[Note: Some details have been omitted or replaced by xxxx for Internet distribution.]
The situation in Paan District of central Karen State continues to worsen, particularly in the eastern parts of the District close to the Dawna mountains and the Thai border. The Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) is conducting guerrilla operations in the Dawna Range, which runs north-south parallel to the Thai border, and penetrating into the plains to the west. As a result, SLORC is terrorizing the Karen villages lying just west of the Dawna Range, and began forcibly relocating some of these villages in November 1996. By February 1997 the villages of Ta Ku Kraw, Kwih Pa Taw and Noh Law Bler (comprising a total of over 150 households) were forced to move, and Ta Ku Kraw was burned. They were ordered to move to Naw Deh, where some have gone and are now living in makeshift shelters with no way to survive. However, most of them fled into hiding in the forest where they are now struggling to survive. Then in February and March 1997, SLORC ordered the villages of Tee Hseh Ker, Naw Ter Kee, Bee TKa, Kaw Per Nweh Ko, Kwih Sgheh, Tee Baw Blaw, Ler Dah and possibly several more to move. Bee TKa, the largest of these, has over 300 households but was given only 3 days to move to Taung Zone army camp, and the villagers were told that anyone seen there after 6 March would be shot on sight. The village was quickly abandoned as the villagers fled to the homes of relatives or to the forest. Later in March, the KNLA used the absence of the villagers as an opportunity to make a heavy attack against SLORC troops near the village. SLORC suffered significant casualties, so they sent word out for the villagers to come back in order that they could have a human shield around them. However, most villagers ignored the call in fear and are still scattered throughout the area.
A similar situation exists slightly further north, where SLORC troops ordered Noh Ray Tee Per and Ta Wih Koh villages to move to Dta Greh in March with a deadline in early April. The troops also burned 16 houses and shot dead one villager in Tee Wah Klay village on 21 March. Villages around Tee Wah Klay have not been given forced relocation orders as yet, but most of the people from Tee Wah Klay, Per Way, Thay Mo Pah Kee, Day Law Pya, and Meh Pleh Wah Kee, as well as the relocated villages of Noh Ray Tee Per and Ta Wih Koh, have fled into the forests in fear of the SLORC troops that are regularly patrolling their villages. Most of them are living in hiding in the hills, and medics who have visited them report that many children have already died of stomach illnesses and malaria. As of April, at least 16 children had died of illness just in the villages surrounding Noh Ray Tee Per.
Just south of Tee Wah Klay area in the western part of the Dawna Range, the 8 villages of Naw Ter Kee, Pleh Wah Hta, Taw Ghoh Hta, Noh Kheh, Pa Wih Kee, Paw Tee Hta, Paw Tee Wah, and Kyaw Law Kloh have also been forced to move. Starting in November 1996 everyone in these villages was ordered to stay inside the village together with their livestock - an impossible demand to put on subsistence farmers - or be shot on sight. Then in January SLORC began forcibly moving them to Thu KBee.
The situation for villagers in these areas of Dta Greh township is increasingly desperate and unstable. They have little or no food left, no medicine and face the constant threat of discovery and arrest by SLORC patrols. Many are in hiding in the hills of the Dawna Range, which the KNLA is using as a base area to launch attacks on SLORC units in the plains to the west. The KNLA has heavily landmined these hills, making flight difficult and dangerous for the villagers.
Further south and west in the plains west of the Dawna strongly controlled by SLORC, intensive forced labour is continuing on the road connecting Nabu to Daw Lan and Paan to the west as well as other roads [for background on these roads and other abuses, see "The Situation in Paan District" (KHRG #96-17, 15/5/96)]. The villagers also have to do continuous forced labour standing guard at Army camps and along roads, maintaining Army camps, and as porters. In Kawkareik township, most of the farmland adjacent to Army camps has been confiscated, and villagers are now forced to provide seed paddy, grow and harvest rice and other crops for the Army on this confiscated land. In Nabu, SLORC confiscated half of the Muslim land in the village in 1995, then in 1996 they drove all the Muslims out. The order to drive them out was given by Strategic Commander Ye Htut, and specified that all Muslims must move out within 7 days and settle on Kanaing Paw hill, where there is no water and no fertile land. To encourage the Muslims to leave, SLORC troops released pigs in the Muslim cemetery and hung pork on the houses of some Muslims. Villagers throughout the SLORC-controlled areas also have to do labour gathering and transporting wood as fuel for SLORCs brick kilns in army camps, where rank-and-file soldiers are forced to bake bricks which their officers then sell for personal profit. These villages continue to be regularly looted by passing SLORC patrols and also have to pay monthly extortion money and food to all Army units within reach of their village.
As can be seen from the interviews below, the DKBA (Democratic Karen Buddhist Army, a Karen group allied to SLORC) continues to be very active in the heavily SLORC-controlled areas, though they now have a very limited presence in some of the Dawna Range areas affected by the forced relocations; some of them may have been taken southward to help SLORC in its mass offensive and occupation of Dooplaya District. DKBA units in the region act mainly as adjuncts to local SLORC units, acting as guides, doing errands and looting goods and money for the SLORC troops. They still arrest villagers who fail to obey orders or who are suspected of contact with the KNU, and usually hand them over to SLORC to be tortured and executed. The DKBA has been shooting villagers on sight in relocation areas for SLORC, but their main activity is extorting money and labour out of the villagers, as SLORC no longer provides them material support and they are now entirely reliant on money extorted from the local population to support themselves. Even the annual DKBA calendar is being used to extort money [for background on DKBA calendars, see "Inside the DKBA" (KHRG #96-14, 31/3/96)]. These glossy calendars full of pictures of U Thuzana, founder and patron monk of DKBA, have been distributed to villages in quantities based on the number of households. The village is then forced to buy every copy it receives for the very high price of 280 Kyats (last years calendar was 240-250 Kyats) or face retribution. Villagers, including Christians and Animists, are led to believe that hanging a DKBA calendar is the only way to prevent your house from being burned down - a belief that has often proved to be in vain.
SLORC military units responsible for the forced relocations and other abuses have included Light Infantry Battalions #547, 548, 549, 338 and 357, and Infantry Battalions #28, 36 and 97. The troops are regularly rotated to prevent them becoming familiar or friendly with the villagers; for example, LIBs #547, 548 and 338 have now been redeployed elsewhere and IB #28 has been replaced by troops from #99 Light Infantry Division.
Despite the dangers of capture by SLORC patrols or stepping on Karen landmines, some villagers are risking the dangerous journey to Thailand. A few manage to make it to the border and cross, only to learn that current Thai policy is to deny sanctuary to all new refugees; no new arrivals are allowed to be registered in the refugee camps, and Thai Army guards at the camps are now actively prohibiting entry to new arrivals. Some of the new arrivals from Paan District have been arrested, imprisoned and only released on payment of bribes. Most of the new arrivals find they have no choice but to try to slip through the Thai checkpoints and head for the sweatshops and building sites of Bangkok and other towns where they will end up as cheap or bonded labour.
The remainder of this report consists of interviews conducted by KHRG between April and July 1997 with villagers and medics in Paan District and newly arrived refugees in Thailand. Interviews #9, 11, and 13-17 were conducted and contributed by the Karen Community Information Service (KCIS), an independent organisation working to provide news service to the Karen refugee community. Interviews #10 and 12 are combined from separate interviews with the same people done by KCIS and KHRG. The names of those interviewed have been changed and some details omitted in order to protect them. False names are shown in quotes, all other names are real.
Note that many villages in the area have several names. For example, Dta Greh (Karen name) is known as Pain Kyone in Burmese; Nabu is the Burmese name for TNay Cha (Sgaw Karen) or Ler Pu (Pwo Karen). To the people in the area, Dta Greh (Pain Kyone) is a township; however, SLORC considers the area part of Hlaing Bwe township.
SLORC = State Law & Order Restoration Council, military junta
KNU = Karen National Union, main Karen opposition group
KNLA = Karen National Liberation Army, army of the KNU
KNDO = Karen National Defence Organisation, militia/police wing of the KNU
Kaw Thoo Lei = The Karen homeland, also used to refer in general to KNU/KNLA/KNDO people
Nga pway = Ringworms, derogatory SLORC name for Karen soldiers
DKBA = Democratic Karen Buddhist Army, Karen group allied with SLORC
Ko Per Baw = Yellow Headbands, common name villagers use to refer to DKBA
IB = Infantry Battalion (SLORC), usually about 500 soldiers fighting strength
LIB = Light Infantry Battalion (SLORC), usually about 500 soldiers fighting strength
LID = Light Infantry Division (SLORC); one Division consists of 10 LIB battalions
Kyat = Burmese currency; US$1=6 Kyat at official rate, 300 Kyat at current market rate
Table of Contents
This report consists of three main parts: the above introduction, interviews related to forced relocation (#1-6) and interviews from areas more strongly controlled by SLORC (#7-21).
Forced Relocations / fleeing villages .........................
Kawkareik Township .........................................
Bilin Township .................................................
Shooting on sight ................................................
Education difficulties ...........................................
Arrest/torture by false accusation .............................
Arrests by DKBA and SLORC ....................................
DKBA extortion, conscription & calendars ....................
Map 30 ............................................................
Forced relocation (Interviews #1-4,6), burning villages (#2,3,6,18,21), fleeing into the forest (#2,3, 6,8,18), deaths due to flight (#2,6), shooting/killing on sight (#6,8,9,10-13,17), shooting death of 7-year-old child (#6), killings/executions (#1,4,5,6), arrests (#1,2,4,5,9,18-20), torture (#1,4,5,9, 18), beatings (#1,2,7,9,16,19,20), abuse of women (#1,16-18), looting (#9-18), extortion (#3,11, 12,18,21), food confiscation (#2,3,7,17), land confiscation (#7), education problems (#17), ban on trade by villagers (#18), DKBA conscription of children (#21), DKBA forced sale of calendars (#21), landmines (#2,3), Thai arrest of new refugees (#1).
Forced labour: At Army camps (#2-5,7,8), porters (#1,3,4,5,7,8,17,21), guides (#13), roads (#1-5,7), road sentry duty (#5,8), farming (#7).
NAME: "Saw Win Htoo"
SEX: M AGE: 25 Karen
FAMILY: Single, lives with his parents
ADDRESS: Noh Kheh village, Dta Greh Township INTERVIEWED: 5/97
["Saw Win Htoo" had just fled his village to become a refugee when this interview was conducted.]
Q: Why did you come here?
