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Karen Human Rights Group Commentary

Burmese Relief Center--Japan
DATE:May 17, 1995
Subject: Karen Human Rights Group Commentary

Karen Human Rights Group
P.O. Box 22
Mae Sot
Tak 63110

May 9,1994 / KHRG #95-C2

'My husband gave them the money and said 'We only have that
money, I swear to God'.  Then the man said 'The situation is
not like before. There is mo God any longer.'  Then he shot my
husband in the mouth...'   (Karen woman whose husband and
son were murdered by DKBA/SLORC troops, Gray Hta
refugee camp, Thailand)

"international"- concerning, taking place between, or
recognized by more than one nation.  
"terrorism" - the use of violence or the threat of violence to
obtain political demands. (Longman Dictionary of
Contemporary English)

SLORC is now directly involved in planning, preparing,
coordinating and executing acts of international terrorism.  Its
role in the attacks on refugee camps in Thailand cannot be
denied, despite all its claims that the attacks are only the work
of the DKBA (Democratic Kayin Buddhist Army). 
Eyewitnesses have seen SLORC soldiers participating in
almost every attack, while letters and orders from SLORC
officers have referred to their 'control' over the DKBA. 
Furthermore, the latest wave of attacks, which employed
several hundred men operating on different parts of the border
with mortar support from a SLORC-controlled area on the
Burma side of the border, simply could not have been planned
and coordinated without direct SLORC involvement

If the refugees return, SLORC stands to gain a lot of
international legitimacy while simultaneously obtaining a lot
of free labourers for its 'development' projects.   Initially the
DKBA tried to use aggressive persuasion and threats.  Then
when that didn't work quickly enough DKBA and SLORC
began attacking the refugee camps, kidnapping or killing camp
leaders and religious leaders, shooting refugees and threatening
everyone with further attacks (see 'SLORC's Northern Karen
Offensive", KHRG #95-10, 29/3/95).  Since February, these
attacks have been happening several times a week and at
almost every camp.  By April camp security forces had formed
and were beginning to thwart many of the attacks.  Some
refugees went to Burma, but only a small minority.  Then on
April 25, SLORC and the DKBA launched the apparent 
'Third Phase' of  the strategy by hitting Mae Ra Ma Luang
(which hadn't been attacked before) and Kamaw Lay Ko
camps on the same day, then hitting Baw Noh camp on April
28 (see "New Attacks on Karen Refugee Camps', KHRG 495-16,5/5/95).  These atta
cks were completely different: they
attacked brazenly with at least 50 or 100 heavily armed troops,
in broad daylight in 2 out of 3 cases, and they showed no
hesitation to attack Thai forces even without being provoked. 
At Baw Noh, they even had Burmese 81 mm mortar support
fired from the Burma side of the border.  Furthermore, the
attacks were no longer targeted at specific camp or just a few
houses, but aimed to destroy the camps wholesale by burning
them down. 170 houses were burned in Mae Ra Ma Luang,
300 in Kamaw Lay Ko and over 700 in Baw Noh.  During the
attacks, DKBA troops made it clear to refugees that they also
had orders to capture or kill foreign aid workers in the camps if

"Bo Kyi Aung hates Christians very much, but I don't know
why.  In the villages, Bo Kyi Aung said that Karen women are
like rats, and that when the cats are at home, the rats can't stay
at home."  (Buddhist Karen refugee from Klaw Hta, Papun
District, describing a DKBA officer)

'Some of the Buddhist families joined them, but some didn't
join because they are afraid of the Burmese Army.  Most
people say that the power is in SLORCs hands and they are
leading the DKBA on a rope. Even the families who joined
DKBA did it because they are afraid of SLORC"
(Buddhist Karen refugee from Klaw Hta, Papun District)

Just after the attacks, DKBA  Lt. Gen.Toe Hla' (formerly a
Sergeant in a village militia) told Thai journalists "We are
working with troops of the State Law & Order Restoration
Council.  When all Karen refugees come home, we'll cease fire
[with Thailand] and SLORC promises to pull its troops out of
border areas.  " If the DKBA really believes that SLORC is
about to pull its troops out of border areas after fighting for 45
years to occupy those areas, its naivete really does surpass all
limits.  It is more likely that once the DKBA has achieved
what SLORC wants of it, SLORC will purge it and leave
behind only some SLORC-installed front men to maintain the
appearance of a Karen organization controlling Karen State. 
However, judging by their actions, many DKBA members
seem more interested in looting villages on both sides of the
border than they are in the future of Karen State.  Some of the
DKBA's officers formerly served time in Manerplaw's jail for
robbery and other crimes or joined DKBA because of some
personal grudge.  If it is plundering villages that they are most
interested in then SLORC is more than happy to support them
in that because any chaos or conflict within ethnic peoples
works to SLORC's advantage.  SLORC already has an
established history of supporting local bandit groups which
operate in southern Burma's Tenasserim Division.

