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Humanrights Abuses in Monland

Burmese Relief Center--Japan
DATE:September 4, 1995
Subject: Human Rights Abuses Reported by CPPSM


Gross human rights abuses in the process of the Burmese
Army's recent military offensive in Tenasserim Division
against the Karen National Union and the Meik-Dowei United

The Burmese Army (the Tatmadaw) has conscripted hundreds
of innocent civilians from several ethnic Karen, Mon and
Tavoyan villages in Yebyu, Thayet Chaung, Launglon and
Tavoy townships in Tenasserim Division and has used them as
front-line portering labour in its recent offensive operation
against the Karen National Union's 4th brigade and the small
ethnic Tavoyan army (MDUF) respectively operating in the
region.  The conscripted civilian porters have reportedly
suffered various inhuman treatments and serious abuses by the
Burmese troops, including killing when they were unable to
carry the given heavy loads out of their exhaustion or serious
sickness.  Many of the Burmese troops - including some
commanding officers - have reportedly also committed a series
of rapes in the Karen and Tavoyan villages during the
offensive operation.

The majority of the forced portering labour was reportedly
conscripted from Taung Byauk, Winkapaw, Kywe Gyan,
Kyauk Aing, Me Ke, Alezu, Byatwithar, Winwa, Sonzinpyar,
Mindatt, Chaungwabyin, Gonnyinzeik and Nyaung Zin
villages in ThaYet Chaung township, Auk Yebyu and
Thagyettaw villages in Laungion township, Kudoh and
Kahnaingda villages in Tavoy township, as well as Maungme
Shaung village in Yebyu township respectively.  According to
a central MDUF source, 500 Burmese troops from four local
infantry battalions, led by (Tactical Commander) Colonel
Than Sein, moved into the MDUF-operating area in Thayet
Chaung township on lst June 1995, bringing the 1000 civilian
porters along with them.  The four Burmese infantry battalions
making the 500 troops were namely the 403rd, the 404th and
the 405th light infantry, battalions and the 25th regular
infantry battalion respectively, according to the MDUF source. 
The 500 Burmese troops were reportedly engaging with
KNU's 4th brigade in a series of skirmishes in Ban Chaung
area during the month of June - using the 1000 civilians
porters also as a human shield and human mine-sweepers.  The
Burmese troops reportedly also recruited more portering
labour as well as looting and/ or destroying the livestock, crops
and any properties of the villagers in the Karen and Tavoyan
villages they reached during the military operation.  During the
offensive operation, the Burmese troops reportedly also burned
down some Karen and Tavoyan villages which they suspected
of harbouring the KNU or the MDUF guerrillas.

The 500 Burmese troops, with the 1000 conscripted civilian
porters, arrived at Taung Byauk village in Thayet Chaung
township on 1st June 1995 and forced to stay on the respective
houses of the village without permission of their owners. 
Taung Byauk - the village mostly composed of ethnic Karen
people - was a small community having a total of 60
households and a population of approximate 400.  During their
encamping in the village, the Burmese troops reportedly
forcibly took and ate up the livestock and food stuffs of the
villagers without agreement of the owners and without
payment given to the owners.

Some of the Burmese troops reportedly committed a series of
rapes in some of the Karen and Tavoyan villages they reached
during the operation.  During their stay in Taung Byauk
village, on 8 June 1995, the 404th light infantry battalion
commander Lt.  Colonel Zaw Weit, a company commander
Captain Thant Zin, and Corporal Naing Tun - as they were
drunk - beat and gang-raped a 42-year-old Karen woman Ma
Aye Mya, who is the wife of the village's chairman U Aung

 After and besides their gang-rape, the (rapist) Burmese
officers again forcibly took away the gang-rape victim's
husband U Aung Myaing (the chairman of the village) as
portering labour along with their troops.  On that same day (8
June 1995), a company commander of the 404th light infantry
battalion Captain Myint Maung Win also forced to rape the
wife of the village's secretary.  Fortunately, this Karen woman
successfully resisted the Burmese captain's rape attempt and
managed to escape.

