In Their Words
Story of Why I Left Burma
I left my home and my mother because of events I witnessed when I was 12 years old.
My mother got up early every morning because she had to draw water for the Burmese soldiers. Then she made my breakfast and some food for me to take to school.
The soldiers’ camp was near our school. The soldiers made the villagers work to extend our school fence to enclose their camp. The villagers also had to construct the building for the soldiers and they had to keep the camp clean. They got no payment for their work. If a tired villager wasn’t working, he would get kicked or hit with a long bamboo pole by the soldiers. This sad situation made the students scared all the time.
After school, the soldiers would wait at the school gate for the girls and then follow them. Every two years, new soldiers replaced old ones. At that time, the departing soldiers would try to capture a Shan girl (16 – 18 years old) and take them away. One day at 3:00 p.m. I saw three soldiers trying to take three Shan girls. The first girl was taken to the camp, the second girl ran to her home and was hidden by her parents. The third girl ran towards her home with her little brother.
When they arrived home, their parents were not there. She quickly got on a bicycle with her brother. The soldier caught up with her and threw the bike to the ground. She got up and grabbed her brother and ran, but the soldier and two other soldiers caught her and showed a knife and pointed at her. They said, “You will go with us or you will die, you have two ways to choose.”
She cried for help but no one came because the villagers were afraid of the Burmese soldiers. She had to go with the soldiers. The parents blamed the teacher for not helping their daughter. The teacher said no one could have helped.
Days later the parents found their daughter and brought her back home where she still lives. She is living a very troubled life. The villagers didn’t accept her and she could not return to school.
After I saw that case, I hated the Burmese military, but I still studied at that school. One day during school lunch break my friends and I were playing football on the field. We saw a soldier grab a young schoolgirl and was forcing her to “make love.” She didn’t want to, so she ran away and came to us yelling for help. One of my friends and I tried to stop the soldier. The soldier said, “If you do like that, you know what will happen to you.” The soldiers told my mother to take care of me that I should not “interfere with their business.” My family started to worry about my security in this village.
The commander of the Burmese Army in our village allowed people to use drugs and gamble. This is one of their ways to destroy the Shan people. One of my uncles used drugs a lot and passed away.
One morning my mother told me something I didn’t expect to hear. “My son you have to stop school and leave me. If you stay here, I don’t know what will happen to you. I don’t have any money to support you.” At that time, I was only 13 years old and didn’t know what to say. I only wanted to cry, because I wanted to live with my mother, and I needed to be close to her because I didn’t have a father.
One day . . ., when I was working in my office, my mobile phone range and I looked at the number. It was strange. When I answered, I heard a lady talking and she was talking in the Shan language. She said, “I’m calling from the border. Your mother now waits for your phone call at your hometown in the middle of Shan State. It makes me very excited.
It is very difficult to phone the Shan State, because the Burmese government bans it and will listen in if you call. In the other hand, I was very happy because I didn’t expect that I would have a chance to talk with my mother. During ten years that I have been away from her, that was the first time I could speak with her. I couldn’t tell her the details of my life in Thailand.
That day was the best day for me and I was very happy. It looked to me like the world was very nice and I smiled all day.
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