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KHRG #95-26 Part 2/2
- Subject: KHRG #95-26 Part 2/2
- From: smith@xxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Mon, 07 Aug 1995 00:58:00
[Note: this report has been posted by KHRG, not by A. Smith. =20
Please ignore any reference to A. Smith in the message header.]
=09 YE-TAVOY RAILWAY AREA: AN UPDATE
An Independent Report by the Karen Human Rights Group
=09=09 July 31, 1995 / KHRG #95-26
[PART 2 OF 2 - SEE PRECEDING POSTING FOR PART 1]
[SOME DETAILS HAVE BEEN REPLACED BY 'XXX' FOR INTERNET DISTRIBUTION]
NAME: "Nai Win Maung" SEX: M AGE: 58 Mon Buddhist, farm labourer
FAMILY: Married, 3 children but all died from illness more than
=09 10 years ago
ADDRESS: XXXX village, Ye Township INTERVIEWED: 19/5/95
I came here because I couldn't stay there. I couldn't stand their
torture, and I couldn't pay all the porter fees and taxes for
the railway. I came with my wife, about 20 days ago. I had to
work on the railway in October, November, and also December .
For 2=AB months. I was breaking rocks and ground and carrying them,
and levelling the way [embankment]. I worked from 7 a.m. till
11 a.m., then from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. After that, rest. We had
to pile the dirt, 20 armspans [about 100 feet] long and as high
as this house. There were 24 of us. It took us 2=AB months, then
we could go home. I brought food from my village, and sometimes
I had to buy some. Some tools were given by the soldiers and
some, like baskets, we had to bring ourselves. We slept along
the railway, under a shelter made with leaves. We had to build
the shelters ourselves. But we moved after we finished each section,
and then we had to build another shelter. There were about 10,000
people working on the railway in that area.
The soldiers are spread along the railway. They always guarded
us in groups of 15 to 30 soldiers. It is difficult to escape.
They keep rotating. They came and checked us twice a day. I
was not beaten because I worked all the time, but I saw other
people beaten up. Some people got sick and couldn't work, so
they were beaten. I saw a man from Kot Dot village who was badly
beaten. After they kicked him he couldn't work, but he was forced
to work. He was hurt internally. He was about 20 years old.
Some women had husbands who had gone to Thailand [to find work],
so they were alone with their children and they had to go work
on the railway. The youngest children were about 13 or 14 years
old. The oldest were over 60. A lot of people got sick. Some
died. They were sick, and they had no food, no supplies, no medicine.
If we needed medicine we had to get it from our friends. The
SLORC troops had medicine for themselves, not for us. They said
"If you can't work, no problem. You stay here until your duty
is finished either way." Then the sick people have to stay a
longer time to finish their assignment. There were pregnant women
there, but they didn't have to work as hard. I heard some delivered
babies there, but that was at other places. I didn't see. When
they were digging the mountainside, some people were killed because
of a landslide, and one man from Ye broke his back.
Some people escaped. They fled because they knew that they could
never finish their job, so they were certain they would be beaten.
After they escaped the soldiers made trouble for their village
headman and their family. So people were afraid to flee because
they have their belongings and their farms in their village.=20
Since last year #343 Battalion as well as 2 or 3 other Battalions
have come to our area. Mostly it is #343 Battalion that supervises
the railway labour. Sometimes they change the troops.
After I finished my work on the railway [after December 1994]
I worked in my village. But we had to pay so many taxes, and
I couldn't. Here if I need to go to the hospital I don't have
to pay, and I receive rice. It is better than in the SLORC-controlled
NAME: "Nai Tin Shwe" SEX: M AGE: 64 Mon Buddhist, farm labourer
FAMILY: Married, "I had 12 children, 6 are still alive but only
=09 4 stay with me (age 14-33)"
ADDRESS: XXXX village, near Ye INTERVIEWED: 19/5/95
I arrived here [the refugee camp] three weeks ago. I had to work
on the railway for two months this year, and I had to pay for
railway sleepers. We had to pay 200 Kyats every month for other
things as well. We had to pay all the time. The headman said,
"If you can't pay, you can't stay here. We will take your house.
You can go and stay wherever you want where you don't have to
pay." That's why I came here, because I couldn't pay the money
for the sleepers and other things so he said I couldn't stay in
the village. If someone can pay he can stay in his house, but
I couldn't so I had to leave. I had nothing to bring - no blankets,
no mosquito nets. I came with nothing. I came over 20 days ago.
My daughter came with me, and her husband also had to work on
the railway. He couldn't get any money to live. My son came,
and he is 14 years old. I am 64 years old and I had to work on
the railway for two months. I had to go and work at Mitaw Lah
Gyi, Mitaw Lah Lay, and Bauk Pin Gwin. These places are close
to Tavoy! [i.e. far from his village; the villages mentioned are
not all close to Tavoy, but villagers around his area use the
expression "close to Tavoy!" to mean any place which is very far
I worked from November until January - more than two months.=20
The worksite was so far away, I couldn't work the whole time until
May. I couldn't carry. We had to carry dirt up to a height of
27 feet from the hole [to build the embankment]. It was too hard
for an old man like me. They forced the prisoners to do it too.
