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Report on forced resettlement in Bu
Subject: Report on forced resettlement in Burma
URBAN FORCED RELOCATIONS
July 5, 1990
Report from inside Burma produced by BURMA ISSUES
(Interviews in Satellite Villages)
I recently arrived in the Shwe Pyi Tha new town, which is a new
satellite villages in the outskirts of Rangoon. Previously, the
area was all paddy fields for rice production. The land was owned
by the farmers themselves. When the military took over state
power, the junta confiscated the paddy fields without paying any
compensation to the farmers. Thus, the farmers now are landless,
have no place to grow the rice for their survival. Even though the
farmer's lands were confiscated, the farmers each had to pay 1500
kyats to the junta to build a new home in the new town.
Ironically, they built their new homes on land they once owned, but
lost to the military government. So, the farmers, not being able
to farm any longer, have to search for work every day in order to
Shwe Pyi Tha is divided by the Rangoon-Prome railway into the east
area and the west area. In the east area, there are many large
comfortable houses, and the area is well decorated in order to
serve the high ranking army officers and civil servants. The
people call the east area the "VIP ward".
In the west area, there are many huts made of bamboo with thatched
roofs. The two areas are very contrasting although near together.
There are 9 wards in Shwe Pyi Tha, not counting the VIP ward. In
the VIP ward, construction of the spacious houses has been going on
for two years now.
The poor people were forced to shift to Shwe Pyi Tha from their old
houses because the military junta told them that their old area was
needed to build roads, new buildings (offices and living quarters
for the armed forces officers), or to build the new market etc,.
Even though the poor people's houses were destroyed by the junta,
the people received no compensation, and still had to pay at least
3000 kyats to 5000 kyats to get a small piece of land in the new
town. These poor people have to work very hard every day to get
even a small amount of money only for food. Now, they must begin
their lives all over again. For example, the people build a small
bamboo hut only 10 feet square which costs at least 1000 kyats.
Since they can earn enough each day only for mere survival, they
must borrow the money with a high interest rate from the rich
people. If the people can not borrow the money, they have to move
to another place called Aye Mya Tha Ya which is on the Rangoon-
Prome highway road, more than 150 miles from Rangoon. Even the
people in Shwe Pyi Tha new town can not go to Rangoon area for
their jobs because the transportation rate is very expensive.
Their average daily income is only around 15 kyats. The round trip
to Rangoon area costs 10 kyats. This expensive transportation rate
is due to an increase in the price of petrol from 3.50 kyats to 15
kyats for a one gallon. Now, in Burma, all commodity prices are
very high because of the expense of transportation.
One boy who is in the 4th standard in school, said that previously
his family lived in Sin Min ward in Alon township. Now, the junta
built the new Thi Ri Min Ga La market in their old place. One day
the township SLORC (State Law and Order Restoration Council)
officials ordered the people to move from their old place to one of
the new towns. The SLORC told the people to give the money for the
new place and the people got one week to prepare to move to the new
town. On the last day given for preparations, two army trucks and
two fire trucks came to their old place to force the people out.
The people did not destroy their house because they did not want to
move from their old place. So, the army took the head of the house
(most are the fathers of the families) and detained them for one
week. Although, the people did not want to move from their old
place, they were forced to move to the new town.
In this boy's family, are his parents, his two elder brothers, one
younger sister and two younger brothers. The eldest brother is 20
years old(eighth standard in school). The second elder brother is
18 years old (seventh standard), he is 14 years old (fourth
standard), his younger sister is 13 years old (third standard), and
his two younger brothers are both 7 years old (first standard).
Before the eviction, they were all in school. When they moved to
the new town, their family had almost no money for survival. Thus,
his two elder brothers had to leave school and find hard work to
support their family. Each of the two brother's daily income is
around 15 kyats. His father sells dry fish and salted fish. The
young boy also works to support his family by repairing gas
cigarette lighters in his spare time. His mother sells some small
commodities in their house. Even though the whole family works so
hard for their survival, their living standard is very low. Their
daily family expenses are at least 64 kyats.
Most of the family in the new town are starving. The people are
suffering from the high inflation rate.
