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KHRG Report 96-13
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Date: Wed, 1 May 1996 08:22:22 -0700 (PDT)
REFUGEES FROM PA'AN DISTRICT
An Independent Report by the Karen Human Rights Group
March 18, 1996 / KHRG #96-13
SOME DETAILS IN THIS REPORT HAVE BEEN OMITTED OR REPLACED BY 'XXXX'
FOR INTERNET DISTRIBUTION.
The descriptions below were given by recently arrived refugees from
southern Pa'an District in central Karen State, interviewed in refugee
camps in Thailand in February 1996. For background on this area, the
reader should see 'SLORC/DKBA Activities in Kawkareik Township'
(KHRG #95-23, 10/7/95) and other related KHRG reports. The refugees
in this report are all from the area around Bee T'Ka, north of Kawkareik
towards Hlaing Bwe. In this area, SLORC and DKBA are ruling in
tandem, with a limited presence of KNLA still in the area. Villagers are
finding that now they have to pay fees and provide forced labour for both
SLORC and DKBA, and that the DKBA have no qualms about handing
over villagers to be tortured or executed by SLORC. Two names which
always occur in the testimony of villagers, and have appeared in KHRG
reports before, are Pa Tha Dah (aka Pa Tha Da, Kyaw Tha Da, Saw Tha
Da) and his brother Nuh Po (aka Kyaw Nuh Po, Saw Nuh Po). They are
two former Bee T'Ka farmers who joined DKBA for the power it gives
them, and have become even more notorious than SLORC in the area for
their looting, torture, and gratuitous abuse of villagers. As a result,
SLORC had them promoted to officer rank in the DKBA.
A relatively small but steady stream of people are fleeing the area. The
testimonies below focus on forced labour, extortion, arrest and abuse of
villagers in general, as well as the specific abuse being targetted at
Christians and relatives of KNU members. Further north in Pa'an District
the situation is even worse (see 'SLORC/DKBA Activities: Pa'an
District', KHRG #96-05, 14/1/96); however, SLORC has now begun major
new forced labour road construction projects in the Bee T'Ka area and so
the forced labour situation is about to get much worse (see 'Road
Construction in Pa'an District', KHRG #96-12, 16/3/96).
The names of all villagers interviewed in this report have been changed in
order to protect them, and false names are enclosed in quotes; some
details have also been omitted or given as 'xxxx' where necessary to
protect villagers. Several of the villagers mention 'porter fees'; this is a
common name for extortion money paid to SLORC or DKBA which is
supposed to be for porters, but is never given to porters. It should not be
confused with money paid to avoid porter duty or to hire people to go in
one's place. People who pay 'porter fees' are also called to go as porters.
Abbreviations: SLORC = State Law & Order Restoration Council;
DKBA = Democratic Kayin Buddhist Army, a mainly Karen army allied
to SLORC, commonly known as 'Ko Per Baw' (Yellow Headbands);
KNU = Karen National Union, the main Karen revolutionary organization;
KNLA = Karen National Liberation Army, military wing of the KNU.
TOPIC SUMMARY: Killings (Stories #1,4,5), torture/beatings (#1,2,3,6,7),
arrest/detention (#1,2,4,5,6,7), porters (#1-5), road labour (#1,4),
army camp labour (#1,2,5), abuse of returning refugees (#2,4),
religious persecution (#1,2,6), abuse of relatives of KNU (#5,6,7),
stealing/extortion (#2,4-7), fees / rice confiscation (#1-5).
NAME: "Pi Tha Htoo Paw" SEX: F AGE: 56 Karen Christian farmer
FAMILY: Married, 1 daughter
ADDRESS: Peh Kru village, Hlaing Bwe Township INTERVIEWED: Feb/96
I came here on January 2nd, because of Ko Per Baw and SLORC. In rainy
season [July-Oct/95] SLORC arrested me, tied me up, and covered my
head and eyes with plastic. They beat and kicked me, and put me in water.
Then in dry season Ko Per Baw arrested me. They said they suspected me
of working for KNU, but I'm just a villager. When SLORC arrested me
they came at night and I couldn't see clearly, and they tied me with a rope.
