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SLORC & DKBA IN PAPUN DISTRICT
An Independent Report by the Karen Human Rights Group
August 3, 1996 / KHRG #96-32
* PART 1 OF 2 - SEE SUBSEQUENT POSTING FOR PART 1 OF THIS REPORT *
- SOME DETAILS OMITTED OR REPLACED BY 'XXXX' FOR INTERNET DISTRIBUTION -
Some of the interviews in this report are with Karen villagers who fled
Papun District in northern Karen State to become refugees in Thailand in
April and May 1996, and some are with villagers still living in Papun
District, some in their villages and some in hiding. Much of this area
used to be partly or completely controlled by the Karen National Union
(KNU), until it was captured by SLORC in its major 1995 offensive with
the help of DKBA (Democratic Karen Buddhist Army, the rival of KNU).
After that, these villages started being ordered to move to the DKBA's
headquarters at Khaw Taw (Burmese name Myaing Gyi Ngu, on the
Salween River near Ka Ma Maung) as the DKBA attempted to establish a
captive civilian support base. Many resisted, and in December 1995 and
January 1996, SLORC and DKBA troops gave final orders to about 100
villages to move to Khaw Taw or to SLORC military camps near Papun.
Most villagers fled into hiding in the forests or tried to head for the Thai
border. (See "Forced Relocation in Papun District", KHRG #95-11,
4/3/96.) As shown by the interviews in this report, SLORC troops in the
area conducted several executions and burned some villages as a result.
At the time of writing, the SLORC troops have withdrawn somewhat -
largely due to the monsoon rains and possibly partly due to the ongoing
ceasefire talks with the KNU - and many villagers have trickled back into
their villages, though always on the lookout. DKBA forces are still in the
area, but are now experiencing difficulties themselves - SLORC has cut off
their salaries, reduced their supplies and cut off many of the supplies
previously sent to their headquarters at Khaw Taw. Many DKBA soldiers
have deserted and gone back to their villages, and many local DKBA
groups are doing little but looting and extortion on their own initiative.
Families previously forced to Khaw Taw or living there without permission
to leave are now being allowed to go, and at least 2 large groups of
families - 130 in late March and 200 in May - have arrived 'en masse' in
Papun District after leaving Khaw Taw. Many of them wanted to cross the
border into Thailand, but the refugee camps would not accept them out of
fear that they might include DKBA informers and agitators sent to further
DKBA's program of destroying refugee camps. In the end, most of these
families simply dispersed into Papun District, living as internally
displaced people or trying to get back to their home villages.
One of the interviews in this report describes the DKBA's effort in 1995 to
create a "new village" as an alternative relocation site for those they
couldn't force to Khaw Taw. They called it "Ku Mu Per" ("cool pleasant
place") and may have viewed it as a potential second civilian support
base, but at its peak they had only driven 60 families there and now fewer
than 10 remain after most fled the constant forced labour they were forced
to do there for both the DKBA and the SLORC. Unlike Khaw Taw, which
had previously been a Buddhist monastery and refuge with many villagers,
Ku Mu Per was created from scratch.
The names of those interviewed in this report have been changed, and all
false names are enclosed in quotes. Some details of locations are also
omitted to protect people. Abbreviations: SLORC = State Law & Order
Restoration Council, Burma's ruling military junta; DKBA = Democratic
Karen Buddhist Army, Karen group allied with SLORC; Ko Per Baw =
'Yellow Headbands', common name used by villagers for DKBA, referring
to the yellow scarves they wear; KNU = Karen National Union, main
Karen opposition group; KNLA = Karen National Liberation Army, army
of the KNU; IB = (SLORC) Infantry Battalion; LIB = (SLORC) Light
TOPIC SUMMARY: Forced relocation (Interviews #5,6,7), Khaw Taw (#5,6),
Ku Mu Per (#6), DKBA school (#6), families fleeing Khaw Taw (#5),
problems within DKBA (#5,6), burning villages (#1,3),
destroying food (#3,4,8), shooting up villages (#1,8), killings (#1,2,4,8),
killings of children (#1,4), detention (#4,7,8), torture (#2,4,7,8),
road labour (#5,6,7), Army camp labour (#5,6,7), portering (#6,7,8),
sentry labour (#6,7), looting (#1-4,7,8), extortion (#5,6),
treatment of KNU prisoners (#8).
