SLORC / DKBA ACTIVITIES: NORTHERN KAREN DISTRICTS
Report by the Karen Human Rights Group
July 18, 1995 / KHRG #95-24
This report covers some recent events in Papun (Karen name Mudraw), Thaton, and Nyaunglebin (Karen name Kler Lwe Htoo) Districts in the northern half of Karen State and part of Pegu Division. It focusses on the effects on civilian villagers of the ongoing activities and collaboration of SLORC and DKBA - the 'Democratic Karen Buddhist Army', formed in December 1994 by the monk U Thuzana but primarily operating under the orders of SLORC. The DKBA, often called 'Ko Per Baw' (Yellow Headbands) by the villagers, has its headquarters at Khaw Taw Pu on the Salween River south of Ka Ma Maung. Since its inception, the DKBA has tried to coerce or force villagers throughout Papun, Thaton, and Pa'an Districts, the Manerplaw area, and refugees in Thailand, to move to Khaw Taw Pu to give the DKBA a civilian support base and a source of conscripts.
While the DKBA continues to try to force everyone to Khaw Taw Pu, the SLORC has been apparently trying to clear the civilian population out of all areas close to the Thai border. This would allow them to make the area a military-only free-fire zone, seal off some of the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA)'s supply routes from Thailand, and block off the embarrassing flow of refugees still arriving in Thailand from these northern Karen districts. To accomplish this, the SLORC is ordering villages to move closer to Army camps and is also working together with the DKBA to force people to Khaw Taw Pu, which is in a SLORC-controlled area. The two groups have been marauding through Papun District, sometimes together, sometimes apart, looting and burning villages, threatening villagers, capturing porters and sometimes torturing people. Village food supplies, already small due to last year's floods, have been destroyed, and villagers throughout the District are fleeing into the forests or trying to get to Thailand. Hundreds have already crossed the border since May, but they say it is getting increasingly difficult to reach the border past the SLORC patrols, particularly on the Papun - Kyauk Nyat car road. In all Districts fighting between SLORC / DKBA and KNLA has also continued. SLORC troops in Papun have recently begun a big offensive against traditionally strong KNU areas to the north. Thousands of people living in this area have never had to live under SLORC, and will surely try to flee to Thailand if this offensive is successful. Some have already fled.
However, there are also increasing signs of problems between SLORC and the DKBA. Villagers in Papun and Thaton Districts report that the two groups are beginning to issue conflicting orders - leaving the villagers unsure what to do, fearing retaliation from either one side or the other, and therefore forced to flee. In Thaton District, SLORC has reportedly issued an order for its troops not to operate closely together with DKBA and has directly contradicted some DKBA orders for villages to move. In Khaw Taw Pu, SLORC has cut off most of the money and all of the rice it was giving to the DKBA and has begun extorting rice from Karen villages to give to them instead, in a move which some feel is deliberately designed to turn villagers against the DKBA. Rations for DKBA families have been cut to half what they need to survive. SLORC appears to be increasingly distancing itself from the DKBA, possibly in preparation for a purge or even an open fight, or possibly in hope that the DKBA, having served its main purpose, will dwindle into a token organization which cannot be a threat. In Khaw Taw Pu families have been escaping when they can, while DKBA chief U Thuzana has reportedly been telling his forces to remember that SLORC is still their enemy and to keep the "fishing-hook" (the bitter memories) inside them.
While the situation deteriorates and hundreds if not thousands of villagers try to flee to Thailand, the Thai Army and National Security Council have begun planning to commence forced repatriation of all Karen refugees to these very areas in January 1996, with no subsequent cross-border aid to be allowed. A representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Bangkok recently stated that the UNHCR will most likely cooperate with this forced repatriation, saying that the UNHCR would try to make this inevitable repatriation slightly less painful and comparing the situation to Bangladesh. As documented in several independent reports, in Bangladesh the UNHCR's main role has been lecturing or coercing the Rohingya refugees to return to Burma, blocking information from reaching them, rejecting their appeals for help, and telling the rest of the world that the situation is good.
This report has 4 parts: 1) Papun District, 2) Nyaunglebin District, 3)
Thaton District, and 4) Khaw Taw (Myaing Gyi Ngu). Some of the interviews in this
report were conducted in villages in Karen districts, while others were conducted in
refugee camps in Thailand. Names of those interviewed have been changed to protect them.
False names are enclosed in quotation marks. All other details are real. In the
interviews, DKBA members are often referred to as Ko Per Baw (Yellow Headbands). DKBA
headquarters at Khaw Taw Pu is often referred to by its short form, Khaw Taw, or its
Burmese name, Myaing Gyi Ngu. All numeric dates are given in dd-mm-yy format. A map is
appended to the end of the report to give an idea of the locations mentioned.
SLORC = State Law & Order Restoration Council
KNU = Karen National Union
KNLA = Karen National Liberation Army
DKBA = Democratic Karen Buddhist Army
DKBO = Democratic Karen Buddhist Organization
Papun District (#P1-P19,N1,T1,T2), Nyaunglebin District (N1), Thaton District (T1,T2), situation in Khaw Taw (K1,T1,T2,P1).
SLORC burning villages (P1,P2,P10,P11,T1), DKBA burning villages (P1,P11,P16-P19,T1), SLORC looting/extortion (P1,P2,P9-P13,T1), DKBA looting/extortion (P11,P16,P18,T1,T2), killings (P12,P19,N1,T1), arrest/torture (P1,P3-P5,P10,P11,P13), attempted rape (P2,P5), abuse of women (P1,P2,P4,P5,P10), forced labour (P9,P10,P16,T1,T2), porters/human minesweepers (P2,P3-5, P11,P15,P18).
Forced or threatened relocation to Khaw Taw (P1,P9-P11,P16-P18,T2,K1), to other places
(P1,P2, P6,P7), DKBA threats/acts against Christians (P10,P11,P15,P17), SLORC / DKBA
disputes (T2, K1), SLORC military offensives (P8,P12,N1), new refugees (P9-P19,N1),
shooting of a refugee by Thai helicopter (P14-P15), thoughts of refugees on going back to
Papun (Mudraw) District
In the rainy season of 1994 (June-October), record rainfalls caused severe flooding which destroyed rice crops throughout Karen areas, including Papun District. Now the SLORC and the DKBA are working together to steal or destroy village food supplies throughout the area, using food as a weapon to forcibly relocate villagers in several areas to relocation camps near SLORC Army bases or to the DKBA's headquarters at Khaw Taw (Myaing Gyi Ngu). Many villagers have lost most or all of their already insufficient rice supply from last year's harvest. This year's harvest is not due until at least November, but attacks on villages by SLORC and DKBA have already forced most villagers into the forest and they have not been able to plant a crop this year. A human rights monitor who recently returned from Papun District reported: "The situation of the villagers in my interviewing area is very critical and serious. Most of them are without rice and they don't have adequate shelter. Children are malnourished and have no medical care." The DKBA continues to order all villages in the area to move to their headquarters at Khaw Taw near Ka Ma Maung, which is far to the south in the plains and very foreign to these hill villagers. Christians and Animists fear persecution in Khaw Taw, and Buddhists know that their sons will be forced into the DKBA Army if they go there. The DKBA has burned villages which refuse to go, such as Bwa Der. The SLORC Strategic Commander in Papun ordered the heads of 12 villages in the Papun area to a meeting and told them they are to be forcibly moved to Khaw Taw at the end of rainy season [see interview #P9]. For the DKBA, this strategy is aimed at getting them more conscripts and a larger civilian population to control; for the SLORC, they may be trying to clear all areas of Papun District close to the Thai border, in order to make a large military-only free-fire zone and effectively block any further refugee flows from all northern Karen districts to Thailand.
For now, many villages are being forced to move to intermediate villages closer to SLORC camps so that they can be controlled. These intermediate villages, such as Wah Mi Day and Kler O Der, are then to be forced to move to Khaw Taw. Villages which resist are being harassed, attacked, looted, burned, and villagers are being tortured and used as human shields and human minesweepers. Right now SLORC troops massed in Papun have also mounted a new offensive to the north against traditionally strong KNU areas around Ba Nay Per Ko, Ler Mu Plaw and Saw Mu Plaw. They began by attacking a concentration of KNLA troops stationed at Day Pu Noh, about 20 km. north of Papun.
As a result of all these events, over seven hundred refugees from several parts of Papun District have crossed the Salween River into Thailand in May and June, and are now in refugee camps. Thousands more are in hiding in the forests of Papun District, not knowing what to do. Many of them reportedly want to run to Thailand but are blocked by large numbers of SLORC troops along the way. Villagers from north and northeast of Papun are daunted by the obstacle of the car road which runs northeast from Papun through Par Haik to the new SLORC base at Kyauk Nyat near the Salween River. There is a killing ground along both sides of much of the road and it is heavily patrolled by SLORC troops. The villagers must cross this road if they want to reach the Thai border. They are probably not aware that the Thai Army and National Security Council are already making plans to force all refugees back across the border starting in January 1996 - to the very area from which they are now fleeing. The Thai logic for this is that the situation has now "returned to normal" in these areas.
This section consists of four parts: 1) a summary of incidents in the area [#P1], 2) interviews with villagers still in the area [#P2-P5, P7] and a SLORC relocation order [#P6], 3) interview with a KNLA security officer in the area [#P8], and 4) interviews with refugees recently arrived in Thailand [#P9-P19]. Most of these refugees fled forced relocation orders and burned or looted villages, while one [#P12] fled the SLORC's new military offensive. Those from Bwa Der, south of Papun, did not have to cross the heavily occupied Papun-Kyauk Nyat road area, but the others are from villages further north, where they say that others are blocked from the border by a wall of SLORC troops.
The following summary of some recent incidents in Papun District was given by a human rights monitor who recently returned from the area. It is not complete. Some of these incidents are covered in detail by the interviews following.
Throughout May 1995, SLORC troops moved around the area looting, eating or destroying the rice, livestock and other belongings of villagers in villages including Nya Pi Hta, Meh Way Kee, Naw Po Kee, Ku Ree Hta, Lay Klay Day, Ma Nyu Hta and Kler Ber Ko.