They held me in the village for a night, and they punched me a lot, they hit
me on the head with a torchlight and they hit my back with a gun. They
twisted my hair around my head and sank my head underwater. They told
me to give them guns and show them where I keep guns. But I have no
guns, because I'm a farmer. It was raining and I was wet, and that night I
had to sleep in my wet clothes. Then they took me to the monastery in the
morning. Then they took me to their camp over a mile away and put me in
the lockup for 3 days and 3 nights. They gave me some food in there, but I
didn't want to eat because I was afraid and I hate them. They kept asking
me to find guns for them, and I told them I'd pay them money if they would
release me. Nobody dared come to help me. Finally they released me after
considering my story. That was #25 Battalion. They often come to the
The second time was in January . the Ko Per Baw came and took
me into the village for a meeting. They said they would let me go, but after
the meeting they tied me with rope. They arrested me because of my
religion - that day they arrested two Christians, and the other was killed.
They took me to the monastery, and they told me, "If you know or see
KNU are coming to the village you must inform us immediately, and you
must not have any contact with them." I had to stay together with a nun in
the monastery. They kept me tied up except when they fed me. They
didn't beat me, but at first one of them said they would kill me. Then
another one of them said "If you kill this woman, where will you hide your
wife and family?" [Referring to the fear of revenge by the KNU.] So
instead they made me drink promissory water, and then they released me.
The man they killed that day was Thra Shee ['Teacher' Shee]. He was
about 36 or 40 years old. They took him to the monastery together with
me, but then they gave him to the SLORC soldiers. They took him outside.
I don't know how they killed him, I think they killed him in Pway Taw Roh
village. I think Ko Per Baw had him killed because of his religion, because
they say "We want to kill all Christians". After I was released I saw six
people who'd had their earlobes cut off by SLORC and Ko Per Baw.
Some people were hanging under the monastery on ropes [the ropes were
slung around their chests and under their arms]. In the daytime they put
them in the lockup, and at night they left them hanging. One person died
from the hanging. I don't know why they were arrested, but I think they
were held for 3 or 4 months. As for the man who died, he didn't belong to
any organization. This was all done by Ko Per Baw, at Peh Kru monastery.
I heard that some other people were also killed.
Peh Kru village has about 60 or 100 houses. Only 10 houses are Christian.
The Ko Per Baw are Peh Kru villagers. I don't know why they join.
Sometimes they come together with SLORC, sometimes not. We have to
do whatever they ask and go wherever they go as porters. I am alone, so I
have to hire someone else to go instead of me. I have to pay 25, 45, 100 or
150 Kyat - they ask for porters many times, all the time. They are also
building a road near our village. It is going to Paw Yin Pyu [army] camp,
and maybe to Myawaddy or Kawkareik. Every day 10 people from the
village have to go. We have to carry sand and everything else they want.
We also have to go and clean and carry water in their camp. We have to do
everything they order. It is the same for Buddhists and Christians. People
don't want to stay any longer in the village, under the thumb of SLORC.
Many families are leaving. It took me 3 days to come here by myself - my
daughter stays at her husband's village, and my husband was already here. I
had to come secretly. Some families want to come to the refugee camp but
they have a lot of children, so it is not easy for them to come. They have
so many problems, but they can only fear and cry their tears. Some families
have no rice to eat, we have to give so much. We have to pay porter fees
and taxes so many times, and we have to give 4 big tins of paddy [over 60
kg.] to SLORC for every acre. They don't pay us anything for it. They
also ordered me to give them rice for people who are blind and lame, but I
don't know whether they give this rice to the blind and the lame. I don't
know who ordered this, I just have to do everything they order. We've been
suffering since I was young. Now even here [at the refugee camp] I don't
know if it's safe, I can only stay quietly and worry every night. Every
night I hear rumours.
NAME: "Naw Sah Ghay" SEX: F AGE: 38 Karen Christian farmer
FAMILY: Married, 4 children aged 5-13
ADDRESS: Bee T'Ka village, Hlaing Bwe Township INTERVIEWED: Feb/96
I arrived here on 20 January, because we had no money to pay the fees and
taxes. We had to pay at least 700 Kyat per month, sometimes 1,000 Kyats,
for porter fees. Even if we don't have any money we must pay - they tell us
to borrow it from other people, and we have to give it to them. On top of
that, we also have to send porters. The money is for Ko Per Baw and
SLORC. They stay together. There are more SLORC than Ko Per Baw.
