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KHRG: New Refugee Camp on Thai/Burm
- Subject: KHRG: New Refugee Camp on Thai/Burm
- From: strider@xxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Sun, 10 Jul 1994 04:23:00
Subject: KHRG: New Refugee Camp on Thai/Burma Border
******************** Posted by BurmaNet ************************
"Appropriate Information Technologies--Practical Strategies"
KAREN HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP
REFUGEES AT KLAY MUH HTA
An Independent Report by the Karen Human Rights Group
June 24, 1994
Since the beginning of 1994, it has been no secret that Thai authorities
want to repatriate all Karen refugees as soon as possible as part
of their "constructive engagement" deal with SLORC. From Shan
State in the north to Ranong in the far south, the Thai government
and army have been actively involved in handing refugees of several
nationalities back to SLORC or intimidating them back across the
A few months ago, Thai officials visited the leaders
of all Karen refugee camps in Thailand and informed them that
they are not allowed to accept any new arrivals. Technically,
no new refugees are allowed to cross the border anywhere. However,
thousands of new refugees continue to arrive at the Thai border,
proving that the SLORC's gross human rights abuses inside Karen
areas of Burma have not abated in the slightest, and in many areas
are only getting worse. When they find that they are no longer
allowed across to the safety of Thailand, many sneak in illegally
and join the flood of economic refugees from Burmese towns heading
for Thai cities, where most end up as virtual slaves in sweatshops
or brothels, underpaid labour on construction sites or prisoners
in Thai immigration prisons.
To help alleviate this problem, a new refugee camp has been set up
at Klay Muh Hta, in territory controlled by the Karen National Union
on the Burma side of the border.
The camp has existed less than 3 months and already over
5,000 people have flooded into it, most coming from the Hlaing
Bwe area of Pa'an District. These are not economic refugees,
but villagers fleeing the terror of SLORC oppression. More of
them are now arriving every day at Klay Muh Hta, and more such
camps will probably have to be set up in the near future. In
Klay Muh Hta they are extremely vulnerable in two ways: many foreign
aid donors refuse to send aid across to them without SLORC approval
(which is impossible), and they are only a few hours' walk from
the nearest SLORC camp. The SLORC calls refugees "insurgents
in disguise", and if the numbers in the camp continue to grow
the SLORC may consider launching a military offensive to wipe
it out as an example to all those who would dare escape them.
As one man in this report says, "If there were Burmese soldiers
around here, we wouldn't have dared to come".
The following testimonies were given by some of the more than
5,000 people who have fled to Klay Muh Hta. Their names have
been changed and some names in their stories omitted to protect
their relatives and others still in their village. All names
appearing in their stories are real.
Note that the roads which the villagers are being forced to build
are all being built only to strengthen military supply lines to
SLORC frontline positions and to geographically cut off the Karen
National Union headquarters region around Manerplaw. The road
to Meh Tha Wah will come quite close to Klay Muh Hta. The villagers
also talk about several kinds of forced portering. The SLORC
sends orders to villages for short-time porters (people ordered
to come for a few days on an ad hoc basis) and permanent porters
(people who must be replaced by the village every so many days
ad infinitum). The villagers can often hire others to go in their
place in these cases. The SLORC also takes "emergency porters"
(when they grab people for ad hoc portering duty) and "operations
porters" (when they capture people in villages and towns to go
on offensive operations until the operation is over or until they
die). In these cases there is no way out.
TOPIC SUMMARY: Rape (p.2,4), rape & forced marriage (4-5), killings
(3,7,11,13), miscarriages caused by beatings (5,6,10), porters
from towns (7-9), road labour (2-3,6,13), forced logging (12),
forced tree planting (3,6), land confiscation and slave farming
(14), abuse of amputees (12-13), army camp labour, beatings &
torture, extortion, porters, guarding & minesweeping labour, thousands
fleeing their villages.
NAME: Naw Paw Ther SEX: F AGE: 32 Karen Buddhist farmer
ADDRESS: Hlaing Bwe Township, Pa'an District
FAMILY: Widow with 2 children aged 5 and 11
I arrived here two weeks ago. Last month when I had to go for
slave labour, I was raped by a soldier. We went to work at their
army camp for 5 days, and when we got there they refused to give
us any food. Everyone had to work without food, so the next morning
I had to go back to the village with my friends to get some food.
After we brought it back to their camp, two men escaped from
the slave labour at night, so the soldiers went to try to catch
them and made things harder for the rest of us. That's why they
wouldn't let us go back to the village after that. Altogether
there were 19 of us, 11 men and 8 women. That night a soldier
came, grabbed my shoulders and pushed me down. Then he covered
my mouth so I couldn't yell. Then he kissed me and he raped me.
I felt so terrible. The soldier said "Don't tell anyone about
this", but I said "I will tell because I feel so terrible about
it". I went to his commander Myint Shwe Htoo to report it and
told him how terrible I felt, and he told me I could go do whatever
I liked, so I left. He made the soldier carry a log around the
camp just once as punishment. I don't know the soldier's name.
This happened a month ago at K--- camp of #28 Battalion. It
is close to our village.
The labour we have to do at the army camp is cutting trees and
bamboo. We haven't been beaten at this army camp, but when we
have to go work at other army camps I've seen the soldiers beat
people on the head with a big stick. Then when they've beaten
them enough, they start kicking them, and then they make them
keep working. The soldiers never give them medical treatment,
just beat them and make them work. I've also had to go as a porter
to carry bullets and rice - sometimes only 3 viss [5 kg.] but
sometimes 10 or 20 viss [16 to 32 kg.]. We had to go 2 days'
walk in one direction, and sleep on the ground, in open places
in the mountains. I saw them beat porters who got weak and couldn't
carry. They beat them with a bamboo rod on the back, the hips,
the arms and legs, and yell "Go! Go!" One time they didn't give
us any food, just let us starve for 2 or 3 days. My aunt K---
was crying because she was hungry. We cried and we asked permission
to go home and get food but they refused. Even though we were
crying they refused. My auntie K--- is 48 years old and has 4
children. People got stomach aches from starvation. All our
food we'd brought from the village was finished because they told
us we were going for just one day, then they kept us for several
days. The soldiers also make us give porter fees of 45 Kyat from
each person every month, and when we can't afford to pay them,
they come to our village and arrest people [the soldiers claim
that "porter fees" is money to pay munitions porters, but the
money is never used for anything like this - all porters are taken
on a slave basis].
