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Karen Human Rights Group Reports
- Subject: Karen Human Rights Group Reports
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- Date: Sat, 27 Jan 1996 07:31:00
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TWO RECENT KAREN HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP REPORTS:
KHRG: STORY OF A MON POLITICAL PRISONER
January 9, 1996 / KHRG #96-02
KHRG: THE SHELLING OF WAH BAW VILLAGE
January 12, 1996 / KHRG #96-04
STORY OF A MON POLITICAL PRISONER
An Independent Report by the Karen Human Rights Group
January 9, 1996 / KHRG #96-02
NOTE: SOME DETAILS HAVE BEEN OMITTED OR REPLACED BY 'XXXX'
FOR INTERNET DISTRIBUTION.
In early 1994, Thai authorities forced about 5,000 Mon refugees
across the border into Burma. The refugees, afraid to go into
a SLORC-controlled area, settled just across the border and established
a refugee camp at Halockhani, where they continued to receive
some cross-border aid from foreign aid organizations. On July
21, 1994, the camp was attacked by a large column of SLORC Infantry
Battalion #62 troops commanded by Lt. Col. Ohn Myint. [See "SLORC's
Attack on Halockhani Refugee Camp", KHRG #94-21, 30/8/94.] In
the attack, Plat Hon Pai section of the camp was completely burned
down, but when the SLORC troops attempted to advance on the main
body of the camp they were repulsed by a group of MNLA (Mon National
Liberation Army) soldiers who were in the area. The SLORC troops
arrested 16 refugees as prisoners and many others as porters,
and marched to Ye. On arrival in Ye several days later, all were
released except "Nai Tin Maung" (not his real name), who was held,
interrogated, and then sentenced to 2 years' imprisonment because
he was a schoolteacher in the refugee camp. "Nai Tin Maung" has
now been released from prison, and his story in his own words
is given below.
In the wake of the attack on Halockhani, all the refugees fled
across the border to Thailand, where they were immediately ordered
to go back to Burma by the Thai Army. They refused and a standoff
ensued, which ended when the Thai Army blocked off all outside
aid, then impounded the entire camp food supply and drove the
refugees back across the border in September 1994. The refugees
are now still there, in the same site which was previously attacked.
After the attack Lt. Col. Ohn Myint was not punished, but was
sent with his IB 62 troops further north to Thanbyuzayat and Kya
In areas, where he has since become notorious for burning many
villages, taking many people as porters, and his particularly
brutal treatment of villagers.
TOPIC SUMMARY: Porters, burning of villages, interrogation &
beatings by Army and MI, sentencing, conditions in Moulmein Jail,
prison labour, beatings in prison, illness and death in prison,
early release due to NMSP ceasefire deal.
NAME: "Nai Tin Maung" SEX: M AGE: 25 Mon Buddhist, schoolteacher
FAMILY: Married, 3 children aged 1 month and twins of 3
ADDRESS: XXXX village, Ye North Township INTERVIEWED: Dec 4/95
Last year I was a teacher at Halockhani [refugee camp]. I was
teaching Mon and English. I had been at the Thai border for 3
years. I was living in Plat Hon Pai section of the camp. As
a teacher I was a member of NMSP [New Mon State Party], but I
had no connection with MNLA [Mon National Liberation Army, armed
wing of the NMSP]. When the SLORC came I was staying in the camp.
I saw the Army come into the camp. They arrested me as a member
of NMSP, because the villagers told them I was a teacher. [On
entering the camp, the troops called for all the teachers, and
he was the only one there.] They handcuffed me in the village,
then they took me as a porter. With me fifteen other villagers
were also taken by the SLORC, but later they were released. They
didn't release me.
When I was marching with them they didn't tie me up. I had to
be a porter. The load was quite heavy. I was carrying heavy
weapon shells and a mortar baseplate for an 82 mm. mortar. [A
mortar consists of a heavy tube set up on a heavy flat metal baseplate,
weighing well over 10 kg.] Some of us had to carry loads and
some did not. Those who didn't have to carry loads were handcuffed.