'If we even asked for fishpaste they hit us on the face and said
'This is not your mother's house!" (escaped SLORC porter,
Kawmoora area)

'Khin Yi, Khin Yi, can you hear me?
Khin Yi,  Khin Yi, can you hear me?'
-(last radio transmission of a wounded SLORC soldier left
behind on the Kawmoora killing ground, hours after the failed
SLORC assault of Feb. 8. The calls went unanswered.)

While terrorizing refugee camps in Thailand, SLORC has also
continued its offensive to secure the Salween River and areas
of Papun District west of it.  Villages have been destroyed and
many people have fled to Thailand or have been forcibly
relocated to DKBA areas further inside Burma.  Areas along
the Salween's banks are clear of civilians making it hard for
refugees from further inside to get past SLORC to the border. 
In the Yunzalin and Kyauk Nyat areas which SLORC troops
now occupy for the first time, they have already begun issuing
orders for the remaining villagers to do rotating forced labour
duties at army camps, and warning that entire villages will be
destroyed if there is the slightest evidence of opposition in the
area (see "SLORC Orders to Villages: Set 95-B", KHRG #95-14@ 1/5/95).  Village
rs who go to the DKBA's 'refuge' at
Khaw Taw (Myaing Gyi Ngu) reportedly face forced
conscription into the DKBA Army, rotating forced labour as
SLORC porters, and the danger of being killed during the
regular shootouts between DKBA and SLORC soldiers at the
camp.  Given these circumstances, it is not hard to understand
why only about 3,000 of 60,000 Karen refugees have been
driven to return to Burma through fear of further attacks on the
refugee camps.

"We slept in a village after SLORC troops had left it. In that
village, I could see that the SLORC troops had shot the pigs
and chickens and taken whatever they saw.  I had never seen
this situation before. '   (escaped Burman porter from Rangoon,
in Karen State for the first time)

 They shot him dead. He was a villager.  He was over 70 years
old so he couldn't run.' (-villager from Ko Lar Hta village,
Papun District who fled after SLORC occupied his village.)

'If the Army camp calls you, come.
If the Army asks your help, help.'  (SLORCorder to newly
occupied villages, Papun District)

The refugees whose homes have been destroyed have scattered
into the hills surrounding their camps, where they now face the
beginning monsoon with no roof and no food, or to other
camps.  Meanwhile, people in other camps - such as Kler Ko
and Gray Hta - have also scattered because they believe they
will be next and they have no faith in the nonexistent Thai
security.  Many camps are now like ghost towns.  The Thai
Army has deployed alot of troops - but to Thai towns along the
border, not to refugee camps. Most camps still have less than
10 Thai soldiers for security, and even these are under orders
to evacuate if the camp is attacked.  In both Baw Noh and
Kamaw Lay Ko, Thai forces on site had warning of the attacks
and sent requests for reinforcements hours in advance, but no
answer and no reinforcements came.  After the attacks, several
Thai soldiers and officers on site openly expressed anger and
disgust with their superiors.  If anything, it appears that the
Thai Army high command wanted the camps to burn.  There is
now broad support in Thai official circles for a plan to move
all Karen refgees into a few large, completely closed camps
which would be an easy stepping stone to mass forced
repatriation after the coming rainy season, when the Thai
government will probably claim "all is now peaceful in
Burma".  The Thai Army and govemment are making it clear
that the UNHCR and other foreign agencies would be kept out
of these camps, which would be controlled by the Army.  They
argue that the Thai government can 'save money' by having
large camps and continue to care for the refugees as it always
has.  Of course, the Thai authorities have never spent a penny
on the camps or the rcfugem who receive all their aid from
foreign agencies which in turn must buy millions of dollars
worth of goods from Thai businesses.  However, the Thai
public is being duped into believing that their government has
always cared for the refugees and can continue to do so.  The
refugees do not want to go into such camps, and are very afraid
of what such camps imply for the future.  They don't know
what to think of their Karen brothers' in the DKBA.  They are
feeling lost and cofused, they have no homes, and the rainy
season is just about to begin. Even though the cross-border
attacks now appear to have entered a fourth phase which
involves attacking Thai forces and Thai Karen villages far
from refugee camps. Thai Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai is
playing down the attacks - caling them a "trivial issue" which
will not affect bilateral relations or the 'constructive
engagement' policy.   Despite the fact that SLORC has now
joined the short list of regimes worldwide which actually
engage in international terrorism, it appears that countries
everywhere will continue to send trade missions to Rangoon
instead of aircraft carriers.