A: Because the Burmese forced us to move. We ran and scattered everywhere. We had to run to XXXX. Eight villages had to move - Naw Ter Kee, Pleh Wah Hta, Taw Ghoh Hta, Noh Kheh, Pa Wih Kee, Paw Tee Hta, Paw Tee Wah, and Kyaw Law Kloh. The Burmese ordered us to be porters and to find the Karen soldiers. We couldnt find them, so they forced us to move. They told us, "If you stay here and theres any fighting, you will have to do your duty and face the consequences. If you dont do your duty we will kill you." They want to make Kaw Thoo Lei [KNU] people go hungry. They said that people from the village welcome and give rice to Kaw Thoo Lei people, so they moved the village. Somebody went and shot at the Burmese at Peh Leh Noh and one died, so they beat our Burman village headwoman. She cried out very loud and one of her ribs was broken. After that she dared not be a village head anymore and we had to choose a new one. Our village head is a woman because if we choose men the Burmese treat them very badly, but women are treated a bit better [i.e. tortured a little less frequently].
They started giving these orders last rainy season [mid-1996]. First they said nobody could go outside the village, that they would shoot dead anyone they see outside the village. All our livestock also had to be kept and cared for inside the village [impossible for cattle and buffalos], but the villagers couldnt feed them like that so they had to let their livestock wander freely, and the cattle ate and destroyed all our rice crop. The people from Naw Ter Kee and Play Ghaw Hta, their cattle and buffalos ate and destroyed all their rice, so they didnt have enough for themselves and they had to buy it from elsewhere. Then in January the Burmese started to relocate the villages to Thu KBee. The Burmese said, "Anything you cant take with you will be mine. I will burn all of your houses." The villagers moved, they took some money with them and bought some rice, but when the money was gone they went hungry. Some tried to find work to earn some money, and they all thought about coming here.
The Burmese set up their camp there 4 years ago. It is #36 Battalion. There are 3 camps around the village, 30 soldiers at each camp. They come and ask us "Where are the nga pway [ringworm] Karen soldiers, have you found any yet?" If we say no, they beat us and say "Are you nga pway?" Then if we say no they beat us, and if we answer yes they beat us. They always call for 7 people from each village to work at their camp - seven people have to go with their own rice and then come back each day. They write orders to the village head and then she has to arrange the villagers for them. In each village 3 to 5 villagers had to go as porters and 40 or 50 people had to go for other work at a time. If you cant go you have to hire someone else for 100 Kyats per day. The oldest who go are 40 or 50 years old, and the youngest are 15. For work on the road, it is mostly women who go, and single young people. If older people go the soldiers make them work even harder. We had to go for 3 to 4 days, and take our own food.
They demanded porters and people went, and then if people couldnt carry their things any more they kicked them, stomped on them, beat them and punched them. Sometimes they say people help the "nga pway", that means Karen soldiers, and then they kill them. They pour water in their mouths, tie their hands behind their backs, tie their necks and plunge them in water, then they make them crawl across thornbushes. They killed 2 villagers this year that way, Tee Po Thay and Tay Po Ker. The Burmese ordered them to go and find some Karen soldiers and they couldnt, so they killed them. The village head tried to vouch for them, but they didnt listen and said it was none of her business. Their wives followed and tried to see them but couldnt. They held them in the forest for 2 or 3 days and then killed them. The leaders of the Burmese know their men are doing these things but they pretend they dont know. People went and told them about it, and later they came and forced the villagers to move.
I decided to come here and try to find work to live. Ill do anything that I can. Three of us came together. Along the way at Meh ThWah, Ko Per Baw gave us problems. We had to give them money or else they wouldnt allow us to come. We couldnt come secretly. In our village we dont see Ko Per Baw. We came into Thailand and the Thais arrested two of us on the road at Mae Tan. We had to stay in Mae Tan jail for one night and Mae Sot jail for 4 nights. I had to give them 700 Baht, that was all I had, and my uncle [already a refugee] came and he only had 100 Baht so he gave it to them, and then they released me. My friend had to stay there cleaning the grounds of the jail. They released him later, but I dont know where he is now. After I was released I came here [the refugee camp] on the passenger car but I had no money for the fare, so the Thai driver got angry at me. [Note: unlike the scenes of Thais "welcoming" refugees portrayed in Hollywood movies, this is more typical of what really happens; new refugees who arrive in small groups are commonly arrested, imprisoned, robbed and abused in other ways by Thai authorities, then either forcibly repatriated, sold into sweatshop labour, or allowed to pay their own way to get to refugee camps.]
My parents are still at Noh Kheh but they will come soon. Many people will come because they cant stay there any more. I dont know when they will arrive. They were all farmers but they cant do anything now.
NAME: "Maung Hla"
SEX: M AGE: 38 Karen
FAMILY: Married, 2 children aged 2 and 8
ADDRESS: Noh Ray Tee Per village, Dta Greh township INTERVIEWED: 4/97
["Maung Hla" spent the last year living in a hut in the forest out of fear of SLORC abuses, only sneaking back and forth to his village when he could. Then his village was ordered to move, and he fled to become a refugee one week before this interview was conducted. His village is a few hours walk north of Dta Greh.]
Q: Where is Noh Ray Tee Per, is it near Dta Greh?
A: It is at the bottom of the big mountains [just west of the Dawna Range]. Dta Greh is to the south. It takes from morning until noon to walk to the main part of Dta Greh. There were about 40 households in the village, but there are not many houses left now because most of the people have scattered. About 5 families went to Sho Kloh [refugee camp in Thailand], and my family came here. Now we have been here one week, because there were difficulties and trouble in our village. The Ko Per Baw and SLORC made trouble, so I could not live any longer in my village and I came here. When they arrived in the village they sometimes caught and beat the villagers. Less than a month ago they beat 2 villagers, Pa G--- and Pa K---. They are brothers. Pa G--- is the eldest. He is 21 years old and Pa K--- is 19 years old. Pa G--- has one child but Pa K--- has no children yet.
Q: Why did the SLORC beat them?
A: I dont know why they were beaten. SLORC came with guns and told the villagers to come down from their houses, and then the Ko Per Baw tied them up and beat them. They hit them once with their guns, they stepped on their necks and kicked them in the chest. Then they fired their guns until one magazine was used up. They fired their guns close to the two villagers ears to frighten them and then they took them to Pah Eet village. Then the Karen soldiers said that they shouldnt capture the villagers for no reason, so they went to Pah Eet village to rescue the victims, there was fighting and the captives were released.
Those who are afraid like us, we ran away and stayed in the forest because were afraid of their arrests and beatings. For one year already I havent dared go back to stay in the village. I was too afraid to go back, so I just built a hut and we stayed in the forest. As soon as he was released, one of those men who was beaten came to me and told me he dared not live in the village anymore, so he would go to Sho Kloh refugee camp and live there. The soldiers who beat them were Ko Per Baw. Their leader is Pa Nwee. He comes once every 2 or 3 days, but sometimes once or twice a day, sometimes not for 4 or 5 days. Sometimes they come together with the Burmese, sometimes it is Ko Per Baw soldiers alone. They dont kill, but they torture the villagers. There are plenty of these cases.
Q: Do the villagers have to do work?
A: Yes, we had to work. We had to build the Ko Per Baw barracks at Be Kyo and work for the Burmese at Kwe Taw Ru village. Every day 5 persons had to go for forced labour. They had to put up spikes [bamboo obstacles and man-traps around army camps], carry water and build roads. The road leads to Kah Dteh, Maw Ko Kah Dteh. I didnt go myself, but my younger brother went 10 times while I cultivated the land. Sometimes they feed the forced labourers only once a day. When we take along our rice, they make us exchange our good rice for their rice full of dirt and paddy [unhusked grains]. Their rice is coloured yellow, but if we say we wont exchange our rice with theirs they threaten and beat us. Before I came out here we also had to give the Burmese 300 Kyats per household.
Q: I heard that Bee TKa and some other villages had to move, did you hear about that?
A: Yes, they also ordered our village to move but we did not move yet. Our village has to move to Ler Pleh. The Burmese came themselves and told us. They said wed have to move on the 8th of April, about 25 days ago. Ta Wih Koh village also had to move, but they didnt listen and ran away in to the forest. Ta Wih Koh had 80 houses. The people there were supposed to move to Dta Greh. I dont know why we have to move. They said we have to build our houses near other villages, but the villagers dont want to move. So some fled into the jungle to hide and some still live in the village. Now those who ran away and hid in the forest dare not go back to stay in the village [for fear of arrest for having fled]. The Ko Per Baw said that if they see anyone in the forest they will shoot them. Whenever they see people cultivating in the forest they beat them at once. My brother built his house in the forest, and when Ko Per Baw saw it they burnt it down instantly. My brother ran back to the village. They dont like people building houses in the forest.
Sixteen people died of cholera - among them 2 of my cousins small children and 2 of my uncles children. About 10 children died, and some teenagers. Most of the dead were children between the age of 8 and 10. There were many children in the forest with us but none of them died - it was the children in the villages who died, and especially the people who have to go and live in the army camp. None of them have any medicine, and no one has any rice. The people in the village have to eat roots and leaves, just like I was eating in the forest. I had to live on roots and leaves for 4 or 5 days at a time. Now people in the village and in the forest are preparing and hoping to plant their rice. For one year Ive lived in the forest in a hut because I was too afraid to stay in the village. I planted banana trees and ate roots and some vegetables. Sometimes my 2 children got sick. There are many households in the forest now, 5 or 6 or 10 houses in a group, 1 or 2 houses here and there. I couldnt count them all, but there are plenty.
Q: You lived in the forest for one year already, so why did you flee to Thailand now?
A: There were difficulties living there. The Ko Per Baw dont like people staying in the forest. They said that they will shoot people dead if they see them in the forest. It took us 2 days to come here with our 2 children - I carried the small one, and my wife is also pregnant. We didnt bring anything, we had nothing to bring. We were afraid of the bombs [landmines], we had to avoid them along the way. We came cautiously and in fear and finally arrived here. Many people from Noh Ray Tee Per would like to come here. Some are still planting, so maybe after the crop they will come here. If there is peace I would like to go back, but I dont know how long that will be.
NAME: "Saw Po Htoo"
SEX: M AGE: 39 Karen
FAMILY: Married, 2 children aged 4 and 9
ADDRESS: Bee TKa village, Dta Greh township INTERVIEWED: 26/4/97
["Saw Po Htoo" fled forced labour and forced relocation in Paan District to become a refugee just before this interview was conducted.]
Q: When did you arrive here?