They come and stay for a day, then they move from one village to another.
The Ko Per Baw stay in people's houses, and the SLORC stay in the
monastery. In October they made us move near the Church. They said
they were searching for guns but they couldn't find them so all the houses
had to move near the road. They separated the Buddhists and Christians. I
have a garden where I plant many things like oranges and lemons, but after
they made us move near the Church the Ko Per Baw destroyed my garden.
I used to get 700 to 1,000 Kyat per month from that, but now nothing.
>From other people's houses, they steal so much chicken and fruit. The Ko
Per Baw also stole one of my sister's cattle. They don't eat the meat, they
just steal it for SLORC.
Since they started coming to our village [last year] we have to go as porters
for 5 days every month. I was called to go, because after paddy planting
time my husband was never home [he was staying in his field], and
because even though we aren't KNLA soldiers they always arrest the men
and ask them to find bullets and guns. I hired people to go instead of me,
because if we go we have to carry everything for them. This is not a duty
for women - it is so heavy to carry. The men who go have to carry bullets
and rice up and down the mountains, and do everything that SLORC or Ko
Per Baw orders. Sometimes we have to go for a day to carry their food,
one person from each house, 100 people or more. Some women take along
their babies, and 10 or 12 year old children have to go because their parents
can't go. We have to carry for about one and a half hours' walk. We have
to carry one basket of rice between 3 women, or one basket between 2
men. We also have to cut and send them bamboo, usually 20 or 30
bamboos per section. There are 10 sections in Bee T'Ka. They use it to
make fences for their yellow bean garden. They were not building a road
yet when I left, but they are going to build one.
They allow us to go to Pa'an or to other villages, but not to the [Thai]
border. If we try to come to the border they say we belong to KNU. Some
people who went to the refugee camps and then came back have been
arrested by Ko Per Baw, so people who have been to the refugee camps are
very worried. The Ko Per Baw accuse them of having guns and ask them
for money. They ask 1,000 or 2,000 Kyat to release them. Many people
are beaten. One man named Ta Dah Pee, when the Ko Per Baw arrested
him they dug a hole for him and said, "Do you dare to die?" But they didn't
kill him, they were just threatening. Because of all this, when Ko Per Baw
went to Paw Ler village some of the villagers who had come back fled to
xxxx refugee camp again.
None of the Christians join Ko Per Baw, but some of the Buddhists. There
are two brothers from Bee T'Ka who are their officers, Kyaw Tha Dah and
Kyaw Nu Poh. They are really cruel and do silly things to people. They
used to be villagers and earned their living by farming. Before I came here,
Ko Per Baw demanded 15 tins [over 200 kg.] of paddy from each section
of the village. They don't get their rice from SLORC anymore so they take
it from the villagers. They also ask money - Buddhists and Christians both
have to pay the same. Ko Per Baw are a small group, so they always follow
with SLORC. When they stay in the village at night, they always order
villagers to stay together with them.
NAME: "Saw Ler Thu" SEX: M AGE: 40 Karen Christian farmer
FAMILY: Married, 5 children aged 3-17
ADDRESS: Bee T'Ka village, Hlaing Bwe Township INTERVIEWED: Feb 7/96
We arrived on January 31 on foot. It was a three-day walk. We left
because we could no longer carry their loads or give porter money. The
SLORC makes us go as porters. It is Battalion #18. They are in the village,
about 60 of them stay in the monastery. The Ko Per Baw are also in the
village, in their own building.
I had to go as a porter many times, so I had no time to rest. I had to go
for 5 days each time, three times each month. That means 15 days of every
month. Each time they demanded 20 people. A Burmese officer sends an
order to the village headman. When we go we have to take along our own
food, and they never give us money. The last time I had to go was this last
month, just before I came here, in January. I had to carry ammunition, rice
bags, and the vegetables that they robbed from the villagers' fields. I had
to carry over half a basket of rice, ten tins of condensed milk and 5 boxes
of machine gun ammunition at the same time. I couldn't cope with the weight,
but they insisted and I had to struggle along with the load. We had to carry
their loads over hills and hard terrain, a long and hard way. The weight of
the loads is beyond human endurance. I couldn't bear to do it anymore, so I
couldn't dare stay in the village because if I refuse to obey them they'll
tie me up and beat me. They've beaten me before, many times. They beat me
especially hard because I don't speak their language. Last time they beat me
was last month, and it was unbearable. They kicked me with their big boots
and wouldn't stop, because I can't speak Burmese. It caused wounds, and
they hurt very badly. We had to pay fines if we couldn't go as porters, 500
Kyats up to 800 Kyats. There are many kinds of fines, and we also had to
pay porter fees every month. SLORC and Ko Per Baw will never make
things good for us.