On 5 May 1995, DKBA troops entered Bwa Der village [south of Papun, towards the junction of the Salween and Moei Rivers] and ordered them to move to Noh Pu and Tee Nu Khaw Hta, then on to Khaw Taw. The villagers refused to go so the DKBA troops burned down the church, all 5 houses and all the rice barns in the central part of the village, and said that if the villagers didn't move by June 8th they would take them by force. They captured and severely beat Wee Saw Aye, Saw Nu, Ser Nay Htoo, Thaw Htoo, Kya Hay and Pa La Kyay [all Karen men]. They burned a plastic bag and dripped the burning plastic on Thaw Htoo's chest. All villagers have now fled the village to the forest or to Thailand.
On 19 May 1995 SLORC troops from #77 Division, #76 Light Infantry Battalion, came to Thay Ko Der village. They spent 3 days in the village, looting belongings and livestock and torturing some villagers they had captured in surrounding villages. Skirmishes broke out with KNLA troops in the area on the 20th and 21st of May. On 22 May the SLORC troops burned 12 of the 15 houses in the village and several rice barns. Rice which was not burned was either taken by the troops or thrown on the ground to destroy it. They left, taking 3 men and 5 women away with them, tied with rope and with soldiers' packs on their backs. They used them as guides, porters and human minesweepers to their camp near Papun, then released them. The same day they also burned several houses in Lay Wah village. Most villagers have now fled Thay Ko Der, but are blocked by SLORC presence and the Papun-Kyauk Nyat car road from reaching the Thai border.
At the end of May, villagers remaining in Thay Ko Der village [see above] and other villages in Ka Lor Hta village tract, including Meh Kya Po Der village, were forcibly moved to Pah La in Papun Township [on the outskirts or just outside Papun]. SLORC is forcing ethnic Indians living in the area to give food to these villagers. Each Indian family has to give 2 baskets [67 kg.] of rice monthly, and the poorer Indian families have to give 1 basket monthly. [SLORC always persecutes Burmese of Indian descent - they are also especially targetted for porter duty.]
In late May, villagers from several village tracts were ordered or forced to move to Khaw Taw. In Meh Nya Hta village tract, villages affected include Meh Ku Hta, Meh Nyo Hta, U Thaw Hta, and Klaw Hta. In Bwa Der village tract: Paw Di Der, Saw Leh Der, Bwa Der, Meh Pa, and To Po Pwa Der villages.
In late May further down the Salween River closer to Ka Ma Maung, villagers in Meh Prih, Tee Baw Kho and Tee Baw Kee villages were forced to move to Meh Prih Pa Doh, and villagers in Tee Hay Loh, Waw Maw Loh, Kwee Law Ser and Paw Tah Kwee were forced to move to Mah Nyaw village. Villagers from Dta Thu Klah, Ban Kyo Hta, Boh Kyi, Meh Ka La, Ta Khaw Ko, Bwe Kay and Kyawpa Tah Po Bu villages were forced to move to Khaw Taw. As all of these villages are far from the Thai border, they have no chance to escape. People who go to Khaw Taw now get only 4 pyi of rice per person per month. [About 6 kg., less than half the ration for a single person in the refugee camps, which is already less than they would eat in their village.]
The following interview was conducted with villagers from Thay Ko Der village on May 26, 1995, after the village had been burned down along with Lay Wah village by SLORC troops from #76 Infantry Battalion, and they were preparing to flee (names which have been changed are enclosed in quotes; 'Puh', 'Saw', or 'Pa' prefixes men's names, 'Pi' or 'Naw' prefixes women's names):
"Puh Tah Muh": Twelve houses were burnt down [out of 15], and 4 rice storehouses as well. Not all of the paddy was burnt. "Pi Wah"'s house and rice storehouse burnt down. She is an old woman.
"Pi Wah": There is nothing left for me to eat. It's all gone. I have a small paddy field, but there's nothing left for me until the next harvest.
"Puh Tah Muh": "Naw Muh" also has nothing left. "Pa Noh" is my son-in-law. His house and his rice barn were burnt down by the SLORC troops and he had nothing left. They destroyed everything and spread it around on the ground. The same for Pa Wih Ber. He had nothing left. He is not here anymore. And Pa Hser Geh, everything of his was burnt down. Naw Kee Paw Heh is from Lay Wah village, and all of her things were destroyed too. Saw Yeh is also from Lay Wah village group. His farm hut was burnt down, and he also will not have enough food for the rainy season.
The SLORC entered our village on May 19, then they burnt it down on May 22 at 9 o'clock in the morning. There were about 300 or 400 men, and we saw 2 DKBA soldiers. When they entered the village only the women and the old men stayed in the village. The other men went to hide outside the village. The soldiers ordered us to move to a place they said they had prepared for us [relocation camp]. They ordered us to go stay at Klaw Hta, near Baw Kaw Der village. They said if we didn't go there, they would destroy, burn, and kill. They said we had to go there to make peace with them. We don't know how we can make our living there, we have nothing there. We will not be allowed to come back and work our farms here. We are afraid of them, so we already ran away from them. We don't want to go to the place they asked us to move to. Even if we have no food, we will run away from them.
When they entered our village they took so many things: machetes, spades, hoes, and knives they took, but clothing and baskets they destroyed. You don't even need to ask about our livestock - they regarded it as their own. They took everything. They didn't even leave a needle for us.
"Naw Say Paw": The SLORC soldiers came to my house and took everything. After that, he took me to the bedroom and ordered me to lie down. He was pointing his knife at me. I started shouting and yelling, and another woman came in so then the SLORC soldier left.
"Naw Tha Ghay": One woman had only one daughter and her daughter was staying in Papun, but she was still staying in the village with her elderly mother. When the SLORC came they destroyed everything, all their belongings. They had nothing left, so the women had to go to Klaw Hta to stay with relatives. The soldiers destroyed everything, pots, clothing, ...
"Naw Lah": I have a small brother. I can't escape by myself, because my brother can't run. Even if I escape, I'll have no food in the jungle and no waterproof from the rain. Now the SLORC troops came and destroyed everything. I have nothing left. I don't know what I'm going to do. I have no choice but to go stay with relatives in Klaw Hta and obey the SLORC. Whatever they ask, I will have to do.
"Puh Klo Thu": I saw some soldiers. They came to my house and destroyed everything, even the rice threshing basket. A soldier pushed my wife and I thought he wanted to rape her. I told myself that if he raped my wife, I wouldn't care about my life, I would fight him. But he teased her and then he left.
"Naw Eh Po": I had to be a porter when the soldiers left to go back. They made me carry their bags. There were 5 of us women altogether. We were all muh k'naw [unmarried teenagers]. The loads were very heavy, and we had to carry them back to their Papun base camp. When we arrived there, some Karens who live in Papun went to see the SLORC officers and got us released.
"Puh Tah Muh": When they left the village they said "We will come back to your village and kill everyone we see here if you don't obey our order." If we had security and enough food, we would like to stay in our own area with our own people. But if we have no food or security, then even though we don't want to go we will have to go and stay with them. There is nothing more we can say. We have heard a lot about the place they have prepared for us. There we will have no time to rest. We will have to work for them all the time. Even the women and children there have to be porters. For now, we will share what we have. We have very little but we can share what we have between us. If we are rich, we will be rich together. While we are poor, we will be poor together.
The following was told by a Karen man from N--- village in Papun District who was taken as a guide and human minesweeper on May 19th:
I was eating sticky-rice in my house. I got up to chase the chickens out of the house. Just then I heard a strange sound so I turned to look, and I saw a SLORC soldier. He said "Don't run!" and told me to sit down. Another one came and grabbed me by the collar, and another tied my hands behind my back and ordered me "Go!", and then I had to go in front of the column. Soldiers talked to me in Burmese but I didn't understand, so one pointed his gun at me and said "Boom". I guessed that it meant if I ran away they would shoot me. They told me to take them to Thay Ko Der village, and when they arrived at Thay Ko Der they started shooting at people because the people were running away. They ordered me to lift my hands as high as I could behind my back, and then they tied me very tightly to a house. I was in alot of pain because of the way they tied me. Then they asked me so many questions, and while they were asking they slapped me in the face, grabbed my hair and shook my head. No matter what they did to me they didn't get any answer, because I don't speak or understand Burmese. After that they stopped and left me there like that for the whole night. The next morning they untied me. That morning, the Karen soldiers shot at them in the village so they came and tied me up again and moved me to another place. There they didn't tie me up as tightly. I slept another night like that, then the next morning we went to Maw Lu. Then they didn't tie me anymore. When they returned from Maw Lu they passed through Thay Ko Der, and the last group in the column started burning down the village. Then they moved on to Toe Kaw Der and we slept one night there.
The next morning the soldiers told me that they were going to release me. At noon, a man named H--- came to me. He was one of the DKBA soldiers who came along with SLORC, and I told him "Please help me to tell the soldiers to release me". He said he would help me but that I would have to go and stay in the place that SLORC prepared for us. But they didn't release me. They took me all the way to their camp south of Papun, and they released me there.
The following woman is from N--- village near Thay Ko Der, the same village as the man interviewed above. She is married, but all of her children have died.
The SLORC captured me in my house. They ordered me to come down out of the house and to go to the school compound. They asked me some questions: "Did you see any Karen soldiers?" - I said "Yes". "Did they ever come to your house?" - I said "No, they passed through the village on the road." Then they tied me up and ordered me to walk in front of the column. They told me "If the Karen soldiers ambush us along the way, we will kill you on the spot." They put their backpacks on our shoulders, and we went to Thay Ko Der village. When we arrived there they put us [the women] in one house and let us warm up near the fireplace, but they tied us to the bamboo post. They tied our whole bodies. It was so tight across my breasts, it was so painful that I started crying. When they saw me crying, the soldiers loosened the ropes a little bit, and then we slept there one night. The next morning they untied us and they said "Don't run away. We will release you." But then some Karen soldiers shot at them, so they tied us up again and we spent another night there. In the daytime they untied our hands and ordered us to pound paddy for them. At night they tied us again. That evening, Karen soldiers came and shot at them again, and the SLORC had one dead and one wounded.
This woman is from the same village and was also taken.