When I have to go as a porter, my children have to stay with relatives.
My husband died last year. He was taken as a porter, he was
sick when he got home, and then he died. My father is also dead.
Only my mother is still alive. We didn't want to stay there
anymore, so I came here with my children. I don't want to go
NAME: Pa Li Kloh SEX: M AGE: 25 Karen Buddhist farmer
ADDRESS: Hlaing Bwe Township, Pa'an District
FAMILY: Married with 2 children aged 4 and ?
There used to be 150 families in my village, but so many have
left that now there are only 20 families. Everyone left because
we had to work for SLORC most of the time. They made us build
a car road and then we had to go guard the road for at least 10
or 20 days at a time. If we didn't go, they came to the village
to beat us. All the families left separately - some went to Rangoon,
some to other cities. I arrived here 2 days ago because I couldn't
suffer it any longer. I was beaten up by soldiers myself.
We had to work on the road they are making from Meh Tha Wah to
Shwegun [Shwegun is on the Salween river between Pa'an and Ka
Ma Maung. This road cuts to the northeast about 70 km. as the
crow flies through steep mountains to Meh Tha Wah, a remote position
on the Thai border which SLORC captured from the Karen in 1989.
The only purposes of this road are as a military supply line
and to cut off the Karen headquarters area to the north of the
road.] We had to work on the road about 10 days at a time, sometimes
11 or 12 days, then after 1 or 2 days at home we had to go do
more work for them. At least 20 people from our village had to
go each time - one from each family. The soldiers sent a letter
to the headman and he had to obey. We had to carry rocks and
load them on a truck [at the riverside], then they took them away
to the place where we were building the road. There were about
200 or 300 of us from various villages working together in one
group. At night we all had to sleep on the ground in the bushes.
There were no good leaves around to make a shelter, so we had
to sleep in the open. They let us rest on Saturday and Sunday,
but the other days we had to work day and night. They never let
us rest in the daytime. We had to work hard. We had to bring
our own food. They didn't give us breakfast, there was no break
for lunch, and we had to work at least until sunset. The soldiers
gave us hoes, and we had to bring our other tools from home.
The soldiers guarded us all the time, even at night. They are
from 338 and 339 Infantry Battalions. Some soldiers would allow
us to take short breaks, but others wouldn't. If you kept working
you weren't beaten, but those who couldn't work were beaten.
One person was so seriously beaten up that we had to carry him
to hospital. Some people have permanent scars from the beatings.
I was beaten at the road once because some of us came with some
things to sell, but they wouldn't allow it. They caught us and
beat us. They kicked me and hit my face and I fell down. They
put bullets in their hands and hit us with them. After the beating
I got a rest, then I had to go and work again. I also saw them
beat Dee Si Po. They made him carry a heavy load, then they beat
him with the top of an iron bar. They kicked him with big boots,
and he fell down and died. There were also two men who got fever
and couldn't get up, so the soldiers kicked them and left them
there. The other villagers picked them up and carried them home,
and later those two men died. I don't know their names because
they were from other villages. Other people also got sick with
diarrhoea, but the soldiers wouldn't give any medicine. One time,
some people died from the diarrhoea. We buried the dead bodies.
The soldiers also made us plant trees - we had to plant cashew
trees, bay ta kah trees and also flowering trees along the roadsides
to make it look nice. We had to plant in a strip about 150 feet
wide alongside the road [the cashew trees are probably for military
profit, and the villagers will be forced to harvest the cashews,
while the other trees appear to be decorative. It seems that
the SLORC is using the roadside land as a convenient place for
money-making tree plantations]. We had to level the ground as
much as we could by digging and filling up depressions. There
were about 600 or 700 of us, and we had to plant for 10 days.
Each village was given at least 2,000 or 3,000 trees to plant.
If any of them got broken, they fined us 50 Kyat per tree. If
any of the trees we planted died, we had to pay to replace them
and plant them again. They beat people who weren't working on
the back and legs with a stick, but not too hard. One time they
beat a man with a big stick until he was bleeding and so sick
that we had to carry him back to his village. It was far from
our village, and we had to sleep where we worked.
People from big families could take turns going for all this labour,
but people from small families have to go themselves all the time.
They have no choice. We had to go as porters - I had to go twice
to carry ammunition and supplies from Hlaing Bwe to Meh Taree
[a frontline camp at the Thai border]. We don't dare refuse to
do the labour, so we have to drop everything and go work for them.
Sometimes we have to borrow money and food from others, because
we would get in deep trouble if we didn't go for forced labour.
We couldn't even sleep at night, because they always forced us
to go guard the road for them. The soldiers also demanded money
and livestock, and sometimes they took our cattle. The road isn't
finished yet, and all of us who live near it have to work on it
in rainy season as well as hot season. We couldn't take it anymore.
We came here to try to find a secure place to stay. It took us
3 nights along the way. Now we have no choice, we'll just have
to stay here. We won't go back until things get better.
NAME: Naw Ler Wah SEX: F AGE: 21 Karen Buddhist, farmer
ADDRESS: Hlaing Bwe Township, Pa'an District
FAMILY: Parents both alive, brothers and sisters
I arrived here a few weeks ago. In my village, the SLORC troops
always came and grabbed people to do forced labour. Because of
that, we don't have any time to do our own work. Even when we
go to our fields the soldiers come and grab us. One day the soldiers
suddenly arrived at my hut. My older brother and sister escaped,
and I was left alone with just my two younger sisters. They started
crying loudly, and then two of the soldiers came up to me, pointed
their guns at me and told me to follow them. They took me to
their camp. When we got there I saw our village headman and asked
him to vouch for me so I could escape. Some of my girl friends
were also there.
The soldiers didn't give us any food, and at night we were very
hungry. I told my friends I didn't want to sleep there, but it
was raining heavily and my friends said "Don't try to escape.
