t get it. If we hadn’t run and had stayed nicely, we would have gotten it. They said that, but I never saw whether anyone actually got it or not.

Q: Did they decrease the sentence?
A: They decreased it by half. If the sentence was for three years, they reduced it to one and a half years. I was imprisoned only this one time so I don’t know if it is true or not. The convicts and deserters who ran away from the Army never came back. Now we have run. Only the people who are not clever go back to the prison. On the path there were about 100 prisoners given as convict porters. Only two people went back [to prison].

Q: Where did you leave from to follow the soldiers as a porter?
A: I followed them from Pa’an Won Saung 1. We started to porter from Kya In Seik Gyi [they were taken by truck to Kya In Seik Gyi, then began walking from there]. I don’t remember the Army unit, I only know Company #1.

Q: How many days did you have to carry from Kya In Seik Gyi?
A: We had to carry 3 days from Kya In Seik Gyi to Azin.

Q: What did the soldiers force the convict porters to carry?
A: Mostly, they forced us to carry the shells for the big weapon. They also forced us to carry rice pots and rice.

Q: What did you have to carry?
A: I had to carry 7 shells for the big weapon [mortar rounds], 5 bowls [7.815 kgs / 17.225 lbs] of rice and 3 small bombs[probably grenades or mines]. It was between 30 [48.99 kgs / 108 lbs] and 40 viss [65.32 kgs / 144 lbs]. I couldn’t stand up by myself. They had to lift it for me.

Q: How many convict porters followed the Army troops you went with?
A: There were over 20 prisoners who came together with us. In all there were 30 or 40 people. There were only six porters with 30 soldiers.

Q: What were most of their cases?
A: Mostly they were opium smoking offences or soldiers who had run away from the Army. There were about 20 deserters. They don’t dare to run. If they run and don’t go back, it will be worse for them.

Q: Were there any political prisoners with the soldiers?
A: No.

Q: How did they feed the convict porters?
A: They cooked and after the rice was cooked, they called us and fed us. They fed us beans. They fed us enough. We ate together with them.

Q: Did they give you tarpaulin, clothes and blankets?
A: They didn’t give them. They gave them to us when we stayed at Lashio prison, but when we arrived at the Won Saung they took it.

Q: You ate together with them, but didn’t they give you anything when you slept?
A: It was not the same when we slept. We had to sleep in the rain. We didn’t have tarpaulin or anything. We got wet and sometimes we sat in the rain and slept. We didn’t have anything. We slept on the earth. They didn’t guard us, but they did keep a sentry. We slept where we wanted. We sheltered in a hut and slept. If there were three people, we slept three people, and if there were two people, we slept two people. When they told us to sleep, we had to sleep.

Q: Where did you keep your basket?
A: When I arrived at the place where we would rest, I took it off. I slept in one place and kept the basket in another place. If a battle occurred, I was to go to take my basket, but I wouldn’t have taken it, I would have run.

Q: What did they do for you when you were sick?
A: They did nothing for us. They had a medic but we couldn’t ask for help from him.

Q: What did they do for you when you couldn’t carry?
A: You must carry. When the people couldn’t get up, the soldiers gave them a walking stick and ordered them to go on.

Q: What did they do when you couldn’t get up and walk anymore?
A: I never suffered this, but I saw it. They kicked him and said, "Nga Loe Ma" [‘I fucked your mother’]. The convicts had to carry their things and they punched them with their fists.

Q: Did you see anyone die on the way?
A: I saw two people who died. I didn’t know them. I saw it with my own eyes when I came up the path. I don’t know if he was dead or not, but he had fallen down. He was lying on the path because he couldn’t carry.

Q: What do you think his nationality was?
A: I think he was Burman. He couldn’t carry. On the first day, when we were climbing up. Nobody could climb and carry. We had to climb for a long time. Nobody could climb the hill. Even me, I had to climb on my hands and knees. It was not a car road. It was very rough. He [a Burmese soldier] said, "You can’t carry and go." Then he kicked him, "Dine" [making the sound of the man being kicked]. I don’t know if he fell down or not. They kicked him off the side of the mountain. I think he is dead. He was about 45 or 50 years old. It was when we left Kya In Seik Gyi and were climbing up [into the mountains].

Q: Was it a soldier or the commander who kicked him?
A: A soldier. He kicked him with his military boots.

Q: Didn’t the commander see it?
A: The commanders pretended as though they didn’t see it.

Q: Didn’t the commander stop when the soldier did that?
A: They didn’t say anything. They also didn’t say anything when the soldiers punched us. They didn’t say anything when the soldiers reviled us, "Nga Loe Ma Tha [I fucked your mother]". The soldiers reviled us more in front of them. When the officers passed in front of them, the soldiers reviled and kicked us.

Q: Did you see them kick the prisoners?
A: I saw it many times. I saw them do this to many people along the road. They also kicked me two or three times in the mud. When I protected myself, he kicked me again. They tried to kick my face, but I didn’t allow it and protected myself. They kicked my face about three times. If they want to kick, kick somewhere else on the body. Isn’t that right?

Q: Do you think it is just?
A: I don’t think that is just.

Q: Was your back bruised?
A: Yes, here. It looks like there is pus, and also on this side. It is bruised in three places. I couldn’t endure the weight of the basket.

Q: Did they put medicine on your wounds?
A: They didn’t have any medicine. When we were following them, there were a few people who had wounds. They just stayed like that.

Q: If the soldiers had wounds, did they give each other medicine?
A: I didn’t see it.

Q: Who was in charge of the porters?
A: Saya Gyi Sit Kyu controlled the convict porters. He had three chevrons and one star. He is a Sit Kyu. He is not a sergeant and not a sergeant major yet [he may be a Deputy Warrant Officer]. He said, "If you are faithful, you can do it. It is very important that you must be faithful to us." Later they didn’t deal with us on the same level. Slowly and slowly we were becoming farther and farther apart. They weren’t interested in feeding us. At first they fed us but later they were groaning about it. Later, we couldn’t eat together with them.

Q: Did any battles occur when you were portering?
A: A battle never occurred. After I fled I constantly heard the sound of shooting, "Dine, Dine, Dine, Dine."

Q: Did you ever rest in any of the villages?
A: We took a rest for only three minutes. We never took a long rest.

Q: What other work did they force you to do?
A: They forced us to fetch water. Always they were travelling. That is all the daily work. When we took a rest, they cooked rice. If they asked me to find firewood, I had to find it. If they asked me to take this or take that, I had to take it. If they asked me to fetch water, I had to run and fetch it.

Q: Did you arrive at Azin?
A: Yes, I arrived at Azin.

Q: Where did you flee from in the end?
A: I fled from xxxx village.

Q: How did you get to xxxx [village] from Azin?
A: Their operations troops went to the frontline. There were about 30 soldiers.

Q: Why did you flee from them?
A: I had walked for 10 days and my legs had become big and swollen. Then I went to tell the medic to treat them. I asked them for medicine. "Saya, my shoulder is bruised, my feet are very swollen and I can’t walk." He told me, "Hey, Kaung! [a Burmese term used only for animals] No, you have to walk. Smear it when you arrive there." I said, "No, I can’t. I must smear it now." Then they kicked me. They pushed me from behind and forced me to go with the basket. Then I tied my legs with rope tightly and carried the basket. I put the basket on my back and picked it up. At that time a soldier said, "Hey, get up, get up, get up, let’s go." I told him, "Don’t you see here? Saya, I can’t continue going." He said, "The Colonel will come. Get Up." Then I got up and he told me to walk quickly. I said, "I can’t walk anymore." He said, "No, you can’t stop. Walk until you can’t." Then I said to myself, "Nga Loe Ma Tha! [Fuck your mothers!] You have only one of me to force. The other people have fled." And I fled [he actually fled later].