A: 2 days ago. I came to find work here because we couldnt live there. There were too many hardships. They demanded that we do forced labour working for them. We had to construct roads, work in their barracks and do portering, carrying things. I had to go all the time, when I was in Bee TKa I had to go 2 times a month for 5 days each time carrying things and building the road. Sometimes we had to go for 10 days constructing the road, and we had to bring our own food. It is a new road, from Daw Lan to Paan.
From Bee TKa to that road it is 15 - no, 16 miles. One time 117 of us had to go, another time it was 107 of us, and another time 32 of us. We had to go 3 times until the road was finished. We had to sleep on the road and beside the road, we couldnt go home to sleep. They made us work digging earth right through the night, and they wouldnt let us rest until 10 a.m. The last time I worked on the road was 3 months ago. Every village has to go and build that car road.
Q: Where was the Army camp where you had to work?
A: Paw Ye Bu camp. It used to be Battalion #339, then it was #338, now it is #99 Division. We had to make fences around their camp, finish their camp buildings and repair their barracks. We had to go day by day, usually about 10 people per village.
Q: When did Bee TKa village have to move?
A: We moved already, we were ordered to move 2 months ago - to Taw Kyo, Naw Boh, Paw Ta Ka Kyo, or Plaw Po Toe, one of these 4 villages. There were 5 villages they wouldnt let us move to - Meh Da Ma, Naw Deh, Naw Ter Hta, Htee Wah Ker, and the two villages of Naw Ter, even if we had relatives in these 5 villages the Burmese wouldnt allow us there. Meh Da Ma is close to the Burmese post. Five villages had to move to one big place: Ta Ku Kraw, Tee Hseh Ker, Naw Ter Kee, Bee TKa, and Kaw Per Nweh Ko.
Q: Why did they say Bee TKa has to move?
A: They said the Karen soldiers ask us for food and the villagers feed them, so we had to move. They sent a written letter once and later they came to the village themselves. They said, "You all have to move by the 26th of March. All of you have to finish moving by then - if anyone is still in the village we will shoot every one of them dead." They gave us from the 15th of March until the 26th. [Note: they had previously been ordered to move by 6 March but had not yet complied.] Our village is very big, over 400 houses, but in 10 days we all had to leave. We were supposed to move to a place between Yah Kay Ko and Ber Law. The Burmese had cut and cleared a very wide place there, but there was only one well for water. If we went and stayed there we would all die, so we didnt go. One time [between the 15th and the 26th] they came to frighten us - they came into the village at night with many carts [as though they were going to force them to move immediately] but then they went back. We dont know what their plan was. But no one went to their place. Some stayed in the village, some went and stayed at P---, some at K--- and L---. The Burmese didnt come back to Bee TKa after that, they were afraid to come [because of the KNLA in the area]. The Karen soldiers shot them at Bee TKa, so then they ordered the villagers to come back to the village [to act as a human shield; when SLORC troops camp in villages among villagers the KNLA generally does not attack]. They called the villagers for a meeting but I didnt dare go. When I came out here the Burmese were still around the village, patrolling the area. They have camps at Paw Ye Bu and Taung Zone.
Q: Are there any DKBA in Bee TKa?
A: No, they only come around when the Kaw Thoo Lei soldiers go away. When they come they call for porters, eat peoples chicken and pigs, take all our rice and dont leave us anything.
[Note: the following story concerns Nu Po and Saw Tha Dah, two brothers from Bee TKa who joined DKBA and have become notorious for torture, robbery, beatings and killings of villagers. Their names have appeared in several KHRG reports.] Nu Po from Bee TKa and 3 of his men are robbers, and they also arrested 3 people from Bee TKa, Pa N--- and 2 others. They have 3 guns. They have robbed K--- two times already, one time last year and one time this year. Her husband is dead. They took 8,000 Kyats and 2 tikals of gold, they took her Karen sarongs and Karen dresses. They tortured her and tied her up. First they hit her daughter in the head with a gun butt and kicked her son in the belly. Nu Pos brother Saw Tha Dah is now at Tha MNya doing nothing, just working under the monk. These 2 brothers arent so strong anymore - now Nu Po is sick with gastric disease. Now the Burmese say that the DKBA has arrested Nu Po for robbery and sent him to Myaing Gyi Ngu. [Tha MNya is the town-sized Buddhist retreat near Paan controlled by the famous Tha MNya Sayadaw, the most revered monk in Burma. Myaing Gyi Ngu is DKBA headquarters on the Salween River.]
Q: Do you think many people will go back to your village?
A: Some have gone back but not all. Many are still at other villages. I dont dare go back. The Burmese burned about 10 houses in Naw Ter Kee village and all their rice. Some people are left with only a few baskets of rice. They demand rice and money for porter fees. First they demanded 500 baskets of paddy from us, then later 900 more baskets of paddy. They said theyd give us 140 Kyats for each basket, but they didnt give anything when we sent them.
Now the Bee TKa villagers are living in small huts and eating what is left of their rice. They dont have any belongings left because when we had to move they sold all their belongings for low prices. Villagers from elsewhere came and bought them. For example if we had something worth 1,000 we had to sell it for just 700 or 800 Kyats, if its worth 2,000 Kyats we could only get 1,000 Kyats. Now its not easy for people to prepare their sugar cane plantations. You cant go downstream from Bee TKa. If they see you they give you trouble. Many people are hoping to come out here [to the refugee camp]. Now theyre scattered all around the village.
It took us 4 days journey to get here. We couldnt bring anything, just the clothes we were wearing. There were very high mountains and I had to carry my children - the bigger ones had to walk, and I had to carry the small one. There are bombs [landmines]. Kaw Thoo Lei bombs, on the mountainsides. The Burmese dare not come into the mountains. Two villagers stepped on the bombs. Many Burmese soldiers stepped on the bombs too - I know of seven, and no one survived, all were dead. The two villagers also died.
NAME: "Naw Paw Na Muh"
SEX: F AGE: 30 Karen
FAMILY: Married, 6 children aged 7 months to 15 years
ADDRESS: Bee TKa village, Dta Greh Township INTERVIEWED: 5/97
["Naw Paw Na Muh" had just fled her village to become a refugee when this interview was conducted. Her brother was murdered by SLORC and DKBA, then they tried to arrest her and her husband as well for no valid reason.]
Q: How many people came with you?
A: 60 people. We couldnt stay because the Burmese and Ko Per Baw oppressed us. My husband is just a farmer. One day I was just staying there without knowing anything and they arrested my brother. We tried to follow him, but there was fighting and the Ko Per Baw tried to arrest me and my husband. They killed my brother, but they couldnt arrest us. People told me not to stay there, that I should go away, so I went to stay in G--- and then came back to stay at L--. We kept running like that, if we stayed anywhere they would have arrested us. My children couldnt take it, it was hard to get food so I came here with my husband and my 2 children.
It was 3 months ago that they killed my brother. His name was Saw XXXX. He was 23. He was married with one child, and his wife was pregnant. Now shes close to giving birth, so she couldnt make it here. Her parents are both dead, so she has no one to help her.
I dont know why they killed him. He had a friend named XXXX who was a trader, and his friend asked him to go along with him to P--- when some Indians [Muslims] came to trade goats. Some people hated his friend. Then when they got there the Ko Per Baw arrested them. [Whoever had a grudge against his friend probably told the DKBA that he was KNU - this commonly happens due to business disagreements and other grudges.] We went there, but they wouldnt allow us to see my brother. Then later his friend escaped, so they killed my brother instead of him. His friend escaped with hack wounds all over his body. When Ko Per Baw arrest people they never kill them, they just give them to the Burmese to do it. They captured him and killed him at P---. I dont see any reason why they killed him.
It took us 4 days to come here. We saw Burmese and Ko Per Baw along the way, and we ran away and hid. In the morning we came secretly, we slept at M--- one night, at T--- one night and at T--- one night. We had to come very slowly. There are mines, and the Ko Per Baw stay just one mile away from the route. They killed one Tee Hseh Ker villager without any reason, and then the Ko Per Baw leader called all the villagers who were in the hills to come back to their village. We knew that, so we just pretended to be going back to our village and we came through here.
We came here because they killed my brother, and because they tried to arrest us and blame us when people [KNLA] went and fought with them. When they arrested my brother, the message from P--- [a DKBA leader] to his men told them to bring us back if we let them capture us, and to shoot us dead otherwise. We couldnt hide with our children, so we came here. When we came here we had nothing, only my baby and the clothes on my body. No pots, no blankets.
Some people come here for reasons like ours, and others come because the Ko Per Baw asked for money and they couldnt pay, or because they were beaten by Ko Per Baw. They ordered us to go and work on the road, and some people have small babies and cant go so they have to pay money - 1,000 Kyats each time. We have to buy rice, and 1 big tin is more than 1,000 Kyats. So people dont want to stay. For some people the only way to get money is to be a porter. If anyone hires you it is 5 days for 1,000 Kyats, and you can buy rice with that money. People who have money hire others, and the people who are poor do it. [When SLORC demands porters, people who can afford it hire others to go in their place - it is a desperate and dangerous way to make enough money to survive, and there is no guarantee of release after the specified time.]
Q: Did your village have to move?
A: Every household had to move until there were none left - 40 or 50 households. They didnt tell us anywhere to go, we just had to go and stay anyplace. They also forced Noh Law Bler to move. They were also told to go any other place where they could stay. If the Karen soldiers come and you dont tell them about it, they come and say, "You dont report to us so you cant stay here, get out". They dont like us to allow the Karen soldiers in our village. They say, "If you didnt accept the Karen soldiers how could they get food? And if they cant get food then they cant stay around." Many villages had to move, I cant count them all. Bee TKa , Noh Law Bler, Ta Ku Kraw, Tee Hseh Ker, and Kwih Sgheh moved to wherever we could and stayed wherever we had relatives.
Q: Where are they building the car road?
A: It starts at Nat Kyun and goes to Tha MNya [this is part of the Daw Lan-Paan road]. We had to build it for 3 months - it started 3 months ago. We had to go for 5 days, then come back and rest, and then the same group had to go again because there were no other groups [usually the village is divided into groups which rotate turns of forced labour]. 50 people from the Christian part of the village had to go, and 50 people from the Buddhist part, altogether 100 people. Women and men. If you couldnt go it cost over 1,000 Kyats to hire someone to go in your place. We had to take our own food. We had to take along a nurse for the sick people, a pastor so we could worship and a traditional doctor for people who get bitten by snakes. The road is very wide, and built as high as 2 men so you have to climb up to it with a ladder. It took us one day to walk there. Ive been 2 times. This car road is supposed to go on to Nabu and Bee TKa. Ten villages had to work on the road. There were 15 soldiers there, and sometimes they got angry and fired their guns. The villagers in TNay Cha [Nabu] have to build the road in TNay Cha, the villagers in Paw Ye Pu and Dta Greh are another group, and Nat Kyun and Bee TKa are another group. Some of the roads are already finished: from Paan to Tha MNya, then at Tha MNya the road forks, a small road goes to Nat Kyun and the big main road goes to Kyeh. We were working on the small road.
