The Situation in Chin State and Sagaing Division, Burma

Images Asia, Karen Human Rights Group, and
The Open Society Institute’s Burma Project

January 1998




Executive Summary

The State Peace and Development Council (SPDC)

Introduction to North-Western Burma

Chin State
- Background
- Forced Labour
- Extortion and Looting
- Religious Persecution
- Forced Conscription
- Abuses in Areas of Insurgency
- Extrajudicial, Arbitrary and Summary Executions
- Rape
- Forced Relocation

Sagaing Division
- Background
- Forced Labour
- Extortion and Other Illegal Activities
- Religious Persecution
- Forced Conscription
- Kabaw Region Development Programme

Heroin Production and Trafficking in North-West Burma



- Original SLORC Orders
- Profile of Interviewees
- Acronyms, Abbreviations, and Other Terms

[Note on the Internet version. This is based on the author's text using the printed version as an additional reference. The printed version -- available from Images Asia, Website  P.O. Box 2, Prasingha P.O., Muang, Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand. -- contains photographs, maps, pagination, prettier graphics, boxed presentations of the SLORC Orders and, in the Appendices, profiles of interviewees, and copies of the original Burmese SLORC Orders. None of these is included in this version.]



A region largely unknown to the outside world, north-western Burma is the site of widespread and increasing human rights abuses. While international knowledge of Burma’s turbulent political situation has increased over the last decade, the situation of this particular region has been largely ignored. There is relatively little armed resistance in the region, compared with the more publicised insurgency on the country’s eastern border. Nonetheless, the people of the Chin State and Sagaing Division have faced a dramatic increase in militarization of their areas, and are suffering not only forced labour and extortion, but also religious persecution by the SLORC military junta. Access to north-western Burma and neighbouring north-eastern India is extremely difficult for outsiders, with the result that little information has come out about the abuses that are taking place there. It is hoped that this report will provide a helpful introduction to a region which has not been given the attention that it deserves.

Ethnic territorial claims in Burma, and particularly in the North-west of the country, are widely contested. To avoid confusion and accusations of bias, throughout this report we will use the State and Division boundaries that have been recognised since the time of Burma’s independence. (see maps)

This report was prepared by Chris Lewa, as well as members of several non-governmental organisations, all of whom have extensive experience in human rights documentation with regard to Burma. The sources of the information used in the text are given in brackets. The information used comes from both primary research in the form of interviews conducted with people from Chin State and Sagaing Division, and secondary sources. The citation (Interview, date) in the text indicates that the interview was conducted by those who participated in the production of this report. We are extremely grateful to the interviewees to whom we spoke, who generously shared their experiences, despite the risks they faced in having contact with us. All their names have been changed for safety reasons.

Several organisations based in India also provided us with background information and interviews. We would particularly like to thank the following organisations for their assistance in making this report possible: All Burma Students Democratic Front - Western Burma (ABSDF-WB), All Burma Students League (ABSL), Chin Human Rights Organisation (CHRO), Chin Women’s Organisation (CWO), Federation of Trade Unions of Burma (FTUB), and the National League for Democracy - Liberated Area (NLD-LA). We also wish to express our gratitude to the individuals who translated interviews and documents, and provided relevant information and photographs.

Wherever possible, interviews and other information provided by these organisations are cited with the group’s acronym. Where unpublished interviews or reports are used, the citation indicates the organisation’s name and date the information was obtained, for example: (CHRO interview, July 1997); and where previously published information is used, the title of the document is indicated in the bracketed notation. We have cited extensively the information compiled in Project Maje's "Chin Compendium" (September, 1997), and we recommend this report for further reading.

Additionally, we are thankful for the support from the Euro-Burma Office, the Norwegian Burma Council, and the Buddhist Relief Mission (Japan), who assisted financially with the production and publication of this report.

Images Asia
Karen Human Rights Group
Open Society Institute

January 1998



Since 1990, the Burmese military junta has rapidly extended its control over Burma's north-western region in Chin State and Sagaing Division. This expansion program has resulted in the establishment of over 20 new battalions throughout this remote and mountainous area. The principal outcomes of the increased military presence have been the persecution and impoverishment of the local population.

Along with its expanded military facilities, the junta has imposed a program of infrastructure projects throughout the North-west, ostensibly to facilitate development. The construction of roads and other infrastructure projects such as dams and irrigation canals has been carried out under military supervision. The work is done almost exclusively by villagers, who are forced to work at gun-point without pay, and are often abused by the soldiers. In addition, as part of the program, Burmese soldiers have regularly extorted large sums of money and land from the local people without any form of compensation.

The enhanced presence of the Burmese Army has also resulted in increased religious persecution. A large percentage of north-western Burma's population is Christian, and the Burmese army is now actively restricting and punishing those persons wishing to practice Christianity, while rewarding those who convert to Buddhism. This type of religious persecution has been reported throughout Burma's North-west as well as in other regions of Burma.

The huge influx of cheap, high-grade Burmese heroin into the North-west can also be attributed to the Burmese military presence and the complicity of higher authorities in heroin production and trade. The cheap heroin has led to a steep rise in the number of injecting drug users throughout the region, contributing to an alarming escalation in the spread of HIV/AIDs. Rates of infection in both Burma's north-west and India's north-east regions are among the highest in either country.

This report attempts to illustrate that the primary effect of the Burmese junta’s expansion program in north-western Burma has been the complete devastation of countless communities in both Chin State and Sagaing Division. The military’s practices of forced labour and extortion have meant that many villagers are no longer able to grow enough food or otherwise earn enough income to support their families. The local people have been impoverished to such an extent that tens of thousands of villagers have fled from this area to India and Bangladesh during the last five years seeking a means of survival.



From 1988 to late 1997, the military junta ruling Burma was known as the State Law and Order Restoration Council or SLORC. However, in a surprise move, on 15 November 1997, the SLORC announced that it had reformed and reorganised, changing its name to the State Peace and Development Council or SPDC. Since the initial reformation, subsequent changes in personnel (referred to by some as "purges") have also taken place. As the SLORC has been harshly criticised internationally by political and human rights as well as trade union organisations for its failure to democratise and observe international standards of human rights, the move has been widely interpreted as an attempt to defray further international condemnation by engaging in nominal and superficial changes. With this fourth name-change of the military ruling body since 1962, the new SPDC has been described by many critics as merely "old wine in a new bottle."

The four generals who occupied the upper-most positions in the 21-member SLORC retain the same positions in the 19-member SPDC. They have been joined by 15 new younger generals, including heads of navy and air force, and commanders of regional commands (known as "sit taing" in Burmese), whose power was previously localised. Additionally, there is a 39-member Cabinet. Interpretations of both the reasons for and the effects of the restructuring vary. Some observers believe that the shift to SPDC was made to bring the military regime closer to the Indonesian military government model, in order to consolidate its long term power. Others believe that the structural changes were effected by strongman and previous ruler Ne Win, to neutralise alliances in the SLORC to rival heads Than Shwe, Khin Nyunt, Maung Aye, and Tin Oo. In any case, regional commanders, many of whom controlled their areas much like warlords and often with strong business interests in these areas, have now a greater share in state power.

Whatever the outcomes of the SPDC reformation, it should be noted that throughout the past four decades, since the initiation of military rule in 1962, the same influential figures have dominated nearly all the metamorphoses of the military clique, and that the abuses suffered by the people at the hands of successive regimes have varied little. Certainly, while there has been scant time as yet to judge, no significant difference in the military’s treatment of the Burmese people can yet be seen between the SPDC and its predecessor, the SLORC regime.

Throughout this report, references are given to the successive governing military regimes under their names at the time that the abuses described were committed: from 1962-1974 as the Revolutionary Council (RC), from 1974-1988 as the Burma Socialist Programme Party (BSPP), from 1988-1997 as the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC), and from 1997-present as the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC).



North-western Burma remains a remote and largely undeveloped region, particularly in the mountainous area bordering India and Bangladesh, the home of several ethnic groups. Since the early 1990s, the military junta ruling Burma has sought to establish greater control over this distant region. By building roads and railroads into the area and establishing military bases and outposts, the SLORC appears intent on quelling simmering ethnic insurgencies and expanding trade links with India.

North-western Burma consists of Chin State in the South and Sagaing Division to the North. The upper tip of Magwe Division juts in between. The Chins, Kukis, and Nagas inhabit the mountainous parts of this region. They survive in the hills mostly by practising slash and burn agriculture, hunting, trading, and raising chickens, pigs, and cattle. The valley and plains dwellers who include some Chins, Kukis, and Nagas, as well as Burmans, Shans and some less populous ethnic groups, practice wet rice agriculture.

Due to the inaccuracy of census figures provided by the Burmese central government, it is impossible to give exact populations for Chin State and Sagaing Division. However, it is estimated that Chin State, which is characterised by chains of steep mountains, has a population of approximately 600,000, consisting mostly of Chins. The Chins also live in the western part of Magwe Division, the southern part of Sagaing Division, and are closely related to the Mizos in adjacent Mizoram State in India. The total Chin population in Burma is estimated at between 750,000 and 1,500,000.

The population of Sagaing Division, which is estimated at over 4.5 million, includes Burmans, Chins, Kukis, Nagas, and Shans. In the north and along the border with India lie mountain ranges while from the foothills of the Centre and South, plains extend towards Mandalay. The Nagas and Kukis who are mostly Christians, reside primarily in the hilly areas, while the Burmans, Shans and Chins live mostly in the plains and valleys. As many as one million Nagas live in Nagaland, Manipur and other parts of the North-east of India, while an unknown number of Kukis also live in Manipur and other north-eastern states of India.

The border dividing India and Burma was drawn by the British in the late 1800s, splitting the various ethnic groups into different countries. During the 1970s, some of the Kuki and Naga populations in Sagaing Division were pushed back to areas in north-eastern India. Several armed ethnic organisations have emerged in the Indo-Burma border area, with some fighting for autonomous homelands which would encompass parts of both India and Burma.

Both the SLORC and the central Indian government have been individually attempting to eliminate the ethnic insurgencies along their common border. An unprecedented joint military operation, entitled "Operation Golden Bird", was conducted in 1995. The SLORC called off the operation halfway through, in protest at the Indian government’s award of the prestigious Nehru peace prize to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

Although joint military operations have not yet resumed, representatives of the SLORC and the Indian government have met several times to discuss how to expand military co-operation and trade between the two countries. One expected outcome is increased trade links between the two countries through the already official border crossing between Tamu, Sagaing Division and Moreh, Manipur State. The Indian government has agreed to finance the upgrading of the Tamu-Kalewa road connecting India with Mandalay and the rest of Burma.

In 1996, the two governments also agreed to build a bridge over the Tiau River border crossing point, linking Tiddim in Chin State to Champai in Mizoram. The Indian government agreed to finance the entire project. However just before the construction was to start, the SLORC ordered work to stop. Villagers living near the site of the suspended project have described various incidents where heavily armed SLORC soldiers crossed to the Indian side and kidnapped Chins living there for forced labour or suspected anti-SLORC activities.

Reports indicate that more and more narcotics are moving through north-western Burma into India. Opium and heroin are being transported through different points in Chin State and upper Sagaing Division. From India, and other neighbouring countries such as Bangladesh, China and Thailand, these narcotics are trafficked to the international market.

The border crossing at Tamu has become infamous as a major drug trafficking route. In October 1997, a number of Indian politicians and activists staged a protest against the rising drug trade at Moreh. The SLORC closed the crossing point in retaliation. Manipur State now has the highest rate of HIV infection in India due to transmission by injecting drug users reliant on heroin from Burma. Another important trans-shipment point is at the bridge site on the Tiau river.



"Let me give you a typical example of how the Chin people are administered: in February this year, a unit of the Burma Army, from Battalion 269 visited the village of Lungler. The soldiers entered people’s homes without invitation and took anything they desired and ate the meal cooked without invitation. They hunted and killed chickens and other domestic animals for their consumption. Young men of the village were rounded up, interrogated and beaten up, and were accused of helping the armed opposition forces. The commander of the army unit, Captain Kyaw Nyein demanded that three girls should spend the night with him. The house he chose to spend the night at, the owner had to vacate it. When the army unit left the village, the villagers were ordered to carry their luggage, their military supplies, and things taken from the villagers to their next destination. "
 (Dr. Vum Som, Chin National Council, in a submission to the United Nations Working Group of the Indigenous Populations, Geneva, Switzerland, July/August 1997)


Chin State is adjacent to India's Mizoram and Manipur States and south-eastern Bangladesh. It is mostly remote hill country, consisting of a few trading towns and hundreds of small, isolated mountain villages. Most Chins are upland farmers growing rice, corn and vegetables. Although sharing a rich and diverse common culture, the Chin people (also known as Zo and Lai people) are divided by clan and speak a Tibeto-Burman language with over 44 different dialects. Chin territory was formerly controlled by tribal chiefs whose power extended into what is now Mizoram State in India.

In the late 1800s, Christian missionaries came into the hills along with British colonial administrators, and after some initial disputes between the British and the Chins, most Chins had converted to Christianity by the early 1900s. With the missionaries’ emphasis on education, schools were set up throughout the region. During the time of the colonial administration the Chins for the most part remained loyal to the British. Chin soldiers performed an invaluable service as levies for the allied armies during WW2. Although most of the Chin are now Christian, some, particularly in the South,are Animist or Buddhist-Animist. However, except for a few who travelled to Rangoon to attend university or theological college, the people living in the Chin hills were largely isolated from the people of central Burma until the 1960s.

Many parts of Chin State have only recently been brought under effective Burman control. The amount of development assistance available to local populations is minimal. At present, no Chin national represents the State in the national administration, nor at the Chin State level, although thirteen Chin Members of Parliament were elected by the people of Chin State in the 1990 elections. The Burman-dominated State Peace and Development Council is currently the administrative body responsible for Chin State.

Chin soldiers have long figured in the multi-ethnic rank-and-file of the Burmese army, even when it was under British control during colonial times, and are respected as some of Burma's most brave and hardy fighters. Chin battallions were formed before World War Two, and today Chin soldiers are prominant in the Tatmadaw. Unlike other ethnic groups such as the Karen, the Chin did not immediately revolt against the Burmese government after Burma gained independence. Chin community leaders had signed the Panglong Agreement in February 1947, signalling their willingness to cooperate with the interim government for a proposed federation, in the hope that this would guarantee basic rights to the Chin people. However, according to historian Martin Smith: "The Chins who were politically quiescent, ethnically divided and acknowledged their dependence on ministerial Burma, ended up without even a state: instead they were formed into a special division, with few of the political privileges of the Kachins and Shans. The new Chin Council would only be advisory." It was not until the 1974 Constitution was promulgated that the Chin Division became a state in itself. (Martin Smith, Burma: Insurgency and the Politics of Ethnicity, London, UK: Zed Books, 1991, p.194)

Although some resistance movements appeared in the 1950s and 1960s, it was not until 1988, that a large group of Chin youth, students and recent graduates joined the Chin National Front (CNF), then a small organisation of older Chin politicians and activists. Their membership has now grown to include Chins from both the countryside and towns. The CNF is fighting for the restoration of democracy in Burma and self-determination for the Chin people. The front has not signed a ceasefire with the SPDC. Neither the SLORC nor the SPDC has acknowledged the CNF in the state-run media; nor do they mention the CNF when speaking of the "armed groups" that have yet to "return to the legal fold."

Prior to the nation-wide pro-democracy uprising in 1988, only one government army battalion was stationed in Chin State. At present, as many as 10 battalions are operating in the area. Consequently, human rights abuses against the civilian population have increased dramatically. All the battalions are reported to be using villagers as porters to carry their supplies and ammunition over the mountains. The villagers are also routinely ordered to do forced labour on new roads and army posts as well as to provide food and money to soldiers. Moreover, freedom of movement is severely restricted: there is a de facto curfew in place in many areas of Chin State, and those who do not comply are subject to fines, arrest, and human rights abuses.

Under increasing military control, the Chins are today suffering many of the same abuses as other people living in the border regions of Burma. A major characteristic of the abuse in Chin State is religious persecution. Although according to the 1974 Constitution all religions are allowed to be practised in Burma, the military regime has glorified Buddhism as the State religion and has often stirred up religious tension in order to divide the population and to shift attention away from its own failures. Predominantly Christian ethnic groups have faced continued harassment, and anti-Muslim riots broke out in March 1997 in Mandalay and other Burmese cities.

In Chin State, Tatmadaw [Burmese army] soldiers disrupt Christian services, round up porters from churches to carry goods for the army, and force Christians to labour on Buddhist monasteries and to build pagodas in Christian villages. The army also attracts people into converting to Buddhism by promising them free food and exemption from forced labour.

The "8th Annual All Burma Students' Festival" was originally scheduled to take place in Haka, the capital of Chin state, during December 1997. However, the event has now been postponed until the 15th of March 1998 due to delays in the preparation. Each year the government organises this high school students' sports festival with participants from around the country. Every year, this festival results in extensive abuses by the military authorities. In 1996, when the festival was held in Tavoy, Tenasserim Division, the villagers in the surrounding areas were forced to construct roads and the sports facilities, and to give large sums of money amounting to many times the total cost of the Festival.

