Monday, November 12, 2007

How does the Burma junta treat its war veterans?

If you what to know what kind of regime runs Burma, ask a Burmese army war veteran.

Near a park across the river in Burma, I interviewed a Burmese army veteran. He had only one leg, having lost the other in combat. Beside him stood his wife. Against a concrete wall rested his artificial leg. One of his two sons sat tapping two sticks together while I spoke to his father. My guide served as interpreter.

J: Please tell me about yourself.

V: I was a soldier inside Burma. I fought for Burma north of the Thai border town of Tachilek. And in the far north of Burma -- near the Chinese border. There I fought against the Bakuba -- the army of the Burmese Communist Party.

J: Is this your son?

V: My house was taken by the Burmese army. This year, in April. Taken by force.

J: Why?

V: Five houses were taken away to build a railway station.

J: Did you get compensation.

V: No. Nothing!

J: Why did you come to this border town?

V: I came here to go to Cynthia's clinic in Thailand. And to get work.

J: I see.

V: I am very sad. My house was taken away by the army. After leaving my house I had to move to Mandalay. I had no job. So I came to here.

J: Can you work in Thailand?

V: I may be able to get temporary work in Thailand -- for a day.

I felt sad afterwards. It was a short talk. The wife, his son, and the former soldier appeared to have no possessions whatsoever. I thanked the soldier for speaking with me. I squeezed a bill into his hand. Seeing this, my guide praised me.

I only felt empty.

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