Q: How did you escape after that?
A: I thought that if I continued, I would become swollen and I would get a problem. That is why when they [the soldiers]were sitting down, I fled. I went to shit in the jungle and looked at the situation. I was alone. They were sitting and talking to each other in a long, low building. I entered the jungle. When I fled I lost my way in the jungle for two hours. I climbed up the highest mountain and in the afternoon, at 2 p.m., I looked down and saw a hill field. Then I came across a path and I saw two Karen people. They asked me, "Did you run away from portering?" I said, "Yes." The daughter of the field owner stayed and her brother-in-law went to call someone who could speak Burmese. I was hungry then. I told him I hadn’t gotten any food to eat. He said, "Here is some rice. Cook and eat it. Don’t worry about anything." They told me, "Tonight sleep here. Eat and drink and you will be well again tomorrow morning." [Some details of his escape are omitted here.] Then I came to the Nga Pway [a derogatory term used by the SPDC to refer to the KNU/KNLA].

Q: What did you bring with you when you fled?
A: I brought only the set of clothes on my body.

Q: What was the uniform you were wearing?
A: The prisoners’ uniform.

Q: When did you flee?
A: In the middle of May [2000].

Q: Who did you meet with?
A: I met with the Nga Pway. I fled one day and on the next day, I met them. They dealt with me nicely. They asked me where I live and where I stay. They fed me the same as they ate.

Q: Were you afraid when you met them?
A: I wasn’t afraid. They are very different from the Burmese soldiers. When the Burmese fed us they forced us to go and come, it was very different. Sometimes, the Karen soldiers would carry the loads that we couldn’t carry. Later, the Chinese man and the Shan man [other escaped convict porters] arrived. They were fleeing. I thought they were good friends, so when they came here I followed them. We collected the people [other escaped porters]. One is Chinese and one is Shan. The other four arrived in the night. Later, I came here. It was about three or four days ago.

Q: Who sent you here?
A: The resistance people. They said they were the resistance people. They treated us well.

Q: Did the other porters flee?
A: The other porters fled. Before I fled there were only four porters left in our unit.

Q: How did you know they fled?
A: I didn’t know they had fled, but the villagers said that all of them had fled. Nobody was there. I heard that but I don’t know exactly.

Q: Where do you want to go?
A: I want to go to a good place. On this side I don’t have any contact with home. If I have contact, I want to go back. I’d dare to go back and stay.

 

#9.

NAME:         "Aung Myaing"      SEX: M      AGE: 37      Burman Buddhist Toddy Palm Climber
FAMILY:       Married, 9 children aged 18 months to 13 years old
ADDRESS:     xxxx village, Myaing township, Magwe Division               INTERVIEWED: 6/00

[He was a prisoner in Pakokku Prison, and was interviewed after escaping from portering in Pa’an District.]

Q: Why did you have to go to prison?
A: I went to prison for beating someone. I beat Z---. We are in the same village and I had asked him to give back my money that he had borrowed. He did not give it to me so I beat him. It was 250 Kyat. He needed to give it to me and when he was drunk, he acted horribly and angrily.

Q: What did you beat him with?
A: I hit him with a stick on his head. He didn’t die, but he was dizzy. He has a family and children.

Q: Then, did the police arrest you?
A: Yes. They arrested me for beating someone. They sent me to court in Myaing town, made the decision there, and then sent me to Pakokku Prison. I went to prison on January 27th 2000.

Q: How many months did you stay in prison?
A: I have stayed over five months in prison.

Q: How many prisoners were in Pakokku Prison then?
A: There were 300 prisoners in Pakokku Prison.

Q: Do the prisoners need to work in the prison?
A: Yes, we have to work in the prison also. We had to pack bags of beans.

Q: How many days did you have to wait at [Pa’an] Won Saung 2?
A: We had to sleep three nights at Won Saung 2. Then we had to follow the Army.

Q: How many prisoners did they take out of Won Saung 2 to be porters?
A: In Won Saung 2 they took 30 prisoners from Pakokku, 50 prisoners from Meiktila, 50 from Yamethin, 50 from Myingyan and 120 people from Mandalay. They gathered them together and sent them to the different Army units.

Q: Do you remember what date the Army came to take you as a porter?
A: I don’t remember, I was a porter for 7 days already.

Q: Did they tell you they would release you when you arrived at the destination?
A: They did not tell us like that. They told us that after our unit finished the operation we would be released, but before we could go back and stay in peace, we should not think about running.

Q: Did they threaten you also?
A: Yes, they threatened us like, "If you meet with the Nga Pway [KNLA] they will shoot to kill you and if you run to escape you will step on landmines and die on the way."

Q: Can you tell me a little about the time you were with the Army unit?
A: Yes, I can tell you. We came with a Pa’an battalion [a battalion based in Pa’an] by truck and passed through Lah Pweh village and then went further on. I don’t know all the village names that we passed, but when we arrived at one of the villages, we had to ride long tail boats [a type of long narrow boat with large engines mounted on the back and very long propeller shafts] to cross the river. I don’t know the name of that river. They told us the same night that we would go until we reached Myint Kyaw village. But before we arrived in Myint Kyaw village there was no more time to continue walking, so we had to enter a small village which is before Myint Kyaw village. I don’t know the name of that village. The next morning at 6 a.m., we left that village and slept another night on Ka Ler Ma Mountain beside Ah Lan Waterfall. We had to walk and carry loads for them to climb up that mountain

Q: What did you have to carry?
A: I had to carry bombs, but I don’t know what they are called. They are quite long and I had to carry 6 rounds of that kind. I also had to carry shovels, knives and their personal property like cookers, jars and pots. They selected a special porter who had to carry rice and food for them.

Q: What is the weight of the load you had to carry?
A: I don’t know, but we had to try very hard to carry it. It was very heavy and I had to try very hard to stand and carry that load.

Q: How many soldiers were in the company that you came with?
A: There were a lot of porters, but they divided them into different platoons so I am not sure how many porters in each platoon. There were 80 soldiers in the company that we came with. They divided into three sections and the section we came with just had 8 soldiers [a rifle company is actually divided into 3 platoons which are subdivided into 3 sections each of 10-11 soldiers]. At that time they took just three porters in our section, but some groups took five porters or three porters. It is not always the same.

Q: How many commanders were in your section?
A: In our section there was just one commander. One of the smaller commanders, U Tay Kyaw, is in another section. Our commander was Burman.

Q: What battalion was it?
A: Division 22 [a battalion of Light Infantry Division #22].

Q: How many villages did you pass through on the way?
A: We passed many small villages, so I can’t remember them all. If I estimate it, before we went over the Ka Ler Ma Mountains, we had already passed through 4 or 5 villages. After we went over Ka Ler Ma Mountain we slept one night at Dta Lee village. It is a Karen village.