I was captured by SLORC in my village. They ordered me to go to the school compound, then they accused me of being a Karen soldier's wife [she is not]. They tied me, grabbed my collar and made me carry a soldier's backpack. Along the way, we saw soldiers setting the villagers' rice barns on fire. First they took some rice and made us carry it, then what was left was all burned. That place was very near Thay Ko Der village. When we arrived at Thay Ko Der, they pushed us all into one house and tied us in a standing position to the bamboo post. One of my friends started crying loudly, so they let us sit down and tied us very tightly to the post again. They tied our whole body, our legs and our chests, to the post. We had to sleep one night in that house. In the morning the SLORC soldiers came to untie the rope and said they would release us. Then Karen soldiers came and fought them, and they tied us again and moved us to another place. We saw a man from our village tied up like us, and the soldiers said "Don't try to talk to this man or we will kill you all!" The man was tied up very tightly, worse than us.
The soldiers fed us. The food was enough because we couldn't eat very well, but if we were at home that amount would be too little. They gave us some chicken and pork. I know that they killed those animals in the village, because I saw them killing many of the villagers' pigs. At noon, one officer came to us with one DKBA soldier. The DKBA soldier said to us, "We DKBA soldiers want peace. So tell your brothers, mother, sisters and all your relatives to come and join us. We will have peace." We said nothing but nodded "Yes". They didn't untie us for the night - we had to sleep with our bodies tied up with rope [but hands and legs free]. During the night a SLORC soldier guarded us because they were afraid we might run away. One of them tried to unbutton a button of my shirt, so I made a movement and he stopped. A moment later, he tried to pull up my sarong. I pushed his hand off and pushed it back down Then he tried to grab my leg, and I pushed him away and started to light the fire. The soldier blew the fire out, but after that nothing happened.
We spent 2 nights at Thay Ko Der, then the column moved to Maw Lu. We slept one night in Maw Lu and we were still tied with rope. During the night, a SLORC soldier tried to remove my sarong again. He tried with another girl first, but she hit him with a piece of firewood so then he tried again with me. When he tried to remove my sarong I kicked him. Then the Sergeant came around and he went back to his place. The next night, we slept beside an old man that they'd captured along the way. The Sergeant also slept close to us. A soldier came again to try to rape me. I kicked him and made noise and he left.
The next morning they made me pound the rice for them, but they didn't give us any breakfast. We had to move to another place and they gave us food on the way. Along the way we had to carry their backpacks and we were tied with rope. I had to carry 1½ big tins [25 kg.] of rice, and the other girls had to carry 2 big soldiers' backpacks each. They took us to T'Kung Taing army camp [near Papun]. I don't know how many villagers they had with them [because there were several hundred soldiers in the column]. Then they released us the next morning, because a DKBA soldier named H--- went and asked the SLORC officers to release us. We were released and sent to a Buddhist monastery in Papun. There is a monk there from Myaing Gyi Ngu [most likely a follower of U Thuzana] and there were about 10 [DKBA] soldiers there. They said they came to work together with SLORC because they want peace. I don't believe them - I only nodded "Yes" to them in Thay Ko Der because we were tied up in front of them. Because of what they are doing I don't believe them. They act the same as SLORC soldiers.
The following written SLORC order was received by several Karen villages northeast of Papun. To protect the villagers, names have been blotted out and replaced by 'xxxx', 'yyyy', or 'zzzz'.
To: U xxxx
Chairman xxxx village
Village LORC yyyy village
xxxx Village Tract zzzz village
All the villagers from these villages must move to Kler O Der and Wah Mi Day and settle down there. In the future, there will be so many difficulties and problems in your present home area. I inform you with this letter because I have sympathy for your villagers. After you move, you can come to shop in Papun on Mondays and Fridays.
xxxx village tract
[Note: These villages are in the hills, and are being forced to move to the plains, about 3 km. outside of Papun near a SLORC Army base. Not only will the adaptation to life in the plains be difficult for them and probably result in disease, but they will have no land to farm and will be used almost constantly as forced labour for the Army base.]
The following interview is with a villager in one of the villages affected by the above order:
According to this order we will have to evacuate our village, but we can't because we have no food. We know that this has been planned by SLORC. We don't want to go and stay under their control. We don't want to be SLORC slaves. We have no food, and we don't know if our leaders [KNU] can help us. The SLORC came to our village to burn it down, and they have done so many evil things already. They say that they want to make peace, but each time they come to our village they destroy our belongings and burn down our houses. Now we have to face so many difficulties.
If we move there, they will not give us any food. We will have to find our own food. They won't allow us to come back and work on our farms. After that, they will kill us. They will make us work for them until we all die. So we can't do anything, just hide and run into the jungle and eat the food we took with us. This will be very difficult for us. That's why we hope our leaders will advise us.
If they find us in the jungle, SLORC will burn down our huts and destroy our food and belongings, just like they did to Thay Ko Der village. If they catch the women, we don't know what they will do to them. But if we go to the place that they have indicated for us, they will treat us however they wish. Even if they want to kill us, they will kill us, just as easily as we would kill a chicken under our house. The places SLORC wants everyone to move to are Klaw Hta, Wah Mi Day, Maw Thay Der and Ler Kyer Ko villages. But those villages don't have peace. SLORC says they will make peace but this is not real peace. If they really want peace, they have to treat us differently than this. If we stay like this, there will only be more and more problems.
If we go to the new place, we will suffer the same as the others who have gone [referring
to forced labour and lack of food]. We don't want to face these difficulties. We
villagers, every morning and every evening we discuss this situation with each other, but
we can't come to any decision because there is nothing we can do in this situation. We
can't stay like this any longer. They want to force us to go to the relocation camp. If we
stay here, they will beat us, torture us, even kill us. We have to choose how we will stay
alive, but we have no choice. That's why we need our leaders to guide us. Our leaders
started the revolution with only 5 bullets. Now, we will feel very sorry if after all this
we have to go and stay under SLORC's control.
The following is from an interview with a KNLA security officer in the area.
From my point of view, I can see SLORC saying that they are going to make peace with us, but theirs is not an honest way. If they want real peace with the Karen people then they need to stop attacking the KNLA troops. We received an order [in late March] from Headquarters that we are not allowed to go and attack the SLORC, so we haven't attacked any SLORC positions. The KNU leaders are trying to find a way to genuine peace. On the other hand, the SLORC has destroyed villages in this area and has tried to locate and attack our troops. Every villager they catch, they take as a porter and torture them. They are always talking about peace, but what they do is very different from what they say. That's why even though we were ordered not to fight against the SLORC troops, we have to. We don't go and attack them. We just attack to protect and defend when they come.
If they want real peace they should talk to our leaders, but instead they come and destroy our villages, make problems for the villagers and try to use Divide and Rule in our area. If they regard themselves as a good government and regard all the ethnic peoples as equal to the Burmans then they must accept the KNU's approach for genuine peace. This is the only way they can get genuine peace in Burma. But they only want to crush our struggle and give more problems to the villagers. They must know that they can't destroy our Karen struggle in this way. The only way they can stop the struggle is to give equal rights to the minorities and listen to the voices of the minority groups. If they don't, the struggle of the minority groups will never cease.
[All of the following interviews (#P9-P19) were conducted in refugee camps in Thailand with recent arrivals.]
NAME: "Saw Robert"
FAMILY: Married, 3 children aged 5 months to 5 years
ADDRESS: Wah Mi Day village, Papun Township INTERVIEWED: 25/6/95
DISCRIPTION: Karen Christian farmer
I came here together with my wife and children. We arrived on June 20th. It took us 3 days to come directly here. We slept in villages along the way. Our village is 7 miles from Papun. Life over there is very hard. We are farmers, but every month we have to go for 10 days as porters for the [SLORC] Army. If we can't go for 10 days when our turn comes, we have to pay 2,500 Kyat. We can't afford this because we are poor, so we fled to the border. When you can't pay, the SLORC soldiers come to the village, take you by force and never release you. You have to take risks and escape from them. If not, you will be a porter until you die. The other reason we came is that SLORC told us we could only stay one more year in Wah Mi Day village and that next year they will move us to Khaw Taw Pu. [note: right now, SLORC is forcibly relocating villages from remoter areas to Wah Mi Day. See the SLORC order and related interviews in this report. By 'next year' he means sometime after rainy season.]
We have had to work for the soldiers for almost 10 years. At first it was more or less okay for us, but the longer you work for them, the stricter the rules become. Now it is the worst. The soldiers are from Papun. #19 Battalion always asks for porter fees. We have to pay porter fees to three battalions in Papun: #19, #341, and #434. You have to pay 2,500 Kyat every time your time as a porter comes and you can't go. Each family also has to pay 200 Kyat every month as regular porter fees. We tried to get this money by working hard. All the money we can get, we have to give all of it to them. We have to pay whichever battalion requests the money.
The soldiers come to the village very often, and they never bring their own food with them, they just take the villagers' food by force. They don't bother to ask for permission, they just take whatever they want. We can't dare stop them. Whenever they catch villagers outside the village, if it's a man they beat him. If it's a woman, they don't beat her but they take her along as a porter to their camp, like Ku Seik camp near Papun.
DKBA don't do anything to our villagers, but some villagers who had connections with the KNLA troops were arrested, had their guns taken away and they were taken to Khaw Taw Pu, where they were made to drink the Buddhist monk's medicine. I heard that after drinking it a person changes, but whenever I saw DKBA soldiers I didn't notice any difference. Both SLORC and DKBA gave us the order to move. SLORC told us first, then the DKBA. The villagers said we don't want to move, we want to stay in our village. So they said they will come and take us by force to Khaw Taw. They sent us an order letter and they also told us. After the headman read the letter, he burned it. They ordered all the village heads to go to Papun and explained it to them at the beginning of this rainy season [June]. The [SLORC] Strategic Commander in Papun called the meeting. The villages ordered to move were Klaw Hta, Kaneh Haw Hta, Baw Kaw Der, Thay Pler Hta, Kler Der, Wah Mi Day, Htee Kay Der, Thay Ko Der, Lay Wah, Ya Ploh Der, Maw Thay Der, and ..., altogether 12 villages. They are to move after rainy season [after October]. The villagers have no idea at all what to do about this. Some think about running away, some think about trying to stay in their village anyway, and some try to flee to the border. In Wah Mi Day village there were 20 households. Now 3 families have come here [to Thailand]. The rest are still living in the village, but all of them have made up their minds to come over here because they cannot bear the suffering any more. If there are no problems along the way they will all come here, because there is nowhere else they can go - the whole area is full of SLORC troops. I think no one can survive in Wah Mi Day village anymore. Even if people could survive there, life will be just too difficult for them. Only if there is no more fighting in Burma, then I will want to go back.
