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KHRG Report January 5, 1996
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Date: Mon, 22 Jan 1996 07:24:09 -0800
YE-TAVOY AREA UPDATE
An Independent Report by the Karen Human Rights Group
January 5, 1996 / KHRG #96-01
PART 2 OF 2 - SEE PART 1 IN A PREVIOUS POSTING
This report provides an update on some of the conditions existing
in the Ye-Tavoy area, with particular focus on the Ye-Tavoy railway
THE NAMES OF ALL THOSE INTERVIEWED HAVE BEEN CHANGED, AND THE
FALSE NAMES ARE INDICATED BY ENCLOSING THEM IN QUOTES.
NOTE: SOME DETAILS IN THIS REPORT HAVE BEEN OMITTED OR
REPLACED WITH 'XXXX' FOR INTERNET DISTRIBUTION.
NAME: "Nai Thein Zar" SEX: M AGE: 28 Mon Buddhist farmer
FAMILY: Married, 1 child aged 3
ADDRESS: XXXX village, Ye North township INTERVIEWED: Dec 2/95
My village is XX miles from Ye [north of Ye]. My wife is still
in the village. I heard news that my sister here [in the refugee
camp] is very ill so I came to see her. It takes 3 days to walk
here, or 2 days for a man alone. I arrived here today. If there
is someone to travel with, I will go back tomorrow.
I am a farmer. The SLORC is going to take 10 tins [about 160
kg.] of paddy for each acre from my farm. We just got this news
before I came. All farmers have to pay the same this year. I
am already doing the harvest, but I have not finished yet. I
have 3 acres, and I think I can get 100 tins of paddy from these
3 acres. They will take 30 tins. Last year I had to give them
2 tins ofpaddy per acre, so I had to pay them 6 tins. Last year
at the beginning of rainy season before we planted, the Township
official came around to find paddy in our houses. They took 3
tins by force and didn't pay anything, then I had to give SLORC
3 more tins. They paid 70 Kyat per tin, so for 3 tins 210 Kyat.
The leader from the big village of XXXX collected the paddy
and then he himself went to give it to the Army. He takes it
to the train and the train goes to Moulmein or Thanbyuzayat, so
I don't know where it goes. I only know we must give it to the
XXXX village leader, and he takes it to the train. [Note:
this 500% increase in rice quotas (from 2 tins per acre to 10
tins per acre) is happening in the same year that SLORC is boasting
of a 500% increase in rice exports, from 265,000 tonnes to 1.2
million tonnes. A severe rice shortage is sweeping the country
This year they will pay us 70 Kyat per tin. Last year in the
market I could sell it for 225 Kyat per tin. Just before I came
here, I heard news from the market that it is now 410 Kyat per
tin. Even though the rice is not ready yet, the merchants come
to the fields and offer us 410 Kyat. It is the same in the market.
[The merchants are clearly expecting the rice shortage to worsen
and prices to rise even higher.] I have no idea why it is so
expensive this year.
To feed my family the rest [the 70 tins he gets to keep] should
be enough. But I have to hire 2 bullocks to plough my field,
and I have to pay the bullock owner in paddy. So after I pay
the paddy for the bullocks, I will not have enough rice left for
my family. I will have to get some from my parents. For farmers
who can't give the quota to SLORC, when SLORC comes they go away
and hide. But later when SLORC catches them they have to pay,
so they must borrow paddy from others and give it to the SLORC.
They also make the villagers in our area grow vegetables around
the SLORC camp where they guard the bridge. For each village,
5 people and 2 bullocks have to go. They call us to their camp,
and around their camp they have a field. It is a villagers' field.
The owners are from Mon Hnin village.
The SLORC took the field by force and the owners didn't dare
say anything. We have to use the bullocks to plough the field,
and the people have to gather the grass and weeds and grow the
vegetables. We have to go for 11 days each time, all the time
by turns. From our village 5 people have to go, then 11 days
later 5 more people have to go. There are about XX houses in
my village. The other villages must also send people for 11 days.
The Army Battalion is from Taunggyi. Army #106 Battalion [LIB].
Now they are growing chillies. The other seeds haven't grown
yet so I don't know what they are.
Then 3 days ago they said we have to go work on the railway.
