Interview | Naw M---, (female, 43), P--- village, Bu Tho Township, Hpapun District (February 2015)
The following Interview was conducted by a community member trained by KHRG to monitor local human rights conditions. It was conducted in Hpapun District on February 5th 2015 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 Hpapun District, including six other interviews, one incident report, one situation update and 107 photographs.
Marital Status: Married
What is your name?
My name is Naw M---.
How old are you?
I’m 43 years old.
What is the name of the village you live in?
[I live in] P--- village.
What is your ethnicity?
I am Karen [ethnicity].
What is your religion?
What is your occupation?
I do farming. I work on a paddy [rice] farm. The paddy farm is not mine; it is someone else’s farm.
What village tract do you live in?
[I live in] Meh Klaw village tract.
Bu Tho Township.
Mutraw [Hpapun] District.
Are you married?
Yes, I have been married.
How many children do you have?
I have seven children. Some of them are very small [young].
How old is your eldest child?
My eldest child is 20 years old.
What about your youngest child?
My youngest child is one year and six months old.
How many households are there in your village?
There are [number censored for security] households.
How many people are there?
I don’t know how many people. I think there are around [number censored for security] people and more, including the children.
Can you please tell me a little bit about your situation and your experience? For example, what experiences have you had between the past and now?
People told me that he [my husband] had witchcraft abilities but I told them that he did not have any witchcraft abilities.
Is it true that you heard from someone that people had killed him?
Yes, it is true that people murdered him. He did not commit suicide.
Who killed him?
I think it was the KNDO’s [Karen National Defence Organisation] Deputy Commander.
Which village tract is the KNDO’s Deputy Commander and the KNDO group based in?
I think they are based in Meh Klaw village tract. [It was] the KNDO’s Deputy Commander in Meh Klaw village tract.
What is his name?
Saw Kler Say.
Do you know how old he is?
I think he is around 30 years old.
What village does he live in?
He lives in A--- village.
Is A--- village in Meh Klaw village tract?
Yes, it is in Meh Klaw village tract.
Do you know the date when he killed him [your husband]?
He [Saw Kler Say] murdered him [my husband] in the evening, but I do not know what time he killed him because he [my husband] had gone to A--- village. I do not know what time he left to go [to A--- village] because I was sick. I told [allowed] him [my husband] to go for a while. He went there but he disappeared for the whole night, and he had still not come back by the next afternoon. People found him at 5pm in the afternoon [on the next day].
How did people find him?
Saw A--- said he went to the jungle to hunt yellow squirrel. He said, “I saw him and I thought it was my mum collecting firewood. I shouted at her, ‘hey, hey’ and I thought she is deaf so I went closer and shouted again ‘hey’, then I realised that it was not my mum. I looked at the body and I realised it was my Tee Doh [uncle].” He called him Tee Doh. “So, I ran back to the village.” He ran back directly to my house.
When he saw him, what did his body look like? How had they killed him?
I don’t know because I did not go close and see it by myself. Saw A--- said his [my husband’s] face was facing towards my house.
What did his body look like? Did he [the KNDO Deputy Commander] beat him to death or did he hang him? What did he look like?
He [Saw A---] told me that he [my husband] was hanged. They [the perpetrators] hanged him with his longyi. They cut his longyi into two pieces. They hanged him with one piece of his longyi and left one piece. He had only worn that longyi twice. His longyi was new.
Did you remember which month he was killed in?
No, it was during the time when people were harvesting paddy. It was in lah naw [equivalent of November in the in Karen calendar], because people harvest in lah naw.
How did you know who killed your husband?
Before [right after the incident], I did not know who killed him. I found out later.
How did you find out?
I heard people say he [the KNDO Deputy Commander] had fled to Kaw Taw [Myaing Gyi Ngu Town].
Who fled to Kaw Taw Town?
Saw Kler Say fled to Kaw Taw Town. People [Border Guard Force] arrested him and brought him back because he had killed someone. And then I found out that he was the one who killed my husband.
Did you find that out when he was arrested?
Yes, [I found it out] when they arrested him. When I heard from people that he had been arrested, I guessed that it was him who killed my husband.
Did you find this out at that time?
Yes, I found out the truth later.
How did you find out the truth? Who told you or did you find out on your own?
I heard that Bo B--- had been arrested and had been ordered to go to the [KNU’s Bu Tho] Township office, regarding the issue that he [Bo B---] ordered him [my husband] to go to his [Bo B---‘s] house and then [my husband] disappeared. At that time Saw Kler Say came back to the village, and before I thought it was him [who had killed my husband], and after people arrested him my suspicion was stronger.
