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KHRG: Situation in NW Burma, Jan. 9
- Subject: KHRG: Situation in NW Burma, Jan. 9
- From: strider@xxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Thu, 22 Feb 1996 15:47:00
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Date: Thu, 22 Feb 1996 15:47:07 -0800
Subject: KHRG: Situation in NW Burma, Jan. 96, 1/2
THE SITUATION IN NORTHWESTERN BURMA
An Independent Report by the Karen Human Rights Group
January 30, 1996 / KHRG #96-06
** PART 1 OF 2 - SEE SUBSEQUENT POSTING FOR PART 2. **
[NOTE: SOME DETAILS HAVE BEEN BLANKED OUT OR OMITTED FROM THIS REPORT
FOR INTERNET DISTRIBUTION.]
This report contains information about the situation for civilians in
Chin State, Arakan State and Sagaing Division of northwestern
Burma. Despite the fact that there is little or no fighting in the areas
covered by this information, the people in these areas are suffering
SLORC human rights abuses which are very similar to those being
experienced by villagers and townspeople in war zones at the opposite
end of the country. The similarity makes it clear that such abuses are
not "isolated occurrences", as some foreign governments and
international agencies would have us believe, but systematic SLORC
policy. Even in areas where there is no fighting, SLORC continues to
send in more Army Battalions to exert direct control over the civilian
population. Ten years ago, the 17 townships of Arakan State only
contained 10 Army battalions - now every township has at least 3
battalions, and the number continues to increase. Similar increases
are occurring in Chin State and Sagaing Division.
All of these Battalions are confiscating land and using people as
forced labour to build and maintain their camps and as porters. In the
absence of fighting, they are increasingly involved in supervising
forced labour on "development" projects such as roads, railways and
power dams, land confiscation for forced labour farming, and land
confiscation and forced labour building hotels and tourist projects for
"Visit Myanmar Year 1996". The largest forced labour project in the
area, now nearing completion, is the Chaung U - Pakokku - Gangaw -
Kalemyo railway in Sagaing and Magwe Divisions, 312 miles long and
every mile of it built with the forced labour of villagers or convicts.
While it nears completion, SLORC now talks of extending it 120 km.
further north to Tamu in order to strengthen the trade link with India.
Those who argue that trade always leads to improvements in human
rights should look closely at these events.
Religious persecution is also a major problem in this part of Burma.
The Chin and Naga peoples, who are mainly Christian, report that
SLORC is forcing all Christian villages to build pagodas and
monasteries, desecrating churches and graveyards by turning them
into army camps, and coercing people into converting to Buddhism by
targetting Christians for forced labour and other abuses. At the same
time, Buddhists in Arakan State say that SLORC is preparing to steal
all their religious relics and take them to tourist museums and Burman
Buddhist shrines in central Burma. Abbots are being forced to make
lists of all ancient items in preparation. A "Buddha museum" being
built by SLORC in Sittwe, capital of Arakan, has been renamed by
villagers the "Dukkha museum", meaning "Museum of Suffering",
because they are all being used for forced labour to build it and
because they see it as part of SLORC's plan to steal all of their relics.
Many young women have even been raped by soldiers at the
construction site of this purportedly religious museum.
Thousands of Chin refugees are already in India's Manipur and
Mizoram states, and also some in Bangladesh. They receive no aid
and are subject to increasing harassment and forced repatriation by
Indian forces. Salai Sang Hlun, a Chin National Front leader, was
tortured and murdered by Indian forces on 23 April 1995. Most
people believe the increased abuse is because the Chin are sympathetic
to the Nagas in Burma, while the Indians are fighting their own Naga
people, and also because of "Operation Golden Bird", the new joint
military operations between the Indian and SLORC Armies. There are
also about 2,000 Rakhine refugees from Arakan in Mizoram who
receive no aid. They are increasingly in fear because of abuse by
Indian forces and the joint Indian-Burmese military operations. In
one of their camps in India, called Maung Pu Chay, there have even
been reports of SLORC troops entering the camp and taking porters.
