Ashes and Tears: The Interviews
Interview 13: Julie Ngun
Female, age 27.
From: Thantlang, Chin State.
Education: 1st year, Mandalay University.
Left Burma: July 2000.
Q: Why did you leave Burma?
A: Because I had a problem with the government, because I was known by the military as I reported to the Chin National Front. I heard that my house was searched by the military.
Q: When was the last time you were able to go to University?
A: In 1996.
Q: Was there political activity there at that time?
A: Yes. Student demonstrations against the government, the military. We demanded to release the student leaders and to form the student union. And to hand over to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her party what they won in the election.
Q: Did you have any problems with the authorities in Mandalay at that time?
A: I was going to be arrested, but I escaped from that. Some of the student leaders were arrested at that time. I went back to Thantlang.
Q: Did your family have any problems with the authorities?
A: Yes, they did, before I left the country. Because I helped the CNF members by distributing their magazines and pamphlets to the public, I left Thantlang, because the military was going to arrest me. And my parents had to leave their house and stay at their farm.
Q: If someone got caught with one of those publications, what would happen to them?
A: If they find it, the magazine and the pamphlet that's issued by the CNF, whenever the [government] military saw one in the hands of some people, they arrest them and put them into the jail and persecute them a lot.
Q: Were there public expressions against the government, like posters, stickers or graffiti?
A: I didn't see those.
Q: The goods in your family's shop, where were they from?
A: Most of the things come from China and Thailand. Most of the time I went to Mandalay to buy those goods. Sometimes my sister went to Mandalay to buy it. Sometimes someone would bring it to us to buy.
Q: How would you go from Thantlang to Mandalay?
A: By car mostly, if the car was possible, it took three days. Including the return, one trip, only for the transport charges for the person cost 6,000 kyat, not including the goods.
Q: Were there checkpoints on the way?
A: Three checkpoints. They check the ID [identity card] of the persons, and they check the things we brought, whether it contained some restricted material or not. We'd have to pay some kind of customs fee because we carried a lot of things. Sometimes we had to pay that to the MI and the army also, to pass the gate, which is [government] military.
Q: Was it easy or hard to get enough things to sell in your shop?
A: I could get the things I wanted to. Most of the time I went to Mandalay every two months.
Q: Were the prices staying the same or going up?
A: Most of the time it was increasing.
Q: At the time you left, what were rice and cooking oil sold for?
A: The cooking oil cost 800 to 900 per viss. One bag of rice cost 5,000 to 6,000.
Q: Just before you left, in your area, was the government army asking people to do things for them?
A: Yes, they were. Most of the work was the road construction and forced portering.
Q: Did any of your family or your friends have to do the road work for the army?
A: Yes, they did.
Q: When was that?
A: 1997-98, and up 'til I left. It's still going on.
Q: When you traveled between Thantlang and Mandalay, did you ever see people doing that kind of work for the army?
A: Yes, I did. They repaired the road. Men and women.
Q: Were children asked to do that kind of work?
A: I didn't notice children, but some would be 14, 15,16 years old.
Q: In Thantlang, are most of the children in school?
A: Most of them, in the town. I don't know about the villages.