An Independent Report by the
Karen Human Rights Group
May 15, 1996 (KHRG #96-17)
[Note: Some details have been omitted or replaced by xxxx for Internet distribution.]
A small but steady flow of refugees from Pa'an District continue to cross
the border into Thailand as living conditions in Pa'an District continue to deteriorate.
SLORC is increasingly in control there, and the DKBA (Democratic Kayin Buddhist Army, the
Karen group allied to SLORC) is present throughout the area but is increasingly
functioning only as an adjunct to SLORC; DKBA troops are now even supervising forced
labour on road construction, especially on a new 50-km. road from Pa'an to DKBA
headquarters at Myaing Gyi Ngu. The Karen National Liberation Army has recently stepped up
its guerrilla activities in the southern part of the District, which is only bringing down
even heavier SLORC retaliation on the villagers. People continue to be arbitrarily
arrested, tortured and summarily executed by SLORC and the DKBA in the area, either
because they have past or suspected connections with the KNLA or simply because the troops
want to steal their land and belongings.
Villagers must now pay heavy extortion to both SLORC and DKBA and also must provide food to SLORC, DKBA, and KNLA. By far the heaviest burden causing people to flee the area is forced labour for SLORC and DKBA doing road construction, commercial logging, military portering and building and servicing military camps. SLORC has begun an absolute binge of road-building in the area, most likely to strengthen its military access. Tens of thousands of villagers from every village in Pa'an District are being forced to build at least a dozen new roads forming a web through the entire region. Many villages even have to rotate doing labour on two or three roads at once. All of these roads are being built wide enough for "two vehicles side by side" - given that most people in the area possess nothing more than bullock-carts, this means military access. Through low-lying ricefields the road embankments often have to be quite high, requiring intense manual labour. Children as young as 10 are doing it, and so are the elderly. No machines are being used, except in a few places or where the forced labourers themselves can "hire" them. Villagers are being forced to cover some of the roads with broken bricks or stones in an apparent attempt to make them "all-season", but the embankments are just dirt and no proper drainage is being done, so the roads are sure to collapse in the rainy season starting this June. Then, as the villagers know from long experience, they will be forced to build these roads all over again starting next dry season in November.
Another disturbing development in the area is the apparent increase in systematic persecution of the Muslim community. The worst case is the recent destruction of Muslim Nabu village (see Interviews #3-4), and it will be important to see whether further attempts to destroy and scatter Muslim communities in Karen State will follow.
The following accounts were given in interviews conducted throughout April and May by independent human rights monitors working with people in Pa'an District, by the Hsaw Wah Deh independent human rights reporting group, and by KHRG. Names of those interviewed have been changed, and all false names used are enclosed in quotes; other names and details are real, though some details have been omitted or replaced by 'xxxx' to protect people.
Reference is often made to SLORC's brick kilns. SLORC Army Battalions commonly set up brick kilns as a profitmaker for the officers - rank-and-file SLORC soldiers are forced to spend most of their time making bricks, the local villagers are forced to provide the fuel, and the officers sell the bricks for 5 Kyat apiece, none of which goes to the ranks or the villagers. Several interviewees mention DKBA officers Pa Tha Da (a.k.a. Kyaw Tha Da) and Nuh Po (a.k.a. Kyaw Nuh Po), two brothers from Bee T'Ka village who joined DKBA last year and have become particularly notorious for abuse of villagers. Other references to them can be found in every KHRG report which mentions the DKBA in Pa'an District.
Many villages in the area have both a Karen name and a Burmese name (for example, T'Nay Cha village in Karen is known as Nabu in Burmese). We have generally used the name used most commonly among people in the area. Note also that Karen and Burmese village names can be transliterated into English spellings in several ways, so differently-spelled but similar-sounding names seen on maps or in reports by various groups may actually be referring to the same place.
SLORC = State Law & Order Restoration Council,
Burma's ruling military junta
LORC = SLORC administration at lower levels, e.g. Village LORC, Township LORC
KNU = Karen National Union, the main Karen opposition organization
KNLA = Karen National Liberation Army, military wing of the KNU
KNDO = Karen National Defence Organization, village militia wing of the KNU
DKBA = Democratic Kayin Buddhist Army, Karen group tensely allied to SLORC
Ko Per Baw = 'Yellow Headbands', common way of referring to DKBA
Ta Bee Met = 'Closed Eyes', DKBA's way of referring to KNU and KNLA
IB = SLORC Infantry Battalion, usually about 500+ strong
LIB = SLORC Light Infantry Battalion, usually about 500+ strong
Executions (Interviews #2,12,17), torture (#12-16), arrest
(#12,14-16,18), rape (#12), extortion (#1,2,3,5,8,14-18), stealing livestock
(#1,2,12,13,15-18), land confiscation (#1,3,4,13), destruction of land & homes
(#1-3,9,13), persecution of Muslims (#2-5,8,16), persecution of Christians (#18),
arrest/torture of returning refugees (#16), Army TV propaganda (#4).
Forced labour: Roads (#1-11,18), army camp labour (#2,3,5,8,11,12), porters (#1,2,5,12,13), forced logging (#1,2,7,8,11,17), forced labour getting fuel for brick kilns & baking bricks (#1-3, 7,8), forced labour farming (#3,4,10), forced labour for tourism (#1), child forced labour (#5-
12, 18), death/illness/physical abuse during forced labour (#3,5,6,7,9,10,13).
Roads using forced labour: Pa'an - Myaing Gyi Ngu (#18), Pa'an - Shwe Taw - Za Tha Pyin - Kaw Palaung (#1,9,11), Nabu - Myatpadine - Kawkareik (#1,2,3,6,8,10), Nabu - Daw Lan - Kyaw Ywa (#2,3,5,6,7), Nabu - Tu Kaw Koh - Pain Kyone (#2,6), Kyone Doh - Nabu (#3), Kya In Seik Gyi - Win Kat (#2), Way Sha - Ko Lay Wah (Than Ma Ya Taung) (#2). (Note: this list only includes those mentioned in this report, and is far from complete.)
A map is included at the end of this report to show locations of these roads and main villages.
[The following is excerpted from an independent interview
with a former schoolteacher conducted on 2 May 1996. She also discussed the situation in
the schools, and her comments can be found in "Interviews on the School
Situation", KHRG #96-16, 8/5/96.]
NAME: "Naw Paw Wah" SEX: F AGE: 36 Karen Buddhist schoolteacher
I served as a teacher in Kawkareik. I resigned last year and moved to Pa'an, and after that to Irrawaddy Division. What I have seen is that the whole people have to work all the time doing "voluntary labour".
In Pa'an, at the beginning of this year 1996 porter fees were increased to 1,500 Kyats per month from every household, even including the families of civil servants like teachers and nurses. In November 1995, SLORC soldiers who were not from Pa'an arrested people inside their houses to go as porters. Then the Ya Wa Ta called a meeting in our section [towns and cities are divided into 'sections' or 'quarters', each administered by a 'Ya Wa Ta', which stands for Village LORC] and said we would hire 5 porters every month for 10,000 Kyats each. So our section has to pay 50,000 Kyats every month plus the usual porter fees. In addition we have to pay 500 Kyats [per family] per month for new road construction. People from Pa'an also have to work on the Pa'an - Za Tha Pyin road. In 1994, the SLORC authorities confiscated many acres of ricefields at Pa Kat, east of Zwegabin hill. They didn't give any compensation to the farmers. Then they set up a new town there and divided the land into plots 20 feet by 40 feet, and they sold these plots to civil servants for 2,000 Kyats per unit.
In Pa'an, people hate the soldiers very much. A Private's wife can wear a lot of gold. The vendors in the market say they do not want to sell things to soldiers. But soldiers are the only ones who have money to buy a lot of things.
In Irrawaddy Division I visited my relatives in Bassein, and I saw that there is road construction there too. The Chairman of SLORC, General Than Shwe, found a beach northwest of Bassein called Nga Saw beach, and he named it "the most beautiful beach in Burma". Then many Battalions were transferred there and started to prepare it for Visit Myanmar Year. The local villagers had to construct a new road from Nga Saw to Tha Lat Kwa, close to Bassein. The height of the road [embankment] is 12 feet and the width at least 50 feet. There were bulldozers there but they only worked if the villagers gave money for the fuel and operating costs. Many coconut trees and mango trees were cut down to clear ground for bungalows and barracks for the soldiers. I heard that after the villagers finish moving the earth [to make the road embankment], the Chinese will come and tar the road. I don't know which Chinese, from China or from Burma.
