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KHRG Ye-Tavoy Area Update

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An Independent Report by the Karen Human Rights Group
January 5, 1996     /     KHRG #96-01


This report provides an update on some of the conditions existing
in the Ye-Tavoy area, with particular focus on the Ye-Tavoy railway
construction project.  For background on this area, see the KHRG
reports "Ye-Tavoy Railway Area: An Update" (#95-26, 31/7/95),
"Conditions in the Gas Pipeline Area" (#95-27, 1/8/95), "Field
Reports: Mergui-Tavoy District" (#95-25, 29/7/95), and other previous
reports.  Despite the June 1995 ceasefire between SLORC and the
New Mon State Party (NMSP), conditions for villagers in this area
continue to worsen, and people continue to flee the area.  This
is primarily due to increasing demands for forced labour on Ye-Tavoy
railway construction.  It appears that SLORC has now sped up its
schedule for completion of the railway and slightly changed its
strategy.  In the 1994/95 dry season SLORC focussed almost all
forced labour on one stretch of the railway instead of the whole
line.  As a result, the southernmost 12-mile stretch from Tavoy
to Ye Pyu was officially "completed" in May 1995.  SLORC is now
applying this strategy to other portions of the line: for example,
on 20 November villagers in Ye Township were suddenly informed
that they were to complete the entire 18-mile stretch from Ye
to the Tenasserim border in only 15 days, from 1 to 15 December.
 The result of this change in strategy is much more intensive
calls for labour - whole families instead of one member per family
- occurring right at harvest time, when families who go for the
work face losing their entire year's rice harvest.  The other
result is that this year villagers often have to travel as far
as 100 or 120 km. to their assigned worksite instead of just going
to the nearest portion of the line.  At least one third to one
half of all the labourers are women and children, either because
SLORC has demanded several people per family from their village,
or because it takes the whole family to finish the work quota
in the allotted 15 days, or because the father of the family stays
home to harvest the rice.

SLORC claims that labourers on the railway line are paid, but
there is no evidence to support this.  Villagers even have to
take all their own food and tools.  Anyone who cannot go has to
either pay 3,000-4,000 Kyat to SLORC, or hire someone to go in
their place for 700-2,000 Kyat.  There are some itinerant day
labourers, both in the villages and at the worksites, who are
willing to be hired for this.  Some families hire substitutes
directly, while others give the money to the village headman and
he does it.  As a result, some people working on the railway are
doing so for money, but this money comes from villagers, not from
SLORC.  It appears (see item #1 below) that the Railway Ministry
officials on site have cash budgets which may be intended to pay
labourers, but the Ministry officials simply hand over all of
this money to the Army battalions in the area in return for guarding
the workers and keeping them working.  SLORC Secretary-1 Khin
Nyunt has even gone so far as to claim that a "secret directive"
has been issued to stop all use of forced labour in Burma.  The
testimonies below make it very clear that no such directive has
been issued.

SLORC has also increased rice quotas being confiscated from farmers
by up to 500% this year, from 2 tins per acre to 10 tins per acre.
 SLORC only pays 70 Kyat per tin, while market price is now 410
Kyat per tin.  This is partly to feed the expanding Army, and
partly to support SLORC's 500% increase in rice exports this year,
from 265,000 tonnes last year to 1.2 million tonnes this year.
 This export increase is intended for SLORC profit and as an international

public relations move, but it is causing an extremely serious
rice shortage throughout Burma.  Rice prices have doubled in many
areas and people are subsisting on rice soup or starving.  Traders
from coastal towns in Burma are even coming to hard-pressed Mon
revolutionary areas to see if they have any rice to sell.

At the same time, as SLORC continues to send more military force
into the area, forced labour at army camps and extortion of money
from villagers continues to increase.  Many of the new Battalions
are being sent in to secure the proposed natural gas pipeline
from the Gulf of Martaban to Thailand being built by foreign oil
companies Total and Unocal.  Troops protecting the pipeline are
now extorting "gas pipeline fees" from all villages in the area,
including villages 15-20 km. north of the proposed route.  The
price is 150 Kyat per month per family, and villagers are threatened
that anyone who doesn't pay has to go for 3 days of forced labour
on the pipeline survey work.

