Ashes and Tears: The Interviews
Interview 2: Biak To
Male, age: 50.
From: Haka, Chin State.
Occupation: former army and police officer (rank of Lt. Colonel.)
Education: BA, Mandalay University.
Left Burma: November 2000.
Q: Why did you leave Burma?
A: I tried to get a passport with my name, but I could not get it. "If you want a passport, you have to wait seven years," they said. So I tried to get a passport with my nickname, and they gave me a passport. One of my friends from the police, he told me that, "if you stay here, you will be captured." My file had been sent to the MI, so I had to get ready [to leave].
Q: As a policeman, did you have some political problems?
A: In 2000, May 27th, the NLD [National League for Democracy], Aung San Suu Kyi's party, they had their celebration. Their party annual meeting. The anniversary of 11 years. The British embassy and American embassy were invited to attend their celebration. And the government said they are not allowed to attend the celebration. And I wouldn't prevent them. So they changed [the task] to Lt. Col. Aung San Oo, but he is junior to me. He prevented them.
Q: Did you have other situations with the NLD?
A: One time, before the meeting, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, she tried to travel outside of Rangoon. I was in charge of inquiries about Aung San Suu Kyi, and I didn't want to prevent her, and I didn't want to inform to the officers whenever she wanted to go out or not. One time, I don't remember the date, in 1998, she was about 13 days in her car, near the road. During the NLD meeting, I was charged with preventing Aung San Suu Kyi, but I don't want to prevent, so I took leave.
Q: Why did you change from being an army officer to a police officer?
A: In 1988, September 18, the government took power. So they used the "Chin Battalion," army battalion in Taunggyi [Shan State]. So there could be something happening between the Chins and Shans. There could be fighting between the Chins and Shans. The [battalion name] said "Chin Rifles," 2nd Chin Battalion, but there was only Burmese. I felt that the name would cause enmity against the Chin people if they were used against Shan democracy demonstrators. So I did not agree for them to be used there and I protested to my superior officer. For that case they changed me from army to police.
Q: Where were you when you were in the police?
A: Firstly in the Shan State, then I am transferred to 6th Police Battalion in Rangoon. 14 July, I received dismissal from the government.
Q: What was your economic situation in 1999-2000?
A: In 1999 they gave us a pay raise of 1,200 kyat, especially the Burmese. Also in 2000 they increased the pay.
Q: Were there any difficulties regarding religion?
A: So many difficulties. In December 23, 1999, I took a Christian movie to our battalion families, this is the Jesus Christ picture. So my superior officer, they knew and summoned me again: "what about you showed this film? For the Buddhism? This is long-nose American people and British people. So we don't like you to show this movie." And another problem, one of the evangelist pastors, he was preaching in Arakan, and one of the [Buddhist] monasteries burned in a fire. So they detained the evangelist pastor. One of the pastors in Rangoon knew about it and told me. So I helped to get the evangelist released in one month. This matter was known to my superior officer, so I was summoned again and they punished me. They told me that if I did again like that, to help a religious case, they would dismiss me from my position and they would arrest me. During my time, they did not find me guilty of any crime, but they were searching again and again.
Q: Where did your police orders come from?
A: MI is the Military Intelligence. SB2 [Special Branch] is the Police Intelligence. I was doing only security [surveillance] work. The army officers order the police officers.
Q: Who tried people arrested by the police?
A: If they army caught the civilian people, they don't go to trial. They torture them, we cannot say the exact time, any time, one day, two days, one month. The time is not equal. But if the police officer arrests the civilian people, for two weeks they are detained in lock-up. And then after two weeks or one month, they will be put on trial.
Q: Were people being taken to work for the army?
A: They forced the civilian people to do work for them outside the city. The prisoners, also, were forced, every day. The civilians were not forced every day, but sometimes.
Q: Did you know of orders issued to stop forced labor?
A: I never heard of anything like that. The Burma government says, they do not force and kill the people, but this is not true. It is only denial. They always force and kill the people.
Q: Was there corruption in the police department?
A: It may be true, but I didn't know myself. The people who did it wouldn't tell me.
Q: What was the narcotics situation?
A: My duties and obligations were only security, so I never knew a drug case or any other cases.
Q: Did you have to do any security about people from the ceasefire groups?
A: In the police department there are two kinds of police: crimes obligation officer and security department. I was always in the security department. We did not know about narcotics groups. In my battalion, we stick to 34 places for the NLD, in Rangoon city. We cannot check all them all of the time. So if we hear some news, we check. We take only security and we cut the communications. My [police] battalion, we protect Aung San Suu Kyi's residence. Lt. Col. Aung San Oo's battalion, my own battalion and Battalion 6. So, outside people, if they want to communicate with Aung San Suu Kyi, they ask and I report to the MI and SB2. If the MI and SB2 does not allow to meet and does not allow to communicate, we tell that to the person. If they allow, we allow them to go inside. Foreigners and Burmese people also.
Q: Did you also keep watch on NLD headquarters as well as Aung San Suu Kyi's house?
A: NLD headquarters is watched by Battalion 6.
Q: And what about things like telephone and letters, were they also checked?
A: That is another branch.
Q: How did you get information about news events?
A: We could not know outside conditions, but the superior office would give orders. We had no radio, we had no computer.
Q: What was the relationship between the army, police and the people?
A: In my experience, before 1988, at the time I was an army officer, it was not as bad as now. After 1988, while I was a police officer, it is very bad. Their [army] guns are used for robbery. Their rations are not sufficient, our salary is not sufficient for food. So that this is very bad and getting worse.
Q: Is the army making economic profit?
A: All the economics are held by superior officers. We are struggling for our daily food. All the economic power is held by generals, [cabinet] ministers, like those positions. We don't have any powers.
Q: Do you think there is division inside the army and police about democracy?
A: I don't know the real conditions between Maung Aye and Khin Nyunt. But I know one thing. A lot of army and a lot of police want to get democracy. Civilians also want like this. But the superior officers, they do not dare to give in to Aung San Suu Kyi's power. So that Burmese civilian groups to not dare protest for democracy, because they are afraid of arms. And we are not linked between the army and civilian people. The Burma Army and police are loyal in their obligations, they are afraid -- if they are dismissed from their position, how can they get food and salary. This is very important. Now they are very poor. They do not dare to fight for democracy.
And so, just now, the NLD and Khin Nyunt are talking with one another. But I don't believe [in] it. Because Khin Nyunt is not ever daring to hand over to Aung San Suu Kyi. Because all the time, he asks and complains to Aung San Suu Kyi, "if I hand over to you, how can I have protection for my life?" So that he himself is not confident for his life. Now the army officers and those governing are strongly persecuting and torturing the [opposition] politicians and the civilian people. So that if they hand over to the people, they are worried like this, that they [themselves] will be tortured. They are worried about their lives. They are not confident for it. If another nation, another country, if they help us to fight, at the last moment, then they may hand over to the public.