Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Former USDA Member Arrives at Border After Joining Protests

Source: Democratic Voice Of Burma

A member of the USDA, who joined the protesters after witnessing the violent retaliation of the junta, has arrived at he Thai-Burmese border.

The man identified himself as Ko Khin Maung Swe, a member of the USDA from South Dagon Township, Rangoon. He told DVB that he quit the organisation after the violent crush of the August protests when people took to the streets over rising fuel prices.

He said he joined public protests after he witnessesd the monks marching on 18th of September. He left Rangoon after authorities raided his home on the 28th of September.

In the interview with DVB, he said he felt compelled to join the people, after seeing the true colours of junta.

KMS: I was a member of the USDA. When they wanted to quell the protests, they told us, "The oranges are ripe for plucking". The words bothered me. I was still with USDA when they crushed the August protests. I wasn't affected much then, though I knew it was unfair. Also, I was alone in my thinking and there was nothing I could do at that time.
On my way home, I saw the monks in the rain, putting their hands together in prayer, saying prayers for us, the people. That touched me. So I decided to leave USDA, and join the people.

DVB: In the past, as a member of the USDA, you had to use force against protesters. Now that the USDA has used force against the sangha, how did it make you feel?
KMS: What really compelled me to switch sides was the sight of the monks being beaten up by security forces. That, I couldn't take lying down. As buddhists, we grew up under the guidance of the sangha, and we have always revered them so it was unbearable to have to witness such a thing. Also, they made the monks leave the monasteries. I used to see about 4 to 5 monks every morning on alms rounds. Now, they're all gone. There are no more monks in Rangoon. I only see monks again after I come to the border.

DVB: So you joined the protests from the 19th of September?
KMS: Yes, until the 26th. From the 27th onwards, the protests were put to a stop.

DVB: As a former member of the USDA, weren't you worried that the authorities would punish you more severely than they do ordinary citizens?
KMS: At that time, I told myself that it was either jail or death; I was beyond worrying. I'm proud to have been a part of this movement. Most people condemned my involvement. They tell me it has nothing to do with me. So I tell them that it is for my religion, and my people.

DVB: Do you regret that you had to leave your family behind because of your involvement?
KMS: Not at all. Not at all.

DVB: In the video clips of the crackdown, we hear that the security forces in civilian clothing are members of the USDA.
Have you seen those clips?
KMS: Yes. A lot of them are USDA members. Also, I heard that they (the authorities) used convicts who were serving life sentences.

DVB: Where did you get that information? Is it confirmed?
KMS: It was insider information from my superiors. That's all I can tell you. I joined the USDA because I had the impressionthat it was really an organisation for the people. Their mission statement impressed me. They sent me for courses and I even won awards. But when they started the crackdown, it was when I realised their true colours.

DVB: You joined USDA thinking it was a humantarian organisation, then you realised that it was in fact a pro-junta group. How did that make you feel?
KMS: I was filled with regret. I'm too ashamed to tell people that I am a member of the USDA.

For the original article in Burmese, please click

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