The conscripted civilian porters were reportedly subjected to
all sorts of ruthless inhuman treatment during their captivity
and enslavement by the Burmese troops.  The civilian porters
were reportedly required to carry disproportionately heavy
loads for several hours each day regardless of weather and for
an indefinite long period of time until their escapes or deaths. 
The civilian porters were not provided with sufficient food; nor
were they provided with minimum medical treatment when
they were sick or when they were injured in the cross-fire
between the Burmese troops and the Karen/Tavoyan guerrilla
forces.  The civilian porters were not allowed to have adequate
rest; they were bound in pairs or in groups and were as such
left to sleep without shelter regardless of rains.  The civilian
porters were also used as a human shield and human mine-
sweepers by being forced to go in the front of the Burmese
troops; as a result, many of these civilian porters were killed on
the spot or seriously injured as they stepped on the land mines
trapped by the guerrilla forces.

Gravest and most horrendous of all, some of these civilian
porters were reportedly shot, bayoneted or beaten to death by
the Burmese troops when they were unable to carry the given
loads out of their serious sickness or exhaustion.  Amongst the
executions of the civilian porters by the Burmese troops, the
six following ethnic Tavoyan men were included: Ko Win
Aung (from Thagyettaw village of Laungion township), Ko
Soe Hia, Ko Soe Than, U Hla Khin ( respectively from Thabye
Chaung village of Tavoy township), Ko Htay Oo (from Thayet
Chaung town) and Ko Hlaing Myint (from Auk Yebyu village
of Laungion township) respectively.  Ko Win Aung, Ko Soe
Hia, Ko Soe Than and U Hia Khin were beaten to death by the
Burmese troops as they were unable to carry the given loads
out of their serious sickness, whereas Ko Htay Oo and Ko
Hlaing Myint were respectively shot dead by the Burmese
troops in their unsuccessful escape attempts.

Tens of these civilian porters are estimated to have died of
serious sickness, out of landmine explosions, in the cross-fire
between the Burmese troops and the Karen guerrillas, or
because of ruthless cruel treatments by the Burmese troops,
including intentionally killing.  As a result, many of the porters
were fleeing to escape the appalling conditions of the forced
porterage and the accompanying ruthless cruel treatments by
the Burmese troops; the numbers of the runaways and escapees
significantly increased from 9th of June, according to well-informed local sou
rces.  The 500 Burmese troops are said to
have retreated at the beginning of July 1995.

Note : (1) The Meik-Dawei United Front (MDUF) is a 100-strong ethnic Tavoyan a
rmed opposition group formerly
known as the Democratic Patriotic Army (DPA).

(2)  In Burmese, "Ko" may generally be used to refer politely
to a "Young man'. while
'U'  refers to a relatively 'older man', including middle-aged
ones.  CPPSM has not
been informed of the exact ages of the six executed civilian
porters herein reported.

Facts from sufferers and witnesses

Apart from being forced to collectively contribute long-term
labour for the infrastructure development projects such as the
constructions and repairs of rail and motor roads in the regions,
the ethnic non-Burman communities inhabiting the rural areas
in Mon State, Karen State and Tenasserim Division are
normally subject to regular forced labour, regular forced
porterage and regular portering and other compulsory taxes
required by the local military of the ruling Burmese military
regime, State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC). 
Such this regular compulsory labour is reportedly collected
from almost all the ethnic Mon, Karen and Tavoyan villages in
the regions by the respective local SLORC battalions.  The
regularly conscripted Mon, Karen and Tavoyan villagers are
reportedly widely used not only as front-line portering labour
by the local Burmese military on its regular patrols against the
ethnic guerrilla movements in the areas, but also as behind-line
slave labour for any money-making businesses of the local
Burmese military commanders.  The Committee for Publicity
of People's Struggle in Monland (CPPSM) has recently
interviewed some local Mon and Karen people from different
villages in Yebyu township who have witnessed and/ or
suffered the stated sorts of compulsory labour and taxes
required by the local Burmese military.

