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KHRG REPORT #95-27
- Subject: KHRG REPORT #95-27
- From: smith@xxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Thu, 10 Aug 1995 18:51:00
[Note: This report has been posted by KHRG, not by A. Smith. =
Please ignore any reference to A. Smith in the message header.]
=09 CONDITIONS IN THE GAS PIPELINE AREA
An Independent Report by the Karen Human Rights Group
=09=09 August 1, 1995 / KHRG #95-27
[SOME DETAILS ARE REPLACED WITH 'XXXX' FOR INTERNET DISTRIBUTION]
The Gulf of Martaban in the Andaman Sea is rich in undersea deposits
of natural gas not far off the coastline of southern Burma's Tenasserim
Division. Seeing this as a potentially major source of income,
SLORC has been keen to exploit this resource as quickly as possible.
It has negotiated multi-billion dollar contracts with French
oil giant TOTAL, as well as Unocal of the USA and Thailand's PTTEP.
Typically, rather than have the gas go to the people of Burma
the SLORC plans to pipeline it to energy-hungry Thailand, where
it will be used to fuel a new facility being built by EGAT, the
Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand. The oil companies
are responsible for extracting and processing the gas as well
as constructing the pipeline, while SLORC is primarily responsible
for providing security and labour. The pipeline is planned to
go through Karen and Mon territory, coming onshore just south
of the Heinze Basin and heading almost straight east to the Thai
border at Nat Ein Taung. When the gas begins to flow (scheduled
for 1998), SLORC is to receive direct payments of at least US$400
million per year from the oil companies. However, the Karen and
Mon resistance forces are against the project, as it is bringing
down forced relocation, forced labour and other abuses on their
people as well as environmental destruction in their forest and
sea reserves. They have vowed to stop the pipeline by political
means if possible, and if not then to destroy it. SLORC has assured
the oil companies that it will militarily destroy any threat to
the pipeline. Thus far, the oil companies are primarily ignoring
these issues and threats; they have stated that the 46-year-old
civil war in the region does not exist, and they have claimed
at various times that there are either "no villages in the area"
or "no human rights abuses in the villages we've visited in the
area"; "no trees along the route" or "no foreseeable damage to
the forests along the route", etc., according to the need of the
This report does not aim to give comprehensive details of the
pipeline project to date, as this has been done elsewhere. Instead,
this report focusses on presenting some information and interviews
related to developments in the pipeline route area, particularly
since the beginning of 1995. The information and interviews used
have been obtained from several sources, including the Mergui-Tavoy
Information Service, the Committee for Publicity of People's Struggle
in Monland, independent sources and KHRG interviews.
=09 Summary of Effects on Civilians
Until 1995, the main effects on civilians in the pipeline route
area included forced relocation, forced labour on the Ye-Tavoy
railway line, and human rights abuses stemming from increased
concentrations of SLORC troops for pipeline security. As early
as 1991, villages such as Louk Thaing, Mi Gyaung Laung, Pu Loat
Kone, Leh Ein Zu, Min Ma Pan, The Kwe, Lee Poe, Wah Daw, Me Ke,
Me Yan Chaung, Thone Tan Gone, Kyaut Lone Gyi, E Thee, Taung Che
Yin, and Ateh Yapu were forced to move by SLORC troops in preparation
for the anticipated pipeline. Three of these villages, along
with several others which are not in the list, are not right along
the pipeline route but have been forced to move because they are
perceived as posing a threat to the pipeline. In 1994-95 more
villages, such as Shin Tabi, Ye Bone, and Pyun Sah Lay, have been
forced to move by the ever-increasing numbers of SLORC troops
in the area. While these villages are not on the pipeline route,
every village within 50 km. of the pipeline route is now perceived
as a threat if it has the capability to support opposition forces
with food or intelligence - in other words, all villages in forested
or remote areas which do not have a SLORC garrison. The reason
being given to these villages for the relocations is that they
are "suspected of contact with insurgent groups". In several
areas near the pipeline including the more mountainous areas further
east toward the Thai border, there are reports that SLORC troops
are now forcing villages near the pipeline route to relocate not
by issuing direct orders, but simply by systematically looting,
harassing and terrorizing the villagers until they flee of their
own accord. This treatment was inflicted by LIB 408 on the Mon
villages of Me Daw (population 300) on March 22 and Wah Gyun (population
100) on March 25. Both villages are in Ye Pyu township, and both
have now been abandoned as no one dares stay there anymore. Unocal
has on occasion claimed that there are no villages and no people
in the pipeline area, and on other occasions has claimed that
all the people it had visited in the pipeline area were happy
and no one had been relocated. However the Electricity Generating
Authority of Thailand, worried about its investment in a gas-fuelled
power plant, published ads in the Bangkok Post trying to improve
confidence in the pipeline, and in one ad it admitted "Myanmar
has recently cleared the way by relocating a total of 11 Karen
villages that would otherwise obstruct the passage of the gas
resource development project." (Bangkok Post, 17/4/95) EGAT seemed
to think this was a point in favour of the pipeline, increasing
its chance of successful completion.
Hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to do labour
constructing the Ye-Tavoy railway line since late 1993. The details
of this labour are already covered in several reports by KHRG
and other groups. Comments by SLORC officers along the railway
route, SLORC itself and others have made it very clear that a
major reason for the sudden hurried construction of this railway
line was to support the gas pipeline infrastructure and the thousands
of troops being used to secure the area. However, the foreign
oil companies have faced so much international pressure about
this railway that they have now categorically insisted that they
will not under any circumstances use the railway. As an apparent
result of this, work on the northern segments of the railway has
noticeably slackened off in 1995, and some of the stretches cleared
with so much loss of life in 1994 have actually become partly
overgrown, while SLORC has focussed its efforts on completing
the southernmost 12-mile stretch from Tavoy to Ye Pyu. As the
railway labour decreased in the pipeline area, construction suddenly
began in February 1995 on jetty and helipad or landing strip facilities
at Ka Daik, a small village on a southern arm of the Heinze Basin.
It appears that the oil companies may be planning to keep their
promise about the railway and bring in their supplies by sea.
Ka Daik is now a highly secure location and no villagers are
allowed to go near the jetty facilities being constructed. Fishermen
from other villages on the Heinze Basin have been ordered not
to enter the jetty area in their boats on pain of death.
Since 1994, work has also been going on to build military facilities
on Heinze Boke Island, not far offshore just south of the mouth
of Heinze Basin. Most of the construction is being done with
forced labour by villagers from the Hpaungdaw-Kanbauk area near
the coast. Hundreds of them are being forced to do 7 days labour
every month on a rotating basis, taking all their own food. Now
that railway labour has been replaced by labour on the island,
many of them have fled their villages. One possible purpose for
these new military facilities is to provide naval protection to
shipping going into the Heinze Basin to support the pipeline.
However, the villagers say that the main camp being built is
for a new Army battalion to be based there, along with an airstrip.
This raises the possibility that a support facility for the pipeline,
such as a compressor station (necessary at intervals along the
pipeline to keep the gas flowing) may be planned for the island,
which is located a short distance south of a direct line from
the offshore rigs to the place near Hpaungdaw where the pipe is
slated to come onshore. Right now forced labour on the facilities
On March 26 1995, SLORC troops from LIB #408 conscripted forced
labourers from Byu Gyi village, near the pipeline route, to urgently
construct a helicopter pad. On the evening of March 28th, two
helicopters arrived containing Burmese officials and a group of
foreigners. They carried out a survey of the area, reportedly
for an onshore oil exploration project which is also going on.
Immediately afterward, the military forced the villagers to build
three rows of bamboo and wood fencing surrounding a particular
plot of land near the village. Since then SLORC soldiers have
guarded the enclosure and have not allowed any villagers in.
SLORC has given firm guarantees to the oil companies that it will
take all measures necessary to secure the pipeline route, and
despite the fact that the route passes through areas where there
is still fighting the oil companies appear to believe in SLORC's
ability to do this. As a result, SLORC has brought more than
10 new battalions into the region as a whole, a total of over
5,000 soldiers. Initially this consisted of Light Infantry Battalions
401 thru 410. Now more Battalions are being brought in, such
as Infantry Battalions #267 and #269. Every new Battalion that
comes in starts by confiscating large areas of farmland to build
its Battalion bases, support facilities, and outposts. Commanders
generally prefer level ground in the most convenient locations,
which is also usually the best farmland. Farmers are evicted
and receive no compensation whatever. Instead, they and all the
other villagers are immediately forced to provide most of the
wood, bamboo, roofing and other building materials to build the
entire camp, free of charge. Then they are forced to do most
of the labour to build it, also free of charge. Once it is built,
each village is forced to provide 5 or 10 people to each camp
in the area on a rotating basis, to find firewood, cook, clean,
dig trenches and bunkers, build fences and mantraps, and run errands
for the soldiers. Furthermore, each Battalion needs up to 100
"permanent porters" at all times, on rotation from the surrounding
villages, to carry its supplies and ammunition. If there is fighting
or heavy patrolling in the area, the number required suddenly
increases to 500 or more, and the soldiers go to the villages
to capture porters. Each Battalion generally charges fees to
each village so that its officers can live well and send large
sums home to their families; a village of 100 houses will generally
have to pay roughly 20,000 to 30,000 Kyat per month to each Battalion
nearby. Then the soldiers regularly go to the villages to steal
rice, livestock, cash and belongings, even handwoven clothing
to sell or send home as souvenirs. Any resistance to these demands
results in torture or execution of village elders or others.=20
As Unocal president John Imle said in January 1995, "If you threaten
the pipeline there's going to be more military. If forced labour
goes hand in glove with the military, yes there will be more forced
=09 New Battalions and Headquarters Locations
=09=09=09 (list not complete)
=09 LIB 401 Tha Pyay Chaung village, Tavoy Township
=09 LIB 402 Zalun village, Tavoy Township
=09 LIB 403 Tha Yet Chaung Township
=09 LIB 404 Tha Yet Chaung Township
=09 LIB 405 Tha Yet Chaung Township
=09 LIB 406 Dauk Lauk village, Ye Pyu Township
=09 LIB 407 Pa Dauk Gone village, Ye Pyu Township
=09 LIB 408 No. 1 Rubber Plantation, Ye Pyu Township
=09 LIB 409 No. 1 Rubber Plantation, Ye Pyu Township
=09 LIB 410 Zin Ba road intersection, Ye Pyu Township
=09 IB 267 Tha Pyay Chaung village, Tavoy Township
=09 IB 269 Ze Lone village, Tavoy Township
Since the beginning of 1995 activity along the pipeline route
has increased as intensive ground survey work has been ongoing
to finalize the exact route. TOTAL has stationed its French and
Belgian engineers at a base camp about 2 miles northwest of Kanbauk
along the road to On Bin Kwin. Unocal has no people on the ground
in the pipeline area as yet. All passenger cars going along the
road between the villages are now forced by SLORC troops to make
a wide and inconvenient detour in order to stay well clear of
the TOTAL camp, and they must go around and enter Kanbauk from
another direction. LIB #405 has been assigned the principal security
duties in this area from Kanbauk west to the coast at Hpaungdaw,
and is based at Sein Goo, On Bin Kwin, Pyin Gyi, Lay Gyi, Maw
Gyi and Hpaungdaw. A new Battalion headquarters camp is to be
built at the Baw Di Gone end of Kanbauk village (we have not yet
ascertained whether this is for LIB 405 or yet another new Battalion).