They had a meeting in the village, the village leader told us
about it. The village leader told the Army if we have to go work
on the railway as well then that's 2 types of labour, so please
free us from growing the vegetables and then we can go work on
the railway. If we have to do both, the burden on the people
is too heavy. Then the monks said, "This is harvest time, and
the people are very busy. They have to cut the paddy, so please
don't make them go now. After the harvest they can go to the
railway." The monks said if we have to go now, our paddy will
be destroyed. But they didn't listen to the monks. The monks
asked the village leader to go again and tell that to the Army.
Before I came here, he went to talk to the Army, but I didn't
hear the result yet. They won't listen.
The village leader told us that on the 9th day of this waxing
month on the Mon calendar we'd have to go to build the railway.
That is today [Dec. 2]. I have been to the railway 2 times before,
the first time for 8 days and the second time for 2 days. That
was at this time last year. Last year every family had to go.
This year also, every family has to go - for each family, one
person. They didn't tell us where or for how long. I have already
arranged things for my family by hiring one person to go for me.
I had to pay him 700 Kyat. Families who don't want to go have
to hire someone to go for them. There are some people in my village
you can hire, and also if you go to the railway there are some
people there who need to make money and you can hire them. This
time, people who have money will hire substitutes and then they
can reap their paddy. Those who have no money, their rice will
be left in the field. That is why the monks asked the Army to
let the people finish the harvest. But the Army said to the monks,
"We won't stop it because this is a Government project and it
is by order." The village leader told me they said that. We
cannot disobey. Everything is by force. If I have no money,
I cannot stay in that area anymore.
The SLORC Army said, "Now we are working on this railway we won't
make any military operations, so don't be afraid of going as porters
or anything." Before, all the people were afraid of being taken
as porters, but since the railway started they haven't been catching
porters. But for the future, I don't know. Before, we never
had to pay porter fees because the big village paid them, but
now they made us pay 100 Kyat per house every month. The village
leader says we will have to keep paying that in the future.
NAME: "Nai Ong Mon" SEX: M AGE: 47 Mon Buddhist farmer
FAMILY: Married, 6 children aged 9-19
ADDRESS: Taung Kon village, Ye Pyu township INTERVIEWED: Dec 2/95
I left my village about 15 days ago. It took 4 days to come here
with my family [to the refugee camp]. We came because I cannot
go anymore to the railroad construction and I cannot afford to
pay the money they asked for. Every month I had to pay 4,000
Kyat to the SLORC for porter fees and railroad construction fees.
All families have to pay that much.
Our whole family had to work at the railway construction. If
you have 3 people in your family then 3 people have to go, and
if you have 4 people then 4 people have to go. People who cannot
work can rest. We had to go once each month, and each time lasted
15 days. You have to pay money if you cannot go. It costs 4,000
Kyat. If you cannot pay the money they arrest you to go and work
by force. In our village no one was arrested, because every family
paid the money or went. In our family, we have done both. Whenever
we could, we went, and we paid the money only when we couldn't
go. The last time we went was in September. Our whole village
had to go. I went with my 2 daughters. They are 19 and 17 years
old. I think more than 200 people from our village went that
time, 3 people from some families and 2 people from some families.
There are about 200 houses in the village. Our village is west
of Kywe Thone Nyi Ma [just north of the mouth of the Heinze Basin,
near the Andaman Sea coast about 50 km. south of Ye]. We had
to go and work near Ye Pyu [about 20 km. north of Tavoy along
the Tavoy River, at least an 80-km. journey from his village].
It took us 2 days to get there. We went by boat and by car.
We ourselves had to hire the boat and the car to go to the construction!
We also had to pack rice to eat at the construction. The SLORC
didn't give anything. Then after the construction we had to hire
a car ourselves to get us home. Hiring the car cost us 300 Kyat
per person each way. To go and return it cost us 1,800 Kyat altogether.
We were at the worksite 14 days each time. Me, I had to dig earth.
1,000 people had to dig 12 earth pits. Then we had to carry
the dug earth to the railroad [embankment]. While I was digging,
my daughters were carrying the dirt. Soldiers were guarding us.