Did Saw Kler Say flee to Kaw Taw Town?
Did Saw Kler Say flee to Kaw Taw Town because he killed your husband and he was afraid that people would arrest him?
I think so. He might have thought that the case would be investigated, so he fled to hide.
Who went to arrest him?
I do not know. I did not ask about who arrested him.
Why did Saw Kler Say kill your husband? What did your husband do wrong?
I do not know. I heard that he [Saw Kler Say] said that my husband tried to kill his younger brother with witchcraft skills and his younger brother kept getting sick.
Was his [Saw Kler Say’s] younger brother actually ill?
Yes, he was sick.
Was he sick before [the accusations]?
I think he might have been sick in the past because all people can be sick.
How did he know that your husband tried to kill his younger brother with witchcraft skills?
I don’t know about that. I heard he said my husband tried to kill his younger brother with witchcraft skills. I had never known or heard that he [my husband] tried to kill anyone with witchcraft skills. There are many diseases in the area now [which people can get sick from].
In the past, have you ever heard that your husband tried to kill someone with witchcraft skills?
I had never heard about it. I got angry and shouted [swore] at him once ‘you could not stick together [close] a vagina with witchcraft skill’, when I heard from people that he had told them [he had witchcraft skills]. Sometimes when he got drunk he might have told people that he had witchcraft skills, but I did not know about that. Sometimes he healed people with a skill he had, so he might have exaggerated to people about it and people would take it seriously. I don’t think he could do that [witchcraft].
When he [Saw Kler Say] said your husband tried to kill his younger brother with witchcraft skills, did he have any conflict with your husband before that?
I do not know.
Did you ever hear from other people that he and your husband had had a conflict?
He said that when his younger brother came and planted paddy for me, my husband shouted at him [Saw Kler Say’s younger brother]. When he returned home he got sick, so he said that my husband had done that. I did not [get involved] with that.
How and why did your husband shout at him [Saw Kler Say’s younger brother]?
Because he [Saw Kler Say’s younger brother]planted paddy too close to each other and my husband did not have enough young paddy plants. So my husband told him to plant the paddy a little further away. They were young and they could not plant paddy very well, so they planted some too close and some a litter further apart. He [my husband] saw that so he shouted at him [and his other friends]. When he came back home I told him, ‘Don’t talk to people like that. They are young and they will get angry with you.’ He replied to me that ‘[he shouted at them] because they did not plant paddy for us in the right way. If they plant paddy in the right way, I would not say that.’
It wasn’t like he got [very] angry and shouted, right?
No, he saw that [they were planting paddy too close] therefore he told [shouted at] them. That was it.
So, Saw Kler Say’s younger brother got sick after he went back?
I do not know about [the details of] that.
Did he only get sick right after he got back from planting paddy for you or had he been sick in the past?
I do not know whether he was sick or not because I did not go to his house. I only went occasionally when I needed something.
Was Saw Kler Say’s younger brother seriously sick?
I heard he went somewhere for treatment because he had a headache and felt dizzy. He said he was feeling dizzy for one or two months.
How did he [Saw Kler Say] know that your husband tried to kill him [his younger brother] with witchcraft skills?
I do not know and I did not ask about that. I also did not ask my husband. He [my husband] did not tell me that people suspected that he could kill people with witchcraft skills.
On the day that he was killed, did he stay at home or did he go to the forest?
He went to check the water that day. When I [went to the monastery], to deliver a monk robe, he looked after his [our] children. When I went back home he said he would eat rice, so I told him, ‘If you eat rice, I will eat as well.’ I told him, ‘I have felt dizzy since I woke up this morning so I do not want to cook anything for you. I have felt sick since yesterday.’ I asked him to send the monk robe but he did not, so I sent it myself. When I returned home he told me, ‘Your child is not feeling well.’ I told him, ‘My child has not been feeling [well] since yesterday.’ My child did not like that I put [them] on the floor, so I had to carry [them] on my back all the time. He said he was waiting for me to come back [after sending the monk robe]. When I reached home he put a child beside me and said, ‘here is your child, he is crying a lot.’ Then I told him, ‘Make some chilli paste if there is no curry left.’ He said, ‘I don’t want to make chilli paste.’ I told him, ‘Just go and collect some chillies from the tree [chilli plant] and pound it and eat it with some boiled bamboo shoots that are left over.’ He prepared rice and he ate it. He asked me, ‘You said you will eat rice too, why don’t you eat now.’ I replied, ‘I do not want to eat because I feel dizzy and my breasts are painful as well.’ He told me, ‘You talk about your breast pain again, when your breasts are painful, you always talk in your sleep.’ I drank two to three pots of boiled hot water. I could not drink tepid water. I told him, ‘I don’t know, this disease sometimes makes me feel pain.’ When it affects me I have pain for two to three nights continuously. When it affects me seriously I have shocks. I could not breastfeed my child. I sat close to a hot water pot and drank all of the boiled water. I had to boil more water and then I drank it all. I had to do that till dawn. I felt better when the sunrise came. I fell asleep at noon because I could not sleep for the whole night.