In 1991-92 SLORC mounted a religious pogrom against Muslim
Rohingyas in Arakan State. It is unknown how many were massacred,
but at least 300,000 fled to Bangladesh to become refugees. At least
200,000 of them have now been forced back to Burma by Bangladeshi
authorities with the support of the UNHCR [UN High Commissioner
for Refugees]. UNHCR made agreements with SLORC and the
Bangladesh government (but not with any refugee representatives) to
support this forced repatriation and tell the world it is "voluntary" as
long as they can get a monitoring presence on both sides of the
border. They now have that presence. There are serious concerns
raised by Rohingyas and Non-Governmental Organizations about the
forcible nature of the repatriation, and furthermore that Rohingya
returnees are being used extensively for forced labour and are not
having their land returned. Rakhines (who form the Buddhist majority
in Arakan State) report that UNHCR has confiscated land without
adequate compensation and that they are fuelling racial tensions in
Arakan. UNHCR claims that forced labour in Arakan is an "isolated
occurrence", and that new Rohingya refugees coming to them in
Bangladesh have "false claims".
This report consists of 3 parts: the first part contains testimony given
in interviews conducted by KHRG in India and Bangladesh in
November and December 1995, the second part is a summary of
general information reported by various sources in Chin State and
Sagaing Division, and the third part is a summary of concerns about
the UNHCR's Rohingya repatriation operations in Bangladesh and
Arakan State. The names of those interviewed have been changed, and
the false names are indicated by enclosing them in quotes. Note that
the town referred to in this report as Kalemyo is often referred to
elsewhere as Kalaymyo or Kalay.
Forced labour (#1-6), child forced labour (#1,2,3),
child conscription (#5), elderly forced labour (#1,2,3), abuse
of women (#1,2), beatings (#1,2), deaths (#2,5), sickness (#2,5), forced
relocation (#3,5,6), land confiscation (#1,2,3,5), crop confiscation
(#3,5), extortion (#1,2,3,5), theft/commandeering of vehicles (#1,2,3),
of boats (#1,3), SLORC control of business (#1,3), SLORC and
smuggling (#3,5), economic hardships (#1,3,5), fuel shortages (#1,3),
suffering/cost of SLORC VIP visits (#2,3,5), religious issues (#1,3,5),
Rohingya repatriation (#3,6), UNHCR (#3,6), Na Sa Ka (#3), National
TOURISM: Land confiscation for tourist sites/resorts (#1,3), forced
labour building hotels (#1), demolition of houses to improve the view
for tourists (#1), demolition of Maungdaw graveyard for a tourist
hotel (#3), orders to rebuild houses or be evicted (#1,5), forced labour
for 'Buddha Museum' (#1,3), confiscation of relics for 'Buddha
FORCED LABOUR: Roads (#1-6), railways (#2,5), dams (#5), making
stones/gravel (#2,3,5), brickmaking (#1,3), shrimp farming (#1),
farming (#1), building tourist hotels (#1), Mandalay Palace Moat (#4),
'Buddha Museum' in Sittwe (#1,3), at Army camps (#1,2,3), portering
(#1,2,5), human shields (#5), beatings (#1,2), deaths (#1,2,5), sickness
(#2), convict labour (#3,4), political prisoner labour (#3).
FORCED LABOUR INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECTS: Kalemyo-Gangaw railway
(#2,5), Chaung U - Pakokku - Gangaw railway (#5), Kalemyo-Tamu
railway (#5), Kalemyo-Gangaw road (#5), Sittwe-Rangoon highway
(#1), Maungdaw-Sittwe road (#3), Maungdaw - Kyin Chaung road
(#3), Monywa - Ah Myint road (#5), Homelin-Thamanthi road (#5),
Thamanthi-Laeshi road (#5), other roads (#1,3,4,5), Ye Chaung hydro
dam (#5), Thay hydro dam (#5), Kalemyo - Nat Chaung railway
opening ceremony and operation (#5).
LAND CONFISCATION: For tourist sites/resorts (#1,3), for railway (#5),
for roads (#1), for military farms (#1), for army camps (#2,3,5), for
UNHCR facilities (#3), confiscation of shrimp farms (#1).
RELIGION: Persecution of Christians (#2,5), of Muslims (#3,6), of
Buddhists (#1,3), desecration of graveyards (#2,3), SLORC religious
PR (#3), SLORC control of Sangha/monks (#3), confiscation of
Buddhist relics (#1,3), attempt to take the Mahamuni Buddha (#3), the
'Buddha Museum' in Sittwe (#1,3), taking lay child helpers for forced
labour (#3), Rakhine-Rohingya tensions (#3).