NAME: "Pa Noh" SEX: M AGE: 40 Karen Animist farmer
ADDRESS: XXXX village, Ler Doh Township INTERVIEWED: 6/96
They [SLORC troops] shot my wife dead on 14-1-96. It was 1 p.m., on a
Sunday. They shot into our house with their G3's [SLORC assault rifle].
They shot into 3 sides of our house - later I found 70 bullet holes.
I wasn't there - I'd gone to Yeh Muh Plaw village to sell betelnut leaves.
There were 4 people in our house, and 2 of them died - my wife and my
daughter. One shot hit my wife just under her arm and went right through
body. One shot hit my daughter. Then they both died under the house.
My daughter was 7 months old. Her name was Hser Ghay Paw. My wife's name
was Naw Day Ray. She was 30. I saw their bodies the next day, on Monday at
noon. They didn't bury them. I know them, they are #57 Battalion. They
are from Swee Hgay. They didn't stay - after they killed my wife, they
looted our house, burned down the village, and then they left. They went
to search Wah Pi Der village. Then they went to Pya Ghaw village the next
morning. From my house they took 5 big tins of rice and they opened my
box [most villagers keep good clothing and other valuables in a large
wooden box] and took one Karen blanket [handwoven] and 3 other
blankets of ours.
[The following account was given by a Karen woman in Papun District
who watched SLORC troops execute her son in front of her. She is not
sure the date, but other sources confirm it was 23 April 1996. She has
now fled her village.]
Q: Did you see them when the SLORC came to your village?
A: Yes, I saw them. People told me that when they were coming along the
path on the way they were very noisy. But when they came into our village
they were very quiet. My son and his youngest brother had gone into the
forest to hunt wild animals. When they came back, my son told his younger
sister to prepare dinner, and said he would go back into the forest to look
for wild animals again. There are many wild animals in the forest. When
he was preparing his gunpowder [they have an old flintlock gun for
hunting], suddenly SLORC troops appeared in front of him and arrested
him. I saw it. The Burmese asked him, "Where is your father? Why is he
not at home?" My son told the SLORC, "I don't understand your
language." My son was just sitting beside the fence. Then suddenly the
SLORC kicked him and knocked him hard to the ground. He fell in front
of me, I saw it, but I didn't dare hold him. When he tried to stand up they
kicked him in the face. Then they shot him. The bullets hit his arms and
legs, I don't know how many bullets, and then they kicked him again before
he could even breathe. Then the SLORC soldier looked around and said,
"There are 2 children in the house." They kicked my son with their jungle
boots, twice on his back and once in the groin, and he tumbled down beside
the stream and died.
After they killed my son I went up into the house together with my
daughter. The soldiers came to the front of my house and pointed their
guns at my daughter. We were very afraid. There were 20 of them, their
skins were blank and their faces were very angry. Two of them were very
short-tempered and looked angry. She said, "Don't shoot me". He asked,
"Where is your husband?" She told him, "My husband is not living
anymore, he already died. I was very sad, and I love my children." Then
they went into the room, spread out a cloth and stole all the [Karen]
trousers and new clothes. They left only the old trousers in our house.
They took 2,200 Kyat that belonged to my son, 5 kyat-weight of gold and 3
Karen bags. Then they left. They also took one basket of rice and 2 goats
from my children.
My son's name was Paw Lu. He was single, about 22 years old. He was
never a soldier, he just helped KNDO [Karen National Defence
Organisation, KNU village militia] once but only for a few days. I have 3
sons and 3 daughters. The one who tortured my son was the leader, the
first one who arrived at my house. He is a big, strong and jealous man. I
didn't dare look at him. I had never seen him before. He was wearing a
SLORC uniform. Twenty soldiers were at our house, but more were at
other houses so I don't know how many there were altogether. They stayed
a long time, until it was getting dark. They killed 2 people, my son and a
[Karen] soldier. I don't know where these troops came from. The
Burmese troops never came to our village before, except once when they
came to arrest Ta Nay Kyaw.
NAME: "Saw Tamla Wah" SEX: M AGE: 21 Karen Christian farmer
FAMILY: Married, no children
ADDRESS: Meh Way village, Dweh Loh township, Papun Dist. INTERVIEWED:
["Saw Tamla Wah"'s village is west of Papun. It was ordered to move in
January (see "Forced Relocation in Papun District", KHRG #96-11, 4/3/96)
and then burned in March.]
I arrived here [the refugee camp] about 10 days ago because the Burmese
came to our village and burnt down my house and the whole village and
took all our things. I always had to run when SLORC came to my village.
