Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Veterans and Memorial Day

November 11 is Memorial Day or Veteran's Day throughout the English-speaking world. A year ago, I spoke to a veteran of Burma's army who had sought treatment in Thailand at "Cynthia's clinic." (Coincidentally, today Dr. Cynthia Maung was awarded the 'Catalonia International Prize' from the government of Catalonia, Spain).

Here once again is the post in which I reported on my interview with the veteran:

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.
Originally posted on Nov. 12, 2007. Poppy picture by Falkland's few.

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