NAME: "Saw Hla Kyaw"
Karen Christian farmer
FAMILY: Married, 5 children aged 11 months to 15 years
ADDRESS: Thay Ko Der village, Papun Township INTERVIEWED: 25/6/95
DISCRIPTION: Karen Christian farmer
My whole family came together. It took us 3 days to get here, and we have been here for 8 days. We came because the SLORC came together with DKBA soldiers and destroyed all of our belongings, so we had nothing left to eat. They burned the houses just recently, at the beginning of this month [actually on May 22]. There were more than 200 soldiers. Ten were DKBA and the rest were SLORC, from #77 Division. When they entered the village, they saw the villagers running away from them so they shot at the villagers but didn't hit anyone. Then some of the soldiers took positions outside the village and some right in the village. They slept 3 nights in our village. After the first night, there was fighting [with KNLA] in the morning. Then there was fighting again the next morning. On the third day they left, and when they left they burned down the village. There were 15 houses in Thay Ko Der, and they burned more than 10 of them. Three houses weren't burned. They also burned our rice. Some of the rice was not consumed by the fire, so they threw it around onto the ground [rendering it useless].
During that time I ran away from the village. All of us were staying in the jungle while the Burmese were in the village. We stayed together and slept in one place, and we had no food to eat. While they were in the village they captured 3 men and 5 women together with their children, and they tied them all up. I don't know exactly what they did to them all. After they tied up the men they kicked them, punched them and beat them. I know they tried to rape the women, but the women stopped them. They didn't release the women. They made the women carry their loads and took them to Papun, then they released them there [see the related testimonies of 2 of the women from a village near Thay Ko Der in this report]. They also released the men in Papun, but some of the men ran away first. Papun is 9 miles from Thay Ko Der. [He then provided names for the 3 men and 5 women, but these are omitted here for their protection]. Two of the men were quite young, and the oldest was about 40. All the women were about 25 or 30. Three of the women are married and 2 are single.
Now we don't know what to do, we just wonder what we can do for the future. Some of the villagers tried to get some rice from their neighbours by exchanging whatever they had left. [Most villagers keep some rice and other belongings hidden in the forest for eventualities like this.] People cannot last long living like that. They can't do anything. They said if possible, they would all come here. Now 3 households have come already. The others are still staying in that area, but not together at the same place. There are no families still staying in Thay Ko Der village.
Before this happened, the DKBA already asked us to go back with them [to Khaw Taw] and cooperate with them, and said if we did not go they would come and burn and destroy our village. SLORC had already ordered us to go to Wah Mi Day village, but we didn't go. They called the village head to meet them in Papun. They also demanded money from the villagers, and when the villagers couldn't pay they didn't dare stay in the village anymore. They [SLORC] also demanded roofing and bamboo for their camp, and they made us go down to their camp. Now they say they're going to make a car road from Papun to Klaw Hta after rainy season. I don't know what for, maybe to send supplies to their troops. They'll make the villagers build it for them. Even the people in Papun Town, they also have problems. They have to be porters and pay porter fees, and they have to work for SLORC just like us. As for DKBA, they asked for soldiers, but we paid no attention. DKBA also said they were going to get all the Christians [the word translated here as 'get' can mean either 'wipe out' or 'capture'].
I didn't have much to bring along here with me. This is all I have [the clothes on his back]. I have one old blanket, and I carried cooking pots with me. Now we stay here with the others, and eat together with them. If there is no more fighting and all is stable there, then I hope I can go back and stay. I don't think I can stay with the SLORC. Also, I'm afraid of the DKBA. I'm not afraid of the KNU. We don't have to be afraid of them.
NAME: "Saw Shwe Hla"
FAMILY: Married, 3 children aged 6,16, and 23
ADDRESS: Bwa Der village, Bu Tho Township, Papun District INTERVIEWED: 26/6/95
DISCRIPTION: Karen Christian farmer
We arrived here more than 3 weeks ago. We came together with 3 families. It took 5 days, because on the way we had to carry some belongings and people had to carry their children. There were small children with us, and it was raining. We came because if SLORC or DKBA capture us they make us carry very heavy burdens, then when we can't carry it they kick us, beat us, punch us. So we were afraid and didn't dare stay in our village anymore. For our food we had to look for a little bit here, a little bit there. It was very hard for us. There are now many more people who want to come here, but now the SLORC is blocking their way and they cannot come.
Even before the DKBA [before January 1995], the SLORC used to come. They took porters, and they forced us to go for free labour. At the time I was ill, so my juniors went instead of me. Sometimes we had to go for a month, sometimes a week or 10 days. Those who can't carry, the soldiers drag them to the side of the path and kick and beat them and throw them by the side, and they manage to come home by themselves. Some die, because the soldiers kick and beat them until they can't make it back by themselves. SLORC also asked us for porter fees when we couldn't go, and we had to sell our cattle and buffalos to get money to pay their porter fees. Some had to pay 50 Kyat, some 200 Kyat, some 400 or 500 Kyat. They forced us to pay. Even if we had no money they wouldn't understand, we just had to pay. If you cannot pay, they do to you whatever they wish. This has happened since 1975. Before, we could pay the money and stay in our village. Life was hard, it was hard to live in our village, but we could stay there. We had to worry for our food and fear the SLORC, but we could survive. But now the situation has changed, it's not like before. Whenever they come they kick, they punch, they beat us and they burn down our houses, so we can't stay there anymore.
Now the DKBA are together with the SLORC, and they treat us the same as the SLORC do. The first time SLORC and DKBA came, they said they will kill all the Christians. The next time they ordered us to go live at Khaw Taw, and we said "We won't go, you will kill us there". So they beat and kicked people. That was in March. Some people from villages near Bwa Der who were not Christian went, but no Christians went. We heard that any Christians who go there are treated very badly or killed. The Ko Per Baw said Christians also have to go, but when they get there they will force them to put on the robes of Buddhist monks. If the Christians refuse this, I have no idea what they'll do to them. Last month in Bwa Der they burned the church, and many houses both where the sun rises and where the sun sets [in both eastern and western parts of the village], and rice barns and farm field huts. They took all our things that they wanted in the village. Whatever they didn't want or couldn't carry, they burned all of it. When they burned it, they came together with SLORC. There were 7 Ko Per Baw, and more than 100 SLORC soldiers [although according to the testimony of several others, these two groups were separate and did not arrive at the village together; DKBA arrived first on their own].
The first time when SLORC came they burned down some houses in Bwa Der, so people didn't dare stay in the village and they stayed in the jungle around the village. Then when the Ko Per Baw came together with SLORC they burned down all the houses in the village. They burned 40 or 50 houses in the area. In Bwa Der [main village] there used to be 10 or 20 houses, but villagers had already moved to here and there, so there were only six households still in the main village. The church was the first building they burned! The Ko Per Baw and SLORC carried the big church bell away back to Khaw Taw [actually they were taking it to Meh Kay Kyaw, a pagoda on the Salween River]. It was a big bell, like this [he showed about ½ m. diameter]. This bell wasn't bought by the villagers, we couldn't buy such a bell. It was donated by an old white missionary. While they were burning the houses and church no villagers were in the village, we had all run and were hiding in the forest around the village. That night, the soldiers captured 7 people who went back to get their belongings. I knew 3 of them - Pa Day Bu, Bu Wah Pa, and Bu Ghay. The next morning the soldiers left the village. There was fighting not far away to the west, and all 7 men managed to escape.
My house was burned completely! We came with only the clothes on our bodies and a few small things. Everything else was burned and destroyed. [The village was burned on May 5.] We came and crossed the Salween [river] and waited in Klay Hta to see if we'd be able to go back again. But the situation was only getting worse and worse and we couldn't go back, so eventually we moved here to the camp. Along the way we just asked the Karen people we knew from Thailand to help us. We managed to get a little bit of rice. Also I had a little bit of money with me and I spent it, so now I have nothing left. Now there are six families here, but others have gone to M--- and S--- camps [At the time of the interview, there were at least 26 families from around Bwa Der who had just arrived in camps]. Some are still left there because the way here is blocked. Life for them will be very hard, but I think slowly, slowly, they will find some way to survive. I won't go back. To go back now would only be looking for trouble. If there is no peace and they don't give us independence, nobody will go back. Dead or alive, we will stay here.
NAME: "Pa Ler Muh"
M AGE: 47
FAMILY: Married, no children INTERVIEWED: 26/6/95
ADDRESS: Toh Nya Der village, Par Haik village tract, Bu Tho Township, Papun District
DISCRIPTION: Karen Christian farmer
We arrived more than 2 weeks ago. We spent 5 days on the way. We came because SLORC was going to attack Day Pu Noh and our village is along their way, so we didn't dare stay in the village anymore and we fled. Day Pu Noh is 2 hours walk from Toh Nya Der, just the other side of the mountain. [Day Pu Noh is about 20 km. north of Papun, and Toh Nya Der is just east of Day Pu Noh. The SLORC troops have advanced through Toh Nya Der area and are now attacking Day Pu Noh from the east. This is the beginning of an offensive on the traditionally strong KNU area of B'Nay Per Ko and Ler Mu Plaw, north of Day Pu Noh along the Bway Loh Kloh (Yunzalin) River.] SLORC came to our village just 2 weeks before we left. Fighting occurred very close to our village at that time. Now they're organizing so many troops in Papun, 5 hours walk away. They say they're going to take the strong Karen position at Day Pu Noh, and it's very close to us so we don't dare stay. All the high points behind our village [to the east] like Thu Kyo and Muh K'naw Lay are already occupied by SLORC troops. When they start shelling, most of their shells will explode near our village, some right in our village, so we can't dare stay there anymore.