So, he was with you at home at that time?
You said he disappeared in the evening. Did you know when he went?
He talked to me and heated up a stone for me because I felt sick. He went there after he prepared a hot stone for me.
Where did he go?
He went to A--- village. He told me that, ‘people asked me to go so I will go.’ I told him, ‘Just go for a while.’ He replied me, ‘Yes, I will only go for a while.’ I told him, ‘Your child is not feeling well so you should come back and look after [them] at night time. I’m not feeling well as well. When your child is sick, [they] always cry.’ I told him to come back and he replied, ‘Yes’. I told him, ‘Whenever you go out, you always disappear and get drunk.’ I told him, ‘Don’t drink too much alcohol.’
Did he go?
Did people ask him to go or did he go by his own accord?
People asked him to go.
Who asked him to go?
Bo B--- asked him to. He told me, ‘Bo B--- asked me to go to meet him.’
Did you feel sick when he went?
Yes, I felt sick and my child was sick for three days before me as well. He went there after I had been sick for three days.
Did he come back after he went?
No, he did not come back. He disappeared.
When he disappeared, how did you find out?
In the morning, I waited for him until the sun rose and I thought he had gone there [to P--- village]. I did not know where he went. I thought he had travelled around the village and when it got dark he had slept at someone else’s house. It was not like that. In the past he came home in the morning. Even when he had slept at someone else’s house, he came home when the sun rose. He usually came home at around 7:00 AM or 8:00 AM. This time, it was already 12:00 PM but he had not come back yet. He had disappeared.
Did you know it [the death of your husband] when Saw A--- came to tell you?
Yes, I knew it when he came to tell me.
How many days after [your husband disappeared] did he [Saw A---] find your husband’s dead body?
He [my husband] disappeared on Monday evening and his body was found on Tuesday at 5:00 PM. He [Saw A---] told me, ‘I [Saw A---] was hunting yellow squirrels.’ He always goes to hunt yellow squirrels at the htoo htoo [tree] because yellow squirrels come to eat the fruit on that tree. He found the dead body there. He ran directly to my house and shouted, ‘Hey Ya Doh, hey Ya Doh [aunty]’and I shouted back to him, ‘Hey’. He asked me, ‘Go and untie Tee Doh [uncle] now.’ And I asked him, ‘why? Who tied him?’ I thought people had tied him up. He replied, ‘People did not tie him up. He hanged himself.’ And I shouted, ‘Why did he do such a thing like that? In the past he told me that he did not dare hang himself up. Why did he hang himself?’ I did not tell him anything. I did not get angry at him and I only told him that I’m not feeling well and to come back [to me]. ‘Why did he do such a thing like that?’ He told me, ‘I don’t know’. Then I asked my children to go and look at it [their father’s dead body]. I asked him, ‘Where was it?’ He pointed at the place and said, ‘It is over there. You can see it if the place is cleared.’ I repeated again, ‘Why did he do such a thing like that?’ I felt like my illness was getting worse. I felt like my heart was not inside my body. I was full of anxiety.
When you mentioned that the KNDO’s Deputy Commander killed him, did he himself want to kill your husband or was it because other villagers peer pressurised him to kill him?
I don’t know that. I think other villagers might have encouraged him. If no one encouraged him, he would not dare to do that. He just killed him [my husband] like that.
So, there are some villagers who encouraged him?
Yes, there would have been some villagers who encouraged him.
When he accused your husband of being able to kill people with witchcraft skills, did he inform his leaders to punish and charge him [your husband]?
No, I had never heard about that. If they suspected that he could kill people with his witchcraft skills, why didn’t they arrest him and then punish him according to their rules? One person has to be disciplined three times right? After they [local officials] punish someone three times, and if they do something wrong again, they can kill them and there will be no case to file and submit to the court [as it will be fair justice]. Right now, they killed him before they punished him so there should be a case to file and submit to the court.
