Interview | Naw A---, (female, 27), B--- village, Kawkareik Township, Dooplaya District (July 2013)
The following Interview was conducted by a community member trained by KHRG to monitor local human rights conditions. It was conducted in Dooplaya District in 2013 and is presented below translated exactly as it was received, save for minor edits for clarity and security. This interview was received along with other information from Dooplaya District, including two other interviews and eight photographs.
Marital Status: Married
Do you know what my name is?
I do not know.
My name is Saw C---. I am working with KHRG. Do you know the meaning of KHRG?
I do not know. I do not know anything.
KHRG helps the Karen people related to their rights. So now I want to ask are there any difficulties that you have to face in your village here?
Yesterday, when I went and talked to my friend, she told me to report the information if I have any difficulties. When I came back [to my village from D--- village], my plot of land [where I had intended to build a house] had already been destroyed. I was told that a plot for a new house would be found for me. Now, it is already the time [of year] for house building and I do not have any place to build my house yet. As I still do not have a place [to build my house] yet, it would be better if I could get some support. I will also [try to] find some support by myself. Some of my siblings and [other] relatives have sympathy for me.
How big was your plot that they [the government] destroyed?
When the school was built, it took over my whole plot. All of the plants that I had planted were destroyed.
How many kinds of plants were destroyed?
I had planted many plants like palm trees, mango trees, jack fruit trees and coconut trees in my plot and we decided that we were going to live on our plot but they destroyed all of it.
So what about the place that you are going to live in right now?
I do not have any place [to live right now]. My mother-in-law also does not have any children or a husband beside her and I have already asked her to come and live with me. However, as my plot has been destroyed, we have to live in other people’s houses. If I have more children and if they [the owner of the house where she is temporarily living] do not provide me with any place to live, I will have no place to live and I might have to go and live in the forest. And if we do not dare to live in the forest, there is only one other option; I need to go to live in a refugee camp.
Who are the people that destroyed your plot?
At first, people said that the government would support me. However, no one came and told me anything even though it is already the time [of year in which I need] to build my house.
How long has it been since they destroyed your plot?
They [the government] started to plough [my plot] last year. We started to move last year [from our village] and went to live in D--- village. People told me to come back [to the village]. By the time I arrived, my plot had been completely destroyed. People said they [the government] are going to find a plot for me.
When they [the government] destroyed your plot, did they ask permission to destroy it from anyone?
I do not know whether they asked for permission from anyone or not. I myself was not here.
So, they did not ask permission from the land owner [you]?
No, they did not. I was living in D--- [at that time].
Did you tell them [the government] that you wanted support [compensation] from them since they destroyed your plot?
I did not tell them. In the meeting yesterday, people [the village head] said that they [the government] are going support the villagers. I asked my friend; What kind of support are people going to give? She said that if I have any serious problem, I could report it. I went to ask my friend and my friend went to ask the village head.
What did the village head say?
I do not know. My friend was asking about this. [At this point, a friend of the main interviewee who was also present during the interview interjected: The village head was trying to request [compensation from] him [the government] but they had not given [compensation] to the village head. – interjection ends] I do not see this as the fault of the village head.
But the village head was trying his best to get compensation?
Yes, he tried to do his best. He has to [work] very hard to plan and manage [affairs] for the villagers. We do not see this as the fault of the village head.
When people came to have the meeting and explain to you about the difficulty [that you can report], were they the government? Or were they Karen [Karen National Union (KNU)]?
They were the government. I did not go when people went to the meeting yesterday. My mother-in-law went and told me about it.
Did they say that they would help you if you had any difficulty?
[At this point, a friend of the main interviewee who was also present during the interview interjected: They are going help regarding livestock. They are going to give injections of medicine for the cattle, buffalos, chickens and pigs. They noted down how many cattle, buffalos, chickens and pigs the villagers own and they said when all of the villagers are together, they are going to inject the medicine for their animals. – interjection ends] I did not go yesterday and people came back and told me back about this information.