We couldn't dig the ground [the ground can be rock hard in dry
season]. They made explosions with dynamite and then we had to
carry up the dirt. We had to work for the government, but with
our own food. They sold one bowl [about 2.5 kg, uncooked] of
old and bad rice for 15 Kyats. We didn't receive any money from
the government. They didn't beat me because I am old, but some
young people were beaten very often. There were many old people,
some even older than me. There were also some women my age.=20
They collected anyone who could carry a basket of dirt. Even
widows had to go work. Some people who couldn't go were forced
to pay money to them, about 1,500 Kyats per household. So many
difficulties. Some labourers were sick with malaria and died
on the worksite. Last year at our worksite, four people were
buried together in the same hole because the ground collapsed
on Kyaik Mei Ma Lok mountain. Last year I also had to work hard.
Normally we had to work for 15 days each time. But this year
we had to work for two months continuously.
Then in February and after, they restarted the work and they took
labourers again. But after 15 days, the people fled back to the
village because there was fighting. All the worksites had to
stop. The fighting was with Karen or Mon soldiers, I'm not sure.
Maybe Mons. I didn't have to go that time. Then after that,
I came to the border. Just before I left the village, every household
had to pay 200 Kyats per month. About 200 prisoners were still
working at the worksite, and the money was to buy food for them.
If I'd stayed there I would have faced so many difficulties.
I had to pay so many fees like porter fees, construction fees,
... I am an old man, so I can't earn alot. I had nothing to
eat. That's why I had to leave. I lost my way during the trip.
Some people guided me here.
Before it was worse because so many people had to go and work.
This time they had troubles and they stopped. They already stopped,
and I heard they won't work this year. They will probably start
again at the beginning of next dry season. I'm very happy that
they closed the worksite this year. Otherwise we would be almost
dead. It was really lucky that fighting started just after they
started the work. They [the Mon or Karen soldiers] came and opened
fire for 3 or 4 nights, everyone fled and the worksite closed
down. But now they [SLORC] ask for money. Even if we work very
hard we can't afford to pay. We don't even earn enough to eat.
They took so many people as porters, even the elderly. People
were released only after bribing them with 10,000 Kyat. They
take everything we earn. There is no reason to stay there any
More than 10,000 people were taken as porters to Bo Mya's area
[far away for SLORC's offensives in the Manerplaw and Salween
areas]. They took about 20 from my village, and more than 500
in our Ye Township. Some were captured while they were working
at their farms. When I left the village, I still hadn't seen
any of them come back yet. I think they are still in the jungle
in Bo Mya's area. They even took the civil servants, like schoolteachers.
They arrested old men, and then their sons had to go in their
place. Old or not, they don't care. They take everyone and force
them to carry according to their strength. If someone can carry
shells, he has to carry shells. If he can't carry shells, he
has to carry rice. So many porters have died, but I didn't see
it myself. The living conditions are very bad. We are never
Now I have heard that they will build a new railway in the dry
season at Nat Ein Taung [this is the gas pipeline route - it will
not be a railway, but clearing for the pipeline. SLORC may try
to cover up forced labour for the pipeline by pretending they
are building a road or railway]. We will have to go and work
there also. It is a 5-year project. If we have to go and work
there, we will not be paid. We will have to buy our own food
and go for 15 days each time. The headman told us they will build
this new railway. He learned it from the higher ranking officers.
There is a government order that the villagers will have to work
on that new railway. It comes from their office. They will start
clearing in the dry season [November-May]. For this, they will
use bulldozers. These machines can clear everything, even the
clumps of bamboo, everything! They can pull down big trees and
take away clumps of bamboo very easily. [Nai Tin Shwe had clearly
only seen a bulldozer once or twice before, possibly on television].
After that, the people will have to dig the ground and build
the embankment. To get to Nat Ein Taung is very far, 4 days'
walk. That is for a young man - older men like me will need more
time. I heard that after finishing the [Nat Ein Taung] railway,
they will start the pipeline. The ones who will build the pipeline
are foreigners, because the Burmese can't do it themselves. The
foreigners will tell them what to do and the Burmese will do the
work. Last year [Nov/94-Jan/95] there were so many foreigners
at "14-mile", one day's walk from Ye [south of Ye, north of the
pipeline route]. They slept at the army camp. Whenever they
went out for measuring or surveying, they were escorted by many
soldiers from 343, 62, and other Battalions, as well as soldiers
from Tavoy. They were using something like a telescope and tapes
to measure. Only they can use these - the Burmese can't do anything
by themselves. At "14-mile" there is a small airstrip, and nearby
they built a microwave tower, same as the one in Thanbyuzayat.