We will sleep close together tonight for safety." Later I found
out that there was a soldier there who speaks Karen who already
wanted me and had already told his officer that he wanted to sleep
with me, but at the time I didn't know, so I went to sleep close
to my 2 girl friends. When I fell asleep, the soldier came over
and grabbed me. I told him "I don't like you. You are not of
my people", but he said "I'll take you and you'll have to be my
wife". I kept refusing. The next day they let us go, but he
followed me to my house. Along the way I tried to look very angry
and didn't smile, because I hated him and wanted him to know it.
Then he stayed for 3 days at my house with my family [SLORC soldiers
often intrude on families this way, and there is nothing the family
can do]. After 3 days he asked me to go back with him. My mother
was very worried because she said he would just take me and keep
me in the jungle, but I didn't dare refuse so I had to go. He
kept me at the camp for 3 days and raped me in the daytime. I
told him "I don't like you and I won't marry you", but he kept
saying "I will marry you and look after you." Then he took me
back to my house and forced my parents to marry us. They had
to because they couldn't do anything else. Then he said he would
take me home with him. He took my earrings and my clothes and
sold them. Then he took me to Rangoon. He asked me to go watch
videos with him, but when we arrived at the movie house he slapped
me in the face so hard I got dizzy. He dragged me back to his
house, started beating me up and told me he would sell me in Myawaddy
[meaning across the border into a Thai brothel - Myawaddy is at
the Thai border]. After that I escaped when he wasn't there and
went back to my village, but every time I did this he followed
me, caught me and beat me again. He told me to give him all my
belongings, and he kept beating me up all the time. One day when
I was in my village he came back to my house very drunk. I told
him to eat something, but he told me he didn't want to eat and
slapped me in the face. I got very angry and told myself "I hate
this man. I didn't want to marry him, and now I have to retaliate
even though I am a woman". So I kicked him right out of my house.
He fell under the house, then tried to climb the ladder to get
in again but every time I kicked him down again.
He got very angry and said "You don't respect me - you're trying
to humiliate me. You're a woman but you keep kicking me." Suddenly
he managed to grab me and tried to strangle me. One of my cousins
came to help me and I escaped and ran away. The soldier went
to my father and told him "Tonight I'll kill her and burn your
rice barn". He ordered my father and sister to look for me, and
they found me in a small hut where I was hiding and took me home.
I washed my feet and went in, and the soldier asked me stupid
questions like "Do you have brothers and sisters? Are your parents
still alive?" I said yes. He asked "Do you have your own family?"
I said No. Then he told me "Make your bed. Tonight you will
be killed, and I'll drink your blood. I won't leave this house
until I've drunk your blood. Here is the knife. Wait and see.
You are worthless. When I kill you, I'll also kill your parents,
brothers and sisters. But the most important thing is that I
must drink your blood before I leave. Then I'll burn your body
until only ashes remain, and I'll put all the villagers on a skewer
and burn them all. And I'll kill all the monks!"
I got up and escaped. I went to another house, and the people
told me "He's taken his gun and he's looking to kill you, and
he's going to burn the rice barn at your house". I didn't dare
stay in the village anymore, so I ran to L--- village and talked
to the headman. He said "If you want to go, then go. He might
try to follow you. Just go." So I came here together with my
father and we built this house. We arrived a few weeks ago.
I was married to the soldier for about 3 months. His name is
Soe Soe, and he is from 338 Battalion. If he ever finds me, he'll
kill me at once. The battalion commander is Major Aung Khine.
I got pregnant, but when the soldier was beating me he always
kicked me in the belly, and it hurt the baby inside. When I was
2 months pregnant I lost the baby because he beat me. Even now,
I still don't feel completely well. It hurts inside, and I can't
do heavy work or carry anything heavy anymore. I feel dizzy all
We are all suffering because of them, and we can't suffer any
longer. If people had enough food they could survive in my village,
but they don't. We had a religious ceremony in our village and
many people came, so the SLORC came to get people for forced labour.
We asked them to wait 2 or 3 days for the ceremony to finish,
but they didn't listen. They came in and tied up the headman
they'd appointed for the village [in each village SLORC appoints
a villager as headman and others as "committee", usually against
their will. The villagers also have their own real headman].
They told him "You said your villagers are good, but when we
need them they are lazy". Then they started beating him up, kicking
him, and slapping him in the face, and then they took people away
without even letting them get a change of clothes or their slippers
[when entering a Buddhist temple compound people must leave their
Once when my younger sister had to go to do labour and guard the
road, the soldiers said to them "We asked for 20 people for labour
and you only send 10. Why? Do you feel strong enough to do the
work of 20 people?" Then they forced two women to carry one sack
of rice [this is a job for 4 people], and they didn't even give
anyone any food. When they got home they were sick. I've been
a porter many times, and they never gave us food. When we got
weak and couldn't carry anymore they yelled at us: "Go!". They
beat up the men but not the women. Whenever they caught a man,
they tied him up and beat him up right away. They come to the
village to grab porters every month, in every season. We have
to go for 2 or 3 days at a time. Then sometimes we have to go
home to get some food and go straight back to work. As for my
brother, he was arrested last year. They tied him up, beat him
and tortured him. We asked the soldiers for permission to see
him but they refused. Then this year, they beat him up again.
They kicked him, hit him with a bamboo rod and slapped him.
It took us 2 days' walk to come here. We don't dare go back.
We wanted to go across and stay on the Thai side [of the border]
but we were told to stay here.
NAME: Naw Thalay Paw SEX: F AGE: 28 Karen Christian, farmer
ADDRESS: Hlaing Bwe Township, Pa'an District
FAMILY: Married with 3 children aged 3 to 9
I arrived here over 10 days ago, on Thursday. In my village we
had to build a road and plant trees for them. They also tax everything,
and try to grab people to work for them so we don't have any time
to look after our family and our children. We always have to
work for SLORC without any break. To build the road, we had to
work in the jungle in the heat of the day clearing 25 feet along
each side of the road. We had to dig out stumps and carry stones
1« feet long. Each rock weighs 3 or 4 viss [5 to 7 kg.]. We had
to go and get them at the riverside not too far away. We had
to break these stones with an axe by ourselves and lay them down
on the road, then we had to carry gravel and pour it on top, and
later we had to plant trees along the roadsides. Then after planting
trees we have to guard the road, because if Karen soldiers destroy
any of it the SLORC will arrest us and put us in jail. This road
is going from Lu Pleh to Pa'an. It is 2 hours' walk from the
village. We had to keep building it until it reached the main
road. It is not finished yet.