In the name of the "8th All-Burma Students' Festival", the SLORC started extorting money from local populations in December 1995 and since then, contributions have been repeatedly demanded from villagers and students throughout Chin State. At the same time, people were forced to extend the football ground and to build a stadium and roads. Residents of Haka with homes along the main road leading to the Festival ground were ordered to repair and repaint their houses, and all buildings deemed to be in poor condition had to be removed (CHRO report, October 1997). Thirty houses were also forcibly relocated in order to extend the football ground (FTUB, October 1997). In each township of Chin State, students are also forcibly enlisted to take part in the sports competitions and undergo intensive training, which forces them to miss their regular classes. High schools were closed following the December 1996 students' demonstrations in Rangoon, but many were reopened in September 1997. At the time of writing most universities in Burma remain closed.

In the past, small amounts of opium poppies were grown by Chin villagers especially in Tiddim area, who used the opium locally. In 1986, the military regime announced that the state-controlled Burma Pharmaceutical Industry would begin growing large amounts of opium poppies in the Chin Hills. Fearing increasing drug addiction, the Chin Students’ Association organised protests, and the government was forced to cancel the project. Now, because of increasing economic difficulties and a military policy of non-interference in (and even encouragement of) heroin production, opium cultivation in Chin State is expanding. Additionally, more and more heroin is being transported through the Chin Hills to India and Bangladesh.

Many Chin teenagers, young adults and even entire households have fled to the Indian border states to escape forced labour, military harassment and recruitment into the army, as well as a range of other human rights abuses. Under international law most of these people meet the standard definition of a refugee: a person fleeing due to a well-founded fear of persecution. However, very few of them have been recognised as such. Because of the military's increasing demands for money and labour, many families who were previously self-sufficient can no longer survive. As a result, those who leave must find money to feed themselves and their families back home. These people are often referred to as 'migrant workers' and 'economic migrants', terms implying that their motives for leaving their homes are primarily economic; however, the basic cause of their flight is widespread human rights abuses.



The pervasive use of forced labour throughout the country by the military regime has been widely documented, and has been strongly criticised by human rights and trade union organisations world-wide. Burma ratified the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention prohibiting forced labour in 1955, and is currently being investigated by an ILO Commission of Inquiry under Article 26 of the ILO's Constitution on account of persuasive allegations of forced labour in the country. The European Union withdrew Burma’s privileges under the E. U. Generalised System of Preferences in 1996 because of the extensive use of forced labour by the SLORC. Although the use of forced labour in Chin State goes largely unreported, it is both widespread and systematic. Expansion of the military presence in the mountains of Chin State has resulted in a major burden for the civilian population, who are facing constant demands for portering and labour on road construction and maintenance, as well as suffering related human rights abuses.


There are only two all-weather roads and very few dry season roads in the whole of Chin State. The military is implementing plans to widen and extend the roads that exist, as well as building new roads. It is widely believed that a primary reason for the military’s road building campaign is to increase their access to the area, in order to suppress the CNF and other smaller insurgent groups, as well as to consolidate their own control over the border with India. The military junta has claimed that the road construction is part of their Border Areas Development Program and that it will improve access to markets, schools, and health care. However, there has been little indication, here or in other areas of Burma, that road construction has facilitated social development, and the existing schools and hospitals in the region remain woefully understaffed and under-equipped.

The regime frequently claims that these projects are being undertaken for the villagers’ benefit, admonishing villagers to uphold their responsibilities to their district and the nation by participating in them. In fact, as these and other infrastructure projects are implemented almost entirely with forced labour, they cause great hardship for local people, rather than improving their living conditions. Villagers in the construction areas must not only contribute labour, but also provide most of the materials and the costs of construction, under threat of retaliation. Moreover, children are often recruited for forced labour, or left behind when their parents are put to work.

According to Mang Kham, a 53-year old Chin businessman from Than Tlang town:

"Between 1994 and 1996, there was a large roads maintenance project in Than Tlang and Haka townships. Eighty-six villages in Than Tlang township were involved in this project and 10,000,000 Kyats were allocated by the government. But they hardly gave anything to the people. Only one third of the money was given to the workers but it didn’t even cover their food costs during their work. Two thirds of the money was taken by the army officers, the local engineering department and the Township LORC Chairman." (Interview, May 1997)

The order below is typical of those sent regularly to villages to demand labour. (See Appendix of the printed version for copies of original Burmese orders).


Township Law & Order Restoration Council
Than Tlang
Ref. # 01/1-17/TLORC (Tha Ta Lah)
Date: 24 April 1996

To: In-Charge
Ward/Village Law & Order Restoration Council
xxxx ward/village
Than Tlang township

Subject:     Regarding widening the motor road by 20 feet
Reference: 1) Letter # 93/3-17/TLORC (Tha Ta Lah) from this office dated 18/1/96
                 2) Letter # 01/3-18/TLORC (Tha Ta Lah) from this office dated 26/2/96
                 3) Letter # 01/3-18/TLORC (Tha Ta Lah) from this office dated 29/2/96
                 4) Letter # 01/3-17/TLORC (Tha Ta Lah) from this office dated 4/4/96

1) In accordance with the resolution of the meeting which was attended by members of the Township Law & Order Restoration Council, department heads and all village-in-charges, the work assignments to widen the road by 20 feet between Than Tlang and Haka shall be completed within April 1996. You have already been informed that we will take serious action against any village which cannot finish its assignment. This has been frequently acknowledged by letter and by spoken communication.

2) However, until today, 24/4/96, we have found that you have not started yet. This assignment is a national duty and is also regional development. We have already given you enough time to do it. Furthermore, the Township Law & Order Restoration Council assisted as much as we could towards all of your needs. If you give any reason, such as that you came late and could not fulfil your assignment building the motor road, we will not accept any such reason.

3) We hereby inform you to complete the building of the road in April using all villagers necessary from your village. Anyone who refuses to come to build the road shall be punished according to the law, and you should inform this office. We hereby inform you again to report to the Township Law & Order Restoration Council when you go to build the road. We hereby inform any villages which cannot come to do it by 26/4/96 that all members of the Village Law & Order Restoration Council must come and meet with the Chairman of the Township Law & Order Restoration Council on 30/4/96 at 10:00 a.m. without fail.


(Tin Aung)

Copy to: - Township engineer, public works department, Than Tlang;
                 assign a place when they come to report to Than Tlang
- Township health department, Than Tlang; take responsibility for health care
- Receipt/Office

During 1997, the SLORC used forced labour to construct and upgrade several roads (see map). Each rainy season the roads are damaged and need repair. In addition, some of the dry season roads are now being turned into all-weather roads. Completion of road improvements are being hastened this year in time for the "8th Annual All Burma Students' Festival" planned for March 1998.

Haka-Gangaw Road

This road is being upgraded to be ready for the Students' Festival. The Township Law and Order Restoration Council (TLORC) claimed that it allocated wages for the labourers on this project, but then decided on its own that all the villagers would ‘donate’ all these wages to the Students' Sports Festival fund. Most people believe the money is actually being pocketed by local authorities and that no one working on this road is being paid. In January 1997, the villagers were ordered to provide 22,500 kyin [1 kyin = 10 x 10 x 1 feet] of crushed stones. Any household failing to provide their quota is fined 135 Kyats per kyin.


Township Law & Order Restoration Council
Than Tlang
Ref. # 1/4-5/TLORC (Tha Ta Lah)
Date: 12 December 1996

To: Chairman / In-Charge
Ward/Village Law & Order Restoration Council
Than Tlang township

Subject: Invitation for a meeting

1) For the Student Sports Festival fund and in accordance with the decision taken by the Chin State Law & Order Restoration Council, Than Tlang township must come to dig the road from Haka to Gangaw. They must come to dig 22,500 kyin for the car road in the first week of January.

2) If you have difficulties in coming to work, others must be hired and the price is 200 Kyats for one kyin of ordinary soil. After deducting the wage for one day, you must come along with 135 Kyats unit price for each kyin.

3) The meeting will be held in the community hall of the Township Law & Order Restoration Council group on 18/12/96 at 1:00 p.m. The village tract LORC Chairmen, Secretaries, members and responsible people are invited to attend the meeting without fail (without fail).

(for) Chairman
(Kyin Za Pone, Secretary)

Copy to: - Sent
              - Office copy

Haka-Than Tlang Road

Throughout 1996, villagers in Haka and Than Tlang townships were forced to work on sections of the Haka-Than Tlang road. One person from each household had to work a two week shift. Working hours were from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m. The villagers had to take their own food and tools to work with and no medicine was provided. Anyone absent at the worksite, even for health reasons, was fined 3,000 Kyats. Anyone whose work failed to pass inspection by the authorities was forced to do another shift of labour. Labour on this road continued throughout 1997. (CHRO in KHRG #97-03, "SLORC Abuses in Chin State", March 15th, 1997, and see previous TLORC order)

Haka-Matupi Road

Tha Pa, a Chin man with six children from Thang Ku village, Matupi township reported that he had to contribute his labour for this road, along with one person per family from his village, making up a total of 96 people. His duty was to complete 15 kyin. "They promised to pay us 100 Kyats for each kyin but they took off 50 Kyats for the Students’ Festival fund and 25 Kyats for the Township Sports fund. Only 25 Kyats were left over. They provide nothing, we have to work with our own food. We cannot go back home unless we have completed our duty. The soldiers come to check on us three times a week. This work has been ordered by the SLORC under the Border Areas Development Program." It has been reported that some 7,500 people from approximately 50 villages in Sing Tlang Village Tract have been forced to work on this road construction project. In many cases if a person failed to work they were fined 1,500 Kyats. (CHRO in KHRG report #97-03, "SLORC Abuses in Chin State", March 15th 1997, interview #11)

Matupi-Mindat Road

Khung Boi, a 28-year old Chin Christian man from Am Soi village, Matupi township, had a similar experience working on the road from Matupi to Mindat. One person per family from his village, a total of 125 people, had to complete 15 kyin each. The work place was in Chan Pian village, 30 miles away, at the 202 milestone. In total, approximately 3,800 people from 40 villages in Dum Nen and Dai Nen Village Tracts were forced to work on this road construction project. If someone failed to work, he or she was fined 1,500 Kyats. (CHRO in KHRG report #97-03, "SLORC Abuses in Chin State", March 15th 1997, Interview #12)


Besides road work, residents of Chin State also have to construct buildings without being paid. Examples include having to build a police station in Lailenpi village, Matupi township, in 1996, and having to rebuild a school in Bual Te village, Falam township. In addition, extensive forced labour has been used on preparations for the 8th All Burma Student Festival. The people of Haka were forced in 1997 to work to extend the football ground and to build a new stadium. (CHRO in KHRG report #97-03, "SLORC Abuses in Chin State", March 15th 1997, and interview with Salai Chan Kio, May 1997)


Throughout Chin State, the army battalions rely on civilian porters to carry their supplies and ammunition to mountain outposts not accessible by road. According to Van Ceu, a 37 year old Chin man from Than Tlang township, "The soldiers told us that portering was compulsory for the villagers twice a month throughout the whole region." In one instance when he had to go as a porter after a nearby army base was attacked by CNF troops, he said, "We were ordered to walk in a line alternating with the soldiers to protect them from bullets. We carried about 30 kilograms each, and they fed us nothing on the way." (CHRO in KHRG report #97-03, "SLORC Abuses in Chin State", March 15th 1997, Interview #7)

The soldiers often round up villagers who are attending church and take them as porters. "Recently we had a Church Convention and after the service was over, all the villagers were called as porters," reported Salai Chan Kio, a young Chin from Falam township. (Interview, May 1997)

Beside not being fed, porters are often beaten and abused by soldiers. Pu Ar Ceh, a 63 year old Chin man from Than Tlang township, went with some others to cut bamboo outside their village and unexpectedly ran into Major Naing Aye and about 40 soldiers. The major spoke to them in Burmese, but they could not understand Burmese very well. The major said to them, "You are under the control of the Burmese. Why can’t you speak Burmese?" Then each of them was beaten five times with the bamboo they had just cut and forced to carry the army’s cooking equipment to another village 4 miles away. (CHRO in KHRG report #97-03, "SLORC Abuses in Chin State", March 15th 1997, Interview #9)

Ngun Te, a young Chin woman of 21 from Falam township, explained the difficulties of forced portering: "The last time [I went] was in March 1997 and I was forced to carry a tin of rice and a soldier’s bag. They beat me with a stick and even pushed me with their guns. Three times I was a porter and every time they beat me up. The load is too heavy for a woman." Rather than having to work as a porter again, she fled to India. Her husband had already gone to Mizoram and had found work as a taxi driver the year before.
(Interview, May 1997)


A rotating group of villagers also has to work at nearby army bases every day, cutting firewood, repairing fences, fetching water, cooking, manning sentry posts, and doing other menial tasks. Some are assigned to work as messengers, delivering letters to soldiers at other posts. The military treats the villagers as its own private labour pool. For example, according to Salai Chan Kio, a 22 year old Chin man from Falam Township, "They even sent us to Lei Let village, about 15 miles away, to call and bring back one villager to cut the hair of Lieutenant Man Zaw." (Interview, May 1997)

Meanwhile, the commander of Lungler army camp insists on having villagers carry him from village to village. Mang Kham, a Chin businessman from Than Tlang reported that the commander used to ride a horse but had a bad fall, after which he ordered his soldiers to beat all the nearby villagers. "Since then, he asked some young men to carry him on a bamboo chair. When he is about to travel, he calls the villagers to the camp the day before his trip because he is afraid they will not come. They have to stay overnight in the camp and then carry him on to the next village." (Interview, May 1997)


On many work sites in Burma, convicts can be seen doing forced labour shackled, with chains joining their ankles and waists. Prisoners are regularly used for labour as porters, on major infrastructure projects, and at rock quarries. They include both criminal and political prisoners. Prison labourers are generally treated much more brutally than ordinary civilians and are routinely used in very dangerous work, such as blowing up rock faces or digging at cliff sides, in which many of them are killed. They are beaten on the slightest provocation, given far from adequate food, and only sent to the prison hospital when they are close to death.

In Chin State, there are at least three hard labour camps with approximately 120 prisoners each: Var and Ramthlo in Falam township where convicts cut stones, and Zo Khua in Haka township, where prisoners are mainly used for road work.

Za Biak, a 36-year old Chin senior civil servant, escaped from Var hard labour camp in June 1997: "I was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for 'Misuse of Public Property'. I didn’t deserve such a long sentence! After being jailed for 2 years, I was sent to a hard labour camp producing stones for road construction. We did not get enough food, medicine, or even sleep. The government supplies food and medicine for the prisoners, but the jailer and the wardens have control over it. The prisoners are miserable. Their mental and physical conditions are decreasing day by day. After two months I managed to escape. During this short time, ten prisoners had already died and many were hospitalised. If I had stayed there longer, I would have died within one year." (DVB interview, September 1997)



 Although schools had been closed since December 1996, the Matupi Township Education Department called students back to school in June 1997. They selected some students and sent them to Haka to attend sports training for the upcoming Festival to ensure their participation. The schools were closed again immediately after the selection.

 Lui Vang, a 19-year old Chin high school male student from Matupi township, was selected along with 110 students from each township of Chin State: "The Head of Matupi Education Department said: 'You all have to study in Haka town this year. When the class is over, you will have to attend gymnastics for the coming Students’ Sports Festival which will take place from 15th March till 7th April 1998. The travelling expenses, school fees and food will be provided from the Sports Fund of Matupi Township, [which total] 500,000 Kyats [collected forcibly from the villagers]. The training will take place from 15th June till 15th August. The students who are absent will not be allowed to take their examination and will be expelled from the school for three years.'

"As soon as we arrived at Haka, Teacher Van Biz, our coach, announced the training schedule and we started the training from that very day. We had to get up at 5 a.m. At 6 a.m., we had to be at the training ground. Between 6 a.m. and 11 a.m., there was 'tinbauk' [a Burmese sport in which the participants use heavy clubs] training, as well as gymnastics and sword dancing [a traditional martial art]. Lunch was between 11 a.m. and 12 noon. We were given a break between 12 noon and 1 p.m., then from 1 p.m. till 4 p.m., more training. Between 4.30 p.m. and 6 p.m., we took a bath and had dinner. At 6 p.m., there was a roll-call and at 8 p.m., lights out.

"I didn’t even know what 'tinbauk' meant! Besides, we had to follow army discipline and we had to attend the training until mid-day without any food. They didn’t give any regular school classes. The food was very bad because the head of the Education Department, U Lo Hu was corrupt and kept the money for himself. Our ration was supposed to be 50 Kyats for each student, but he fed the trainees with only half their ration. U Van Biz also slapped the students during the training, even when no mistake was made."