For me the worst place was my native village, xxxx near Myatpadine. The villagers there have had to build the Nabu-Myatpadine road for the last 3 years, and every rainy season the rain destroys the road again. This year many more Battalions have been stationed in the area, and the villagers have to work for them many ways. Three years ago, villagers never cut trees between our area and Kyone Pine, because it was declared a forest preserve by the KNU. But within 4 months, because of demands from the SLORC Army's brick kilns and to build their buildings, the villagers were forced to cut down many trees. Now there are almost no trees left north of Kyone Doh, and it is very hard for the villagers to find leaves for roofing.
For road construction, each family has to dig and carry the earth to make a road, must make a hole 50 feet long by 2 feet wide by 6 feet deep and carry all that earth. I know a bachelor about 45 years old who had to work alone to do this for about a month. Some villagers also have to go to work on other roads.
DKBA monks are also active in Karen State. I heard that DKBA monks practice drills with arms at Myaing Gyi Ngu. This February, a group of monks with weapons came to Kawkareik Hospital because one of them was wounded. They shouted loudly at the hospital, and a nurse told them not to shout and not to bring guns, especially monks. The monks were very angry. They learned that the nurse is a Christian, and the next day they came to find her so the hospital authorities hid her and gave her a month's leave from duty. The DKBA members are also terrible. In March 1996 they stole 4 buffalos from Noh Kaw Tay village, close to Nabu. The owner of the buffalos heard that his animals were driven to Thailand by the DKBA, so he asked the DKBA officer to take action. But the officer said, "If you have no evidence, you must pay 400,000 Kyats, and also be killed." Then the buffalo owner went to the SLORC Army officer, who said, "It is the time of organizing [i.e. supporting and enlarging the DKBA], so we cannot take action against them."
[The following account was given by a Karen Army medic.]
The villagers from Kyone Doh and Kawkareik areas are very tired of building new roads; Myatpadine - Nabu, Nabu - Daw Lan, Nabu - Tu Kaw Koh, Nabu - Kawkareik, and Way Sha - Ko Lay Wah (Than Ma Ya Taung) roads. [For details on Way Sha - Than Ma Ya Taung, see "Abuses in Tee Sah Ra Area", KHRG #96-15, 1/4/96.] Every village in the region has to work. If a person can't go, they have to hire a substitute for 150 to 200 Kyats a day. Some villagers from Naung Hta Pung village complained to soldiers about their ricefields being destroyed because of the road construction, but the reply was, "We'll buy your fields by giving 100 Kyats per acre" [the officer was just being sarcastic; 100 Kyats is worth less than US$1 at the time or printing]. Rubber plantations in Pata and Nabu have also been destroyed for the road construction.
The road is about the height of an elephant. There are no drains, bridges for small streams or ditches for ricefield irrigation, so there will be a flood on one side of the road and the other side will be dry. It will affect the grazing fields also. The new roads they are building are not strong enough. The old British roads were made of 3 layers of stone and then tarred, but SLORC roads are only made of dirt. They planned to get stones from Naung Hta Pung hill, but the explosives didn't detonate so they gave up the plan [due to superstition]. Many villagers from Naung Hta Pung fled to refugee camps because of road construction, portering labour and construction of new battalion camps. After they flee the SLORC soldiers call their relatives and take over the houses and fields of the people who have fled.
I think SLORC authorities allocate money for construction labourers, but the whole Army is corrupt. Commanders take all the labour money and order the villagers to "volunteer". Lower-ranked officers order the villagers to cut and bring wood for new battalion buildings. They also order the villagers to bring portable sawmills, and later the owners cannot get back their machines. Sergeants order villagers to collect wood for brick-baking kilns, and then sell this wood back to the villagers again. Finally, the Privates take livestock and things from the villagers. Some Indians from Nabu told me, "Cars are running, and Indians are running too". They have suffered alot because of road construction and new battalions. Recently the Nabu Muslim graveyard was taken by the Army. They removed the religious items, cleared it and made it a pig farm. The Muslims are very sad about that.
The DKBA there is only serving the SLORC troops. The SLORC Army gives orders and the DKBA implements them. They collect porter fees, arrange villagers to go to road work and prevent villagers from going to Thailand. Maung Chit Thu [a DKBA officer] said, "Roads are good. We can ride motorcycles." Sure he can ride a motorcycle, but he does not know that villagers are crying. Maung Chit Thu's group from DKBA #999 [Regiment] killed two villagers during the Water Festival [in mid-April 1996]. One was a SLORC-appointed village head, Nae Pa Bleh, 41 years old. "Nae" is used for respected elders and ex-monks. Nae Pa Bleh was an ex-monk who was head of Tee Law Thee village. On April 14, when he was coming from the monastery, members of DKBA #999 arrested him and accused him of helping KNU. He was executed outside the village. The other was Saw Lah Khin, 50 years old, from Pah K'Lu village. He was charged with helping KNU and shot dead on April 15. The SLORC Army took no action about this. They said, "Karens kill Karens. It has nothing to do with us." In February at Th'Waw Thaw near Tu Kaw Koh village, a former robber who is now DKBA called Bo Sat Lat [literally, "Officer Machine-gun"] who is under Tah K'Ler's command killed an animal trader named Po Ka Pya from Baw Paw Ko village. The charge was trying to sell 7 cows to people in Thailand. The DKBA prohibits animals and animal products, even fishpaste, from crossing the Dawna Range [to Thailand and villages near the Thai border].
Now SLORC is planning to build 2 long roads, from Kya In Seik Gyi to Win Kat [towards the current KNU headquarters] and from Nabu to Pain Kyone. If they build these roads, thousands of villagers will be in trouble. The whole world quickly hears news of forced labour in Mandalay, but I think the world hears nothing about forced labour in Karen State. Please send them this information as soon as possible to give a hand to these badly deprived villagers.
NAME: "U Thein Dar"
AGE: 60 Burmese
FAMILY: Married, 5 children
ADDRESS: Nabu village, Kawkareik Township, Pa'an District INTERVIEWED: 6/4/96
Two years ago Nabu village had about 300 families, mostly Muslims [Nabu actually consists of a Muslim Nabu and a non-Muslim Nabu]. Now, under 100 families are living there, because the SLORC authorities annex villagers' houses and fields, because of the hard labour construction duties and the economic difficulties. Nabu village will be absolutely destroyed soon.
In the middle of July 1995, Kawkareik Township authorities arrived at our village and called one person from each family to attend a meeting. The authorities gave blank sheets of paper to each person and told them to sign it. After that, the Secretary of Kawkareik Township Law & Order Restoration Council said that the villagers' farms and ricefields were all being taken to build a new Battalion camp for LIB 547. More than half of the village itself and many acres of ricefields were taken. The next day, they set up red flags and warning sign boards reading "Army Land, Do Not Enter". Villagers receive no compensation for their land and houses. The villagers asked the Township LORC Secretary why their farms were taken and he said LIB 547 wanted the land. He said he did not know the plan, he and his team just came for surveying. I heard that the Army will continue to take more land, including Nabu Kwin village, Nan Kut Day village, Kawkalaung village and Naung Hta Pung village - altogether 500 to 600 acres. The villagers who lost their land were told to move except the ricefield owners, who were ordered to keep growing rice in their fields, then reap the paddy and pound [mill] it. After that, the soldiers ordered them to take all the rice to the Army rice barns.
We also had to cut down the fruit trees like mango, jackfruit and coconut trees on the confiscated land and carry them to the Army's brick-baking factory for fuel. Villagers' bullocks and carts were also taken by the soldiers months ago to carry bricks and wood.
After the harvest, we had to work on road construction - the Kyone Doh to Nabu road, 15 miles long, the Daw Lan to Nabu road, 10 miles long, and the Kawkareik to Nabu road, 20 miles long. Sick people cannot go home unless a substitute comes to work in their place. There was no medical help. Three villagers have died on the road construction since the start of this year . They were a woman from Thagar Chaung village and a man from Naung Kine village, who died of cholera, and a woman from Naung Hein who was hit by a hoe.