Under the terms of the ceasefire deal between SLORC and the NMSP,
SLORC is supposed to cease all taking of forced porters and porter
fees from villages.  However, villagers confirm that all these
things continue at least as much as before.  SLORC has answered
the NMSP's complaints about this by stating that porters are being
taken by the Township LORCs, not by the Army, and that this is
acceptable because only the Army is covered by the ceasefire terms.

Because of this situation, refugees continue to flee their villages
to the Thai border.  Because of the ceasefire deal, the Thai Government
now plans to force all Mon refugees back to Burma by May 1996.
 There continue to be very serious concerns for their safety once
back in Burma.  The UNHCR is now negotiating with SLORC to try
to get a presence on both sides of the border to monitor the repatriation;
however, SLORC is not likely to grant it, and even if it does,
UNHCR's behaviour in Bangladesh and Arakan State has made it clear
that UNHCR is more interested in helping the governments involved
to whitewash a forced repatriation operation than it is in protecting

The following report consists of 2 parts: 1) a summary of some
recent information gathered and provided by the Mergui-Tavoy Information
Service of the Karen National Union regarding the situation of
villagers in the region, and 2) interviews with Mon villagers
conducted by a Karen Human Rights Group researcher in a Mon refugee
camp in December 1995.  


TOPIC SUMMARY:  Railway labour (items #1-8), gas pipeline fees
/ labour (#3,5,6), road labour (#1), Army camp labour (#4,6,8),
difficulty harvesting due to forced labour (#1,4), rice confiscation
(#3,4,6), rice shortage (#4), land confiscation (#1,4), forced
Army conscription (#1), porter fees (#2,4,5,6,7), porters (#2,7),
Mon ceasefire terms (#2), Thai repatriation plans (#5,6,8).

Issues specific to railway construction:  deadlines / increased
demands for labour (#2,3,5,6), convict labour (#1), labour camp
statistics (#1), labour of women and children (#3,5,8), beatings
(#1,5,6,8), sickness (#1,3,5,6,8), collapsing embankments due
to rainy season labour (#1,2,5), video cinemas (#1,5), Ministry
of Railways (#1).

The following information has been provided by the Mergui-Tavoy
Information Service of the Karen National Union:

In October 1995, SLORC issued orders for the following numbers
of forced labourers to come to labour camps from villages in the
Ye-Tavoy area.

No.  Labour Camp  # of workers  # of workers  # short of quota  # of convicts
		    ordered      received                            used

 1   T'Hlaing Ya     2,500        1,500           1,000
 2   18-Mile         2,500        1,000           1,500
 3   19-Mile         3,000        1,800           1,200
 4   21-Mile         2,000        2,000             -
 5   27-Mile         3,000        3,000             -
 6   30-Mile         1,500        1,000             500              300
 7   36-Mile         1,500        1,400             100
 8   Hein Zeh        2,000        1,500             500
 9   Nan Kyeh        2,500        2,200             300
10   Ye Bone         3,000        1,500           1,500
11   Kyauk Shat      3,000        1,400           1,600
12   Nwe Laing       4,000        2,000           2,000
13   Zim Ba          1,500          800             700              200
14   Ya Pu           1,500        1,000             500
15   Kyauk Ka Din    1,500        1,200             300
     TOTAL          35,000       23,300          11,700              500

Notes:  All labourers demanded and supplied are civilian villagers
with the exception of those listed as convicts.  Many are women
and children.  The numbers supplied do not include those who paid
3,000 to 4,000 Kyat to the Army to avoid the labour.  Orders were
issued for village heads to send enough people immediately to
fill the shortfalls in the number of people demanded.  "18-Mile",
"19-Mile" etc. are places named after their distance along the
line south of Ye.

