SAW TIN MOE WIN
My hometown is in Naung Bo Kyi Village, Paing Khyon, Sub township of Hlaing Bwe, Kayin State. I lived with my parents and my six other siblings. There were two Kayin ethnic armed groups which happened to use our village as the center of their fighting. One ethnic armed group’s camp was based just outside our village, which was also on the same road to our elementary school, so my friends and I used to peek inside the camp compound to see what could be inside. Even though there were several times when the fighting broke out, I was too young to realize what was actually going on. Sometimes I was pulled inside the bunker to hide and sometimes my parents grabbed my hands to flee into the forest. The men were especially targeted by the armed groups in order to capture them and made them serve as porters who guide the way or carry the weapons and loads of the army. There were times when only women, elders, and young children were left in the village as the men would flee from terror of being kidnapped.
I remember my brother and his friends leaving from our village in search of a job and they ended up being forcefully conscripted into the army as young soldiers. At first they did not think of leaving the army because they were provided with a bag of rice monthly, which they could use to support their families back home. But one day, they faced another ethnic group where my brother witnessed the death of his friends and the scattering of body parts across the battlefield. With much panicking, my brother ran back home and my mother had to send him to another village in order to avoid the penalty for running away from the army.
My mother, worrying about my future, gave me money and asked me to go work in Mae Sot, Thailand. I had no idea what the town looked like, but with a backpack and some money, I left my village in 2008. On my way to the border, I met a woman who was from our village but was currently living in a refugee camp. She persuaded me to come live in the camp, where most of our villagers who had fled were living. While living inside the camp, I studied English and I joined an INGO through a microenterprise development programme. I stayed until 2012 when my mother called me back to the village as peace was established.
I joined the NRC’s Hpa An office in 2012, as an ICLA volunteer, leaving in 2013 and rejoining again in Thaton office as an ICLA assistant in 2015. My main job responsibility is mobilizing field teams; conducting One Stop Services together with the Ministry of Labour, Immigration, and Population; and discussing work plans with the village committee and Government. I would prefer for peace to be sustainable as the consequences of war destroy people’s lives and their rights in many ways.