NAME: "Maung Hla" SEX: M AGE: 40 Rakhine Buddhist trader
FAMILY: Married, 4 children aged 13-18 (all students)
ADDRESS: Mingan section, Sittwe town, Arakan State
["Maung Hla" fled Sittwe and arrived in Bangladesh as a refugee in
The construction of a Buddha museum is now going on in Sittwe and
SLORC soldiers are using forced labour of the people from the quarters
of Sittwe town, including children, old women, young girls, and men
from all walks of life. They force them to work for them. Even at
night, SLORC don't let people go home. They demand that the people
complete the work. They let some of the attractive young girls go home
only after midnight. Now the people are feeling afflicted to see this
happening. I have worked there myself three times. The first time was
on 10 September 1995. Each family has to work one day at a time. All
the families of Sittwe have to work one day each by turns. This project
started in 1991, in Ma Gya Myai quarter of Sittwe. It is quite big,
spread over a wide area. They are building it on paddy fields. Some
fields were owned by villagers and they were moved from there. The
army forcibly occupied that land and relocated the villagers somewhere.
Part of these fields was also owned by an orphanage. The orphanage
got no compensation, because SLORC has no regulation for
SLORC is trying to collect and find all the ancient Buddha images and
gather them in this museum. Then later they will take them all to
Rangoon. That is the reason why they are building this museum. The
government is trying to collect all the Buddha images and other ancient
objects from all over Arakan State and they have already made a list of
all our ancient precious objects in all the monasteries.
The people don't like this museum. Now it is almost finished. It is a
two storey building. They still have to start building the partitions to
make separate rooms. The roof is already finished as well as the
external walls. Only the people from Sittwe township have to do the
work. Everybody has to go - Rakhines, Muslims, Hindus, Christians.
In each quarter SLORC orders some families for one day and people
have to rotate turn by turn. They take 200 to 300 people per day. It
has gone on continuously since 1991. They never interrupted the
Everyone has to work at least 3 times a month. Before September my
younger brother always went for our family. When I went I had to
carry sand, bricks and wooden planks. One group of soldiers were
there to supervise the work, from Battalion #20, Western Command.
When I was working there, I saw soldiers throwing stones at people who
were taking a rest for a little while. They also hit them with a cane stick,
kicked them and scolded them rudely. But I was not beaten up. Some
people were badly hurt. One woman was having a smoke and sat
down. A soldier brutally took the cigarette out of her mouth and kicked
her in her belly with his army boots. Then he hit her with a cane stick.
She fell down and lost consciousness. It must have been internal
injuries, because she was not bleeding. She was 17 years old.
Some old women had to come to work instead of their sons and
daughters. They were scolded by the soldiers without any respect:
"Why are you coming here? You are useless! Where are your sons and
daughters?" These old women were like the soldiers' mothers but the
soldiers didn't pay any respect to them. [Reverence for elders and
parents is a cornerstone of society in Burma.] There are many
women, more women than men, at the labour because many men are
doing their business work, so their wives have to substitute for them.
There were some pregnant women working, but not in an advanced
stage of pregnancy. Some women came with their babies. There were
children 7 or 8 years old working there too, and old people about 60
years old. There were many young girls, some were students. The
soldiers ordered the most attractive ones to stay as late as midnight.
Normally the work continues until 6 pm but they ordered these girls to
do overtime. You can easily imagine why they kept them! But if they
were raped, they wouldn't reveal it because of our society.
If a family was absent, they have to pay 200 Kyats for one day. This is
extortion. We have to work from 8 am to 6 pm. For lunch we could
take a break for half an hour. We had to bring our own food, and we
got no pay. They never even promised anything. SLORC allowed us
to use tools. The tools were provided by the army. The army brought
all the building materials. To carry bricks and sand they are using
people's trucks, not their own.
