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Interview 1: Satin Lal

Interview 2: Biak To

Interview 3: Nun Uk

Interview 4: Esther

Interview 5: "Ms. White"

Interview 6: Maran Kai Ra

Interview 7: Titus Mahkaw

Interview 8: T. Hkun Li Seng

Interview 9: Sinlyu Bawk Htun

Interview 10: "Mr. Green"

Interview 11: "Mr. Blue"

Interview 12: Ni Thang

Interview 13: Julie Ngun

Interview 14: Job

Interview 15: "Mr. Gray"

Interview 16: "Mr. Purple"

Interview 17: "Mr. Orange"

Ashes and Tears: The Interviews

Interview 8: T. Hkun Li Seng
Male, age 32.
From: Lashio, Shan State.
Occupation: Sergeant in Kachin Independence Army.
Education: 10th standard.
Ethnicity: Kachin.
Religion: Baptist.
Left Burma: November 2000.

 Q: Why did you decide to leave Burma?
 A: Because of my involvement in the political movement, I couldn't stay any longer in Burma. I was in danger at the hands of the military.
 Q: When did you join the KIA?
 A: 1989.
 Q: What were you doing at that time?
 A: After I finished 10th standard, I went to the Hpakant jade mine area. When I was working there, the KIA [conscripted] me to join the KIA forces.
 Q: Where were you stationed with the KIA?
 A: I started in the 6th Battalion in Hpakant area for two years, then I was transferred to Headquarters, Pajau area. From '92 to '99 I was in Pajau {General Headquarters of the KIO/KIA]. I was one of the staffers in the regional civil office under the KIO [Kachin Independence Organization] in Hpakant. Then I moved to Headquarters and worked for the Central Committee [of KIO]. Then I was transferred to the Construction Department.
 Q: Before the ceasefire, were you in combat?
 A: No.
 Q: Could you compare before and after the ceasefire?
 A: Before the ceasefire, all the servicemen in the KIO had a kind of unity and straight mentality to fight against the military government for our own homeland. But since the ceasefire all those traits have kind of melted and we became weak, not just physically but also mentally and there was lots of disappointment and unhappiness. Most of us disagreed with the ceasefire. Because there's no benefit or advantage for the ordinary soldiers and the people.
 Q: Economically were there changes after the ceasefire for the soldiers?
 A: Before the ceasefire, the situation was tough for the ordinary soldiers, especially those soldiers in combat, sometimes they had to [stretch] three days' rations for five days, making soup. But since the ceasefire, the life of the ordinary soldier becomes slightly better.
 Q: Did the KIO economic situation change after the ceasefire?
 A: In the past, before the ceasefire, KIA or KIO had their own positions and whatever decisions they had to make, they made by themselves, and they didn't need to ask anybody about the trading. But since after the ceasefire, it might seem that the economy of the KIO may be slightly better, but in fact, whatever they want to do, they need to ask the Burmese generals for the permission. In political ways, it is more restricted than before. But I don't know deeply about the economy of the organization.
 Q: In 1998-99, were there Burmese government/army people coming to Pajau?
 A: Yes. And General Secretary Khin Nyunt was in Pajau, December 31, 1997. It wasn't a meeting, just to have a kind of dinner, something like that. I'm not sure what they talked about. He came by two Husky helicopters.
 Q: What was the situation in Laiza [Kachin/China border-trade town south of Pajau] like in 1998-99?
 A: You have to bribe the [Burma government] military officers; even the KIO or KIA as a group, they have to bribe the military authorities, if you do that, you might have a better chance of trading in this area. Doing that kind of thing is maybe slightly better than before, if you can bribe them.
 Q: Would you call Laiza a KIO area or is it a Burmese government administered area?
 A: KIO controlled area. There's no Burmese administrators in Laiza, but the Burmese gate, their administration office, is about nine miles away from Laiza, at a place called Laiz Jaya. If you want to go to the KIA Laiza area, you have to go through Laiz Jaya. There is a junction when you come from Myitkyina or Bhamo, there is a military post there.
 Q: In '98-'99 was there still much logging in the Laiza area, much wood going to through to China?
 A: There's still a few smuggling and logging of trees, but not legally now. In the past, it was legal doing that logging business. Lots of woodlands became empty, almost no more [trees].
 Q: Who made it illegal?
 A: The [Burmese] military government. If you have a good relationship with the generals, the military government, it's still legal. But if you don't have, it's illegal. And from the KIO side, it's the same as the Burmese. If they get a kind of tax, then they issue the permission to the trader.
 Q: Has the KIO's opium-growing suppression program situation changed in recent years?