Most of the labour camps listed above had already been extended
in September by Township LORC (Ma Wa Ta) and District LORC (Ka
Wa Ta) authorities.  At that time there were an estimated 6,800
civilian forced labourers being used in 21-Mile, 30-Mile, Hein
Zeh, Nan Kyeh, Nweh Laing, Zim Ba, Ya Pu, and Kyauk Ka Din camps,
as well as about 500 convicts in 30-Mile camp and 400 more in
Zim Ba camp.  There are 7 bulldozers in Kyauk Ka Din camp, but
the authorities never use them, preferring to use manual labour
of conscripted villagers because it has no cost.  In September,
heavy rains were continuing and yet villagers were still forced
to work digging earth pits, building embankments and filling depressions.
 About 80 to 100 people in each labour camp were ill at any given
time, but the authorities provided no medicine whatsoever.  In
some camps, people from nearby villages who run video cinemas
were forced to bring their equipment and show videos at their
own expense, while SLORC soldiers collected admission prices from
labourers and kept the money.

In September, a Tatmadaw (Burmese Army) recruiting unit from Tavoy
District went to several of the railway forced labour camps and
took some young men by force to become soldiers.  The young men
taken were between 16 and 22 years old.  They also took some convict
labourers who were nearly due to be released from their sentences.
 From 36-Mile and Hein Zeh camps, they took 6 villagers and convicts,
from Nwe Laing camp they took 8 villagers, and from 21-Mile camp
they took 15 villagers and convicts.

Officials of the SLORC Ministry of Railways who are responsible

for the Ye-Tavoy railway construction have to give money to the
Army Battalions along the railway line who are guarding the forced
labourers and doing security duty.  The Railway officials have
to pay the Battalion 100 Kyats for each earth pit (10 feet square)
dug by the forced labourers, and 150 Kyat for each depression
which is filled in.  It is possible that this is money budgetted
by the Ministry of Railways to pay the forced labourers but that
the Army is using this method to steal all of it, resulting in
the fact that none of the labourers are paid.  As an example,
on 24 August 1995 there was heavy rainfall at 21-Mile camp, but
even so #407 Light Infantry Battalion forced 900 villagers in
the camp to work.  Those who could not work hard enough were beaten
by the soldiers through the day.  40 pits were dug and 180 depressions
were filled, for which the Railway officials paid 31,000 Kyat
to LIB 407.  The Battalion kept all the money.  At 30-Mile camp
there is convict labour.  The convicts have to dig rock for the
railway gravel bed.  The Railway official in charge of 30-Mile
camp has to pay 200 Kyat to the SLORC Battalion for each rock
pit dug by the convicts.  On 23 August 1995 the SLORC soldiers
at 30-Mile camp ordered the convicts to blow up the rock with
dynamite.  Two convicts were killed by flying rock from the explosion,
and 3 others were seriously wounded.  The wounded were sent to
Tavoy Hospital for treatment.

All villagers called for railway labour must arrange and pay for
their own transportation to get to and from the worksite on time.
 They must take their own food, and receive no pay for the work.
 Looting, extortion, and other forms of forced labour also continue:
 for example, villagers in Ye Pyu Township are being ordered by
various SLORC officers to bake bricks.  The officers then sell
the bricks for 5 Kyat each to businessmen and keep all the money
themselves.  In September 1995, LIB #402 confiscated 420 acres
of land from Z'Lone and Tha Byet Chaung villages.  All the land
becomes property of the military and is now occupied by LIB 402.
 Families whose land was confiscated have to move to other villages
to find new land without compensation.

Further south, up to 10,000 villagers from the Tha Baw Lay and
Nyaw Pay Gway areas in Tenasserim Township have been used since
June 1995 as forced labour building a road to the Thai border
at Moe Taw Yoh.  The project is under control of #103 Infantry
Battalion.  The villagers receive no pay and have to supply their
own food.  Many people had no chance to tend their crops through
rainy season as a result.  The work is continuing.  SLORC is calling
it a regional development project, but villagers in the area believe
it is solely to open up the border areas to the military.  Since
November 1995, SLORC has also been calling villagers for forced
labour building a road near Ma Saung in Mergui township.  The
labourers receive no food or money.  Now the villagers need to
harvest their rice in the fields, but SLORC has warned them that
they will be shot if they are seen working in the fields when
they are supposed to be working on the road.

All of the following interviews were conducted by a Karen Human
Rights Group researcher in a Mon refugee camp in December 1995.
NAME:   "Nai Shwe"     SEX: M    AGE: 34           Mon Buddhist
						   INTERVIEWED: Dec 4/95

["Nai Shwe" is a refugee who just returned from several months
in Ye Township.]