When the SLORC came to the villages around there they took everything, chickens, pigs, they didn't even leave people their underwear, they took it all. The SLORC sent a letter that said all the villagers have to stay in our villages, and if they find anyone hiding in the forest they will regard those people as their enemies and kill them all, even the children. Two weeks ago SLORC arrested two village tract leaders, Pa Maw Heh from Par Haik village tract, and the Kaw Boke village tract head whose name I don't know. They were arrested for working with KNU. They killed the Kaw Boke village tract head and they took Pa Maw Heh to Papun - we don't know if they plan to kill him or not. [A later report came in that Pa Maw Heh has also been executed.] We had to hide all our rice and other things in the jungle, so we have to be afraid of fire or elephants destroying them, and if SLORC finds it they will destroy it. I haven't seen Ko Per Baw yet and we didn't get any word yet, but they will come.
When we came here we had to face problems avoiding Burmese troops, travelling by night, and then when we crossed the car road we had to do it at night [the road from Papun northwest to the Salween River at Kyauk Nyat, where SLORC now has a heavy presence]. There were about 50 houses in Toh Nya Der, but there are probably no villagers left there anymore. Those who remained have probably scattered into the forest by now. Most of them want to come here.
NAME: "Naw Lah K'Paw"
FAMILY: Single INTERVIEWED: 26/6/95
ADDRESS: Baw Kaw Der village, Bu Tho Township, Papun District
DISCRIPTION: Karen Christian farmer
My parents are still alive. They've gone to look for food. I have 3 brothers and sisters. We got here 1 week ago - no, 2 weeks. We ran from the Burmese. We saw the Ko Per Baw. They came with the Burmese. The Burmese came to my village and took all our things, and we ran and came over here. They came recently, and took everything, then after they took everything they left. They are from 341 Battalion [based in Papun]. There were 100, 200, or 300 of them. They ordered people to come down out of their houses. I was under our house. They pointed their guns at me, and they said nothing at all. They took our torchlight, plates, and cooking pots. They took 3 boxes from our hiding place, and they took the 2 pairs of earrings, 2 rings and the clothes that were in the boxes [this would be their best handwoven clothes and their gold jewellery, which represents their entire material wealth - Karen villagers keep money in the form of gold jewellery, colonial-era silver rupee coins, etc., not cash]. They took all our rice that they could, and the rest they threw and scattered on the ground. There were many porters with the soldiers, there were Karen and also Burmese porters. They were carrying plates, cooking pots and things. The Burmese arrested one man in our village, tied him up and took him along as their guide until they reached Papun, then they released him there. His name is Po Kyaw, he is 30 or 40, an ordinary villager. On their way, whenever the Burmese saw a rice barn they ripped the roof off. They always do this. [Villagers hide unmilled rice in rice barns in the forest to save it from SLORC. Once the roof is ripped off, the rice will be destroyed by rain or animals.]
After they left we didn't have any blankets or things any more. We just stayed in the village like that for 3 days. We still had paddy to eat [unmilled rice from their rice barn in the forest]. But we were afraid and we had nothing left with us, we had no cooking pots to cook, so we left. From Baw Kaw Der to here, we slept 3 nights along the way. There was only one problem, when we had to cross the car road. When we got here, Uncle over there gave us 3 plates, and someone gave us a pot. [Question: So can you go back to your village now? She answered:] Can we go back? Have all the Burmese left?
NAME: "Pa Bleh"
FAMILY: Married, 5 children aged 1 to 10 years
ADDRESS: Bwa Der village, Bu Tho Township, Papun District INTERVIEWED: 25/6/95
DISCRIPTION: Karen Christian farmer
I have been here over 3 weeks already. I am with my children. My wife is in hospital in Chiang Mai. She was wounded by a helicopter. I wasn't there when it happened. You can ask her father. [After their group had crossed the Salween River into Thailand, they were attacked by a Thai Army helicopter gunship and his wife was shot and badly wounded in the hip. Other refugees and villagers managed to get her to Chiang Mai for treatment. The Thais claimed they were attacking DKBA troops in retaliation for border incursions into Thailand (this may have been one of the fake attacks when they claimed to be attacking DKBA bases in Burma). See her father "Puh Klo Htoo"'s testimony in this report.] We left our village because of the DKBA. They came and gave us trouble, and ordered us to go stay at Khaw Taw Pu. People didn't know what to do. We came here.
NAME: "Puh Klo Htoo"
M AGE: 60 Karen
FAMILY: Widower for almost 20 years, 4 children and many grandchildren
ADDRESS: Bwa Der village, Bu Tho Township, Papun District INTERVIEWED: 25/6/95
DISCRIPTION: Karen Christian farmer
I arrived here 3 or 4 weeks ago. I don't dare live in my village anymore because I'm afraid of the Ko Per Baw. They said that they will destroy us completely because we are Christian. They said they will wipe us out. They came to the village often. Whenever they came they ordered us to go to Khaw Taw, ordered us to give them guns, and they asked for food, rice, whatever they wanted. We had to go as porters for SLORC as well as the Ko Per Baw. They didn't fix the number of people. Whenever they asked, they just asked for however many porters they wanted, and we had to give it to them. Men only had to go, but they didn't take me. o go, but they didn't take me. They had to go for 2 or 3 days, sometimes more than that. For the time being we can't go back to stay in our village, because the DKBA has not finished their task yet. They are going to continue their program in the future [of wiping out the Christians].
We left before they burned the village. I came with my daughter's family. We were on the Thai side [of the Salween River], and it was evening time. We were resting in a village, preparing to move. The helicopters came - I saw 2 helicopters. They were very low. The helicopters saw us. There were six families in our group. It saw us. I was right there. They shot, and my daughter was wounded in her hip, like this [he demonstrated the bullet entering the back of her hip and exiting from the front beside the groin area]. She was seriously wounded. I asked people to send her from one place to another, step by step, until she got to the hospital. I asked P--- to take care of her on the way to the hospital. That was 1 month ago now, and we have no news of her. Her name is Naw Bee Sah. She is 30 years old. You already spoke to her husband. Please send us news of her if you can find out. [A medical aid organization has now looked into her case and notified the family, but KHRG has not yet heard the result. Naw Bee Sah was shot by a Thai Army helicopter gunship in an abandoned Karen village on the east bank of the Salween River south of the Thai trading village of Mae Sam Lap. During that time period, the Thai Army claimed that it was repelling all SLORC and DKBA forces who crossed the border and attacking DKBA bases on the Burma side of the river in that area with helicopter gunships, though it appears that these attacks were probably faked to appease Thai public opinion over SLORC and DKBA's incursions into Thailand. This very attack may have been one of those reported in the Thai media as a great blow against the DKBA. "Puh Klo Htoo" says others in the group of refugees told him a group of either DKBA or KNLA soldiers had crossed the river to Thailand shortly before the attack, although he never saw them. He is adamant that the helicopter was close enough to see that it was firing on villagers.]
NAME: "Saw Po Thu"
FAMILY: Married, 4 children aged 3, 5, 7, & 9 INTERVIEWED: 26/6/95
ADDRESS: Bwa Der village, Bu Tho Township, Papun District
DISCRIPTION: Karen Christain farmer
I came with my whole family. We have been here for 32 days. I came to stay here because over there we have to face so many difficulties. One of our problems is that the Ko Per Baw came and pushed us to go down to Khaw Taw. Another problem is food and clothing, because all our belongings were burned along with our houses. Also, several times each month SLORC ordered 20 or 30 people to go work for them, sometimes for 3 days, sometimes for a week. We had to send the people, or they came by themselves and took them. For the Ko Per Baw we had to provide rice, but they didn't take porters.
Nobody in our village went to Khaw Taw, but in villages near us some people went. The Ko Per Baw took them away, they didn't go of their own will. Some went by themselves because of the order, but some were taken along by the Ko Per Baw. The Ko Per Baw came to the village very often. Every time they came the village had to give them 1 basket [about 33 kg.] of rice. The first time, they came together with SLORC and didn't give any trouble to the villagers, just ordered us to go down there. But then the time after that we didn't see SLORC with them. There were about 50 or 60 of them. Before they came, we got their message that they were coming and everyone must stay in the village and wait for them. The people did as they were told, stayed and waited. When they arrived they told the villagers to go down and stay at that place [Khaw Taw]. The Burmese also told us to go there, but they came to our village in a separate group. These different groups gave so many differing orders to us! But all the groups told us to go down and live there [in Khaw Taw]. They said all the Buddhist villagers must go there, and if they don't they will find their teacher [a Karen expression, meaning you'll meet someone who will punish you]. They also ordered people to become vegetarians. One group came along with a Buddhist monk and slept one night in our village, and that time they gave us a "final warning" order. They said, "All the people in your village must go down now. If you don't, this time you will really find your teacher. All the Buddhist villagers have to go, and if they don't then the next time we will burn down all their houses." We told them some of us are Christian, and they said "If the Christians don't want to go, okay, no problem. But one day you too will surely find your teacher."
The Ko Per Baw said we had to go right away, but then the Burmese troops came in later and said "No, not right away, you can stay here for now". The officer said that, from #434 Battalion. So between the groups we didn't know what to do. At the time, we still had our belongings in our houses and some food to eat. The Ko Per Baw came several times together with SLORC soldiers. Every time they were going to burn down the village but the SLORC stopped them. But then the Ko Per Baw came because we didn't pay attention to the order they gave us, and they destroyed everything so that we wouldn't be able to stay anymore and we'd have to go to Khaw Taw. That time there was also a SLORC group, but they weren't together. The Ko Per Baw shot into the air, and they burned and destroyed our houses. They burned the church and they took the big bell away to Meh Kay Kyaw [a Buddhist pagoda to the south overlooking the Salween River near Sleeping Dog Mountain]. What could we do? We just stayed and watched them do it. In Bwa Der they burned 5 houses - there are only 5 houses in the old village, but around the village there are lots of places, 1 or 2 houses here, 1 or 2 houses there. Most of the people are Animists, not Christians. I was staying in my father-in-law's house, and it was burned down. We didn't know what to do then, so when they left our village we stayed a few days in a house that wasn't burned, then we left and came here. When we came over here some families had only one cooking pot, some had two. So when one family cooked, the next family had to wait. We had no spare clothing, only the clothes on our bodies. Now there are 24 [actually 26] families here from Bwa Der.
NAME: "Naw Sah Lwe" SEX:
F AGE: over 50
FAMILY: Married, 6 children aged 13-30, many grandchildren INTERVIEWED: 26/6/95
ADDRESS: Bwa Der village, Bu Tho Township, Papun District
DISCRIPTION: Karen Christian farmer.