NAME: "Naw K'Paw Wah" SEX: F AGE: 25 Karen Christian farmer
FAMILY: Married, 2 children aged 3 months and 3 years
ADDRESS: Bee T'Ka village, Hlaing Bwe Township INTERVIEWED: Feb/96
I arrived here yesterday. I came because I had to pay porter fees to DKBA.
When my husband came back from Thailand, we had to pay 300 Kyat, and
another time we had to pay 700 Kyat. They ask for porters for five days at
a time, and if we can't go we have to pay 700 or 800 Kyat. SLORC also
moves around and stays in the village together with DKBA. They stay in
people's houses. There are about 30 or 40 [soldiers] altogether, and most
of those are SLORC. There was fighting in the village in November 1995.
At that time SLORC was staying in Teh Ber village, and only DKBA was
in our village. At night KNU attacked them. It was midnight and we were
all asleep, then we heard the shooting and ran without knowing anything.
Then we had to stay with the DKBA during the fighting - they said "Stay
with us or we will kill you". A village girl was wounded in the fighting.
Afterwards, DKBA demanded 4 mer [64 kg.] of pork and 4,000 Kyats.
They said, "KNU came and attacked us, so you must pay for this."
There are about 300 houses in the village - many are Buddhist and many
are Christian. The problems started on May 24th, 1995. First, two
villagers joined DKBA and they organized more people to work together
with SLORC. They ordered everyone to move to the main part of the
village. They ordered all the Buddhists to move near the monastery and all
the Christians to move near the Church. Most of the villagers didn't want to
join. Only two people in the village joined DKBA. Most of them come
from Peh Kru [a nearby village]. They wear the same uniform as
SLORC, because SLORC issues it.
There are 10 sections in Bee T'Ka. Two people from each section have to
go as porters for 5 days at a time. Then new people have to replace them.
They have to climb up mountains and go from village to village, while the
soldiers try to find where KNU are staying. They have to take along
everything they need, like rice, fishpaste and chillies. They have to carry
bullets and things that the SLORC and DKBA steal from the villages.
DKBA takes everything they want without asking, just the same as SLORC
soldiers. They are led by the SLORC. Now people like Kyaw Tha Dah
[aka Pa Tha Dah] and Kyaw Nu Poh [aka Nu Poh - the 2 Bee T'Ka
villagers who joined DKBA], they don't stay in the village, but when they
want money or food they order it from the villagers. Before I came they
asked 100 Kyat from every house many times, so many times that we had
no money to pay. They ask 100 Kyat [per family] every month for their
food, and more than that from the richer people.
When my husband came back from Thailand in August, DKBA tied him up
and asked him about guns - but he never joined any organization, so he had
no gun. I think they just wanted money, because they know my husband
works for money in Thailand. Then Kyaw Tha Dah wouldn't allow anyone
to go to Thailand. The headman and I had to go and ask them to release
my husband, then they released him. They tie up many villagers, and they
often ask for money. Two old men were beaten, Peh Koh Pa and another
old man from Naw Ter village. Peh Koh Pa is about 60. These two old
men just asked some food from their friends, but when SLORC and DKBA
heard about it they came and beat them [on suspicion of collecting food for
KNU]. They beat Peh Koh Pa with a gun, and when he fell down the
DKBA men kicked him and stomped on him like a football all over his
body, and he died on the spot. Since then they have arrested many people,
usually because someone says that person has a gun and has contact with
KNU. Some villagers have grudges against each other from the past, so
they say that just to make trouble.