The schools in the new town are a very sad situation. Some schools
are still being built. The teachers especially face a very
difficult time in traveling to and from the schools. SLORC issues
coupon tickets to use for their transportation. The teachers, as
well as the government workers, can use the coupons for travelling
during office hours. The teachers transportation costs are at least
4 kyats for the round trip to the new town. Their salary is 650
kyats per month. But they pay 189 kyats only for travelling to the
school. Thus, the government staff are also suffering from high
The hospital is being still built in the new town. There is only
one clinic to care for the people. There are only a few of
medicines in the clinic and there is a serious lack of medicine for
accident cases. The doctor only comes infrequently to the clinic.
There are four kinds of buses for transportation to the new town.
Yet the people have difficulty getting rides as there are only a
few vehicles available. Most of the people most work in the Rangoon
area. So the people must spend a large portion of the money for
transportation to go to the Rangoon area. In the evening, during
the rush hour, the people pay at least 5 kyats for the bus from
Rangoon area to the new town area.
In the VIP ward, the main road divides the area into the high
ranking civil servants area and the armed forces staff area. Large
houses are being built in both sections of the VIP ward. Although
the high ranking officers build the houses which here, they sell
them at a very high price rather than live in them. These high
ranking officers get bricks and cement at the official rate which
is very low. At the same time, they use the state-owned cars for
the transportation to carry the building supplies. The army
officers even use the army trucks for transportation to build their
In the new town, we can clearly see the junta's tactics of
manipulating the people. The junta gives many special facilities to
the officers to oppress the people. Although the people understand
the junta's brutal tactics, they do not dare to speak out against
the junta during this period of rule under the military.
We arrived in Nyaung Pin village which is about 10 miles from Mague
city in Mague division. One old man said that he was arrested in
1989. According to our conversation with him, the military junta
loaned him money to grow his sesame seed crop. During this time,
all the farmers are poor and lack money to invest for farming
because they are also suffering from high inflation rates.
Although the farmers borrowed the money from the junta, the farmers
had to pay back the same value in sesame seeds plus interest to the
junta who exports the sesame seeds abroad. These exports help the
junta earn much needed foreign exchange to by the ammunition which
they use to oppress the people in Burma. The junta sets the sesame
seed price at 34 kilo for 220 kyats for the farmers. If the
farmers can not pay back the debt in sesame seeds, they must pay
money which is 240 kyats for 34 kilo plus penalty. For example, if
the farmer has one acre of land planted to sesame seeds, he is
forced to pay the quota of sesame seed which the junta needs. When
the farmer is seriously sick, faces a disaster or some other
destruction, he can not cultivate his field, so he can not pay back
the debts to the junta.
This farmer said that he, his two friends from his village and 26
other farmers from other villages in the area were arrested because
of their inability to pay back the debts to the junta. According
to Burmese traditional custom, the farmers are responsibility to
support their families for everything. Now, their families face
starvation. Thus, this farmer had to sell the cows (the essential
animals for the farmers in Burma), bullock carts and their house to
get the money needed to pay back the money so that the junta would
release the farmers from detention. Although the farmers have been
released from detention now, they are in a very difficult
After the junta took over state power, they forced the villagers to
make the fence around the villager's land. One blind man in the
village was very poor and could not make the fence. For that
reason, the army men kicked him out of the village. When the army
men came to the village, they also destroyed the Za Yart (small
house to rest for the travellers) without any reason.
In this village, the villagers are not satisfied with the military
junta's actions. They are very simple and do not understand
politics. But they know about the brutality the military daily
carries out to oppression the farmers in the village. Other
villagers in the middle area of Burma are also suffering from the
brutal oppression of the junta. But they do not dare to fight
against the junta.
After the military took over state power, the military junta
confiscated the rice fields owned by the resident farmers to use
for building the new town. They did not pay the farmers any
compensation. This area is about 25 miles from Min Hla city in Pegu
division. The junta named this new town Aye Mya Tha Yar (peaceful
and nice place). Even though the land of the farmers was
confiscated, the farmers were forced by the junta to build the
roads on their own land for the new town. If the farmers could not
work to built the new town as volunteers, they had to paid 15 kyats
for each day. If the very poor people could not pay the money to
get land in the other new town, they were forced to move to this
Aye Mya Tha Ya new town by the junta. The other new areas are
Hlaing Tha Ya (good smelling place), Shwe Pyi Tha (wealthy place)
and Dagon Myo Thit (the name of an ancient city). The junta
planned to move the poor people from the Rangoon area. But the poor
people were working in Rangoon area. The junta did this because
these people were actively involved in the country-wide
demonstrations in 1988. After the military took the state power,
the junta got the opportunity to take revenge against the poor
people by evicting them from their old homes.