Q: Did you see the soldiers loot the villagers’ rice or animals to eat on the way?
A: Yes, I saw that. They demanded it with force. They did not ask for it from the village headman, they demanded it from the villagers. The villagers fear them, so they gave it. In our platoon I saw the soldiers eat chickens two times in the villages. They ate one chicken before they arrived at Myint Kyaw village. When we were climbing up this mountain, there were some houses on the way and we saw two chickens in a house. They caught only one and there was nobody in the house at that time.

Q: Did they give you any chicken to eat?
A: They just ate them and did not give us any to eat. We had to cook for them.

Q: How did they feed you when you were carrying for them?
A: When we were carrying as porters for them, the food they fed us was the things we found on the way like dogfruit and bamboo shoots [they were not given any rations, just the vegetables that could be scavenged from the forest]. They gave us enough rice, but nothing else to go with it. After we arrived near there [at the army camp], we did not have enough rice to eat. The rice was finished and we had to loot paddy from the lower places and pound it for them to eat. We looted the paddy from a villager’s hut.

Q: Did you see them capture villagers to be porters?
A: On the way we saw them take about 10 or 15 villagers to be their porters [from different villages]. They were from Karen villages.

Q: Did they take women to carry for them?
A: Women did not carry, but they took two old women to escort them to show the way. They were from Myint Kyaw village. I don’t know their names. They were very old already. If I estimate their ages, they were about 60 years old. They were called in the village. Later they released them.

Q: Did they release them on the same day?
A: They did not let them go back on the same day. Each one had to guide for a day. They released a woman before we arrived in Myint Kyaw village. They took another woman from the small village of Myint Kyaw.

Q: Where did they release them?
A: They started carrying from Dta Lee village and they were released when they arrived at this mountain. They [the soldiers] call it 1248 army camp. It was a very heavy load because they had to carry a generator for them also. They had to carry like us [the convicts].

Q: Did the soldiers do anything to them?
A: They did nothing to them. They didn’t kill any people.

Q: Where did the porters walk in the column?
A: They ordered the porters to walk between the soldiers. They ordered one porter to walk between two soldiers.

Q: They released the villagers, but why didn’t they release you?
A: They did not release us because we are prisoners and we do not have permission to be released by the prison. The other reason that I have thought of is that if they released us, the news would have spread.

Q: Did the unit you came with have any medics with them?
A: Yes, they had medics with them. We couldn’t ask them for medicine if we were sick. They said, "You are not important, but we are very important." As for them, they always gave medicine [to the other soldiers] for protection from fever in the morning and in the evening. For us, we couldn’t get any medicine that we requested.

Q: Were any of the porters sick on the way?
A: Yes, some people were sick. I have not been well for five days already. I had a fever before and asked them for medicine to drink, but they were worried their medicines were not enough for their soldiers so they did not give it. They told us, "We bring this only for our soldiers."

Q: What about if you gave them some money?
A: We are from the prison so we had no money with us. There was no medicine for us.

Q: How did they let you sleep?
A: We had to lay leaves on the ground to sleep on. We didn’t have enough time to sleep because sometimes the rain fell. Sometimes they made us sleep in a very narrow space so we were always hitting each other when our friends moved, and we were always waking up in the night.

Q: Did they guard you when you were sleeping?
A: They guarded us but they were quite far from us because they had guards for their security. The guards were for security and not for the porters.

Q: How did they threaten you about running to escape?
A: They threatened us that if we ran to escape, we would step on landmines and if we met the Nga Pway [KNLA], they would slit our throats with a very sharp piece of bamboo. And if we ran to Thailand and arrived there, we would be assassinated also. Their column commander told us that. I don’t know his name.

Q: Did they burn down any villages on the way?
A: They didn’t do that.

Q: Did they rape or abuse any women on the way?
A: We didn’t see anything like that.

Q: How many days did you have to carry as a porter?
A: We slept one night on the way before we arrived at Myint Kyaw village and then slept another night on Ka Ler Ma Mountain. We slept one night in Dta Lee and we slept one night at a small village just after we passed Wa Mee Klah. Then we stayed one night at a Kya army camp [an SPDC Army camp which is between the frontline and the rear]. We also slept one night on the way after that camp. It was about six or seven nights and we slept two nights at 1248 army camp, so in all we came with them for 9 days.

Q: Did they give you any time to take a rest?
A: If they took a rest, we also had time to take a rest, but if they didn’t, we dared not to rest. If we couldn’t walk, they were behind us and hit us with the butt of their guns and kicked our backs with their boots.

Q: Did they also beat or kick you?
A: Yes, the soldiers kicked me. They kicked me five or six times like that and hit me with a big piece of bamboo and the butt of a gun also. They hit me with a piece of bamboo on my feet and my knees. I can’t count how many times they hit me because they beat me continuously. It was not a very big piece of bamboo. They beat us when we couldn’t carry the load. Sometimes they ordered us to climb down the mountain very quickly, and if we couldn’t they kicked at our bottoms. Sometimes we fell face down and got injured from that also. They hit me five times with the butt of their guns on the way. They hit me on the back of the neck.. I became unconscious, but suddenly they pulled us to move.

Q: Do you know the soldier who kicked the porters down like that?
A: He is a sergeant. I don’t know his name, but he had three chevrons. He is also the one who hit me with the bamboo.

Q: What injuries did you receive?
A: I got that wound [on his back] from the rubbing of carrying the basket. They also kicked us with their boots so my wound became worse and worse. If I could not carry and fell down on the ground, they ordered me to sit up and hit my wounds so they split even more.

Q: How many days ago did you run?
A: We started to run two days ago [June 4th 2000] at 1 a.m. We arrived here yesterday because it was 1 o’clock in the morning and it was raining so we lost our way in the jungle. After the sun rose, we continued coming and we had to find a long-tail boat to carry us across the river.

Q: Was that the Moei River [the border with Thailand]?
A: Yes.

Q: How many people ran with you?
A: I ran with a friend. His name is "Thet Htoo" and his other name is "Htun Nyein" [see Interview #11].

Q: Where is the third convict porter?
A: The other person was left there. He was not friendly with us so we did not call him to come with us. When it came to staying with us, he is on the side of the soldiers, so we were worried that if we told him he would pass it on to the soldiers, so we didn’t tell him.

Q: Did he have to carry the same loads as you?
A: Yes, the same as us, but he is better off than us because he tried to be good to the soldiers and did not have a good relationship with us.

Q: What will you do now that you have come here?
A: We will try to ask help from people here by working and saving money and then request the people here show us the way[back]. That’s why we came here, to get help.

Q: So you will go back again?
A: Yes, we have to go back because we still have children and wives over there. If our children do not have parents to look after them, they will have to face eating and living problems.

Q: Do you dare to go back and stay in your village?
A: Yes, we can stay there.

Q: Are you afraid of that the police or Army will arrest you again if you go back?
A: I do not fear the Army. I say this because I will try my best to avoid the Army unit we came with. As for the police, if we do not commit another crime, we won’t have a problem with them.

Q: What will you do if the Army sends a message about you?
A: If the Army sends a message but we do not commit another crime, they will not arrest us.

Q: Where do your children stay now?
A: They just stay with their mother.

Q: Do you have another job besides collecting toddy juice?
A: I only climb the toddy palms to earn money for my family, because if we start that work in February [at the beginning of the season] we can work at it until October. After we finish climbing the toddy palms, we have to collect firewood for the next year.