There were many people there, one from each family, men and women
including the widows. There are over 300 families in our village.
Whenever the soldiers grab the men, they usually send them to
the frontline as porters, so it is mostly women who are working
on the road, young girls and women up to age 40 or 50. When I
left we had been working on it for months, and it still wasn't
finished. We had 2 days rest each week because some of us are
Baptist and some are Seventh-Day Adventist [Baptist Sabbath is
Sunday, while SDA Sabbath is Saturday]. Every farmer has to leave
his field to go and work for SLORC. No one has time to provide
for their families. Every farmer also has to give SLORC part
of his rice harvest, and everyone who owns a cattle cart has to
take it to the road to carry rocks.
We always had to take our own food. If you don't go, they arrest
you and put you in the cave at T---, and they make you give them
chicken. If you give it to them they release you, but if not
they keep you there, and they beat you up. If you're late for
planting trees, they take you and put you in the cave and keep
you there for 2 or 3 days with no food or water. Then they hit
you 2 or 3 times, they say "You are very naughty" and they send
you back to work. Even me, one time I couldn't go for labour
because my children were sick so they captured me, put me in the
cave and beat me 3 times on my hips and legs with a very thick
and wide stick. I was 8 months pregnant. It hurt terribly.
I was dizzy, and I got so angry that I just grabbed the soldier
by his penis and pulled. He fell down, and then he came and tried
to kill me. But the village headman stopped him and said "Don't
kill her. She has many problems. Her children are ill." The
soldier asked "Are they going to die from the illness?" and I
said "Maybe they will die". After that he let me go. I went
back home, and when I got there I lost my baby. This happened
2 months ago, on March 22nd.
On the road, the men especially got beaten up whenever they got
tired. Some men didn't come to work because their children were
sick and they were beaten badly. I saw some men who were beaten
so badly they couldn't work anymore, they had to stay in bed.
Their friends took them home and then had to pay the soldiers
300 Kyat to replace them. The soldiers would never give any medicine,
even if you were dying.
We also had to plant rubber trees at Lu Pleh. We don't know why
- they just ordered us to plant and we planted. We had to do
that this month, on about 10 or 20 acres of land near the road.
We had to do this for the soldiers, not for us. The soldiers
ordered us. It's near their army camp. One person from each
family had to go, and each person had to plant 30 trees. Villagers
from M---, D---, K---, T--- and K--- villages also had to go.
Some of us had to plant trees while others had to clear and dig
out stumps. I worked there for 3 days, then I left to come here.
The soldiers said we would have to work there for 1 month [they
are probably planning to expand the field - the SLORC usually
confiscates hundreds of acres for such military money-spinning
projects]. We weren't paid, and we received no food. Not even
water - we had to bring our own water from home. We went home
Before we built the road, I had to go as a porter one time for
15 days. I had to carry rice and sugar. The men had to carry
bullets, shells, salt, oil, and fishpaste. The soldiers beat
people up, including one man who couldn't urinate because of the
beatings. They hit him right on the bladder with a rifle butt.
After that he always laid down moaning. He is my uncle M---.
He is 56 years old, and he also came here with us. Now he still
isn't cured - he still urinates with blood.
The soldiers come to our village asking for livestock, and if
we don't give it to them they kill it themselves and take whatever
they want. Whenever they find men around they grab them, beat
them and torture them. If they see a farmer with his livestock,
they shoot at the livestock. But we're too afraid to do anything.
We had to pay 200 or 300 Kyat each every month in porter fees,
and taxes on every rice field according to its size. For a 1
acre field we have to give them 5 baskets of rice, and for a large
field like 18 acres it's over 30 baskets. They pay us 35 Kyat
per basket [an absurd price - market price is 8 to 10 times this,
and even SLORC price is 5 to 6 times more]. People who have a
very small harvest and can't afford to pay these taxes are arrested,
beaten up and the the soldiers take their personal belongings.
I came here because the situation is so bad. The village headman
said it was alright for us to leave, because the headmen also
suffer under the SLORC so they understand. I came with my family,
and it was 3 days' walk climbing up and down the mountains. Now
I want to stay here. If we go back we'll just have to be porters
NAME: Maung Chit Swe SEX: M AGE: 28 Burman Buddhist, hawker
ADDRESS: Bilin Town, Thaton District
FAMILY: Married with 1 daughter aged 11 months
In Bilin Town I'm a hawker and day labourer, but the SLORC ordered
me topay "porter fees" so often that I couldn't pay all the time,
so the leader of our section of the town put me on a list and
the police arrested me to be a porter. At night on April 15 I
was going out with my friends and the police stopped us, told
us they had to discuss something with us and then took us straight
to jail. They put us in the police lock-up and we didn't know
why at first, but if anyone asked why they were punched so we
didn't ask. Then when the army asked for porters for their operations
the police transferred us to the army. We slept in the lock-up
one night, then the army came on April 16 and got us with a truck,
so we had no chance to escape. They take porters away like this
They drove us to Pa'an picking up more porters along the way in
Bilin and Myaingalay towns. Then in Pa'an they put us in the
lock-up for 2 nights. The police there asked us for money but
we didn't have any, so they wouldn't even give us water to drink.
After 2 nights, the army took us away in another truck to Ka
Mo Ka Chu village, and from there they made us carry ammunition
to Ka La Ma mountain. I had to carry eight 81 mm. mortar shells,
which weighed at least 25 viss [40 kg.]. It was so heavy I could
barely even carry it 50 yards, but whether we could or not we
just had to keep going. I still have callouses on my shoulders.
Some of the others had to carry other things, like alcohol ,
different kinds of bullets, rice, salt, chillies, beans, etc.
We started climbing and didn't stop until it was almost dark.