All over Arakan state, forced labour is going on: road construction,
building of military camps, etc. For example, in remote areas people
depend on their cultivation but they have to go all the time to work in
military camps or at road construction. They have no time to do their
own cultivation. They have to crush stones, cut bamboo, cut iron bars
for building purposes and they have to be porters for the army without
They are building a highway between Sittwe and Rangoon. The people
from Sittwe have to build the part of the highway in Sittwe area. Those
who are living in other townships have to do the part in their own
township. I worked on this highway myself, in July 1995. We had to
build the road embankment [because the land is low-lying, all roads in
Arakan must be built on embankments]. First we had to dig the ground
nearby, then carry it and build the embankment. The embankment is 2
or 3 feet high. Each section of town has to finish an assigned length of
the embankment. After it is finished, they can go home. I worked there
only once, for 7 days. It was too far from my house, so I had to stay
there at night. It was 7 miles from home. I went there on foot.
When we stayed at night, we had to build a shelter. Some heavily
drunk soldiers came there, entered the shelters and made troubles for
the girls and to their relatives who were trying to protect them. They
started to quarrel, kick, punch, and hit people with their rifle butts. The
soldiers always went and got alcohol in the nearby villages. They came
back drunk and then did whatever they wanted: they kicked, they beat,
they punched whomever they wanted. Many different Battalions are in
charge there. In Sittwe Township alone, there are 20 battalions.
That highway goes through the paddy fields owned by people. They
get no compensation. This project started after SLORC seized power
. It will never been finished. It will take forever because what
they finish during the dry season is completely destroyed in the rainy
season. SLORC have started many such projects of road building:
Kyauk Pru to Rangoon, Sittwe to Maungdaw via Amumaw. Also
Kyauk Taw to Buthidaung and Sittwe to Rathidaung. All since 1988.
They also catch porters in Sittwe, as they do throughout the country.
They order the quarter leader to provide a certain number of people. If
people can't go, they have to pay 1,000 Kyats. I never went as a porter
because I gave money. I don't know where they take them, probably to
the frontline. There is no time limit - most of the time they are gone for
two or three months. Some never came back. Some came back
suffering seriously from malaria and other illnesses. We also learned
that they shot the ones who tried to escape. Maung Soe and Maung
Gong from my quarter never came back. That was in 1991.
In Nga Pi Kyan village, Pauktaw township, some people had a shrimp
farm but the SLORC soldiers confiscated it and started their own
shrimp project there under the name "Military Welfare Farm". Near the
Kaladan river, in Pu Na Kyan township, soldiers came and caught
people to build embankments for a shrimp project. [In Arakan there
are two types of shrimp farms: one kind in the river near the sea where
stone barrages are built to divide the areas for the shrimps and
another kind, along the river, where ponds are dug divided by earth
embankments and using irrigation from the river.] They use people to
dig ponds and build embankments. Most of the men of that area fled to
Sittwe. In the absence of men, the soldiers took old women, girls and
pregnant women. One pregnant woman was forcibly taken and she
gave birth at the worksite at the shrimp farm. That happened at mid-
day, in March 1993. They started these projects in 1989. There are
many shrimp farms like this in the coastal area, including Sittwe
In Sittwe Town there are Infantry Battalions #263, 264, etc. I don't
remember all the battalion numbers because there are so many. The
people have to work at their camps, and not only to build the camps.
They also take people from the villages to look after their cows. The
cows and buffalos belong to the people, but they demand that the
villagers give their cattle and buffalos, and then order the villagers to
look after their own cattle and buffalos in the camp compound. The
soldiers get the milk and the meat to eat and to sell to the market. The
soldiers even sold some cows at the roadside on the way to their camp.
And the villagers have to build shelters and bring food for the cows.
Some people have a paddy field near the military camp and their fields
are now completely occupied by the military. On top of that, these
villagers have to plough the field and harvest the paddy for the soldiers.
After that, the soldiers sell it all at the market. This is happening
everywhere in Arakan.
Sittwe, the capital of Arakan, is also the capital of the military. There is
actually no trade. It is all in the hands of the army. All kinds of
businesses are in the hands of the military in Sittwe. In Ranbay
townhip, Inn township, Mra Bun township, the soldiers give orders for
firewood from there and the villagers have to cut it and send it to
Sittwe. They use this wood for baking bricks.
