On the Run
covering burma and southeast asia
Saturday, March 23, 2019
Magazine

COVER STORY

On the Run


By Shah Paung MARCH, 2005 - VOLUME 13 NO.3


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An army porter’s story of brutality and murder

 

When the Burmese army hauled Naing Myint out of prison and forced him to become an ammunition porter on the frontline they actually did him a favor, opening the door to freedom. Naing Myint, a long-term prisoner, spent just two days humping ammunition before making a run for it.

 

Naing Myint: Swapped prison for a hospital bed

He got to Thailand with the help of Karenni rebels. But his future as a convict on the run is far from certain. And his experience has left him with a few scars, mental and physical.

 

Naing Myint (not his real name) says he witnessed at first hand the brutal Burma Army practice of forcing prisoners to work themselves literally to death. He says he saw troops kill prisoners who were too weak to work. His own brother was among those gunned down and left at the roadside, says Naing Myint.

 

His story begins on February 6, when Burma Army troops came to Mae Htauk Gu prison camp, near Loikaw in Kayah State, and press-ganged him and other detainees into becoming ammunition porters for the 511th and 512th light infantry divisions. About 400 prisoners—some of them from Taunggyi Prison in Shan State—were forced to join the fighting units.

 

Their job was to carry ammunition for the troops stationed in frontline positions. “If we couldn’t keep up we were beaten,” he says. “One day after leaving the prison seven of my friends were killed because they were too weak to go on. The next day soldiers killed my brother, leaving his body in a ditch.”

 

Their destination was an army post, Kayah State, which they reached on February 8. Two days later he managed to slip away but he caught a mine tripwire and suffered back injuries.

 

But he pressed on, sleeping rough and surviving only on fresh river water. On February 14 he came across a Karenni rebel army camp.

 

“I didn’t dare enter, but that evening I approached a man who spoke Burmese and asked him for help.”

 

Karenni soldiers were called. They treated his wounds and the Karenni National Progressive Party, or KNPP, sent him for further treatment across the border, in Mae Hong Son.



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