Villagers expect their farms will be confiscated without compensation
and they will be used as forced labour building and maintaining
this camp, as per usual. Villagers are now accustomed to seeing
helicopters overhead all the time - the TOTAL employees often
use civilian helicopters operated and maintained by Myanmar Airways
personnel, but they also often travel by military helicopter and
Tatmadaw military trucks. They are constantly accompanied by
armed Tatmadaw units when outside their base camp.
The intensive ground survey work began in February 1995. Prior
to this, villagers were notified that jobs would be available.
However, TOTAL brought in most of their workers, about 1,000
according to the villagers, from Rangoon. Only about 200 villagers
from the Kanbauk-Hpaungdaw area were accepted, though hundreds
more applied. Selection was handled by a selection committee
of township-level SLORC officials, not by TOTAL. Villagers wishing
to apply had to buy an application form from the Village LORC
for 15 or 20 Kyat. They also had to have a medical and face the
selection committee. Each applicant had to pay a bribe of about
1,000 Kyat to pass the medical, and a larger bribe to the selection
committee. Clear preference was given to friends and relatives
of Township-level SLORC officials, and following that to members
of USDA (Union Solidarity Development Association, SLORC's artificially-
created "mass support" organization). Those who were hired received a
blue uniform and a yellow plastic helmet. Pay is 200 Kyat per
day, paid every 5 days. TOTAL, sensitive to international concern
over forced labour, allocated US$30 per day for each worker.=20
The local SLORC officials pay this as 200 Kyat, using roughly
the official rate of 6 Kyat to the dollar. However, black market
rate is 110 Kyat to the dollar. If TOTAL pays the wages to SLORC
in foreign currency (as SLORC probably insists), then the local
SLORC officials have been pocketing about 3,000 Kyat per worker
per day, almost 95% of the entire payroll. Even so, 200 Kyat
per day is more than double the going wage for day labour in the
Most of the paid labourers are housed in the TOTAL base camp,
which is divided into the "expat camp" and the "locals camp".
The "native" workers are squeezed at least 4 to each small hut
and according to close witnesses are treated with general contempt
by the French engineers. Part of their work involves maintaining
and expanding the camp, but most of the work is improving and
tarring the road between Kalein Aung and Kanbauk, and clearing
forest and scrub for the pipeline route survey work. Witnesses
report that in many cases, SLORC troops are using forced labour
"permanent porters" on rotating duty from the villages to do the
hard labour felling the trees and scrub, then when the paid workers
come along they just have to clear away the wood and scrub which
has been cut by the porters. This is most likely done without
the knowledge of the foreigners. SLORC has reportedly taken other
steps to hide human rights abuses from them, such as taking the
loads from porters' backs while they pass the TOTAL camp, then
putting the loads back on the porters afterwards. The survey
work stopped on May 9th and all the workers were told they would
not be needed again until the end of the rainy season (probably
Villagers in the area said they had been promised by SLORC and
TOTAL that the pipeline would bring them an improved standard
of living, but now they say it has only brought more suffering.
Because of the huge increase in troop presence in the area, they
have to do more forced labour. The amounts of fees collected
by the troops, such as "porter fees", "sentry fees", "pagoda fees",
"sports fees" and others, all of which are simply extortion in
disguise, have increased to the point where many families who
used to have to pay about 100 Kyat per month before TOTAL arrived
say that now they must pay 400 or 500 Kyat per month. The SLORC
troops, always looking for a new excuse for extortion, have now
begun collecting "gas pipeline fees" which can go as high as 1,000
Kyat per month for one family. At the same time inflation in
the area has accelerated, probably partly fuelled by the scarcity
of goods brought on by the looting conducted by several new Battalions,
and partly by the sudden presence of over 1,000 relatively highly-paid
labourers in the area. Even if more labourers are hired locally
next season, the pipeline work could begin to bring on a "gold
rush" syndrome, where rapid inflation leaves anyone not involved
in the pipeline completely destitute. Then once the pipeline
is completed, little or no local labour will be required and the
local economy will completely collapse.