They made a temporary one. I think they will build a very big
one. Maybe it is a receiver to contact all over Burma.
NAME: "Maung Aung Htay" SEX: M AGE: 20 Burman Buddhist, farmer
FAMILY: Single, parents alive and 5 brothers and sisters
ADDRESS: XXXX, Paung Twp. (between Martaban & Thaton)=20
I was working in XXXX village as a caretaker on a rubber
and betelnut plantation, and then the headman collected workers
and I was taken to work on the railway for the SLORC Army. The
whole village had to go - women and men, the whole village. They
collected all the adults, then the children couldn't stay at home
alone so they went along with their parents. That was 5 months
ago [in January]. We had to walk 2 hours to the worksite, carrying
our own rice and other belongings.
Each person had to dig the ground into holes 10 square feet by
one foot deep, dig 4=AB holes like that and carry the dirt. So if
my family had 4 people, we would have to do this work 4 times
- so 2 people would dig the ground, and the other 2 would carry
it up and pile it on the railway [embankment]. It took nearly
one month. We got no food and no salary, and we had to bring
our own tools. People who didn't want to do this work had to
pay 300 Kyat for each hole 10 square feet by 1 foot deep. We
worked 8 hours a day. We got up early and started. At 10 a.m.
we had a break until 2 p.m. Then we had to work again until sunset,
about 6 p.m. They didn't allow us to leave until all the work
was completed. Soldiers were guarding us during the work. There
were very many workers, and about 10 or 15 soldiers from #403
Battalion guarding us. If a villager took too long a rest, they
forced him to get back to work. I didn't see anyone being beaten,
but people got sick. The soldiers didn't give any medicine.=20
I saw some people seriously ill, but I didn't see anyone dying.
They let those people go home, but they had to hire other people
to come and replace them if their work wasn't finished. At night
we slept in our own shelters. We had to build our own shelters
at the worksite, or else sleep on the ground. The children stayed
in the shelters while their parents were working. No one looked
after them. The youngest worker was about 10 years old, and the
oldest about 60. The place was near Yah Pu village. The area
had already been cleared.
I was there about one month. Then after 3 or 4 months back in
the village they called me as a porter. The Army #409 Battalion
ordered 2 or 3 porters from every village, and the headman ordered
me. I had to go with the Army to the nearby villages, carrying
pots and other cooking equipment. I had to work the whole day.
The duty was for one month, then other villagers came to replace
us. We ate the same food as the soldiers, like rice, beans and
fishpaste. If porters couldn't carry they were beaten up. I
didn't see it in my column, but I saw it happening in other columns.
Some old people who couldn't carry their burdens were punched
and kicked by the soldiers. It was very painful. I saw one who
couldn't walk because of the beating, and they abandoned him.
Nobody took care of him. I didn't see if he died. Some of the
ones who couldn't carry anymore decided to run away. Those who
were caught were beaten very severely, but most of them were never
After a month as a porter I stayed only one month in the village,
and then they called me again for the second time to go for #104
Battalion. The second time I was a porter for only 2 days, then
I ran away. Three of us ran away from the camp at about 10 o'clock
at night - me, another porter, and this SLORC soldier here [he
arrived together with deserter "Ko Ko Maung" - see testimony in
this report]. We had planned our escape together. The soldiers
chased us but they couldn't find us, so we escaped. The next
morning we reached a village and met Mon troops in a betelnut
plantation. We explained our situation to them and they took
us to their district office. We escaped on May 6th. Now I would
like to stay here as a DPA soldier [Democratic People's Army,
a relatively small armed opposition group]. I have never been
a soldier before. I can't manage to live in Burma [meaning 'down
in Burma' as opposed to Mon territory]. There are so many taxes,
like porter fees and other taxes.
NAME: "Ko Ko Maung" SEX: M AGE: 23 Burman Buddhist
FAMILY: Married, no children
ADDRESS: Hlegu Township, near Rangoon INTERVIEWED: 4/6/95
["Ko Ko Maung" was the Burmese soldier who escaped with porter
"Maung Aung Htay" (see above).]
I was in the Army for 4 years. I was a Private, and I got 700
Kyat per month. I stopped school when I was 8 or 10 years old,
in 4th Standard. When my mother died, I went to stay with my
aunt in Rangoon. One of my cousins failed his examinations, and
my aunt scolded him and beat him. He ran away from home. We
all searched for him, and I found him at Mingaladon recruiting
centre. I couldn't manage to call him home. So I decided to
join him to stay together with him, and we both went into the
Army. That was in December 1990. I joined, but I had to wait
one year before the training. I stayed at Mingaladon and worked
for the Army as a labourer in an Army plantation. They were vegetable
gardens for food for the Army. Then I was in training for about
6 months at Weh Ga Lit central training centre No. 4 near Thanbyuzayat.