"We can't do anything.  My heart is shattered into pieces.  Our
own nationality is oppressing us."
(Karen Buddhist woman, Baw Noh refugee camp, after her
house was burned by DKBA/SLORC)

SLORC abuses from Nyaunglebin District to Tenasserim
Division also continue without abating, and we continue to try
to document them as much as possible.  Things are getting
particularly worse in the area between Ye and Tavoy, where
Ye-Tavoy railway labour is continuing from several large
labour camps as never before, and Mon, Karen, Tavoyan and
Burman refugees continue to flee the area toward the Thai
border, increasing the population of some refugee camps as
much as 50% since January.  However, SLORC continues to
beef up security to block refugees from reaching the border,
and there are reports that orders have been distributed to some
villages telling them that villagers caught heading for the
border will be shot.  We are looking into these reports.  We
have now obtained evidence that political prisoners are being
used for forced labour on the Ye-Tavoy railway, in the form of
a letter signed by a convict in one of the convict labour camps -
he was sentenced to 8 years under Article 17- 1, which
prohibits association with  illegal' or oppositionorganizations
(see  SLORC Orders to Villages: Set 95-C', KHRG #95-15,
2/5/95).  Part of the reason for the clampdown in the area is
that the gas pipeline to carry gas from the Martaban Gulf to
Thailand has now reached the stage where farmland is being
confiscated, while some reports claim that forced labour is
being used to clear the pipeline route.  Several more battahions
of troops have been sent into the area,  forced labour has been
used to construct at least one offshore naval base (to protect
supplies being shipped for the pipeline), and the general human
rights situation in the coastal areas and inland is becoming
intolerable.  At the same time, the Thai 9th Army has given Da
Now See refugee camp in Thailand 45 days to go back to the
pipeline area of Burma or starve.  That camp is shelter to 550
Tavoyan refugees and is located very near the point where the
pipeline will cross the border into Thailand.  Food shipments to
the camp are no longer being allowed. 

"We have been beaten many times. There are so many sick
people.  Help us out of this trouble."'
(letterfrom a political prisoner (Article 17-I) in a convict
labour camp, Ye-Tavoy railway line)

"If you don't come because you are afraid of Mon rebels, we
Army must show you that we are
worse than Mon rebels. That's all." ( SLORC written order to
Mon village, gas pipeline area)

Unocal Oil president John Imle went so far as to claim that more
human rights abuses would be necessary as long as opposition
forces continue to threaten the gas pipeline.  However, those
familiar with the situation in Burma know that there are no limits
to SLORC human rights abuses even where it is not under
 threat'.  We are fortunate to now be receiving information from
Chin State (see  SLORC Abuses  in Chin State", KHRO #95-099 15/3/95) which sho
ws us that even where there is very little
opposition activity, SLORC pursues its regimen of  arbitrary
arrests, torture, summary executions, and forced labour.  While
it appears that John Imle does not understand this, the hundreds
of thousands of refugees fleeing Burma or already outside the
country certainly do, and they now need the world's help more
desperately than ever to save them from being sent back to
SLORC's labour camps.

"I'm sure that you are not rebel collaborators.  I could release you
now by my authority.  But I am so sad.  I cannot do that for the
time being because the Army ordered me not to release you and
to put you in jail"      (Civilian judge sentencing two political
prisoners, Arakan State)

"They have several ways of torturing and interrogating.  Even
though you're not killed, you can never be normal again."  (Chin
political prisoner after 3 years in a SLORC prison)

UPDATE In the report "SLORC Shootings and Arrests of
Refugees", KHRG #95-02,14/l/95,  we reported the case of two
Karen refugees at Noh Pa Doh village, Thailand, who crossed the
border to plant peanuts on October 29, 1994 and were arrested
and held at a camp of SLORC #44 Divjsion, #9 Light Infantry
Batalion. They are Maung Kyaw Pu, age 55, who suffers from
gastritis and Saw Tah Kee, age 30, who is physically
handicapped.  As of January, they were still being held and we
directly requested action by Amnesty International and the UN
Human Rights Centre on their behalf.  On May 8, we were
notified that they have still not retumed and no word of them has
been heard by their families.  People now believe they have been
executed.  However, until and unless this is confirmed it remains
important to assume they are alive, and we hereby repeat our
request for international action to help them.

"There is a patient army.
"There is an impatient army.
Choose which you like."  ( SLORC written order to newly
ocupied villages in Papun District)