SLORC has also promised new clinics and health programs stemming
from the pipeline, but villagers report no evidence of this.=20
Instead, in Kanbauk the villagers were forced to contribute money
and labour to complete an unfinished building which had stood
idle for years. SLORC now calls this a new clinic, but it has
no medicine and no doctors. SLORC has done similar things in
Shan State when it wants to create artificial evidence of "development".
While these things are happening at the western end of the pipeline
route near the coast, the eastern end near the Thai border is
still not "secure". As a result SLORC has mounted a military
offensive since February 1995 in the Nat Ein Taung area, where
the pipeline is slated to cross the border into Thailand. Hundreds
of villagers from throughout Ye Pyu Township have been taken as
porters for this offensive for up to a month at a time, fed almost
nothing, given no medical treatment, and treated brutally. Some
have been beaten to death or left behind to die in the mountainous
jungle of the area. Fighting in the area is still continuing.
Despite the fact that SLORC has now flooded the entire pipeline
route area with troops, fighting continues to break out in several
areas along the western half.
On March 7 and 8, 1995 in Ye Pyu township, a small group of Karen
militia forces ambushed SLORC military columns which were moving
together with a gas pipeline survey team, though the Karen soldiers
had no way of knowing this at the time. The March 7 attack was
aimed at Tatmadaw helicopters on the ground near Zin Ba, and the
March 8 attack was on a SLORC column east of Kanbauk. TOTAL people
and their employees always move together with Tatmadaw columns
and usually use Tatmadaw trucks and helicopters for transport.
Both attacks were in the western/central areas of the pipeline
route, which is supposedly already "secure". At least 5 people
were killed in the attacks. TOTAL claimed that all 5 were civilian
Burmese survey workers, though this would be extremely unlikely.
Given that the survey team were grossly outnumbered by the SLORC
troops of the column and that SLORC soldiers were the target,
it is more likely that most or all of the Burmese killed were
soldiers. There were several allegations that foreigners were
among the dead, though TOTAL has flatly denied this. Some witnesses
claim that 2 of the bodies were immediately flown out to Rangoon
in body bags. Initial reports that these were 2 Algerians working
for TOTAL were later discounted; however, there was later a reported
indication by an employee of EGAT that one of the dead was Thai
and one or two of the others were white men. The Karen attackers
did not stay around to see who had died, and no clear confirmation
of any of these reports has been possible. However, one clear
result of the attack is that a column of 100 soldiers from #408
Light Infantry Battalion, led by Battalion Commander Lt. Col.
Han Tint (Army Serial No. Ka/12671), went to villages in the area
and accused them of not providing the SLORC troops with enough
intelligence in advance to avert the attack. He then ordered
Einda Yaza, Maw Gyi, Mintha, Ah Leh Gyi, Sein Goo, Sin Zwe, and
several other villages to pay 100,000 Kyat each as compensation
for the attack. He threatened that any village which failed to
pay the money would be driven out, so the villages had to pay.
This is in keeping with Unocal President John Imle's declaration
in January 1995 that "for every threat to the pipeline there will
be a reaction".
When the next dry season comes in November, work on the pipeline
is certain to be stepped up as the plan moves closer to actual
clearing of the route and its surrounding killing ground, digging
the trenches to protect the buried pipeline from sabotage, and
laying of pipe itself, scheduled for completion in 1997. As the
work is stepped up SLORC security will have to be intensified,
and the related human rights abuses are certain to increase.=20
The heavy labour of clearing the route and its wide killing ground
is certain to involve forced labour. It will be impossible for
SLORC to hide this from the oil companies or the outside world.
Therefore, there is a chance SLORC will announce that they have
decided to clear a "road" or a "railway" to Nat Ein Taung, do
it with forced labour, then lay the pipeline along it. The pipeline
will require a maintenance road alongside it in any case. On
the surface, this approach would allow the oil companies to shrug
off any knowledge of or responsibility for forced labour. To
date, the oil companies have claimed that they will see to it
that no human rights abuses occur. However, TOTAL has no more
than 10-15 people on site, and Unocal and PTTEP have none. The
companies have not yet tried to explain how 10-15 people will
prevent 3-5,000 troops spread over 70 km. of plains and forested
hills from committing human rights abuses. Unocal president John
Imle has on occasion asserted that his people who are "trained
in such matters" have determined that there were no ongoing human
rights abuses in several areas by flying over them in helicopters.
However, he has expressed no interest in talking to villagers
in those areas in the absence of SLORC, and he has made clear
that he is against allowing independent international human rights
researchers into the area.
Most of the people interviewed below told their stories in May
1995 inside Burma, after fleeing their villages and becoming homeless.