 On 22nd July, Lui Vang ran away from the training and walked for four days back to his village in Matupi township. However, the village LORC had already been informed and he was expelled from school for three years. "My ambitions and my parents’ hopes were in vain. I tried to comfort them. I promised that I would attend school again when I got the permission. I told them that I was planning to go to Mizoram to find a job for three years instead of doing nothing in Burma." (CHRO interview, August 1997)

 Twelve students from Ton Zang township also escaped from the training and were expelled from their school. It is estimated that about 10% of the 990 students had escaped by the end of the training period. In February 1998, the students will be called again for a refresher course. (CHRO, August 1997)


 In the name of the "8th All-Burma Students' Festival", the SLORC started extorting money from the people in December 1995. Authorities have collected 5,000 Kyats from each landlord and 2,000 Kyats from everyone paying rent, not only in Haka town but in all of Chin State. (CHRO in KHRG report #97-03, "SLORC Abuses in Chin State", March 15th 1997)

 Salai Chan Kio from Falam township reported that each family in his village had to give 630 Kyats for the Students' festival (Interview, May 1997), while Pu Cang Tawi, a 28 year-old Chin primary school teacher from a village in Matupi township, complained:

 "Because of this Sports Festival, the Chin people are suffering a lot. Without even opening the schools, SLORC sent an order to collect funds amongst the students: 50 Kyats from the High School students, 40 Kyats from the Middle School students and 30 Kyats from the Primary School students. In my village, the teachers received the order to collect the money. If we cannot collect all the fees, our own salary will be cut by the Township Education Department. Because the schools are still closed, it is very difficult to collect the fees [some students are living in far away villages]. Even if the schools were opened, this money would be very hard to collect since many students would not be able to pay. I am worried about how much will be cut off from my salary [the salary of a primary schoolteacher is less than 1,000 Kyats per month] and how long I would have to stay without any money. Previously, they already collected 15 Kyats from every student and our salary was cut down with the total amount of the fees. Then we had to get these fees back from our students. Of course, not all the students could pay, so we never got back our full salary." (CHRO interview, August 1997)

As the order below indicates, every villager is regularly commanded to pay extra fees for the Sports Fund for the Festival, which they believe far exceed the costs of the festival itself.

Sharo Village Tract

To: Paletwa Township
Chairman Date: 5/3/1997
xxx + yyy

Subject: Collecting Sports Fund

 Regarding the above subject, people living in the above mentioned villages must give urgently 5 Kyats each as ordered by the Paletwa Township Law and Order Restoration Council. Therefore, all the money should be given urgently before 10th March.


Chairman (on behalf)
Village LORC
Sharo Village Tract

As the soldiers travel through villages on patrol and on their way to outposts, they regularly steal food, money, and valuables from the villagers. The villagers can do little but try to hide what they have. Soldiers salaries are low and their rations are often insufficient. Officers rarely punish soldiers for theft and in many cases, the officers themselves order and are involved in the looting.

Salai Chan Kio, a Chin man from Falam township, explains the soldiers’ behaviour in detail:

 "While I was a porter I saw that they took everything in every village they passed; they didn’t even spare an egg. Whenever they reach a village, they first demand chickens. They also take dogs. Sometimes, they are playing football so they ordered the villagers to give them football boots. And even if the villagers refuse, they take them anyway.

"When we have 'Sarhawn' [a Chin traditional ceremony in which a villager kills a cow, and shares it with his closest relatives], the soldiers hear about it and come to demand meat and take whatever they like. If they know we have caught some wild animals, they come to demand them and they don’t spare anything for us. If the villagers refuse, they said they will confiscate their hunting guns [usually all hunting guns are registered at the nearest army camp. Wild game is an important source of meat for the Chin]. The villagers cannot afford to lose their guns, so they have to give whatever they want. 

"The soldiers are always carrying slingshots to kill the chickens. They take the vegetables that the villagers grow at the back of their house without asking the owners. They grab the whole plant instead of cutting leaves here and there. The army has no blankets and whenever the officers or some guests come to the camp, they always borrow pots and blankets from the villagers. On Sundays we don’t go to our fields. But the army goes to our fields to help themselves. Even the army has no rice so they have to get it from the villagers.

"To extort money, the soldiers often break the fences of their camp themselves and then accuse the villagers that their cows did it and they fine them 1,500 Kyats per cow. Sometimes, they just kill and eat the cow. We come to know about this when they demand big pots from the village." (Interview, May 1997)

Many soldiers defect from the Burmese army. Some leave because they are forced to treat the villagers very badly. An 18 year-old defector named Myo Aung from Battalion #269 admitted that he often stole the villagers’ things, under his commander’s orders:

"Instead of teaching us good things, the officers frequently ordered us to steal whatever they wanted. When we entered a village, they ordered us to steal chickens and wine. During my three years of service, we stole more than 500 chickens from the villagers. The commanders were always happy to eat chicken. Sometimes we stole the locally made 'zupi', which is the most appreciated traditional wine. Once in Thing Lei village my section commander, Aung Kyaw Win, ordered me to steal a jacket worth 1,000 Kyats from the house where he was staying." (CHRO in KHRG, "SLORC Abuses in Chin State", March 15th 1997, Interview #17)

Mang Kham, a Chin cattle trader from Than Tlang town, recalled one incident among many others:

"Between Sih Mu and So Pum village, there is a teashop. The Captain [commander of Lungler camp] was sitting there and called the So Pum Village LORC village Chairman to bring three chickens, some local liquor and one horse to ride. He said: 'At 11 a.m., if what I ordered is not here, your village will be burnt down!'. The Chairman was afraid and he brought everything."

Cattle trading across the border to India is a major business and also a source of easy cash for the army. Mang Kham complained: "The soldiers go around, waiting for the cattle traders and the businessmen. They arrest them and take their money. I was bringing along 20 cows and one of them was taken by the army. I met another trader from Haka. All his 40 cows were confiscated by the military and he had to pay 50,000 Kyats to get them back." (Interview, May 1997)



 Religious persecution is a problem of major concern in Chin State. The majority of Chins are Christians, with villages in northern Chin State being almost 100% Christian. Over the past few years, the military has been forcing Christian villagers to build Buddhist pagodas in their own villages, such as the pagoda on the hill above Rih Lake near the Tiau River border crossing-point. At the same time, soldiers have been desecrating churches and graveyards by turning them into army camps, disturbing religious ceremonies, and preventing evangelists from preaching.

 Moreover, the military has tried to coerce people into converting to Buddhism by targeting Christians for forced labour and other abuses. Chin sources report that in Than Tlang township, as many as 10 percent of the villagers have converted to Buddhism because the Buddhist villagers are never called for porterage or labour duties. Buddhists can also buy rice at a cheaper price.

 Tial Ku, a 17-year Chin Christian female student, recounted the events taking place in her village in Matupi township on Martyr's Day (19 July 1997):

 "All the 307 households in my village are Chins and Christians doing slash-and-burn farming. Since November 1996, two Buddhist monks came to live in our village. Two soldiers from IB #269 accompanied them. The Buddhists monks receive rice and curry from the army camp and the two soldiers have to guard them in turns.

"One of the monks arranged the Martyrs’ Day preaching and all the villagers were ordered to go. So I attended. He preached the teachings of Lord Buddha from 6 to 7 p.m. He said: 'There is only one God. Your God, Jesus, is only a mere human. He appeared after our Lord [Buddha]. Jesus committed a lot of crimes in those days. That is why he was killed and crucified by the Roman soldiers. Only one prostitute was allowed to touch his dead body and bury him. If you convert to Buddhism, you will have a guarantee for your life and you can practise a true religion. If the whole family converts, a monthly assistance of 1,200 Kyats will be given. For each individual who converts, we will give 800 Kyats monthly. We will arrange for the education and life of the children.’

"Now the old people are discussing secretly whether they should convert to Buddhism or not. Some want to expel the monks from our village but they don’t dare speak out because they are afraid of the soldiers." (CHRO interview, August 1997)

Similar coercion was reported in Saungte Te village, Than Tlang township where three Buddhist monks came to preach Buddhism in January 1997. They were accompanied by one section of soldiers. The Village LORC ordered everyone to attend. The monks requested the villagers to become novices and follow the Buddhist rules, and threatened that they would be taken as porters if they refused. In Tiddim township too, people from Long Si village who refused to convert were forced to carry rocks, while those who converted received an extra supply of sugar and milk, distributed on Sundays when Christians are attending church services. (FTUB, October 1997)

In another instance, a Chin farmer from Matupi township, interviewed in December 1996, reported that he attended a SLORC "social welfare" training taught by a Buddhist monk. Following the training, he converted to Buddhism for the considerable incentives offered, including not only food and rice, but also exemption from porter and forced labour duty, although he did not really subscribe to Buddhist tenets. During the 10 day training, he was instructed in reporting on insurgent activities and told to work to "create misunderstandings among the Christian denominations," following suggestions outlined in a pamphlet that he received (see below). He was also told the names of several monks and one abbot at local monasteries who were members of the Military Intelligence. The man subsequently re-converted to Christianity when he was threatened by authorities that his son would have to leave his studies at a theological college in Rangoon. (CHRO, "Religious Persecution," February 1997, in "A Chin Compendium", Project Maje, September 1997)

While the origin of the pamphlet cannot be verified, similar pamphlets have been widely circulated in Burma, and copies have been obtained in Rangoon, Mandalay and various eastern border areas.
(Translation of the pamphlet, "The Facts to Attack Christians")


Missionaries, Honourable Monks, Cleansing Organisations

The facts to attack Christians:



1.  To attack Christian families and the progress of Christians
2.  To criticise the sermons broadcast from Manila, the Philippines
3.  To criticise God as narrow-minded and egotistical, who himself claimed that "There is no god but eternal God"
4.  To counter corrupt youth and inappropriate fashion
5.  To criticise the preaching of Christians wherever it has penetrated
6.  To criticise Christianity by means of pointing out its delicacy and weakness
7.  To stop the spread of the Christian movement in rural areas
8.  To criticise by means of pointing out "It is not salvation but purchased by blood"
9.  To counterattack by means of pointing out Christianity's weakness and to overcome this with Buddhism
10. To counter the Bible after thorough study
11. To criticise that "God loves only Israel but not all races".
12. To point out the ambiguity between the two testaments
13. To criticise the point that Christianity is partisan
14. To criticise Christianity's concept of the Creator and compare it with the scientific concept
15. To study and access the amount given in offerings
16. To criticise the Holy Spirit after thorough study
17.To attack Christians by means of both non-violence and violence

(Pamphlet source: CHRO, "Religious Persecution," February 1997, in a "Chin Compendium", Project Maje, September, 1997)

Many Christian villagers have been caught by troops and taken as porters upon leaving a church service. As a result, many villagers are now afraid to go to church. In some villages, soldiers are using the church compound as an army camp.

Salai Chan Kio from Falam township told how "... during the last Christmas [Christmas day 1996], some troops came into Thing Cang village when the villagers were celebrating Christmas. One Second Lieutenant and his troops started singing and dancing in a disruptive manner to disturb the ceremony. So a Church elder requested the officer not to interfere in their ceremony and he was beaten. All his teeth were broken and he was hospitalised in Falam hospital." (Interview, May 1997)

According to Mang Kham, a Chin businessman from Than Tlang town, in another instance, a Christian Chin boy in Than Tlang township was picked up by the army and taken to their camp where they shaved his head and gave him a robe. When he came back home, his mother saw him: "Why do you come back like this?" The son replied, "It was done by the army." His mother took the robe off him and complained about what had happened to an army officer. He told her that she should not tell anyone about it: "If you talk, you will suffer." (Interview, May 1997)

Using the promise of education, SLORC officials have also tried to entice Christian Chin families into sending their children to larger towns for schooling at the expense of the regime. The children are sent to monasteries and forced to become Buddhist novices. Government schoolbooks are often sent to Buddhist monastery schools instead of government schools.

On 30 May 1994, copies of the following letter from the Than Tlang Township LORC were distributed in both Burmese and Chin languages throughout Than Tlang town and to all villages in Than Tlang Township:

Township Law & Order Restoration Council
Than Tlang Township

Letter No. 01/3-1/TLORC (Than Tlang)
Date: 1994 May 30

Quarter / Village Law & Order Restoration Council Groups
_________________ town / village

Subject: Announcing the provision of higher education to children

1) Regarding the above subject, with the purpose of giving higher education to the children for the development of areas in the state, those below the age of 14 years are to be provided with food and clothing, provided education, and trained to be refined individuals without any racial or religious discrimination.

2) Therefore, nationals should send their children either to Rangoon or to Than Tlang town in order that they may be educated. Bearing in mind the well-being of their children, they should announce the giving of higher education to the villages.


(1) The State will provide lodging, board, clothes and all other necessities for the children who enrol for higher education.

(2) These children should bring with them all their particulars: date of birth, names of parents, National Registration Card number, name of village, and religion.

(3) These children should be sent to Than Tlang town before the end of July 1994.

(4) They will be allowed to worship and practice their own religion.

Attached is a copy of a translation in Chin language

(for) Chairman
(Chin Za Bone, Secretary)

Some of the Christian Chin in the township believed the announcement, and at least nine children were entrusted into the care of the Township LORC. They were taken first to Than Tlang town, then to Rangoon. They were completely cut off from their parents, who learned that all of the children were living at Kaba Aye Buddhist monastery in Rangoon. In December 1994, the parents went to the abbot of the monastery to see their children, but permission was refused.

Two weeks later, Dr. Hmuh Thang, a Member of Parliament for Than Tlang township elected in the 1990 election, went down to Rangoon to attend the National Convention and learned about the Chin children. He asked for authorisation to see them and was granted permission. He found that the boys had had their heads shaved in order to become novice Buddhist monks, while the girls had been pressured repeatedly to have their heads shaved to become novice Buddhist nuns, but had thus far refused. All of the children cried and begged to be taken home. (Chin source in KHRG report, #95-09, "SLORC Abuses in Chin State," March 15th, 1995)

As is the case in other ethnic minority areas, it appears that the military junta is promoting "Burmanisation", the assimilation of all of the diverse ethnic cultures and populations of the country into mainstream Burman culture [as Burmans are the largest and ruling ethnic group]. This assimilation is promoted by the SLORC/SPDC in its policy of "national re-consolidation." For example, it has been reported that the army has been rewarding soldiers who marry Chin women and convert them from Christianity to Buddhism.

Myo Aung, a private who defected the Burmese Army in December 1995, explained:

"I was transferred to #269 Battalion at Tiddim on 9 October 1994 [at an age of 16]. This was a newly established Battalion for the ‘Chin People Operation’ under the commander of North-western Command, Col. Maung Thein. They selected only unmarried soldiers for this Battalion and encouraged them to marry Chin girls and convert them to Buddhism. If the soldier cannot convert the Chin girl whom he marries to Buddhism or if he becomes a Christian himself, he is punished and put in jail. If he can, he gets a (higher) rank and privileges." (CHRO in KHRG report #97-03, "SLORC Abuses in Chin State", March 15th 1997, Interview #17)


The Burmese army has used many ways to forcibly conscript soldiers in order to expand its numbers. Villages are regularly issued with orders to provide a quota of new recruits for the Army or to form a local militia. Children are taken from schools and conscripted into the army and training centres. Soldiers are usually rewarded for bringing in new recruits. Soldiers are often abused and forced to commit and witness human rights abuses. With few other choices for employment and no national social welfare program, many young men chose to join the Army as a means of securing a regular income to support their families. However, as salaries are low and they are consistently underpaid, many soldiers are ordered to or resort to looting and extortion from villagers.


Various village LORC Chairmen of at least eleven villages were arrested by the army in August 1997, accused of having contact with the CNF. The SLORC soldiers agreed to release them on the condition that one person from each of their villages join the army. Few people in this area volunteer for military service. The Chairman of Lung Rang village was detained at the Haka police station. His villagers collected 20,000 Kyats among themselves to pay someone to become a soldier, found an unemployed person in Haka town and paid him 20,000 Kyats to join the army. As soon as he enlisted, the Lung Rang Chairman was released unconditionally. At the time of writing, the other Chairmen still remained in custody, with their families trying to free them by finding new recruits. (CHRO, August 1997)


The People’s Militia must work alongside local army battalions all over Burma. These homeguard militias were created by the Burmese military in the early 1960s, and have in the past often been used to bring armed resistance organisations under Tatmadaw control. In the Chin State, they are utilised to prevent the CNF from attacking the army, as the army believe that the CNF would hesitate to attack battalions composed of local Chin people. They are also increasingly being used to supervise and deliver orders for forced labour, so that it will appear as if the Burmese army is not giving orders for forced labour, but that the local Chin people themselves are placing these demands on the community. Militia are also often sent to the frontlines during battles. Few people join voluntarily, so the SLORC has issued conscription orders (see below), and the villagers have no choice but to draw lots to decide who will go. Members receive no salary; however, they are exempted from portering and other forced labour duty. Villagers are generally forced to support them with rice. The militia are held responsible for keeping opposition groups out of the village. However, this is a difficult task, as many villagers support the opposition. As a result, both the militia and the villagers are still frequently accused of being rebel collaborators.


Township Law & Order Restoration Council
Than Tlang
Ref. # 03/1-18/TLORC (Tha Ta Lah)
Date: 2 September 1995
To: Chairman / Secretary / In-Charge
Village Law & Order Restoration Council
xxxx town/village
Subject: To set up People’s Militia and send their names quickly
1) It has been learned that some villages of Than Tlang township have not formed People’s Militia. For those villages which have not yet set up People’s Militia, they must set up 5 full-time members and 10 reserve members from villages which have under 50 households. From villages which have over 50 households, the strength will be 10 full-time members and 25 reserve members. Set it up quickly and fill out the list as shown below completely. We inform you to do this and send it to our group without fail.
2) If you fail to send this we will take punitive action.
People’s Militia
Serial #
Name Age ID Card # Village Name Full-time Reserve Remarks
(for) Chairman
(Kyin Za Pone, Secretary)
Copy to: Receipt/Office

The above order is part of a sequence of three. First every village was ordered to provide recruits for the army-controlled "People’s Militia"; then they were ordered to send these men for military training; and finally, they were ordered to pay for the militias’ food during training.