Also, the boat owners have to get permission to go anywhere. The
army always takes their boats. They forcibly take the boats and check
the boat authorisation documents. Even if there are 150 boats, they
never get tired of checking. The army has a list of all the boat owners,
and they give orders directly to them to carry sand or things, or even for
their personal use. Whenever they need, they take them. And the
people have to provide the fuel themselves. In Sittwe, fuel is called
When we look at the scene of Sittwe, we first see a green military
uniform in the street. We can only see people in green military uniform.
Of course we are afraid of them. And not only in the streets, on the
buses, in the boats, in the cars, there are soldiers everywhere. That's
why we call Sittwe a military town.
"Development" means road construction. The people have to give
money and labour for that although they are not willing. People are
starving more than before. In Sittwe, they also ordered families who
have a house on the streetfront to build a brick house surrounded by a
brick wall and a pavement with their own money. If they fail to do so,
they have to move. Then, the soldiers build a brick house on these
people's land and sell it. The people even have to build the pavement
with their own money although the pavement is public and belongs to
the government. On the waterside, all the houses were completely
destroyed by SLORC. Now it is a wasteland and the people had to
move out of town. SLORC said: "When the foreigners visit this area
and travel down the river, this is not beautiful for their sight. These
houses are too ugly."
The army built a hotel called "Sittwe Hotel" at the seaside for tourism
year ["Visit Myanmar Year 1996"]. They used forced labour to build
it. It is a SLORC hotel. The hotel contractor is the son of former trade
minister Kyaw Ba but he didn't pay the workers [Gen. Kyaw Ba is now
Minister of Tourism, responsible for preparing "Visit Myanmar Year
1996"]. That hotel is medium-size. It is a 3-storey building.
I haven't been to Ngapali for the last three years [Ngapali on the
Arakan coast is promoted as one of Burma's two main beach resorts].
There were coconut plantations belonging to the people. The military
occupied them and built bungalows on them, bungalows for the army
and for the officers, and also Gen. Ne Win's bungalows [Gen. Ne Win
was absolute dictator of Burma from 1962-88, then he created
SLORC]. They also built bungalows for recreation for disabled military
men and for tourists. The coconut plantations were along the seaside,
up to Kyat Taw. There is also a small island there. This island is
named "Gen. Ne Win's island". It is only for his family and they
cultivated pearls. This is his pearl business. His sons and daughters and
their in-laws are staying there and it is the family business centre. No
one is allowed to enter that area. It is surrounded by soldiers.
Previously it was controlled by the Department of Pearls and Fisheries.
Now they control it themselves. On the way from Ngapali to Gaw, the
son of Gen. Than Shwe [current Chairman of SLORC] built a hotel in
1994. He used forced labour for the construction too. In Sittwe, the
son of Gen. Than Shwe also forced the people to build barrages for a
shrimp project in the Sittwe-Ong Dine river.
The army is now fishing in the sea with the people's boats and with the
boats that they seized from the Thai fishermen [trawlers seized from
Thai companies illegally fishing in Burma's waters]. People have no
more space to fish in the sea. We are dependent on fishing from the
sea. But people can't go because the army is taking their boats all the
time. One Australian company [joint venture] started their business in
Sittwe. The company name was Thin Di Aung. They brought in all the
fishing equipment, boats, nets, etc. to catch fish and shrimp, to pack
them and send them to Australia. But they were not able to fish or send
any fish to Australia. Although they got SLORC permission, they were
not allowed to fish in the sea [by the Army]. They were there for one
year without any business activities. Their fishing trawlers became all
rusty and then they left.
Now in Arakan it is very difficult economically. After I left, because of
me, my family had to go to the military camp for investigation and
torture. When I was there, my wife did sewing and tailoring to survive.
But I don't know about her present condition. I was not the only person
oppressed by SLORC. It is all the people from Burma. We suffer so
much because of forced labour. Until they have to resign from power,
they will torture the people.
[Notes: According to other sources from Arakan, the Buddha museum
in Sittwe is now known as the "Dukkha Museum", which means
"Museum of Suffering". At the museum construction site in September
1995, a 14-year-old girl named Ma Ni Ni was repeatedly raped by
soldiers until she lost consciousness and died. She was a 9th
Standard student at State High School #1 in Sittwe.]