Did people charge him [Saw Kler Say] now? Or are the people who killed your husband [still] living freely at home?
No, people have already arrested them and put them in jail.
How many people were charged for this case?
There were three people.
Who are they?
They are a village head, Naw C--- and D---.
Are these three people villagers?
Yes, all three of them are villagers. One of them is a village head.
Why were they charged?
I do not know. I heard people say that Naw C--- had told him [Saw Kler Say] that, ‘If you kill him, we will give you money for cigarettes’.
So, that means she [Naw C---] asked him [Saw Kler Say] to kill him [your husband]? Did she have any conflict with your husband before she wanted your husband dead?
I did not know anything about that. She [Naw C---] said he [her husband] treated his [Saw Kler Say’s younger brother’s] disease and found that there were many kinds of diseases he [Saw Kler Say’s younger brother] was affected by, so he thought that my husband had tried to kill him [Saw Kler Say’s younger brother] with witchcraft skills. There are many diseases in the area now. People usually say that, ‘Diseases are coming like termites and doctors are coming like maggots’.
In his [C---] village, did he [husband] only give treatment to him [Saw Kler Say’s younger brother]? Has he also given treatment to other villagers as well?
I think he treated other villagers as well because other villagers have diseases too. He [Saw Kler Say’s younger brother] also has many diseases.
Then, how did she [Naw C---] know that your husband had tried to kill him [Saw Kler Say’s younger brother] with witchcraft skills?
I do not know where she had heard it from. She suspected that my husband had tried to kill him [Saw Kler Say’s younger brother] with witchcraft skills. I did not know about that. I don’t think he [my husband] had witchcraft skills. He could not stick together [close] a vagina with witchcraft skill.
What about the village head? As he is a village head, did not he tell them that it is not the right thing to do [to kill her husband]?
I do not know.
Was there anyone else involved with the case?
I do not know about any other people.
Did Saw Kler Say kill your husband on his own? Were any other of his friends involved?
He and his two other friends were involved.
Are these two his [KNDO] subordinates or villagers?
They were his [KNDO] subordinates. His [Saw Kler Say] rank was KNDO Deputy Commander, so he will have some soldiers [under his control]. His two soldiers were involved in the incident. I do not know who these two soldiers are. I do not know about the teenagers who grow up in the village now.
From my understanding, the role of a KNDO Deputy Commander is to maintain security for the civilians, right?
Yes, it is.
Regarding what he had done now, do you think he did that by his own decision or did he do that because of he was pressured by people [other villagers]?
I think [he did that] because of he was pressured by other people [to kill]. I don’t think he did that by his own decision.
You said before that you did not know about how your husband was killed?
No, people said that he hanged himself. I came to know it when people arrested and charged them [the perpetrators]. People did not tell me earlier.
Have these perpetrators been brought to the Karen National Union’s (KNU) Township Office now?
Yes, they were all sent [to the KNU’s Township Office].
What about you? Have the [KNU] leaders invited you to meet them?
Yes, I went to E--- village. I slept at E--- village for four days. When I came back, I visited and slept at my parents-in-law’s [house] for one night, so four days in total. When I arrived home my second youngest child got sick, so I was very angry.
Since your husband was killed, have you experienced any difficulties?
I was sick and my children were sick. When I arrived home [coming back from the KNU’s Township Office] I told my children that I had to travel very far and had to carry my baby with me, and I saw that they [children] were sick when I arrived home, and I don’t feel good anymore. It is better if I die now. I told them [my children] that.
Are there any other difficulties that you have faced since your husband died?
So that means, even though your husband is not alive, you can work and earn a living by yourself?
No way, I can’t work and earn a living on my own. I don’t even have money to buy MSG, which costs 484 kyat ($0.36). There is not enough shrimp paste to even make a batch of chilli paste. A while ago I went and asked my friend to give me some shrimp paste to make a batch of chilli paste. I told her that I would buy it and pay her back when I had money. If my husband were still alive I would tell him: ‘There is no more MSG and salt now. Can you please find some money and I will buy MSG?’ Then, he would make a winnowing tray or a basket, and then we could sell that and buy MSG. I used to ask him to make a winnowing tray or a basket, and I sold that and bought things to eat for the family. Because he is dead now we don’t have anything to eat. All the salt, MSG and shrimp paste have gone.
Do you want to say anything else about your husband being killed?