After the poor were moved to the new town, they faced the jobless
problem. Now they face many difficulties for their survival. The
people in this new town have a very low standard of living. Now,
90% of the people are facing the jobless problem and starvation in
the new town. Their daily food is only rice soup. With food so
very difficult for the poor people to get, how can they even think
about education for their children?
One man said that there are six people in his family. Now, they
have no jobs for their survival. His mother is 70 years old. He
looks for any hard work day by day. When they have no money to buy
food for the family, they have to sell even their mosquito nets,
blankets and clothing. Sometimes they go without eating for some
meals because of their financial crisis. Even sometimes when
somebody in the family is sick, they go to the clinic and there is
no medicine or doctor there. Constantly the water floods under the
houses, so mosquitoes are numerous.
There are only tricycles for transportation for the people.
One young man (16 years old) said that he is a tricycle driver.
There are 7 people in his family. His father was a carpenter and
his mother was a hard laborer in a construction site. He attended
school until the 8th standard. When their family moved to the new
town, they became faced with no jobs and with starvation. So, his
elder brother joined the army to support his family. Now, his
parents are jobless in the new town. The SLORC sells 1.4 kilo of
rice to his family for a week. When there is a lack of rice, even
the SLORC can not sell the rice to the people.
Burma is a rice-cultivation country. Rice is the main export of
Burma. Yet, the people are starving. The rice exports is for only
the military expenses. Now, the junta is using about US$1,500,000
for each day in the civil war.
When the military took over state power, the junta confiscated the
rice fields in order to build the new town area called Hlaing Tha
Ya which is on the other side of the Hlaing river in Rangoon.
Even though the rice fields were confiscated, the farmers did not
get any compensation from the junta. The junta violated the 1963
law which was written to protect the farmers's rights (this law was
drawn up by the revolutionary government led by former Gen. Ne
Win). According to the law No.3/2, act No.1, the government con
confiscate land only if:
(a) the farmers took a loan from the government and can not repay
(b) the settlement of an inheritance can not be done peacefully;
(c) law and state order have been violated.
The life of the farmers is only planting and harvesting paddy for
survival. When they are landless, their survival becomes almost
impossible. Since the BSPP (Burma Socialist Program Party) ruling
period, the farmers have had to pay a very high tax in the form of
paddy. Because the military and the BSPP are virtually the same
thing, this high paddy tax simply goes to support the military. The
government corporation sets a very low price for the farmer's
paddy, and this makes the tax very high for the farmers.
If the farmers want to purchase back their own land to build a
house on after their rice fields were confiscated (without any
compensation), they have to pay 1500 kyats (about US$250) for a
plot 40 feet by 20 feet.
The people from many different areas were forced to move to this
new town. The junta gave many reasons to the people why they had
to move, such as they were living in an eviction area needed to
build a new road, market etc,. Although the people's old places
were confiscated by the junta, the people had to paid 1500 kyats to
get the new place in the new town. While the people were moving to
the new town, they ran into many troubles. For example, the Hlaing
river can be used only during the high tide when boats large enough
to carry trucks to the other side of river can float. So, the
people had to wait for long hours for high tide in order to move
their possessions. They had nothing to eat during this time.
There are more than 5000 people living in this new town.
Now, 50% of the houses still have no walls in the new town. Forty
per cent of the people are jobless and facing starvation. One
dweller said that in his old place, he could do any job and his
daily income was from 15 kyats to 20 kyats. Now, in the new town,
although he also looks for any kind of hard work, he can not get
the job for his survival. Currently, he is jobless and facing
starvation. There is only one clinic in which two nurses attend to
the health needs of the people with only a few medicines. The
hospital is still being built in the new town. Some serious
patients died because the transportation is very difficult to go to
the hospital on the Rangoon side. One medical doctor said that he
knew of a patient who died for lack of 5 kyats (US$.60).
There is only one high school and 50 very small schools for basic
education. One basic school teacher said that there are three
teachers for the 50 students in his school. One high school
student said that there are insufficient desks in his school.
There is no cemetery in the town. The people can not take the body
to the Rangoon side because of the difficult transportation. So,
the people made a cemetery in one rice field.