In another village called Meh Thi Hla they have started building a road, and
now they order villagers to go and clear the road. It will go from Meh Thi
Hla to Bee T'Ka. The distance is two days' walk. One person from each
house in Bee T'Ka has to go, starting this month. We also would have to
go, because it is one person from each house, but we left the village. If
those two brothers [Kyaw Tha Dah and Nu Poh] are in the village they
make a lot of trouble and we couldn't dare leave, but now they are not
staying in the village. It took us 3 days to come here. It is not easy to
travel, because they don't want any villagers to travel right now. One
merchant tried to send his cattle to the border [to sell in Thailand], but
along the way SLORC and DKBA stopped them and took all their cattle
and money. A lot of families from Bee T'Ka have come here now - I have
met 10 families already.
NAME: "Naw Muh Muh" SEX: F AGE: 38 Karen Christian farmer
FAMILY: Married, 4 children aged 7-14
ADDRESS: Ler Dah village, Hlaing Bwe Township INTERVIEWED: Feb/96
We came here two months ago because SLORC and Ko Per Baw make
trouble in our village. My husband is in the revolution [KNU], so they
always came to our house and told me to give them guns. My husband was
not staying there, they only suspected that I kept his gun at home so they
gave trouble to my family. One day they came to my house and arrested
me, but when the SLORC soldiers were taking me, I collapsed along the
way because I suffer from thwe toh [very high blood pressure]. Then they
released me. Another time they sent me an order to come, and I had to go
and meet with the Battalion Commander. That was 2 months ago. He
asked me when my husband left home and said my husband should join
with them, but my husband has no desire to join SLORC. The
Commander said if my husband comes back home I have to report it to
them, and he threatened that if I didn't he would burn down my house. He
also said if he saw me become pregnant he would take serious action against
me. SLORC and Ko Per Baw came to my house one after the other, again
and again, saying "Your husband must keep some guns at home - show
them to us", and "Why don't you convince your husband to join with us".
Our village only has 16 or 17 houses. Most of the Ko Per Baw stay in Kaw
Paw section of the village. Some people joined because the monk [U
Thuzana, patron of DKBA] told them that the Buddhists will get their own
country. Some people didn't want to join them but the others arrested them
and told them, "You must join us or you won't be in this world any longer".
Mostly the Ko Per Baw make trouble for people whose husbands or sons
are in KNU. I've only got 3 cattle but they told me to give them, so I said,
"My husband was your friend and worked with you for many years, and he
never stole from villagers, but go ahead and take them if you want". So
then they didn't take my cattle, but they take things from other people. We
also have to send porters and pay porter fees for both SLORC and DKBA.
Each family has to pay 50 or 100 Kyat per month porter fees, depending on
how rich you are. We also have to go and plant vegetables like carrots and
yellow beans in the SLORC Army camp.
Now everyone is even more afraid of SLORC because of DKBA. The
DKBA know all about everyone, so when they tell SLORC we get more
trouble than ever. SLORC gives the orders. Last summer [April-May]
SLORC killed a man in the village, because all the villagers had convinced
him to be KNU headman for the village. But SLORC found out because
of DKBA, so they arrested him and killed him. As for me, my husband is
in the KNU, so I can't dare stay in my village anymore.
NAME: "Saw Tee Ler" SEX: M AGE: 46 Karen Christian farmer
FAMILY: Married, 5 children aged 5-22
ADDRESS: Bee T'Ka village, Hlaing Bwe Township INTERVIEWED: Feb 7/96
I just arrived here today. I left the village on December 25th, but I have
been staying in different places. I left because just within the last year
I've been seized and bound 8 times by the DKBA, between June and
December. The first time was July 14, and the last time was December 20.
It's because I'm an ex-KNU soldier and now my son is a KNU soldier.
Sometimes they came and arrested me in the daytime, and sometimes they
came at night when I was asleep, aimed their guns at me and tied me up.
When they arrested me they bound my hands and feet, they put iron
handcuffs on me and took me to their office. I couldn't do anything bound
like that, and it was not easy to sleep at night. When the village headman
found out, he had to come and give them 10,000 Kyat to release me.
Usually it was the DKBA leader who arrested me, Pa Bu Lah, who comes
from #1 Brigade area [Thaton District]. The real reason they arrested me
is because some people told them I had plenty of money. They thought
they would get plenty of money if they arrested me. They already took five
cattle, one bicycle, and my household belongings from me. They can't take
away my farmland, so they said I have to pay them twenty thousand Kyat
for my three plots of land. I also had to give 1,600 Kyat every month to
SLORC and DKBA.