I would like to say [to the perpetrators]; because you killed him you should pay me compensation. You must compensate me. They must buy some food for us. If they do not compensate us, then we do not have any money to buy food with. When my husband was alive, even though we could not buy a lot of food, we could still buy some food to eat. Since he is not alive anymore we cannot buy anything to eat. Now I do not have any money to buy salt or MSG with. If he were alive I could ask him to find money by doing some work. He would do that when he could still do it. When he could not do it anymore, I couldn’t do anything either. It would be better if we were both alive. It is very difficult now that it is just me [who is alive].
After your husband was killed, how did you feel?
I didn’t feel good. This is how I feel. People say that a husband and wife only have one [shared] heart. I feel sad for him [my husband] but I could not help. I can’t resurrect him. So, I have to work and live poorly. I have to look after my family but I only have to take care of my youngest child. My older children do not know how to look after their youngest sibling. I have to take care of them by myself.
In your opinion, do you think it was right or the wrong the way the people treated your husband and killed him?
I don’t think it is acceptable. If my husband was bad why didn’t they punish him according to the official rules? They did not punish him. Why didn’t they punish him or arrest him or interrogate him or put him in prison? Why didn’t they question him like, ‘Did you do it? Do you have witchcraft skills?’ I do not know whether they questioned him like this or not. If he admitted that he had tried to kill with witchcraft skills, then I wouldn’t have been able to help. He would have to be punished for what he did wrong.
When Saw Kler Say said your husband tried to kill his younger brother with witchcraft skills, how did he know that? Did he go to check with the fortune teller?
I do not know whether he checked or not.
What did you hear?
I only heard he said my husband tried to kill his younger brother with witchcraft skills. I did not ask whether he had checked with the fortune teller or not. I don’t like to ask things like that.
Can villagers in your village travel and work freely now?
They can [travel and work freely]. Other villagers have a spouse so they can live better. But for my family we do not have that anymore. We have to work and earn a living poorly.
Have Tatmadaw soldiers been to your village?
I don’t know. I don’t think they come to my village. They used to come to my village in the past but not anymore.
For how many years have they been absent from your village?
I think it has been three or four years now. They have not been to my village for quite a long time.
What about KNU’s [KNLA] soldiers?
Yes, they always come and buy food [in the village].
Is your village located close to any Tatmadaw army camps?
No, it is not. They [Tatmadaw army camps] are based in Hpapun Town. There are many Tatmadaw soldiers in Hpapun Town.
Have the Burma/Myanmar government or Tatmadaw soldiers demanded forced labour or taxes [in your village]?
I don’t know about that.
Do they still demand logs, bamboo or thatched shingles, like they did in the past?
I have not seen them do that, even though I have seen them come to my village.
How long has it been since they have done that?
It has been more than two years now. In the past they ordered us to do forced labour and harvest paddy for them.
Have there been any [cases of] sexual harassment of women by armed groups between 2014 and 2015?
I haven’t heard about any.
Do you want to say something else that I haven’t asked you?
I don’t know what else to say. My husband is dead now so they should compensate me for sure.
When you went to the court, what did the [KNU] leaders tell you?
The [KNU] township leaders told me that it depends on how much I demand. I can’t do anything else.
Do you think they can pay you if you demand it?
I don’t think they can pay me. If they can only pay me half of what I demand, that will be fine for me. So they can suffer less [shorter time in prison].
How much did you demand from them?
All of the people who were involved should compensate me.
Have you told the leader how much you will demand?
I have not told the [KNU] township leaders yet. They told me that I would have to go and tell them at the district office.
So, the case now has to be submitted to the district level?
Yes, they told me that. I told them that I dare not go there because I do not have money. I can’t speak well and I do not dare speak at the court. They told me, ‘it is okay.’ They are all Karen people. So I think I would be able to talk a little bit. They told me, ‘You can say what you want to say. You do not need to feel bad. You can tell [the situation] directly to the head judge.’ I don’t know who the head judge is. I told them, ‘I don’t have anything else to say.’ I told them, ‘Even [when a] person’s buffalo is killed they get compensation. Now, it is human so they must compensate me.’ If they compensate me with even half of my demands they will have to face a lesser punishment. They would still face a punishment even if they can compensate me in full, like for one year. If they don’t pay me they will have to stay in prison for five or six years. For example, if they pay me in full and if they are sentenced for three years in prison, they will only have to serve the sentence for one year. If they do not compensate me at all, they will have to serve the full sentence.
Do you have anything else to say?
If you do not have anything else to say, thank you so much.