On the 27th of March 1990, one sergeant, his 10 privates (from
Regiment No. 70) and five policemen entered Than Kyo Village of
Kwan Gyan Gone township in Rangoon division. Their reason to come
to the village was to check the visitors and to look for one thief
who stole a cow from another village. At this time, the villagers
were rasing funds to build a basic education school by playing
betting games in the village. When the soldiers arrived in the
village, they saw many villagers in the village. For that reason,
the sergeant commanded his privates to shoot into the sky. After
that, one private sent a message to the sergeant that one villager,
Ko Win Kyi, was hit on the thigh by one of the bullets. It was
clear from this situation that the soldiers shot into the village
rather than up in the sky. Then the sergeant commanded the private
to bring the wounded villager to him. He asked the villager if the
wound was really a bullet wound or only something caused by a
sharpened object. Then the sergeant said that the wound was not so
serious, so not to worry. He said the soldiers would come again the
next day and take him to the hospital.
After that, the soldiers arrested 19 villagers, including three
women. The three women had been selling some snacks near the
betting games. The next day, one captain and the privates came to
the village to check the wounded villager. The captain said that
the wound was not so serious so it did not need attention. He then
asked the villagers if there was a clinic in the village. The
soldiers did not want to take the wounded villager to the hospital
because they did not want people in other areas to know about the
The captain then told the villagers that he wanted one villager to
treat the wounded man (in Burma, there is no doctor in most
villages, so some people attend a very short medical training
course and then provide treatment to the other villagers. The
people call these people "Sa Ya"). The Captain told the Sa Ya to
take responsibility for treating the wounded man. He said that if
the Sa Ya would treat the villager, the captain would do something
to help the detained villagers. The Sa Ya answered that he had no
experience for the treatment of bullet wounds and if he did
something wrong to the villager, what would happen to him? The
captain said that if anything went wrong, the Sa Ya could inform
The next day, the detained villagers were sent from Kyaik Taw
(about 4 miles from Than Goy village) to Kwan Gyan Gone. The
soldiers took the three detained women to Kwan Gyan Gone township
SLORC office and the three women were detained in different
detention rooms. Later, Lieutenant Hla Maw (from regiment no.70)
told one of the women that if she would sleep with him that night,
he would help clear her from charges. Although the woman refused,
the lieutenant raped her. On the same night, the other two women
were also raped by the soldiers. The women's names are Ma Pha Ma,
Ma Htay Lon and Ma Sann Aye.
The next day, the soldiers asked for bribe money amounting to about
1800 kyats (US$156) from the villagers to release the villagers
from detention. So the villagers gave the bribe money to Lieutenant
Hla Maw. But, on the following day, the soldiers gave back the
bribe money to the villagers. Although the three women were
released, the men are still being detained without charge. The
wounded villager still not receiving treatment from the military.
Lieutenant Ba Hein, one sergeant and five privates came to Ka Nyin
Gone village of Kwan Gyan Gone township in Rangoon division at 9:30
pm. (the villagers could not remember the exact date). The
soldiers entered U Tun Hlaing's house in the village and took U Tun
Hlaing out of village. After 15 minutes, the villagers heard three
shots and U Tun Hlaing suddenly disappeared from the village.
Although his family asked the authorities about U Tun Hlaing, they
never got an answer. Some time later, a fisherman found the body
of U Tun Hlaing, riddled with bullet wounds. It was floating in the
sea. Even the township authorities did not care about U Tun
Hlaing' death. After two weeks, Lieutenant Ba Hein was promoted to
the rank of captain and left the village. Now he is in Rangoon.
There are more than 1000 prisoners in Tha Yet jail in Pegu
division. During the summer of 1990 (now monsoon weather in
Burma), the prisoners with handcuffs and legcuffs, were forced to
pull heavy rollers in place of machines. Sometimes the prisoners
replaced buffalos to pull wagons which carry heavy logs. Most of
the residents in the area are eyewitnesses to these incidents.
During the BSPP ruling period, this prison has been used to treat
and rehabilitate drug addicts. Now, the junta changed the prison
into the jail to torture the political prisoners.
PO Box 1076, Silom Post Office
Bangkok 10504 Thailand
phone: 662 234 6674
Burma Issues (formerly Burma Rights Movement for Action,
B.U.R.M.A.) is a Bangkok-based non-governmental organization that
monitors events in Burma with a focus on human rights, ethnic
minorities and the ongoing civil war.