Friday, May 30, 2008

U Kyaw Nyein

U Kyaw Nyein
Dr. Hlaing Myint

His name is U Kyaw Nyein and he is 84 years old. He was arrested for helping the KNU (Karen National Union) in 1971. During this period the Ne Win controlled regime was crushing the KNU with its four cuts program. The commander of the KNU in the Irrawaddy Division, Carbine Chit Lay Maung was very famous and a KNU hero. He had killed two Lieutenant Colonels and many Majors in the military. He would approach the soldiers and their navy boats at night and aim to shoot the officers. He was an excellent sniper, with his carbine. His shots never missed their target.

The army and navy attempted to corner him for more than a year. Finally, he was surrounded on Tha-mee-Hla Island. The army company that was in-charge of the final assault was led by my eldest brother, Captain Kyi Maung. My brother was ordered to catch him alive, but on approach to his hide-out, he and other soldiers were shot by single sniper fire. My brother was shot in the left arm. The army company finally bombed his hide-out with mortars and Chit Lay Maung and all the other KNU soldiers were killed.

My brother was taken back to Bogalay hospital. He died after receiving his second bottle of blood. Three days later, my brother was buried with a state funeral. In the evening of the same day Chit Lay Maung was also buried. But before his burial his body was dragged by 6 dogs that soldiers had chained to his legs. The soldiers also forced people to urinate on his body along the way. His body was then buried upside down.

My uncle, U Kyaw Nyein was arrested just before that final assault on Carbine Chit Lay Maung. The military found evidence after taking some KNU posts that U Kyaw Nyein had contributed funds and a type writer to the KNU. He was arrested and tortured. He could not admit to contributing to the KNU, as it would have been his death sentence. He was tortured for a long time. Finally the soldiers tied his hands behind his back, and placed a rope around his neck, threatening to dump him in the river. The army commander that tortured my uncle was Thura Kyaw Swar. He became the commander of Sagaing Division. During the the 1988 uprisig he slaughterd more than 300 people, shooting them at close range after cornering them in a small street.

He was threatened, that if he did make an admission, he would be dragged from Bogalay to Myin-ka-kone, which is more than an hour drive and dumped in the local river. He was told “Only would only be luck, if he did not die.” He was dragged and he survived. After being dragged behind a vehicle for around an hour, he was repeatedly kicked, in public by the same soldiers. He was sentenced and served three years in jail. He suffered many physical traumas from his torture.

Between 1987 and 1991, I and U Kyaw Nyein traded sea food from the Bogalay and Labutta areas. We traveled even at night time by boat, going to any area, where even the locals would not go. It was hard to remember the routes, as there are so many. I know a lot of people from these areas, as friends and also as trading partners.

In September 1991, the military slaughtered many Karen people in these areas, after seizing some ammunition, from the KNU. U Kyaw Nyein and I lost two boats with five friends. They were traveling to the area where the slaughter occurred. The (10-horse powered) boats and all five people never returned. All would have been killed. The operation was carried out by No-11 Battalion, Brigadier Win Myint and Nyunt Tin. They slaughtered thousands of Karen from these areas. From that time onwards, they posted many army out-posts in these areas. So no-one could travel without permission from the military.

The military hate and are scared of the Karen in the Irrawaddy Division. They fear that the Karen may demand autonomy in this area. This is one reason the military would not allow overseas aid. They would want to prolong their plight, wanting the Karen to die. This is a way of cleansing the region of the Karen people. Many of the villages are Karen and some can not even speak Burmese. I saved four families from this area when the slaughter occurred and these four families still live with my relatives in a town near Rangoon.

I am worried for my uncle. I started this seafood business with his help, and without him I could not had established the business. All my siblings joined my business and have prospered. I have lots of gratitude to this uncle. I was arrested in 1996, for politics, and was released in December 2002. After my release, I did not visit him, as I feared the trouble this would cause him. Also, two of my friends, in Bogalay had been arrested several times for politics, so I dared not visit them either. So I have not seen my uncle since 1996, but we kept in touch, until I left Burma in December 2005. I could only send home $100 and some medicine in December 2007, after I arrived in Australia.

Neither, I or my family has been able to contact his family after the cyclone. I received an email, from Singapore that it is very hard to travel to Bogalay and enquire about his family. I have requested my brother to contact him, as soon as possible and to help financially with money I will send. U Kyaw Nyein and his family have never been afraid of the military. U Kyaw Nyein took on all the authorities in the Irrawaddy Division, including Lieutenant-General Tin Hla. He was threatened several times, but he did not care. His reply was, “You can kill me, but it will be on the radio, if you dare to touch me.”

I can not think about my friends in the villages in the Delta. The friends we traveled with, staying in their homes and eating their meals. I owe lots to these people - a very friendly and simple people. The villages in which we had roamed have been wiped from the map. Most of all, I really owe much to this uncle, not only my self, but the families of all my siblings, who still have this business.

Today I received news from Rangoon that my uncle U Kyaw Nyein had passed away about six months ago. My family did not want to tell me, as we are really attached to each other. Also I rarely have contact with my family, as my calls can cause trouble for them.

NOTE: Lieutenant-General Tin Hla was in charge of the LID 22 during the 1988 up-rising in Rangoon and is responsible for killing around 3000 unarmed protesters (out of 10,000 killed). He also gave the order for the shooting of about 70 children, who were mawned down by a power machine gun (G-3). They were shot by Captain Khin Maung Win, while they were sitting down begging with the their hands in the Buddhist prayer position, "Please, Uncle, Uncle do not kill us." Lieutenant-General Tin Hla was then posted in Karen State and subsequently the Irrawaddy Division. He later became Quartermaster General, Minister of Military Affairs and Deputy Prime Minister. He was sacked from these posts in November 2001 after his obnoxious behaviour and pride caused him to come in conflict with General Khin Nyunt and General Maung Aye.
Lt-General Tin Hla’s daughter (Ei Ei Tin), her husband (Moe Tin) and 2 children visited Australia about 3 months ago. This is in spite of visa bans and the imposition of financial sanctions on the regime. His granddaughter (Khine Tin Zar Thu) is enrolled at the University of NSW, to begin in 2nd Semester 2008.
More on General Tin Hla & the regime family members in Australian to come.

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