The Burmese army commits the most brutal abuses against civilians in areas where ethnic insurgent groups like the CNF operate. As in other ethnic minority regions in Burma, the military employs its decades-old "Four Cuts" policy as a counter-insurgency programme. The aim is to cut off food, finances, intelligence, and recruits from the opposition armies in order to undermine their ability to operate effectively. The Burmese army carries out particularly harsh reprisals against anyone suspected of sympathising or having contact with the CNF, which include arbitrary arrests, torture, summary executions, burning of houses, and destruction of crops and property.

 From mid-1997, the Burmese military has also been laying landmines in the border areas where Burma, India and Bangladesh meet, in an attempt to prevent insurgents’ movements. One villager died and two were seriously wounded by landmine explosions near the Bangladesh border in September 1997. The area was reportedly mined by troops from the army battalion based in Paletwa. At the end of 1997, four women traders were also severely injured by landmines near the Indian border.

 Village headmen who, willingly or not, have contact with CNF, are particularly at risk of such abuses. In some villages in Chin State, the office of Village LORC Chairman is rotated on a daily basis in order to share the responsibilities and risks among the villagers. According to the CNF, in order to minimise the consequences for the villagers, their troops have a policy of not entering villages but sending an emissary in civilian clothes to contact the headman only. There are numerous reports of village headmen being beaten, tortured, incarcerated, and killed by soldiers. In many cases, detaining suspected insurgent contacts also gives army officers a pretext for extorting bribes of up to 20,000 Kyats in order to secure their release. With this in mind, the CNF states that it has tried to shift to an urban warfare campaign, because reprisals in the towns are usually less severe.

 Pu Hmun Lian, a village LORC chairman from Than Tlang township, explained what happened to him when he was arrested:

 "[In September 1996] ... I was invited to a meeting by Major Saw Hlaing, Than Tlang camp commander of No. 266 LIB based in Haka. As soon as I reached Than Tlang I was arrested and imprisoned. The Army accused xxxx and yyyy villages of supporting CNF and of not reporting to them. They said, 'If we hear that you are continuing to support them, all of you [village chairmen] will be jailed and fined 50,000 Kyats.'

"I was detained... [for 2 weeks]. While in jail, I was only fed five handfuls of rice [per day]. When I was very hungry, I asked permission for my family to bring me food. My family had to give the army officers 60 Kyats each time they sent me some curry. When the curry was good, it was eaten by the army and I received only the rice. My family gave 5,000 Kyats to Major Saw Hlaing and I was finally released. After my release, my family had to pay back to the villagers the 10,000 Kyats they had borrowed in order to pay all the bribes to the Army officers. We don’t know how we will be able to pay it all back." (CHRO in KHRG report #97-03, "SLORC Abuses in Chin State", March 15th 1997, Interview #1)

One farmer, a Chin Buddhist, from Paletwa township, Chin State, described how his entire village fled across the border into India after the villagers were accused of being responsible for the disappearance of a party of travellers. During the last week of December 1994, three women, wife and relatives of a police inspector, arrived in Longkadoo village, in Paletwa township for trading. They spent the night at the headman's house, but disappeared the next day. Then Captain Htun Way from Company #1 of SLORC Battalion #376 called U Ram Doh, the headman, to Pone Yaung Wa camp. U Myo Thant, a 40 year old villager from Longkadoo, recalled what happened:

"They asked him where the three women were. He said that he didn’t know where they had gone. Then the soldiers tied his hands behind his back and immersed him in water. They asked him more questions. He told them that he didn’t know. They tied his arms and legs with a rope, and they punched him and kicked him many times. They hit him with a rifle butt. After the last blow he had a broken rib, his nose had been crushed by the rifle butt and his whole body was swelling up. The next day, the commander sent a message to the villagers ordering them to bring back the three women. ‘If not’, they said, ‘We are going to kill all the villagers!’" That same night, all the villagers from Longkadoo fled across the border, some to Bangladesh and others to India. The headman was reportedly killed. (KHRG report #95-09, "SLORC Abuses in Chin State," March 15th, 1995 - Interview #2)

The CNF argue that the SLORC is allowing bars to open in Chin State so that people will become alcoholics, and their traditional culture and will for freedom will be destroyed. Therefore after issuing advance warnings, the CNF targeted bars and bombed at least two in early 1997. The CNF has also assassinated high-ranking army officers in towns in Chin State. In mid-1996, the SLORC began ordering townspeople to do regular sentry duty in order to discourage attacks by the CNF.

In June 1996, Major Saw Hlaing, Than Tlang camp commander of #266 LIB of Haka, forced the people from Than Tlang to build six sentry posts. Since then, five people at a time have been forced to do sentry duty at each post. A total of 30 people are doing sentry duty every night at the six posts, from 6 p.m. until 5 a.m. These people have to bring along slingshots and long knives. From 5:30 onward, two people from each post are forced to patrol the town, a total of 12 people. They are not allowed to sleep, and soldiers check them frequently to make sure they are doing their duty. If someone is not doing their duty properly, he or she is beaten. If a person cannot do sentry duty for one night, even due to sickness, he or she must pay 50 Kyats. (CHRO in KHRG report #97-03, "SLORC Abuses in Chin State", March 15th 1997)

One night of September 1996, at about 8:30 p.m., one corporal and five soldiers came to check the sentry posts in Than Tlang and said: "You have been on duty for four months now, but you have never arrested any CNF rebels". For punishment, everyone was beaten five times. (CHRO in KHRG report #97-03, "SLORC Abuses in Chin State", March 15th 1997)

Mang Kham described a more recent situation:

"In Than Tlang, it is worse than before because everyone has to do sentry duty. Every night, every day. If the husband is away, the wife must go for the duty. Before, if someone couldn’t do his duty, he could hire someone else for 50 Kyats a night, but now even 200 Kyats will not hire a person. It is happening so often that no one wants to do it for someone else. In order to leave Than Tlang, people need three passes, one from the army, one from the Township LORC and one from the police. Even to go to their fields, farmers are only allowed to go and come back the same day and are not permitted to sleep over there." (Interview, May 1997)


Throughout Chin State, extrajudicial, arbitrary and summary executions occur regularly. People are usually executed by soldiers because they are suspected of collusion with anti-government troops or operatives. Villagers are also killed for refusing to obey orders, in many cases because they do not understand the Burmese language. Some soldiers themselves face murder by their superiors for desertion or disobeying orders.

On the 9th of October 1996, 2nd Lieutenant Win Than of the LIB [Light Infantry Battalion] #266 based in Than Tlang, Haka, led a group of 20 troops to Nga Lang village to arrest village LORC chairman Hniar Ling. They surrounded the village without warning. At around 5.00 p.m. three male youths: Bawi Kung, Pa Thang and Dawt Hlei Thang, were passing through the village on their way home from Mizoram. As they approached the village, the soldiers started firing on them indiscriminately. Bawi Kung was killed. A witness described the burial of the boy: "I was ordered to bury the body ... immediately. They would not let us bring the body to Haka, which is his native place [according to Chin tradition, a dead person must be buried at his or her native village]... They [the villagers] secretly checked the body and found not only gunshot wounds but also stab wounds, and they saw pieces of intestine hanging out of his belly." Dawt Hlei Thang was arrested, and has not been heard of since. Pa Thang escaped. The village headman, the church secretary and the villagers present were beaten. The village was then ransacked and looted. Moreover, the SLORC soldiers took sixteen porters and four horses from the village. (CHRO in KHRG, "SLORC Abuses in Chin State," March 15th 1997, which also appears in "A Chin Compendium", Project Maje, September 1997)

On the 30th of June 1997, between 11 and 12 pm, three young soldiers of the Falam-based LIB 268 escaped from the regiment lock-up. One of them, Sergeant Tun Lin, was detained for misappropriation of funds procured from cattle-smuggling deals. The other two riflemen, Soe Myint and Ko Oo were arrested for desertion. A platoon from the regiment initiated a search operation soon after their escape to re-arrest the escapees.

The platoon reached Zaothe village on the 2nd of July, and the commander threatened that he would burn the village and kill all the males present, unless they disclosed the hiding place of the deserters. The villagers complied, and the soldiers surrounded the hut with the three deserters and a local woman, Ms. Van Lai Pal, inside it. Ko Oo escaped and the other three were apprehended, interrogated and tortured. Ms. Van Lai Pal confessed that she had agreed to assist the deserters in reaching the anti-SLORC revolutionary forces on the border. Colonel Ohn Thwin, commander of Military Tactical Command No.1 (North-western Command) ordered Major Khin Maung Wai, Deputy commander of LIB 268 to execute the two deserters as well as the woman. The three were killed in the hut on the night of the 2nd of July. (ABSDF-WB, "Indo-Burma Border News", September 3rd, 1997, in "A Chin Compendium," Project Maje, September 1997)


Women are often required to do forced labour, especially since they must serve as proxies for their husbands when the men are engaged in other work, such as planting and harvesting crops, or performing porter duty for the army. In army camps too, women are often in demand as servants, to carry out duties such as cooking, cleaning and sewing. Throughout Chin State, rapes of local women by soldiers have been reported. Many have also been harassed and sexually abused by "Tatmadaw" men. Soldiers, and particularly officers, commit rape with impunity. The victim is usually too afraid to speak out, because of possible retaliation from the perpetrators, as well as the great stigma she will face if others in her community find out.

In February 1997, a 12 year old girl was raped by a soldier in Lung Ler village then sent to Than Tlang hospital. (Interview with Mang Kham, May 1997) In June 1996, the daughter of a nurse was raped by a soldier on the outskirts of Zongte village, Falam township. She was only 16 years old. Her parents complained to the commander, who scolded the soldier but did not take any further action. (Interview with Ngun Te, May 1997)

In another instance in August 1997, a platoon of soldiers from IB #266 based in Haka came to Chung Cho village, along the Haka-Falam road. They stayed at the headman's house. Later while he was out, one soldier entered his wife's bedroom and attempted to rape her. She screamed for help, and as the headman ran back into his house to assist his wife, the soldier stabbed him. The headman was severely injured and had to be hospitalised. (CHRO report, October 1997)


Since the end of 1995, under its ‘Four Cuts’ policy, the military has been conducting mass relocation campaigns throughout various ethnic regions of Burma: driving out entire populations out of certain geographic areas, so that the resistance has no means of support. All the villages are ordered to move to army-patrolled relocation sites, often in the vicinity of army camps. Sometimes villagers are relocated to roadsides or other temporary sites where they can be used as a forced labour pool. Most evacuated areas are designated 'Free-fire Zones,’ where any civilian seen is regarded as an enemy and shot on sight.

Most of the villagers affected by the relocations are farmers. They are forced to leave behind their crops, stock, and animals, as well as fields and homes. At the relocation sites, they are provided with no compensation or assistance and must find their own ways of supporting their families. Often they must use their savings to buy back the foodstuffs confiscated from them by soldiers, at exorbitant prices.

Mass forced relocations are currently being implemented on a wide-scale in eastern Burma, in Shan, Karenni and Karen areas, where a total of over 250,000 civilians have been ordered to move over the past two years to army-controlled sites, often similar to concentration camps. Many have gone into hiding or fled to Thailand. These relocation campaigns have resulted in a dramatic increase in internally displaced people as well as refugees in neighbouring countries.

In Chin State, it appears that the military is initiating relocation campaigns along the Indian border in order to suppress opposition. Pu Khua Tan Lian, 42 years old and a Chin Christian, is a village headman in Paletwa township. His village is located near the border where the CNF is operating. The villagers are constantly recruited for forced portering and forced labour on roads and at army camps. Repeated demands for money, food, and supplies have impoverished the local Chin population to the point of starvation. Accustomed to a meat-rich diet, they have now been reduced to eating only jungle roots. Pu Khua Tan Lian was interviewed in July 1997:

"Maybe if our village was located somewhere else, our suffering would be lighter. All the border area village headmen, including myself, were summoned for a meeting at Sinletwa camp. The commander complained that his troops always need to be alert whenever they come to our villages. He told us: ‘All the villages should move to Sinletwa. To stay separately is not good. It will be better for you to stay together. Therefore, you should sign this document!’ We know that the commander will force us to sign this document against our will. If we move to Sinletwa, farming will be a problem and it will be difficult to survive. And near their camp, our suffering will increase. We feel very sad to leave our land. Even though we have already suffered a lot for a long time, we can still bear it, but if we are forced to move, we have to abandon our land and we cannot endure that any longer. If we have to sign this document, we will move to India, instead of moving to Sinletwa." (CHRO interview, July 1997)



"We have been suffering since 1962 (the year of the first military coup since independence). During the democratic period, the Khamti area and all the Naga hills had good opportunities. But our situation became worse from 1962 onwards, because of the Burma Socialist Programme Party (BSPP - the political wing of the military and only legally permitted party from 1974 until 1988). Education and health are worse than ever before. The only hospital, which was set up during the democratic time, has collapsed. There is no doctor, no nurse. No village has electricity. The villagers, in the BSPP time, still had not such a bad situation. Of course, we had to do some of their work occasionally. But in the SLORC time, we have to do a lot of duties for them, such as labour, construction of their camp, porterage, conscription of soldiers, etc. We have to serve them like servants."

("Thupow," a Naga businessman and father of two, aged 42, from Laeshi township; Interview, May 1997)



 Sagaing Division, the largest division in Burma, is north of Chin State and borders India’s Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh states. Although there are several border crossing points, the main trade route between India and Burma crosses from the town of Moreh in Manipur into Tamu in Sagaing Division. Traders from Mandalay and other towns in Central Burma regularly travel to Tamu, and this route is also one of the primary paths for heroin coming from Shan State out to India and on to the Western world.

 Sagaing Division encompasses flat plain areas in the South, as well as hilly areas in the North and along the Indo-Burma border. The plains are primarily inhabited by Burmans while the hills are occupied by Nagas, Kukis, and Chins. Like the Chins in Chin State, the Kukis and the Nagas have formed armed resistance organisations which are fighting for various degrees of autonomy. There are more Kukis and Nagas in India than in Burma, so some of the organisations are fighting for autonomous regions in India, while others are fighting for independent states which include parts of Burma and India. The largest Naga resistance organisation, the National Socialist Council of Nagaland split into two factions in 1988. The faction led by Isak and Muivah, NSCN (I-M), has been especially active in India while the faction led by Khaplang, a Burmese Naga, NSCN (K),in the past, was focused more on fighting the Burmese army, but is believed to have recently come to a tenuous military agreement with the SLORC. The Kuki National Army and the Kuki Students’ Democratic Front have also been active in Burma.

 The Naga Hills, a remote and undeveloped region, consists of four townships, Laeshi, Lahai, Homelin and Khamti. Like the Chins, the Nagas comprise numerous sub-groups, each with its own dialect. As in Chin areas, missionaries penetrated the Naga hills in the 1800s, and many Nagas converted to Christianity. Still, they have remained largely isolated and ignored by the Burmese government. Many Nagas complain of a total lack of development in the hills. There is not a single all-season road, and most supplies must be carried on foot, or by mule, along a network of paths, or by boat along the Chindwin river. There are few government schools in the area, and the villagers must take it upon themselves to find teachers. Health care and medical facilities are almost non-existent.

 Throughout the Naga Hills, the people have been put to work on roads upgraded for military purposes. Because few tracks through the hills are accessible by car, villagers must constantly serve as porters for the troops. The Burmese military consistently forces villagers to provide recruits for the army. It has also lured parents to enrol their children in "Ye Nyunt" youth training centres, organised by the army, which promise access to basic and higher education. Many of those who have been enlisted have ended up in military schools and been forced to join the army. Villagers have identified persecutions against Christians as a serious problem. There are also reports that some people in the Naga hills are suffering from starvation. Their health conditions have worsened because they must do forced labour and are rarely offered medical assistance. Since there are few jobs available to them, a large number of Naga youth end up destitute or doing menial labour in the jade mines of Kachin State, where many become addicted to heroin, infected with HIV/AIDS and involved in the drug trade.

 Along the border with India’s Manipur State lies the Kabaw valley, a fertile strip of lowland inhabited by Kukis, Chins, Shans and Burmans. The military’s Border Area Development Programme has been carried out in the Kabaw Valley, where people have been resettled from Central Burma. Prison labour is also employed by the military in this area, and some of the most notorious hard labour camps in the country are found there.

 The South of Sagaing Division consists of a large plain extending towards Mandalay and Central Burma where mostly Burman people live, although the hill range and plains along the border with Chin State are predominantly inhabited by Chins. The climate there is relatively dry and the army has implemented a series of dam projects for irrigation in an attempt to boost crop production. The construction of these dams has led to land confiscation, destruction of sacred sites and forests as well as extensive forced labour. The Kalay-Gangaw-Pakkoku railway, built with forced labour, is the largest infrastructure project in north-western Burma. (Note: the town of Kalay is also referred to as Kalaymyo or Kaleymyo.) Thousands of villagers and prisoners have provided their labour to complete different sections. At the time of writing, villagers had been called to dig a tunnel through the Pungtaung mountains, south of Gangaw, for the railroad.