Q: After building the road what did you have to do?
A: We had to go as porters, work for them and carry their things. We had to carry to Noh Law Bler, Ta Ku Kraw, Tee Hseh Ker, go around and then back to Taung Zone, Paw Ye Pu and Dta Greh. We had to carry their food to Dta Greh. They called 5 people for 5 days. We had to go for the Ko Per Baw also.
The Burmese have camps at Tha MNya [actually outside the refuge of Tha MNya], Kalah Gone and Der Law. In Bee TKa, first there was #28 Battalion, then after 6 months it changed to #339 Battalion, and 6 months later #338 Battalion came. There are 40 soldiers at Bee TKa. They call the villagers to stand sentry through the night, but they dont give them guns. At Kalah Gone many villagers died because they were sentries and there was a battle. Every night the villagers have to be sentries. Even when the soldiers stay in the monastery the villagers have to stand sentry there. We never had time to rest - they ordered us to do one thing and then another thing.
NAME: "Naw Hser Muh"
SEX: F AGE: 55 Karen
FAMILY: Married, 4 children aged 2-33 (5 children but one died)
ADDRESS: Bee TKa village, Dta Greh Township INTERVIEWED: 5/97
["Naw Hser Muh" had just fled her village to become a refugee when this interview was conducted. Her son Saw XXXX was murdered by SLORC and DKBA (see also interview with her daughter "Naw Paw Na Muh" in this report).]
Q: When did you arrive here?
A: Over 10 days ago. We came via Meh ThWah Kee - two days climbing the mountains, we nearly died. There were more than 20 of us, some from Bee TKa and others from Papun.
Q: Tell us what happened to your son.
A: Three months ago, they tortured two of them - tied them up, covered their faces and beat them badly, then his friend escaped and they killed him. They arrested my son on Tuesday and killed him on Saturday, held him for 6 days and killed him. The Ko Per Baw gave him to the Burmese, and they tortured him and killed him. His sister went after him and got the help of the senior monk at XXXX, but they wouldnt let her see him. His wife went also but couldnt see him. They just told us to wait. They said we should bring the village headman, but he had run away so we couldnt find him. The Ko Per Baw gave my son to the Burmese, and they took him somewhere else and questioned him about many things, but his friend told us that my son answered every question correctly so they knew he had done nothing wrong. But his friend was beaten and knew they were going to kill him, so he escaped.
His friend escaped on Friday. After his friend escaped they ordered my son to show them his friends goats, and then they killed him. His friend had gone there to buy goats, and my son just went along hoping to get hired for money. But they dont allow anyone to trade anything [without SLORC permission] - anyone who trades anything gets arrested. His friend had bought only 5 goats. My son had one child, his child is already 2 years old, and his wife was pregnant when he was killed.
Q: Did people from your village have to build roads?
A: Yes, people had to build the road but I couldnt, so I had to ask my daughter to go for me. My other sons had already fled and come here, so my daughter had to go. It was the Nat Kyun road. People over 40 years old and those as young as 12 had to go, and they all had to do the same work. Everyone had to dig and carry the earth. The road was already made but we had to make it higher for the rainy season floods. The road is wide enough for two trucks.
Q: Did you ever have to be a porter?
A: No, I was afraid to go so we had to hire people for 200 or 250 Kyats. They also made us go every morning to work for them, and we had to report all the information [on KNLA movements, etc.]. They ordered the villagers to stand guard while they slept, and whenever something happened or anyone came we were supposed to beat on a piece of bamboo. So we beat on the bamboo, and then they came and beat us up. Every night, two villagers had to go for the whole night and stand guard along the road from Peh Kru to Dta Greh. Along the main road to Naw Ka Ya the villagers have to go and stand guard spaced all along the road, 2 people at each spot every night. If we dont go they demand 1,500 Kyats. Two men have died there because of snake bites. The nurse tried to save them but couldnt. There are many snakes there in hot season and rainy season.
[The following information was given by "Saw Pler Hai", a KNU medical officer in Paan District, from his notes, field reports and his own experience.]
On 29 December 1996, more than 30 men from SLORC Infantry Battalion #28 in Lu Pleh, led by company commander Bo Kyaw Htoo and platoon commander Bo Soe Pine, came to Ta Ku Kraw and Kwih Pa Taw villages, Noh Kweh village tract, Dta Greh township. They accused the villagers of supporting KNU and forced all the villagers to leave their villages. They said absolutely no villagers could remain there, and gave an order that anyone seen in these villages would be shot dead on sight. The villagers were afraid so they had to move to Tha Ya Gone, Tha Yeh Taw, and Naw Ter Hta villages. The two villages moved have about 50 houses. The SLORC soldiers burned down 7 houses and pulled down 6 others. The 7 houses burned were home to 11 men and 10 women, total 21 people. The 6 houses torn down were home to 12 men and 12 women, total 24 people [he gave names of all the house owners but these are omitted here for brevity]. The forced relocation order was given by IB #28 Battalion Commander Tin Hlaing Htun. Because of the move, the villagers had to face many hardships and diseases such as cholera and malaria.
From the information I have, the villages I know were forced to move or burned are Ta Ku Kraw, Kwih Pa Taw, and Noh Law Bler. There are over 150 households altogether in these 3 villages. They all had to move between November 1996 and February 1997. They were ordered to combine together all at one place at Naw Deh. There are no houses there, those who went are just staying in makeshift shelters. Ta Ku Kraw village was burned down, they had to run and live in the forest. Then from 16 February to 6 March 1997 the Burmese forced Tee Hseh Ker, Naw Ter Kee, Bee TKa, and Kaw Per Nweh Ko villages to move and burned peoples houses. The SLORC officers responsible were Infantry Battalion #28 Major Nyunt Saung and [company commander] Bo Kyaw Htoo. The people from Naw Ter Kee village had to flee with their cattle and buffalos to the mountains and stay there because they have no houses to live in now. Bee TKa was ordered to move to Taung Zone, where the Burmese have a big post, but they didnt dare go there so they fled into the forest.
Here are some photos: this is Ta Ku Kraw village, showing the houses all burned down. The villagers have fled to other places, they cant dare stay there. And this photo is a villager named Saw P--- from XXXX village in front of his burned house. Major Nyunt Saung and Bo Kyaw Htoo and their group took 3 of his cattle from his field on March 6th and asked for money for them, then they took them. Saw P--- had to run and cant dare stay in the village any longer.
I know that they burned down 16 houses in Tee Wah Klay in March. Two days ago some villagers from Tee Wah Klay came through here, they said they didnt dare stay in that area anymore. They said the Burmese came in March and everyone ran, so they opened fire and one young man was shot dead [Pa Ter Ler - see the testimony of "Maung Than" below]. I think the reason they burned Tee Wah Klay but not the other villages nearby is that Tee Wah Klay is closest to the mountains [it is just on the western side of the Dawna Mountains, where the KNLA operates extensively].
SLORC will never give the villagers any medicine or any help. Some villagers are still trying to stay in their home areas, but many dont dare. Even those who stay there cant stay all together or in their villages. I think it would not be easy for them to flee to Thailand, because there are many difficulties - it is hard for them to move with their families, there are SLORC and DKBA, and there may be some mines along the way.
[The following was added by "Maung Than", a 40 year old Karen medic from Paan District who had just returned from Tee Wah Klay:]
Tee Wah Klay village had about 30 houses. On March 21st the Burmese burned down 16 houses. I was there very close by when they burned the houses. There were no Ko Per Baw, only SLORC. There were 160 soldiers from Battalions #97 and #357. They are from Nabu and Tu Kaw Ko area. There were also troops from #547, 548 and 549 [Light Infantry] Battalions, with #547 in control. They combined with #97 at Thingan Nyi Naung and came all together. There were many officers with them, but Major Thu Ray Zaw was in control. They did it just to oppress the people - they usually burn the villages and rice storage barns when they come. They also burned the pots, plates, peoples clothing and all their belongings. The villagers ran away, they couldnt stay. The Burmese also shot dead one villager in Tee Wah Klay. His name was Pa Ter Ler. He was 30, married with 3 children. Now his wife is staying in XXXX.
Now the SLORC is not near Tee Wah Klay so the villagers have come back and stay near the village, but whenever SLORC comes near they run and stay out in the forest. Some of their gardens were burned, and its very hard for them to survive. When it starts raining I dont think they can live in the forest anymore, theyll have to find some other way. At Tee Wah Klay, Per Way, Thay Mo Pah Kee, Day Law Pya, and Meh Pleh Wah Kee there are now many who are sick, but they have no medicine and no medics. Many of them are suffering from cholera, diarrhoea and malaria. There have been many deaths, mostly children around 2, 4 and 5 years old. In these 5 villages, some people are in their villages and many are in the forest. They havent been ordered to move yet, but when the Burmese came they ran away into the forest. There are no Kaw Thoo Lei soldiers, only the villagers. There is no fighting in these villages.
Q: Then why do you think the SLORC does this to them?
A: I think this is just the SLORC custom. Whenever they go to places where indigenous people have land, they demand forced labour or when they see people they kill them and burn their houses, food, rice... They take or burn their clothes and even their cookpots and pans. That is just what they usually do.
I think the villagers are thinking of going to Thailand if the conditions get worse. It is one days walk over the mountains, but they have to be afraid of the Burmese soldiers and the mines. We dont usually see DKBA around that area, but we heard that they were patrolling further south.
["Saw Pler Hai" (see above) continued:]
In Tee Hseh Ker village, LIB #549 Major Ko Ko Lay took 60,000 Kyats, a watch, clothing and a big pig by force from Naw M---. And at the end of February in Meh Pleh Wah Kee village, SLORC and DKBA came together and killed Saw Maung Kler, age 33. His wife is now left alone with their 5 children. There was no reason for killing him, he just didnt satisfy them somehow so they shot him dead. His wife saw them shoot her husband with her own eyes.