Q: How much do you get each day?
A: Each day I will probably get 20 viss [of toddy palm juice; 32.66 kgs / 72 lbs] and one viss is 75 Kyat. Some is more than that. [His earnings for a day are about 1,500 Kyat.] It is enough for us.

Q: What is the price of one bowl of rice?
A: One bowl of rice [1.563 kgs / 3.445 lbs] is about 120 Kyat. One chicken is about 400 Kyat per viss [1.633 kgs / 3.6 lbs]. One viss of pork is about 350 Kyat. Fruits and vegetables are not the same because it depends on the season. So, if there are a lot of fruit or vegetables available, the price is very low.

Q: Is there a clinic in your village?
A: We do not have a clinic in our village.

Q: Do you have a school in your village?
A: Yes, we have a school in our village, but it is only a primary school. After primary school they have to go to Myaing town for school.

Q: Are your children able to go to school?
A: Two of my elder children left school after 3rd Standard [Grade 3]. My other children are only in 1st Standard [Grade 1]or kindergarten classes. They are very young and small.

Q: How much do you have to give for school fees?
A: In our village we do not exactly have school fees, but sometimes money is demanded for sports, the teachers and parents organisation and many other kinds of things. They do not ask very much, but they ask for fees like that all the time. They ask 50 or 100 Kyat per time. They collect it in the village. It is for sports and donations for the school. During a month, they demand it 15 times.

Q: If you don’t give it to them, do they take you to court?
A: We can’t stay without paying for that. We want our children to get an education so we have to try as far as we can.

Q: What is the population of your village?
A: I don’t know how many people, but we have about 300 houses. There is just one ethnic group there [Burman]. All of the people are Buddhist. There are no Christians.

Q: Are there people abusing the villagers’ human rights in your village?
A: Yes, we have human rights abuses in our village also. The way they abuse our human rights is we don’t have freedom to work. Because we are rural workers, the produce we get from our farms, like sesame and beans, we have to sell to them [the SPDC]. We can’t sell it to other people. We also don’t have much right to sell our produce outside the village because they ask us as they want [the SPDC officials take whatever they want and there isn’t much left to sell]. Sometimes, if we don’t have as much produce from our farms as they ask, we have to buy it from somewhere else and sell it to them [the SPDC]. We can’t stay there without giving it to them. When the season is good to plant groundnuts [peanuts] we can’t plant groundnuts because we have to plant what they order us to plant. The seeds they want us to plant are not good and there is not much produce so we can’t get as much as they want, we have to buy it to fulfil the quota. We can’t plant what we would like to plant.

Q: Did the SPDC give you rice in your village?
A: They did not provide rice for us.

Q: What have they done for development?
A: For the development of our village, they only built a bridge and a dam. They haven’t done anything else. We have never had them develop things like health care.

Q: Does the Army come to arrest porters in your village?
A: They didn’t do anything like that [capture the villagers], but they came and asked for the people to be gathered [to porter].

Q: Did they collect people to join the Army in your village?
A: They collected people for the Army in other villages, but they never came to collect people from our village.

Q: What will you do if you go back to your village?
A: I will work as a toddy palm climber again because I can’t do other jobs very well and one of my legs is weak from falling down a toddy palm. I don’t think I can work at another job because I can’t walk long distances.

Q: What would you like to say about the things the SPDC government has done to you?
A: According to my feelings about what the SPDC has done for us, we can’t agree with them. Even though we don’t agree with them, we are as frogs under their hands, so we can’t protest against them. Also, we are from a rural area, so we can only bend our heads down and endure what they do. What I would like to say and pray is that the resistance will be victorious and that I can help.

Q: How is your health now?
A: Now, I am a little better because someone here was asked by Bo Gyi [a KNLA officer] to treat me. He gave us medicine to smear on our wounds and medicines to kill the fever also.

Q: Thank you.

 

#10.

NAME:         "Maung Sein"            SEX: M          AGE: 20            Palaung Buddhist Farmer
FAMILY:       Married
ADDRESS:     xxxx village, Mu Seh township, Shan State                  INTERVIEWED: 7/00

[He was a prisoner in Lashio Prison before being taken to porter in Dooplaya District where he escaped.]

Q: What is your education level?
A: 5th Standard [Grade 5]. I studied at the primary school in xxxx [village].

Q: Are your mother and father still alive?
A: Yes. They pick tea leaves, do a hill field and plant flat rice fields.

Q: How many siblings do you have?
A: We are four siblings. I am the second one. I have one elder sister. She is about 32 years old. The third one is 18 years old and the youngest is 14 years old.

Q: What did you do from age 15 until now?
A: I stayed in the hill fields. I picked tea leaves. Sometimes I went to visit in the town. Then, three or four friends and I bought opium and smoked it. Then I arrived here.

Q: Do you have your own tea leaf plantation?
A: Yes, I do. It is big. We could produce 200 viss [326.6 kgs / 720 lbs] on one plantation. In the past, one viss was over 100 or 150 Kyat. Now, I heard it is 400 Kyat.

Q: How did you come here if you were doing a tea plantation?
A: We had gone to visit in town with our friends and played #4 [they were smoking No.4 heroin].

Q: Did you go to smoke it?
A: Yes, I went to play with three or four of my friends in the town.

Q: Did you call it "play"?
A: Yes. I hadn’t played like that for very long, not even one year. Maybe three or four times. I just used it sometimes.

Q: You hadn’t been caught before when you used it?
A: Sometimes when some people were using it, the police saw them and arrested them.

Q: Did your parents know you were using drugs?
A: They knew about it. I told them I smoked it sometimes when I had money. I smoke it with my friends.

Q: Do you still smoke it?
A: No, I don’t.

Q: How did you smoke it?
A: The same as Ya Ma [‘horse medicine’, a slang term for amphetamines].

Q: Have you ever smoked Ya Ma?
A: Yes. I put it in a small plate and smoked it [the smoke is inhaled rather than smoked through a pipe]. When I took it, I couldn’t sleep or eat.

Q: Where did you see Ya Ma?
A: It is in China [Mu Seh is on the Burma-China border]. One tablet is 150 Kyat.

Q: How did the heroin taste?
A: It was bitter. My head was dizzy and I wanted to vomit. I didn’t enjoy it. I couldn’t eat rice so I smoked it.

Q: Which one is better; alcohol or heroin?
A: Alcohol is good.

Q: Did you buy the heroin?
A: I bought it. One tin was 100 Kyat. Our friends would gather a little money and buy it. We sold some tea leaves and got the money. One time I would smoke one or two pieces.

Q: What happened after you played?
A: After we played the police arrested us. They arrested three of us. It was at about 10 or 11 a.m. I couldn’t say anything. They arrested me and put me into prison.

Q: Did they torture you when they arrested you?
A: Yes, they beat me. They beat me and tied my hands. They kicked me. I was in pain. The wounds were healed after we were in jail for a week.

Q: Where did they keep you?
A: In Mu Seh jail. I was tried in Mu Seh township court.

Q: Did they have any evidence against you?
A: They gave no evidence against us.

Q: What article were you charged with?
A: Articles 15 and 16. The sentence was eight years. I was put in jail on March 15th 2000 and sent to prison in May, but I don’t remember the date. It was Lashio Prison. There were 32 people sent with me.