I learned assault and small weapons use. After I was posted
to a unit, I had to learn about big weapons. There was nothing
about how to treat civilians. During training we were beaten
by the commanders, very often. They punched us and slapped us
when we couldn't manage the lessons.
I was sent to #104 Battalion at Tavoy. I was there for a month,
then they sent me on duty to Nat Ein Taung camp. We had to dig
holes, build trenches, overhead bunkers and fences in the camp.
We stayed at the camp, we didn't go fighting. Only sometimes,
we went patrolling outside the camp. Then I returned to my base
[at Tavoy] and stayed there about 6 months. Then I was deployed
with a mobile unit to Kawza village area to search for enemies
and fight them. I have many experiences of fighting rebel troops.
Sometimes we lost 30 or 40 soldiers, including some officers.
I was wounded slightly once, in my leg. Sometimes we arrested
villagers. When we arrested suspects, we interrogated them and
if it was clear that these villagers had contact with rebels,
we killed them. If there was no evidence, we released them.=20
The commander gave the orders. I was ordered to kill villagers
twice. One was from Kawza village, and another was a rebel that
we caught living in a village. We never took the villagers' property,
but sometimes we shot their chickens for our food. My unit was
a mobile unit so we didn't deal too much with the villagers.=20
Our officers ordered us to reach certain places by certain times.
If the porters couldn't carry the ammunition, we wouldn't reach
the place in time. So then we beat the porters to go faster,
so we could get there on time. Sometimes we beat them, sometimes
we didn't. I never beat porters. The officers didn't beat soldiers,
but they punished us. Soldiers who made mistakes had to carry
7 or 8 bricks in a backpack and run around for at least half an
hour. Most of the soldiers were young. The youngest was 16,
and the oldest was about 30.
I didn't like the behaviour of the Army with the villagers. When
old people were treated badly, I felt like it was my father or
my mother. What would they feel? If the soldiers treat people
like that in other areas of Burma, maybe my relatives are suffering
the same. Twice before I tried to escape from the Army with a
friend. The first plan was discovered by the officers. When
the officer asked my friend "Who will desert the Army with you?",
he said "Nobody. I am alone." Because he shut his mouth, I was
safe. This time I had decided to flee and I discussed it with
two porters. When we had been on patrol these 2 porters had been
with me all the time, so I thought they might have the same idea
as me. It was the 16th [of May] and we were in XXXX village.
I told them that I would join the Mon army and asked them "Will
you follow me?" They said "Okay, we will follow you." Then during
my guard duty we ran away from the camp.
My wife and I were staying in the camp in the family barracks.
I left her at the camp. I think now she will be sent back to
her parents' house, not too far away. That's usually what happens.
Another time, Cpl. XXXX escaped from the camp with 5
of his soldiers. I was part of Column X. My commander was Maj.
XXXX, and the Battalion Commander is Lt. Col. Zaw Win
Myint. Now I would like to stay here and serve of a soldier with
these troops [Democratic People's Army]. If I have a chance to
fight the SLORC Army I will be happy.
NAME: "Nai Nee" SEX: M AGE: 41 Mon Buddhist, day labourer
FAMILY: Married, 3 children aged 7 to 19 years
ADDRESS: XXXX village, Ye Township INTERVIEWED: 19/5/95
I arrived 2 weeks ago [at the refugee camp]. I couldn't stay
in my village anymore. We were afraid. They take the men as
porters. They take people for the railway. We can't work for
ourselves, we have to work for the Army all the time. Last year
I had to go to the railway three times, and once just before I
came here. This year is much worse than last year. My village
has 60 houses. One person from each house had to go. We had
to dig a hole 50 feet long. To measure the depth, the soldiers
gave us a stick. This year, there is no chance to stop working.
Last year, we worked for one month and we could stop for two
weeks. This year over 10,000 people worked there. Every village
had to go. The headman ordered me, and I started in March. He
didn't say how long I'd have to work. Last year I worked 3 times,
sometimes for 2 months, sometimes 1 month. This year I only worked
for one month, then I fled to the border.
There were 7 worksites in the area. I worked at "7-mile". From
my village [north of Ye] I had to walk 4 hours to the car road,
then I took a bus to Ye. Those who didn't have money couldn't
afford the 45 Kyats for the bus fare. They had to walk from my
village to Ye - it takes 24 hours. We had to sleep one night
in Ye. Then from Ye to the worksite, 24 hours walking again.
There were 60 people from my village. We had to work there.
We had to build our own shelters. We built a shelter for 10
people, very small and crowded, but we could sleep. There were
no toilets, we had to go to the bushes. We drank water from a
stream. We had to find our food ourselves. We didn't have a
specific place to work - every day they told us where to work.
We worked from 6 a.m. until 11 a.m., then lunch. Then from 1
p.m. to 6 p.m. Then we had dinner and we slept. There were about
10,000 people in "7-mile" area. We had to bring food from our
village. There were many shops around there, so if we had money
we could buy food there. If we had no money, we couldn't buy
anything. There was no clinic, no medicine. Somebody from Ka
Law village came to sell medicine every morning and every evening.