 As in Chin State, forced labour is used extensively in Sagaing Division, and some villagers claim that up to half of their work hours every month are consumed by it. In addition to the railway project, labourers have been widely conscripted for work on irrigation dams and roads construction. They have also been used to construct army bases, and to do other work, such as logging, supervised by the army for military profit. Apart from the Kalay-Gangaw-Pakkoku railway, the most notorious forced labour project in Sagaing division is the "Kabaw Region Development Program" (sometimes referred to by residents as the "New Kabaw Valley Project"), with extensive use of prison labour, and where the appalling conditions have resulted in hundreds of deaths.


The largest forced labour project in Sagaing division is the Kalaymyo - Gangaw - Pakkoku - Chaung U railway which stretches from Sagaing Division in the north to Magwe Division in the south. It is 312 miles long and every mile of it has been built with the forced labour of villagers and convicts. As it nears completion, the SLORC has begun discussing extending it 75 miles further north to Tamu. Chaung U is 50 miles west of Mandalay and linked to Mandalay by rail, so this line would establish a rail link between Mandalay and the Indian border. As of late 1997, only the Chaung U - Pale and Kalaymyo - Nat Chaung sections were in operation.

After the UN Special Rapporteur’s report in November 1995 criticised the SLORC for using forced labour on this project, the SLORC claimed to have paid the workers as follows: "Chaung U - Ma Gyi Boke sector and Pakokku - Monywa sector: 8.29 million Kyats; Pakokku - Gangaw - Kalay sector: 30 million Kyats". (The SLORC’s response to the Preliminary Report by the Special Rapporteur on Myanmar, Yozo Yokota, to the United Nations General Assembly, November 1995). However, as of late 1997, labourers interviewed reported that none of the workers along the entire stretch of railway had ever been paid. Most families living in the area have been forced to work 6 or 7 times on the railway over the past seven years, each time taking 2 or 3 weeks to finish their assignment. In addition, villagers were ordered to prepare gravel for the track bed. (See the following New Light of Myanmar article entitled Minister Inspects Kyaw-Zibya section of Chaung U-Pakokku-Gangaw-Kalay Railroad, April 9, 1997)

Minister Inspects Kyaw-Zibya section of Chaung U-Pakokku-Gangaw-Kalay Railroad

    Yangon, 8 April -- Minister for Rail Transportation U Win Sein, accompanied by Managing Director Thura U Thaung Lwin of Myanma Railways and officials, inspected Kyaw-Zibya section of Chaung U-Pakokku-Gangaw-Kalay Railroad on yesterday morning.
    General Manager (Civil) U Kyaw San amnd Deputy General Manger (Civil) U Hon Lwin briefed the minister on the places where the railroad sections were constructed with difficulty.
    Construction work of Kyaw-Zibya section was completed on 31 March.
    The minister instructed officials to systematically build retaining walls to prevent landslide and floods which cause damage to the railroad and spoke of the need for maintenance for long-term use.
    The railroad section has successfully been constructed with the efforts of departmental personnel, cooperation of local people and assistance of technology.
    The departmental personnel and the local people faced difficulties while constructing the railroad section but they were able to overcome these due to their efforts.
    The difficulties included constructing the railroad through Kyaukleik Hill, 156.7 feet high and Nagar Abyss, 500 feet wide and 62 feet deep.
    It is scheduled for opening on 9 April morning.

A subsequent article in the New Light of Myanmar on 20 July 1997, commemorating the opening of the Gangaw Railway Station proclaims, "Tatmadawmen making concerted efforts to help open up underdeveloped areas: ...The railroad is being built by personnel and experts of Myanma Railways and Tatmadawmen for development of the Myittha Valley of Pontaung-Ponya region and Kabaw Valley." However, according to people who have worked on this project, most of the work has utilised the forced labour of local villagers.

Construction on this railway line began in March 1990. Between Kalay and Gangaw, the line crosses mostly flat farmland, and paddy fields in its path were destroyed without compensation. Most of the forced labour in that section has been done by Chin villagers. In Kalaymyo township, there are two bulldozers owned by the government. The people were sometimes allowed to use them for this work, but only if they provided the diesel fuel. The stretch between Kalay and Gangaw is now nearing completion, with some major bridges still required to link the various sections.

The first 22-mile segment from Kalaymyo to Nat Chaung was officially inaugurated on the 23rd of April, 1995, and only two small locomotives with single-carriages were made operational. The opening ceremony at Kalaymyo railway station cost an estimated 4,300,000 Kyat, including approximately 30,000 Kyat just for the meal honouring SLORC Railway Minister U Win Sein. (KHRG report #96-06, "The Situation in North Western Burma," January 1996)

In July 1995, some sections of the railway line had already been damaged by rain and the Kalaymyo - Nat Chaung service was interrupted. SLORC again ordered people from each household to prepare more gravel and repair these segments.

Between Gangaw and Pakkoku the work is still continuing on the section which traverses the Pongtaung mountain range (Pontaung Pongnya). The Burmese military is now calling villagers in the area to dig a 7-mile tunnel through the mountain. Work on this section of the line is difficult and dangerous with labourers being forced to hang suspended by ropes, as they penetrate and excavate the rock face.

One Chin student, Salai Lian Cung, who was 20 years old and lived in Kalaymyo, finally decided to flee to India in 1995 as his life in Burma had become untenable. He stated that his reasons for leaving his home were that he could no longer take the incessant demands for forced labour on this project, and his concerns for the safety of his female relatives who had to work on the railroad. He was particularly concerned that the women forced to work on the project would be sexually harassed and raped.

"I had to work on the railway six times [the Kalay - Gangaw section]. The first time was in October 1993. My parents are of old age and couldn’t do this work. I have seven brothers and sisters but they are too young and not fit for this. I had to go sometimes for two weeks, sometimes three weeks. Each time, I had to miss school.

"My quarter is part of Kalaymyo town. SLORC gave an order to the town council to collect workers, stipulating a quota of people from each quarter. About 160 people from our quarter had to go at a time, divided into six groups.

"In January 1995, a woman with a baby was working on the railroad and her baby was crying. She asked a soldier if she could go and feed her baby but the soldier didn’t allow her. But she went to her baby anyway to feed him. Then the soldier hit her. All the workers saw the scene. One of them was a relative of that woman. He was so angry that he went to hit the soldier with a pitchfork and that soldier died on the spot. Another soldier also saw the incident and shot the villager dead.

"When I heard about that incident, I was worried about my cousin’s sister. She was also working on the railway with her baby but at a different place than me. During rest time I asked a soldier if I could go there but he wouldn’t allow it. When I had to start work again, I couldn’t do it and I just stood there. That soldier ordered me to work but as I didn’t do it, he beat me. Then I left the work.

"By March, the construction was over. But afterwards, they were still calling villagers to pour water on the tracks to harden the ground and to guard the railway, when an important person comes." (KHRG report #96-06, "The Situation in North Western Burma," January 30th, 1996, Interview #2)

However, south of Gangaw, the railway line is still being built with the forced labour of the villagers. In July 1997, Moe Kyaw, a 49 year-old Chin Buddhist, fled to Mizoram along with seven other men from Saw township in northern Magwe Division. He gave the following account of the railway construction on that section:

"From October 1995 until today, all of us have to work on the Pakkoku-Gangaw railway construction, because we cannot afford to pay the 3,000 Kyats demanded by the SLORC to avoid it.

"The assignment for one person is one 'Kyin' [10 x 10 x 1 feet] of gravel. We had to break the stones and bring them to the site over a distance of 4 furlongs [approximately 800 yards]. We also had to cut trees. Some trees, such as teak and "pyingado" [ironwood], were sent to the sawmill and some villagers were forced to work at the sawmill to cut the timber which was then sold to a contractor by the army. They also sell the stones. Battalion #251 and LIB #259 are involved, especially Sergeant Major Tan Win from #251.

"Upon arrival, the soldiers allowed us only one day to build a shelter. At night, nobody could go out from their shelter. At night time, the soldiers chose one of us to guard the others. If someone flees, he is then responsible and has to spend 3 or 4 hours in wooden stocks, stand up and sit down many times or do push-ups as punishment. Sometimes we were forced to do emergency work during the night.

"From time to time the SLORC provided some food but it was very little. They claimed they would provide enough but we hardly got anything at all. Altogether I had to work there for 7 months and I always had to bring my own food. Whenever we needed to buy more food, we also had to walk to Khin Aye village, 12 miles away, and we were forced to carry food for the soldiers too. We had to scoop our drinking water from a stream which dries up every summer and was not clean.

"Workers die every day from dysentery and malaria. In all, between 800 and 900 people have already died on this railway. If someone dies, his group has to bury his body at the worksite. A person who dies from malaria or dysentery gets no compensation, but 10,000 Kyats is paid to the family of those who died in a work accident.

"There is a ‘Railway Clinic’. They divided the patients into A, B and C groups. The A patients get some medicine and can take a rest. The B patients do not get any medicine and are forced to go back to work, because they are accused of lying. The C patients get medicine but are forced to go back to work. A patients are usually beautiful women and those with some education. Most of the patients are declared B, but no one can complain. And those who are declared B patients also get punishment, such as push-ups. Whenever they don’t like your face, they order you to do push-ups. C patients are very rare. The soldiers are even calling healthy and beautiful girls from the worksite to become A patients. These girls ends up to spending day and night in their office, doing some writing work.

"One girl from my village, Mih Aye, a 10th Standard student, died from malaria. First they called her up to the clinic for treatment but she refused [she was probably afraid she would be raped]. When her fever became serious, they said: 'We called you at first but you didn’t come!' And she died without receiving any medicine.

"Because of the railway construction, a lot of our paddy fields were destroyed and we got no compensation from the government." (CHRO interview, July 1997)

Moe Kyaw then expressed his fears and stated the reasons why he and his fellow villagers had no choice but to flee from this railway worksite:

"SLORC is now ordering us to construct the railway between Thilin and Pongtaung Pongnya and to dig a 7-mile long and 70-foot wide tunnel through the mountain range. When we left, they were collecting workers in our village. If we work there, we will have no more food to eat. Above all, we are too afraid to do this work. It is a very dangerous site. The workers have to carve out the rock face while they are tied to a rope. The rope is attached to a tree and tied around the waist of the worker while he is hitting the rock, hanging. Some workers are really afraid to hang like this but the soldiers told them: ‘Don’t worry! Go and work! If you die, your family will get 10,000 Kyats. You will get a lot of benefits. You are poor and have nothing. How could your family ever get such an amount of money? We are only concerned about completing the railroad, not about your life!’ We felt so bad about this. Because of this railway, our farms are destroyed, we have to bring our own food, and we are sinking into debt! This railroad is killing us! A lot of people died before they reached the hour of their death [prematurely]! And it gives us no benefit at all!

"They never care for our lives. They don’t treat us as human beings. We dare not complain to them. All the villagers in this area are wondering what their ancestors did, for them to deserve all this!" (CHRO interview, July 1997)


The Chindwin River flows along almost the entire western side of Sagaing Division, while the Irrawaddy River runs down through the south-eastern part of the division. The SLORC has been developing irrigation projects to boost rice and crop production particularly in the southern region. Several dams and irrigation canals have been built over the past four years, all with forced labour. However, according to local people, most of these projects have failed, due to engineering miscalculations and lack of technical expertise.

Thazi Dam

In 1994, SLORC started a large irrigation development project approximately 10 miles north-east of Monywa, extending from Thei Gyi Gon village to Thazi village, implemented primarily with forced labour. To make way for the dam site, ancient pagodas in the area were destroyed. Thereafter, the project included the building of the dam wall, the digging of a network of irrigation canals, and the repair of the Monywa-Thazi road. The project was supervised by Captain Soe Win, commander of the #20 Artillery battalion based in Monywa. The opening ceremony took place in October 1995. After completion, villagers were still called to plant trees, clear weeds on the canal network and build a new pagoda near the dam wall.

In the twelve months preceding the opening ceremony, it is estimated that between 3,000 to 5,000 villagers were forced to contribute their labour on the project. At least one person per family had to work there for several consecutive days from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and in some cases up to 11 p.m. If a family member could not come to work, he or she had to pay 100 Kyats per day to the army.

Although no relocation took place for this project, a number of ancient pagodas were standing in the dam area, and 23 of them had to be demolished. Villagers were forced to provide labour to pull them down as well as to build one new pagoda at the dam site. It is widely reported that the battalion took this opportunity to steal precious sacramental objects including relics and gems enshrined in the pagodas when they were constructed. Villagers were greatly upset not only by the desecration of their ancestral sites, but also by their fears that their involvement will negatively affect their karma. (ABSDF-WB, May 1997 and FTUB, October 1997)

Myo Myint, a Burman from Kan Phya village, Monywa township, explained:

"There was a group of more than 20 pagodas near the Thazi dam. They were built hundreds of years ago by the ancient villagers of Thazi. Thazi used to be a rich village in the old times. According to the villagers, they took the ‘htabanah’ [treasures and relics enshrined in the pagoda]. Artillery Battalion #20 ordered the villagers to pull them down with some tools. My sister worked there. Two villagers had to guard the pagodas at night. When they reached the ‘htabanah’, nobody could touch or see it. They put the jewels into one pagoda and prevented the villagers from coming near. Then the soldiers took them away.

"We, villagers, we feel so sad about all this. They shouldn’t destroy these ancient pagodas. We are all Buddhists. Even the government [is Buddhist]. Our religion has been insulted." (Interview, May 1997)

Zaw Htun, a Burman from Bu Bin village near the dam, also knew about the destruction of the pagodas: "At the beginning of the dam project, they destroyed the pagodas, took the treasures and then the army carried these jewels away by helicopter."

He and his brother worked in turns on the dam site and he described the working conditions:

"The people were working there for 4 or 5 months, in the winter of 1995. My brother and I went there in turns. Soldiers were guarding us. They scolded the people and even beat them. On the worksite, the soldiers were always drunk. They always tried to fool around with the girls. The people were so angry with the soldiers but they couldn’t do anything.

"The workers had to bring along their tools and their food. They received no salary. Those who owned a car or a scooter were also requested to provide them for the construction work. They were guarded by soldiers during the work, and some villagers were beaten. There were also several work accidents on the construction site, but no compensation was paid." (Interview, May 1997)

Myo Myint also described how his family members were ordered to go and work everyday on the irrigation canals. "Four members of my family had to participate, one in each group for each day. It took more than three months to complete. We had to make a new branch canal, 7 feet deep and 13 feet wide. There were three villages involved, each with 75 people. Each village had to complete a length of 30 feet. This was for the irrigation of paddy fields. But these fields are not ours. They belong to other villages. There is no benefit at all for our village."

It has been reported that seven people died in work accidents, including two women, during the construction.

When Myo Myint was asked why he thought the SLORC had ordered the building of the irrigation canals, he replied, "Because our region is dry and there is not enough rain. They couldn’t collect enough produce from the villagers. I think they want us to produce more crops for their rations."

However, soon after the inauguration of the Thazi dam, engineering flaws became apparent. The water flow could not be controlled properly, and the Thazi villagers, who are living at the foot of the dam and are growing cotton, beans and corn, got even less water than previously to irrigate their fields. Moreover, the dam was built solely with mud, ground and stones, and a leak was observed in the dam wall. (FTUB, July 1997) The Thazi villagers now live in fear that the dam could burst at any time. Following the massive floods of the 1997 rainy season and unconfirmed reports that many dams in the country burst, there are grave fears for the safety of these villagers.

Kyauk Ka Dam

After the Thazi canal was finished, villagers from Aya Daw and Monywa townships had to work on another dam project at Kyauk Ka village, located about 12 miles from Monywa. The Kyauk Ka dam, also called Htan Ta Lop dam, is smaller than the Thazi dam. Construction was started at the end of 1995 and was supervised by the same battalion that oversaw the Thazi dam construction, Artillery Battalion #20. One monastery and a pagoda were destroyed for the construction, and 40 houses were forcibly relocated without compensation. Safety precautions on the project have been lax: two adults as well as one child drowned during the construction. (FTUB, October 1997) As of late 1997, the dam has not yet been completed, and the use of forced labour continues.

