June 2003

An injured man, with an intravenous drip.

On 21 April 2003, Saw Hser Paw, 30 years old, stepped on a landmine hidden on a trail near the village of Thu Kha, on Burma’s side of the border southwest of the Thai village of Thong Pha Phum. His foot was severly damaged, and a Karen medic was forced to amputate it.

Subsequently, he was assisted to a hospital, where he had a second amputation below the knee. Unfortunately, complications with this surgery developed and he had to have a further amputation above the knee.

He has therefore suffered a series of four, severe, physical and mental traumas, each one of which has also led to a dramatic reduction is his future prospects for mobility.

The problem is revealed – some sort of foot injury.

Saw Hser Paw is an internally displaced person (IDP). When he was injured he was searching for wild vegetables on which to survive. He fled two years ago after repeatedly being forced to work for the Burmese army. (His home village, Pyicha, in Palaw Township, Mergui District, was depopulated. Everyone in the village was forced to move to a relocation site, or internment camp, to serve as a ready source of labor.)

This latest trauma is therefore only one in a long line of abuses that he has suffered. In addition, when he fled he left his wife and two young children behind. He has not seen them since, and now likely will not see them again for a long, long time to come, if ever.

This mine was set by Burmese Infantry Battalion 280, under the command of Colonel Khin Maung Aye. The Burmese army mines trails to prevent IDPs from returning to their home villages, to disrupt the limited trade in the area, and in a cold-blooded effort to murder as many Karen and other people as possible.

Saw Hser Paw also knows of another IDP, Saw Zaw One, who stepped on landmine in the area. This occurred last year, and Saw Zaw One died as a result.

The magnitude of the injury is now apparent. The foot has been removed through a field amputation.

As mentioned, Saw Hser Paw must now rebuild his life. He has to recover from the latest amputation, and then he needs an artificial leg. If he has good fortune, he will be accepted into a refugee camp in Thailand. If not, he will have to continue living in the forest as an IDP. Karen township social affairs officials are currently assisting him. He has already received some donations, including from Dictator Watch.

In an interview Saw Hser Paw said: “I love peace and I want to live in very peaceful way. I hope someone or some organization will have pity on me and kindly help me until I can rely on myself.”