The other work is to build barracks, buildings and fences for LIB 547. Then we had to work at their brick kiln by rotation. For all this work, from road construction to baking bricks, the villagers receive no money. They have to go to the workplaces with their own food and supplies. We are also ordered to pay various kinds of fees which total about 1,000 Kyats every month [per family] - emergency porter fees, volunteer porter fees, long trip porter fees and so on.
During the Holy Month of Ramadan in February we Muslims wanted to fast, so we asked permission from LIB 547 commander Major Sein Win to be given less labour in that month [during the entire month of Ramadan, Muslims cannot eat between sunrise and sunset]. But he replied that if villagers cannot do the work, they must take up their house-posts and move away. We lost our land, we cannot do our own work freely and we only serve as slaves for the soldiers, so we left our village. We arrived at this refugee camp on 22 March. We want to go back home if our land is returned to us and if true peace is established in our country.
[A SLORC deserter from LIB 547 said the following about Nabu area when
There are quite a lot of Muslims, but now some ran away and some moved because LIB 547 took exactly half of the village. The only Indian [Muslim] part remaining is right around the mosque. The road cut the village down the middle, and one side became the LIB 547 compound. Many good houses were demolished. The Army also took the ricefields for their own bean plantations, 'bocate' and 'mart' beans. Nabu village has about 700 families, and about 300 families lost their land. The Nabu villagers lost their homes, farms, even their ricefields, so now they do not want to see the soldiers anymore.
As for road construction, from Nabu there is one main road headed to Kyone Doh and Kawkareik [actually this is 2 roads], and another headed to the DKBA monk's place [Myaing Gyi Ngu - he may mean via Pa'an or via Pain Kyone]. That one starts at the Nabu mosque. I myself didn't have to call the villagers, but a lot of villages have to work on that: Myatpadine, Nan Kaw Tay, Mon Su, Kalah Gone, In Chay, Da Way Hta, Tone Poh and so on. Sometimes 80 to 100 people per village. They had to sleep around the ricefields, and we [soldiers] also lived without shelter at the brickmaking site. We [soldiers] also had to volunteer to work on the road, but just for show, just for a very short time, together with policewomen and other soldiers. That day the TV reporters recorded it. They wanted to show that the Army served and worked for the people, but actually the people did the whole thing.
[A Karen National Liberation Army officer added the following: "The Nabu Muslim community was systematically destroyed. Part of the village area was taken over by LIB 547. We heard that SLORC soldiers are planning to take over the Muslim graveyard, which is quite important to Islamic ritual. As a result, hundreds of them fled to refugee camps."]
NAME: "Maung Win"
AGE: 35 Burmese
Muslim day labourer
NAME: "Daw Hla" SEX: M AGE: 33 Burmese Muslim day labourer
FAMILY: Widow, 6 children
ADDRESS: XXXX village, Hlaing Bwe Township, Pa'an District
[These two newly arrived refugees were interviewed together on 6 April, 1996 by the Hsaw Wah Deh human rights monitoring group.]
Our village has Karen, Burmese and Muslims living together. Now there are about 200 families living there. Last year about 100 Muslim families lived there, but now there are only 50. About 50 families fled to refugee camps because of hardship and oppression of the Muslim community.
We had to work on the Nabu - Daw Lan road, which is about 7 miles long and wide enough to drive two cars parallel. Every day each family had to dig an area of earth totalling 4 feet by 3 feet by 12 feet deep, then move the earth to the road site. Now [in hot season] it is very hot, so it was very tiring work. If we couldn't go, we had to hire a person by giving 200 Kyats per day. Porter fees are 100 Kyats per family every month. Moreover, SLORC soldiers take porters to carry supplies every month, and if a person can't go for that he has to hire another person for 200 Kyats per day. Villagers are always forced to work for SLORC and DKBA and also have to give them at least 1,000 Kyats per month in total.
We had to support DKBA members' families by giving rice and money, and by building houses for their families. We were also called by LIB 547 [SLORC Light Infantry Battalion] to cut bamboo, clear their compound and build barracks for them. There, we were beaten often. If a villager resists, he or she is beaten and fined 3,000 Kyats for this behaviour. The work orders come from LIB 547 at Taung Zun camp, and from Captain Meh Bya of DKBA. For road construction and building barracks for LIB 547, everybody has to go, men and women, young and old. About half of the workers are women and children. Even the widows have to pay for their funds and fees, except porter fees. Not only in XXXX village - other villages are also suffering the same, so many villagers have fled to refugee camps.
NAME: "Saw Hla Say"
AGE: 25 Karen
FAMILY: Married, 2 children
ADDRESS: XXXX village, Kawkareik Township, Pa'an Dist. INTERVIEWED: 4/96
I left my village during Water Festival [mid-April] and reached this [refugee] camp on 20 April. Since January this year, my village has had to work on many road construction projects without a rest. First the Nabu - Myatpadine road, then the Daw Lan - Nabu road, then other construction projects. Now it is very hot, and villagers have already been working on road construction for about 4 months, so everyone is talking about going to Thailand. We heard that there are many more construction projects that we will have to do soon. We have to dig the earth and carry it to the embankment to build the roads. Men usually dig the earth and the women carry it. There is no machinery. There are no stones covering the roads and some parts are just made of sand, so when it rains these roads will collapse. There were some accidents while we were working. In March at the Kyone Pine worksite on the Tu Kaw Koh - Nabu road, a hoe accidentally broke and the blade hit a girl in the neck while she was scooping up the earth. She died on the spot. The boy who caused the accident was in shock - he ran back to his village and committed suicide by drinking insecticide. In the first week of April, also at Kyone Pine, a man about 40 years old died when he was working [probably from heart attack]. The weather is too hot for this work. There are many children at the worksite too.
If a person cannot go for the work, he or she has to hire someone to go by paying them 150 Kyats per day plus rice and fishpaste. SLORC and DKBA soldiers control the construction. They say the roads are just for us to travel on, but I don't know about that. These roads are not strong enough to last the rainy season, so everyone is planning to leave the village [because they know they'll be forced to build the roads over again next season]. Some flee to Tha Menya monastery, but I heard that many from Tha Menya are leaving for Thailand also. I do not know why. [Tha Menya is a famous Buddhist refuge near Pa'an where even SLORC does not dare carry weapons or take people for forced labour. Recently SLORC has reportedly been trying to gain some control in Tha Menya by convincing the DKBA to carry arms there, and if people are leaving the refuge it may be connected to this. For details, see "Inside the DKBA", KHRG #96-14, 31/3/96.]
NAME: "Saw Htoo Wah"
AGE: 22 Karen
FAMILY: Married, 1 child
ADDRESS: XXXX village, Kyone Doh Twp., Pa'an Dist. INTERVIEWED: 4/96
I arrived here [the refugee camp] on April 5, 1996. I came together with 30 people - 20 women and 10 men. We had to work on the Daw Lan - Nabu road construction without receiving any money. Each family has to send one person to serve. Our village has about 300 families. Those who cannot work have to pay 150 Kyats to village authorities as a fine. Villagers have to stay 5 or 6 days at the road worksite and sleep along the road without enough shelter. There are many women working there, and some are over 60 years old. Children as young as 14 or 15 years old also have to work. The road [embankment] is more than 11 feet high and can accomodate two cars parallel [in width]. Thousands of villagers have to work on road construction around Kyone Doh and Kawkareik. Some are injured while working. I heard that one villager died after being hit by a hoe. Soldiers watch the villagers and usually scold them when people rest. Our duty is to dig the earth and carry it to the road site. Karen State Law & Order Restoration Council members usually come to supervise.
Another duty started in March 1996 - carrying timber for LIB 545, a new battalion from Kyone Doh. The villagers have to go to Tu Kaw Koh village to cut down trees and carry them to Kyet Paung village sawmill. Some villagers have to work at the sawmill too. Then they have to carry the wood [planks] on carts to LIB 545 headquarters. Each village has to send 40 carts with bullocks for this job. Some villages don't have enough carts and bullocks, so they have to hire carts and pairs of bullocks for 1,500 Kyats a day. Villagers have to do all this for the Army but receive nothing from them. Another job we were ordered to do is collecting wood for the Army brick factory, but in reality the soldiers sell this wood back to the villagers for 500 Kyats per cartful. [The soldiers demand alot more wood than they actually need to make bricks.]