I saw about 3,000 forced labourers and about 40 soldiers. That
was only in our section. All the labourers were villagers. They
divided the villagers into groups - some groups had 7 villages,
some had 9 villages, some had 6 villages. We started working
at 8 a.m., stopped at 10 a.m., and then worked again from 1 p.m.
to 4 p.m. Those were our working hours. Any villagers who rested
during those hours were beaten with sticks, sometimes once, sometimes
We slept in our allotted place and made our own shelters. It
was not a camp, each family just made their own shelter. If you
had a shelter you could sleep in it, otherwise you have to sleep
in the rain. We had to gather leaves to make a roof, but there
were no leaves to make a good roof for our shelters. [September
is still monsoon season, when it rains almost constantly. Proper
leaves for roofing are very difficult to get except in late dry
season, April-May.] During working hours we had to work whether
it was raining or not. When we built the embankment in the rain
it often collapsed. When that happened, we had to dig and fill
it back in under the rain without resting.
We took along our own food to the work site. They did not give
us anything. If we didn't bring food along with us, we'd have
to starve. We had to take our own tools that we needed. We used
spades and hoes. There were sick people. They had to find medicine
for themselves. The SLORC did not provide any kind of medicine.
There were shops selling medicine at the work place. I don't
know who owns them. The SLORC didn't give any money to the sick
people to buy medicine, and when the sick people got better they
had to go back to work to finish their quota.
Q: I have heard that now SLORC is giving money to people who
do labour in some places.
A: I never heard that, and I never received any money.
Q: SLORC says that people who work on the railway get to watch
TV and video shows at night - was there anything like that?
A: Each person has to pay 15 Kyat if he wants to see the video
show. I have no idea where SLORC got the video machine. In our
village it is also 15 Kyat to see a video. [Note: In many villages,
someone will buy a TV and VCR and use it to make a living by running
a small video cinema, 15 Kyat admission. SLORC claims to be providing
such shows free of charge to railway labourers, but other reports
have shown that they do this by confiscating equipment or ordering
VCR owners to show movies at their own expense. Even when they
do this, the soldiers still charge admission to the labourers.]
Q: Have you heard about the gas pipeline project? [His village
is about 15 km. north of the pipeline route.]
A: Yes, we have heard about that. We have to pay money for that
pipeline, 150 Kyat per month [per family]. The SLORC soldiers
make us pay. They come to our village once a month to collect
the money. These soldiers are from Kanbauk and Hpaungdaw area
[Hpaungdaw is where the pipeline is to come ashore, and Kanbauk
is on the route right beside the Total Oil base camp]. They are
from #404 Battalion. These soldiers are always patrolling in
our area, but they collect the money from our village only once
per month. They collect it from the village leader. They say
that this money is for "pipeline volunteer workers". [The expression
he uses for "volunteer workers" is "loke-ar-pay", the Burmese
expression used by SLORC to refer to all forced labour.] They
said if we don't pay we have to go and work for 3 days at the
Hpaungdaw worksite. I have no idea what they are doing there,
because I always paid so I never had to go. In our village nobody
went, because we all paid. The only time when I was there [passing
through the pipeline route area] I didn't see any pipe, I only
saw them cutting down trees, pulling logs, and putting up buildings
to make a camp. I saw only soldiers.
In our village we also have to pay 300 Kyat every month for porter
fees along with the pipeline money. As soon as we came back from
the railway work camp the last time, I told my family to start
getting our things together, and then we came here. Now I have
no plan to move from here. If we can stay here we will stay.
If they try to send us back we will not go back, we will move
to another camp. For now I don't dare go back to our village.
Nine families from Taung Kon [village] have already run away
and arrived here. Other families have run away to other places
Q: The companies building the gas pipeline say it is making the
villagers happy. How do you feel about it?
A: They get everything and we get nothing. The past is over,
never mind about the past. But now what can we do? Now we cannot
pay anymore. So we came here.
Q: What about the railway? SLORC says it will benefit the people.
A: What they say is all useless garbage. We gain nothing from
NAME: "Nai Aung Sar" SEX: M AGE: 25 Mon Buddhist fisherman
FAMILY: Married, 1 child aged 6
ADDRESS: Kywe Thone Nyi Ma village, Ye Pyu township INTERVIEWED: Dec 3/95
I arrived here [the refugee camp] almost 4 months ago. Last season
I had to work at the railway construction. That's why I came
here. The SLORC tortured us. I saw it with my own eyes. They
just picked up a stick from the ground, a bamboo stick about this
big [2" diameter], and hit with the stick. I saw people bleeding
and unconscious. If someone cannot work they accuse them of being
lazy and not wanting to work, and hit them very hard. After they
were beaten the soldiers forced them to work. They don't care
what happens to you. If we were sick at the work camp we didn't
receive any medical attention. If someone asked for medicine
they would not give any, and moreover they beat the person for
asking. If we couldn't work we were beaten, and we had to pay
money also. We are poor and we couldn't pay the money, and I
came here. All the labourers suffered the same things, so people
were afraid and they fled to the border.