Q: How did the jailer treat you when you first arrived?
A: I was sitting and they forced me to look forward. We couldn’t move. When we moved they beat us. It lasted for 15 or 20 minutes.

Q: How many times did they hit you in the prison?
A: I suffered it many times when I was in prison. When we entered the prison, they treated us with prison standards three or four times [the standards are beatings by older prisoners, body searches, walking on hands and knees]. They beat and kicked us.

Q: How many prisoners were in Lashio Prison?
A: There were over 200 people in our building. There were four buildings and over 1,000 prisoners.

Q: Does that include the women?
A: There were no women [in those buildings]. They kept them in a different place. There were women in the prison, but I don’t know how many because I couldn’t go to see them. Most of them were there for drug offences. They had smoked it and sold it.

Q: Were there any political prisoners in Lashio Prison?
A: No.

Q: What was your daily routine in the prison?
A: We woke up at 5 a.m. I got up and worshipped. After that, I went to wash my face. In the morning we had to choose the rice [sifting the rice and picking out the husks and stones]. We ate rice at 8 or 8:30 a.m. After we ate, they called us to the factory. We took a rest when we ate in the evening. We took a five minute rest.

Q: What did you have to do in the prison?
A: I had to dig the earth in the place where we planted things. We planted aubergine, chillies and gourds. We couldn’t go outside [the walls of the prison]. We worked like that every day.

Q: Were you there when the ICRC came to the prison?
A: I wasn’t.

Q: Did they feed you enough?
A: When we stayed in Lashio Prison it was enough.

Q: How did they let you sleep?
A: I was not happy to sleep. We had to sleep by roll [by where their name was on the roll].

Q: Did they give medicine to the sick people?
A: I wasn’t sick when I was in the prison. I never went to the clinic. Itching [scabies] was the most common disease. Other people were sick. They took them to the clinic and gave them one or two tablets of medicine.

Q: Did you get enough water to use for bathing?
A: Each person had to take a bath with seven cups of water. It was not enough.

Q: Did they give you free time to exercise and read in the prison?
A: They gave us time, but we couldn’t go outside [the walls]. We had to stay in the prison.

Q: How long did you stay in the prison?
A: I stayed in prison for over one month [actually a month and a half; this includes the time he spent in Mu Seh jail].

Q: Where did you go after the prison?
A: Later, they called the prisoners who had sentences under 10 years to go as porters. We slept one night in Mandalay and one night in Toungoo. After Toungoo, we arrived at Pa’an Won Saung. I left from the prison on May 12th 2000 [actually May 24th].

Q: Where did you go after Pa’an?
A: We went to Kya In Seik Gyi. After that we went to the jungle.

Q: Who came and took you?
A: The soldiers. I don’t remember which unit. It was Company #3.

Q: What kind of choice did the Army unit give you?
A: They gave me nothing. They said they would give us a reduction in our prison sentence. I don’t know if they will give it. They said they would reduce it by three or four months for every year of the sentence. I never heard if they gave it to anyone.

Q: Did you have to carry a heavy load?
A: I had to carry a heavy load. I had to carry rice [uncooked] and rice pots, salt, fishpaste and also beans. I had to carry about 7 bowls [10.941 kgs / 24.115 lbs] of rice, two bowls [3.126 kgs / 6.89 lbs] of beans, 1 viss [1.633 kgs / 3.6 lbs] of salt and one viss [1.633 kgs / 3.6 lbs] of fishpaste. It was about 30 viss [48.99 kgs / 108 lbs; this his total load including other things which he didn’t list].

Q: Did you see any of your friends die?
A: I saw only one. He couldn’t carry or walk. He couldn’t do anything. He couldn’t stand up so he laid down. At first they beat him. They didn’t think and didn’t believe him. They beat him. Later, when he couldn’t suffer anymore, he laid on the ground. He was lying on the road and said, "Ah! Brother, kill me, kill me. I can’t walk anymore. I am very tired and my feet are bruised." The soldiers said, "Hey, go go go go. We will arrive there." But we didn’t arrive there until night time. We slept in the jungle. He was from Lashio Prison and in my group.

Q: Did they leave him there?
A: They left him. He wasn’t dead. He went back to the Army camp.

Q: Was he able to continue carrying later?
A: He couldn’t carry. The soldiers called him. They didn’t leave him, they called to him. They took his load off and then he could walk a bit.

Q: Did you see anyone else who couldn’t carry and was left?
A: I didn’t see that.

Q: Did you see any porters who became tired and died?
A: I didn’t see that in my group where I had to go. When we came, one person died. I don’t know what his disease was. During the day, nothing happened to him, but in the night he was sweating. He died at 9 or 10 p.m. in the night. Nobody knew why. He was a drug case.

Q: How did the soldiers treat you?
A: They said, "We eat like this so you also have to eat like this. If we eat meat, you will also eat meat." But, when we arrived there [at the camp] they gave nothing to us. They gave a little raw fishpaste. It wasn’t enough.

Q: Were you given things like tarpaulin, blankets and slippers when you came from the prison?
A: When we left Lashio Prison they didn’t give us slippers, but they gave us a tarpaulin, blanket, shirts, longyi [sarong], and pants. When we arrived at Pa’an Won Saung, they confiscated it all. We got back nothing.

Q: Did the soldiers give you any medicine if you were sick on the way?
A: They gave us nothing and paid us nothing.

Q: Do you know the name and rank of the soldier in charge of the convicts?
A: I don’t know his name.

Q: Could you take a rest?
A: We couldn’t take a rest. When we were tired and couldn’t carry, we said, "Ah, Saya, I am tired. I can’t carry anymore." He said, "Eh! We will arrive soon, we will arrive. It is just there. Walk for a while." But even though we walked for a day, we didn’t arrive there. We had to sleep in the jungle in the evening at 6:00. When we took a rest, they were walking around us. We couldn’t go anywhere. After we took a rest for a while, we stood up and walked again.

Q: How many days did you travel?
A: From Kya In Seik Gyi, I had to go for 3 or 4 days and then we arrived at the Byu Ha Gone camp. I don’t remember the name of the village. Our group arrived first.

Q: How long did you stay at the Byu Ha Gone?
A: I arrived one day at the Byu Ha Gone [Strategic Command Hill camp] and then the next day I had to continue portering. We couldn’t take a rest. When we arrived on that day, they went to go and find the enemy, so we also had to follow them. I had to carry the basket with the rice pot and rice in it.

Q: What did you have to carry?
A: Rice. We had to carry it to Meh T’Ler village.

Q: Did any battles occur when you were walking?
A: Yes. They kept us behind them. We had to sit and put down the baskets. After the battle, they didn’t rest. They called us to follow. In the morning we arrived at Meh T’Ler village.

Q: Did the soldiers ever beat you on the way?
A: They beat me. When the battle occurred, we hadn’t eaten yet. They fed us after the battle. I ate a little slowly, so he[SPDC soldier] hit my head with a Han Gaw [a type of pot that the soldiers use to cook rice in]. Then he told me, "Eat quickly, we will go." He hit my head.

Q: Did you see them beat any of your friends?
A: I didn’t see that.

Q: Did you see the soldiers capture the villagers and take their chickens?
A: I didn’t see that. In our group, three or four soldiers slept in each house. They didn’t tie or beat the villagers. I don’t know what the other soldiers did because they slept over there.