NAME: "Saw Tha Pwee"
AGE: 33 Karen
FAMILY: Married, 2 children
ADDRESS: xxxx village, T'Nay Cha tract, Pa'an Township INTERVIEWED: 4/4/96
I went home in T'boh Tweh month [about September 1995], to visit my parents. I saw that the Burmese are forcing people to labour, such as hauling timber. I stayed for 2 months. We had to work for the Burmese, road work, hauling timber. When they demand something to be done, so must it be done. They demand it all the time. Road works, hauling timber, everything. Children as young as 13, everybody, by rotation. For example, if a village has 60 houses, they go and register with the Burmese as having 30 houses [they give false information], and then they must send 30 people for 3 or 4 days at a time, and when they return another 30 people must go again, rotating like that, always. Each village gets a designated length of road. For example, a village of 50 houses gets given a length for 50 people, and a village of 100 houses is also given a length as registered. If your people are too few for your length and you don't finish you cannot go back home [until it's done].
The road is about 3 kilometres from our village. It is 2 cars wide. It's not done yet, but should soon be finished. Cars can go from Nabu to Kawkareik. Our village has 30 houses. We had to build 1 kilometre, 10 feet wide, elevation less than the head height of some people. 15 or 20 people had to go from the village. We have to walk there, have to take our own tools, machetes, and our own food. They [soldiers] don't feed us and don't eat amongst us. They watch over, with some guns. In the hot season the workers can work at their own pace, because we must do the work until it is finished. So some people come very early, pre-dawn, work until it becomes hot, and then they rest. The work is not finished in T'Nay Cha District, and also there's a bridge to be made. The villagers are making it, from timber. Now they are also putting earth and grasses along the middle of the road in order to make it stronger.
Most of the people are farmers. If two people are in one house, one goes [to the road] and the other works [growing food]. People also have to cut timber and take it near T'lah Aw Kla, about half a mile from our village, or to T'Nay Cha, and some to Ku Lah Kaun. They have to go until the ordered timber is cut. I myself didn't do this. With the wood the Burmese are constructing some houses, and constructing a bridge on the car road that can be used if the water rises. They started cutting timber at the start of the cold season [November-December]. They get carts from the villages. For example, if there are 20 carts, 10 carts must go on rotation. Really, how long before this timber hauling will cease, I have no idea! Before, there were a great number of trees, now they have become scarce. When the Karen soldiers [KNU] stayed there before they didn't like people to cut the trees. [It was a KNU forest preserve.] They [soldiers] never come for labour, it is the responsibility of the village elders to get people. It is said that if you are not free to go you must send another person in your place, and give a wage. The wage costs 50-100 kyat per day.
Ko Per Baw stay at Ku Lah Kaun, 3 kilometers away. They don't force people to construct roads, but they do force us to haul timber. There are 30-40 of them in the area. We must work for them in the same way as we do for the Burmese. Now they are working very hard at sawmilling timber at T'lah Aw Kla. The wood is T'la Aw, there is no teak. They get carts from Bat Dat and other villages like K'Nee Bu, Kyeh Baw, and Lah L'Maw. We have to saw the timber, and for example, if they require us, we must construct houses for them. We must do that. If they require us to construct a camp, we must do that. They've established a battalion there. Before Indian-Burmese [Muslims] were staying there, but now there are no longer Indians there. I don't know where they might be now. Only Ko Per Baw, their wives and children stay there now. Their leader is Meh Bya. The Burmese are at T'Nay Cha, about 20-30 together with wives and children. Before that was an Indian [Muslim] village, but the Indians' houses were destroyed in order to make the new road.
Q: Can people get permission from the Burmese to go to Thailand?
A: No. Not the Burmese. Not Ko Per Baw. They don't really like it. For example, when there are full moon celebrations you could say you are taking a car to Kawkareik to participate in the religious activities. You must use your brain like this. If you tell them where you are really going, they won't like it. XXXX
NAME: "Naw Lay Htoo" SEX: F AGE: 16 Karen Buddhist
NAME: "Naw K'Paw" SEX: F AGE: 21 Karen Buddhist
ADDRESS: XXXX village, Pa'an Township INTERVIEWED: 29/4/96
"Naw K'Paw": We arrived here [the refugee camp] three days ago. We were very tired of working at new road construction, that's why we left our village. One person from each family has to work on road construction. Anyone who can't go has to hire another person by giving 100 Kyats per day. The work site is near Shwe Taw, close to our village. That construction started in November 1995 and has not finished yet. We heard that this is part of the "Union Road" and they plan to finish it within 3 years. The road starts from Pa'an and goes to Shwe Taw, Kaw Palaung, Maw Maw Ler, Bena Ay Per Ko, and then will go to Three Pagodas Pass. The height of the road is about 10 feet and it is wide enough to drive 2 cars parallel. Some ricefields were destroyed for the road, and at that time farmers had not finished their harvest so they lost some crops.
We have to start work at 8 a.m. and work until noon. Then we start again at 1 p.m. and work until 3 p.m. Then we go back home. People whose villages are far from the road have to sleep there. We have to form groups of 3 people each, and each group has to finish a piece of road 6 yards long. Children about 10 years old and people over 60 years old have to work with us. There are some bulldozers and loaders, but they only work if villagers give money. There is no clinic. A young man named A'Pway from Ko Lone Sein village got fever, but he continued to work and later he died.
Ko Per Baw soldiers supervise the villagers at work. They scold the villagers who try to rest. The Ko Per Baw soldiers always stay in a group, about 10 of them on the road. They all call themselves 'officers', none of them are Privates.
NAME: "Saw Eh Say"
AGE: 20 Karen
ADDRESS: XXXX village, Kawkareik Township INTERVIEWED: 29/4/96
I arrived here [the refugee camp] on April 27. Now on the Nabu-Myatpadine road they have finished the earth work. Now we have to lay the road with damaged bricks. The road is about 10 feet high, and wide enough for two trucks to drive aside. SLORC trucks bring damaged bricks from the brick kilns to the road site. Then villagers have to arrange the bricks on the road. There are about 500 people there from Myatpadine village tract, which includes 5 villages. We have to work for about 15 days. We start work early in the morning and work until noon, then we rest for about 2 hours. It is very hot. Then we continue to work from 2 p.m., sometimes until 9 p.m. if the moon is shining.
There are soldiers watching along the road, and they scold people when people rest. Sometimes the young soldiers let the villagers rest for a while. There are some Burmese who give orders to us through the village heads. Children about 11 years old and old people with no teeth have to work there. In March 1996 an old man 60 or 70 years old who had already worked there nearly a month died of exhaustion at the road. He was from Naung K'Loung village. His body was taken to his village. A week later, a Sergeant shot his Lieutenant at the Naung K'Loung worksite. The Sergeant let the villagers rest, so the Lieutenant scolded him and then the Sergeant killed him with a gun. I don't know what happened later to that Sergeant.
I always have to do the road construction, and my father also does forced labour for them. He is called to grow rice, then reap the harvest, and then to carry the harvested paddy to the Army compound. Now he also has to carry wood for the bridges along the road in his cart.
NAME: "Naw Myint"
AGE: 20 Karen
ADDRESS: XXXX village, Pa'an Township INTERVIEWED: 30/4/96
I came [to the refugee camp] 2 days ago, together with 4 girls from YYYY village. XXXX village has about 300 families and YYYY village has over 500 families. Our village was called by SLORC and DKBA soldiers to cut down and carry trees and bamboo, so the villagers had to go about 15 miles with our carts to cut trees. Each log had to be 15 plah [22 feet] long. Then we had to carry them to two Army camps. I don't know the Battalion number, they are from Pa'an. Then we had to build camps and barracks for SLORC soldiers and their families.
Since March 1996, XXXX and surrounding villages have received orders to work on road construction at Kaw Tho village. The villagers took food, supplies and tools with them and went to Kaw Tho. They had to work and stay there for 15 days. The road starts from Pa'an and goes to Shwe Bo, Kaw Palaung, Mu Ka Wah, Kaw Tho, Meh Tha Laung and on towards Three Pagodas Pass. The height is about double a person's height, and the width is about 30 feet. Children about 11 or 12 and also people in their 50's have to work there. If people get sick the soldiers allow them to go home, but there is no clinic. Some villagers hired people from Pa'an to go for road construction work by paying them 1,000 to 2,000 Kyats. There are about 100 soldiers along the road to watch the villagers. The soldiers are from Shwe Pyi Taung camp, and they often scold the villagers.