NAME: "Salai Lian Cung" SEX: M AGE: 20 Chin Christian, student
FAMILY: Single, 7 brothers and sisters
ADDRESS: Storm quarter, Kalemyo Town, Sagaing Division
I left because there were so many problems in Burma. I had problems
with the army because when I was doing forced labour in January this
year, I heard about the killing of a soldier on the railway construction so
I was worried about my cousin's sister. She was also working on the
railway with her baby but she was working at a different place than me.
I was so worried about her that during rest time I asked a soldier if I
could go there but he wouldn't allow it. When I had to start work again,
I couldn't do it and I just stood there. That soldier ordered me to work
but as I didn't do it, he beat me. Then I left the work.
I had to work on the railway [Kalemyo - Gangaw] six times. The first
time was in October 1993. I had to go myself because I am the second
eldest son. My parents are of old age and couldn't do this work. I have
7 brothers and sisters. My eldest brother already left home. I always
had to go because my younger brothers and sisters were too young and
not fit for this. I had to go sometimes for 2 weeks, sometimes 3 weeks.
I had to miss school.
My quarter is part of Kalemyo town. For workers, SLORC gave an
order to the town council and the town council ordered the people.
They tell how many people have to come from each quarter. The town
council must get the quota of people they ask for. The people of Storm
quarter were divided into 6 groups. Each of these groups was divided
in two: A and B. At any one time, all 6 groups had to go. When they
first started, everyone had to go. But later, they called only A and then
B could rest. When A finished, then they called B and A could rest.
About 160 people from our quarter had to go at a time, in all 6 groups.
We had to work about 20 miles away from Storm, near Nat Chaung. It
was according to their orders. The first time it was in Tang Go, near
Nat Chaung, about 22 miles away, and then in Zing Gelin, near to
Kalemyo. Different places each time. It was always according to their
orders. I had to go with my own bicycle. At night we couldn't go back
home. We were kept near the river because we had to cook for
ourselves. So that place was a little far from the worksite, about 2
falongs [1 falong = 220 yards, so the distance was 440 yards]. The
women stayed together at another place. We had a large roof covered
with a plastic for all of us. There were three elderly men among us and
they arranged everything for us. For the women, they built some huts
with bamboo and branches. There were no guards at night.
For work, the men between 20 and 30 years old had to dig the ground.
The teenagers, and there were many of them, had to carry the ground.
It was hard work, especially digging. I had to carry the ground, but not
only that. It depended on the situation. I also had to load the ground
Most of the workers were young, mainly teenagers. One girl was only
10 years old. No one else from her family could go. There were old
people about 50 years old. They were working as cooks for the other
people. There were many women there, and most of them were old
women. Some babies were brought along with their mothers. The
women did the same work as the men, but everyone was always
changing duties with each other.
We had to bring our own food. The people had to bring their own
tools. No salary. It was a must for each family to go. But the rich
people hire someone else to go for them. So for them, there is no
problem. But for those who cannot pay, they must go. That's why
sometimes young children and old women have to go. If you couldn't
go, some people had to pay 1,200 Kyats, some 1,500 Kyats. It
depended on the villager. I think it depended on their family conditions.
[These are fines paid to SLORC if a family cannot go or hire a
At work, some groups had 20 people, others 30 people. It varied
according to the group. There were soldiers around. They didn't do
anything. Just walking here and there to watch us. If people weren't
working, they hit them. Sometimes on the back, sometimes on the
head. There was a boy who was very young. The soldier was also very
young. About 20. They started quarrelling, the soldier called another
soldier and they hit the boy badly. He was badly injured on his head and
he was hospitalised in Kalemyo. The leader of the B group sent him to
hospital. He was in hospital for about 1 week.
Another story I only heard about because it happened at another place.
A woman with a baby was working on the railroad and her baby was
crying. She asked a soldier if she could go and feed her baby but the
soldier didn't allow her. But she went to her baby anyway to feed him.
Then the soldier hit her. All the workers saw the scene. One of them
was a relative of that woman. He was so angry that he went to hit the
soldier with a pitchfork and that soldier died on the spot. Another
soldier also saw the incident and shot the villager dead. At that time, all
the people started beating the soldiers. There were three soldiers who
were guarding their group. One of them ran away and another one died
as well. After that, those people had their workload increased as
punishment. That group had to do three times more work.