Tant Sae Dam

Likewise, many villagers had to work on the Tant Sae dam in 1995 and 1996 and claimed that they received no benefit from the project. The Tant Sae dam is located in Sa Lin Gyi township, Monywa district, but people from as far as Shwebo were called to contribute their labour. Aung Moe, a Burman from Shwebo explained that, "In our area, everyone had to go and work near Tant Sae, including the widows. They had to work for 5 days, sometimes 7 days. They had to bring their own food. This project had no benefit for us, since Tant Sae is not even in Shwebo area." (Interview, May 1997)

Phalan Kyin Dam

When dams are built, villagers lose their land and are not compensated by the government. This is the case at the dam being built on the Phalan Kyin river in Taung Talone village tract, 15 miles from Monywa. Zaw Htun, from a nearby village, explained:

"When they build this dam, the eastern part of Phalan Kyin village will be flooded and the villagers will have to move. Many paddy fields of Phalan Kyin will be lost, as well as some forest with many ironwood trees. When I was in my village, I heard that the forest and some paddy fields between Phalan Kyin and Taung Talone had already been seized by the government." (Interview, May 1997)

Zee Chaung Hydro-Project

The SLORC ordered the construction of the Zee Chaung hydro-electric power project near Kalay to provide electricity to the Kalay region. This medium-sized project, built at an estimated cost of 70 million Kyat, started in 1990 and was completed in 1996. Villagers, including Chins and Burmans, and about 500 prisoners were used for labour in the construction. Villagers had to contribute large sums of money as well as labour. However, when the hydro power plant began operation in 1996, the villagers had no access to the electricity. Electrification was reserved for the many army camps based in Kalay and selected townspeople who could afford to pay 100,000 Kyats for an electricity meter box. Most ordinary people can only afford to use one light bulb, at approximately 200 Kyats per month. At the time of writing, a reported 50 prisoners were still being used for maintenance of the dam. (CHRO & NLD-LA, October 1995; KHRG report #96-06, "The Situation in North Western Burma," January 30th, 1996; FTUB, October 1997)


In the last few years, new battalions have moved into Sagaing Division as part of the military's expansion strategy, resulting in land confiscation and forced labour for the construction of these camps and other military infrastructure. Porters are also regularly recruited in this area and are forced to carry goods and supplies for the army.

Construction of Army Bases

In 1995, Artillery Battalion #20 set up its base near Kyauk Satt Khone village, about seven miles north-east of Monywa. Approximately 500 acres of farmland were confiscated by the SLORC without any compensation made to the villagers. A new 13-mile road was built to link the headquarters of the North-western Command to the Artillery Battalion #20 camp. Farmers also lost their land along the roadsides to accommodate the new road, and the villagers were forced to build this road without pay. Currently, villagers of the area are regularly called to work at the army camp.

Naing Win, a 32-year old Burman with 4 children from Monywa township, explained:

"Two years ago, I had to go for 'loke-ah-pay' ['volunteer labour'], clearing the bushes and repairing the road for an artillery company under the North-western Command. We had to carry the stones to repair the car road, and just before the visit of the North-western Commander, we had to paint the roadside with lime. One person in each family had to work there one day a week. When I went to work for them, I lost my daily income." (Interview, May 1997)

Forced Labour and Land Confiscation for Military Profit

As in other places in Burma, large tracts of villagers’ land have been confiscated by the military, with the villagers then having to do forced labour on this land for military profit. Formerly only one battalion was based in Kalaymyo, #89. In the last few years, however, many more have set up bases near the town: #87, #228, #362, #363, #365, as well as Training Battalion #10 and Military Intelligence Battalion #17. All these battalions have confiscated the local residents' land, then forced them to work in the camp.

According to Pu Van Bik, a Chin evangelist living near Kalaymyo,

"Since 1995, we have had to plough the land that they confiscated from the villagers. They occupied about 2,000 acres to use for their own profit. Four acres of my own land was taken by them. They said they would give compensation but they never did. We also have to contribute our cows to plough the paddy fields. We must do all the farm work by rotation, including the harvest. One person from each family works three times a week till noon. Even though you lose your land, you are not exempt from labour!

"The soldiers also forced us to dig fish ponds. They just took the area they liked. We had to dig the ground. After we finished, we were not even allowed to go near the fish ponds." He added that the fish were only for the soldiers' consumption, not for the villagers. (Interview, May 1997)

The army also uses villagers to transport teak, which they sell for profit. In the first week of March 1997, the people of Min Tha village were recruited for forced labour duty. Men, women, children and the aged were used to move teak from the jungle for the Light Infantry Battalion #228. Several villagers were badly beaten by the soldiers at the work site. One villager was beaten so badly that his leg was broken, but the army denied him medical attention. His relatives brought him to the Tamu Government Hospital, but they refused to admit him. He then travelled a long distance to Kalaymyo and received medical treatment there. The man is afraid to bring charges against the perpetrators as he fears retribution. The villager holds Captain Tun Swe of Battalion #228 responsible for the beating. (FTUB, Press Release, March 1997, in Project Maje's "A Chin Compendium", September 1997)


The Tatmadaw forcibly recruits porters from villages. These porters must often journey for long distances, carrying heavy loads. They are rarely compensated, receive little food and water, and no medical assistance should they fall ill. During planting or harvesting time, villagers risk losing part of their harvest if they are taken for portering, as they are often unable to complete their work in time. Few villagers can afford this. In the Naga hills, where access roads are few, villagers are repeatedly ordered to carry supplies for the military.

On the 1st of February 1997, the chairman of the Laeshi Township LORC, U Mya Han, and the commander of the #222 mobile column, Major Aung Swe Oo, demanded civilian porters from six Naga villages in the area to carry rations for 1,000 soldiers. A total of more than 560 people were collected to transport the rations between Somra and Laeshi, normally a two-day journey on foot. The villagers were told they would not be paid and that they must bring all their own food with them. Major Aung Swe Oo threatened the villagers that if they failed to produce the number of people demanded for the labour, they would have to provide the rations for 1,000 soldiers themselves. The quota was met, though many of the villagers consequently were unable to work their fields during this time. (ABSDF-WB, "Indo-Burma Border News," 24th February 1997, in Project Maje's "A Chin Compendium", September 1997)


 Throughout the Naga hills, the villagers are forced to perform labour for the army on road construction. There are currently four main road construction sites: Laeshi-Pha Pod-Somra, Laeshi-Tamanthi, Laeshi-Lahai, and Sin Thee-Khamti (see map). The military is also building a network of mule paths, approximately six feet wide, primarily to facilitate their penetration into the Naga hills. (Interview, May 1997)

 Construction on the Laeshi-Tamanthi car road started during the BSPP time, but it was never completed and the present regime continues to work on it. Over the years, many Naga villagers have had to do forced labour on this road. Since 1994, prisoners have also been put to work on this construction project. Many prisoners have died, mostly from malnutrition and bad treatment. Although the central government did allocate some funds for the construction of this road, the money did not go to the workers, and the road was not finished on time.

 Thupow, an elderly Naga man told how in 1995, the township LORC officials brought one old car by boat up to Tamanthi and then had it carried to Laeshi, the terminus of the road project.

 "Then they took the car apart [at Tamanthi] and all the villagers from the surrounding villages had to carry its components to Laeshi on foot. In Laeshi, they assembled the car again, put it in front of their Township LORC office, took a picture of the car, and sent it to the Central Authorities saying: ‘Now, the Laeshi-Tamanthi road is finished.’ This photo appeared in the newspapers. The money actually received from the Central government for the Laeshi-Tamanthi road project had already been used up through corruption. They had to lie to show that they had completed the road." (Interview, May 1997)

Currently, forced labour of villagers and convicts is being used on the road from Homelin to Tamanthi. In January 1997, the army ordered the villagers to build the new road from Laeshi to Pha Pod, on the way to Somra. There is an army camp near Pha Pod and the troops reportedly ordered the villagers to complete this road within 2 months. (Interview, May 1997)

In the rest of Sagaing Division, roads are also built, maintained and repaired with forced labour, or at best underpaid labour. In order to provide better access to the border and to expand trade between India and Burma, the road between Kalewa and Tamu will be upgraded. This project has been financed by the Indian government. Currently villagers are being recruited in Kalay and Kalewa townships, and told that they will be paid a daily wage of 40 Kyats. (FTUB, October 1997)


In 1995 and 1996, a Buddhist nunnery was built in Kalaymyo, with the forced labour of the villagers and town dwellers from Kalaymyo township. The location of the monastery was chosen just beside Battalion #228 military base. The Ministry of Home and Religious Affairs allocated 7,000,000 Kyats for the construction. (NLD-LA, October 1997)

Pu Van Bik also explained how people in his village had to work on the construction of this nunnery,

"Our whole village worked there every day for one month. Then they forced another village to work on it. It took about one year to complete the construction. Moreover, they came and took rice from the villagers to feed the army officials and the honourable guests at the inauguration ceremony. They demanded three Pyi [24 milk tins] of rice and 30 Kyats from each household. No villagers were invited to the inauguration, only the army officers, their guests and monks." (Interview, May 1997)


Constant demands for money, bribes and food as well as compulsory procurement of rice paddy and other commodities by the army have considerably impoverished rural communities. Combined with forced labour, extortion has hastened economic deterioration and breakdown of the whole social fabric of the village, compelling people to leave their homes in search of means of survival in neighbouring countries.


Farmers throughout Burma are forced to sell a certain amount of their rice and other crops to the army at a price far below the market rate. In 1996, farmers from Kalaymyo township complained that they had to sell 13 tins of rice harvested per acre at half the market price. In Monywa township, villagers who grow beans also had to sell two and a half baskets per acre of yellow beans to the artillery battalion and North-western Command. They only got 600 Kyats per basket, while the market price was 1,500 Kyats. For 1996/1997, the quota per acre was 12 tins of rice, and 2 tins of wheat and beans. (FTUB, October 1997)

Burmese army troops patrolling Naga areas force villagers to provide all their food requirements. When they want pork, they force villagers to hand over their pigs and only pay one tenth of the market price. Village headmen must often pay the difference to the owners of the animals. (Interview with Thupow, May 1997)


Extortion by the army is a regular occurrence, creating onerous burdens for communities. In the hills, cattle are an expensive and important commodity and the army often steals traders’ cattle to eat, sell, or to ransom back to the villagers. Mang Kham, a Chin businessman told of one incident in 1995 when some cattle traders were arrested by the army near Nat Chaung in the Kalay valley:

"They were bringing 40 cows and the army took half of their cattle. One of them was so afraid when he saw the army. He tried to hide behind a cow by holding its tail. Unfortunately, he couldn’t see because it was night time and he fell down from the side of the road and was killed. Two weeks later his dead body was found. Such incidents are occurring all the time." (Interview, May 1997)

Moreover, whenever the soldiers want something that the villagers have, they simply come and steal it. For instance, Zaw Htun explained how in 1996 during the Water Festival at Monywa soldiers "came with trucks to our village and took five truckloads of firewood for their army camp. They took from other villages too and I think they were going to celebrate a party in their camp." (Interview, May 1997)

According to Thupow, a 42 year old Naga, the soldiers "always take the small livestock from the villagers without paying any money. They say: ‘We come here for your security. So you, villagers, you should feed us!’ " (Interview, May 1997)


In Tamu Township, along the Kabaw valley, there have also been reports that some Kuki villagers have been forced to take their bullock carts to help army officers smuggle teak logs across to and from India. In one such incident, on the 24th of January 1995, Lt. Col. Win Kyi of Infantry Battalion #50 forced 28 villagers driving bullock carts from Nam Monta, Htan Ta Bin, and Man Maw villages, to cross the border into India to retrieve teak logs. Indian security forces caught and arrested the entire group which was detained at Moreh in Manipur. (KHRG report #96-06, "The Situation in North Western Burma," January 30th, 1996)


The Nagas as well as the Kukis and the Chins are mainly Christian, and there are reports of widespread and systematic religious persecution along the north-western border. This type of oppression has become more consistent and widespread since December 1995.

Incidents in the Lahai district of the Naga hills include restrictions on attending church services, the destruction of churches and religious symbols, and orders that Christian pastors must obtain permission before they can perform religious duties. As in Chin State, the SLORC is said to have provided benefits to those who convert to Buddhism, including free food and exemption from forced labour for converts.

Pu Van Bik, a Chin evangelist in his 30s from Kalaymyo township, explained the growing restrictions.

"My village has 300 houses and we are all Chins and all Christians. Being an evangelist, I want to do my religious work. Now I cannot conduct home crusades, camps and counselling as they don’t allow me to preach. They didn’t send a written order but they said: 'If you do it, you will be shot.' Since 1996, they announced it more strictly. The soldiers gave the order through the Village LORC. Usually, every church gets a permit from the Village LORC and recognition by the church is enough. But since the Village LORC members don’t dare disobey their orders, they don’t give the permit. They didn’t allow me to preach but I used to do it secretly." (Interview, May 1997)

In the Naga Hills, the military has tried to force Christians to become Buddhists. Thupow, a 42 year old Christian Naga from Laeshi township reported:

"In December 1995, the army interfered in the religious affairs of our Naga hills. There are very few Buddhists, the people are mostly Christians. They forced the people to convert to Buddhism. One army Captain made the villagers sign a document that they had become Buddhists. We refused and they told all the Christian pastors not to preach among the villagers. They threatened them with a gun not to preach. They stopped the service in the church and destroyed the church. This was a big crisis in the Naga hills, so we reported that case to the Ministry of Religious Affairs. But they didn’t take any action on that.

"In 1996, they sent some Buddhist monks to the Naga hills. We believe that these Buddhist monks were fake monks, because they never ate food in their monastery. They used to come and eat the food in the villagers’ houses [traditionally monks should take their meals at the monastery]. The villagers who were interested in Buddhism got privileges. They were never called as porters and SLORC said these villagers will receive 700 Kyats per month. Some Naga children became friendly with the Buddhist monks, and they told that they saw a pistol under one of their pillows. So the people think that they didn’t come to the Naga hills for religious purposes. They ordered the Christian pastors not to preach without their permission. We reported these circumstances to the Ministry and asked them whether they had issued an order or not. If they didn’t issue any order, we wanted them to take action against these monks. But we got no response." (Interview, May 1997)


In Sagaing Division, as in the rest of Burma, the military is actively expanding the number of people who are linked to the government, either as soldiers, members of militia, or members of the Union and Solidarity Development Association (USDA), a mass organisation under the patronage of the military. Both force and the promise of employment and other incentives are used to bring people into their organisations.

According to Thupow, a Naga man from Laeshi township, in 1996 and 1997 the SLORC has been increasing USDA membership by offering incentives. "Especially the school teachers are made responsible for organising that in their school. So when the young Naga people ask about that organisation, they explain: ‘If you are a USDA member, you have more chance than others to get a government job.’" (Interview, May 1997)

He also talked about forced conscription in the Naga Hills:

"Every year, the SLORC comes and recruits soldiers from every village, the number according to the population of the village. Every village is given a quota, five, ten, etc. We divided the quotas amongst our villagers through a draw system. We don’t want to send our young boys and no one wants to go. If there is no man in our village to go, we pay someone to substitute for them.

"In 1996, the tactical operations commander came into our village and demanded recruits. When we asked him why he was conscripting soldiers from the Naga hills, he answered: ‘It is for the self-determination of the people of the Naga hills.’

"Knowing that the recruits are fed rice with stones in it, and are beaten often, we asked the commander: ‘Why do you treat our young people so badly?’ He replied: ‘But this is military training. The training master has to treat them like that.’ So we refused to give them our young men. Then we demanded our rights [to adequate development], to reconstruct the car road, a school, a hospital in our area. But he said: ‘You people don’t want to give me what I am asking for, so I will not give anything to you. I am going to put burnt charcoal in your hands!’ That is why we don’t even want to discuss working with the SLORC!" (Interview, May 1997)

An example of a recruitment order obtained from the Naga hills:

Stamp Date: 23-10-95

 No. 3 Company

xxx village

Subject: To send new recruits immediately

 Regarding the above subject, we have been repeatedly instructed by the Strategic Command that your village must send new recruits according the quota set by Township LORC. You, Village LORC’s, must co-ordinate quickly, get the new recruits by any means and send them immediately.

Therefore, any village which cannot provide new recruits must hire them and send them. The recruits to be hired must be Naga nationals. This order must be carried out and co-ordinated among the Village LORC’s in order to send them by November 10 to Laeshi camp. I inform you that if you fail, it will be your responsibility.


No 3 Company

In the Naga Hills, many young men have fled to India to escape having to join the army. If the village cannot meet its quota, soldiers come into villages and take any boys they can find.

Encouraging young boys to attend the Ye Nyunt schools is another way that the military enlists people into the army. Ye Nyunt centres are basically military-sponsored boarding schools set up to channel children and adolescents into the military. Many of the children are orphans. In Sagaing Division, there are two Ye Nyunt schools, one in Khamti and one in Kalaymyo. Each year the students who fail their exams in the Ye Nyunt school have to join the Tatmadaw.

Phin, an 18 year-old Naga Christian youth from Laeshi township explained how he entered the Ye Nyunt school in Khamti in 1991. "In our village, we only have one primary school. So, after finishing primary school, most people from our area choose to go to that school. I chose it myself because I wanted to learn Burmese."

During the week the students attend classes and work around the battalion camp. On Saturday mornings, the students have to attend military training. "The training was from 5 a.m. to 12 noon. It was a basic training consisting of physical drill [no use of weapons]. If someone was late, they punished him by kicking him in the back."