Their names have been changed to protect them. False names are
shown in quotation marks; all other names are real. LIB =3D Light
Infantry Battalion; IB =3D Infantry Battalion. Ya Wa Ta =3D Village
Law & Order Restoration Council or Village LORC, SLORC's form
of local administration. All numeric dates are given in DD/MM/YY
TOPIC SUMMARY: TOTAL job application process (Interview #1,3),
paid labour duties (#1,3,4, 6,12), forced labour on pipeline survey
(#1,3), pipeline fees (#2), other fees (#1-5,7,11), inflation
(#1,2,3,14), porters for offensive to secure Nat Ein Taung (#7,8,9),
other porters (#5,10,11), plans for pipeline construction near
Nat Ein Taung (#13), forced relocation (#10), land confiscation
for Battalions (#1,3), effect of new Battalions (#1,3), forced
labour at Heinze Boke island (#4,5), TOTAL base camp (#1,2,4,6,12),
other oil company activities (#13), Ye-Tavoy railway (#10,13).
NAME: "Ko Hla Myint" SEX: M AGE: 30 Burman Buddhist, farmer
ADDRESS: Kanbauk village INTERVIEWED: 11/5/95
Q: How did they find labourers for the gas pipeline project?
A: They have application forms. We had to buy them for 15 Kyats
from the village head. We tried, but we were not accepted. They
brought their labourers from Rangoon and other places, about 1200
or 1300 or more. About 500 villagers wanted jobs, but only about
100 were accepted. It was by decision of the authorities, I
think. Only a few were accepted. Anyone who failed the medical
checkup was refused a job. I don't know how much the people paid
to pass the medical. They were only the ones who were close to
the authorities. Ordinary villagers were refused. We were not
happy. We had no work except forced portering and forced labour
[for SLORC troops]. Most of their workers were brought from Rangoon.
Q: What did the paid labourers do?
A: They built houses and some buildings along the On Bin Kwin
road. There are about 30 buildings at their camp, between On
Bin Kwin and Kanbauk. Foreigners live there, and also labourers
from Rangoon. They repaired the road, some worked for the surveying
and some cutting the trees [clearing the way for survey work].
There were forced porters too. The forced porters cut down the
trees, then the paid labourers cleared them away. The paid labourers
get 200 Kyats for one day, but the porters get nothing. The route
has been cleared from Kyauk Sa Ywe to Thon Taung Gwin.
Q: What about the road?
A: They repaired the road from Kalein Aung to Kanbauk [Kalein
Aung is east of Kanbauk, near the junction with the main north-south
road]. About half of it has now been tarred. Some farmers lost
their land. Now they are planning to build a new Battalion camp
at the entrance to our village, and many more farmers will lose
their land. [The battalion is for pipeline security, and no land
compensation is ever paid.] They have not built it yet, it is
just their plan. I've already had to work one, two, three, four
months for the soldiers without getting any money [at army camps
and as a porter], and I have no time to work for myself. I heard
if the gas pipeline comes, our situation will improve. But actually,
we only have to work for them [soldiers] more without getting
any pay. We have to take our own food and build their barracks,
bunkers and so on. Before, we had to give them about 100 Kyats
per month as porter fees [extortion fees paid to avoid even more
forced labour]. Every family. But now, it is 400 Kyats. They
said if I could not pay the money they would take me as a porter
for 1 whole month. If we don't pay the money, they will take
Q: TOTAL Co. said they will have health programmes - have you
seen any result of this?
A: No. I think there are no changes. No programmes. There
was a building the Council started building under the Ma Sa La
[the Burma Socialist Programme Party, Ne Win's pre-1988 dictatorship],
but it was never completed. Now SLORC has forced the villagers
to give money and labour to finish it. Now they say it is a village
clinic. But no patients go there, because there is no medicine
and no doctors.
That is why we chose to leave our village.
NAME: "Daw Than" SEX: F AGE: 38 Burman Buddhist, farmer
FAMILY: Married, 4 children
ADDRESS: Kanbauk village INTERVIEWED: 5/95
Q: Why did you leave your village?
A: I was working for the Mines Department. My salary was 650
Kyats per month. But I had to pay porter fees, and "gas pipeline
fees". It cost me about 1200 Kyats per month, sometimes 1400
Kyats. Then if the railway labour camp called for villagers again,
I had to pay 400 Kyats more. But for now, it was mainly fees
for the gas pipeline and to avoid portering. Once I quarrelled
with the authorities. I said I could not give the money, and
they replied that if I could not give the money then I have to
go and work as a porter. It got too difficult to stay there.
All the prices and fees are so high. So I resigned from the
Mines Department, and then I came directly to the border.
For the pipeline, now they are clearing the ground and surveying.
The buildings are nearly finished where the foreigners are staying,
about 1=AB miles from Kanbauk. Three girls are cooking for them.
They also brought in 3 or 4 pickup trucks by helicopter.
NAME: "Kyaw Win" SEX: M AGE: 28 Burman Buddhist, farmer
FAMILY: Married, 3 children
ADDRESS: Kanbauk village, Ye Pyu Township INTERVIEWED: 11/5/95
Q: When did you leave Kanbauk?
