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KHRG Report: SLORC Army Defectors S

Subject: KHRG Report: SLORC Army Defectors Speak

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An Independent Report by the Karen Human Rights Group
June 20, 1994

The following comments were made recently in independent interviews
with defectors from the SLORC Army in Mergui/Tavoy District, in
the Tenasserim Division of southern Burma.  Some of them defected
earlier this year, while others defected over a year ago.  However,
all of their comments still apply because as the SLORC Army continues
to rapidly expand, conditions continue to deteriorate for both
civilians and rank-and-file soldiers.  In fact, as the comments
of these former soldiers make clear, it seems that only the senior
officers are deriving any benefit at all from the systematic oppression
of the civilian population.  The monthly salary before deductions
of a private soldier, 450 Kyat, is not even enough to buy milled
rice for two people for a month at current prices - not to mention
that people also need other food to eat with their rice.  Meanwhile,
inflation continues to rage throughout the country as the Kyat
becomes increasingly worthless.

All of the defectors in this report have now joined the Karen
National Liberation Army, but many other defectors choose instead
to try to get home to their families or to settle down as civilians
in Karen-controlled areas.  If deserters are ever caught by SLORC
they will be executed without trial, and their families also face
possible retribution.  Therefore, their names have been changed
and some details, such as their Army serial numbers, omitted to
protect their families.

NAME:           Kyaw Hla        SEX: M  AGE: 23    Arakanese Buddhist
ADDRESS:        Lehma, Arakan State
EDUCATION:      4th Standard (primary school)
SLORC ARMY RANK:  Private       SALARY:  450 Kyat/month BATTALION:  404

I joined the SLORC Army in October 1990.  I joined because I was
so scared of the SLORC.  People in my village and my family were
all beaten by the SLORC, and they forced my father to be a porter.
 The SLORC sent orders to the headman they'd appointed for the
village, and he came and called my father to be a porter.  My
father was 45 years old then.  They also arrested my older brother.
 So I joined to be safe from them.

In 1992 we went to the frontline in Tha Yet Chaung Township, and
our commander called all the villagers to be porters - not only
the old men, but children too.  Some of the porters couldn't carry
the sacks of rice so the soldiers forced the porters to keep going
by kicking them.  They also called women to be porters.  I remember
one woman who was carrying a child as well as her load.  The child
still needed to be breastfed.  Then when we went through another
village we saw another woman together with two men, so we arrested
all of them and then the woman cried, so Major Myint Swe beat
them and swore at them, and at me too.  Major Myint Swe was the
Battalion Commander.  [Note:  this is the same Maj. Myint Swe
who was responsible for the brutal murders of 11 villagers from
Thay Nyaw Chee village in September 1993 - see the KHRG report
"SLORC Murders in Mergui/Tavoy District", 17/12/93.  There is
a report that he has been killed since then, but we have not yet
confirmed this.]  Major Myint Swe used to tell me not to beat
or swear at the porters by beating and swearing at me.

Third in command of the column was Thura Swe Paw Soe, and he gave
orders that whenever we were in a village none of the villagers
were allowed to go to their farms - they all had to stay at home.
 Most of the time when we passed huts in the farm fields, if there
was a man around we took him as a porter.  All the villagers were
also ordered to come to our base, to build roads, etc.  The villagers
who we called to our base were ordered to build a mess hall and
offices on the base.  If they didn't come we asked for money,
and if they didn't give us money we arrested them and put them
in jail.

At the base there was not always enough room for all the soldiers
to live, and we had to live in very cramped and crowded conditions.
 There were often fights between soldiers and our personal things
were often stolen.  The wives of some soldiers lived at the base,
and sometimes when their husbands had to go to the frontline the
officers gave the wives money, condensed milk and rice to sleep
with them.

Before I joined the Army I'd seen books and things by the students
[the Burmese students fighting for democracy] but when I was in
the Army the officers had rules that we were not allowed to read
things like that.  I came and joined the Karen Army in April 1993
because the SLORC is a dictatorship and they forced us to obey
every order of theirs.