When asked why he left the school after two years, when he had passed only the 6th standard, he explained that, "The older students were usually forced to enter the army rather than being allowed to continue studying. Some other students who had passed 8th Standard at the Ye Nyunt school told the army officer that they wanted to be medical doctors. The officer said: ‘We will send you somewhere to study medicine.’ Then, when the students arrived there, they were just given weapons." (Interview, May 1997)

Many people in the hills do not realise that the Ye Nyunt schools are primarily centres for the selection of new army recruits. One Naga man explained how the people in his village were deceived:

"They came and called the young boys aged 12 or 13 from the Naga hills. My nephew too. Now he is in Lahai army battalion. All parents want to give education to their children. They lie and call the children only for the army. They give training to them and after that, they send them to different places like Homelin, Laeshi, Lahai. The Ye Nyunt school is in Kalaymyo. Now we came to know the real situation. We stopped sending the young boys to the Ye Nyunt school because they are sent to the army instead of to their studies." (Interview with Thupow, May 1997)


The Kabaw Valley is a long strip of fertile lowland squeezed between two mountain ranges along the Indo-Burma border. In the more remote parts of the valley, the military regime is carrying out the Kabaw Region Development Program ("Kabaw Deitha Phont Phyo Hmu See Man Geing" in Burmese) as part of what is commonly known as the "Border Areas Development Program" (BADP).

Prior to 1988, SLORC’s predecessors, the BSPP, regarded border areas as peripheral zones. However, since 1988, in a switch from the previous policy of ‘socialist’ economic autarky to open-market economy, the SLORC has been looking at the border areas in an integrated and centralised way.

According to Martin Smith:

"In what appeared to be a major departure from the policy of the Burma Socialist Programme Party (BSPP), the BADP was announced in May 1989, following the SLORC’s first cease-fires with the ethnic breakaway armies. Subsequently, a new Ministry for the Development of Border Areas and the National Races was also established. Minority leaders, however, point out that the make-up of the BADP’s board is distinctly military. The seven-man central committee, under the SLORC Chairman, includes the heads of the army, navy, air-force and military intelligence, none of whom are trained economists or have any experience in aid and development matters. Both the BADP and the Ministry for the Development of Border Areas and the National Races are run entirely by SLORC officers, nearly all of whom are ethnic Burmans and, in the top ranks, military men.... In its first two years of operation the BADP claimed to have spent over 228 million Kyats (US$38 million) on projects as various as road-building, health-care, schools, and extending state television into the border areas. For the years 1992-96, a further 727 million Kyats (US$121 million) was projected." (Martin Smith, Ethnic Groups in Burma: Development, Democracy and Human Rights, London, UK: Anti-Slavery International, 1994, p. 100 - 101.)

In August 1993, SLORC promulgated the Development of Border Areas and National Races Law, and in January 1994, the ministry was reorganised as the Ministry for Progress of Border Areas and National Races and Development Affairs. Under the master plan that was developed, the Kabaw Valley was one of the project areas, along with 13 others that started in 1993.

The Kabaw Region Development Programme, also referred to as the "New Kabaw Valley Project" and "Kabaw New Life Project", is supervised by the army office of the North-western Regional Command, based in Thein Kyi Ton, Kalay Township. The stated aim of this project is to enhance and develop the Kabaw region, seen to have major long term economic potential, as it offers an unique trade route with India. The project, much publicised in the state-controlled media and press, promoted the resettlement of landless families from Central Burma to enable them to grow rice. Other activities undertaken for this program as of 31 December 1995 in Kabaw Valley included 93 miles of roads, 55 bridges, seven schools, three rural health centre, one hospital, one agricultural office, three farms, 11 dams, and one telecommunications installation. Observers and many local villagers, however, believe that the three real motives of the military in implementing the project are: political propaganda, to secure and maintain control over the border area, and to counter armed groups based in the area. (The Kuki National Army and the NSCN (K) are still active in some areas of the Division.)

Since 1990, the SLORC had already initiated activities in the area. Initially, groups of prisoners from Mandalay Prison were sent in turn for five to six months to clear the land for resettlement and paddy fields, as well as to build roads. The first labour camp established for the inmates was called Wet Su. The government also at this time began developing new areas for resettlement. Some long-term prisoners were even offered opportunities to settle with their families in the Kabaw Valley. On June 17th 1993, Lt. Gen. Myo Nyunt, at a coordinating meeting on paddy cultivation, as reported in the New Light of Myanmar, stated that squatter populations from Yangon and elsewhere who did not want to move to new urban relocation sites ran the risk of being moved to Kabaw Valley in Sagaing Division among other places.

At the commencement of the project the authorities lured landless farmers from the central plains to settle the sites with promises of land, and other incentives. The resettlement sites were located near three existing Kuki villages, Sati, Tone Kyaw, and Naung Kum. The resettlement areas near these villages, all named after military heroes of Burman history, are called Aung Zeya, Bandoola and Saya San, respectively. Initially a number of farmers agreed to the deal. Since 1991, prior to the arrival of the settlers, the local Kuki villagers were forced to clear the land for the newcomers and build a monastery, a school and a clinic. Because of this, the Kuki villagers, mostly Christian, have harboured enmity for the settlers from the initiation of the projects. They see the programme as part of the military's strategy of Burmanisation.

The newcomers chosen by the government were from Shwebo, Monywa, and other parts of Central Burma and were almost all Burman Buddhists, except for those from Zayawaddy, who were largely Hindu. Each family was promised five hectares of land, two cows, one bullock cart, some farming implements, housing materials, and in some cases as much as 10,000 Kyats. The first group of resettlers arrived on the 30th of June 1992 in Aung Zeya, a site prepared for 200 families. In May 1993, approximately 100 families were shifted to Bandoola, while another hundred households were moved to Saya San in March 1994. None of these families have ever received what they were promised, and they were only allocated one and a half acres of land per family. In some cases, bullock carts and cows which had been confiscated by the army from the surrounding Kuki villages were distributed. When the settlers arrived, they had to stay in temporary shelters until they could build their houses. No food was supplied, so they had to find their own ways to survive until their first harvest. Some of them are not used to growing paddy. No health care has been provided, though malaria is endemic in the region.

Due to the hardships of life there, within a short time, those families who could afford it returned to the places from which they had come. In 1997, five years after the resettlement programme was initiated, it was reported that populations in the resettlement camps had declined dramatically. At last count, in Aung Zeya resettlement site only 120 out of 200 households remained; in Bandoola, 60 households out of 100 were left; while Saya San contained approximately 80 households out of about 100. (Interviews ABSDF-WB, May 1997 and FTUB, October 1997; ABSL, 1 May 1997, in "A Chin Compendium", Project Maje, September 1997; Images Asia and KHRG, December 1997)


Many prisoners, including those convicted of engaging in political activities, are sentenced to hard labour for terms of their imprisonment. Hard labour camps exist throughout Burma, and the conditions prevailing in them are reported to be so bad that few people survive long-term incarceration. Hard labour camps have been set up in the Kabaw Valley, close to existing towns such as Yarzagyo, Wet Su, Myo Thit and Kanan; some accounts also mention camps named Aung Zeya, Yan Gyi Aung, and Sakhan Gyi. As camps move frequently and new camps are established regularly, prisoner populations and camp locations in the Kabaw Valley change over time. However, it is estimated that at the time of writing, the hard labour camps in Kabaw Valley have a minimum combined population of 1,000 or more prisoners. As in the hard labour camps in Chin State, convicts are suffering from malnutrition, malaria and exhaustion, and many have died under intolerable conditions. (ABSL, 1 May 1997, in "A Chin Compendium", Project Maje, September 1997)

These hard labour prison camps have been set up to provide labour for the Kabaw Region Development Program. These camps are under the control of the Prisons Department and the North-western Regional Command. The prisoners sleep in huts, and the compounds are surrounded by three layers of barbed wire fencing. Approximately 250 to 300 prisoners are housed in each camp to serve the project. According to escaped convicts, up to five prisoners die of malnutrition and disease per week in each camp. During the wet season the number of dead sometimes reaches twenty. They estimate that half of the prisoners have died or escaped over the past four years.

There is a constant influx of convict labour for the project, provided from Insein, Thayawaddy, Myingyan, Mandalay and Monywa jails. Most prisoners believe that being sent to labour on the project is a death sentence, and have nicknamed the project the "Death Messenger", "Road to Hell" and "Death Road." If a prisoner wishes to avoid being sent to Kabaw Valley he must usually pay a bribe of up to 30,000 Kyats. (Images Asia interviews, November 1997)

An eighteen year-old escapee from the Sakhan Gyi prison camp, Maung Maung Oo of Tavoy township, worked on the project for almost two years. He reported that although the camp had a tractor, it was used primarily for the camp officials' transportation. Most of the hard labour was carried out by the prisoners themselves, who were forced to cut trees, clear scrub, dig, and plough the site by dragging six-foot iron rolls weighing 500 to 750 kilograms. The prisoners were often shackled while working. They worked from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. with a one hour break at lunch, when they were fed a meal of rice, watery pea soup and fish paste. (ABSL, 1 May 1997, in "A Chin Compendium", Project Maje, September 1997)

In March 1997, it was reported that a 12-year old prisoner died from a beating received from the guards in Yarzagyo labour camp. Under the country's Child Law and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Burma is a signatory, children of this age are not to be incarcerated with adult prisoners. The boy was being interrogated over accusations that he and other prisoners had stolen produce from the camp farm. Prisoners claimed that in fact corrupt officials were responsible for large quantities of missing stores, but that prisoners were regularly scape-goated, and incidents of torture occurred commonly. According to one estimate 3,500 to 4,500 prisoners died between 1990 and 1996, during which time approximately 6,000 acres of land were cleared. (ABSL, 1 May 1997, in "A Chin Compendium", Project Maje, September 1997)



"The explosion of the drug trade ... is the inevitable consequence of the decades-long Burmese tragedy: the inability of successive governments in Rangoon to come to terms with the country's ethnic minorities, and the refusal of the post-1962 military-dominated regimes to permit an open pluralistic society."

(Bertil Lintner, Burma In Revolt, Boulder, USA: Westview Press, 1994, p. 331.)

Burma is the world's biggest heroin-producer, and heroin is frequently described as the country's most valuable export. Since SLORC seized power in 1988, the production of opium, from which heroin is refined, has risen to over 2,030 metric tons annually, amounting to 60% of the world supply. (United States General Accounting Office/National Security and Internal Affairs Division, Drug Control: US Heroin Program Encounters Many Obstacles in Southeast Asia {GAO/NSIA-96-83}, March 1996, p. 3.) Heroin from Burma accounts for 57% and 76% respectively of the supply to North American and Australian markets. While previously most of the heroin reaching Europe originated in the "Golden Crescent" (Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Turkey), reportedly over the past two years, a growing portion of the European heroin market is also being furnished by Burmese heroin, trafficked out of north-western Burma.

Most of Burma's opium for conversion into heroin is grown in Shan State, in the infamous "Golden Triangle" region. Despite the military junta’s claims that it is actively combatting drug production and distribution, many areas of Shan State saw massive increases in poppy cultivation after they came under the control of the military regime. (Francois Casanier, "A Narco-Dictatorship in Progress", in Burma Debate, March/April 1996.) Production in north-western Burma is also burgeoning, and new refineries are appearing. Improvements in drug enforcement in neighbouring Thailand and China since the early 1990s have served to open up new routes for both raw opium and heroin, from Shan State into the plains around Mandalay, through Chin State and Sagaing Division into northern India and on to world markets.

 Throughout northern Burma, high-level government and military authorities have increasingly profited from the narcotics trade by taking bribes for not sending troops into areas where refineries are located, and for allowing vehicles carrying narcotics to pass through checkpoints without being searched. Large amounts of narcotics are carried through official border crossings in Burma’s North-west such as Tamu-Moreh, as well as across paths over the mountains that form much of the border.

 In north-western Burma, there are three new drug-related trends, all of which involve the participation of higher authorities. First, opium production is increasing in the Chin and Naga Hills. Second, heroin refineries have been established in the region. Third, heroin trafficking from the Shan States through north-west Burma and into India is increasing dramatically.


Previously, small numbers of villagers based in the Tiddim area of Chin State and in Sagaing Division produced relatively insignificant amounts of opium. In the past, there was no considerable trade in the substance in the area. As some farmers, under pressure from military extortion, forced labour, and relocations, find it harder and harder to survive by growing ordinary crops such as rice and vegetables, the temptation to grow opium has increased.

Currently, in confined areas there are two major types of growers in the North-west: small local growers, who must pay hefty bribes to the local authorities to continue their operations, and growers who tend more extended fields, often commandeered and controlled by the authorities for profit. Authorities responsible for small-scale eradication programs in Chin State are generally corrupt and willfully ineffective. They are in most cases aware of the numbers and locations of the poppy fields in their areas, but take bribes in return for not destroying fields or crops.

In Chin State, most of the opium poppy fields are found in Tiddim township. There are only a few optimum cultivation areas in Tonzang and Than Tlang townships. In the South, in areas such as Paletwa township, the climate is not conducive to growing opium. Opium cultivation also takes place in the Naga Hills of Sagaing Division.

One former policeman from Tiddim, whose duty was to monitor the local eradication program in Tiddim and Falam townships, stated that approximately 15 acres of land were planted with opium poppies in almost every village. Each grower paid an annual flat rate of 10,000 Kyat to the State Drug Control authorities and 5,000 Kyat to the local police, regardless of the number of acres they cultivated. During cultivation, the State Drug Control officials came to the fields to photograph the weeding process, providing illusory documentation that crops had been destroyed. (Interview, May 1997) Each acre of land yields about 3 viss (1 viss = 1.7 kilograms) of opium paste. This paste is worth 20,000 Kyats per viss in the local villages, and the value increases to 30,000 Kyats per viss when sold in Kalay township. (DVB, July 1997)


In the past, very little of the opium actually grown in the north-western region was refined into heroin. Much of it was transported to north-eastern India as opium. However, since heroin factories have begun to appear in Chin State and Sagaing Division since the early 1990s, locally produced opium, as well as opium from Shan State, are now refined in the area. Moreover, heroin refineries are being operated in areas where Burmese army battalions are stationed, sometimes even allegedly inside battalion bases.

According to the Geopolitical Drug Dispatch: "... heroin laboratories and drug-export routes have now shifted to the South-west [from Kachin State and the Chinese border]. Major drug-production units are now operating along the Chindwin River near the Indian border, under direct protection by the Burmese army, far from zones controlled by the rebels and from the notorious Golden Triangle... (In 1992) rather than heading up to the Chinese border, trucks loaded with raw opium and heroin began heading down the central plain to the South around Mandalay. Shortly afterward, other sources in India reported that the north-east regions of Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram were flooded with heroin." (The Geopolitical Drug Dispatch, Edition No. 14, December 1992, p.1.)

As reported by Geopolitical Drug Dispatch, in early 1992, a string of six new refineries were identified along the Chindwin river, close to the Indian border: north of Singkaling Hkamti near Tamanthi (where the Burmese army’s 52nd Regiment is headquartered); Homalin (222nd Regiment Headquarters); Moreh; Kaleymyo (89th, 228th, and 235th Regiment headquarters); Tiddim (89th Regiment headquarters); and, Paletwa (on the western edge of Chin and Arakan States). For the first time, refineries were established in traditionally 'white', or insurgent-free areas, close to major Burmese army installations. (The Geopolitical Drug Dispatch, Edition No. 14, December 1992, p. 1 - 3.)

Most of the opium and heroin trafficked over these routes from Shan State enters Kalay and Tahan, a sub-district of Kalaymyo where there is also a heroin refinery. Observers report that in Kalaymyo township, Sagaing Division, the SLORC has established heroin refineries inside its main military camp. According to local people, heroin produced from this refinery is then sent on to north-eastern India. During transit from Shan State, the heroin is stored in the villages near Tahan, including Let Pan Chaung, In Gyin Khone, Pyi Thaw Tha, Thaya Gone and Nyaung Gone, before being trafficked to India.

After processing, the heroin is packaged, usually in 1 kilogram quantities. The heroin packaged in Kalaymyo is called the "Tahan packet", whereas heroin from Shan state, usually coming via Lashio, is referred to as the "Lashio packet." Depending on which refinery produces the drug, the powder is usually labeled with a brand name. The most common are Tiger Head, 555, Two Lions, and Double UO Globe. The market value of the "Lashio packet" is approximately 500,000 Rupees while the "Tahan packet" is only worth around 200,000 Rupees. The heroin refined in Shan state known as "Number 4" is white in colour, and is sometimes also referred to as "China White". The heroin produced in Tahan is a yellow colour, and of an inferior quality. It is usually only smoked, not injected.


There are persistent reports from throughout Chin state and Sagaing division of authorities’ collusion in both production and transportation of opium and heroin. The precursor chemicals, such as acetic anhydride, which are necessary for processing the raw opium into heroin are brought from India and pass through Sagaing Division to Mandalay, then on to the north-eastern part of Shan state. In return, opium and heroin are transported down from Shan state to the India border, then into neighbouring countries and on to the world market.