NAME: "Tha Muh"
AGE: 19 Karen
ADDRESS: XXXX village, Kawkareik Township INTERVIEWED: 4/96
I left because the Ko Per Baw and Burmese troops make so many problems and fees in our village. They do to you as they like - even though you aren't guilty of anything they can make up things, say you have weapons and torture you. They do it for money. If they beat you, they will ask you only a few questions about your weapons and then they'll surely start asking for money to release you. Mostly they do it to people who have some money or animals with them. If people don't have money to pay then they have to give half of their animals. If you try to complain then they say, "I'll kill you without a single drop of your blood coming out". [A Karen expression meaning to kill someone especially brutally and painfully.] They did that to a Pa'O man whose village is not far from mine. His name was Maung Khin Kyi. He was 49, with 3 children - 2 sons and 1 daughter. His son told us about it. He owed some money to a Karen, and the Karen asked for rice instead of money. Maung Khin Kyi agreed, and when he was coming along to the Karen village with the rice in his bullock cart, unluckily he met with Ko Per Baw and Burmese troops. They said to him, "We know you're taking this rice to KNU soldiers. We are very sorry we have to kill you, but don't you know we have to kill all Ta Bee Met ["Closed Eyes", DKBA's name for KNU] and everyone who helps Ta Bee Met?" They killed Maung Khin Kyi by stabbing him in the throat 3 times, but first they burned him with fire. His son xxxx was with him in the bullock cart. They didn't kill his son, I guess they didn't want to. If they'd wanted to kill his son, his son would also be dead. That happened on March 14th.
These Burmese troops and the Ko Per Baw, if they want your ear to eat with their whisky then you have to chop off your ear and give it to them, or you'll be killed. They say, "The ear is very delicious to eat, when you chew it it goes 'kyet-kyet-kyet' and it is very pleasing". They did that to Tee Paw Bu Say, he is 47 and already married 16 years but he has no children. The Ko Per Baw and the Burmese ordered him to get them a chicken to eat with their whisky, but he couldn't find a chicken. When he got back to them, they said, "Where is the chicken?" He said, "I couldn't find any". The SLORC were drunk, they said "Come here", and then they chopped off his ears. There was so much blood. He asked the Ko Per Baw to release him to go and get treatment, but he had to stay with them the whole night with no treatment. He nearly died because he bled so much. Early in the morning he was very angry, and he said, "I'm going to get traditional medicine even if you don't release me. If you kill me, I dare to die." But the Ko Per Baw didn't do anything, and he went to Kyet Tu Ray village and got traditional medicine. The old man gave him a cup of water to drink, and then the bleeding stopped. Ko Per Baw said they would give him an injection, but he was afraid to have an injection. Most Karen people still believe in our traditional medicine and are afraid to have injections or to drink medicine.
We also have to go as porters and carry food, bullets and weapons, about 10 viss [16 kg.] weight. Not the women and children, but they have to go for forced labour at the military camp. At the camp they have to gather bamboo to build the soldiers' fences and houses, carry water, cook and clean in the camp - but the main work there is building fences, digging trenches and building bunkers. Fifteen people have to go for 3 days and nights, then it changes to another group. They sleep at the military camp. Sometimes the soldiers sleep with them. They are afraid and dare not speak, and if they shout the soldiers will kill them. The Ko Per Baw do it too, so the Burmese have no respect for Karen girls, they copy the Ko Per Baw and do it even more. To them Karen girls are just a meal, and to Ko Per Baw they are just leftover rice. [In a Karen kitchen the leftover rice sits in a pot to be taken anytime by whoever's hungry.] Some of the Ko Per Baw soldiers travel around and get married with girls in different villages. If any villagers complain, the Ko Per Baw soldier goes to them and says, "If you complain again we'll kill you", and they have to stay quiet. Kyaw K'Htee, he is 28 and he already has 2 wives and 2 children. He is from Tawon Thee village, west of Bee T'Ka. Now he's left his new wife and gone back to his old wife. His new wife also has one child by him. She named the child "Saw Ko Per Baw", because she got the child from Ko Per Baw. She keeps it to remember her hate for Ko Per Baw.
In January  Ko Per Baw arrested me. About 100 soldiers tied me up and ordered me to direct the way to where the Kaw Thoo Lei soldiers stay, and they asked me for a gun. I have no gun, I'm a civilian. It was a group from Khaw Taw [DKBA headquarters]. They took me to XXXX village and tied my eyes tightly with a yellow scarf. They kept me under a house, tied to a post. They beat me 4 times, about 20 hits each time. They pierced my earlobes with a blunt pin, twice a day for 3 days. It was very painful. One of their leaders, XXXX, told me, "You have to give me your weapon, or you'll be killed". I was afraid and I told him, "Don't kill me. I'll give you my cow", and he agreed. They do that to so many people. First they ask for weapons, then if you don't have any they ask for money to release you, and if you don't have money then you must pay them your livestock. After 3 days I had to carry for them, then after 1 week and 4 days they handed me over to the Burmese troops. I was released exactly 2 weeks after I was arrested, on a Friday. After that I couldn't work for several days because of the beatings.
When I was arrested, my wife was in the hospital. She was sick, and then after the Ko Per Baw arrested me she died. I don't know how she died. I was being held by the Ko Per Baw, and no one told me the news. I don't think I'll marry again. We were married only two months.
NAME: "Saw Wah Lay"
AGE: 27 Karen
FAMILY: Married, 1 child aged 4
ADDRESS: XXXX village, Hlaing Bwe Township INTERVIEWED: 4/96
I left because Ko Per Baw and the Burmese burned my house and my rice barn. They said, "You have a lot of rice, you will give it to Kaw Thoo Lei". Once when Kaw Thoo Lei soldiers came to our village, I was kind to them and gave them some rice, so they heard about it and they came to my house and burned it. They took all my animals - 20 buffalos and 50 cows. That was at the end of March . About 20 of them came. People said his name is Kyaw Tha Da, from Bee T'Ka village [a DKBA officer notorious for abusing civilians - see other KHRG reports]. I wasn't home, but my wife and mother-in-law were there. They slapped my wife's face and kicked her with jungle boots, and they put my mother-in-law's head in water for 2 or 3 minutes. She nearly died. They are a really bad group of Ko Per Baw. Now I heard that Kyaw Tha Da and Kyaw Nu Poh [Kyaw Tha Da's brother, also notorious] lost their rank, because all their walkie-talkies and handcuffs were captured by KNU during an attack at Bee T'Ka. Pa Nwee [a senior DKBA commander who is less hard on the villagers] took away their rank, and now they are trying to get it back. Maybe that's why they burned my house. These two brothers are very hard on the villagers. People say their parents were dogs, that they are dog children. I think they won't quit, because if they stay at home without their weapons people will probably kill them.
We have no contact with KNU, but even so if we stay in the village, though we are born with mouths of our own we dare not speak. If we speak about Ko Per Baw we must only say good things, and if we speak about KNU the Ko Per Baw come and torture us. That's why I don't want to stay in my village anymore. There are plenty of Ko Per Baw informers in the villages. If someone leaves the village, the Ko Per Baw take his land and belongings and give them to their informers. So some of the informers plan ways to push people out of the village to Thailand. Maybe that's what they did to me. I'm not sure, because I haven't heard anything since then. When I left for Thailand, it took me 1 week because I had to avoid the Ko Per Baw. I had to hide 2 nights in the forest.
My friends go as porters, but I always hired someone to go for me. It cost 1,000 Kyat each time, twice a month. The people who go have to carry weapons and food from village to village, and when they come back I've seen that there is no skin on their shoulders. Sometimes they beat them until the porter dies and then leave them there. Saw Pa Deh from Kyet Tu Ray village was sick and couldn't carry, so the Ko Per Baw beat him on his head and he died very easily. They hit him only 3 times. They beat the other people more than that, but they didn't die. Saw Pa Deh was about 35 and had no family. The headman didn't dare ask for compensation - when someone dies there is no compensation, moreover the Ko Per Baw usually ask money from the headman or the family, saying, "This person showed disrespect to us and didn't do a good job, so we killed him".
NAME: "Pa Ler"
AGE: 57 Karen
FAMILY: Married, children
ADDRESS: xxxx village, Pa'an District INTERVIEWED: 4/96
["Pa Ler" used to be head of the Karen village militia (KNDO) in his village several years ago.]