Four people out of our 16 were handcuffed. The soldiers used
them as guides, and kept them handcuffed so they wouldn't escape.
Three of us were NMSP, and the rest were villagers. [SLORC only
knew that as a teacher, he was NMSP - they didn't know that 2
others were with the NMSP Agriculture Dept.] I have no idea why
they were taken.
We were with #62 Battalion [IB]. It took us 4 days walking from
Halockhani to Ye. When we left I saw them burning Plat Hon Pai.
On the way I saw them burn 3 villages: Plat Hon Pai, Ka Mon,
and Klay Taing. These villages are very far apart. One village
was burned down because a villager shot at the SLORC soldiers
and then ran away, so they burned the village. They burned down
the other because a battle had taken place near the village.
When we were porters we were beaten 2 times. Once we were beaten
during the night, because it was raining and we had to sleep under
the rain in a sitting position. That night was very cold and
raining, but they wouldn't allow us to lay down, to warm ourselves
in our longyis or to go to the toilet. So we were noisy, and
the soldiers beat us with a stick. Also, when people couldn't
walk or were marching slowly, we were all beaten. They beat everybody.
They hit us on the head and shoulders with sticks. Along the
way they gave us just a little rice. They never gave us enough
food and no curry, only salt and fishpaste. They didn't say anything
When we got to Ye the other 15 people were released. The soldiers
told me I am guilty because I have connections with the Mon rebels.
They said, "Tell us how long you have been working with Mon rebels."
I told them I'm not, and they beat me. They asked me how many
Mon soldiers were included in the 15 villagers. I told them none
are Mon soldiers, and they said, "Only you?" So I said, "Yes."
They asked how long I had been a teacher and I told them one
year. They asked "Who pays you?", and I told them the villagers
paid me. [Note: on arrival in Ye, the other 15 captives were
released. Most of the soldiers then proceeded north to IB 62
headquarters in Thanbyuzayat, while some took him further north
to another IB 62 camp in Mudon.] When we arrived at 62 Battalion
camp in Mudon they asked me, "Are you a teacher?", "Do you have
any connection with organizations?", and things like that. I
said, "Yes. I have contact with N--- from NMSP." Then they kept
asking, "Who is N---?", and I told him he is the Township Secretary.
When they asked me about Major S--- and his Company, I told them
I know nothing about that. Then they beat me, because they said,
"You know him. You are lying to us." They hit me in the face
with their hands. They kept asking questions like that for about
1 hour, then they sent me to the MI 5 camp [special Military Intelligence].
People from MI 5 came and took me there by car, with 3 or 4 soldiers
guarding me. Their headquarters is in Moulmein. It is a big
camp, I think there are 30 or 60 soldiers there. At their camp
they threatened me. They showed me a place and said "Get in there.
That is your place." It was like a jail cell, a place for keeping
prisoners. They gave me some food, and I had to call the guard
when I needed to use the latrine. They interrogated me for 3,
4, 5 days. They beat me for 1 or 2 days, then after that they
didn't. They punched my face and kicked me. Then after 6 days,
personnel from MI 5 took me to the police station. Nothing happened
there, and I stayed only 1 day. Then they took me to Moulmein
Jail and then to a court where I was tried.
I had to appear before a court, and the judge asked me whether
I have any connection with NMSP. I said "Yes", so he told me
"You know that you are guilty for cooperating with NMSP?", and
I said "Yes." Then he gave me 2 years' imprisonment. They already
knew about me and it was no use to lie, so I told them the truth.
They gave me the chance to get a lawyer but I didn't, because
it would make no difference. The judge was a civilian, and the
court was full with many people, all police.
Then they gave me prison uniform, 2 shirts and 2 longyis in white
colour [prison uniforms are made of very rough white material]
and put me in Moulmein Jail. There are 5 buildings at the jail.
The place I slept was like a hall. About 200 people slept there.
It is about 200 feet long by 50 feet wide. They leave a space
down the centre for walking and people sleep on either side.