A: On May 8, 1995.
Q: How much did you have to pay to Village LORC for porter fees?
A: Every month 150 Kyat per family. For each turn 10 porters
are demanded. Anyone who fails to go has to pay 4,000 Kyat fine
for a replacement. We also have to pay 60 Kyat for the Ya Wa
Ta [Village LORC] development fund and 30 Kyat for the USDA each
month. [USDA is the "Union Solidarity Development Association",
created in 1994 by SLORC in an attempt to artificially create
a mass support organization for itself.]
Q: What about the procedure to apply for pipeline jobs?
A: Our village was limited to 200 applications. Most of the
employees are from Rangoon. Only those who are close to the officials
are accepted, only close hands and money-givers. Those with no
money are not considered at all. The application forms were sold
for 20 Kyat each by the Ya Wa Ta officials [Village Law & Order
Restoration Council - local SLORC administration] We had to give
in our applications to the TOTAL head office. Each applicant
had to pay 1000 Kyat to get a good result on the medical exam.
When they first arrived, the company promised to give us priority.
We are really disappointed. They only think about giving priority
to those from Rangoon. There are about 1000 workers from Rangoon
and 200 from Kanbauk. TOTAL pays them 200 Kyat per day.
Q: What kind of work is being done?
A: Building construction, around On Bin Kwin and Ka Daik villages.
Some are doing survey work, some building roads and some repairing
buildings. The road construction is from Kalein Aung to Kanbauk.
Farm fields are being damaged, but what is worse is that a new
Battalion base is to be built. We hear that it will be at the
entrance to our village, at Baw Di Gone [quarter]. If it is sited
there then most of the orchards and fields will surely be destroyed.
Q: Do the villagers have to do forced labour to build the camp?
A: No, not yet, but they will have to for sure. The base is
just being planned right now.
Q: Who is doing the [pipeline-related] work?
A: Mostly the 200 who were selected by TOTAL, and many [forced]
porters too. The porters are from the outskirts of the village.
Some are rounded up by the Army, and some are on rotating porter
duty. The porters are mostly ordered to do clearing work which
is harder than the chain survey work. Many of the porters have
fled, that is how we know. Except for the officially hired workers,
no workers are paid. That is what the fleeing porters told us.
Q: How do you feel?
A: We have had to pay many kinds of fees to the Ya Wa Ta since
1988. The porter fees have increased annually. When TOTAL first
arrived the fees were 400 Kyat, but now it is up to 500 Kyat [per
family per month]. We were promised work to make us prosperous
but now we feel cheated. Besides destroying our gardens, the
SLORC soldiers help themselves freely to our fruit so we face
many hardships. That is why we have come here to the refugee
["Ma Nyi Nyi", age 30, female, from Kanbauk:]
I am from Kanbauk. Alot of villagers from Kanbauk and other villages
around there are working on the gas pipeline, about half of them
along the On Bin Kwin - Kanbauk road, and some at their base.
Now they are paying money. Adults get 125 Kyats per day. They
are paid every 5 days. [They are supposed to get 200 Kyat per
day. Either she has heard wrong, or SLORC is taking part of their
pay.] I depend on my husband's salary. He gets 1,000 Kyat per
month working for the Mines Department. It is not enough to survive
[because of the SLORC fees], so we left.
There are about 5 or 6 foreigners at the pipeline base. It is
difficult to describe them, because we only saw them in their
cars. The soldiers were always with them. We heard they were
Now there are alot of forced labourers working at Heinze Boke
Island. Some villagers from Kanbauk went there, and they haven't
come back. I don't know what they're doing there.
NAME: "U Sein Myint" SEX: M AGE: 65 Burman Buddhist, farmer
FAMILY: Married, 6 children
ADDRESS: XXXX village, Ye Pyu Township INTERVIEWED: 10/5/95
Q: When did you leave your village?
A: On May 7, 1995.
A: We could no longer pay the porter fees or give all the labour
ordered by the Ya Wa Ta authorities. I don't mean railway labour.
Our village is one of the 7 small villages that make up Hpaungdaw
main village [on the coast]. We were ordered to go to work on
construction of military camps on Heinze Boke island. [These
are apparently being built to secure shipping of pipeline supplies
or a possible offshore pipeline-related facility.] Every month
30 people had to go from our village for seven days. We were
not paid, we even had to take our own food for the seven days.
Anyone not going for his turn had to pay 3000 Kyats. There are
about 250 houses in XXXX village.
Q: Were there porter fees?
A: Yes, every family had to pay 200 Kyats per month porter fees.
They also collected 5 people as porters every week. Anyone who
didn't go was fined 4000 Kyats by the Ya Wa Ta. The Ya Wa Ta
also collected 200 Kyats for something they called the "miscellaneous
fund", to be paid every month without fail.
Q: Will the gas pipeline pass through your village?
A: Yes. We have only seen the survey work up till now. Some
people from XXXX applied for the work but did not get the
job. We heard that the jobs went to some people from Hpaungdaw.
