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Forced relocation in Burma

Subject: Forced relocation in Burma

Burma Issues

Forced Relocation in the Tenninsarin Division
December 21, 1991

     As part of the Slorc's present dry season offensive, from the
middle of September through November about 22,000 civilians from 17
villages in Thayetchaung Township of the Tennasserin Division
(Southeastern Burma) have been forced by the Burmese army into
concentration camps which are located on the Ye-Tavoy motor roads,
in order to cut food supplies, information, new recruits and
transportation from the rebels of the Karen National Union (KNU)
and the Democratic People's Army (DPA). The concentration camps are
located about 12 miles south of Tavoy.  The majority of the people
in the area are indigenous Karens and some Burmese of the "Tavoy
group" which speak a different dialect from ethnic Burmans.  In
many areas, all villages are totally deserted and no people can be
seen, only abandoned unharvested rice fields and empty houses.
     In November Slorc showed on the state TV that the army
occupied the headquarters of terrorists in the Tenninsarin Division
and burnt it down.  On 16 October 1991, Slorc's controlled state
newspaper "The Working People's Daily" (see copy of the newspaper
attached) stated that in the offensive from 1 to 4 October, twenty
one terrorist were killed, one captured alive and three others
surrendered (totally 25 people were captured). In fact, of those
killed and captured, 22 are civilians and only two people were
guerrillas from the DPA. (See enclosed list of people killed by the
Burmese military as guerrillas)  Also the "headquarters" which was
burnt down was in reality only innocent civilians' homes.  
     One captured civilian, Saw Thet Lar who is an ethnic Karen,
was shot dead on October 11 by Capt. Moe Thu in the detention cell
of Military Intelligent Regiment No. 19 in Tavoy. 
     The army's troops in the area are companies from Infantry
regiment No.101 led by Capt. Soe Tint, No. 25 led by Maj. Sein Win
and No. 104 Capt. Win Myint and Tun Than. All of
those regiments are under the command of Tactical Commander Col.
Tha Win, and the Chairman of the Township Lorc is Maj. San Lin.
     Saw Shwe Nyein, a 45-year-old farmer who was able to flee from
the concentration camp also gave this testimony. "I am a farmer,
and live in Ye Pya village in Thayetchaug township. On 29 August
1991, about 90 soldiers led by Lt. Zaw Nyunt came into the village
and stayed one night. They patrolled the area for five days near
our village. On 3 September 1991, about 10:00 pm, Lt. Zaw Nyunt
came back into our village and suddenly order the villagers  to
pack their belongings, but only as much as can be carried on the
shoulders.  Most of the villagers carried their clothes and some
preserved foods. Early the next morning, the soldiers shouted at us
to leave from the village and enter the concentration camp. We
walked for 10 hours without having any meals on the way to the
concentration camp. We had to leave our farms and cattle in the
village. We are facing starvation in the concentration camp
currently. I fled from the camp the end of October to the KNU's
area.  The camp is situated along a road and is surrounded by a
high fence.  Heavily armed military men guard the camp at all times
so the people can not leave."  
     Saw Shwe Nyein also explain that, even if the villagers are
released from the concentration camp, there will not be any rice in
the farms at the next rainy season (from middle of May to October)
as at the present, the rice plants are left totally unattended on
the farms and are rotting.  The people will have no new rice seeds
to plant.
     Since the Slorc relocated 17 villages, about 400 acres of rice
fields, about 500 cattle and 5,000 rubber plantations (one
plantation is equal to about 350 rubber trees) were abandoned. Most
of the cattle were killed for the meat of the soldiers in the area. 
When the army forced the villagers to relocate into the
concentration camps, the army only allowed the people to take what
they could carry on their shoulders to the concentration camps.
November is harvest time for the people in the mountains. Even
though the people are facing starvation in the concentration camps,
the army did not allow them to go back to their farms to harvest
the rice until the middle of November. After the death of some old
people and children from malnutrition, the army allowed some people
to go back to their farms for harvest but to be sure they would
return, their families have to remain in the concentration camps.
Though the farmers have a chance to carry back some small amount of
rice after harvesting, the farmers are forced to pay one-third of
the rice as a tax for the soldiers' rations. At the present time
the rice plants are heavy for harvest and so are falling to the
ground where they will quickly rot. Moreover, the army ordered the
people to burn the rice but the people refused to burn their rice
fields because of their spiritual beliefs.   
     One of the Karen villagers, Saw Tar Le Khwar an organizer of
the KNU, said that during October more than 30 people have died
already from malnutrition, malaria and cholera. Currently, about
six people are dying daily from malaria and malnutrition, and two
of them are old people and another four are children in the
concentration camps. No aid such as food, medicine, and clothes are
coming  from any United Nation agencies or Slorc. Even the tiny
huts in the concentration camp were built by the people themselves. 
About thirty women were raped by the troops but only two women
revealed their terrible experience during interview.
     Saw Tar Le Khwar explained also that by the end of November at
least 200 people in the area had been arrested by Military
Intelligence (MI) Regiment No.19 under the accusation of being in
contact with insurgents.  MI No. 19 also asked the ransom of at
least 5,000 Ks to 100,000 Ks to release the prisoners who are
innocent and only were accused by the MI who want to get bribe
money from the villagers.  Currently, about 140 people were
released after paying ransoms to  MI 19.  The other 60 people are
still detained in the detention cells of the MI 19 in Tavoy.
     Saw Tar Le Khwar also said that when the soldiers entered the
village they demanded that the villagers turn over all the guns
which the insurgents had hidden there.  The people said they had no
guns as they were not insurgents, only farmers.  However, the
soldiers demanded guns and arrested all the men from At At village
and threatened to make more arrests.  Finally the people collected
money and went out to buy guns from some source in order to get the
release of their fellow villagers.  The Working People's Daily of
16 October showed a photo of the guns captured from the
"insurgents".  In reality, almost all of the guns shown were those
bought by the villagers in order to secure the release of those
arrested. (See enclosed copy of the Working People's Daily for
photo of "captured" arms.)
     Ko Thein Aung, 24 years old, also testified about the
situation in the area. Ko Thein Aung said, "I have been for one
month in the concentration camp. I am married and I have two
children in Me Ke village of Thayetchaung township. My father was
killed by soldiers from Infantry Regiment No. 25 in 1969. My two
brothers and my mother were arrested and accused of being in
contact with insurgents. Our family has a small grocery shop in the
village, and sometimes the guerrillas from KNU and DPA buy some
groceries from this shop. Therefore my mother, Daw Sein Kyi who is
68 years old, was arrested on 2 April 1991, and my two elder
brother, Ko Soe Thein and Ko Aung Lin were also arrested on 19
April and 20 October 1991 by MI-No.19.  Later the MI asked 30,000
Ks as ransoms for each. Finally, we paid the ransom for the release
of my two brothers but my mother is still detained because she owns
the grocery shop. I heard from some released people that my old
mother is being badly tortured in the detention cell. After that,
the MI also suspected me because I also took part in the
demonstrations in 1988. Therefore the other people in the
concentration camp suggested that I flee from the concentration
camp. Finally I was convinced to flee from the concentration camp
on the first week of November. I do not know now what is happening
to my wife and two children in the concentration camp."

Burma Issues
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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.