 A: The KIO still suppresses planting the opium. Sometimes people from China came and planted opium on the Burma side, but when the KIO found out they made them go away, and a heavy fine, and almost death penalty.
 Q: Did the government troops change their positions closer to or farther from Pajau after the ceasefire?
 A: Much closer. You can even see them. You are not able to see the soldiers or the men working, but you can see their place, their buildings. It's only about two miles away from the KIO Headquarters.
 Q: How did that happen?
 A: After the ceasefire, the Burmese troops made their way closer to the KIA camps, not just at Pajau, as much as possible. Nobody stopped them.
 Q: What did you hear about the gorvernment troops' relations with the local people in those former KIA areas?
 A: After the military "Tatmadaw" [government forces] arrived in the area, they made those local people abandon their homeland, their villages, and relocated them to where the place is farther than the KIA area. To make it so they are not able to contact with the KIA or to help the KIA. Further into the Burma side area, further away from the KIA controlled area.
 Q: Did those people have to work for the government army?
 A: Yes. Almost every day or every week, they have to work for the military, for doing all sorts of things for those soldiers, and sometimes they need to build fencing for the military camp, then all the villagers are [told] to do that. They had mostly been under KIA control in the past, before the ceasefire, but afterwards, the Burmese soldiers they just sort of made their way to drive out the KIO or KIA soldiers further away. In the past, those local people, Kachins, were made to be porters. Now there's no portering, but still they need to work for the military. Every village, one person or two persons have to be on standby for the military outposts.
 Q: Was the KIO or KIA telling civilians to do work for them at all?
 A: There was no forced by KIA or KIO, but if they want to work, the KIA paid for them. Like a job, they'd get paid.
 Q: What was the relation between the KIO and KDA [ceasefired faction, Kachin Defense Army]?
 A: Now the Kachin revolution groups like KDA, and NDAK [New Democratic Army, Kachin] and KIA and K3, they are trying again to be one group. In the past three years they had several meetings, but they are still separate so far.
 Q: What about relations with other ceasefire groups, like the Wa and Kokang and some Shan factions?
 A: Some of the Shan representatives, SSPP [Shan States Progress Party] had an office in the KIA Headquarters. They [KIA] don't have much relationship with the Kokang and Wa, but I'm not sure. As far as I know, there's no kind of good relationship with them.
 Q: What is your opinion about the change in leadership that happened in Pajau recently?
 A: What I believe is, under the leadership of [Brig. Gen.] Tu Jai, the organization will be better. Even though in the past it seemed that [Gen.] Zau Mai was the leader, [Tu Jai] was the leader, the one who put all the soldiers together, put the organization together. The real leader was Tu Jai. For the KIA soldiers. So I believe Tu Jai will be better than Zau Mai.
 Q: When you were at Hpakant, what were the conditions for the jade miners?
 A: In the past, if you paid tax to the KIO, you can have a jade mine or trade in the Hpakant area. It didn't matter who you were or where you were from. But mostly it was the Kachin people. So they could have their jade mine whenever or wherever they wanted, if that place did not belong to anybody. They had a chance... But since the ceasefire, the government announced for a kind of company. After that, most of the local businesses have lost their jade mines. In the past, between the worker and the owner, the boss, if you get jade, you'd have half and half split [of profits] but now it's become a kind of salary. That means no more workers have a chance of becoming rich men. They will stay the same. People who have the money will have more money, but people who are poor will stay the same. So the conditions become worse than before.
 Q: Why did you decide to leave Pajau and then Burma?
 A: I got married in Pajau, so I have a family, and I had been serving in the KIO for ten years, so I asked for a discharge. I was given an A-list discharge. Whenever they need me, I must be ready to come back and serve the KIO. B-list means if your health condition is not good, they give you the discharge. C-list means they dismiss you. I went back to Lashio through the China border. Before I was discharged I was asked to contact the [KIA] 4th Brigade in the Shan State area. So I contacted the 4th Brigade of the KIA and they asked me to provide for them the clothing and other supplies, so I helped them collect that, and I hired the transportation, arranging to get that to the 4th Brigade. The first time I could make it, but the second time my friend was arrested and the cargo was confiscated. And they also followed me. That's why I left Lashio. They came to arrest me at my house. But they didn't catch me...

Next: Interview 9