Q: Do you think the village will benefit from the pipeline?
A: We see no prosperity yet. Instead we have to face additional
burdens. Now with the increased number of soldiers in the area
we are ordered to be on "stand-by duty" [lists of names must be
submitted to the Army camp, and these people must be available
at a moment's notice for any forced labour or errand required
by the soldiers]. We also have to pay 50 Kyats a month to the
"stand-by" fund. So now we have to face both the Ya Wa Ta and
the SLORC soldiers at the same time. Because of all this we had
to flee to the border. We cannot live in peace in our place,
and we cannot afford to keep paying all the various fees and funds.
NAME: "Nai Chit Nyunt" SEX: M AGE: 64 Mon Christian
ADDRESS: xxxx village, near Kanbauk, Ye Pyu Township =20
["Nai Chit Nyunt" left his village and became a refugee in Thailand
in late May 1995.]
I saw the natural gas companies near Kanbauk. They had SLORC
soldiers for security. People told me it is TOTAL company. I
did not work in their camp, I just sent the people from our village
to work there. The headman asked me to guide them there. There
were 15 people from my village. They got 200 Kyats a day to do
surveying work. They cut down trees and cleared the area for
the survey team.
I went inside the [TOTAL] camp. The camp has wire all around
it and about 200 soldiers for security. There are 50 more soldiers
out the back, but no soldiers inside the camp. They also have
helicopters from Myanmar Airways landing beside the camp, and
they have put many security troops near the place where the helicopters
land. At the entrance there is a checkpoint gate. They asked
me where I came from. I told them I was coming to bring workers,
and they let me through the gates. I went inside to meet XXXX
and I left all the workers with him. Then I went back.=20
I saw some foreigners there. I was there in the first week of
NAME: "Aung Mya" SEX: M AGE: 23 Burman Buddhist, farmer
ADDRESS: XXXX village, Thayet Chaung Township INTERVIEWED: 11/5/95
[Taken as a porter in SLORC's offensive to secure the eastern
portion of the pipeline route near Nat Ein Taung at the Thai border
- this offensive began at the beginning of 1995 and has continued
ever since. TOTAL reps confirmed that they knew of it in discussions
held in early March.]
I had to go as a porter in February. The SLORC village chairman
collected 500 Kyats from each house in our village. We don't
know the reason he collected the money, we just had to go and
pay it. I couldn't afford to pay 500 Kyat to the village chief.
So I was sent to Thayet Chaung village to Battalion #405 headquarters
because I couldn't pay the money. All the porters were kept together
there in the Thayet Chaung village sports building. The soldiers
guarded us and didn't allow us to go outside. Then about 200
of us were sent to Battalion #410 headquarters near Zin Ba village
[on the pipeline route]. Then we had to carry rice and other
things for Battalions 405 and 410, to Nat Ein Taung. Each porter
had to carry 30 viss [48 kg.] I had to carry rice, about 3 big
tin-fulls. Some porters got sick or fell down. The soldiers
beat us. Some porters died while I was a porter. I knew one
of them from my village of XXXX. His name was Ko Thein
Myint. He was about 30. His father's name was U Han Kyi. His
wife is Ma Than Kyi, now she is left with 4 children. Ko Thein
Myint's health was not very good right from the start. He was
sick all the way along while we were porters. Two days after
we left Zin Ba, Ko Thein Myint fell down together with his load,
3 big tins of rice, about 30 viss [48 kg.]. He fell to the ground
and he couldn't stand up anymore. The soldiers didn't help him.
They said "This guy is pretending he is ill", and they hit Ko
Thein Myint with the butts of their rifles. Ko Thein Myint couldn't
speak more than one word, and he died on the spot where he fell.
I just heard him say "Please, I'm going to die".
The SLORC soldiers from Battalion 405 ordered us to carry Ko Thein
Myint's body to the side of the path, and ordered us to cover
his body with branches. We did as the soldiers ordered us, and
we left Ko Thein Myint's body there. There were other porters
also killed like that - one from [Kywe] Min Gone village in Thayet
Chaung township, and one from Kyauk Ka Moat village in Thayet
Chaung township. They died the same way Ko Thein Myint died.
I didn't know their names because they weren't from my village.
They were each carrying one sack [50 kg.] of rice like the rest
of us, and the SLORC soldiers ordered us to do the same thing
with their bodies as we did with Ko Thein Myint's body.
I was a porter for 15 days. We were not paid - we even had to
take along our own money from home to buy food on the way. There
was no compensation for the dead. For Ko Thein Myint, the SLORC
village chief collected money from the villagers in our village,
about 3,000 Kyats, and gave it to Ko Thein Myint's wife. When
I got back, I was ordered by the SLORC village chief to be a "volunteer"
worker for a short time. I had to go to Maung Mei Shaung village
in Tavoy Township and work building the railroad. I was there
for 15 days. I had to take my own money for food, and even for
my bus fare. I didn't receive any money at all from them. I
saw prisoners working with chains on their feet at Za Har village
[a convict railway labour camp near Tavoy].