Then the soldiers cooked for themselves and ate but they didn't
give us any food, and we kept going. We slept one night in the
forest and they still didn't give us any food, then we kept going
the next morning. On the way the soldiers beat many porters badly
because they couldn't carry anymore, they were too tired from
starvation. We reached Ka La Ma mountain and kept going. This
mountain is very high and steep so it is hard to climb with a
heavy load. When porters couldn't climb anymore the soldiers
kicked, punched, and beat them up badly. They hit them with rifle
butts and kicked them in the sides. I saw one porter killed because
he couldn't carry anymore and fell down, and the soldiers kept
kicking him until he was dead. They killed another porter by
kicking him down the mountainside. We never saw him again. His
name was Aung Than Oo. Thet Lwin [not his real name - see next
testimony] couldn't go any more, so he put down his load and said
"I can't go anymore". They kicked him in the side in his ribs
- it was very painful, and still is. Just yesterday he got fever
and groaned because of the pain in his side [possibly a broken
rib]. We slept one night at Tah Li, then we left early in the
morning and reached their camp at Hill 850. We were carrying
for 5 days, and the first 3 nights we got no food. They only
cooked for themselves. Then after that, we got one meal a day,
just rice and salt and never enough. If we even tried to smoke,
they yelled at us and beat us. If we asked a friend for a light
they accused us of trying to escape and beat us.
There were also about 20 women porters who had to carry the soldiers'
packs, but they let them go after we reached the top of Naw Ta
Wah mountain. They didn't beat the women because they wanted
favours from them. At night while they were guarding us, they
made the women sleep beside them.
Some people already got sick when we were still in the lockup,
and they were still forced to be porters. Then 10 more became
sick on the way, so the soldiers did them a favour by making them
carry less. If we had to carry 8 mortar shells then they only
had to carry 6. They wouldn't give medicine to anyone until we
reached our destination, and even then it wasn't real medicine
and had no effect. If you wanted real medicine you had to buy
it from them. The soldiers are from No. 2 Infantry Battalion
from Thein Zayat [near Thaton]. They have many soldiers, some
based at Ka La Ma mountain, some at Noh Da Ya, some at Tah Li
and at Hill 850. Everywhere they are, they have porters. At
Hill 850 there were 16 of us, until 4 of us escaped. One of their
commanders' names is Tin Hla, and I remember soldiers Kyaw Htay,
Tin Way, Aye Myint, and Sergeant Kyaw Win Htay. After we got
to Hill 850 we stayed there. When we were there they forced us
to dig trenches, cut bamboo, find leaves for roofing, build huts
and make fences. They only fed us a mess-tin lid full of rice
and salt. Once I asked for chillies and they said "They're not
yours. If you want to eat, go back home and eat." They only
gave us dirty water to drink. At night they guarded us. We built
ourselves shelters, but they leaked when it rained. Then we had
to wake up early in the morning and start working. We had to
make fences, fences and more fences. We had to cut logs and carry
dirt to raise the ground level. We had to carry water, and even
then they followed us.
Many porters wanted to escape and some did along the way, but
I don't know what happened to them. The soldiers said "If you
escape you will be shot". They never released any of us. They
wanted us to be porters forever and stay with them as long as
they're at the camp, even if it's a year or more. When we realized
that we tried to escape. We'd already been with them nearly a
month. Then on the evening of May 13 at about 5 p.m., we were
carrying sacks of rice from Tah Li back to Hill 850 and we got
ahead of the soldiers, so four of us just dropped our rice sacks
and ran away. It was jungle and we didn't know where to go, so
we just went through the jungle and the mountains and slept in
the jungle one night. Then we found a village and they sent us
here on May 14.
Here nobody forces us to do anything and our lives are okay, but
we're worried about our families. My family is very poor, and
they survive day by day. I'm sure that without me it's very hard
for them to provide for themselves. I want to go back as soon
as possible because I have to make a new roof for our house.
We all want to go home. When I escaped I didn't know the way
home, and I knew if we went back the same way we came the soldiers
would catch us for sure because there are so many of them. I'm
afraid of them, but I think once we arrive at our homes we'll
be okay because the soldiers in our town are a different battalion
and they won't know anything.
NAME: Win Myint SEX: M AGE: 32 Burman Buddhist, day labourer
ADDRESS: Myaingalay Town, Thaton District
FAMILY: Married with 2 children aged 3 and 10
I was arrested because the SLORC asked for porter fees so many
times that I couldn't pay anymore, so the SLORC head of our section
of the town told the police. At night when I was asleep, the
police came together with the section head and they put handcuffs
on me. The police put me in the lock-up for 5 days and then handed
me over to the army. In the lock-ups, the police made us pay
5 Kyat just to get one plastic bag of water. The army took me
to Pa'an lock-up where I met Maung Chit Swe [not his real name
- see above] and the others, then we left together the next day.
The soldiers forced me to carry a heavy load. It was too heavy,
and when we started climbing the mountains I was too tired, I
got cramps in my legs and I couldn't walk anymore, so I asked
permission to rest. But they wouldn't allow it, and instead they
forced me to go faster. Then they kicked me 2 or 3 times and
hit my head with a rifle butt. I didn't bleed but at first I
was winded and I couldn't breathe, and then it was really painful
when I breathed. It's still painful here, in my side on the ribs.
You can still see the mark here. Yesterday I had a fever and
it was really painful. After they beat me, they lightened my
load a little bit and then I had to keep carrying. Later when
they gave us rice, I was so badly hurt I couldn't even chew it,
so I had to mix it with water to swallow it.
When we got to their camp [at Hill 850] they forced us to do many
kinds of work. We had to carry water up the hill twice every
morning, and it was very steep and took a long time. We couldn't
sleep at night because all the insects were biting us. We could
only sleep 2 or 3 hours at night and then we had to go to carry
water at 4 or 5 a.m. every morning. Then we had to cut at least
15 big bamboos about 9 feet long each, and then they gave us some
food. But as soon as we finished eating, we had to start work
again. We started before sunrise and finished after the sun went
down. Then we ate, massaged each other and tried to sleep. The
soldiers made us massage them too, and only let us go to sleep
when they'd had enough. At night they drank alcohol, smoked and
had a good time, but as for us, it was just work all the time.
Now I'm afraid we can never go home.
NAME: Maung Thein Zaw SEX: M AGE: 33 Burman Buddhist, farmer
ADDRESS: Bilin Town, Thaton District
FAMILY: Married with 2 children aged 5 and 10
We had to pay porter fees of 50 Kyat 2 or 3 times every month.
We couldn't pay every time, so they put us on the list to be
porters. The local SLORC head made a list of people to be arrested
by the police. Then when I went to watch a video, the SLORC head
said "I want to talk to you about something", and he took me to
the police and they locked me up. When the army wanted porters,
they just came to the lock-up and got us. I was with Maung Chit
Swe [not his real name - see above] and the others.
