By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Nyein now lives in Newhall and holds two jobs, one full-time in a factory, to support her family.
When the army issued warrants for the arrest of NLD politicians, my husband turned himself in because he thought he had done nothing wrong. He didn’t want to look guilty.
He was arrested in December 1990, and they sentenced him in April 1991 to 25 years.
They accused him of trying to overthrow the government. Some of his group ran away from the country, but my husband had two kids, so he could not run away. He is still in jail.
When my husband was transferred to Hayawaddy prison, he got malaria, and they put foot chains on him for a whole month. They only give the prisoners rice to eat . . . They don’t allow anything inside — they don’t even allow toilet paper. They have to sleep on concrete floors, and sometimes it’s very cold. I sent letters to my husband, but he didn’t get them. I now have five years’ experience visiting my husband in jail. He was supposed to be released this month on the condition that he leave Burma and never return. But the government didn’t allow him to get out.
In March 1997, I left Burma because my father had liver cancer — I had to pay a lot of bribes to leave. I sold everything I had to get fake passports for my family.
Inside my country, the people are in the dark. They do not know about world news. The government controls TV, radio, movies, newspapers, every publication. Everything is under [its] control.
I want to tell you the government is lying, and some people are listening to them. It is a corrupt government. They are all very rich, and the people are very poor. I don’t think of the U.S. as my home, but my home is not my home, because of the dictators. The country is their country, the people are their people. But my soul always goes back to my country.
Dr. Aung Khin, 62
Khin fled Burma in 1976 after finding himself in the middle of the conflict between SLORC and insurgent ethnic groups such as the Karen National Union (KNU).
Khin works as a clinical psychologist in Orange County.
I was forced to go into the jungles with SLORC soldiers as a medic. I had to obey whatever they said. They even forced me to work as a sentry to protect against the Kachin, one of the big rebel groups. The Kachin recently signed a cease-fire agreement with SLORC — they had no place to go.
At the time I was working for SLORC soldiers, I was posted to a small township called Kamaing, the location of Burma’s main jade mine. We were forced to march to another town 25 miles away, and we were ambushed the whole way. There were ambushes in every twist and turn of the road.
When I worked as a sentry, we didn’t have any weapons, we were just supposed to look out for strangers. Once, while I was doing that, there was a battle two blocks away between SLORC soldiers and Karen rebel troops — I was lucky I wasn’t hurt. Many soldiers died in my arms that day, from hemorrhaging mainly.
Another time, I was working at a hospital in central Burma. I went to see a patient, and as soon as I took care of that lady, I heard bang bang bang! They were attacking the police station. The rebel soldiers were coming from all around. I jumped through a window, and I was hiding in the tall grass — I narrowly escaped.
After the battle, the others told me the rebel soldiers were looking for me. They might have taken me hostage, or taken me to their headquarters and maybe killed me. When I went to the villages, the villagers would warn me, "This is where the rebel people come and go," so the rebel soldiers might have known about me.
I was transferred to the southern tip of Burma, where I found many villagers forced to do labor — for the hospital, building roads and such. There I saw a whole truckload of soldiers killed by communist rebels. They all came through my hospital.
To leave I had to bribe immigration officers. When we were at the airport, I remember, they called me and my family into a small room. I was very frightened, but my wife paid a lot of money to the officers, so they let us take our stuff.
Thirty-seven years under the rule of Ne Win [commander of the Burmese military], and Burma is ruined. Soon my country will have zero population growth because of the AIDS epidemic. If you can buy a cigarette, you can get a shot of heroin. If you have money to buy one can of beer, you can buy two prostitutes.