The major outflows in the North-west into India are from Sagaing to Tamu to Manipur, and Kalay/Tiddim to Mizoram. From the main unit producing heroin at Kalaymyo, under the control of a businessman who works with well known drug-traffickers from North-west Burma as well as the army, there are three major routes: to the North toward Khampat and Tamu-Moreh and from there to Imphal; to the west toward Rikhawdar/Champhai and from there to Aizawl; and to the South-west toward Lunglei, continuing North to Aizawl. Other routes out of the North-east include: from Singkaling Hkamti to Pangsha, and from there toward Tonzang, and Mokokchung; from Tamanthi and Homalin to Somra and from there northwards to Jessami/Kohima; and, from Paletwa to Alikadam in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh, to Cox’s Bazaar and Chittagong. (The Geopolitical Drug Dispatch, Edition No. 14, December 1992, p. 3) Some heroin is also trafficked over the Arakan state border into Bangladesh, then trafficked again to India. (See map for major routes)

Within north-western Burma, heroin is often transported by police officers, soldiers and prison guards when they are ordered to escort the prisoners from work sites back to towns. Former policemen report that the Tiddim Police Department is heavily involved in the trafficking of heroin, which officers use to supplement their low wages (averaging approximately 800 Kyat per month). According to a local source, a SLORC military officer himself transported fifty 700-gram ‘Double UO Globe’ brand heroin packages by car to a creek near the Tamu border on 10 August, 1997. A one-pound package of this heroin fetches approximately 300,000 rupees and a one-kilo package fetches approximately 700,000 Rupees in Aizawl, the capital of Mizoram, India. (DVB interview, 25 August, 1997)

According to U Htway, a trader from Mandalay, contacts of his in Mandalay work with the military to transport drug shipments to India. He explained that heroin is brought from Shan State down to Mandalay. From there, large amounts of heroin are stashed in army convoys, which travel to the border, avoiding inspection at the many checkpoints along the way. The traffickers pay the army a fee for carrying the shipment and pick up the heroin at the border towns such as Tamu, from which it is surreptitiously brought into India, both in trucks and by individuals. Small traffickers hire other traders to carry packets of heroin or carry it themselves, hidden among other goods.

Most of the heroin trafficked to India passes through Tamu to Moreh and into Manipur. There are also numerous smuggling routes across the Manipur river, and the Tiau river further south, which flows southwards near Tiddim. Five of the bridges -- Nam Sam, Leh Zan, Mann Swong, Bual Kin, and Chi Chang -- serve as links for major outflows of opium and heroin. Lesser quantities of heroin also flow through Noklak, a town on the Nagaland and Sagaing Division border and through Champhai into Mizoram, as well as through the many paths and mule-tracks that cross the long border. (Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking in North-eastern India, p.99)

Drugs coming from Burma into Manipur are mostly sent to Patna, one of the major drug distribution centres in India, and on to three other distribution points: Kathmandu, Delhi and Bombay. From there, they are further trafficked on to the international market, now overwhelmingly reliant on Burmese heroin. The effects of this trade are not only felt in Asia, but all over the world.


The consequences for India, Burma, and the international community are extreme. In Burma the addiction rate has increased dramatically over recent years. The World Health Organisation believes there are over 500,000 heroin addicts in Burma, more than 1% of the population, and double this number of users of the drug. NGOs working in the region believe the real numbers to be two to three times these. The dire economic situation in Burma is contributing to the rise of an opium-based economy in these areas, reliant not only on opium cultivation but on trade in narcotics.

Addiction to heroin in the northeast Indian states of Nagaland and Manipur has skyrocketed. According to Bertil Lintner, Manipur "... had 600 drug addicts in 1988. Two years later there were at least 15, 000 -- and the state also turned up more than 900 AIDS carriers, identified as heroin addicts who used common needles to inject the drug. Manipur, a state of only 1.2 million people, by 1992 had the highest incidence of drug-related AIDS infections in India." (Bertil Lintner, Burma in Revolt, p. 325)

The UN reports that sentinel surveillance testing in Burma has shown 60-70% of addicts to be HIV-positive (Annual Report, United Nations International Narcotics Control Board, 1997). At present, public STD (Sexually Transmitted Diseases) services are available in only 25 towns and cities. HIV is spread primarily by needle-sharing, in a country where syringes are in short supply even in government-run hospitals. Other factors relating to the spread of HIV include lack of public awareness about the virus, and a weak public health infrastructure. Community-based organisations are greatly restricted in their operations, and ethnic- or Burmese-language materials about HIV/AIDS are scant. The areas with the highest rates of HIV infection are in Shan State, Kachin State, Chin State, and Sagaing Division, which have heavy cross-border traffic in both migrants and heroin.


Despite the gravity of the problems for local and international communities, little action has been taken by law enforcement agencies to stem the flow of heroin. Given the reports of higher authorities' collusion in drug trafficking, it is not surprising that only small dealers are ever picked up.

A border trader from Central Burma interviewed in India, Myo Min, described the situation.

"I myself saw the high ranking military personnel buying and carrying opium and heroin. Most of these persons are from the army. They never transport less than two or three packets at one time. I have never seen one of these opium dealers arrested by soldiers. In the Shan State region, we have only seen those who are very poor and have little opium seized by soldiers. We have seen army officials both transporting and trading large amounts, but we have never seen them seized by anyone.... I have never seen anyone who uses opium get arrested. Never! You can say that the army closes their eyes (to the sale and use of opium and heroin) as if pretending they are blind. If they really wanted to catch those using or trafficking opium, it is very easy. Everybody knows the places where drugs are sold, where opium is used and heroin smoked.... In Burma, people using or buying opium are never arrested because the people from the army themselves are buying and carrying the drugs, so it is difficult to arrest the dealers. I don’t mean just soldiers, army officials and state personnel are involved. Army officers and soldiers willingly participate in the drug trade." (Images Asia, Interview, May 1997)

In the north-western region, local drug dealers are infrequently arrested. After authorities in Mizoram State, India seized several small packets of heroin (reported in local newspapers), the border was temporarily closed on the Mizoram side. Likewise, arrests at the Burmese border town of Tamu are uncommon, even though Tamu is a major trans-shipment point. In a rare case, on the 27th of September, 1997, U Soe Win from the Anti-Drug Control unit led a search for narcotics at the house of Myat Kyaw and Ai Mya in Tamu. During the search, agents seized 24 kg of heroin, which was allegedly about to be smuggled to India with the help of a Burmese Military Intelligence officer, named U Myo Win. Two people were arrested. U Myo Win was present in the house at the time, but the investigating Anti-Drug Control unit requested that he leave the house when they arrived. The raid occurred just days before a "satya-graha" was staged on the other side of the border by local groups protesting the narcotics trafficking into their area.

On the 2nd of October 1997, community organisations in Moreh, Manipur State, announced the beginning of a week-long "satya-graha" or campaign of civil disobedience. According to one of the organisers, the campaign was launched "against the menace of drugs and AIDS." The original aim of the campaign was for protesters to form a "human wall" along the border to stop heroin traffickers from entering. On the 4th of October the participants protested from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. shouting slogans denouncing the Burmese military regime for its involvement in illicit trafficking of narcotics. In this case, it was the SLORC which responded to the allegations by sealing the border.


There is a direct correlation between the expansion of military control in north-western Burma and the increase in the production and trafficking of drugs in the region. As local people find it more and more difficult to make ends meet because of extortion, forced labor, and other problems, they have become more willing to plant poppies. The payment of bribes to local authorities, happy to supplement their meagre incomes, ensures that can be poppies grown and heroin produced even in areas close to army bases. Drugs are transported by, or with the collusion of, army and intelligence personnel. Moreover, the military’s involvement in the heroin trade is being enhanced and facilitated by the expansion of roads in the north-east and the growing number of army vehicles circulating through the region that can carry narcotics without being checked. With no concerted attempts as yet to stem the flow of narcotics through north-western Burma, the twin plagues of increased addiction and rapidly spreading HIV/AIDS continue to devastate the region.

(Note: Unless otherwise noted, information in this chapter is supplied by the DVB, Delhi, collected over 1997.)


"I could not manage to feed my family in Burma. The economic situation was so bad. I had to go for forced labour, clearing and repairing the road for an artillery company. When I went to work for them, I lost my daily income, and if I didn't go, I had to hire someone and pay all the same. Without a daily wage, I cannot provide for my family. I was earning only 70 Kyats per day. I had to borrow money and sell some of my belongings. Ultimately, I had to come and work here to pay back my debts."

(Naing Win, a 32 year old Burman father of 4, from Monywa township, Sagaing Division, day labourer in Burma, now handloom weaver in Mizoram)

"I came to Mizoram in April 1997. We were suffering too much harassment from the soldiers. In my husband's absence, they forced me to be porter for them. Every time they beat me. The load was too heavy for a woman to walk fast enough to keep up."

(Ngun Te, a 21 year old Chin mother from Falam township, Chin State, farmer in Burma, now market hawker in Mizoram)

"I left my village in July 1996 because of the oppression of the SLORC troops. They recruit soldiers and they collect porters in our village. But I was most afraid of the soldiers pointing their guns at the people."

(Phin, an 18 year old Naga student from the Naga Hills in Sagaing Division, now living in Manipur)

The militarisation of Chin State and Sagaing Division has created untenable burdens for the people of the region. Families and communities are increasingly separated as the villagers are taken for forced labour on infrastructure projects and in army camps, and forcibly conscripted as soldiers and porters. Despite claims by the ruling military regime that the large infrastructure projects implemented, including roads and dams, will profit the people of the region, the pervasive use of forced labour during their construction has resulted in more hardship than benefit for local populations.

The economic uncertainties the villagers face from the loss of their productive time are exacerbated by the army's extortion of arbitrary taxes, exemption fees, and compulsory crop procurements. Widespread unemployment and increases in the prices of basic commodities further complicate their survival. The unique cultural identities of the Chin and Naga peoples are under growing threat because of the military regime's practise of religious persecution and its Burmanisation programs. The deteriorating economic situation and desperate conditions have led to a steady exodus of Chins, Nagas, and Burmans to neighbouring areas across the border in India, fleeing human rights abuses and searching for a means to survive.

Those who find jobs are among the lucky few who can save money to send home, to support their families during the days of forced labour and portering. While in the past, the refugees and migrants from north-western Burma were mostly teenagers and young men, now many of those who secure jobs bring their entire families to India. According to a young Chin mother who is now a market hawker in Mizoram, "Our village [in Falam township] used to have 28 houses but now only five houses remain. All the youth fled to this side [India] because we could not work in our fields due to portering and heavy forced labour." The very fabric of the society is being destroyed.

Villagers from both Chin State and Sagaing Division have fled to Mizoram and Manipur states of India. Many have previously contracted debts while doing forced labour in Burma or hiring someone to replace them. Especially for those coming from areas further inside Burma, the journey to the border is an expensive and dangerous one, involving not only travelling costs, but also numerous bribes and extortion payments demanded at the many checkpoints en route. Along the border in particular, harassment of migrants by police and army looking for "easy money" is commonplace.

According to Chin sources, over 40,000 Chins have made their way to Mizoram since 1990. Several villages in the vicinity of the Indian border have been depleted of residents. It is estimated that there are between 1,500 and 2,000 Naga refugees in Nagaland, who fled in 1994 after SLORC burnt down their villages. In addition, there are approximately 2,000 Burmans in the north-eastern Indian states, who have fled human rights abuses in Sagaing Division.

India is not a signatory to the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees, nor to the 1967 protocol, and it does not recognise the many migrants from Burma as refugees. No refugee camps exist in India at this time, and no assistance is available for those who enter from Burma, so villagers fleeing to India must look for jobs to support themselves and their families back in their villages. Some try to survive by practising slash and burn farming in the remote border areas, while others move into towns to look for wage labour. Many migrants find manual work in handloom factories, or on road construction and building sites. Others work in restaurants or as market hawkers, selling small items on consignment. Some young women end up working in the local brothels. In mid-1997, the Indian border states were still able to absorb these labourers into the work-force, but this may become a problem in the future.

Those who have migrated from Burma to India look forward to the time when they can return again to their homes and villages. Many migrants voiced the conviction that this time will not come until democracy also returns to Burma.

"I came to Mizoram because I was afraid of forced labour. I don't want to stay in Burma. Our economic conditions cannot improve. The people cannot revoke the government. We want democracy. We don't want the SLORC, we don't want the army. If there were democracy, we needn't be afraid of the army.... We won't need to sell our paddy to the army if there is democracy in Burma.... Now in our country, if we can produce more (crops), the government will seize more. We, the people, can't say anything to the army."

Salai Chan Kio, 22, Chin, Christian, farmer, from Falam township, Chin State (Interview, May 1997)



To the State Peace and Development Council:

1. Ensure that military personnel under the SPDC command do not commit human rights abuses such as rape, extra-judicial execution, torture and harassment of civilians, and that they treat people in accordance with international human rights standards, as set out in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and other human rights instruments.

2. Stop the recruitment and use of forced labour, including forced portering

3. Halt the practice of extorting forcible and arbitrary taxes in lieu of services, including exemption from portering

4. Stop forcibly confiscating land, food and other items

5. Treat all citizens equally, regardless of ethnicity

6. Respect ILO Conventions 29 on Forced Labour and 87 on Freedom of Association, which Burma has ratified.

7. Desist from recruiting children into the Tatmadaw, in accordance with Burma’s obligations as a Party to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

8. Disarm and demobilize those troops currently serving who are below the age of 18, and refrain from conscripting additional underage recruits

9. Disseminate in appropriate languages the texts of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and other human rights instruments to which Burma is Party, including the 1949 Geneva Conventions on the Laws of War, to the people of Burma, including the military

10.  Cease all involvement in the drug trade, including both official complicity in failing to prosecute growers and traffickers, and the direct participation by military personnel and officials in trafficking; and prosecute violators including military personnel to the full extent of the law

11. Recognise the effects of drug addiction for local populations, and work to eradicate opium cultivation and drug trafficking in north-western Burma

12. Guarantee that the people of Burma have the right to fully and freely participate in a national HIV/AIDS control program, with access to information in appropriate ethnic languages

13. Permit local communities to work with international NGOs on addressing problems stemming from drug use and HIV infection, as well as on community development

14. Allow genuine people's participation in realising the social and development projects they would like to see for their communities

15, Permit and encourage the formation of independent national NGOs to work on community-based development programs

16. Cease the military expansion in Chin State and enter into political negotiations with the CNF and other armed groups in the Chin State and Sagaing Division.

17. Enter into a genuine tri-partite dialogue with the country's democratic opposition and ethnic leaders so that the people of Burma can enjoy the peace and stability they have been seeking for decades.

To the Indian Government and other countries receiving refugees:

18. Ratify the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol and adhere to their principles.

19. Recognise those fleeing persecution and human rights abuses in Chin State and Sagaing Division as refugees in accordance with the Convention, and afford them adequate protection and assistance, with the full participation of the UNHCR.

20. Respect the customary international law prohibition of refoulement, including rejection at the frontier, and ensure that any return is entirely voluntary.

21. Recognise that the widespread human rights abuses documented in this report and elsewhere demonstrate that it is not safe for the refugees to return until a genuine political settlement with the ethnic groups has been reached and consolidated, not only in Chin State and Sagaing Division, but throughout Burma.

To international governments, United Nations organisations, and non-governmental organisations:

22. Monitor the security of refugees along the India-Burma and Bangladesh-Burma borders and maintain pressure on the SPDC to adhere to international human rights standards

23. Encourage the SPDC to accede to and honour the appropriate UN human rights instruments including the International Covenents on Civil and Political Rights and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Convention Against Torture

24. Encourage the SPDC to initiate a tri-partite dialogue with the country's opposition and ethnic leaders

25. Encourage the SPDC to treat all citizens equally regardless of ethnicity or religion.

26. NGOs and UN organisations working in the north-western region should monitor human rights abuses against local populations.

27. NGOs should initiate or engage in social and development programs only after consulting with local communities and ethnic groups as to the conditions, terms and the outcomes they would like to see met.




ABSDF: All Burma Student's Democratic Front

ABSDF-WB: All Burma Student's Democratic Front - Western Border

ABSL: All Burma Students' League

ASEAN: Association of Southeast Asian Nations

BADP: Border Areas Development Programme

BSPPB: Burma Socialist Programme Party

CHRO: Chin Human Rights Oraganisation

CNC: Chin National Council

CNF: Chin National Front

DVB: Democratic Voice of Burma

FTUB:   Federation of Trade Unions of Burma

GSP:  Generalised Systems of Preferences

IA:  Images Asia

IB:  Infantry Battalion

ILO:  International Labour Organisation

KHRG:  Karen Human Rights Group

KNA: Kuki National Army

KSDF: Kuki Student's Democratic Front

Kyat: Burmese Currency: 1 US$ = approximately 280 Kyat

Kyin: Burmese mesurement: 1 Kyin = 10 x 10 x 1 feet

Lai: A sub-group of the Chin ethnic group

LIB: Light Infantry Battalion

LID: Light Infantry Division

LORC: Law and Order Restoration Council

MIS: Military Intelligence Service

NLD: National League for Democracy

NLD-LA: National League for Democracy-Liberated Area

NSCN-K: National Socialist Council of Nagaland - Khaplang (Burma)

NSCN-IM: National Socialist Council of Nagaland - Isaac/Muivah (India)

NGO: Non-Government Organisation

OSI: Open Society Institute

Pyi: Burmese measurement of dry weight: 1 Pyi = 24 milk tins

SLORC: State Law and Order Restoration Council

SPDC: State Peace and Development Council

Tatmadaw: The Burmese armed forces

TLORC: Township Law and Order Restoration Council

UN: United Nations

USDA: Union Solidarity and Development Association

VLORC: Village Law and Order Restoration Council