NAME:           Maung Thein Soe  SEX: M  AGE: 21   Karen Buddhist
ADDRESS:        Mon State
EDUCATION:      9th Standard (first year of high school)
SLORC ARMY RANK:  Lance Corporal   SALARY:650 Kyat/month   BATTALION:17

In 1988 I joined the uprising, so after the SLORC took power I
was afraid of being arrested.  First I went home to my village,
but then I left it again and had no aim in life for a while. 
Then my parents called me to come home, but I was still afraid
I would be arrested so I joined the Army thinking that it would
make me safe from arrest.  I joined in October 1989.  Burmese
troops don't come to our village very often, so I didn't know
much about what they do to the people.
After I joined the Army, I was in the Ywa Hee Lu battle and I
saw many porters die because the soldiers killed any of them who
were sick or who couldn't carry their loads.  I saw them kill
four porters for this, and I saw them shoot dead two others just
because they couldn't feed them anymore.  Other porters were just
sent away on their own, very weak after getting extremely little
rice to eat.

Whenever we arrived at villages in Palauk and Pa Law Townships
and people tried to run away, we caught them, beat them and asked
why they tried to run.  Then we called their village leaders and
beat them too.  Another time I heard that the commander and second
in command of Column 3 had raped a girl.

At the base, when the soldiers went to the frontline the officers
didn't care about our families.  Some of the officers slept with
the wives of soldiers who were at the frontline.  Some prostitutes
from Mergui came and called the soldiers' wives to become prostitutes
like them.  All of these things happened in 17 Battalion.  The
soldiers' wives and children faced a lot of trouble whenever their
husbands were away, and their husbands knew nothing about it.
 After seeing so much oppression by the Burmese Army, I came and
joined the Karen Army in February 1994.

NAME:           Thein Htun      SEX: M  AGE: 24    Burman Buddhist
ADDRESS:        Prome, Pegu Division
EDUCATION:      4th Standard (primary school)
SLORC ARMY RANK:  Private   SALARY:  450 Kyat/month   BATTALION:  104

I joined the Army in 1988 because I had problems with my relatives.
 In the Army I often saw porters beaten by the soldiers.  Some
of them were unable to work but they were still forced to, and
soldiers always asked people to pay "porter fees".

As soldiers, we were forbidden to listen to the BBC radio by the
officers.  We didn't even receive our full pay.  Our monthly pay
was always cut for so-called "social activities", "religious ceremonies",
"games", etc.  By the time they were finished, I usually ended
up with only 145 Kyat each month.  The pay was so bad that I have
seen the wives of soldiers losing their character [sleeping with
officers and becoming prostitutes] because their husbands got
insufficient pay.  I came to join the KNLA in 1992 because I didn't
like the way the SLORC oppresses the people.

NAME:           Maung Soe Min   SEX: M  AGE: 29 Burman Buddhist
ADDRESS:                Rangoon
EDUCATION:      7th Standard (middle school)
SLORC ARMY RANK:  Sergeant              BATTALION:  104

I joined the Army in August 1985 to defend our country.  But in
the Army I saw many problems, because the officers were so proud
of their commands that they beat many of their soldiers for the
smallest breach of rules of discipline.  Under SLORC I saw the
army take porters, beat people and rape women.  I didn't want
to stay with them and I wanted to escape but I couldn't.  I heard
about the revolution through BBC [shortwave radio] and from some
other people.  Then in 1992 I heard that my parents had died.
 I felt so sad that I left and came to join the KNLA, because
then I knew that even if I went home, my parents wouldn't be there

NAME:           Khine Soe Aung  SEX: M  AGE: 21   Arakanese Buddhist
ADDRESS:        Sittwe, Arakan State
EDUCATION:      2nd Standard (primary school)
SLORC ARMY RANK:  Private     SALARY: 450 Kyat/month  BATTALION:  404

I joined the SLORC Army in October 1990.  My father was beaten
by SLORC soldiers, so I joined the Army so my father could feel
safe from more beatings.  In the Army I saw many porters being
beaten by the soldiers as well.  Later I was beaten because the
officer suspected me of being a Karen collaborator, so I fled
the Army and lived in a village as a farmer for a year.  Then
I joined the Karen Army in January 1994.