Q: Were you paid any salary?
A: Are you crazy? No money!
Q: SLORC says you can watch videos at night.
A: [Laugh] No, no - we were in the jungle there!
Q: SLORC says the villagers enjoy staying there and don't want
to go home.
A: We were working hard on the railway to finish as soon as possible,
so we could go home to do our own work. SLORC never gave us even
one milktin of rice!
Our group stayed together in one area. Once a day the soldiers
came to look around, but they didn't stay. Maybe they stayed
hidden in the bushes, I don't know. We didn't dare escape because
the soldiers would inform our headman. If a person tried to escape
and was arrested later by SLORC, he had to go as a porter for
a long time and serve as a human shield for the troops. In March
I was beaten because I couldn't work. [Soldiers caught him sleeping
during the day when they came around.] I was sick and wanted
to go home. I didn't have any more food, but they didn't give
me any and they accused me of pretending to be sick. They said
"Why are you sick now? You were not sick when you started to
work here. You are pretending to be sick." They beat me. They
punched me in the stomach so many times. "Why are you sleeping?"
the soldiers said, and "What kind of animal are you to think you
can sleep like this?" [a very rude expression in Burmese] Pah...Pah...Pah.=
I couldn't count the punches. They punched me very hard, and
they also kicked me but that was not as bad. One soldier beat
me, then I went outside and other soldier beat me. After that,
I couldn't carry any heavy load anymore. I had internal pain.
When the work was finished, I went to get treated at the hospital.
It still hurts now.
I heard about one person from Thaung Prang village [in Ye Township]
who was beaten to death, and that SLORC soldiers from "9-mile"
worksite raped a woman from Thaung Prang at night and then killed
her. The soldiers always teased the women. Sometimes they touched
them with their hands. The women didn't dare say anything. About
half of the workers were women. We were all together, breaking
rocks and carrying the dirt. It was the same work as last year.
I was the only one from my family, because I didn't let my wife
or my children work there. They sold vegetables in the village
to live while I was gone. At the railway, I had no more food
so I asked the leader if I could go back home to get some food.
I went back, but my wife and children had already left to come
here. So I followed them.
In the village we also had to pay 50 Kyats per month per family
as porter fees. They also ordered money for the railway, to pay
the technical supervisor. Both soldiers and villagers had to
guard the railway. So we had to pay 300 Kyat for that too, because
those villagers are SLORC followers.
NAME: "U Myint Gyi" SEX: M AGE: 56 Tavoyan Buddhist, fisherman
FAMILY: Married, 8 children aged 10 months to 27
ADDRESS: XXXX village, Ye Pyu Township INTERVIEWED: 1/6/95
I arrived here [the refugee camp] in the middle of April. We
couldn't stay in our village anymore because we had to pay 250
Kyat per week. So we hid in the jungle, and then I couldn't do
my work. That's why I couldn't stay. If I worked all day I could
only get food for one day, and I have a big family. I couldn't
stay with them because I always had to run. I slept in the jungle
for 4 months. If I have many normal problems I will face them
even if I have to die. But I couldn't pay and I couldn't run
from the soldiers, so I couldn't stay in my village. I brought
my whole family with me. I've never been here before, I'd only
heard about this place.
The soldiers don't care about the elderly or the young - if they
see you they will arrest you and force you to be a porter. If
you can pay 3,000 Kyat they will release you. But I couldn't
pay, and I couldn't go as a porter. Even when they arrested an
old man, they still held him and demanded that the villagers send
5 young men for 5 days before they would release him. But then
after 5 days they still didn't release him. I've been a porter
5 times, two times last year for 2 weeks each time, and 3 times
just before coming here, in February, March, and April. The last
time was from Nat Gyi Zin to Yah Pu, Kyauk Ka Din and Alah Sakan,
over the hills. The other times were to Kyauk Ka Yan and Mine
Yan and back. The Battalions that come to my village are #410,
404 and 408, but I was a porter for #104, then #108, then #409
Battalion. We got a milktin of rice and beans twice a day. When
we reached the camp sometimes we got better food, like bits of
coconut in our beans. It was not enough. If we had money we
could buy more food. We slept in a monastery compound. The soldiers
guarded us, and if we needed to go to the toilet we had to ask
I had to carry 2 soldiers' bags, about 5 viss [8 kg.] each, but
I don't know what was in them. The others had heavier loads.
Those who couldn't climb were severely kicked and beaten. The
porters who carried ammunition got tired quickly. They were often
kicked and beaten, and the soldiers scolded them badly. Some
fell down and pretended they couldn't get up again, and some fell
down the slope on purpose so they could try to escape. But some
were beaten to death with sticks and boots, and they also hit
them with rifle butts and rifle barrels. There was an old Mon
man about 60 years old. He was on his back, and they poked him
in the belly with rifle barrels and hit his back with rifle butts.