It is not enough room for 200 people. It had a wooden floor,
but they didn't give us mats. They gave us one blanket. There
is a place with a bucket to shit in, and they have 3 or 4 pots
to piss in. In the morning they come and collect all the pots
to use as fertilizer.
In our room some people were murderers, some rapists, some pickpockets
and some who were in for fraud. But about 160 or 170 were like
me, accused under Section 17/1 [contact with "illegal" organizations,
a standard charge for political prisoners] and 17/2 [rebellion
against the State]. Some were rebel soldiers and some were charged
with cooperating with rebels. All the political prisoners were
in my building. In the daytime we worked. At 3 p.m. we stopped
working, took a bath and ate. After that we had to line up for
roll call, and at 6 p.m. we all had to go back to our own building.
At seven they blew a whistle and we all had to be at our sleeping
places We could sing or laugh until 9 p.m., but after 9 p.m.
no sound was allowed, everyone had to sleep and be quiet. If
someone had to go to the toilet they had to shout "Piss!" or "Shit!"
You can go only if they say you can go. If they don't answer
you can't go. We woke up at 5 a.m. and we were allowed to pray.
From 6-7 a.m. they ring the bell and we all had to line up and
get boiled rice gruel, just rice, salt, and water, and then we
had to go to work. Then at 10 a.m. we got the morning meal, rice
and some vegetables boiled in water with salt. At 4 p.m. we got
the evening meal, the same as the morning meal. The food was
not enough for me. They gave us only one plate of rice. There
were so many kinds of work - feeding the pigs, metalworking, weaving,
gardening vegetables, cooking at the mess hall, and so on. The
political prisoners did the same work as the criminal prisoners.
Then the authorities sold the pigs and the things we made, outside
in the market. Criminal prisoners had to go for [Ye-Tavoy] railway
labour, but not political prisoners. [However, evidence exists
that political prisoners have been sent there - see related KHRG
Prisoners who got sick were checked in the jail and if necessary
they were sent to the hospital outside, but you have to pay them
money first. You have to pay 500, 600, 1000, or 1500 Kyat to
the warden. In the jail hospital they just had a few medicines
like Paracetamol. They basically had no medicine at all there.
If you gave money to the guards, they would buy some for you.
In the jail we made our own medicine for malaria. We took 6
or 7 small bugs [he named a type of insect that lives between
the cracks in floorboards], mixed it with jaggery from palm trees
and Flying Man digestive powder, rolled it into a pill and swallowed
it. I got sick once with malaria, for one whole month. I didn't
go to the prison hospital, I bought medicine for myself. I had
money because my mother came to see me and brought me money.
She came one time every 3 months. The guards didn't allow her
to see me. She told them my name and gave the money to them.
The guards take 200 out of every 1,000 Kyat before they give
it to you. Other prisoners are allowed to see their families,
but not me because I was a political prisoner.
I saw 2 people die in prison from sickness. The guards only beat
the newcomers. Every new prisoner is beaten by the chief guard.
For the first 1 or 2 months they regard you as a new prisoner
and beat you. After that you become an "old hand" and no more
beatings. I was in the jail 16 or 17 months. I was released
on October 28 . The prison authorities gave back all my
belongings and I went back home. But my family is here [at the
refugee camp], and my people at home are in trouble because of
SLORC. I don't want to see the SLORC's face anymore, so I came
here. I was released because some Majors from MNLA came and vouched
for me. About 30 people from my group and 20 people from another
group were released, altogether 50 [after the SLORC/NMSP ceasefire
in June 1995, the NMSP requested the release of certain political
prisoners]. I think the Mon leaders negotiated it with SLORC.
As for me, my opinion in two words is that SLORC is no good.
- [END] -
THE SHELLING OF WAH BAW VILLAGE
An Independent Report by the Karen Human Rights Group
January 12, 1996 / KHRG #96-04
NOTE: SOME DETAILS HAVE BEEN OMITTED OR REPLACED BY 'XXXX'
FOR INTERNET DISTRIBUTION
The Karen calendar is lunar, and Karen New Year generally falls
between 15 December and 15 January on the English calendar. This
year Karen New Year, the first day of Thalay month of the year
2735, fell on 21 December 1995. Karens throughout Burma, Thailand
and other countries celebrated with ceremonies, speeches, giving
gifts to elders, music, Don Dance competitions and feasting.