I just came back from Ye Township, south of Ye.  I was there for
4 months.  This month the SLORC is restarting railway construction
there.  From Dec. 1 thru Dec. 15, SLORC announced that about 30,000
villagers from all of Ye Township must go.  30,000 families, one
person from every family, just in Ye Township.  They must come
from as far north as Nit Kayin, half way to Thanbyuzayat, and
as far south as the border [the border between Mon State and Tenasserim
Division, 29 km. south of Ye; Nit Kayin is about 35 km. north
of Ye].  There are about 30 villages in this area, and 6 sections
of Ye Town.  On November 20 the Ye Township government held a
meeting about railway construction.  They announced to all village
and section headmen that from 1 December through 15 December the
people must go.  It is by SLORC quota - about 1,000 people from
each village.  They have to work between Ye and the [Tenasserim]
border, 18 miles' distance.  The people must get there themselves,
no help from SLORC.  They are to finish the whole 18 miles in
15 days.  It was done before, but the rainy season floods destroyed
it all this year so they have to do it again.  Some of the line
goes through rubber plantations and some through ricefields. 
When the rains came, the part that went through ricefields was
completely washed away, except in places.  SLORC doesn't worry
that the floods will destroy the embankment again, because each
time the floods wash it away a bit is still left, so it gets bigger
and more solid year by year, this year and again next year, and
so on until it's finished.  It's crazy.  So I think they probably
won't lay the track on it this year.  On one stream, this year
the SLORC decided to make a dam, partly to get hydro power and
partly so they can control the water and it won't destroy the
embankment.  Right now it is just a plan.

I left the area on November 30.  In Ye I saw villagers going to
the railway.  All the people are going.  They must go.  SLORC
has a system of using the headman of the village to collect the
people.  The headmen know the names of the families.  They just
take their villagers to the place and the SLORC is there.  The
villagers can't flee, but if they really can't go then they have
to pay instead.  Each family has a quota of work to do, and if
they can't go they have to hire someone to go.  If you don't have
money you have to do it yourself.  Each family has to dig 3 earth
pits 10 feet square by 1 foot deep - altogether 10 feet by 30
feet, or sometimes 10 feet by 50 feet, and carry all the dirt.
 For each pit it costs 300 Kyat to hire someone to do it for you,
so altogether 900 Kyat.  There are no convict labourers along
this part of the line.  Each village is assigned a section of
railway line.  Each family is assigned a place.  If you can't
do it you have to give 900 Kyat to the village headman and he
finds another person.  There's a work camp at Ko Mine [9 miles
south of Ye], but the villagers will just stay where they're working
along the line.  From Ye to the Tenasserim border, SLORC set the
deadline as 15 December.  This 18 miles of embankment has to be

The village headmen can't say anything to the villagers or to
SLORC.  They just get a command from SLORC saying "You have to
finish this part of the line", and they have to do it without
saying anything.  They don't want to, but they have to.  If not,

the SLORC will say to them "You are against the rule of Na Wa
Ta [SLORC]" and fine them and so on.  SLORC doesn't say exactly
what will happen to you if you don't finish the work, but everybody
knows.  They have the right even to shoot you, or to say, "You
can't live in this village anymore, get your house and family
out of this village."  They have that power.

People there also have to pay porter fees regularly, whether or
not they go for railway construction.  Normally in Ye Township
SLORC just wants money, but in Tenasserim Division they want men
[for labour].  According to the ceasefire agreement [with the
New Mon State Party (NMSP)], SLORC can't take any porters or porter
fees anymore in all of Mon State or Ye Pyu township in Tenasserim.
 But they still do.  So the NMSP complained, and SLORC answered
"The ceasefire is just between the Tatmadaw [Burmese Army] and
MNLA [Mon National Liberation Army], military to military.  The
porters are not being taken by the Tatmadaw, they are being taken
by the Ma Wa Ta [Township LORC], and Ma Wa Ta is not part of the
ceasefire agreement."  But the porters are still with the Tatmadaw
soldiers.  I have seen them.  Since the ceasefire the SLORC still
does all of these things and treats the people just like before.
NAME:   "Nai Kyaw Mon"   SEX: M    AGE: 42     Mon Buddhist fisherman
FAMILY:  Married, 6 children aged 11 months to 16 years
ADDRESS: Kywe Thone Nyi Ma village, Ye Pyu township   INTERVIEWED: Dec 2/95

