World Refugee Day: Nai P—’s Story

June 20, 2017

In May 2017, Nai P— spoke with Human Rights Foundation of Monland (HURFOM) to share his and his family’s experience being displaced from their village and starting a new life in an Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) settlement site along the Thai-Burma border.

When living in our village [Kaw Zar], we faced lots of hardship because of the Burmese military. So we decided to flee to Thailand, but we were unable to go to Thailand and were stuck here. We didn’t have a good relationship with the Burmese military so we had to avoid them.”

It has been 17 years since Nai P— and his family fled their home in Kaw Zar, Ye Township, Mon State, to escape the conflict between the New Mon State Party (NMSP) and the Burma government. Although a ceasefire between the two sides was signed in 1995, tension between the NMSP and the Burma Army, as well as NMSP splinter groups, often spilled over into armed skirmishes, and villagers were subject to forced labour and other human rights abuses.

“We were forced to porter [for the Burmese Army] two times when living in Kaw Zar. We were forced to guide them when they were searching for the Mon [NMSP] splinter group. Some who were in the group were my relatives. If they knew that, they would have beaten me…we had to leave our village. If I continued to stay in our village, I would surely be beaten [by the Burmese soldiers]. If they were suspicious that you’re related to the NMSP, they beat you…So the whole family had to move here.

But leaving their ancestral land for the border was not easy and they faced many hardships in establishing a life and meeting their daily livelihood needs. After being denied asylum and a safe haven in Thailand, Nai P— and his family settled in a site on the Burmese side of the border with many other IDPs.

As soon as we reached here, we faced hardship. The Mon National Relief Committee supported us with food. We didn’t have land so we had to do every job we could find.”

Nai P— says his family are doing much better now. They own their own plantation and Nai P— supplements his income working as a carpenter. For now, they will stay where they are, but the memory of their home is never far away.

We can live peacefully here. All the plantations in our [old] village have been sold. We don’t have any properties there. [But] we want to go back. My mother still lives there.”

Kaw Zar residents still continue to face uncertainty in their safety and livelihoods. In March of 2014, a spate of kidnappings and assaults were perpetrated by a NMSP splinter group after several residents could not afford to pay their extortion demands. In addition, Burma Army Infantry Battalion (IB) #31’s base is located nearby, leaving residents fearful of patrolling units. HURFOM has documented 127 cases of sexual assault in the Kaw Zar sub-township zone alone by police, soldiers, and government authority figures since 2000. In the most recent case, a 13-year-old girl was raped by an IB #31 soldier and faced intimidation and threats by army officials after she reported the incident.

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