Our whole family came here together, one month and 2 days ago. We came because of Ko Per Baw, they were going to move us. They already burned our houses and our paddy, so we had nothing and we couldn't stay there anymore. The Ko Per Baw soldiers came and treated us wrongly because of the difference in our religion. They came often, and so did the SLORC. Sometimes they came together. Whenever Ko Per Baw came they told us to go down to Khaw Taw, but we didn't want to go. If we go down there we'll have to worship Lord Buddha.
My house was burned, and my paddy barns were also burned. I lost one big tin of rice [16 kg.], paddy, 3 pots, 3 blankets, sleeping mats and other household things, a bible, a hymnbook, and everything people need to live. After that I couldn't stay in the village anymore, I went to Noh Pu village beside the mountain and stayed there. Then the Ko Per Baw soldiers came to Noh Pu and told us to go down to their place [Khaw Taw], and they came more than once. So we didn't dare stay there anymore, and some of our nationality [meaning KNLA soldiers] came and took us along the way here. Some of the Noh Pu villagers are still there, and they have to work for SLORC. There's no problem for us here, but there were many problems in Bwa Der and Noh Pu. Here the only problem is diseases. Dare we go back? If the SLORC and DKBA over there don't disappear, can we dare go back? If the foreigners say we have to go, we'll go back, but if they say we can stay here then we'll stay here. Even if the fighting stops I don't dare go back, because the Ko Per Baw will still persecute the Baptists and other Christians.
NAME: "Puh Kaw Taw"
FAMILY: Married, 7 children aged 11-28 INTERVIEWED: 26/6/95
ADDRESS: Bwa Der village, Bu Tho Township, Papun District
DISCRIPTION: Karen Christian farmer
We arrived here on the 12th [of June]. We had to face so many problems, so we came over here. It was the way the Ko Per Baw treated us. They said they were going to drive us all down to Khaw Taw. They said if we didn't go down to Khaw Taw, they would hand over all the villagers to SLORC. If they do that, the SLORC will use us as they wish. They can order you to work for them for one month, or for one year. They will treat us as slaves.
I've had to go as a porter for SLORC two times this year. They sent a letter, and I had to go. They ordered 40 people from Toh Nyo, Paw Hta and Bwa Der together. One person from each house. My children were not around, so I had to go. The first time was about 2 months ago. They made me carry about 20 viss [32 kg.] for one day. I was carrying sarongs, shirts and other things they had taken from villagers, to Ho Kho. They took 12 of us from Bwa Der that time, and there were also people from other villages. The second time I had to be a porter from Paw Hta to Thaw Let Hta [opposite the Thai trading village of Mae Sam Lap], about a month ago. We had to carry supplies for SLORC for 2 days. If a person couldn't carry his burden and fell down, they ran to him and kicked him immediately. I saw. The porters were middle aged, getting old already. Most were from Paw Hta. We ate with the soldiers, but they only gave us prawn paste.
When the Ko Per Baw burned the village [on May 5], my house was already destroyed so they couldn't burn it. The first time the Ko Per Baw came they destroyed it. They even ate my birds, my chickens. Some Karen soldiers used to stay with me, and some of my children and nephews were Karen soldiers. So first the Ko Per Baw fired a shell at my house [most likely an M79 grenade], then they shot their guns, rushed into my house and started tearing it down. They ripped off the whole roof of my house. When they started shooting, I ran into the jungle. There was no one fighting them, they were just shooting into the village. I went and stayed with my relatives in another part of the village for 2 months. Then I came here with them. 26 families came. We organized our things by ourselves, but we got help to come here from the KNU [an escort of soldiers part way]. We heard that Ko Per Baw would try to stop us. On the way they came close to us, but we managed to avoid them and arrived here. If possible we want to go back, because it's our home and we want to make our living there. But if there's no opportunity to go back, we'll have to stay here. There are other families from Bwa Der and other villages who I think want to come here, but they can't get across the road because SLORC is on the road.
NAME: "Saw Kaw
M AGE: 30
FAMILY: Married, 1 child aged 11 months
ADDRESS: Bwa Der village, Bu Tho Township, Papun District INTERVIEWED: 26/6/95
DISCRIPTION: Karen Christian farmer
I have been here since May 30th. When we first heard news about what was happening [at Thu Mwe Hta in December 1994, when the DKBA began to form - Bwa Der is not so far from Thu Mwe Hta] we dared not stay in our village. At that time my wife was staying at her village, Maw Kee. The other villagers and I went and stayed in the forest near our village. The Ko Per Baw shot at 2 men, one escaped and one died. His name was Pa Lweh Mu, he was my cousin, a Karen soldier. He was 17, and both his parents are dead. They shot him on December 29th. They threw his body into the river and said "Now, Christians, do you understand?" We ran and tried to hide in the jungle. Later we heard news that they were killing the Christians [though there was never any extensive or systematic killing of Christians]. When we heard this news we realized that it was not good news for us, and that the situation would get worse and worse.
Another time they came and burned the village [on May 5]. That
time I was hiding outside the village. There were only women and children still in the
village. The Ko Per Baw came and fired their guns but they didn't hit anybody, then they
burned the houses. I heard from others that my house was destroyed, but I never went back
to see it myself. I stayed hiding in the forest between my village and the Salween River
for nearly the whole summer, borrowing food from others or getting some from the village,
trying to find out the news about what would happen next in my village and the area. I
thought maybe I could go back and plant a crop, but I realized it was hopeless and I
couldn't stay there anymore, so I came here. This problem is too much for Man, I can only
hope for the help of God to solve this problem. But for now, I don't dare go back.
Nyaunglebin (Kler Lwe Htoo) District
The following has been summarized from an interview with a Karen teacher who recently left Nyaunglebin District to be a refugee in Thailand:
I was working as a teacher in the middle school run by the KNU in Nwa Lay Ko, in Kler Lwe Htoo [Nyaunglebin] District, since May 1994. Nwa Lay Ko is the administrative headquarters of the KNU for Moo Township and is close to KNLA 8th Battalion headquarters.
The situation in our area was peaceful until after the problems on the Salween River had already begun. In early January the SLORC units started mobilizing, and some of them from different places came together in Th'bin Nyo village. I only know that one of them was #54 Battalion. After 2 days there they travelled to Yoo Lo, K'mo Lo, Keh Bwo Der, where they spent 3 days, and then up the ridgeline of Play Ba mountain, which is beside Nwa Lay Ko. I don't know how many of them there were by this time, but on January 11th we got a message that they would attack the village soon. So on January 12th we all fled Nwa Lay Ko. The KNLA soldiers stayed in the hills around the village to make defences while the rest of us kept going, escorted by a few of the KNLA soldiers. Some people took everything they could from their houses, but others couldn't take much. After 3 hours we stopped deep in the T--- river valley. The [KNU] district leaders came with people they had instructed to carry rice supplies and gave us orders to remain very still and quiet. They said not to cut trees to make shelters because it would be too noisy, and that if a cock crowed they would have to kill it. They said it was alright to make cooking fires only at dusk and dawn and only in caves or under rock overhangs, because of the smoke.
We stayed there and slept on leaves on the rocks, and although some people had blankets it was very cold at night. We ate mostly rice, salt and vegetables from the jungle. Each day we could do nothing, only sit quietly and listen and wait for news. I think there were about 200 people there. Three people died there, 2 old people from sickness and one person by accident. After a week we heard that the SLORC troops had moved away without attacking, but people were not allowed to go back to Nwa Lay Ko. After about 11 days a [KNU] district leader came and told us that the way to Mah La Daw was open, but the way to K'mo Lo was not possible to travel [due to SLORC troop presence]. He said people who could get back to their villages should go, while others should make huts and stay in the jungle. Some people went home to get supplies and then came back. After about 2 weeks there were maybe 150 people still in the jungle. Some were going back to Nwa Lay Ko to tend their farms in the daytime, then coming back to their huts in the jungle by night. They stayed like this for more than a month. After about 2 weeks I went to K--- with about 25 other people.
It was about the end of the first week of February that I went to Mah La Daw village for 3 days, and there I heard that the SLORC soldiers had come back again. I heard that they had killed six people in Taw Po Kee, a village about one hour [walk] from Nwa Lay Ko. It was 11 a.m. in the morning and the people, who were from different families, were all together in one house eating rice when the SLORC soldiers came in and shot them all. I don't know why. There were 2 men, 1 woman and 3 young boys. Then those SLORC soldiers went to 2nd Brigade [KNLA] area, which is about 5 hours away. I went back to K--- and stayed there for about a month before deciding to come to Thailand. I went back to Nwa Lay Ko and found that most people were choosing to stay there only in the daytime, even though the KNLA soldiers were there. I and 15 other civilians left and went with 30 soldiers from KNLA #102 Battalion who were going to K---, and we went on to Thailand. The hardest part was between S--- and D---, where we had to cross the car road. It is being used by SLORC troops, so we had to travel throughout the night without any torches or other source of light. We passed very close to a SLORC base at K---, a nearby hill.
Along the journey, I got the news that SLORC soldiers had approached Nwa Lay Ko for the fourth time. At Day Taw Kee we met up with a group of 15 households, about 300 people. They had come from Mudraw [Papun] District, and they told us of many problems there because the SLORC and DKBA are operating together. Most of that group of villagers were Christian or Animist, and they told about how the DKBA and SLORC soldiers are ordering them all to move to Khaw Taw [Myaing Gyi Ngu] and harrassing them. One man told me he'd been beaten for refusing to go. They also said the SLORC troops are actively taking or destroying all of their rice supplies. I heard that all the rice of Kay Hta, Paw Hta, Kyaw Nyo Hta, Bway Hta and Keh Bah villages were destroyed. We all crossed the river into Thailand together. There is nobody travelling up or down the river anywhere anymore. Many, many people are crossing to this place now and building places to stay. The people I crossed the river with said many more still want to come.
I have also heard that some villages in Kler Lwe Htoo [Nyaunglebin] District
have now decided to make 'peace' with the SLORC troops. The people there are too tired to
run away any more, so they made agreements with the SLORC that if they no longer run away
and they give the SLORC everything they want and nothing to the KNLA, then the SLORC
soldiers will no longer shoot them or give them other big trouble. I heard of 4 villages
in my area that have done this: Mah La Daw, Yoo Lo, K'mo Lo, and Baw Bee Der.