The DKBA seized a student from Bee T'Ka village school and asked him
whether he has sympathy for Kaw Thoo Lei [KNU]. When he said yes,
they beat him up even though he is just a schoolboy. They also seized and
bound the pastor of the village. His name is xxxx. People had to vouch for
him, and then they released him. That was in August. The DKBA are
staying in Bee T'Ka village, sometimes 8 of them and sometimes as many as
30. They tried to get people to destroy the Church by telling them that if
they dig up the Church compound they'll find a relic of the Buddha. They
lighted candles around the place and they made incantations. We told them
there is no relic there, but they insisted that there is. Our Church building
cost us 700,000 Kyat. So we told them to go ahead and dig it up if they
like, and if they find the relic that is good and fair and we won't ask any
compensation - but if they don't find anything, they will have to pay us
700,000 Kyat to rebuild the Church. When they heard that, they changed
their minds and didn't dismantle the Church.
NAME: "Naw Thalay" SEX: F AGE: 44 Karen Christian farmer
FAMILY: Married, 5 children aged 5-22
ADDRESS: Bee T'Ka village, Hlaing Bwe Township INTERVIEWED: Feb 7/96
["Naw Thalay" is the wife of "Saw Tee Ler" - see interview above.]
I arrived here on December 27th, 1995. I had to sleep 4 nights along the
way to reach here. I left because I couldn't bear their atrocities anymore.
We married women have to go and stay with them whenever they order us
to go [she apparently means arrest rather than rape, though she has left
the point unclear]. Our problems with Ko Per Baw started on the 11th of
May. They asked for my husband, and I told them my husband had fled
the Burmese. They accused my husband of hiding arms and ammunition.
They ordered me to look for him but I couldn't find him, then they ordered
my husband's cousin to look for him but she couldn't find him either. They
said if they found him they wouldn't allow even a single drop of his blood to
be spilled. [This Karen idiom means they will kill him especially brutally;
"To kill someone without letting any of his blood leave his body".] Then
they came to my house and demanded to see our things. They asked how
many boxes of my husband's cousin's things I have and I said "Two". They
said I was lying, and Pa Tha Dah hit me twice in the head with the handle
of an axe. He tried to hit me with it about 10 times, but I blocked it and
only two blows hit me. Later it swelled badly and it hurt for a whole
month. I said I wasn't lying and showed them the boxes, and they
destroyed the boxes and everything in them. There were four of them: Pa
Tha Dah, another Ko Per Baw [probably Nu Poh], and two Burmese from
#28 Battalion. After hitting me they took me to their [DKBA] commander
Pa Nwee. He asked me why my two sons joined the Karen Army. I told
him that it was during the time that the KNLA recruits soldiers, they wanted
to be soldiers so they joined. I said I couldn't pay money, so they had to
go [generally once a year the KNLA conscripts soldiers in the area, and
those drawn must pay money if they don't want to go]. Then Pa Nwee said
nothing more, but Pa Tha Dah kept bombarding me with questions. He
threatened to hand us over to the Burmese, and he asked the Burmese there
about it. I said, "You can kill us if we've done anything wrong. If you kill
us we'll die, there's nothing we can do about it." We were there from 2
p.m. until it got dark. I was with my aunt and my cousin - they were
arrested because two of my aunt's sons are in the KNLA. Pa Nwee accused
us of having plenty of money. Then he dismissed us because it was getting
dark, even though Pa Tha Dah wanted to keep us there all night.
Ever since then, whenever KNLA soldiers come near the village they
accuse me that my sons were with them, and they arrest me and take me to
their place. They keep me there all day long and tell me to call my sons to
come and join them. When my son who is still in school came to visit me
during his school holiday in October, the Ko Per Baw heard about it and
they ordered me to pay 40,000 Kyat. I couldn't pay that, so I asked them to
reduce it and I only paid them 8,000 Kyat.
Nothing is getting any better in the village, and I guess it will always be
unpleasant for the villagers in the future. Many of the Bee T'Ka villagers
have come here already, over 30 families. As for me, as long as the DKBA
exists I will never go back to my village. I will stay here.
- [END] -
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