In an interview at a Mon refugee camp on 27 July 1995, a
Mon man Nai Htoo told CPPSM what he had experienced in
his home village Paukpingwin before he left the village: "The
people in Paukpingwin village were normally required to pay
200 Kyats per household per month to the local Burmese
military - namely 406th Light Infantry Battalion - as a regular
portering charge.  Besides this monthly portering charge, the
village was also required to contribute 6, 7 men or sometimes
up to 75 men weekly as portering labour for the local Burmese
troops on their regular patrols in the area.  Any household
which could not contribute its own labour, when so required by
the authorities, must hire a substitute for it at the normal price
of 3,000 Kyats.  Despite its regular collection of all these
portering taxes and labour from the village, the local Burmese
military still sometimes seized the people in the village at
random and extorted money from the captured villagers. 
Before I left the village, about 10 men in Paukpingwin had
been seized at random like this by the local 406th battalion and
then had to pay 500 Kyats each to the local military authorities
for their respective release."

Talking about the consistent use of unpaid forced civilian
labour by the local Burmese military authorities in their own
private businesses, Nai Htoo put it like this: "Some of the
conscripted labourers from Paukpingwin were required to fell
trees in the forests and then saw them up into logs and boards
for the local 406th Light Infantry Battalion commanders. 
Then the 406th battalions commanders put the finished logs
and boards up for sale by the port at the nearby Natgyizin
village and take all the money obtained for their own benefit. 
But the labourers, who made the products, were not only not
paid for their labour but they even also had to provide their
own food during the time they were having to do the work.'

According to Nai Win, another Mon man from Paukpingwin
village, the 406th Light Infantry Battalion has been replaced
by the 453rd Light Infantry Battalion since the end of July
1995.  Following up what Nai Htoo had said during the
interview, Nai Win also gave some brief accounts of a more
recent situation in the village: "The newly arrived 453rd Light
Infantry Battalion has raised the monthly portering charge for
each household in Paukpingwin to 300 Kyats (from 200 Kyats
previously) since its arrival.  Moreover, under the instruction
of the 453rd battalion the villagers in Paukpingwin have also
been required to contribute a (12 ft)-(6 inch)-(0.5 inch) board
of wood per household for the construction of a school at the
nearby village Natgyizin.

 During a recent interview, another Mon, man Nai Nu, also
told CPPSM what he had experienced concerning some local
Burmese military commanders' consistent use of unpaid forced
labour for their own private businesses at the same time with
the construction of the Ye-Tavoy railway route through
previous dry season (1994).  Alongside 2000 other local
villagers Nai Nu had to go and work for the railway
construction at Gyar Naw - a worksite nearby Mayan Chaung
village in Yebyu township - for several weeks during the dry
season in 1994.  The worksite Gyar Naw with the 2000
labourers was directly controlled by military personnel from
SLORC's local 407th Light Infantry Battalion led by Major
Soe Nwe, according to Nai Nu.  During the brief interview,
Nai Nu put his experience this way:
'A total of about 2000 labourers from several local villages
were officially required to work for the railway construction at
the Gyar Naw worksite.  But not all these 2000 labourers were
actually having to work for the railway construction itself,
because many of them were in advance singled out by Major
Soe Nwe to work for his private businesses - namely
production of vegetables, firewood, thatch and so on - instead
of the railway construction.  Major Soe Nwe used some
labourers to make a large vegetable garden nearby that railway
construction worksite, while making other labourers to collect
firewood and thatch in the forests.  But, at last, Major Soe Nwe
made himself the single owner of the entire vegetable garden,
fire-wood and thatch so produced; he sold these products to the
thousands of labourers working on the railway construction
and thereby made money for himself and/or his battalion. 
However, none of these labourers, who did the gardening, who
chopped the fire-wood and who collected the thatch, were paid
for their labour, but they had to provide their own food and
own tools for the works just like the labourers working on the
railway construction.  It was even worse that those labourers,
who had to do the gardening all by their own expenses and
without payment, had to buy and pay the same price for some
vegetables which they brought from the garden for their own
  (Photo, with the caption:  Major Soe Nwe, dressed in civilian
clothes and standing with his hands on his hips, with three
local Mon villagers well-connected to him, having a
photograph taken together in his vegetable garden made by the
unpaid forced civilian labour; the next person, out of the row,
is one of his soldiers from his 407th Light Infantry Battalion.)

Reported on 15 August 1995 by the Committee for Publicity
of People's Struggle in Monland,
G.P.O Box  227,  Bangkok 10501, Thailand.