It crosses all religious boundaries and is one of the few expressions
of Karen identity which is allowed by SLORC.
However, many SLORC commanders see any gathering of a crowd only
as either a threat or an opportunity - a threat of an uprising,
or an opportunity to round up porters and loot. In the Karen
community of Insein, just outside Rangoon, SLORC saw Karen New
Year as a threat - a KNU delegation in Rangoon for preliminary
negotiations was prevented from attending until after the main
festivities were over, and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and some of her
followers were detained and interrogated for trying to attend,
on suspicion that they planned a secret meeting with the KNU representatives.
Several days later 4 of the celebration organizing committee
members were arrested by SLORC, apparently for allegedly helping
to plan such a meeting, though no meeting was ever planned. Further
south, in Wah Baw Village, Yay Hla Mine township in Mon State,
the SLORC commander saw the regional celebration as an opportunity
- as soon as the celebration was in full swing, one column of
troops shelled the celebration while another column attacked and
looted the village and the celebration field. One man was killed,
others were wounded, a house was burned and estimates of the property
stolen and destroyed are over 100,000 Kyat. It is important to
note that this happened while a KNU delegation was actually in
Rangoon for talks with SLORC, and that there is certain to be
no disciplinary action whatever against the commander who launched
A young Karen civilian who was at the celebration gave his account
below in an interview with KHRG. Wah Baw village is about 7 miles
east of Hla Mine, and Hla Mine is about 20 miles north of Ye,
halfway along the road from Ye to Thanbyuzayat.
TOPIC SUMMARY: Attack on civilians, execution, kneecapping, shooting
livestock, looting / destruction of property, porters, Ye-Tavoy
railway labour, land confiscation / forced labour for military
contracts with foreign companies.
On 21 December, the Karen people were celebrating Karen New Year's
Day like every year. They were holding the ceremony peacefully
- they had dancing, and competitions, and they made offerings
to the old people, and the old people gave their blessings to
the young. I was there at that time. There were over 1,000 people
there. There are about 50 houses in the village, but the villagers
from all around Wah Baw village were all attending the ceremony.
I think 11 Don Dance groups came. You can imagine - in each
dance group there are 20 or 30 people.
In the morning the celebration started at 8 a.m., and then at
8:45 a.m. the SLORC attacked. They attacked and destroyed all
the things. It was #106 Battalion [LIB], deployed in Hla Mine,
and #343 Battalion [LIB], deployed in Ye. They combined together
to do this operation, about 240 soldiers altogether. They are
under Southeast Command [commanded by Maj. Gen. Ket Sein]. We
think they arrived outside the village in the early morning, before
dawn. We think they left their battalion camps at night. They
split into two groups: one group took their place on the hill
beside the village, and one group raided the village. At that
time we were in the field [the celebration was held in an open
field just outside the village, where the villagers had erected
a stage]. They just fired, and attacked the village without seeing
any enemy there. And they ransacked every house, and they took
everything. At the same time we were all running because we heard
the shooting, and then the troops on the hill saw that all the
people were jumping up and running away, and they shelled into
the field, into the crowd. I think the shells were 60 mm. [small
mortar], not as strong as 81 mm., because in my experience I have
seen 81 and 120 mm., and they are very explosive, very strong.
But these shells were not that strong, the vibrations were not
as strong. We couldn't count how many shells! For about one
hour they fired, both with their small weapons and their artillery
Also, they shelled two or three rounds of artillery into the village,
and what happened is their own troops got injured. Two soldiers
died, according to the porters. They took 8 porters from the
village, and later these porters told us they had to carry these
wounded soldiers, but that these 2 soldiers had died on the way
to their battalion [camp]. Fortunately, no one else died from
the shelling, but one of the villagers was arrested, and he was
cut down, clubbed to death with a bottle and stabbed in the chest.