The following incidents were reported on June 29, 1995 by a KNLA officer who had just returned from Papun and Thaton Districts.
In [KNLA] #1 Brigade area in Thaton Township, starting on 18-2-95 the villagers from villages near the railway line have had to go and work for SLORC. One person from each family has to go. They have to work between Kyaikkaw and Daw Gyi. If a person fails to go he has to pay 500 Kyat.
On 25-2-95, DKBA troops took 10 baskets of rice from Mae Paw Hta village in Pa'an Township.
Starting on 7-3-95 SLORC troops stationed on Dta Raw Meh hill ordered villagers from De Rwe Kee village [Burmese name Kya Ka Chaung] in Thaton Township to send 5 people each day to go and cut bamboo for the Army camp. Men have to cut 150 bamboos per day and women 100 per day. After the villagers cut the bamboo for them, they make them go and sell the bamboo in Bilin Town. The SLORC soldiers take all the money made from sale of the bamboo.
On 20-3-95, DKBA combined with SLORC troops came to Da Oo Kee village in Bilin Township and shot dead Saw Mya Po, 20 years old. Pa Mer Ler and Saw Po Kee were 2 of the DKBA soldiers who came along with SLORC.
In March 1995 DKBA troops came into Tee Lay Kaw village in Bilin Township and shot dead 2 women. One of them was from Yo Klah village and her child was still on breastmilk. I forgot to write down their names. Also, DKBA soldier Pa Mer Ler came into Tee Si Baw village in Bilin Township and when he saw some villagers he called them. They didn't hear him, and he shot his gun at them.
Lieutenant Aung Nai and Major Thein Zan from SLORC Infantry Battalion #96 came up to K'Tee Bu village in Thaton Township and ordered the parents and relatives of Karen soldiers in this village and all the nearby villages each to give them 500 Kyat. [The SLORC officers know who the KNU relatives' families are and often terrorize them in the village, arresting them, demanding money, or simply harassing them by calling things like "Nga Pwe Mo! Why don't you call your son back?" (Nga Pwe Mo means "Ringworm's Mother" - Ringworm is a derogatory SLORC name for Karen soldiers).]
On 10-4-95 the commanding officer of Strategic Command #1 and his troops moved into the Bilin Valley, and they shot and killed Saw Bu Ghay, age 23, father's name Pyu Wah; Saw Win Thein, 23, father's name Oe Kyi Dee; and Maung Myint Yi, 20, father's name Pa Noe. The first two were from Zee Gone village, and Maung Myint Yi was from Lay Kay village, both in Bilin Township.
On 11-4-95 Thaw Mena, a soldier from DKBA, ordered villagers to go and take 2 big buffalos from Noh Aw Lah village in Pa'an Township. On the same day, DKBA soldier Saw Tha Gwih took about 20,000 Kyat from Maung Kyi Win of Moulmein and Maung Soe Soe of Du Yin Seit.
On 16-4-95 Thaw Mena of DKBA ordered his men to go and take 4 male oxen from Noh Aw Lah village, 2 oxen from Bo Kyo village, and another 2 oxen from Ga Maw Ko village [all in Pa'an Township].
SLORC Infantry Battalion #93 went into Peh La Nuh village in Bilin Township and gave an order that 5 people every day have to go work at their camp. They also demanded 100 shingles of leaf roofing and 100 bamboos.
From all villages near the car road in Thaton Township, SLORC troops demand 1 pyi [about 1.5 kg.] of rice and ¼ kilo of chillies every month from every family. They collect it and give it to the DKBA soldiers. [Note: these are big villages of several hundred houses each.]
On 9-5-95 the SLORC troops stationed near Tee Nya Baw and Ma Ee Sah villages in Thaton Township demanded 1 cow and other livestock, and the villagers had to give it to them and pay the owners.
On 15-5-95 Saw Tha Gwih from DKBA ordered the Mon traders in sampans [Mon traders who ply the rivers in large boats without engines] to pay him 28,000 Kyat at Kru See [Burmese name Kyaun Sein] village in Pa'an Township, which is a trading stop along the river.
On 25-5-95 SLORC soldiers ordered all villages within De Kaw Poh village tract, Pa'an Township, to pay a total of 272,000 Kyat for building a car road between Waw Dreh and Ka Ma Maung.
On 21-5-95 SLORC and DKBA came to Kaneh Haw Hta village in Mudraw [Papun] District. They burned down 2 houses and destroyed paddy, rice, fishpaste and cooking pots throughout the whole village. From one family, they took 1 gold chain and 1 pair of earrings.
We further interviewed the KNLA officer who reported the incidents above after his return from Thaton and Papun Districts at the end of June, and he gave the following account:
I usually operate in [KNLA] #1 Brigade area, on the west bank of the Salween River. [This area is west of Pa'an and Ka Ma Maung, towards Bilin and Thaton; here the Salween does not form the border with Thailand]. In #1 Brigade there are 4 Townships, Pa'an, Thaton, Bilin, and Kyaikto. I don't have any information from Kyaikto Township, but I know about Pa'an, Thaton and Bilin Townships. People there aren't running and hiding in the forest. If they hide in the forest, they can't work their farms, so they stay in their villages. Some go and work for SLORC whenever they are ordered, and whenever the KNU asks their help they help. They work for both sides. Sometimes if the situation is a little bit better and there is not much movement of SLORC troops, then even if the SLORC orders them to go and work they don't go. But then if SLORC comes and forces them, they have to go. Usually after they finish the harvest, the men go and hide themselves in the forest until the next plowing [this is the period from January to May - the men hide to avoid forced labour and other abuses by SLORC. Usually they seek out a column of Karen soldiers and stay with them for protection.] Only the women, children, and old people stay in the village.
For the time being SLORC and DKBA are working together. But now they make separate camps for DKBA. Now the SLORC takes only about 3 or 4 soldiers from DKBA as guides when they move in the area. This is not only to guide them but also to give them more information about links between the KNU and the villagers. Now even when the DKBA operate by themselves, they aren't allowed to move freely where they want, and SLORC also keeps a group near them to watch them. If DKBA soldiers move into an area, say about 30 or 40 men, then the SLORC makes 3 or 4 groups of 30 to 40 men each and sends them into the area where the DKBA is operating. All this is because now the Burmese have issued an order that whenever Burmese troops move, they are not to move along together with DKBA soldiers, they can only take 2 or 3 DKBA soldiers with them as guides and to collect intelligence. The reason SLORC issued this order to its soldiers, they said, is because the DKBA soldiers are very hard to control, they only listen to their monk [U Thuzana in Myaing Gyi Ngu] and don't pay any attention to the orders that SLORC gives them. Also, because the DKBA have done so many evil things to the people, but as long as they move along with SLORC troops the people blame all these things on the SLORC and not on the DKBA. That's why they don't operate together anymore.
In the beginning the Buddhist monk at Khaw Taw Pu [U Thuzana] was given quite a lot of money by SLORC to support his men. At first, each DKBA officer got 10,000 Kyat per month and each family got 2 sacks of rice [50 kg. per sack] per month and 2 bottles [750 ml. each] of cooking oil. After that they reduced the officer's salary to 1,000 Kyat per month and soldiers to 500 Kyat per month. Then officer's salary was reduced again to 800 Kyat per month, and soldiers to 300 Kyat. [Note: this may be intentional on the part of SLORC, either to force DKBA men to loot villages and thereby lose their political advantage over SLORC soldiers, or to gradually destroy the DKBA now that it has served its main purpose. SLORC could easily print the cash if it wanted to.] And now the families only get 1 sack of rice per month and 1 bottle of cooking oil.
At Khaw Taw Pu there are 2 groups of "refugees" [i.e. the civilians who have been willingly or forcibly moved there] - one group stays inside the Buddhist monk's compound, and another group outside the compound. At first the two groups could go outside Khaw Taw to find food or go shopping, but later the families who stay inside the compound were not allowed to go outside. But now they are letting them go out again to find food, because they can't provide for them anymore. I don't know exactly how many people are staying there, but most of the people from #1 Brigade area have returned to their villages. Perhaps only about 10 families from that area are still left with the monk. Now the people who stay outside the monastery compound get nothing from the monk, no rice or cooking oil. [All families which went willingly or forcibly to Khaw Taw were promised that they would be cared for in terms of food and everything for at least one year, but this promise has been broken.] Before, the DKBA soldiers and their families got their food from SLORC, but now SLORC orders the villagers in the area to provide food for the DKBA soldiers and their families. Each family in all the villages near the car road has to give 1 pyi [about 1.5 kg.] of rice and ¼ kilo of chillies per month [these are large villages of several hundred houses each]. SLORC soldiers gather all this rice and chillies and stock it in P'Nwe Kla village [Burmese name Pein Neh Daw, a SLORC stronghold position 1 hour's drive from Thaton]. Then the monk sends his men to gather it in P'Nwe Kla and take it back to Khaw Taw. Then he gives it out, but only to the families of soldiers - nobody else gets anything. As for the people from Paw Hta, To Nyo, Meh Bpa and other hill villages who have gone down to Khaw Taw [these are the hill villagers from near the Salween River who have been forced or terrorized into moving there, like the villagers interviewed in this report], they've made a different compound for them and put them in there, and they get different food. This past summer [March-June 1995] there have been so many children and others at Khaw Taw who have died of cholera and other diseases, because of the change of place and change of water, and because there is no medicine there.
The DKBA soldiers who stay in #1 Brigade, they have to go and get their food where the SLORC tells them. SLORC has camps in those townships, so they tell the DKBA soldiers to come to their camp to get their food. In Pa'an Township the DKBA has several checkpoints, and they have about 20 or 30 men stationed at each checkpoint. The DKBA is going to build their camp at Khaw Po Pleh for 30 or 40 men. The SLORC gave them money to build it, but they took the money and ordered the villagers to work for free for them just like the SLORC. They even demanded rice from the villagers.