We face so many problems because we are poor and living on a day-to-day
basis. People who have money can pay the porter fees, but the
rest of us are just put on the list. The local SLORC head collects
the fees for the military, but this money is just for their personal
use. Then whenever they want porters they come and arrest as
many people as they can from the list.
NAME: Maung Tin Aung SEX: M AGE: 21 Burman Buddhist, hawker
ADDRESS: Thaton Town, Thaton District
I was a hawker, and I liked to sell things on the trains because
we can make more money that way.But the police don't allow us
to sell on the trains, so in April many policemen came to Thaton
Train Station to arrest all the hawkers and they fined us each
100 Kyat. Some could pay that much but I couldn't because I only
had very little money. So they put me and the others in jail
at Thaton Police Station for one night, then the next day the
military came and we were given to them to be porters. The police
gave at least 25 men to the army to be porters. The soldiers
took us to Pa'an and locked us up for 2 nights. Then I had to
go as a porter and carry six 81 mm. mortar shells. [Maung Tin
Aung met the others (see above) in Pa'an lock-up, was taken as
a porter together with them and later escaped with them].
NAME: Naw Eh Shee SEX: F AGE: 23 Karen Buddhist farmer
ADDRESS: Hlaing Bwe Township, Pa'an District
FAMILY: Married with 2 sons aged 4 and 2
I came here two weeks ago. In our village, we have no time to
provide for our families because we are working for SLORC most
of the time. Whenever they want people for slave labour they
ask the village head. Sometimes we didn't go, and then the soldiers
came to the village and grabbed people. They forced us to provide
road security for them. We had to sweep the road [for mines]
all the time and then we had to guard the road at night. Sometimes
when we were there to guard the road, they also forced us to carry
loads for them in the daytime, and when we couldn't carry anymore
they beat us. Then at night we still had to guard the road.
We couldn't suffer this any longer. If we couldn't go for labour,
we had to hire someone else to go in our place and it cost 450
Kyat. This happened all the time, until we couldn't pay anymore
and we couldn't work in our fields anymore. They even forced
us to work for them during harvest time. That's why we came here.
Whether you had men or only women in your household, one person
always had to go. We also had to go as porters to carry ammunition
from Ler Cho to Noh Da Ya. We had to go as messengers, and many
other kinds of work. At the army camp we women had to carry the
bamboo that the men had cut down. We had to build the soldiers'
huts, dig their trenches and raise the ground level. Many women
had to go, and many of them had serious troubles. They had to
leave their babies behind at home. Sometimes they asked for permission
to go home, but the soldiers would only let them if a man was
sent to replace them. Nobody dared go home without asking the
soldiers - unless they said we could go, we couldn't go. I don't
know their officers' names, because they kept changing them all
There used to be 80 or 90 houses in my village, but so many people
have already left. Many families have come here. My sister came
first, and I followed her because we couldn't suffer all their
forced labour anymore and we couldn't provide for our families.
Each family also had to pay 400 Kyat porter fees twice every
month. We had no choice but to come.
NAME: Nan Thein Thein SEX: F AGE: 35 Pwo Karen Buddhist farmer
ADDRESS: Hlaing Bwe Township, Pa'an District
FAMILY: Married with 4 children aged 6 to 13
I arrived here yesterday. I came because we had no more money
to pay porter fees, so I didn't dare stay in the village any longer.
Most of the men have already run away so the soldiers try to
catch the women, and I was afraid to stay. My husband doesn't
know I came here because when I came he had already fled from
them. I don't know where he is. I hope to find him here. I
just arrived so I don't even have a house to stay in yet. If
I find my husband he could build a house for us.
Two years ago the soldiers came one night and asked me to go with
them. I didn't dare go so they beat me with their guns. I was
pregnant, and I fell down on my belly and it was hurt, and my
baby was hurt inside. Two days later I had a miscarriage and
lost my baby. I was so sick from it that I had to go to the hospital,
and they had to make an operation to cut my womb. Now I can't
have children anymore.
Now the soldiers come to the village and ask for money. Every
month they demand 200 or 300 Kyat. Sometimes they also make us
go for forced labour, and every month we have to pay 1,000 Kyat
as labour fees [SLORC says this is to hire labourers, but they
don't] and to pay the SLORC militia. We don't know how they really
use the money. They say that if we can't pay it, we won't be
allowed to stay in our village anymore. They come and steal everything,
and they come to take porters to their camp. We are very afraid
but we have to go. Sometimes we had to go for one month. I wanted
to hire someone to go in my place but I had no money. If you
borrow money from others, you have to pay interest. I faced that
There used to be over 100 houses in my village, but many people
have run away and now there are only 10 houses left. The soldiers
often ask for 10 or 20 porters every month. One porter had to
go from each house, sometimes including many women. The SLORC
also grabbed people to be porters whenever they came to ask for
money and we couldn't pay. Sometimes I've been a porter for 1
or 2 days, sometimes for over a month. We had to carry rice,
ammunition, salt, chillies and sugar, and we also have to carry
the soldiers' clothes. I was very afraid of them all the time.
They scolded and cursed me. Sometimes the women had to carry
two 81 mm. mortar shells each. We had to go to Lu Pleh and to
other places. The soldiers are from Infantry Battalions 331 and
339. I know of Captain Than Shwe and Captain Than Win from 331
Battalion, and Captain Soe Teh from 339 Battalion. I've seen
many men brought back from being porters with broken legs.
NAME: Naw May Hla SEX: F AGE: 25 Karen Buddhist farmer
ADDRESS: Pa'an Township, Thaton District
FAMILY: Married with 3 children aged 2,4, and 6
We came here in February. My husband came first, because while
he was working in our field with his friends the soldiers came
and killed his friends. So he didn't dare stay there anymore
and came here, and we followed later. They killed his friends
last December just 2 hours' walk from our village. Their names
were Pa Kay, age 24, Maung Par Baw, age 28, and Mya Zin, age 28.
