Thu 4 Sep 2014
Filed under: Ethnic Issues,Human Rights,Inside Burma,News
With a single step, Saw Win Tun’s life was changed forever.
It was 2009, somewhere on the Thai-Burmese border in Karen State. The soldier from Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) was unaware he was stepping on a landmine while on patrol.
“When I moved, I heard an explosion and lost consciousness,” said the 41-year old war veteran of the DKBA (since renamed the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army), a breakaway group of the Karen National Liberation Army, one of the largest ethnic insurgent armies in Burma.
Hours later, he found himself waking up on a hospital bed in the Thai border town of Mae Sot and learned that both of his legs had been amputated.
Now he is one of 96 former DKBA soldiers living in a village founded by the army near Myawaddy, on the Burmese side of the border. Named the DKBA War Veteran Village, it is open to former soldiers who left the rebel army after they were severely wounded during fighting.
Even though they have shelters to live in, most of the war veterans and their families are struggling to get by. They say they no longer get a monthly stipend of 15,000 kyat (about US$15) that the DKBA used to give its wounded veterans.
“I feel I am discarded in spite of my sacrifice to the army,” Saw Win Tun told The Irrawaddy last month, sitting inside his wooden house. He said he had no idea why the stipend has stopped and no official had bothered to pay the village a visit to explain.
“Without my legs, I feel really small. Now I entirely rely on my brother as I can’t even stand up without help,” he added.
Saw Pho Htoo shares the same story.
The 46-year old lost both of his legs to a landmine and became unable to support his wife and two children. As a result, his wife works as a hired hand on a plantation. His elder daughter has left school to work in Myawaddy town.
“Were it not for my family, I have no idea what my life would be. Life is getting harder here,” he said.