Q: Why did you escape?
A: Later, I couldn’t suffer anymore. I wasn’t interested in it anymore. My feet were bruised and I couldn’t sleep. Everything was painful. After we had walked three or four days, the basket had become heavy and my back was bruised in two places from the basket. If there was rain in the night, we had to sleep in it. If there were mosquitoes, we had to sleep with them. I couldn’t sleep. I was not happy to remain there, then I fled.

Q: Did you flee with any other porters?
A: I fled alone. It was early in the morning, they [the soldiers] hadn’t woken up yet. It was about 3 o’clock. I don’t remember the date, but it was in June 2000.

Q: Where did you run from?
A: I started to flee when we slept, below xxxx village. I dared not walk. We were sleeping in the house and I fled from the house and entered the jungle. When the day broke, I arrived at some flat fields. I went to speak with two men who were working in the flat fields. I went and asked them, "Big brother, where is the way to Thailand? I will go to Thailand." They asked, "Why have you come here?" I told them I had fled from portering. [Some details of his escape are omitted here to protect the villagers.]

Q: Did the villagers look after you?
A: Yes.

Q: Did you bring anything with you when you fled?
A: I brought nothing.

Q: Who did you meet when you arrived in xxxx village?
A: Many people and also Karen soldiers. The Karen soldiers came to call me. They had guns.

Q: Were you afraid when you met the Karen soldiers?
A: I wasn’t afraid. I had no gun. I had nothing. So, no matter. I wasn’t afraid. The villagers told me not to be afraid.

Q: Were you afraid of the Burmese soldiers?
A: They beat and pounded us.

Q: Did the Karen soldiers treat you nicely?
A: Yes. They didn’t revile me. They didn’t beat me. They fed me well. They fed me good curry, chicken curry. They fed me two times with pork curry. They fed us rice and wrote down our names.

Q: Didn’t you get to eat like that with the Burmese soldiers?
A: No, we didn’t get to eat like that. We had to eat fishpaste.

Q: If the Karen soldiers called you to porter and take that duty for a month, would you do it?
A: I would follow them.

Q: Now, are you healthy?
A: Yesterday I had a small fever, but today I don’t.

Q: Do you want to go back home?
A: I want to go back home, but now there is no way. I’d dare to go back if I can.

Q: What kind of work will you continue to do?
A: We will do any kind of work in the hill fields or other things. When I stayed in the North [of Burma] we planted paddy, picked tea leaves and did the hill fields. I can’t do anything else.

Q: Do you have any contact with home?
A: I don’t have any contact.

Q: Will the police arrest you when you go back because you smoke opium?
A: When I arrive there, the police won’t arrest me. I am only afraid of the soldiers. If I smoke opium again, the police will arrest me again.

Q: Do you think you will smoke opium again?
A: I don’t think so.

 

#11.

NAME:         "Thet Htoo"          SEX: M          AGE: 29               Burman, Buddhist, Farmer
FAMILY:       Married, two children aged 18 months and 7 years old
ADDRESS:     xxxx village, Pwinbyu township, Magwe Division           INTERVIEWED: 6/00

[He is also known as "Htun Nyein". He was a prisoner in Pakokku Prison. He escaped from portering in Pa’an District.]

Q: Can you tell me how you arrived here?
A: Over there we had poor food and they tortured us a lot so I ran to here.

Q: How many days did you have to carry for them?
A: I can’t remember how many days we had to carry for them, but since we started and have stayed with them, it has been 10 days.

Q: Why did you have to go to prison?
A: The crime was gambling through a lottery [underground lotteries are popular but illegal in Burma]. It was because of selling lottery tickets.

Q: Don’t they like people to sell lottery tickets there?
A: They liked it before because I had to give 750 Kyat per week [as a bribe] to sell the lottery tickets. After I didn’t pay the tax for nine weeks and still avoided paying it but was illegally selling the lottery tickets, I had to go to prison.

Q: How many years did you need to stay in prison?
A: For one year.

Q: Who charged you with the crime in court?
A: The police.

Q: Can you pay money to get out of going to prison for this crime?
A: We can’t pay.

Q: Do they have to send you to prison or is there some other punishment they can give you?
A: Yes, there is, but it really depends on the village headman because sometimes the village headman gives us punishment like a beating or digging the ground. For big crimes they take the criminal to the police station. Then they are sent to the prison.

Q: What about after you arrive in the prison?
A: If you don’t want to work when you arrive in the prison, you can give money for that.

Q: Which prison did they send you to?
A: Pakokku Prison.

Q: How many prisoners are in that prison?
A: There are about 700 prisoners.

Q: Are there women in that prison?
A: Yes, there were women in the prison. They were kept in a different place.

Q: What is the most common crime in your village that people are sent to prison for?
A: We have crimes like killing, beating, stealing, gambling with the lottery and relying on the darkness [being out after dark].

Q: What work did you have to do in the prison?
A: When we were in Pakokku prison we had to pack bags of beans and roll joss sticks. We had to finish rolling our joss sticks by 4 p.m. Each person had to roll 2,000 joss sticks every day. We had to pack 5 bowls [7.815 kgs / 17.225 lbs] of beans into different small bags and we couldn’t finish it, so we had to work until 7 or 8 p.m.

Q: Did they give you pocket money for that?
A: No, they didn’t give us money to buy snacks or other things. They also didn’t give us clothes for it.

Q: How many pairs of prisoner’s shirts did they provide you with?
A: Just one set of prisoner’s clothing.

Q: Did you have time to take a bath?
A: We did not have a chance to take a bath for seven or eight days. Once a week. The bath water wasn’t clean.

Q: What food did they feed you?
A: For food they provided bean curry with a few bean seeds in it with raw fishpaste. In the afternoon we got morning glory and roselle leaves as a soup with raw fishpaste.

Q: Did you get good water to drink?
A: We had to drink the water they kept in stone jars for clean water.

Q: Did some of the prisoners get sick?
A: Yes, some got sick. Diseases like stomach pain and diarrhoea were common. They did not give medicines for that. If you were sick they left you to die. Some people died there also.

Q: Did they abuse or beat any of the prisoners?
A: Yes, some prisoners were beaten in the prison. They didn’t do it, they ordered us to beat each other. I was beaten in the prison also.

Q: How many months did you stay in the prison?
A: I stayed for five months in the prison.

Q: Can you explain to me how you came with the Army to here?
A: They collected the porters from the prisons and sent us to Won Saung 2 [near Pa’an]. First they sent the Pakokku Prisoners to Meiktila Prison. We stayed there for a month and then they sent us to Won Saung 2 army camp. Then the Army arrived to take us to be porters. Then we had to go with them. In Won Saung 2, there were 400 prisoners from Mandalay, Pakokku, and Yamethin. We stayed there for two days.

Q: Could you have given them money to be released?
A: They wouldn’t have released us.

Q: Did they tell you they would release you when you arrived at the army camp?
A: Before, when we started, they said they would release us. They told us if we arrived there [the army camp], we would be released. But when we arrived there they told us we could go back only when they went back. "If we stay here for a whole year, you also have to stay here for a whole year. If we stay here for six or eight months, you also have to stay here and go back with us at the same time." The battalion commander told us that. He was Burman.

Q: Why did they take the prisoners to porter?
A: The Army needs emergency porters, so they took us out for that.