Problems between soldiers and villagers happened all the time. Most of
the workers were young and it was very hot. Many wanted to go and
swim in the river after their work and also during the work time. That
was not allowed. Some young soldiers had problems with those from B
group who were swimming and they started quarrelling. Then, a senior
officer came and called all of the young villagers to their camp. They
never came back. Maybe they were killed.
As far as I know, 6 people died on this railroad while I was working
there. Some died in the river. It was very hot and the river was very
big. Two boys went to swim and drowned. The others died because of
malaria. Most of the people got sick, but it was a must to keep working.
Even in the rainy season, if the weather was fine, they were calling the
people. It depended on the weather. Each group had to do a stretch of
embankment: the height was 30 feet, the length 40 feet and the width
about 15 feet. Also, my younger brothers and sisters had to crush
gravel at home, in the town. They had to do this three times. The first
time, they had to make 1 foot X 10 feet X 10 feet of gravel. The
second time, SLORC demanded 60 cooking-oil tins of gravel [big tins,
about 15 litres each]. They had to send the gravel to the railway by
The last time I worked on the railway was in March 1995. Some of the
villagers were called after March, but mostly before March. By March,
the construction was over. But afterwards, they were still calling
villagers to pour water on the tracks to harden the ground. Now they
also call people to guard the railway, not all the time, but it happens
sometimes when an important person comes.
Most of the troops on the railway were not from Kalemyo. They were
from Gangaw [most likely Infantry Battalion #50]. There are many
Battalions around Kalemyo, #87, #88, #89, also Military Intelligence.
There is a quarter called San Piang very close to the army camp. Many
soldiers are staying around Kalemyo. So there are many problems with
the villagers. Mostly the junior soldiers are causing troubles to the
villagers. Sometimes they take their bicycles. They don't ask, they just
use them. The women don't dare go out in the streets, only in groups of
two or three. They are so afraid of being raped by the soldiers. They
call people to the army camps for cooking. They don't call only the
people, but also their vehicles. Whenever they need them, they order
them to come to carry all the army things.
These camps have been there since 1989. The soldiers occupied the
graveyard. They also called local people for loke-ar-pay ['volunteer',
but actually forced] work. The graveyard was from the Roman Catholic
Church. They announced that the tombs must be taken away within
three days, otherwise they will be destroyed. So the people had to take
their bones. But most of them couldn't. Then the bulldozer came to
destroy. This order was given by Major Aung Khin. While the
bulldozer was destroying and crushing the tombs, one of the crosses
stood up again after the bulldozer passed over it. The bulldozer passed
again over that cross but again the cross stood back up. So the
bulldozer driver was freaked out and did not dare pass over again. But
Major Aung Khin ordered him to pass over again. The driver refused
and wouldn't dare destroy the cross. He was dismissed on the spot and
Major Aung Khin drove the bulldozer himself and destroyed all the
The stronger people are called as porters. Not many from my quarter,
but I know of two boys from Storm who had to go as porters for up to
two months before they were released, in December 1994. There are
so many taxes: house taxes, bicycle taxes 25 Kyats per year, TV taxes
150 Kyats a year, even if you have a tape recorder it is 60 Kyats per
There was a USDA rally held in February 1995 [Union Solidarity
Development Association, SLORC's attempt to establish a 'mass
support' organisation - people nationwide are forced or threatened
into joining and attending rallies, which are then shown in the media
by SLORC as signs of popular support]. The government occupied
one of the female high schools to organise it and it was attended by
General Khin Nyunt himself [Secretary-1 of SLORC and head of
Military Intelligence]. A group was formed in the school of each
quarter of town, and the USDA members also went. [Note: those who
fail to attend USDA rallies face possible expulsion from school, loss of
their jobs, having their water or power cut off, or beatings and fines.]
I left and arrived at Moreh, at the Manipur [India] border on 17 March
1995. I know nothing about how my family is doing now. [Note:
Moreh is on the Manipur side opposite Tamu. Chin refugees get no
assistance in Manipur, so some try to get to Delhi and register as
'persons of concern' with UNHCR to receive 1,200 rupees (US$35)
per month - however, UNHCR is now rejecting many people who apply
for this. India has never signed the international conventions on
protection of refugees.]
- [END OF PART 1 - SEE PART 2 OF 2 IN A SEPARATE POSTING] -