About 20 days ago I went back to Kywe Thone Nyi Ma. I was just
trying to find out if people in my village still have to work
at the railway construction. Just 15 days ago the Ma Wa Ta [Township
LORC] ordered the villagers to go for forced labour. One person
in each family has to go, rich and poor alike. They have to go
for 15 days each time. If one cannot go he has to pay 3,000 Kyat.
I talked to my friends there who were together with me last season
at the forced labour camp and they told me that this year will
not be easy. They told me they are to go for labour 15 days every
month, and if they can't go they have to go to the labour camp
and pay the SLORC soldiers 3,000 Kyat. They told me they also
have to take their own food. There are so many poor families
in our village. They do not have much time left to work to get
some money, so they have nothing to eat. Eventually those poor
families will have to come to the border. About 30 families have
already left this year, and 50 families left last year [before
rainy season in June/95]. Some came here, and some went the Nat
Ein Taung way to go and look for work in Thailand. My friends
advised me I should not stay there anymore. Many of them are
also planning to flee. So I came back here 15 days ago.
Our village has 3 parts, East, Middle, and West, and altogether
there are about 500 houses. Each section has to go for 15 days
when their turn comes. About 80 people have to go each turn [the
others in the section pay the money not to go]. This year they
are to go and work between Kalein Aung and Ye Pyu. At the work
camp we have to do anything they ask us to do. Sometimes we have
to make fences, bunkers and barracks for the soldiers, and dig
foxholes for them near the labour camp.
The soldiers at Kywe Thone Nyi Ma are from #406 Battalion [LIB].
Different battalions treat people differently - 409 is very bad,
406 is good. There are about 25 soldiers there. Whatever they
ask us to do, we have to do, like making fences, digging trenches,
and finding firewood for them. We don't have to do it all the
time, but they order us to do it very often. We also have to
pay porter fees, 300 Kyat per month. We have to pay it to the
chairman of the village. If the soldiers ask him for pork, we
have to pay pork. If they ask him for 1,000 Kyat we have to pay
it. If they ask for alcohol we have to give it to them. Anything
they ask we have to pay. The village head divides the amount
among all the villagers. We also have to give them 8 baskets
of paddy per acre. I'm not a farmer, I'm a fisherman. So when
they ask me for fish I have to give it to them. They also collect
tax depending on the size of your boat. If you pay their tax
then you can fish. It varies depending on the size of the boat
- for a bigger boat the tax money is much more.
The villagers also have to pay 150 Kyat [per family per month]
for the gas pipeline. Last year we had to pay it, this year also
we have to pay it, for 2 years already now. The village head
collects the money and goes himself to give it, I think to the
Q: SLORC says these projects are good for the people. Do you
A: I don't believe what they say. The way we have to work for
the railway and the way they treat us, I think there will be no
benefit for our people. I only saw that they torture the people.
I got back here 15 days ago. I don't want to go back to Burma
anymore, I want to stay here. I will find a job here and make
a living. I will move to any place that the authorities prepare
for us, but I will never go back to Burma until Burma gets democracy.
NAME: "Mi Pan" SEX: F AGE: 39 Mon Buddhist farmer
FAMILY: Married, 1 daughter aged 9
ADDRESS: Kyauk Ka Din village, Ye Pyu township INTERVIEWED: Dec 2/95
I arrived here [the refugee camp] 4 days ago. It took us 6 days
to walk, my husband, me, and my daughter - there are 3 of us.