Also, the porters who got sick had to die. If they couldn't
go or couldn't move, the soldiers pushed them down the mountainside.
If there was a ditch, they pushed them into it. Sometimes they
threw them into the bushes. If somebody found them later, maybe
they'd have a chance to live. We passed someone moaning in the
bushes, and the soldiers never paid any attention or even looked.
So the porters' saying is "If you can't walk, you die. You walk,
you live." Some of the porters were teenagers, 16, 17, 18 years
old. Some were in their 60's. There were about 100 soldiers
and 80 porters or so, from different villages. I didn't try to
escape because I was afraid. They usually shot at the ones who
tried to escape. I only went back home when they released me.
There are 150 houses in my village, mostly Mon with some Tavoyans
and Burmese. Many people came here already, and a few are still
arriving. I heard from the newcomers that now the people in our
village are not being allowed to grow rice, and instead the soldiers
are forcing them to build a road from Pyu Gyi to Kyauk Gone.=20
The road is half finished. Our village is far from the railway,
but last year I had to work there for 15 days near Nat Gyi Zin,
digging and carrying the ground. Compared to being a porter,
I want to refuse both kinds of labour, but being a porter is harder.
At the railway we stopped work at 5 p.m., but as a porter I got
no rest. They didn't call again for railway labour this year.
They stopped the work, and now the railway route is damaged.
We heard that they will call us for the pipeline project too,
but they have not done it yet. Maybe they stopped that project
already. Before leaving my village I heard they were doing work
on it, both porters and villagers, and that there are soldiers
there. But I didn't see, because there is a river between my
village and that place.
Now things in my village are getting worse. It started getting
worse about 2 years ago. The villagers are forced to work but
they don't receive even 5 pyas [0.05 Kyat]. We heard that foreigners
give money, but the SLORC gives no money to the villagers. This
government is like a giant beast that tortures human beings.=20
I came to stay here, so I will stay here. Here there are also
many problems [with the Thai authorities], but I think we will
have to stay at least 5 years. If the situation doesn't get better
in my village, maybe 10 years.
NAME: "Nai Maung Hla" SEX: M AGE: 28 Mon Buddhist, farmer
FAMILY: Married, 3 children aged 1 to 8 years
ADDRESS: XXXX village, Ye Township INTERVIEWED: 19/5/95
I got here [the refugee camp] two weeks ago, because we couldn't
face any more oppression from SLORC. I had to go work on the
railway twice, in January and February. Before they took people
from other villages, but now they have started to take people
in our village. It is our turn now. They also asked 100 Kyats
per month per family, 50 Kyats per month as porter fees, and 50
Kyats for the railway. They said the money was to hire people
to guard the railway. They also ordered villagers to go and guard
the railway, but I didn't have to go for that. I had to dig the
ground and build an embankment over 16 feet long and 9 feet wide.
I wasn't beaten, but if people couldn't do the work for them
then they were beaten. The railway is 9 miles from our village.
With the railway, the SLORC troops will be able to move more
easily in the area. They will build camps and make more problems
for the ethnic people, so it is not good for the villagers. I
heard that they will build a fence all the way from our village
to Taung Moon. Maybe they will relocate our village to another
place. I don't think we will be able to travel peacefully. So
many of them will come there soon.
This year it is the same as last year. But we are worried more
than last year, because it is almost rainy season so we are worried
about our paddy fields [i.e. that if they are called for labour
they won't be able to plant a crop]. I have a farm where I grow
durian, jackfruit and pineapple. But now I have come here with
my family, and I feel better here. It took us about 3 days.=20
We couldn't carry anything with us. Many people have already
left our village. Some are here, and some more are planning to
come here. There are 450 households in my village. I've met
about 10 of them here so far.
NAME: "Maung Aung Shwe" SEX: M AGE: 26 Burman Buddhist
ADDRESS: Rangoon INTERVIEWED: 7/6/95
[Escaped convict "Maung Aung Shwe" arrived in a Mon camp in February
1995 after escaping forced labour on the Ye-Tavoy railway. Although
much of his story is not related to the railway, it is included
here because it gives a picture of life for the average "criminal
prisoner" in Burma.]
I am from a big family - we are 8 brothers and sisters. I am
in the middle. All are single. I was a 10th standard student.
We went to Myitkyina [Kachin State] and Pakant to look for jade.
We went happily and legally. One day, we were drinking and eating
at a small shop. A policeman came and demanded money from my
brother, but my brother said "I don't want to deal with the police.
Don't ask for money. Go away." A quarrel broke out between
my brother and the policeman. The policeman started swinging
a stool. I was hit on my head, and I stabbed the policeman in
the belly with a fork. I went back to my house, and then I went
to the hospital and got 7 stitches on my head. My brother stayed
with the policeman, took care of him and took him to the hospital.