Q: What was the number of the unit?
A: Division 22 [LID #22]. It is a battalion [one of the ten battalions of LID #22]. I don’t know the name of the commander, but I know one of the soldiers with one star [2nd Lieutenant] is named Tay Kyaw. He is Burman.

Q: How many soldiers were in that column?
A: In the whole group there were 80 soldiers. They divided into three smaller groups, and in our group there were 15 soldiers. The other groups had 30 or more than 30 soldiers with them. Only three porters were with my group.

Q: What did the porters have to carry for them?
A: For me, I had to carry 1,000 bullets and 9 bowls of rice [14.067 kgs / 31 lbs]. I don’t know what kind of bullets they were. They were small and as long as a finger [assault rifle or machine-gun bullets].

Q: Was it very heavy for you?
A: Yes, it was very heavy. We couldn’t carry it so we always fell down.

Q: Did they beat you for that?
A: Yes, they beat us when we fell down. They also beat us with the butt of their guns. I can’t recall how many times they hit me because they hit me with their gun butts on the back of my neck and my head, and kicked at my back also. If we had to go downhill and we went down quite slowly, they kicked us from behind and we fell.

Q: Do you know the name of the soldier who beat you?
A: I don’t know his name, but he had three chevrons [a Sergeant]. I know the other soldier, Myint Oo, with two chevrons[Corporal]. He beat the prisoners the same as the Sergeant did. The regular soldiers beat us too.

Q: Could you go and ask money from them to buy medicine to treat your wounds from their beatings?
A: They didn’t give us medicine and they told us they did not have medicine to give us, it is only for the Army. We did not have our own medicine to treat our wounds. If we had money we could have got medicine, but we had no money to give them.

Q: Were some porters sick when you were going?
A: Yes, a lot of the porters were sick, but they didn’t give any medicine.

Q: Did any of the porters die?
A: Yes, we had a person die because of exhaustion. His name was Nan Dah Min Hteh Naing. He was Burmese from Say Gu and also a prisoner. He was so exhausted when he was climbing Ka Ler Ma Mountain. He couldn’t breathe or walk. They beat him and kicked him down into the valley. He died.

Q: Were any porters beaten and their arms or other things broken?
A: That didn’t happen, but they usually kicked us with their boots, hit us with the butts of their guns and hit us with a stick.

Q: How many days did you have to carry after you left the Won Saung camp?
A: We had to carry for 10 days. We did not take a rest on the way, so we had to carry the whole time. In the night we could sleep.

Q: How did you sleep?
A: We had to sleep very far from our loads because they did not let us sleep near the bullets. They slept near those themselves. They slept in a different place from us, but they ordered two soldiers to sleep close to us. They were guarding for security.

Q: Did they threaten you about running to escape?
A: Yes. They told us, "Do not run. If you run to Thailand, the Nga Pway [KNLA] stays there and if you run, you will step on a landmine on the way and die. If you meet the Nga Pway, they will also slit your throat and you will die." They threatened us like that and they told us, "If you run you can’t go back to your house, and you will die on the way or be killed." It was a Bo Gyi [Captain] who threatened us. He was Burman and about 45 years old.

Q: Did you pass through any Karen villages on the way?
A: We entered and passed through some villages but I don’t know the names of the villages.

Q: Did the soldiers take the chickens and pigs when they went through the villages?
A: Yes, they caught the chickens. The caught two chickens. There was no one staying in the house at that time.

Q: Did they take the villagers as porters also?
A: Yes, they took them. They took some villagers from one village and then when they arrived in another village, they took porters from that village and released the other porters. If they saw 4 or 5 villages on the way, they took people from those villages. They took 10 or 15 villagers for a section [of 10-12 soldiers]. Including us, there were 18 porters.

Q: What did the villagers have to carry?
A: They had to carry a generator for the soldiers. It is for getting electricity in their place. They had to carry it from Naw Lee to there. They had to carry to that army camp on the mountain.

Q: Do you know the name of the mountain?
A: I don’t know it [it is Pu Lu Dtu army camp].

Q: Did they beat you then?
A: I was beaten but not the villagers.

Q: Did they rape any women in the villages on the way?
A: They didn’t do that, but they did say things about the women.

Q: Did they take women as porters?
A: We saw two old married women and the soldiers ordered them to show the way for them like guides. They did not have to carry. There were no other women.

Q: How did they feed you on the way?
A: At first, they provided us with enough food, but later we didn’t have rice and food to eat, so we had to collect paddy and they ordered us to pound it. We were not full because they gave it to us just one time, but they ate in a special place. They fed us two times a day. They also gave us raw fishpaste. We didn’t have anything else, just raw fishpaste.

Q: Did they loot the villagers’ rice?
A: They did not take rice from the villagers but if they saw paddy, they gathered it, especially if there was no one in the house. So, they took all the paddy in the paddy barns. When they arrived at the mountain, they put it into big containers, pounded it and cooked it to eat. They asked the porters to pound it. We then had to sift the paddy and cook it for them. A little bit of the rice was left, so we boiled that rice and ate that. They had very good rice, but we ate boiled rice [rice porridge].

Q: Did you have water to drink?
A: On the way, when we were carrying, we were tired and thirsty, but we didn’t have water bottles with us, so we asked them for water. They didn’t give it to us and they also swore at us. They did not beat us, but they shouted at us and didn’t give it.

Q: What did you feel about their threats after you arrived here?
A: Now it is much better for us. When we were there, we thought only that we would die, so we planned that we would leave them, but we didn’t tell them. We thought, if we are going to die, we don’t want to die in their hands, so we will come to die here. Before, if they killed us, we would beg and bend down on our knees in front of them, but later, we couldn’t beg them. If they wanted to kill us, just kill us. After we decided that we fled here.

Q: How did you escape?
A: We ran away at 1 a.m. when they were sleeping. It was very dark and raining, so we couldn’t see anything and slept in a small bush. At 6 a.m. we woke up and asked for help from a long-tail boat driver and asked him to send us here.

Q: Do you think they will try to find you?
A: I don’t know if they tried to find us or not because we didn’t go back and look at them. We just came straight here.

Q: Do you think they will send a message to your village?
A: I don’t think they will send a message like that to our village because they think we wouldn’t dare go back or that we would die on the way.

Q: Do you think you will go back?
A: Yes. In my family I am the only male. My wife’s parents are already dead so she needs someone to rely on and that is me.

Q: Where do your wife and children stay now?
A: They stay in xxxx village with my parents. My parents-in-law are already dead.

Q: Aren’t you afraid they will arrest you again?
A: We have to try to stop them from arresting us. As for the police, if we give them money, we can solve those problems.

Q: Do you have a school in your village?
A: Yes, we have a school in our village. It has 10 standards [10 grades; the highest grade for high schools in Burma].

Q: Is it easy for people to go to school there?
A: Yes, it is easy to go to school. It is a government school.

Q: Do your children go to school?
A: No, she doesn’t go to school because we still have a baby and we can’t afford to send her to school. She is 7 years old, but we can’t afford to send her.

Q: Don’t you get aid from the government to send children to school who can’t afford it?
A: We don’t have things like that.

Q: How much are the school fees?
A: I don’t know how much they ask, but they always demand money. For the school they asked for it for the roof and things like books and pencils. They also ask for it for electricity and other small things.

Q: Is there a clinic?
A: Yes, we have one. It is a government hospital. We have to give money for that. We have to buy medicine.