In Teh Bu village of Dta Greh township, villager Naw Paw Kler Mu was shot dead by a soldier under Major Nyunt Saung from IB #28. She was only 7 years old. How can a child that age have done anything wrong? They shot her in her house. The soldier was drunk and so this happened. She was shot on 20 March 1997.
NAME: "Maung Kyaw"
SEX: M AGE: 27 Karen
ADDRESS: TNay Cha village, Kawkareik Township INTERVIEWED: 5/97
[TNay Cha is the Sgaw Karen name for his village, which is known as Ler Pu in Pwo Karen and Nabu in Burmese. This large village is south and west of the relocation area, in territory more strongly held by SLORC. "Maung Kyaw" was interviewed just after arriving in Thailand as a refugee.]
Q: How many days ago did you arrive here?
A: 8 days ago. I came because I dont want to go to be a porter, Im too tired to do it anymore.
Q: Whose porter did you have to be?
A: Burmese and DKBA. They stay together. I also had to build the road for them, be a sentry, and dig their bunkers. Everyone in the village has to go and work for them. As for sentry duty, two villagers from each village have to go and do that every night in front of their camp. When we go we arent allowed to sleep, but they are all sleeping. We are sentries without guns. Were supposed to watch, and if we see Karen soldiers we must go and tell them.
In the daytime one person from each family has to go. If there is no man in the house, women and children have to go. We have to build the car road, and we also have to plant and harvest rice for them. We have to go from two to six times each month. Sometimes we have to sleep there for 3 to 5 days each time. We have to bring our own rice, fishpaste and salt. They dont give us any food. We can only rest when we are eating rice, and we must eat rice by turns - while some people are eating, the others must work. We must work early in the morning until half past one in the afternoon, then we can take a rest for one hour. We start again from half past two until 5 oclock in the evening. We have to sleep in their camp - under the trees, or in a hut if there are any huts in the camp.
They didnt hurt me, but they shouted at me and hurried me because they wanted me to finish their work quickly. They hurt some people who fail to work. When peoples children or anyone in their house is not well, they have to take care of that so they cant go to work for SLORC that day. Then the next day the SLORC usually hurts them and says its because those people have shown disrespect for the SLORC. They beat them and punish them. On April 13th 1997 my cousin was hurt by the SLORC because for only one day hed missed going for labour building the houses for SLORC [soldiers] families. The SLORC hit him with a gun on his head, above his right ear, and his head was broken. So then the SLORC sent him to the hospital, but they didnt give any food to feed him in the hospital, and they didnt even pay the cost of the medicine. They only paid the hospital for the first day. Now my cousin still isnt healed yet. He said hell come here once he heals. His farm and his big house were already taken by the SLORC because his fields are near the SLORC camp. They took all of it. At first my cousin was going to sell his house, but the SLORC wouldnt allow him to sell it and they took it for themselves. Then SLORC ordered him and his family to go and live in XXXX village.
Last year each village had to give them about 5 baskets of paddy for seed, and they said this year they will take more. Then we had to go and plant the seed for them and do all the work on their farm. They didnt pay us anything. Not only that, but those fields are not even theirs. They just took the villagers fields. If your farm is close to their camp, they just take it for themselves.
It took me 2 days to come here by car. I had to ride the car from Kru Tu [Kyone Doh] to Myawaddy for one night for 1,500 Kyats, then I came here by car for 50 Baht. I just came with a car that was bringing goods to sell. The SLORC didnt know. If they knew, they would never let us come. I will go back sometime, but not this year. Maybe in two or three years. I think Ill go to Bangkok to find work, or if I cant maybe I can find work here in a farm just to survive from day to day.
NAME: "Saw Wah"
SEX: M AGE: 25 Karen
FAMILY: Single, lives with his mother
ADDRESS: Dta Oo Kee village, Bilin township INTERVIEWED: 26/4/97
["Saw Wah" fled his village in Bilin Township of Thaton District (about 60 km. west of Bee TKa area), arrived in Bee TKa and immediately had to continue fleeing and become a refugee just before this interview was conducted.]
Q: Did the SLORC make trouble in your village?
A: Yes, they made trouble in the village - they wanted the villagers to work for them every day and people had no time left to do their own work. We had to build their camp and carry their food. Every 15 days the villagers had to carry the soldiers rations over the mountains to the Bilin River. All the men have to be porters for them here and there, and the women whose babies arent breastfeeding anymore also have to carry their rations.
Our village has about 200 houses. Usually about 100 people have to go work for them from 3 nearby villages combined: Nyaw Oo Kee, Baw Kee and Daik Kee villages. At Daik Kee and Yo Klah people also have to build the road. Between those two villages we also had to stand sentry watching the road. Its the road they use to transport their rations in 1st Brigade [Thaton District] area.
Q: Did DKBA ever come to your village?
A: Yes, theyve been there, theyve killed at least 2 young men from our village this year. One villager was killed when the rains started [mid-1996] and last January another villager was killed. Their names were Pa Taw Oo and Maung Myat Bu, they were both shot dead by Ko Per Baw. Pa Taw Oo was 25 and Maung Myat Bu was 27. They were both single. They were killed because they ran away, Ko Per Baw saw people running so they opened fire. If DKBA come we have to run away. The villagers dont love Ko Per Baw. None of the villagers ever join Ko Per Baw, they only join KNU.
Our village was destroyed because of Ko Per Baw and the Burmese. They set up their camp there. The villagers had to face difficulties, because they set up their camp in the middle of the village and then they told the villagers to go stay outside the village and build their houses there. Some of the villagers ran away, to take shelter in the villages of their relatives. Our village is one days walk east of Bilin. Some want to come here [to the refugee camp], but its not easy because of Ko Per Baw and SLORC. We had to fear them on our way here. We saw them, and when they asked us where we were going we said we were going to visit relatives and find work.
Now there are more and more SLORC in our area. They say they send more to look for their enemies, but it is only the villagers who suffer. Now they have 3 Battalions, and there is still some fighting. I dont dare go back. Back there I couldnt even dare make my farm anymore. About 10 households from my village are already here. Other villagers want to come out here if they can. Most of them are living outside the village now, and they all have problems getting enough food.
NAME: "Pa Boh"
SEX: M AGE: 35 Karen
ADDRESS: XXXX village, Dta Greh township INTERVIEWED: 15/7/97
[When interviewed "Pa Boh" still had terrible scars on his neck and legs created by knives and ropes.]
Q: Where did the SLORC arrest you and when?
A: They arrested me on 24 June 97 in front of L---, on the hill. I stumbled upon them, and they at once started to beat me, stomp on me and kick me, stomp, kick, stomp, until I was unconscious. They didnt ask me anything, just saw me and starting beating, kicking and stomping. After that they tied me to the wooden post of a house and they sawed back and forth across my neck with a knife, front and back - like this. Until my tongue was hanging way down out of my mouth. They kept me tied and then they scraped my shins up and down with pieces of firewood, but I dared not make any move, I just had to stay still like that. They tied my hands behind me like this. They asked me for guns and walkie-talkies, and I said I never see walkie-talkies because Im a civilian. They said "Youre not a civilian, youre Kaw Thoo Lei". Then they hacked me with a knife and my blood came out. They covered my head with a plastic sheet 2 or 3 times until I nearly died. I tried to stand up and just fell down again. They beat me in my side with a gun, an AK [AK47], until I was unconscious. Their captain beat me with a rattan as thick as my toe. They kept me tied with two nylon ropes. They tied my hands, my legs and my neck.
I dont know their Battalion number. They stay at B--- and they came to L---. When they arrested me they took some of my clothes, my tehku [mans sarong], torchlight, pot, my watch, my sandals, and my money - 13,500 Kyats. It was the soldiers who took it, but when they searched me their Captain was right there. I didnt see them arrest anyone else, but when theyd tied me up and were pulling me along behind them I saw a person whod been shot. I saw him running and the Ko Per Baw shot him, not the Burmese. The Burmese came along after. He was not dead, but his foot was smashed. I looked at him and he looked at me. I had never seen him before.
Q: When you were with the Burmese did you see them give any problems to villagers?
A: They ate a lot of the villagers chickens, and they ate a whole group of goats and only left two of them. That was in Thay Mu Pa village. They saw the goats on the hillside, captured them and ate them. The Captain saw it but he didnt say anything to them. They also took 6 buffalos and 5 cattle.
Q: How did you escape?
A: At about 10 oclock [p.m.] on June 28th one of the soldiers was guarding me, and when he went to the Captain I tried to untie my hands and free myself. Then I ran a little distance away from the house and he came to search for me with a torchlight - he nearly reached me, the light of his torch was on me. I went and hid under the small bushes. I could hear them making a lot of noise, but I couldnt make out what they were talking about. Then I escaped.
NAME: "Pi Heh Ku"
SEX: F AGE: 50+ Karen
ADDRESS: xxxx village, Dta Greh township INTERVIEWED: 15/7/97
["Pi Heh Ku"s son was shot dead on 26 June 1997.]
Q: What happened to your son Pa K---?
A: He is dead. Ko Per Baw shot him. He was with 7 people in a [farmfield] hut, and he jumped down and ran because he was afraid of the Burmese. Two of them were [shot and] wounded, him and P---. People said my son was hit in the head, the back and in his hand. After he was shot, nobody went to cover him up.
I thought about him and felt hopeless, I didnt even go and look at him. My youngest child went to look at him and came back to eat with me. He was dead about 2 days and one night, then people went to bury him [they didnt dare before that because SLORC troops were still in the area]. We just had a small ceremony. The next morning after that I came to stay at my [farmfield] hut and slept here 3 days. His name was Pa K---. He was 20. Now no one can help me. If I look at the front of our house I dont see his blanket hanging on the wall, if I look at the wooden housepost I dont see his bag hanging there. [She was crying at this point.] Now I am old and no one can help me to work. When my son was growing he helped me a lot, and now they have shot him just because he was afraid and ran. People said the soldiers were Ko Per Baw. The Burmese came together with them, but the Burmese said they didnt shoot him. The Ko Per Baw are very cruel to us, their hearts are not good. They put on the yellow cloth and come to kill people. Who the hell are they?
The Burmese came together with the Ko Per Baw. Then when they came back [to the village after the shooting] they said nothing to me. We were afraid so we couldnt say anything [about her son]. They came and stayed all around peoples houses and inside peoples houses. They arrived at my house, and they told me to cook rice for them.
Q: Did they take your things?