I went into hiding in Mandalay. After 26 days, the policeman
died. I returned home to Rangoon to see my mother. I arrived
home at 1 p.m. I sent someone to buy a packet of cigarettes while
my mother slept and I waited upstairs. Then 12 policeman in civilian
clothes came in, went upstairs, broke the door of my room and
arrested me. I was amazed at how they caught me. My mother didn't
even notice them coming in.
They took me to the police station, beat me and asked me many
questions. My whole body was hurting, especially my stomach.
I couldn't lie down and I couldn't sleep well because of the
pain. It was difficult to urinate for about 12 days. They made
me "ride the motorcycle" [a standard SLORC torture - the victim
is forced to squat on the floor for extended periods, pretend
he's riding a motorcycle and make motorcycle noises, while the
officer gives commands like "Turn left! Stop!" The victim has
to make honking noises when his ear is pulled. Meanwhile, he
is constantly being beaten with clubs]. They blindfolded me and
beat me. They made me stand on needles. The police beat me continuously
for 12 days. They ordered me to give them the murder weapon,
but I couldn't give them the fork. They asked questions about
the fork. I was kept for a month in a special room, then I was
returned to the police station cell for 14 days. Then they sent
me to court. I explained the truth about what had happened.=20
The only problem was that I couldn't show them the fork. The
judge said I was trying to hide the evidence exhibit. I was sentenced
under Article 201, and also for causing death. That was in March
1993. They sent me to Insein Jail. I was there for 1 year and
3 months. In jail we had to work, but if you bribed them then
they allowed you not to work for a few days. Some paid 900 Kyats
to get 14 days rest. Some gave 1,500 Kyats for several months
at a time. Those who couldn't pay were called in the morning
and given duties like cleaning the compound, cleaning the toilets,
working in the kitchen, etc. The food was not good but it was
enough. Every morning yellow-bean soup and every evening vegetable
soup, but without seasoning. It didn't taste good. Pork or fish
once a week.
I was in a huge room separate from the main building. About 120
prisoners stayed there, sometimes fewer, but always at least 90.
When there were 120, we only got a very small space to sleep.
My family came once a week. They gave money to the prison officers
and sent food. I could speak to them, but there were guards around.
We weren't allowed to write letters but I did it secretly. I
paid money to borrow books. If prisoners fought each other, the
guards put them in the dark room, the hot room or a room filled
with water. I found some prisoners stabbed with a sharpened iron
bar. I don't know how that quarrel started. Iron bars were easy
to get in the jail. I also heard that some prisoners killed themselves.
The youngest prisoner was 12 years old. The oldest was about
80. There are many old prisoners. Usually, murder was 5 years.
Premeditated murder and rape could be 15 to 20 years. An accident
causing death is at least 1 or 2 years. A torturer could get
3 or 4 years, and a car accident 1 or 2 years.
After 15 months they took me to Hlegu Township, on the Rangoon-Mandalay
highway project. We dug and carried the ground. We wore chains.
We had to wear them day and night. At forced labour places,
rapists have to wear the chains for 1 year, and murder, robbery
and burglary cases for 6 months. Villagers were also working
on the road, but prisoners and villagers worked separately. The
prison authorities guarded us, but soldiers and police guarded
us too. There were Lon Htein [riot police] from Pegu, and soldiers
from #217 Battalion, #11 Division. They watched us from behind.
We were always working. Prisoners who worked slowly or got tired
quickly got beaten and kicked. It was hard work to carry stones
or dirt up the bank. Once there was a dispute and the guard hit
me twice with a stick, on the shoulders and the back. If a prisoner
couldn't pay them, they beat him too much, so I gave them 2,500
Kyats. If prisoners fought each other they were beaten severely,
and sometimes even put in a cell or put in stocks in a building
in the camp. Some had to stay in the stocks for 15 days, or a
maximum of one month. The prisoners slept in a barracks that
was built for us before we arrived. There were about 250 prisoners
in one barrack. From Insein Jail, there were 250 of us on the
highway, but there were also 200 more prisoners working at farms
nearby. We had half a day's rest each week on Sunday morning,
and I had to work at the vegetable farm then. I was there in
1994, I don't remember which months.
I was there for 2 months, then they sent me to the prisoner camp
at Thaton. We had to crush stones in a quarry, at Yin Ne Ain
in Thaton Township. In front of our camp was a plain with many
huge stones laying on the ground. We worked in chains. The prison
authorities administered the camp. They had rifles. There were
only prisoners working there. Some died because of explosions,
and rocks hit them. Some died because of disease, and they couldn't
get to the hospital in time. During the time I was there about
17 or 18 died, mostly on the way to the hospital. We had a "medic".
He was chosen from among the prisoners. If a prisoner could
give money to the medic, he could rest. According to the rules
the authorities should pay the prisoners 10 Kyats per month, but
they never do. They just gave the prisoners some cheroots and
MSG [for cooking]. I worked there for 6 months [from the rest
of his testimony, it appears that it was actually only 3 months].
Then I was moved to another place with some other prisoners.