He was just an ordinary villager. He was drunk - he wasn't taking
part in the ceremony, he was still sleeping. So they took him,
dragged him into the field, asked him questions and then clubbed
him to death with the bottle. They broke it on his head and then
stabbed him with the broken bottle in the belly. His name was
U Plaw Toh, he was 30 years old, from Wah Ka Mein village, Thanbyuzayat
township. It happened at the same time they were raiding the
They searched every house, and they took everything. Some soldiers,
when they saw anyone wearing a necklace, they snatched it right
off their neck and took it. Also, one of the villagers, he was
ordered to come down from his house, and then he was shot down.
One of the SLORC soldiers shot him in his knee. They said "Come
down from the house!", and as soon as he was on the ground, they
shot him. They shot from right in front of him. They shot on
purpose just to injure him. [Note: this technique, known as "kneecapping",
is practiced by various terrorist groups worldwide as a torture
or punishment - it is indescribably painful and causes irreparable
damage. The victim can never walk properly again.] That villager,
he knows one of the SLORC medics because the SLORC camp is near
their village. He told us later. He saw the medic, and the medic
said "What's happened?" He said, "I've been injured." The medic
said, "What are you doing here?", so he said, "I just came to
attend the festival". The medic said "Didn't you know not to
come here?" and he said, "No. I didn't know." So the medic treated
him with a bandage. Aiyy! That villager's name is XXXX, he
is 32 years old, from XXXX village.
Some people managed to run away from the village, but some women
and some men were arrested. They didn't manage to get away.
Other than the one who was clubbed to death and the one who was
shot, there were 8 men [sic: actually 9] who they took as porters.
The porters were released after they reached their camp. In
the village the soldiers fired alot, carbine [rifle] and G3 [assault
rifle]. They shoot at random, whatever they see. Of course,
they'd like to shoot everyone, but the villagers run so they just
shoot at anything running. One of my friends was in a house with
a sick person, and a child came and told him "SLORC troops are
coming", so he jumped down from the house and ran away. They
shot at him. Fortunately he managed to escape, he narrowly escaped.
The sick man stayed behind. Later we heard that they were going
to burn down the house, but the sick man asked for mercy and said
"How can I carry these things?" He had malaria and had an IV
drip on at the time. So they didn't bother him, they just took
everything from the house and went away.
We stayed away from the village just 2 or 3 hours, hiding on a
hill just opposite the hill where the SLORC troops were positioned.
One of the village houses was also burned down. We could see
the smoke coming from the village. It was U Maung Thaung's house,
he is 44 years old, from Wah Baw village. Three cows were shot.
They just shot them and injured them. One of the cows died,
the other two were injured so you can't use them anymore [to pull
carts or plough]. They just shot them and left them behind.
Also all of our things, the soldiers got them all.
We think the troops only stayed in the village one hour. Because
after just 2 or 3 hours some villagers went around and said it
was all quiet, so we thought "Let's go and see", and we saw the
troops had already left. We saw the injured man, and the dead
body, the house that was burned down and the cows that were shot.
The injured man, some villagers carried him into a house, but
later on he was sent to the hospital, maybe at XXXX. I think
he will get treated okay there, but maybe first SLORC will force
him to promise not to tell anything.
>From the village they stole money, clothing, the 3 cows, necklaces,
and so on. One villager's house was looted of his clothing, money,
and 40 silver coins [possibly colonial-era Indian rupees, which
are still used as a valuable form of currency in some parts of
Burma]. Altogether we can guess maybe things worth 100,000 Kyat,
maybe more. Also, on the way back to their battalion the troops
passed some other villages. One of the villages, Klay Taung,
is close to Wah Baw. They stopped and took everything from the
shops, they took bottles of beer, just drank a little and threw
them away and destroyed them. They've appointed a man as Ya Wa
Ta [Village LORC] headman in that village, but he couldn't prevent
them from doing anything they wanted to do.