We came just by ourselves. My husband is 54 years old, but still
the SLORC asked us for forced labour and for money. My husband
is too old, he can't go to work there, and moreover we have no
money to pay. That's why we came here. They made us pay the
porter tax, and they forced us to go with them as porters. My
husband couldn't go so he hired others to go for him. Then when
we couldn't hire anyone, the SLORC took 200 Kyat from us. Then
before we left our village, the village leaders told us we'd have
to do railway construction, so we ran away and came here. From
Kyauk Ka Din village ours is the only family which has arrived
here, but before we left we heard other villagers talking about
running away and coming here. In Kyauk Ka Din there are nearly
100 families, 100 houses. I heard others saying that first they
will harvest their rice, but after that they will run and come
here. The families will finish their harvest work this month,
so maybe they will come this month. I heard 3 or 4 families talking
like that, but I didn't ask anyone else. People are afraid SLORC
will hear if they say they're planning to run away. Now we will
stay here for the future. I have no wish to return to Kyauk Ka
Din. We have only just arrived, so we haven't heard anything
about what the Thais say [about the upcoming repatriation].
NAME: "Nai Tint Win" SEX: M AGE: 28 Mon Buddhist farmer
FAMILY: Married, 3 children aged 1, 2, and 7
ADDRESS: Bauk Pin Gwin village, Ye Pyu township INTERVIEWED: Dec 3/95
I arrived here 2 months ago. It took us about 10 days to come,
with my whole family. We left because the SLORC forced us to
do railway construction. Not only that, the soldiers also forced
us to work for them in their camp. We had to clean the camp,
cut bamboo for them for building, and gather leaves and make roofs
for them. Once every month at least 10 people had to go at a
time. The SLORC camp used to be outside the village, but this
year they moved it into the village so they call the villagers
every month. There are about 500 houses in the village. They
rotate the people for camp labour the same way as for the railway
labour - sometimes we have to go build the railway, sometimes
we have to go work in their camp. If we can't go, the SLORC takes
3,000 Kyat. It is the same for railway labour or camp labour.
This season I had to go 3 months in a row for railway labour,
for 14 or 15 days each month. The last time I went was in September.
After that I left my village and came here. I had to dig the
earth and build an embankment about 12 feet high. It was near
Ye Pyu [about 120 km. south of his village]. It took me 4 or
5 days on foot to get there, taking along with me my food to eat
at the camp and also food for the trip there and back home. We
also had to take tools like baskets, hoes and spades. I always
walked because I cannot afford the bus or boat fare.
About 15 or 20 people from my village had to go at a time. When
we got there, there were about 2,000 or 3,000 people working at
that place. Very old men, very old women, young women, and children
about 13 or 14 years old were working there. Some people were
beaten by the soldiers. Anyone who arrived at the work camp without
tools or baskets was beaten. The soldiers beat them and asked,
"Why did you forget your tools?" Some people were tired so they
took a rest and the soldiers beat them. They hit them with bamboo
sticks and tree branches. They hit hard. Some people were bleeding,
and some went unconscious. They didn't care what happened to
the people they hit. Even if unconscious or bleeding, we could
not help those people. If we helped them we were afraid we would
also be beaten.
In the early morning we had to start working. At 10 o'clock we
stopped to cook and eat. We had about 2 hours free time to make
baskets to carry dirt, then we worked again. Times when it was
not raining, we all slept in the open field, and if it was raining
we made shelters for ourselves and slept. Some people got wet
in the rain. When people are sick the soldiers still force them
to work. SLORC didn't give any medicine. Some people brought
medicine along with them. If one is seriously sick, the soldiers
allow them to go back to their village to take medicine. But
they often say the sick people are lying, and don't allow them
to go back. I heard that some people died at the railway construction
from serious illness.
When I went to the railway my family stayed behind and worked
in the field to grow rice. Then when I got back home I worked
very hard for my family so that there would be no problems for
them when I had to go to the railway again. I could only stay
home about 15 days before going again. All the families in the
village have to go and work. We were divided into 2 groups, and
when one group goes the other can stay in the village. Then when
one group comes back, the other group has to go again. After
arriving back in the village, sometimes we had to go and work
for the soldiers' camp in our village. We had to clean their
camp and find firewood for the soldiers. It's only a small camp.
Each family also has to pay them 200 Kyat per month as porter
Along the way here we were careful to avoid the SLORC. I asked
people for information about SLORC, and if they went one way then
we went another way. I don't want to go back to Burma. If the
Thais don't force this camp to move then we'll stay here, otherwise
we'll move to another camp. No way can I go back to my village.
I am afraid of the SLORC. If we arrive back at our home, the
SLORC will ask us why we ran away. I'm afraid of them, and I'm
afraid of the railway construction.
- [END] -