We arrived here [the refugee camp] 6 days ago.  I came by myself
first, to see the situation and to build a place for my family
to stay.  We left because they demand too many kinds of "volunteer
workers" and I couldn't do it all anymore.  The village had to
send people twice a month to dig and carry the earth at the railway
construction.  We started working at this in August.  For my family,
2 people had to go.  My wife and my daughter went, because I have
to be at home and do my work to support the family.  My daughter
is 16 years old.  They were gone for 15 days each time, every
month.  They had to carry the dirt which the others had dug up.
 I've been there once - the men dig the earth and then the women
carry it up the bank.  My wife and daughter had to go and work
near Ye Bone and Nweh Ley [about 40 km. SE of their village].
 Ye Bone is a small village along the car road, near the big village
of Kalein Aung.

They forced all the families living on the island to go.  [Kywe
Thone Nyi Ma is on an island in the Heinze Basin.]  Last year
one person from each family had to go, but this year they order
the whole family to go.  We have no idea why so many.  Whenever
the order comes we just have to obey.  If a family can't go they
have to pay 3,000 Kyat.  My family never paid, we always went
to the work.  Each time over 200 people from the village go. 
[The village is divided into two halves; each month, the families
in one half must go for 15 days, then the families in the other
half must go for 15 days.]

There is an army camp on the island, about 12 to 15 soldiers.
 They are from #273 Battalion.  They guard their camp and they
collect the paddy [quotas from the farmers].  Most of the villagers
are farmers.  We don't have to do any work for those soldiers.
 I have a small boat, and I fish in the small streams around the
area with fish-traps.

Q:  Have you heard of the gas pipeline? [The pipeline route is
10-15 km. south of the village.]
A:  I've never been to the pipeline worksite, I've only paid the
money for the pipeline.  150 Kyat, every month.  The village leader

collects the money and goes to give the money to the SLORC camp
at Kanbauk.  The village leader told us we have to give money
for the pipeline, and he collects it and goes to give it at Kanbauk.
 He said if we can't pay we have to go to the worksite and work
for 3 days and 3 nights, working for the pipeline.  Some people
had to go from our village.  From my section of the village, Tavoy
Su, nobody went, but from other sections of the village like Kaw
Daw Pine, some did.  They went and worked at the Kanbauk - Mi
Kyaun Ain worksite.  [This is exactly where the Total base camp
is located.]  I didn't hear anything about what kind of work they
had to do.  I never went there, I just paid.  Whether we can pay
or not, we have to pay somehow.  If we have no money, we have
to sell something of our own so we can pay.

Q:  Are people from Kywe Thone Nyi Ma still allowed to go to Kanbauk
by water?  [Total and Unocal have had SLORC build jetty facilities
at Ka Daik in order to bring in pipeline supplies by sea.  Ka
Daik is on the southern arm of the Heinze Basin, between Kywe
Thone Nyi Ma and Kanbauk.]
A:  We are not allowed to go there.  The SLORC soldiers gave us
an order.  The soldiers at the camp near our village gave us that
order.  They told us that when the ships come in we are not allowed
to go to Kanbauk by water or fish there.  There are ships that
carry lead, they load the lead at Kanbauk and go to the sea [there
are mines in the Kanbauk area], but I don't know.  We are not
allowed to draw near to the ships.  We can still go to Kanbauk
by water except when the ships come.

We left because of paying fees and forced labour.  I am not happy
with this railway project.  If we are sick at their work camp
we have to buy our own medicine, and we have to eat our own food.
 We get nothing from them, only work.  Kywe Thone Nyi Ma had about
1,000 houses [other villagers estimate closer to 500].  Many families
have left, and single people as well.  This year when the harvest
period is over many will come here.  If I go back to my village
now, they will arrest me and send me to the forced labour camp.