A: I kept betelnut in the kitchen and they took it all. They looked around everywhere in the kitchen and took everything. The Burmese took it, only the Burmese dared come to our houses. The Ko Per Baw stayed at the monastery and in the lower half of the village. My daughter said that at the hut [where the shooting happened] they took one pair of slippers and one hoe. From my sons bag they took 100 or 200 Kyats, then they took the bag, his blanket, his watch and his machete. Nothing was left. Now we dont even have one good machete left, how can we cut anything?
Q: Dont you need your son?
A: Yes I need him, I looked after him when he was little and now he was old enough to look after us. I hoped he would take care of me when I become old. The Burmese have done this, now who will look after me? His brothers and sisters who are left can feed me, but he was old enough to walk and work for me, to cook and to search for vegetables. He cooked and we ate, he searched for food and we ate it. But now when we come home we dont see him anymore. Hai! We just have to survive like this. What can I tell you? His brothers and sisters will have to look after me. The dead are gone, how can he look after me?
Q: How old are you now?
A: Many years. The mountain people never count our ages, we look at our children and know. Now my youngest child is over 10 years old. I thought too much about my son, when I went to the fields I thought about him, when I asked him to work for me I saw him work here and work there, but now I dont see him anymore. I became old and needed him to help me, now theyve come and shot him dead and theyve gone. Some day the people who killed him will have to survive like me.
NAME: "Saw Lah Ku"
SEX: M AGE: ? Karen
FAMILY: Married, 3 children aged 3-6
ADDRESS: xxxx village, Dta Greh township INTERVIEWED: 15/7/97
["Saw Lah Ku" was in the same field where Pa K--- and P--- were shot.]
Q: When the Burmese shot at Pa K--- where were you?
A: It was 5 days ago, at 1 oclock in the afternoon. I was in the lower field. I heard the Burmese call to me "Dont run, if you run we will shoot!" I didnt see Pa K--- get shot, I ran back here. One of their porters told me later. When he was shot Pa K--- was higher up, at the hut.
Q: Why did they shoot him? Did he have a gun or wear a soldiers uniform?
A: No, nobody had guns or was wearing uniforms - we were all only civilians. The soldiers just saw people running and shot them. They knew for sure that they were villagers, they shouted "Dont run!", but the villagers were afraid of them and ran and they shot at them. Three of them were running through the field, and two of them were hit. Pa K--- was hit in the middle of his back. He was hit twice. My younger brother P--- was also wounded. The people who didnt run saw their friends get shot, so they ran too and then they were also shot at by the soldiers. The Burmese say if we run they will shoot - so they did shoot. One villager dead, one wounded. The soldiers who shot them were Ko Per Baw, their leaders are M---, T---, and P---. Afterwards they went to the monastery and told the monk about it, and the monks helper saw one of them putting bullets in his carbine rifle. Hed shot about 20 bullets.
After the shooting the soldiers came into the village. They said nothing, they just said, "Dont run". The Burmese and Ko Per Baw were all very angry, they shouted at me no matter what I did, so I was afraid of them. The Burmese are from #XX Division. When they came in the village they ate our chickens and pigs - 2 pigs, and more than 40 chickens. They ate all the chickens in our village. People say the Ko Per Baw dont eat the hearts of animals, but I saw them get one chicken, throw it dead by the housepost and then put it in their bag. They dont even look you in the face, all their faces are dark. Ah-ah, they take a lot of our animals. I dont dare look at Ko Per Baw. They took all the belongings of my brother who was shot, all his clothes and sarongs, and they take all the pots and spoons that they see in peoples houses.
Q: Did you ask the Burmese for medicine for the wounded villagers?
A: First we asked a Burmese soldier, "Havent you got a doctor?" He said "Yes, we have" and then he went to ask his officer, but the officer said the doctor was not here, he was in the village. So I went back to the village and asked the officer there, and he said to me that the doctor was with the Ko Per Baw. Then I went to the Ko Per Baw and asked T---, "Wheres the doctor?" He was very cruel and said to me that the doctor was with the Burmese. I just went around and around asking them like that. They had a doctor, but they wouldnt even look at my face, so what could I do? The man who died, we kept him for one day and on the second day we buried him.
Q: Do the Burmese and Ko Per Baw ask for fees in your village?
A: Yes, they both ask for fees. Every month Ko Per Baw ask for 20,000 Kyats and the Burmese ask for 20,000 Kyats, altogether 40,000 Kyats. That is for our village tract - it has 5 villages, over 70 households altogether. We have to give all of it, so the villagers have no money and we cant do anything anymore. Were just forced to give it to them, we try to give it the best way we can, and we have to bear it. The village elders just try to do the best for their village.
NAME: P--- SEX:
M AGE: 28 Karen Buddhist farmer
FAMILY: Married, 1 child aged 6 months
ADDRESS: xxxx village, Dta Greh township INTERVIEWED: 15/7/97
[P--- was with Pa K--- and was wounded in the shooting.]
Q: When did they shoot you?
A: In June - in the afternoon, on a Thursday. They were just out patrolling.
Q: Why did they shoot you? Were you wearing a uniform or something?
A: I was just wearing this white shirt, just villagers clothing. I was in the hut. They called out but I didnt hear them. I ran, and they shot me. I only went a short distance and then I was wounded. They shot at me about 10 times and I was wounded on my leg. They were shooting as though they were in battle. They shot a big gun [mortar or grenade] 2 times and small guns like M-16 and AK [automatic assault rifles]. They fired one big Chinese shell and it landed between my friend and I - if it had exploded we would all have been killed. Then they came and looked down at me, and they asked me, "Do you dare to die?" My leg was bleeding a lot. I answered, "Yes I dare. Shoot me and kill me." But their commander said "Never mind, go to the hospital and youll be alright." It was Ko Per Baw who shot me, and there were also Burmese soldiers. The leader was Bo M---, he is a company commander. The soldier who shot me is called H---; I recognised him because I was his porter last year. He knew exactly who we were when he shot at us. He came and looked at me and said, "I was going to shoot you dead. I told you not to run and you ran. But now you know better." Then they left me there. They gave me no medicine, nothing. My relatives came and took me home. A village elder went to ask them for a doctor, but the Burmese said the doctor was with Ko Per Baw, then the Ko Per Baw said the doctor was with the Burmese, so he couldnt do anything.
Three of us ran together, one died, one escaped and I was wounded. K--- was killed. No one dared go and get him. He was left there for about 2 days until the SLORC soldiers all went away, then people went and buried him.
They also ate everyones animals and took all my belongings. There are just two people in my house, me and my wife, so when I was wounded my wife came to take care of me, and when there was no one there they took everything from my house. They went and took everything in the village. They took more than 5 tins of Pa K---s aunts rice. They took plates, pots, clothing, chickens - these clothes Im wearing now are the same ones I was wearing when I was wounded, they are all I have.
I tried to treat my leg with spirit oil and the Karen soldiers gave me one injection. Now I cant move my leg - it feels like the muscle just doesnt work anymore. I cant work anymore, and no one is taking care of my farm.
If they can shoot you they will, and even if they cant they will still try. We always paid them their money but they still came and shot at us. Every house had to give them 700 Kyats and 1 tin of rice this month. Every month it is not less than 500 Kyats per house, but usually 700. There are over 10 houses in the village, and we have to give them over 7,000 Kyats. If they ask more than that, we have to give that too.
NAME: "Saw Htoo Say"
SEX: M AGE: 32 Karen
ADDRESS: xxxx village, Dta Greh township INTERVIEWED: 7/97
["Saw Htoo Say" was doing forced labour as a guide for SLORC when they shot Pa K---.]
When the Burmese came to my house they called me down to the ground, then they went into my house and took one necklace, one knife, 600 Kyats and some clothing. When they came out of the house they took one tin of my rice, then they called me and said to me "We need you". They pointed to the hills and told me to go with them and show them that place, so I went with them. The first morning they made me take them to T---, and on the way they shot at people. One man died and one was wounded. They were 2 villagers, K--- and P---. The soldiers saw nothing strange, they just saw a group of people from a distance so they surrounded the hut and called "Dont run", and then the villagers jumped up to run and they shot at them. The villagers were just wearing clothes like you and I, they were just civilians. The soldiers wouldnt let me go and see, they kept me below the stream, pushed me down and said "Sit down here". This Army group is bad. While we were walking along the way, they said they would shoot any people they met along the path. If they cant capture someone, they shoot at them.
They arrested me 6 days ago and released me 3 days ago. The Burmese were from #XX Battalion [sic: Division]. There were also about 30 Ko Per Baw with them. The Ko Per Baw officer was P---. There were also porters with them. Later we all came back to my village, and then they arrested one man at his hut. His name was K---.
NAME: "Pi Say Say Mo"
SEX: F AGE: 50+ Karen
FAMILY: Married, 9 children aged 6-20 but 2 of them already died
ADDRESS: xxxx village, Dta Greh township INTERVIEWED: 7/97
["Pi Say Say Mo" had her house and her entire village looted in early July by a SLORC patrol.]
Q: When did the Burmese come to the village?
A: I dont know exactly, but they slept 2 days in the village. They ate 5 of my chickens. I had cooked some wine for a wedding, and they drank 2 bottles of it and took my 4 bottles of honey.
Q: Were they Burmese or Ko Per Baw?
A: They were Burmese who ate my things. I said to them, "Dont eat my things". I kept the honey in my kitchen and covered it with a big blanket. I put my necklace in the kitchen - I buried it under the ashes of the fire and I put pots on top of it, but I was afraid they would see it because they came and cooked in my kitchen. They searched through everything in my house all day long, but they wouldnt listen to me. I said to stop searching and then he said to me, "I am going to grab you by the neck", and I wanted to burn him with the wood in the fire. My baby was afraid and cried out very loud. He took and ate the honey and chickens and I said "You must be very poor to rob me like this." They took my husbands hunting rifle [an old barrel-loaded flintlock]. They took a tin with 30 eggs in it, and and one tin of rice.
There were many soldiers everywhere, and their officer was staying up above. I was afraid but I couldnt think what to do, I couldnt talk anymore. They came and caught the goats under my house, then they cooked rice under my house. I needed to go to the toilet but I couldnt because there were many soldiers, and then I had to relieve myself inside my house. I said to them, "Youve eaten everything we had!", and then they frightened me with their guns to get more food. They took and ate 24 milktins of sticky-rice. I couldnt leave my house or they would have taken absolutely everything. They searched the bag where I keep my sarongs, my clothes and my childrens clothes, they took everything out again and again and spread it all over the place. I dont know which Army group this was. People said they come from Day Law Pya. People said, "Dont run - if we run the Burmese will shoot us dead."