We cannot imagine why they attacked Wah Baw [as opposed to New
Year celebrations elsewhere]. Also, the KNU person in charge
of that area thought that the SLORC wouldn't disturb anything
because the KNU had sent a delegation to Rangoon to meet SLORC
leaders. So they should not have disturbed that ceremony. We
can't find any reason why they came and attacked. Because if
the SLORC wants to get real national reconciliation, they shouldn't
order their troops to attack and destroy Karen ceremonies. It
must have been ordered. Under military discipline, the commander
of the Battalion cannot send his troops to do anything unless
he gets an order from his commander. These troops are under Southeast
Command, Ket Sein is their commander. So they cannot just do
whatever they like, without any orders, right?
Q: In the village did SLORC give any indication that they were
looking for Karen troops?
A: No. Maybe they asked the man they killed about that. But
they didn't say that to anyone else. Maybe they knew that the
KNU was around there. But even if the KNU was there, it doesn't
matter. That celebration, that morning, does not concern the
KNU, it concerns the whole Karen nationality. So no matter who
is there, they should let them celebrate, if they respect each
other, if they respect the customs of other nationalities. They
can attack the KNU anytime, anywhere. SLORC always tries to suppress
other nationalities, every ethnic people. They don't want to
see any other ethnic nationality's customs influencing their people.
Q: What else is going on there?
A: They're asking for labour for construction of the railway
from Ye to Tavoy after Karen New Year Day. Because the village
headman asked for a pardon, saying "We are going to make a ceremony,
and after that we can give you the labour". Each house has to
send one person. If you cannot go you have to hire someone to
do it. This is the first time people there have to go. How long
depends on the work - you have to dig holes, and carry dirt.
Also I heard that around Wah Baw village, the fields will be used
as an oil palm plantation. They have a contract with Singapore,
and also Daewoo Company, a Korean company. They have a contract
with that company to grow oil palm. They will make a plantation.
People think that they will be used as forced labour for that
as well, that they will have to grow it without any wages. They
have not started yet. They have a plan. It will be around that
area, Ye - Hla Mine area. Thirty thousand acres. They don't
care whose land it is, on the mountain and around the villages,
they will do it. The villagers have some sources of information,
so they know this. [SLORC officers and officials often tell village
leaders about plans for the area, even when they are not supposed
to.] They will take land that belongs to people. These people
have been living there since a long, long time ago. They have
had to cut out their own fields, and they own them. So SLORC
will not cut new fields, they will take the ones that belong to
people. And they will use the local villagers as labour. [This
plantation may be intended for purposes of "countertrade", a practice
used by many foreign companies in Burma: they make their profits
in Kyat, which cannot be exported, so they buy domestic agricultural
produce from SLORC and export it to repatriate their profits.]
The witness also provided the following partial list of people
who suffered losses in the attack:
No. Name Age Village Things lost / Remarks
1 U P--- 31 Duh Leh Cash 3,000 Kyat and clothing
2 U M--- 44 Wah Baw House burned down
3 B--- 30 Wah Baw Cow shot dead by SLORC
4 K--- 60 Wah Baw Gold necklace, weight 5 mu,
cash 8,000 Kyat, clothing
5 M--- 58 Wah Baw Gold necklace, weight 5 mu,
cash 20,000 Kyat, 1 cow, and clothing
6 XXXX 32 XXXX Shot, kneecapped
7 U A--- 32 Wah Baw Cash 20,000 Kyat,
40 silver coins, clothing
8 P--- 60 Wah Baw Clothing
9 U P--- 30 Wa Ka Mein Beaten and stabbed to death
10 U M--- 46 Wah Baw Cash 30,000 Kyat, 2 cassette players,
clothing, & destroyed all furniture
11 U T--- 30 Wah Baw Took him away as porter
12 U T--- 46 Wah Baw "
13 T--- 45 Wah Baw "
14 H--- 30 Wah Baw "
15 K--- 37 Wah Ko "
16 B--- 37 Wah Ko "
17 B--- 28 K'Nyein "
18 P--- 21 K'Nyein "
19 P--- 30 K'Nyein "
20 Other things, amount uncountable, belonging to people who were
selling from stalls around the celebration field,
all stolen or destroyed.
- [END] -