The monk at Khaw Taw issued an order that in every village with less than 300 houses, even if there is a Buddhist monastery in the village, all the villagers have to go down to stay at Khaw Taw. So the DKBA soldiers started moving villagers living in Maw Kyo Draw area down to Khaw Taw. [This area in Papun District, a triangle from Ka Ma Maung 40 km. north to Ka Dtaing Dtee and 40 km. northwest to Tee Pa Doh Hta (Pyinma Bin Seit), includes several big villages, like Pa Lone, Baw Kyo Let, Baw Kyo Hta, Pa Keh, Muh Wah Kwee, Bo Mah Heh, Tee Ther Lay, Lay Po Hta, Boh Gha and others, but none of them have more than 200 houses]. When SLORC found out about this they issued an order telling the villagers not to move, that they must stay in their place. They told them that if the DKBA tells them to move, not to listen. They gave them a letter and told them to show it to the DKBA. [Because of this many villagers were caught in the middle, facing retaliation from SLORC if they moved and DKBA if they didn't, so they had to flee.]
In my opinion, the SLORC wants to destroy the DKBA. I think a SLORC high-ranking officer sent a letter to the monk telling him to issue this order, so he issued it, but then the same SLORC officer issued different orders to SLORC's own soldiers. I think this is a plan to make the DKBA look bad to the villagers, and the SLORC soldiers look good, so that the DKBA will not get any support from the villagers. Now some villagers are already saying "The Burmese soldiers are good. Because of them the DKBA don't come and order us to move anymore."
I haven't heard news about SLORC and DKBA fighting each other, but near Khaw Taw we often see bodies floating down the Salween River. We don't know if it's SLORC killing DKBA, DKBA killing SLORC, or what it is. There are more than 100 SLORC soldiers disguised as monks staying in Khaw Taw. They include officers and Non-Commissioned Officers. SLORC put these "monks" in Khaw Taw to stay with the monk there, because they want to get every piece of information about what is happening with the DKBA troops and what are their plans. Even when SLORC attacked Manerplaw, one time they had no gunners for their mortars so people saw them take one monk, take off his robe and then he was the gunner for the mortar. There are so many SLORC soldiers disguised as monks that now they have spread themselves among the DKBA troops.
Now the people as well as the KNLA soldiers in #1 Brigade area are very upset with this Buddhist monk [U Thuzana]. They say Buddhist monks have nothing to do with guns, but he has soldiers and guns in his monastery compound. Most of the people who went to stay at Khaw Taw are coming back to their villages already, including some DKBA soldiers. The people say this monk is bringing dishonour down on the monkhood. Most of the soldiers and officers in Ko Per Baw right now realize that they were wrong and they want to fight back against SLORC, but because of the disguised soldiers among the DKBA troops [there are also Karen-speaking SLORC soldiers disguised as DKBA soldiers] they dare not talk about it openly. So to some of them, right or wrong makes no difference anymore, they just do whatever they like because it has no meaning to them anymore. At Khaw Taw, every person who says anything like "We were wrong" or "What the Khaw Taw leaders are doing is wrong" always disappears, so people cannot speak their minds openly.
At first SLORC tried to get a ceasefire with KNU but KNU didn't accept. So SLORC started planning and making misunderstandings between Christian Karen and Buddhist Karen, and they planned that once they could split the Christian and Buddhist Karen they would form an organization to rival the KNU and then watch the result. If DKBO got more followers and support from the people, they would treat DKBO as the organization for the Karen people and make a deal with them. But instead of becoming an organization like SLORC wanted, the DKBA could not manage to increase their numbers. Moreover, the people have gradually turned away from them. None of the top leaders from the KNU went over to the DKBO. Now Kyaw Than [formerly a Sgt. Major in the KNDO (militia) organization, now a DKBA General] is the only one who is working very closely with SLORC. The other high-ranking officers in DKBA are unhappy where they are but see no opportunity to move. Now they can survive because SLORC can use them. If SLORC cannot use them anymore, they'll be finished.
In #1 Brigade area, the DKBA came to Pa Ya Raw village [Burmese name Myint Kyo], about 200 men led by Maung Kyi, and they started organizing people to support, help and follow them, but nobody listened to them and they left after 4 days. Again a month later, DKBA combined with SLORC, more than 500 men altogether, moved around in Thaton Township organizing people and asking for soldiers. But people there answered back, "We can't support you, because you are working with SLORC". The DKBA tried to organize people in Baw Kyo Draw area and in #1 Brigade. They explained to the people, "We are going to make peace in the whole land. So you'll not need to give porters, or money, or rice, and your property will not be looted anymore. So each and every one of you, come down to Khaw Taw Pu and gather there as our monk has ordered you. Our monk is trying to do good for Karen people and to make all Karen people live in peace." At first most people talked to each other and said this is good. They said "We have a good monk to do good for us, and we need not be afraid anymore." But later they found out that things were different from what the DKBA said. They had to give porters, they had to give rice, they had to go and work for them. Even villages in the remote areas got letters from DKBA saying "If you do not come down to live in Khaw Taw, we will ask the SLORC to go burn and destroy your village." Some were very afraid and went down to stay in Khaw Taw. But now the people in Baw Kyo Draw area are helping the KNLA troops to attack the DKBA troops, and the DKBA don't come any more to Baw Kyo Draw. Now people everywhere have started laying blame on the monk, saying "He said he will do good for the Karen people, but he brings more trouble to the Karen people. We have to work for both of them [DKBA and SLORC]. They always force us, harass us. He is not a good monk, he has weapons and soldiers in his monastery compound."
Now only small numbers of real soldiers remain with DKBA. Now they recruit lazy men,
men with too much debt, and men who have committed crimes, and many of their soldiers are
this class of men. Most of the real soldiers from the beginning have left, but they didn't
bring their guns with them. One strange thing is that if you ask them to fight back
against DKBA they always refuse. They know the monk is wrong, but they have no intention
to go against him. Some say that this is because of the monk's "medicine".
Whether it's true or not, I have no idea. Some people say that 3 years after you take the
monk's medicine you will either die or become a madman, and that there is also another
medicine that does the same thing but after 5 years. I have no idea whether this is true,
but many people believe this and say it. [There are many reports of Thuzana forcing
people to drink "medicine" on arrival at Khaw Taw. We have no evidence as to
whether or not this is a drug; it appears more likely that it is a harmless liquid taken
together with a strong and binding vow not to oppose the monk in any way, or one will die
or become mad. It is then the strength of people's superstition, rather than any effects
of the liquid itself, which bind them to the monk.]
Khaw Taw Pu (Myaing Gyi Ngu)
This letter was written by a human rights monitor who interviewed a resident of Khaw Taw Pu (Myaing Gyi Ngu):
On May 14 I met with a person who came back from Khaw Taw. [And he told me the following:]
1) On 23-4-95 he met with Saw xxxx and learned from him: that there are 500 households that are registered [in Khaw Taw]; that he estimates that including those from nearby and those from the western side of the Salween River, there are about 1500 households; that there are about 3,000 households altogether, including the previous residents of Khaw Taw. [In light of other information, this is probably an overestimate.]
2) Saw xxxx is a Section Leader, so as the person responsible he reported to U Thuzana [DKBA chairman] a request to make arrangements to get more rice, as there is not enough for the population. U Thuzana replied that he is not responsible, that this is the responsibility of SLORC - that SLORC had told him to call back and gather all the refugees, and that they would then take full responsibility for them, so the food is their responsibility.
3) U Thuzana made a comment saying "Do not force the people who do not want to come here anymore, leave them to their own fate. But people who are against me, even if they are monks, burn their monasteries, arrest them and send them to me."
4) U Thuzana said "Do not pay attention to people who do not behave according to the law, leave them to their fate. If you want to stay in peace, build more pagodas and monasteries. But if you get involved with other [religious] sects I will not take any responsibility for that. I will divide people into two groups: those who are vegetarians will stay with me in Khaw Taw, and the rest will be sent to Ka Ma Maung to their own fate.
5) Abbot U Thuzana of Khaw Taw gathered his reliable followers at Saw xxxx's house on 25-4-95 and gave them instructions as follows. He said that in the beginning he never thought such things [the fighting and suffering] would happen. He said he had no intention to cause these things, but that many people urged him into doing it. He could not foretell what would happen in the future. He said "You must be very careful. You have fought SLORC before, but now you are staying among them. I have cooked rice for you, and you only have to eat it. If you cannot eat it, that is not my fault. I have eaten SLORC's food, but I do not love them."
6) The Abbot from a monastery in Mandalay came to Khaw Taw and told U Thuzana that what he is doing is not according to the teachings of religion. U Thuzana answered that what is happening now is not concerned with religion, it is only a conflict between Karen people themselves. Monks from A'Lan Thaya [a large and famous monastery in Kyaikkaw] and monk U Thu Menya also came, and told U Thuzana that they had led vegetarians before without there being any conflict between vegetarians and KNU or vegetarians and SLORC. U Thuzana told him that it was only the Karen who created the conflict among themselves.
7) U Thuzana told his armed force, "Enemies are enemies. SLORC are not your people. You have been fighting them but now you are staying among them. It is a good opportunity for you - keep the fishing-hook inside you. I have cooked rice for you. If you cannot eat it in a proper way it will not be my fault."
8) Saw Kyaw Heh [a DKBA commander] made an understanding with two SLORC battalions from Ka Dtaing Dtee, I don't know the Battalion numbers. They made an agreement not to start fighting no matter what happens.
9) There are now great difficulties for those who went to Khaw Taw by force or voluntarily, because there is not enough food and it is very expensive to build a house. One piece of bamboo for building a house costs 50 Kyat. It costs so much to build a house, so how can poor people build a house? Many children in Khaw Taw have died because of insufficient medicine.
[Notes: According to this information, it appears that U Thuzana himself may be having doubts about the past and future of the DKBO and DKBA. It is most unusual to hear a Buddhist monk trying to back out of his own deeds and repeatedly talk about things not being his "fault". At the same time, he gives the impression that he may foresee problems between DKBA and SLORC, possibly including a withdrawal of SLORC support, a purge of DKBA, or even open fighting, with his indirect comments telling people that SLORC is still his enemy and that of his followers, and that his soldiers should see their presence inside the SLORC camp as an "opportunity" and keep the "fishing-hook" (the bitter memories) inside them. By making his own local agreement with SLORC battalions, Saw Kyaw Heh may be expressing the same fears. The information in this letter comes from a reliable source, though we have yet to get secondary confirmation on many of its details.]