Now I have been in Thailand 10 days, because I cannot stay there. With Ko Per Baw always trying to arrest me, I dare not stay there so I have to come here. Ko Per Baw asked me to work with them but I wasn't interested in their group. They told me to go to Myaing Gyi Ngu to drink vow water. The order came from Maung Cho, he is Ko Per Baw in Toh Kaw Ko village. I didn't go there and I avoided them, so they got very angry with me and sent me a letter in red ink. It said, "If you avoid going, we'll take serious action against you". They forced every headman to go and drink the vow water. When the headmen came back from Myaing Gyi Ngu I asked them, "Do I have to worry about it?" They said, "Don't worry about it", so I didn't take care. I thought it would be no problem. Then after one month they came and arrested me. It was in the month of the solar eclipse [October 1995].
I was alone in my field hut. I'm not sure how many of them arrested me, because it was dark. It was Burmese troops together with just 2 to 5 Ko Per Baw who showed them the way - the Ko Per Baw were Bo Sat Lat ['Officer Machine-Gun'], Kwih Lay, and Ta Muh Heh. They searched my bag and took 21,500 Kyats, 2 rings, 1 stone, and my Seiko watch. After they searched my body they tied up my hands, took me to the village and handed me over to another group. They pulled me under a house and started to torture me. They kicked, punched, and poked my temple with a gun barrel. They asked me, "Where do you keep your walkie-talkie, your AR [a small version of an M16 assault rifle] and pistol?" I told them I had these things before, but I don't have them anymore. I'm not doing anything for KNU anymore so I don't have them. They asked me again for a long weapon [rifle] and told me to stop helping the Revolution. But I don't have a weapon. Then they beat me until they got tired, and they stopped.
They tied my hands to a beam [above his head] and my legs to the house post. Only my legs and my butt could touch the ground, but just barely - my body was hanging like a hammock. Then they hit my face, punched my head, kicked my back, then kicked me in the ribs and the chest and hit me in the nose with a gun. They hung me up and burned my stomach and my hands with fire. They took firewood that was really burning and put it on my stomach - until now I still have black and green marks on my stomach. When he put the firewood on my hand I pushed him, and he came back and kicked me. They asked about my weapons and walkie-talkie. I told them I've been retired 5 or 6 years already.
They kept me tied like that for one night, then they untied only my legs and pulled me like a bull on a rope to Kaw Toh village. I asked them for a cigarette but they didn't give me one. When we arrived in Kaw Toh village I was handed over to another group. That group put me in a cattle corral, and the Burmese came and tortured me again. They kicked my head, rolled my shins with a piece of bamboo and burned me for a while. Then they asked me, "Have you eaten yet?" I said "No", and they gave me a plate of rice. After eating they moved me to Tee Klay village. They pulled me on the rope, and then to Ler Pu and Noh Baw Heh villages. At Noh Baw Heh they just tied me tightly to the post of a rice barn, and under the rice barn was all cowshit. They tied me by my legs, hands, and neck, and they kept me tied there. Altogether I was tied for 6 days. They tortured me again. They punched my face, my nose, they stabbed my hand with a knife - there's a hole right through my hand from the knife. They stabbed all over my body - the knife was blunt, and I could hear it go "kru-kru-kru" [as it cut his flesh]. My hand was really bleeding, my longyi [sarong] was dirty with my blood and I hadn't had a bath for 6 days. They did feed me though, twice a day, rice with fishpaste and chillies, or sometimes curry.
After that, my son's mother [his wife] came with the villagers to vouch for me. They took me to the Major, and he told me I would be released. He handed me over to Ko Per Baw officer Maung Cho, who took me to his house. He untied me, and I took a bath and ate. My wife gave him 70,000 Kyats - that doesn't include the 21,500 Kyats they'd already taken from my bag. That 70,000 was just to release me. My wife borrowed it from other people, then later we sold all our things to pay it back. The Ko Per Baw demanded that money. They got a gun and said it was my weapon. I heard it was an AR. It was like I had to pay them for this weapon. Then they gave that gun to the Burmese troops. That was at Noh Baw Heh - they didn't tie me, but it was like I was under 'house arrest' while some of my wounds healed. A Ko Per Baw Sergeant looked after me, he gave me medicine two times. Then a soldier took me to Kawkareik. There Bo xxxx said he had to go with an officer to Thingan Nyi Naung and told me to wait for him for 2 days, then he would take me for the vow water. I waited for 2 days, 3 days, and they hadn't come back. After 6 days I ran away into the jungle. Altogether they had held me for about 1 month. After I ran I didn't dare stay at home, I stayed in the forest for a month. In that one month they took my bullock cart, 11 buffalos and 20 baskets of paddy from my house. They said my children had helped me run away, and they fined them 10,000 Kyats and tortured them. The Ko Per Baw said my nephew's mother was hiding my cattle and buffalos and fined her 7,000 Kyats. Bo Sat Lat and Maung Nyunt Kyi did that. So I can't stay there anymore, and I had to come here.
NAME: "Naw Ghay Muh"
AGE: 47 Karen
FAMILY: Married, children
ADDRESS: xxxx village, Pa'an District INTERVIEWED: 4/96
["Naw Ghay Muh" is the wife of "Pa Ler" (see interview above).]
It was 7:30 at night when they arrested my husband. I was not with him. It was mainly Burmese troops who came, with Ko Per Baw only to guide the way. The same night my children told me, "Our father was taken away by some people". They didn't know who had taken him, but when I got halfway to our field hut people told me he was arrested by the Burmese. I followed right away to the Ko Per Baw base, and they told me to find his weapon. I told them, "I can't find it. I have no weapon." They said, "You have. Your husband's weapon is with Pa Ta Roh's column. You must go and find it." [In effect ordering her to go find a Karen Army column and beg a weapon from them.] Then I left.
I tried, but you can never find them [the KNLA column] because they stay in the mountains. When I came back, my children said the Ko Per Baw told them, "I know that your mother couldn't get it. They will give us one weapon anyway, and you have to give 70,000 Kyats for it urgently." I said to my children, "We will give it to them if they release your father, we will borrow the money and then sell all our things to pay it back later." The Ko Per Baw said, "Don't tell anyone that you borrowed money from people and I gave the weapon for you. That wouldn't be good." I told him, "I won't tell, I only want my husband to be released."
Then he packed up the weapon and we followed him to xxxx monastery. We sat in the corner and he talked to the officer, and then my husband appeared. They took all the rope off his hands and released him. When we got to xxxx monastery I asked my husband, "Where's your bag that I gave you?" When I looked in the bag none of the things were there - the sugar, money, torchlight, betelnut and betel leaves, they'd taken everything in the bag. I didn't want to say anything but I started crying. I told the Ko Per Baw, "You say that you do only good things, but really all you do is steal." My husband told me not to speak like that and to stop crying, but I was still crying. They are doing bad things, if they were doing good things I wouldn't be crying. I told them so. But the Ko Per Baw didn't say anything, he didn't dare look at my face. He returned to the Burmese.
Then I tried to take my husband home but they wouldn't allow him to go, they said he must stay with them in Noh Baw Heh village. They didn't look after him - don't hope for that! They came and gave him yellow medicine only two times. We ourselves had to buy the medicine to heal him. I bought the medicine and asked the village elder to give him an injection and heal him with traditional medicine like special oil and special water. We had to stay there a long time. It was like he wasn't dead but he wasn't alive. I asked permission to take him home, I said "If we must drink vow water we will, but if not I'll take him home. Here we haven't got any treatment." I wanted to take him to Kawkareik [hospital], but Ko Per Baw told me, "If you take him there the Burmese will kill him with a poison medicine injection". I said, "Better we go there and die from an injection than die here from no treatment. As for you, we carry your rice for you and still you call us 'informers'. We will just kill two toads, one for him and one for me, and after we eat them we will die." We asked permission, but they wouldn't allow us to go. Finally people came to take him to drink vow water, or he would never have been released.
After he ran from them he stayed in the forest. It was really cold because the rain was heavy, and he was wet and sick. I was really upset and I had no strength for that. I didn't dare stay at home, we all ran away with children and grandchildren and none of us stayed in the village. The Ko Per Baw said if they see us they'll take off our skins and eat them, so we dare not go near them. They took all our things, our buffalos and bullock cart. They took our paddy and 11 buffalos - I'd sold the others to return the money [70,000 Kyats] I'd borrowed. I don't know what happened to our house and other things. We all left together with my husband.