NAME: "Naw Hsah Lwe"
SEX: F AGE: 30 Karen
FAMILY: Married, 2 children aged 1 and 4
ADDRESS: xxxx village, Dta Greh township INTERVIEWED: 7/97
["Naw Hsah Lwe" describes the looting of her village by a column of SLORC and DKBA.]
Q: When the Burmese entered your village what did they do?
A: They entered the village, they came into the houses, they searched through everything in our houses and took it. They took my medicine, over 100 tablets, and some clothes, and chickens, chillies, rice, tinned sardines, my torchlight, a radio, and 2 packs of candles. While they searched through everything in my house they said to us, "You people are trying to set up a bomb". They gave me nothing, except 100 Kyats [33 cents US at current exchange rate] for the radio. It was someone elses radio which had been left at my house. I hid in my house and didnt dare go out because I was afraid Ko Per Baw would see me, so I didnt see what they did at other peoples houses. They never listen to you no matter what you tell them, they just take everything they want. They took 4 of my mothers goats, and 2 from another woman. They ate 5 of my chickens. And they pulled down one house. This was the first time theyve come here.
NAME: "Naw Lah Htoo"
SEX: F AGE: 24 Karen
FAMILY: Married, 1 child aged 4, 2 other children already died
ADDRESS: xxxx village, Dta Greh township INTERVIEWED: 15/7/97
["Naw Lah Htoo" had her house and her entire village looted in early July by a routine SLORC patrol.]
Q: What did the Burmese take from you when they entered the village?
A: They took one basket of dogfruit and one tin of rice, 2 packets of Ajinomoto [commercial MSG seasoning] and one machete. They wouldnt listen to me and they grabbed me, they pushed me and punched me. They opened my box [wooden box where people keep their best clothing and belongings] and searched through everything. People said these soldiers come from Po Three Kyo. Ko Per Baw came together with them. I didnt dare go out and look at them, I just stayed in my house.
NAME: "Thra Ler Muh"
SEX: M AGE: about 30
Karen Animist teacher
ADDRESS: xxxx village, Paan District INTERVIEWED: 15/7/97
["Thra Ler Muh" talks about the education situation in the area, particularly the problems faced by villagers who try to set up their own school because SLORC never provides one.]
Q: How is your work?
A: Padoh xxxx [a KNU official] asked me to reorganise the school because they dared not enter the village anymore. Places such as K--- and K--- they also cant enter, so he asked me to go back, try to collect all the [students] names, give them chalk and open the school, then send him the list. I went back, but I couldnt open the school because people [meaning SLORC and DKBA] wouldnt allow it to open. Later [after the start of school in early June] I asked people there, "Did the school at T--- already open?" People told me it had opened but only for 2 weeks - then the Ko Per Baw asked for 100,000 Kyats, so the school had to close. I dont know why they asked for the money.
I have been teaching for 4 years. We have over 50 students - some of them come from xxxx [a nearby village]. We wanted to open our school, if M--- [village] could open their school then we were going to open our school as well. The high school at Ker Ghaw, the schools at Toh Aw, Pah Klu, all the lower places [in the plains], we just waited to see if they would open, and if they couldnt open then we couldnt either. Now I think it wont be easy to open the school this year. If they [SLORC and DKBA] allow us then we can open it, otherwise we cannot. Last year we opened it and they asked, "Whose school is this?" We said its the villagers own school, its not a Kaw Thoo Lei [KNU] school, not a Buddhist school, not a Burmese school, just our own village school. But whenever the Army came we had to close the school. And if they saw us outside the village, they made problems. Once they arrested one of my teacher friends and he had to be their porter for over a week. His name is Saw H---. We were teaching together when the column of soldiers came, so we closed the school and went to the monastery. We had no time to run, so we let all the children go home, it was just the two of us. Then the Burmese arrested him and made him a porter. They also arrested me, but the monk came and told them, "This man has to look after the monastery", so they let me free. That was last year in rainy season [mid-1996].
Q: Didnt they know that your friend was a teacher?
A: No, no one dared to tell them, even he himself dared not tell them. He said that he was a villager who works on his farm. All are afraid of the Burmese. If they know youre a teacher, they will ask many questions, like "Where did you go to school?" and things like that. [Any teacher suspected of having been educated in KNU territory would be arrested.] If we kept the school open when they came Im not sure what they would do, but the old men in the village dont dare face this problem so we also dont dare face it. We cant tell what they will do, so we have to think of our own safety.
Q: Why dont you go and ask permission to open your school?
A: No, I dare not. If the old men in the village ask I dont know what they will say. We just wait to see what the old men will do. [Note: this may sound cowardly, but young men like "Thra Ler Muh" are always suspected of being rebels by SLORC, and run a very high risk of arrest and torture every time they deal face to face with SLORC authorities.] We have no way of knowing what they [SLORC] are thinking, we only know that they are the Burmese and that whatever they choose to do to us we simply have to face it. Even if we are teachers or headmen, if they see us away from our place they will take us and keep us for no reason. We are Karen, and we have to think and know about these things. If they enter the village and they see anyone running, they shoot them dead. If you dont run, they make you a porter for 2 or 3 days. So everyone runs away as soon as we hear they are coming.
One old man named Saw B---, the Ko Per Baw came and asked his wife where he was and she said he wasnt at home. Then the Ko Per Baw went and searched through the house and found him, so they hurt his wife, they showed her a knife and said to her, "The old man is here but you said hes not. Ill cut your throat", and the womans eyes turned white [i.e. she almost fainted from fear]. The Ko Per Baw are all captains, they dont have any leaders in their organisation. Any one of them can kill people. They always eat our animals, people cant stop them, and they demand porters. Yesterday people had to carry their rice for them, and this morning more people had to go to be porters. If they ask for seven porters we have to send seven, if five we have to send five. We have to hire porters [to go in their place] for 2,000 Kyats each for 5 days. If they ask for 5 porters and we only send 4, then they say, "I asked for 5 porters but you sent only 4, so if I come I will arrest people, and furthermore you will have to give money before I release the porters already here". They say, "We asked only seven people but you didnt send them, so I dont want these porters, Ill come and arrest some myself." So whatever they demand, we have to fulfil it. If they come they will destroy things. Last time they went to L--- village they demanded 2 tins of paddy from each house, and then they made the people grind it for them. Ah-ah, so many problems, even if we try to run we cant run! Its like coughing and coughing but nothing ever comes out [i.e. no matter what you try to do it never helps].
NAME: "Mugha Lwee Paw"
SEX: F AGE: 49 Karen
FAMILY: Widow, 4 children
ADDRESS: xxxx village, Myawaddy township INTERVIEWED: 4/7/97
["Mugha Lwee Paw" had to flee her village after being arrested and tortured by DKBA. Her testimony shows how the village structure breaks down when the lack of any rule of law causes people to make false accusations over personal grudges.]
Q: When did they arrest you?
A: They arrested me at my village because they had ordered me to go to L--- post [and she hadnt gone]. I didnt know anything. It was [DKBA] Battalion #XXX. Their battalion commander is Bo XXXX and the second-in-command is XXXX. They said that I joined with the Karen [resistance] but I never did that. They accused me and asked me, "Do their soldiers come to your house in the middle of the night?" I answered that I never see them, and they asked, "How many times have you sent rice to their soldiers?" I told them Id never done that. He said people told him theyd seen me talking to Bo K--- [a KNLA officer] in my garden. Ive never seen him, I answered. Ive never spoken with him, people just said that to the Ko Per Baw.
They beat me with a bamboo branch that still had the husks on it. They hit me one time and my skin was split, and my youngest child cried until she fainted, and my son looked at me and he was also crying and afraid. They beat me because they said I had stolen some cattle. I am a woman, why would I have to steal cattle? Even a chicken, I would never steal.
That was the first time they arrested me, in March. They kept me for 2 days. It was T--- who beat me. The second time it was T--- and Bo H--- who arrested me, and they kept me for 8 days in April. They called me to go to them, and then they tied me all over my body, they tied up my neck, around my chest, and my legs. I couldnt stand and I couldnt sit - they tied me up like a ball. They kept me tied like that for one and a half days. I couldnt stay like that. The knots were not very tight, so I told Bo H--- I couldnt stay the way he had tied me anymore and then I untied my own hands and the rest of my body. I told them, "I wont run. If I run, shoot me dead and keep shooting until my body falls to pieces. If I had done anything wrong I wouldnt even have dared come here. I only came because I know nothing."
In the afternoon they took me back to Thra K---s place and we slept there. They tied one of my hands again. I told them not to tie me, I said "I will follow you wherever you go. I would die rather than run." But every time we were near peoples houses they tied me again - they tied my hands very tightly, and they tied my neck and my whole body. I said to T---, "Why do you tie me like this? I wont run, untie me please". Then he said to me, "I am not a leader. We have leaders and we have to do this by order, so I cannot untie you now." I told him "No problem", and I untied my foot. I was thinking, "If you want to kill me just kill me, but I will untie myself". Then I couldnt sleep, so I untied my whole body again. Their porter told me not to untie myself like that, he said "If people see it wont be good". But I told him I couldnt stay like that, and then I untied everything. I stayed at their side, and I told them to sleep close to me because I was afraid. My child had stayed behind, and I worried about whether it could eat or not because it is very small. Then in the morning they tied one of my hands and some villagers from K--- arrived. They talked to each other and said "This woman knows nothing, dont beat and torture her." After that Bo H--- didnt do anything to me, even though I know hed wanted to torture me at first. I said to him, "Dont torture me, I know nothing", and I tried to stay close to T---. But then T--- said, "Ill send you to N--- post and youll stay with Bo H---." So I got angry and told myself, "If you will go back, then go. If I die I will die." But then Bo H--- didnt do anything, he said not to worry because he knew people had falsely accused me. He took me to Bo XXXX who asked me more questions, but then he said "This woman knows nothing. Three people have come and accused her, but she knows nothing."
The first time they arrested me alone, but the second time they also arrested my relatives P--- and L--- [both men]. P--- is 40 years old and L--- is over 30. They beat P--- one time, but not L---. They said that Bo XXXXs father-in-law died because these two had joined with the Karen soldiers to come and kill him. Bo XXXX told me he would kill 5 people to repay this one life. Then they demanded money for the death [when they realised that none of the three had anything to do with it]. At N--- village they demanded 100,000 Kyats, and P--- and L--- had to give 50,000 Kyats, altogether 150,000 Kyats. No one helped us. They arrested us for no reason, and they released us with nothing. When they released me they told me not to go anywhere, not even to search for food, just to stay in the house.