There was no reason to kill them at all, because they were just
civilian farmers. They met the SLORC soldiers when they were
riding on a cattle cart, and the soldiers grabbed them and took
them away. Later the village head went to vouch for their freedom,
but they had already been killed. The soldiers accused them of
collaborating with Karen soldiers, beat them up a lot and then
killed them. They didn't even shoot them dead - they blindfolded
them and then cut their bellies open. There was absolutely no
reason - they were just farmers carrying their rice.
Then the soldiers took the bodies to the forest and buried them,
because they didn't want people to know about it. Later they
came to the village, killed a goat and ate it. I was told they
did this to hide the fact that they had taken the three men's
hearts out and eaten them [this is not as absurd as it sounds
- there are many reports of SLORC soldiers cutting out and eating
the heart and/or liver of fallen Karen soldiers if they capture
the body, believing that they get great strength by eating these
organs of a fallen enemy. They also reportedly enjoy the taste.].
I heard this because the men's fathers all went to the army camp
and found out. My cousin was with them. His name is Maung S---,
and he is 25 years old. They released him, but first they tied
him up very tightly and beat him brutally all over his body.
They beat him with a gun butt and a big pole. He lost some of
his teeth, some parts of his body were bleeding and other parts
were badly bruised. Then the soldiers said to him "Don't tell
anybody anything or we will kill you." It was the same group
of soldiers who killed the three men.
Whenever that battalion of soldiers sees people they torture them.
The soldiers murder and torture so many villagers. There is
also another battalion of soldiers, and they ask for porter fees
and take porters. Sometimes they ask for 5 porters, sometimes
6 or 7 [they ask by written order sent to the village]. The village
head has to decide who will go, and we have to take turns going.
But if the soldiers need more porters, they just come and grab
them. I've had to go two or three times myself. I had to carry
1 big tin of rice, and sometimes the soldiers' packs. The youngest
girl I saw was about 15 and the oldest man about 40 or 50, and
sometimes they even call very old men for some reason. There
were both men and women porters - they get the men porters by
demanding them from the village head, but as for the women, they
just come and get us. Then the village head has to send replacements
every 5 days.
Whenever the soldiers came to our village they made trouble for
us. They always asked for money - each family had to pay them
40 or 50 Kyat every month. They also demanded wood, bamboo, and
roofing leaves. Each family had to send them 4 or 5 logs, with
circumference of at least 2 feet 3 inches and the length has to
be 7« feet. The officer sent a letter to the village head with
a bullet inside as a threat to make sure we'd do it. We had to
go far from the village to cut these logs, and then we had to
carry them with our cattle carts to the place where the soldiers
told us at the Salween river. There the soldiers put the logs
on people's boats, sent them to Pa'an and sold them. Every family
in the village has to send these logs, and sometimes 3 bamboos
per family as well. They also sent orders to the village head
to send firewood, and the villagers have to do it or they'll make
trouble for the village head [meaning arrest and torture]. Each
time they asked for at least 100 bundles of firewood, sometimes
200 bundles. We have to send it on 2 or 3 carts. They ask for
the most when it gets close to rainy season and they want to stockpile
firewood. We have to send it to L--- army camp. We don't know
exactly what they do with all of it, but I think they use some
and sell some. We have to do this and also go for slave labour
and portering, so we have to work for them most of the time and
we don't have any time to provide for our own families. If we
can't go for labour we have to hire someone to go in our place.
So far only 3 or 4 families from our village have come to this
place, but many more families want to come and are ready to leave.
They are just waiting for the opportunity. If they all come
now, when the soldiers find out they will make trouble for the
village head. We came here on foot and slept 2 nights on the
way. We had to take risks to come here, because we are very afraid
of the soldiers. If we had met them on the way, we would have
been in trouble because they don't like us to come here. If they
knew, they would stop us and kill us for sure.
NAME: Naw Paw Paw Htoo SEX: F AGE: 25 Karen Buddhist farmer
ADDRESS: Hlaing Bwe Township, Pa'an District
FAMILY: Married with 1 child aged 2, and she is pregnant now
I came here in March because we've suffered so much for so long
that we just can't suffer it anymore. The worst thing was all
the slave labour. We had to work for SLORC all the time and we
had no time to rest or provide for ourselves. It was too tiring,
but if we don't obey their orders they come to make trouble for
us and take our things. They tied up my father one time.
Sometimes we had to send 4 or 5 porters at a time and sometimes
15 porters, depending on what the soldiers were doing. We tried
to hire people to go in our places. For long-time porters it
costs us 1,000 Kyat, for medium-time porters 500 Kyat, and for
short-time porters 100 or 200 Kyat. The soldiers also collect
"porter fees" as often as 4 or 5 times a month. I don't know
what they use that money for. Sometimes when they enter the village
they also catch people and take them away, and we have to pay
a ransom of 500 or 1,000 Kyat before they'll release them. When
they're in our village, the soldiers also try to get our livestock
all the time: if they see a goat, they eat it. If they see a
chicken, they eat it.
The porters usually have to go for 10 or 20 days, occasionally
for one or two months. When they go for months, some die. Sometimes
they only have to carry things close to our village, but sometimes
it's very far. I was a long-time porter myself last rainy season.
There were about 500 men porters and 500 women. We had to carry
ammunition, rice, chillies, sugar and tinned milk for the soldiers.
I had to carry about 16 kg. There was one soldier following
each 3 porters. The men porters were beaten up a lot, but the
women were treated better. There were also some porters among
us who had one amputated leg. The soldiers didn't make them carry
anything but just forced them to climb the mountains together
with us. The soldiers said to them "We won't make you carry anything,
we just want to kill you by making you climb mountains" [The soldiers
may suspect that any man with one leg is a disabled former Karen
soldier]. The soldiers collected 20 or 30 people from every village
for their operation. The oldest was over 50 and the youngest
was 15. On the way we had to sleep on the ground and it was terrible,
because it was rainy season and there were leeches everywhere.
Some people had brought a plastic sheet, a blanket and a change
of clothes, but the porters who were captured along the way by
the soldiers couldn't bring anything at all with them. They only
gave us a very small amount of rice and salt to eat, and sometimes
we got yellow beans that were going rotten, only one spoonful
per person. Rain or shine, we just had to keep going with very
little food. We had no choice. We carried bamboo cups with us
that we could fill whenever we crossed a stream to drink, but
we were never allowed to bathe. We had to carry all the way to
P--- [a distant SLORC operations camp]. We had to walk all day
until sunset, and sometimes at night too. Sometimes they let
us rest, but only standing up. If the women wanted to rest an
extra minute or two they let us, but if the men wanted to rest
the soldiers kicked them. When they wanted to beat up men porters
they told the women to walk ahead, then they beat the men. They
punched and kicked them and hurt them badly. They beat people
up all the time.