NAME: "Ko Thein"
AGE: 35 Burmese
ADDRESS: xxxx refugee camp, XXXX Province, Thailand INTERVIEWED: 8/4/96
[This account was given by a refugee in Thailand who was arrested by SLORC when he crossed the Moei River into Burma. As the refugees are not allowed to gather building materials, etc. or do anything to supplement their meagre rations in the refugee camps, many cross the river regularly just to collect things to support themselves. For background see also "SLORC Shootings & Arrests of Refugees", KHRG #95-02, 14/1/95, and "Murder of a Refugee by SLORC", KHRG #95-18, 24/5/95.]
SLORC Division #88 who come to stay at the side of the Thu Mweh River [Moei River, which is the Thai border] at Tee Kaw Taw are from Ye Kyaw Camp, also called Camp 606, and Thay Ka Yah Camp, also called Camp 1153. When they first arrived they did not abuse villagers whom they saw at all. Now we have heard that the villagers must relocate to another place, and we have seen that if they see people they demand money and they force people to go and buy cheroots, oil, fish, chicken and other foods for them. Furthermore, people who went to find leaves for house roofing had to give ten baht each. So starting from then, people going to the other side of the river from Thailand all must give ten baht [Thai baht; US$1=25 baht at the time of printing]. The soldiers stay in Camp 606 and come early in the morning to the riverside to demand money everyday. From 606 to the river is one and a half hours' walk.
On the morning of 3 April 1996, I went to the river with a few companions. We had to give ten baht each, and I had to speak to the SLORC officer, Sein Hla Maung. He is a Rakhine, his arm badges show 88/83 [#83 Battalion of #88 Division] and his superior officer is Ba Kyi, who stays at Ye Kyaw Camp. On 3 April, in the morning, I said, "Officer, we here, we don't have money. These married women came only to find leaves and have no money, please excuse us from having to give money." He answered me, "Don't you become an agent trying to reduce the cost for these women! Don't become a lawyer!" The next morning I went to cut bamboo again, and he arrested me and took me back to Camp 606.
Before we arrived at the camp they covered my eyes with a longyi [sarong] and took me to a cattle corral. They tied me to a post and beat me on the thighs, first one, then the other, for a while. Then they said to me, "You, before you were a Kawthoolei soldier". I said this was not so. The officer accused me of having a walkie-talkie and a gun and he beat me until I was very sore. He asked me, "Where did you put your weapon?" I said that I don't have one, that I didn't do anything. After abusing me like this for about an hour, then I was put into a bunker, and I was told, "You must be beaten three times per day".
I had to stay there with my hands, feet and neck tied until the morning of 7 April. He [Sein Hla Maung] cut a length of bamboo about as thick as a toe and beat my thighs and my back, and then stabbed my head, my back, my thighs, my shins, and my hands with a bayonet, piercing just a little bit, so that blood fell. Then he went and cut bamboo again, a short thick piece, and rolled it up and down my shins, kicked me, beat me, and punched me, and did like this three times each day. There was a lot of blood. They stabbed me all over my body 3 times per day. He accused me of being a revolutionary, then he said, "If you don't want to die then give 23,620 Thai Baht for your release." As a result of having no money, I had to suffer there until the morning of 7 April.
After they had arrested me, my mother followed after me and brought 15,000 baht she had raised in order to get me out. But because he [Sein Hla Maung] had set 23,620 baht as the value of my life this money was insufficient and thus I was not released. I heard one soldier say to me, "You, if the commander does not get the money as demanded he will kill you". This was said to me every day.
Then the officer whose name is 'Pistol' Win Maung and five of his subordinates who are SLORC soldiers staying at Camp 1153 came and asked me, "What did you do wrong?" I said to him, "Really, just staying like this". Then, he instructed one of his subordinates to come and untie the ropes from around me and they released me, demanding I go back. When I was leaving the camp I saw Officer 'Pistol' Win Maung brandishing his pistol, speaking with Officer Sein Hla Maung, standing at the main gate to the camp. I heard Sein Hla Maung say, "This matter does not concern you - don't come and interfere!" Then I heard 'Pistol' Win Maung answer him, "This activity is no good! You are demanding people's money unjustly. I will do this [i.e. release "Ko Thein"] and what do you want to do about it?" I listened and thought this conflict might involve me, and so I fled back to my home. The next day, I heard that Sein Hla Maung said he does not want to see Indians [Muslims] any more. If he sees any he will allow none to live.
NAME: "Saw Lah Mu"
AGE: 28 Karen
ADDRESS: XXXX village, Pa'an District INTERVIEWED: 5/96
In April 1996, [SLORC] LIB 339 from Naung Bo camp ordered our village and other villages to each send 500 baskets of paddy. We have to pay many kinds of fees to SLORC and DKBA. DKBA is quite strong in our area, but this year KNLA soldiers also started operating there. In April, the DKBA group led by Pa Tha Da and Nuh Po went to an old woman's house outside Naw Ta Kee village to collect tax, and KNLA soldiers ambushed them on the way. I saw Pa Tha Da running swiftly back to our village with a horrified look on his face. His brother Nuh Po disappeared. Nuh Po has changed his name to a Burmese name, Mway Pway, which means 'The Viper'. The SLORC Army ordered us [the villagers] to go and find 'The Viper' in the jungle. Four days later he came back, but he said nothing to us. He and his brother went back to that old woman's house and slapped her because they were ambushed on the way to her house.
There's another army camp quite close to us, Paung Ye Bu, with about 30 soldiers from IB 28 stationed there. In March this year, when the soldiers were returning to their camp they drove villagers' cattle into their compound, then later they demanded compensation from the cattle owners for the vegetable plants their cattle had stepped on! The villagers had to pay 10,000 Kyats, even though the plants weren't worth more than 500 Kyats. That unit also forced us to cut trees for them, then they sold the wood for their soldier fund. A Private from that camp said he saved 70,000 Kyats during only 3 months in Paung Ye Bu camp.
But that unit was better than the previous one, IB 230. Captain Aung Win, an Intelligence Officer, was famous for torturing. I heard that he was forced to resign last year because his Sergeant reported to headquarters that Aung Win contacted rebels and was involved in corruption [i.e. being bought off by the KNLA]. Last year, KNLA Officer Johnny came alone to Aung Win's camp in a bullock cart and called for someone to come and speak to him, but no one answered. After that, Aung Win sometimes spoke to him by walkie-talkie. Once he believed that Johnny was coming to defect, so he ordered us [the villagers] to prepare greeting posters, dances and meals. But Johnny did not appear, and the next week Johnny's troops captured a SLORC Army post.
After the talks with Johnny, two IB 230 soldiers defected to KNLA. Then Aung Win arrested a traveller and a cameraman from Bee T'Ka and accused them of helping his soldiers to escape. Later he killed them. Senior officers came and asked the village elders questions about Aung Win, and they told about the two murders. The officers ordered the graves dug up and checked the bodies of the victims, then they took Aung Win away with them. This March after the KNLA's attack at Ker Ghaw, thousands of SLORC soldiers including IB 230 passed through our village, but we did not see Aung Win among them.
NAME: "Naw G'Mwee Paw"
AGE: 46 Karen
FAMILY: Married, 4 children
ADDRESS: xxxx village, XXXX tract, Pa'an Township INTERVIEWED: 14/4/96
There are about 200 houses in our village. The car road is more than one kilometre away to the east, by Ko Loh Kloh [Salween River]. It is now finished except for bridge construction. Starting from Pa'an, it goes to Myaing Gyi Ngu [DKBA headquarters, about 50 km. north along the Salween River]. It goes via Tee Po Kler, Noh K'mler village, Ko Wah Ker, Naw Tha Oh, Kruh Ma Ko, Byu, Shway Kaun Aung Taw, Shway Kaun, Kar Nee village, T'goo Say village, La Ka village, Say Pa Leh village, Lah T'noh village, Taw Yweh village, T'ko Po village and then Myaing Gyi Ngu.
Ko Per Baw ordered this road. Ko Per Baw said that the Myaing Gyi Ngu Abbot demanded that the road be constructed, for villagers to be able to come and go easily. As for the Burmese, they have not said anything. For one day, one person from each of five or six houses has to go, rotating houses on duty two days per turn. Also, people have to go to cook rice for the people working on the road. Ko Per Baw feed the people, but it is vegetarian food and the people cannot take meat. The people have to sleep in huts along the roadside.