Then I stayed in my village, but one of the Ko Per Baw told me, "If you can go anywhere then youd better go away". Then Bo H--- told me, "People still accuse you, so youd better go away. You know who is accusing you, so if you come back later you can do what you can do [i.e. get revenge]". But I told him I would never do anything to anyone. I dared not stay anymore, so I went to N--- with my child. I saw my brother in his field planting paddy, and he asked me where I was going. I told him I couldnt dare stay, that people will keep accusing me until Im killed. I told him wherever I go they arrest me. He asked me to stay there a few days so I stayed and helped him in his field. I was still afraid and always watching out because Ko Per Baw come to that village as well. People there told me the situation there was not good either, so I left and came here. Along the way I nearly met the Ko Per Baw. If I meet them again I will die. I dont dare go back to my village. I used to work my fields, but now I cant dare do anything. In many places they [DKBA] are burning all the field huts and straw, because they say this is where the Karen soldiers hide and sleep. Along the way here, I saw that they had burned all the villagers field huts as well as their coconut trees.
With Ko Per Baw, if we can give them money things are a little bit better, but if not then things arent easy for us. They do whatever they want to the villagers. As long as their own families stay happily, they dont care about the villagers. For them the most important thing is to get money. They dont care if the information people give them is true or not, they just arrest everyone. The man who was killed [Bo XXXXs father-in-law] was U XXXX, he was about 50, from XXXX village close to the Burmese post. The villagers have had to face many problems since his death [retaliation by DKBA]. He was very cruel to the villagers, so earlier this year the Karen soldiers came and shot him dead and got a rifle and a pistol from him. DKBA gave him permission to have these 2 guns and put him in charge of some work for them. He was in charge of trading logs, and he was a DKBA spy. He stayed in the village, did whatever he wanted and helped the DKBA, like if they wanted to trade logs in secret, capture your cattle, do you want to drink wine? All these things he did for them. Whenever he knew any information he would go straight away and ask for money. People would shake when they heard U XXXXs voice. For example, if some villagers didnt have enough rice, they would sell one cow to get money to buy rice. Then if he heard about it he would come and take all the money, saying that the villagers are illegally trading. If I planned to buy a bullock to work in my field and he heard about it, he would come and take all my money and say that I was illegally trading. They arrest all the traders, take their money and divide it among themselves. Then if their shares are not equal they fight each other. No one is free to sell anything. We have to ask their permission and give money for a pass before we can do anything. If we build a cattle hut here near the village, theres not enough room for the cattle, but if we build it farther away then they demand money and punish us because they say were in contact with Kaw Thoo Lei.
So now Bo XXXX is arresting villagers and saying, "My father-in-law is dead, he is only one, but even if I kill 5 of you for it I will not be satisfied". Now U XXXXs wife is staying at XXXX, and whatever she says people have to do. She is the same as her husband was. Her name is XXXX, she is in her forties.
NAME: "Saw Shwe Htoo"
SEX: M AGE: 48 Karen
FAMILY: Married, 2 children
ADDRESS: xxxx village, Paan District INTERVIEWED: 17/7/97
[When interviewed "Saw Shwe Htoo" was still suffering from a broken rib and a fever.]
Q: Where did the DKBA arrest you?
A: At T--- village, last month. A woman had died in T--- village so I went there with 4 friends. In the afternoon they came into the village and asked one of the women, "Did you see our 2 or 3 friends come through here?" She answered that we didnt know, and then they said to us, "Why didnt you see them?" They were drunk, and they arrested us, beat us and tied us up at T--- for one day. They tied my feet, my hands and my neck [i.e. they tied him up in a ball]. Then they took us to N--- and demanded 22,500 Kyats from us. Then they asked me, "Do you dare go back to your village?" I answered, "Why wouldnt I dare go there?" They told me to follow them to my village, and I followed them there. Then they beat me over 10 times in my chest and ribs. They beat me and said, "You used to be headman and Karen soldiers came to your house". I said it wasnt true, but they said, "I saw you, you had contact with Karen soldiers." They beat two of us, myself and a villager from N---. The other villager was in his thirties. The soldiers were all Ko Per Baw, there were 17 of them. They used to be villagers but now they are Ko Per Baw. I knew 2 of them, C--- and L---.
NAME: "Saw Bo Gyi"
SEX: M AGE: 38 Karen
ADDRESS: xxxx village, Paan District INTERVIEWED: 8/7/97
["Saw Bo Gyi" was arrested and beaten by SLORC troops.]
Q: When did the SLORC arrest you?
A: They arrested me on June 16th at N--- and took me to A---. I was at N--- for a wedding, and one person accused me before them, because they knew I used to help collect money for the Karen [KNLA]. I was never cruel to villagers, but the soldiers all held guns and so did I. The Karen asked for my help and I used to help them a lot.
They kept me for one day. They told me not to work for the Karen and not to follow the headman. I told them that if they didnt believe Im just a villager they should go and see the headman. Then they punched me in the face. They were from #XX Battalion. There were many of them who beat me. They arrested two of us and tied up our whole bodies, they even tied our necks. The Burmese soldiers told their officer that Id tried to take his gun. How could I take his gun from him, when they are many and I am only one? They punched me in the face. I tried to cover my face with my hands but they wouldnt allow me to do that, they told me, "Let us punch you, just stay still". A lot of blood was pouring out of my nose. Then they made me go with them to T---, and when we arrived at the L--- main road they tortured me again, they tied me and tortured me a lot. When we arrived at P--- they didnt torture me anymore because then we were near their captain, but by then I couldnt even move anymore because I had no more strength.
Now I have scars on my face, here on my hand, and the skin on my back was split. They beat me on my back with a gun. The wounds still arent better because they beat me many times. Ive tried to treat myself but its still not better. My wife tried to treat me with special oil [combined with spirit worship] to heal me and Ive also taken a lot of injections, so it has cost me a lot.
NAME: "Pati Kyaw Than"
SEX: M AGE: 37 Karen
FAMILY: Married, 3 children
ADDRESS: xxxx village, Myawaddy township INTERVIEWED: 28/6/97
["Pati Kyaw Than" talks about villagers being forced to buy DKBA calendars and other general abuses in his area.]
Q: How many years has DKBA been distributing their calendar?
A: Two years already. If they send 20 calendars to our village then we have to buy them all. We cant stay there if we dont buy them. If we buy one and keep it in our house there will be fewer problems for us. As far as I know the order came from Myaing Gyi Ngu [DKBA headquarters] to sell these calendars. Then Maung Chit Thu [a DKBA officer] came and gave the order for how many calendars had to be sold in each village and township. Last year we had to buy them for about 250 Kyats, and this year 280 Kyats [a high price compared to other calendars]. Maung Chit Thu said everyone has to buy one, that no one can stay without buying the calendar. So some villagers think it must be better to have one in your house than not to have one. But when the SLORC comes, if they dont see anyone in your house they burn it down anyway, and it doesnt do any good to have a calendar in your house. They are honourless people. One Christian woman hung a DKBA calendar in her house. A DKBA soldier who knew her saw it so he asked, "Are you a Buddhist or a Christian?" She answered that she is a Buddhist, and he laughed at her.
Q: How many new members do the DKBA try to recruit from each village?
A: It depends on the number of houses in the village. Generally they ask for 2 or 3 people from each village, but if the village is especially big or small they ask for as many as they think they can get. In the past they asked for 4 or 5 villagers each year from each village tract, but now they ask for over 10 people. They know how the Kaw Thoo Lei [KNLA] used to do it, so they do it the same way. Maung Chit Thu tries to organise it. When Kaw Thoo Lei asked for soldiers they always said "over 17 years of age", they didnt want very young people. But now many people say that the DKBA dont care about the age, and that very young children like 15, 16, and 13 years old are with them. For each recruit the village cant send they ask for over 10,000 Kyats, so each village tract has to give over 100,000 Kyats. That is only for one year. Sometimes they dont need men, they only need money. In May [after already demanding recruits once], Toh Thu Kee village was ordered to send money again to lower officers like Bo Kya, but that time I think those officers were just taking it for themselves.
I think myself that some of that money they give to SLORC but most of it they use themselves, because in May, Pa Klay [a DKBA officer] went to Day Law Pya and Meh Pleh Wah Kee and told the village heads, "Ask for the money now because we need it. Later well pay it back when its time for you to give the money for this years DKBA members." [In other words, DKBA has financial problems supporting its own soldiers and has to get advances on extortion money from villagers.] For example with a DKBA soldier, if we were friendly with each other back when he was Kaw Thoo Lei and the situation was better, now he will ask, "Friend, lend me 10,000 Kyats because I need it for my family". You dont have much but you dare not tell him that, so you have to give it to him. Or he asks for 1 or 2 tins of dogfruit for his family so the villagers have to collect it and give it to you so you can give it to him. They dont know how hard they make it for the villagers.
Q: What does the SLORC do in the village?
A: For example, if they want to clear the area then they ask for DKBA to go with them, but the SLORC enter the village before the DKBA, take all the villagers belongings and eat everything. They come in the house and one jumps to take your Ajinomoto, another one jumps to take your chillies... No one can stop them. One woman from Day Law Pya told me that when they came to her house some stayed in the house while some others killed a 7-viss [11-kilo] pig under her house without any noise. When they come on April 2nd they asked for peoples rice because they said their rations were gone. There were 2 or 3 DKBA together with their [SLORC] group.
Q: Do the SLORC ask for porters?
A: Two or three porters who escaped told us that the first group they were with made them carry very heavy things, and the soldiers put their own [personal kit] bags on top of the porters loads and they had to carry those too. The SLORC soldiers give their rations to the porters to eat, and for themselves they demanded good food from the villagers. The rations they bring for themselves are not good so they dont eat them. If they enter a village they kill, cut, cook and eat the chickens all night long, so by morning there are none left. If they go to a hut where a woman is staying they demand one chicken, so the woman gives it quickly hoping theyll soon be gone. But then 2 or 3 more come and ask again and again. In the daytime they demand it, at night they just steal it.
Before, when SLORC had a post in our village and Kaw Thoo Lei was attacking them, the SLORC tried to make pressure on the villagers. If one of their soldiers died or one gun was lost the villagers had to give money for the gun or the dead person. If Kaw Thoo Lei put a bomb [mine] near the village or on the road and one of their soldiers was wounded, they made problems for the villagers. Now it is still like that, with DKBA also. If we cant give them security then we have to give them our lives.