I was sent to Ko-Mine ["9-mile", on the Ye-Tavoy railway] railway
camp. I was there for more than 4 months. I was promoted to
Guard. My duty was to make sure that no prisoners escaped. I
also had to dig and level the ground, and cut into the hillside.
Sometimes we had to clear the ground for the railway, and sometimes
we had to clear it to make space for more prisoners to stay.=20
We started at 6 a.m. We had a lunch break between noon and 1
p.m., and we finished at 5 p.m. I was still in chains for 1 month,
then they freed me from the chains. [His 6 months wearing chains
at forced labour were up - murder cases have to wear the chains
at forced labour for 6 months, as he said above.] Until your
time is due, they never take off the chains. In some cases, a
prisoner's time to wear chains is over but the authorities don't
receive the order from above, so they still cannot take off the
chains. The work at the railway was a bit harder than at the
other places. We were surrounded by 3 lines of guards. There
was a line of barbed wire, then sharpened bamboo stakes and traps.
Then behind those, the police were guarding, and then the soldiers.
The prison authorities usually stayed in their barracks outside
the fences. They arrested people and demanded money, and then
with that money they hired women. The soldiers were from 343
Battalion. At the other side of Ko-Mine bridge, it was 406 Battalion.
There were 350 prisoners in the camp from many jails: Sittwe [Arakan
State], Mandalay, Myaung Mya [Irrawaddy Delta], Bassein [Irrawaddy
Delta], Moulmein, etc. There were 3 prisoners' barracks for 350
prisoners. The latrines were just inside the fences, out the
back door of the barracks. At night there were sentries near
the toilets - we had to announce ourselves with our prisoner number,
name and what we wanted to do. Twice a day we got rice, less
than one milktin full [very little], and banana stem and salt
in water which was not boiled, just hot. There was no clinic
in the camp, only in the village [9-Mile village, nearby]. We
wore white shirts and white longyis [prison uniform, of very coarse
There were villagers there too, doing the same work as us: digging
and clearing. Our work was harder, but theirs was also hard and
they had to bring their own food as well. They also were guarded.
Some of them were raped, girls aged 12, 13, 16 and 18. The officer
who raped them was [Capt.] Nyi Nyi from 343 Battalion. The girls
were from Han Kan, Thaung Byin, and villages just south of Ye.
I heard about some of these cases, and some I saw. He called
the girls while they were working along the railway in the daytime.
When I was going to the toilets, I saw one. She didn't shout
because they had guns. They threatened her, and then after they
released her. =20
I saw people who were beaten. Me, I was beaten on my head for
fighting. Most of the guards were drunk, so they beat and kicked
us all over. Sometimes they forced us to lie down and beat and
kicked us from above. Sometimes they jumped up and down on us.
After we were beaten, when the working period was over we went
to the clinic in the nearby village to get medicine. Then the
next day when they counted the prisoners we could ask for lighter
work if we were injured. I couldn't work after that. They allowed
me to work slowly, but not too slowly. If I was too slow they
would beat me, so I kept working. It was quite difficult to move
after the beating, especially in my waist. Some were beaten badly
and died later. They couldn't be cured. I knew 3 of them.=20
4 died of beatings altogether. The day I left, one died of cholera.
He was sent to the clinic but his body already smelled bad, so
they put him in a car for the hospital but when it started moving,
he died. Win Naing from Myaung Mya died because of lack of food.
He was 22 or 23. He died on the way to the clinic, after he
was badly beaten. Kyaw Kyaw died of disease. He was 19. Also,
Zaw Oo. In the past he was a Corporal in the Army. He tried
to escape and the soldiers shot him. He was around 20 years old.
[He was in jail for attempted desertion.] Another one tried
to escape and the soldiers shot him too, but I don't remember
his name. He was from Bassein and used narcotic drugs. His sentence
was 5 years.
My family came to visit me twice at the railway. They could give
money for me, but they had spent a lot on me already. My father
is a XXXX, and my mother makes
food and sells it. We are 8 children, but only 2 are working.
I escaped from Ko-Mine camp in February . I heard that
some people in villages would help people on the way. The man
who helped me was xxxx [some details of his escape are omitted
in order not to damage the chances of future escape attempts].
That day I didn't go to work. I pretended to be sick and asked
permission to stay. That day there were only 2 policemen near
our barracks, and they were both my friends. One of them left
to go to send a sick prisoner to the hospital - along the way,
the sick man died. So xxxx was left alone. We made a trick,
and told him "The Intelligence Officer wants to see you". He
left, and we took our chance. We crossed the fences. We went
over the barbed wire, then we cut the woven bamboo fence with
a knife. Then we crawled through the fence. We hurt ourselves
doing that. We went to xxxx area, then we crossed the mountains.
Now I want to go to Bangkok and I want to contact my parents.
My parents don't know I've escaped. I am very afraid to go back
=09=09 - [END OF REPORT] -