Two big yellow trucks for flattening the earth [steamrollers] came, and people must follow behind them with sand and small stones for the road surface. The soldiers always watch, and with guns. People have to bring the sand from the river. Women and children as young as 12 or 13 had to carry the sand. The road has an elevation of more than one foot. If it rains, you can't use it. Although you construct it of a higher quality, if there is flooding it'll be destroyed. These roads are often destroyed. We always have to construct roads destroyed by floods on an annual basis. If you don't do like this, these car roads could not be used. For the bridges they are using timber, and also some bricks are being laid. Now they are preparing the timber at XXXX, not far from our village. They made a bridge in 1988/9 and another in 1990/1 but every year in the rainy season the bridges and the road were destroyed. Now they have started construction again, at Kyaw M'raw River which the Burmese call Than Bu Ra River. In the dry season there is no water in the river. The Ko Per Baw are constructing the bridge themselves. Each villager from XXXX must go to the construction, one person per house, for two days and one night, on rotation. I went one time. For this construction, the Ko Per Baw say that it is for religion, that people can come and go [from the labour] easily. But when we work there the Ko Per Baw carry guns and wear uniforms that are no different from the Burmese.
The Ko Per Baw come from where they stay. They constructed a camp by Bay T'ya. Burmese soldiers also stay there. The Ko Per Baw unit is maybe #555, or #999. Now they don't do much, but before they were frightening, saying that they would kill all Christians. In our village there are 3 Christian households, and a Church. Although we are Christians we had to stay and listen to this. We did not do anything, and at the very start we didn't know anything. One time, around 7 p.m., a villager who followed Ko Per Baw for a while previously, he came and called out to me, "Now we have beaten the Christians. We have beaten the Christians, and so you cannot stay here any more. The Abbot does not like it any longer." Then I suffered at the core of my heart, and my emotions rose, and I prayed that I would not give an erroneous answer. I held my tongue, and so did not answer anything. But my daughter said, "If we must bow down as Buddhists, then let us all die. We will pray to God." He immediately went away. I did not speak until daylight.
At that time the Ko Per Baw were very strong, and they trusted [worked with] the village leaders. Me, I knew this, but we stayed amongst just a few people and didn't dare to speak about anything. One time Ko Per Baw came to my house when I was not there. My daughter was there, and they said to her, "You must make a [Buddhist] shrine in your house." My daughter said, "We won't make a shrine, we won't give respect, we won't put rice [as an offering]. If the monks from the monastery demand that we leave, then we will leave." As for me, this place is our place, the ground is our ground, so we didn't go to stay in another place, but if the Abbot and others made us leave, we would leave. But now I do not hear anything.
After they made their demands that we leave, something terrible happened. People said, "Christians are coming and spraying poison in the wells." They looked me directly in the eyes and said, "If Buddhists and Christians are staying amongst one another, the Christian soldiers are going to kill all of us." The [local] Karen leader XXXX said, "Although people might say things to you, don't say anything to them, we should not think anything of them." I wondered if we wouldn't be able to stay there any more, if we would have to leave, or if we wouldn't be able to leave. Previously, my daughter's father [i.e. her husband] had been a [KNU] soldier, but in the midst of the problems now we just stay uselessly, we stay and listen. We heard it said again that people had come to poison, and so we had to go to make protection for the wells. My son-in-law said, "Me, I won't go with them [to make fences around the wells]. Someday something will happen and then people will blame the Christians anyway. If the wells are protected, I'll drink, and if they aren't protected I'll drink." My son-in-law said to me, "Do you dare to drink [the water]?" I said to him, "I'll drink it all. If we cannot do good things, let us not do bad things."
Nobody died, there was nothing. At night times the villagers went and guarded the wells against people who would come to put poison. I asked them if they had caught anybody yet, and they said that they had caught one person from XXXX. I asked them if he was a Buddhist, and they said he was Buddhist, but the Christians made him do it. I told them, "You watch your words. One day people who have not done anything will hear and you will create problems for yourselves."
We, we did not think anything about them [Ko Per Baw]. They, if they thought things, then they had some erroneous thoughts regarding people. The village leaders came and said, "At this time, the Ko Per Baw soldiers must collect 500 Kyats from each house, as they must make a road from Sah Tha Byay, and so people must give 500 Kyats and 2 big tins of husked eating rice, and it must be given, it is not possible to not give it. At that time people were going to make the Karen New Year celebrations, and so I said to the leaders, "For the New Year I will donate to you 100 [Kyats] and for the people who must go to labour on the car road I will give you 100 and you should accept it, as you are leaders, and so you must look and think about us." On the 22 of December they collected the money, 100 per house. People had to take their own food to work on the road. I don't know how many people went - more than 60. They went for 10 days. People who couldn't go had to give money for somebody else to go, 50 kyat per day, so for ten days, 500 kyat. Also rice for ten days amounting to one big tin for one person.
At this stage one government-appointed teacher came to stay in my house. I said, "You people, you are teaching in the government [SLORC] school and so I must accept you, but nobody looks closely at me. Because of food I can accept only one person. If you are happy with this, accept it, if you are not happy, I won't give it you." And the village elder did not say anything much but said to me, "Auntie, that's enough." And I told him, "If enough, then enough, if not enough, then enough. As for the rice, I won't give it to you, I won't do that." [Referring to the tin of rice demanded by DKBA.] Later an elder said to me, "Don't worry about it, there's no need to give it." But before that we had to give 100 Kyats per week, four times per month, totalling 400 kyat per month. I said to him, "Now we cannot do that anymore, there is no more money. If people demand money such as this then we cannot give it." Previously the Ko Per Baw had arrested traders and cattle sellers at XXXX on the sixteenth of March , and these traders had included my son-in-law and our cattle. They sent him and the cattle to Myaing Gyi Ngu, and so we lost 10,000 kyats and I told my son-in-law not to do this [sell cattle] any more. They gave no reason for the arrests, they only wanted to take the cattle to sell them to other people, and find people to work for them in Myaing Gyi Ngu. They arrested 30 traders. Of the thirty arrested, now only one is remaining in Myaing Gyi Ngu. The other 29 escaped. They escaped while they were working. They had to make roads in between Myaing Gyi Ngu and surrounding villages.
The Ko Per Baw don't stay in the village - only the two children who joined with Ko Per Baw do. They are about 12 or 13 years old. These two children are not siblings, neither of them has a father any more, and their mothers cannot tell them anything, they don't listen to their mothers. One of the mothers told her son, "Don't you call me your mother. You don't have a mother any more. I won't call you my child any more." One of the mothers has come to Thailand and the other one is still in the village.
The Burmese camp is at Shway Kone. Now they increased their strength. The soldiers' unit number is 22/204 [Battalion 204 under #22 Division], previously it was #339. Their camp is about XX kilometers from our village. We cannot do anything to get food, having to go and work on road construction. The Ko Per Baw have sufficient food. The few villagers who understand this say, "If we don't have enough food any more we'll go and become Ko Per Baw". People don't dare to trade any more. Some people go to Thailand, in the rainy season some work for daily wages planting rice for 50, 60, or 70 Kyats at most per day. As for now, finding roofing leaves, 100 sheets can be sold for 250 kyat. After finding leaves, the rains will be coming and people return to working the rice paddy. The Burmese don't interfere in this.
Food is very expensive to buy. One egg is 10 Kyats. One big tin of chillies is 350 Kyats. People cannot afford to buy food. Husked eating rice is 70 kyat per th'lot [bowl, also known as 1 pyi, or about 2 kg.]. For my field I had to give 10 baskets of paddy to SLORC, and they pay 100 kyat per basket but the usual value is 150-200 kyat, and if somebody has to give paddy to SLORC but does not have enough they must buy it for 150-200 from somebody else and give it to SLORC for 100. Usually they have to borrow money from other villagers, bit by bit, to do this. They annually demand four baskets per acre, so if ten acres, forty baskets. It's the responsibility of the village leaders to collect this. People who work sugar cane must give 1,000 blocks of jaggary [boiled sugarcane juice crystallized into blocks] annually to the SLORC. Since 1988 we have had to give like this every year. For the future, I think that it will not be comfortable. It looks to me that people's morale will not be strong in the way it was before. In the future it will not be at all easy to earn a living.