I came to the border because I had to be a porter, I had to pay
porter fees all the time and so I was unhappy living in my village,
and I left and came here. As for SLORC, we have to pay them and
work for them all the time, and we dare not speak our minds because
we are always afraid they will take action against us. So I was
fed up with living under the SLORC regime and I fled to the border
to start a new life.
[Another porter who was taken more recently added the following:]
I had to go as a porter to Kyauk Ein and Daw Eit. There were
about 80 porters. We were with IB #25. We had to carry beans,
ammunition, but mostly rice. I had to carry about 3 big tins
of rice [48 kg.]. We got very tired, but if we were slow the
soldiers beat us. We didn't get enough food. We bought rice
from the soldiers. The soldiers cooked by themselves, then they
sold the extra rice to us for 20 Kyats per plate. About 5 or
6 porters got sick, but they got no treatment.
NAME: "Ko Maung Gyi" SEX: M AGE: 30 Burman Buddhist, farmer
FAMILY: Married, 2 children
ADDRESS: XXXX village, Tavoy Township INTERVIEWED: 11/5/95
I was ordered to be a porter. I refused to go, and there was
a scuffle. Then they handcuffed me and took me to the police
station. The policemen at the station beat me. Then they sent
me to the Tavoy jail by car. I was sentenced to one month in
jail. They never took me to court. I don't know what Article
they sentenced me with.
Before that I always had to be a porter twice a month, and if
I couldn't go I had to give them 1500 Kyats. Then after I was
released I had to work as a porter again. Our village was divided
into 4 groups and they always took one from each group. It was
arranged by the Ya Wa Ta [Village LORC] members.
NAME: "Pu Hla Shwe" SEX: M AGE: 64 Karen farmer
ADDRESS: Pyun Sah Le village INTERVIEWED: 5/95
I left and came here because Burmese soldiers forced us to move.
They forced our village to move to Na Bu, last year in March.
I refused to move. I have ricefields and farms. In our village
the soldiers also collected porters and forced labourers for the
railway. I ran, so they never made me a porter. They said they
were moving our village because the Karen soldiers came there
sometimes and they didn't want that. Na Bu is a Tavoyan village.
When they ordered us to move, I don't want to think about how
I felt. I left, and now I have been here 4 or 5 months.
["Ma Nyunt", female, age unknown, a widow from Kanbauk area:]
There are 70 houses in my village. We have to pay forced labour
fees once a month or once every two months. Also porter fees.
Each family has to pay 1,500 Kyats, and then the next month another
1,500 Kyats [note: compared to villages in other areas this is
an exorbitant amount, most likely resulting from the heavy concentration
of troops present to protect the pipeline]. There are 2 groups
for labour - they take one group for forced labour at worksites
[like Army camps, roads etc.], and another group as porters.=20
Widows like me and handicapped people belong to the forced labour
group for worksites. As for the porters, they are changed monthly.
They also take other porters - lately they've come three times
and taken people for 10 days each time. [The monthly porters
have to stay with the soldiers at all times and rotate every month,
but when the soldiers need extra people they just come and take
["Ko Win Tint", male, aged 32, from Kanbauk:]
Q: What do you know about the gas pipeline project?
A: Last month [April] they were building some buildings outside
of Kanbauk, about 2 miles from Kanbauk [the main TOTAL camp on
the road to On Bin Kwin]. The helicopter was crossing overhead
every day, sometimes about 10 times a day. It was carrying something.
[Other witnesses report a box slung underneath, possibly for
Q: What about the paid workers?
A: They were repairing the road from Hpaungdaw. They used to
carry logs along that road, so it was damaged and needed repair.
They were also clearing the ground, but I don't know the details.
They started last month. The paid workers get blue uniforms
and yellow helmets - all the same, officers and labourers.
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=09 4 stay with me (age 14-33)"
ADDRESS: XXXX village, Ye Township INTERVIEWED: 19/5/95
["Nai Tin Shwe" fled to be a refugee after working continuously
on the Ye-Tavoy railway from November-January, then being threatened
because he couldn't pay all the required fees to SLORC. His full
testimony is in "Ye-Tavoy Railway Area: An Update", KHRG #95-26,
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, where
the pipeline is slated to cross the border into Thailand - 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, where "Nai Tin Shwe" was doing forced labour on
the railway]. 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. [In this area, the
surveying was most likely related to onshore exploration work,
though the microwave tower could also be useful to the pipeline
["Daw Myint", female, age 65-70, from Kanbauk area:]
Q: How old is your son?
A: My son is 30. He had to go as a porter once a month. It
was his turn, so he had to go.
Q: How much does rice cost now?
A: One pyi [about 2.5 kg.] costs 45 or 50 Kyats. One viss of
cooking oil is now 200 Kyats. Everything is up. It's very difficult
to stay anymore.
Q: You are quite old, so you have seen other governments in Burma.
Which has been the worst?
A: Oh, dear. Now we have moved from our village and are staying
here. Previous governments were also bad, but at least we could
stay in our village. Now they are the worst.
=09=09 - [END OF REPORT] -