Q: Do you have enough drinking water?
A: Yes, we have enough water to drink and it is pure.

Q: How many houses are in your village?
A: There are about 200 houses and over 1,000 people in my village. There aren’t any Karen in our village.

Q: Are the people there poor or rich?
A: A lot of people in my village are rich, but some are very poor. They are not divided, they stay in the same place.

Q: Is there electricity in the village?
A: The houses that can afford electricity have it, but some houses can’t afford it.

Q: Could you make enough money to live on in your village?
A: Yes, it is quite good. I had no problems.

Q: What is the price of food there?
A: In our village, it is 90 Kyat for a bowl of rice [1.563 kgs / 3.445 lbs]. A viss [1.633 kgs / 3.6 lbs] of beef is 400 Kyat, of pork is 400 Kyat, and of chicken is 500 Kyat.

Q: Can you plant vegetables in your village?
A: Yes, we can plant vegetables.

Q: Do you have human rights abuses in your village?
A: We don’t have that.

Q: So, you can do anything you want to do to get food and money for your family?
A: We can’t do anything against the law.

Q: Have you heard of any villages relocated near your village?
A: We haven’t heard about that. My house has never moved.

Q: Do they give good security for your village?
A: We only have the police station and nothing else for security. The Army is not stationed there. Karen soldiers have never come there. The DKBA also doesn’t go there.

Q: Do they collect soldiers in your village?
A: No, they don’t. They also don’t collect porters.

Q: Did the police or Army ever come and rape the women in your village?
A: Yes, we had a soldier who arrived as a guard for the village’s security. I don’t know his name. He was from #253[Infantry Battalion]. At that time he told other people that he would marry a woman in our village and they slept together. After two or three days of being together like that he said he would go to give the village old men the K’Daw Pweh gift [a traditional marriage gift], but later he didn’t want her anymore and left her. He did not come to give the K’Daw Pweh. That woman was Burman. She couldn’t do anything. She was embarrassed and left the village. She went to Rangoon.

Q: What else would you like to tell about your feelings or experience?
A: At first, I regarded and respected the Burmese Army, but now after we had this experience about them ourselves, we do not respect them and instead, we have to kill them. That’s all.

Q: What about the SPDC government?
A: I don’t have anything to say.

 

#12.

NAME:         "Ah Paun"               SEX: M          AGE: 38             Chinese Buddhist Farmer
FAMILY:       Married, 4 children aged 5 to 10 years
ADDRESS:     xxxx village, Mu Seh township, Shan State                  INTERVIEWED: 7/00

[This man was a prisoner in Lashio Prison and escaped in Dooplaya District. His home is in northern Shan State near the China border. He spoke only Chinese when interviewed.]

Q: What is your education level?
A: None. I can’t read or write.

Q: Do you have a Nationality ID card?
A: Yes, but I don’t remember the number.

Q: Are your parents still alive?
A: My father is not alive, but my mother is. She is a hill field farmer.

Q: How many siblings do you have?
A: I have two brothers. The oldest is over 50 years old and the other is over 40 years old. They are farmers.

Q: What does your wife do?
A: She is doing a hill field and a flat field.

Q: What offence were you arrested for?
A: Drugs. Articles 15 and 16.

Q: When were you arrested?
A: December 12th 1999.

Q: Where were you arrested?
A: At home. There were two of them from the drug group [police group responsible for drug suppression]. They took me to Mu Seh jail.

Q: Did they torture you when they arrested you?
A: No.

Q: How many years were you sentenced to?
A: Eight years.

Q: Which court did they try you in?
A: Mu Seh court. I don’t know the name of the judge.

Q: Which prison were you sent to?
A: Lashio Prison on April 11th 2000.

Q: How many years have you already stayed in prison?
A: About eight months [total]. I was in Lashio Prison for over one month.

Q: How many prisoners in Lashio Prison?
A: I can’t tell.

Q: Were there women in the prison?
A: There were, but they were staying in a separate room. I didn’t see how many. The males couldn’t go in and the females couldn’t come out. They kept the women there and closed it.

Q: Did you suffer torture in Lashio Prison?
A: No.

Q: How did you eat in prison?
A: They fed us well in Lashio Prison. They fed us vegetables in prison

Q: Did you sleep well?
A: I slept well.

Q: Did you take a bath?
A: Once a day. They gave us 8 cups of water to use. It was enough.

Q: Did the sick people get enough medicine?
A: I was never sick. I saw sick people. They gave medicine. I don’t know what diseases. There was also sleeping disease.

Q: What about work?
A: I had to work for one week at the plantation. We had to work very often, morning and evening. I had to pour water on the plants at 8 a.m. and at 3 in the afternoon. It was the prison plantation, the jailers’ plantation.

Q: Which prison handed you over to the Army?
A: Lashio Prison. I don’t remember when. They called 150 prisoners from Lashio Prison.

Q: Where did you start to porter from?
A: I don’t know.

Q: How many days did you have to porter?
A: I had to carry for two days.

Q: Where did you arrive after the two days?
A: I don’t know.

Q: What did you have to carry?
A: I had to carry a big iron box but I don’t know what was in it. It was 20 viss [32.66 kgs / 72 lbs].

Q: Were you able to carry it?
A: I couldn’t carry it. It was very heavy, but I had to carry it. I couldn’t follow them. I couldn’t walk and fell down.

Q: How did the soldiers feed you?
A: They fed me well, but when I arrived at the Army camp, I didn’t get enough. We didn’t eat with the soldiers.

Q: Did they give tarpaulin, slippers and clothes?
A: When I left Lashio Prison, they gave them. They confiscated it all at Pa’an Won Saung. The Army unit gave us nothing.

Q: Did anyone get sick?
A: I didn’t see anyone get sick.

Q: How did the soldiers deal with you?
A: They dealt with me as usual.

Q: When you arrived to a place where you could take a rest, how many days did you stay there?
A: I couldn’t take a rest on any day. I was fencing the camp.

Q: Did you escape while on the path or from the place where you rested?
A: I fled from Azin Byu Ha Gone. I had stayed there for eight days. I fled alone.

Q: What did you think about that made you flee?
A: They didn’t feed me enough in the camp. I had to work. I couldn’t suffer it so I fled. I thought that when I fled, I would keep going until I escaped.

Q: Did you know what kind of nationality lived in the place where you fled from?
A: I didn’t know.

Q: Were the people who forced you to carry soldiers or civilians?
A: They were soldiers. Burmese soldiers.

Q: Who helped you after you fled?
A: When I became dizzy and fell down, the people who carried me [the villagers who carried him to where the interview was conducted] helped me. I don’t know who carried me. They gave me medicine and gave me a bath.

Q: Did the people who carried you have guns or were they ordinary people?
A: There were people holding guns [Karen soldiers] and also ordinary villagers. I didn’t think they were Burmese soldiers. I didn’t think they were Burman, but I didn’t know what nationality.

Q: What nationality did you think you were meeting with when you came here?
A: I didn’t know. Now I know, Karen nationality. They treated me well. I am happy.

Q: Did you ever see the Burmese soldiers when you stayed in your place?
A: I have seen them.

Q: What do you want to do when you get better?
A: When I get better, I will do any job you can find for me.

Q: What kind of work do you want to do?
A: When I become healthy I will do any kind of work.

Q: Where do you want to go?
A: I want to go back home, but I don’t have any contact with home.