Ashes and Tears: The Interviews
Interview 16: "Mr. Purple"
From: Tiddim township, Chin State.
Education: 10th standard.
Left Burma: October 2000.
Q: Why did you leave Burma?
A: Because of my brother X, all of the family members had troubles. My brother was involved in the pro-democracy movement since 1988. My brother became a wanted man by the military, and he dared not to stay in his home. The military were going to arrest him. To save the life of my brother, all the family members were very worried. Another brother was in the [government] army; he helped X to get a passport and escape from the country. So my brother in the army got in trouble with the military because of that, and he was interrogated so many times by the military. He was demoted from his rank, and his wife died from heart disease because of her husband's troubles. Then that brother died, because of all of that interrogation, from depression and heart disease.
All of my family members were interrogated by the military because of my brother X, including my sister. She was one of the Chin elders. My sister left the country because she could not bear the interrogation anymore. A friend got her a passport and she followed X to [overseas]. I was interrogated by the Military Intelligence frequently and for a long time. I could not bear it anymore and was afraid of them. I myself and other family members and all of my relatives suffered a lot of persecution by the military in so many ways, including the political and the religious ways also.
Q: Was your family involved with political parties?
A: I helped the NLD, but I was not actually a member of that party. My relatives helped the political parties whenever they could.
Q: When was the last time the authorities questioned you?
A: In 2000. They came to my house. At last I dared not stay in my house. I lived in my relatives' and friends' houses, moving from one house to another.
Q: What kind of questions did they ask you?
A: They asked me what did I do with the NLD, and what person of the NLD did I meet.
Q: Who would question you?
A: They didn't wear any uniform and I had never seen them before. Some were Burmans and some were Chins, sometimes. They'd come to my house as a visitor and ask my wife about me. They'd come to see me about once every two weeks. Sometimes they'd come to my house as a visitor and they'd speak politely. But one time they took me to their camp and I was interrogated. My eyes were blindfolded. I was beaten, and punched and kicked. The injury from that time made me deaf in the left ear. And my back was stabbed by a bayonet or something sharp. I went unconscious. It was at the end of 1998.
Q: How long did they keep you that time?
A: Four days. After I got the injury, they let me go back home.
Q: Did anyone have to pay for your release?
A: Yes, my family member paid some bribe, but I don't know how much it was.
Q: In the Tiddim area, in 1999-2000, did the army ask people to do work for them?
A: A lot of such things. Most of the time, they forced people to carry their equipment as a porter, and forced them to work for construction of the road.
Q: When you were in Tiddim in 1999, did you hear about the USDA?
A: One of my [relatives] was in the USDA. He had to work for... activities of the USDA. That organization was formed by the government, so they had to work for the government.
Q: Did the authorities ask your family for fees for special purposes?
A: Yes, many payments to the government or other organizations. Some Chin people have companies or big stores, and the government forces them to donate money to build a pagoda or something like that. For example, U ---, he is not a Chin but he is a Christian; they forced him to donate about a million kyat for the building of a pagoda, but he refused it for the pagoda because he was a Christian and he told the government to use the money instead for a hospital or to help needy people. That was in Rangoon.
Q: How did you get news and information about politics?
A: I heard about those things from other people.
Q: Did your family have a television or video, in Chin State?
Q: Where there Chin programs on television?
A: There was only one channel, Myanmar Television, it was broadcast in Burmese. No Chin language, no Chin programs.
Q: Could you buy or see Chin videos?
A: I never heard about Chin videotapes. Maybe published secretly. You could not buy them in the shops.
Q: Could people in Tiddim get underground publications such as leaflets?
A: I heard that the people got and read those leaflets, but I never experienced it because I was afraid of the military, because I was interrogated so much.
Q: In Tiddim did you ever see pro-democracy things like stickers, posters, or graffiti?
A: I have heard that this kind of sticker happened in Tiddim, but I never saw it.
Q: Did your family in Tiddim have a car?
A: Yes. But sometimes the military used the truck to carry their supplies, without paying. My cousin had to drive for them. They didn't pay for the truck, but sometimes left a small amount of gas in it.
Q: Did you know anything about any mining or oil business in the Tiddim area?
A: No, I don't know.