When some people couldn't carry anymore, they made other porters
carry them to a place where there's a cave like a big hole with
a stream flowing into it. I saw some rice packs left there, so
I think they killed the porters and threw them in the hole. I
think porters who couldn't walk were killed, but we never saw
their bodies. It was rainy season so many people got sick. I
was sick all the time, so I went and asked for medicine. The
soldiers gave me a cup of tea, then they gave me an injection
and yelled at me, and I was sick for 2 days after that [the needle
was almost certainly non-sterile]. The troops were from 33 Division
and 44 Division. They wouldn't let us go home when we got sick.
5 or 6 people tried to escape, and when they got caught the soldiers
cut up their legs with knives.
Sometimes the soldiers patrol near our village, and come to steal
our livestock, clothes, cooking pots and other things. Even if
the owner knows he can't dare stop them. Whenever they see a
cow or buffalo, they catch it and kill it. The soldiers also
make us cut bamboo and wood, and make shingles of roofing leaves
for their houses. They make us clear the compound in their camp,
and they make us clear all the scrub on both sides of the car
road at least 4 or 5 times a month. The road is 2 hours' walk
from the village. We have to build and maintain the road for
them, and provide road security too. Each family has to send
1 person, and if you can't then you have to pay 1 viss [1.6 kg.]
of chicken. They made us cut down big trees and build a bridge,
then one or two days later Karen soldiers came and blew it up,
so the SLORC made us pay compensation money for the wood and the
logs that we'd cut to begin with. Now we're in debt. That bridge
is between Noh Kler and Ta Gho.
They make us go and work repairing the road constantly. We try
to grow our rice but we have to leave it to go work for them.
Whenever we want to go to our fields, we have to get a pass and
pay 10 or 15 Kyat for it. If the soldiers catch us without a
pass, they do whatever they want to us - sometimes they kill people.
And some of the troops just ignore the pass. Our village had
100 houses, but now so many families have left the village to
go to different places. Only my family came here. It was a hard
walk, because my child kept asking to be carried all the time.
NAME: Saw Hla Maung SEX: M AGE: 37 Pwo Karen Buddhist farmer
ADDRESS: Hlaing Bwe Township, Pa'an District
FAMILY: Married with 7 children aged 1 to 20
In my village I fed my children by working my field, but now I
have no farm to work. I had to pay porter fees so I had to sell
my field. My father lived by working the fields, and my grandmother
gave me that field, but I had to sell it to get the money. I
have 3 brothers, and my grandmother gave us one field each. We
all sold our fields at the same time, last year. We got 30,000
Kyat altogether. Since then I had to work the fields for others
as a labourer, but only got 10 or 20 Kyat a day and all that went
to porter fees. I couldn't support my family that way so I came
here. After I sold the field I had nothing anymore.
The soldiers asked different amounts each time for porter fees
- some houses have to pay 300 Kyat and others have to pay 700
[depending on how much money they have], sometimes I had to pay
200 Kyat and sometimes 500. We have to send the money to Lu Pleh,
but we don't know how they use it. Sometimes we have to go with
them as porters as well. When I could I gave money instead of
going, but if I couldn't pay I had to go myself. They made me
carry rice and bullets from Pa Khay Kwee to Kaw Thu Kee for over
10 days each time. One time when we arrived at Pa Khay Kwee the
soldiers went to the village, caught some chickens and told me
to kill them. I refused because the hens had a lot of little
chicks, so they beat me on the head with a bayonet handle. We
couldn't escape, because if we did the soldiers would torture
the head of our village when they got back.
The soldiers also make us plant rice for them. The soldiers come
to our village and collect seed grain. Then they make us come
and get the seed grain from them, and we have to plant it for
them. Then when the seedlings grow we have to go and transplant
them into the paddies. The soldiers don't have their own fields,
so they make us go plant it in the fields of villagers. The soldiers
say "After we get our harvest you can use your fields for yourselves".
But if we plant paddy then, we won't get a harvest. [Rice must
be planted in early rainy season and ripens after rainy season.
Without sophisticated irrigation it is only possible to grow
one crop a year].
Even so we still have to give our rice to the soldiers. We have
to give them 1 big sack [100 kg.] of rice for every acre of land,
and those who have no land have to give them money - 300 or 400
Kyat for every acre they used to have. The soldiers stay in their
camp and order the villagers to bring food to them, and if the
villagers don't then the soldiers come and take chickens and other
things. They send orders to the village head. Sometimes we have
to send them chickens and things, sometimes we have to go work
for them. If we don't have the chickens they want, we have to
give them money. We are near the army camp so they always force
us to go and do everything for them. We have to give money, go
as porters and to build roads, and we have to go and make fences
for them, clear all the scrub around their camp, replace their
leaf roofing, dig their bunkers, etc. To build fences we have
to make wooden posts, split bamboo, sharpen bamboo spikes and
plant them between the posts. Sometimes they make us work from
7 a.m. until 5 p.m., then if we don't finish the work they make
us come back again the next day. It's 2 hours on foot to their
camp. They built their camp around a pagoda. They order villagers
to go there and work for them every day, and if we are too tired
to go they come to point their guns at us and threaten us.
My wife and one child stayed behind for now, but the rest of our
family came here. It took us 3 days to walk, because some of
our children are very small so they kept getting tired and crying.
We came quickly so we wouldn't meet any soldiers on the way.
We didn't bring anything - one or two sarongs, but no plates
or anything, and just 1 small pot. So many people from the village
have come out here already, to Sho Kloh, Beh Klaw, etc. [refugee
camps in Thailand]. The village used to have 50 houses, but now
only 25 are left. We arrived here earlier this month. Others
want to come now as well. The village head says "If you don't
have money to pay the soldiers, you'd better go". We don't dare
tell the Burmese soldiers we're leaving. If they were around
here we wouldn't have dared to come. I want to go on to Thailand,
but will they allow us?