Did they tell you that they would help you with things as they had destroyed your plot?
No, they did not tell me anything.
So they are only going to help with the animals like cattle and buffalos?
[At this point, a friend of the main interviewee who was also present during the interview interjected: No, they are not going to help [by giving new livestock]; they are going to help the villagers who [already] have cattle or buffalos. They are going to give injections of medicine to them. They are not going to help [give] new animals, but they will give medicine injections to the villagers’ buffalos and cattle. – interjection ends]
So it is medicine that prevents decease in animals?
[At this point, a friend of the main interviewee who was also present during the interview interjected: Yes, the village head told us that when we had the meeting. There is nothing else. The village head tried to request [compensation] for the plot when it was destroyed. The village head requested [compensation] from the battalion commander as well as the [government] leader who came to work here [build the school]. However, he was unable to secure [compensation] and he told me that he could not do anything else. He said that if there is any support [available from any organization which will help you] that you can find, just report it [to that organization]. – interjection ends]
How many family members do you have?
There are five members.
So you have three children?
I have two children and my father [also lives with us].
Are both of them males or females?
I have one son, and one daughter.
So you have to face a difficult problem, as you do not have a place to live?
Yes, I do not have a place to live. Now, I am going to build my house but I do not have a place to build it. I am waiting for the people [the village head]. People [the village head] said that they will find a small plot for us. [At this point, a friend of the main interviewee who was also present during the interview interjected: All of the government [workers] who came and built the school here have gone back. They will not help you. – interjection ends] Regarding this case, I do not see that it is the fault of the village head. It does not matter whether I get [a new plot] or not. I am just telling you about it.
Are there any other villagers who have also faced difficulties in the village?
I do not know. Naw E---‘s land is also close to my plot and the government has also destroyed her land. She only has a little bit [of space] left.
Her land was also destroyed?
Yes, she also built her house on her plot. People [the government] also destroyed her plot and she only has a little bit of space left. As for me, I do not have any space left.
When you reported to the village head to [seek] help regarding your plot, did [the government] not say anything to the village head as to how they are going to do [arrange a new plot for you]?
As for me, I did not report it to the village head. I also do not know whether my husband talked to the village head about our plot or not as I have not asked him. He is also not at home now.
So for example, you have a hope that they [the government] are going to help you to get a plot to build your house on?
You want a plot to build your house on?
Yes, I want a plot to build my house on. Now I am living on another person’s plot. As my children are growing up, I also want my own plot. I am living in another person’s plot and if the owner did not let me live here, I would not have a place to live.
You also have five members in your family like you said?
Do you have to face any other oppression [by the government] regarding your occupation?
Regarding my occupation, I do not have [any problem].
Do you have any trouble with your livelihood?
Yes, I have to face trouble in [managing] my livelihood, which is not going well. I had to face the destruction [of my paddy] in my work.
I forgot to ask your name, what is your name?
How old are you?
Twenty seven years old.
Were you born in B--- village and have you always lived in B--- village?
Yes, I was born in B--- village. My parents are also from B--- village.
So you had a plot in B--- and you do not have any plots anywhere else?
So, do you agree [give consent for me to] ask you many questions and send the information about you to the authorized persons [other KHRG staff, for processing]; may I take a photo of you?
Is there anything else you would like to tell me about the issue that you have had to suffer with?
No, I do not have [anything else to tell you].
That is all?
Yes, I think it will be good if I get a new plot, but it does not matter if I do not get [one]. I do not think that it is the fault of the village head. At first, the government said they are going to find a plot for me. Now they have already gone back to their homes and they are not going to find a plot for me.
Do they not have any arrangement to hand over responsibility [for finding a place for you to build a house] to anyone?
No, they do not.
I want to know about what you have suffered because I believe there are also other villagers who are suffering from the [same] things as you but they cannot explain it to me. Now that I know about it, I will let the authorized persons [other KHRG staff] know.
Thank you. Do you [want to talk about] anything else?