I can't run anymore, so I came here.
SLORC burnt down the village two months ago. It was in the morning. I
can't describe it because when the SLORC troops came I ran away. I lost
my rice in the rice store and some gold. They did it because our village is
near the soldiers' camp [KNU]. When they attacked, they burnt down the
KNU camp and also our whole village. The SLORC camp is not nearby
and there was no fighting.
It was the first time SLORC came into the village while I was there. Before
I never had to run away from SLORC troops because I was never there
when they came. But this time, I was staying there. I ran away and forgot
everything. Ko Per Baw also come and they rob everything in our houses.
They usually come once a month. Then all the villagers run away. If they
see money, they rob all of it. When they ask villagers for it, we lie to
and tell them that we have no money. They want it for their own pockets.
They don't do anything, but they rob everything they see. Nobody in our
village joined DKBA.
We are not staying in a ceasefire [i.e. opposition-controlled] area. We are
staying near Meh Way. I mean, a place under the thumb of the SLORC
troops and controlled by them. So we have to run when they come. I will
stay here now. I came with my wife. It took one week. We had no
problem because we came with the buffalo traders. There was one
checkpoint when we crossed the car road but we passed through at night
NAME: "Saw Lah Say" SEX: M AGE: 30 Karen Christian
FAMILY: Married, 2 children aged 3 months and 4 years
ADDRESS: XXXX village, Papun District INTERVIEWED: 9/6/96
My village is 3 days' walk away from Mudraw. It is on the other side of the
Salween river [from the refugee camp], between the Bway Loh Kloh
[Yunzalin] and Salween rivers but closer to the Bway Loh Kloh river.
There is no other village near mine. It is in the mountains and it has
50 houses. To walk to Khaw Taw would take one week.
I arrived here 3 weeks ago. It took me 5 days to get here. I couldn't stay
in my village anymore because we always have to worry about SLORC and DKBA
and we have to be alert. We always heard SLORC will come to our village.
If they come, we men have to be ready to run away from them. The KNU
also told us that nowadays our people always have to be ready [to run].
In the harvest time, we dare not go to our fields to harvest our paddy.
We must stay in our house. It is very difficult for us to survive day by
Because of these problems our villagers are complaining and say that they
will leave for Thailand. But it is very difficult to come here,
and also very expensive. So some of the people have to stay there leading a
very difficult life. But most of the people want to come here. I came here
in the summer. I left after 3 families had already left for Thailand. Five
other families already moved to xxxx [refugee] camp. After I arrived here
the rains started.
There are only 5 or 6 KNU soldiers near our village. DKBA is not staying
near the village. Only SLORC and some KNU soldiers are staying nearby.
I don't know which SLORC battalion because I never go to their place.
Their place is Maw Pu camp and is near our village. If they meet KNU or
villagers, men or women, they kill them or shoot them dead. When
SLORC troops come to our village, they loot our animals, such as chickens
and pigs, and our rice. They also destroyed our rice caches and paddy
caches that we kept hidden in the forest. They took some of our rice, and
the rest of the rice which they could not carry they destroyed it all, in
forest and in the village.
Last year they arrested two people in our village. I don't remember on
which day. But later those people came back to the village. Also one
mother and her 2 children were arrested by SLORC troops in July 1995.
She was coming from another village to my village. On the way SLORC
soldiers met her and killed her child. They took them to Moh Koh village.
The SLORC soldiers broke the child's arms, pulled out his eyes and cut his
throat. They killed him in front of his mother. That child killed by the
SLORC was about 15 years old. At night, the mother secretly ran away to
her village but her youngest child was left with the SLORC troops. He was
only 3 years old. I don't know the name of the woman. She is about 35
years old. After that, she went to stay in XXXX village.
Usually, if they see women they rape them before they kill or release them.
But for the men, they just kill them. If they see them on the way but they
can't catch them, then they shoot at them. Last year at harvest time, two
men from my village were killed when they went to their farms. On the
way the Burmese soldiers met them and shot them dead. There were Thra
Poh Htoo, 32, and Thra Lay Poh. They were killed after they came back
from Papun, where they went to buy salt. There was no reason for that. If
they see anyone on the way, they just shoot them dead.
Q: Do SLORC make the villagers work for them?
A: No, because we are always hiding in the jungle. When we hear the
SLORC is coming near us, we run away. We always keep one person out
to look for the SLORC. If he tells us, "The SLORC is coming", the whole
village runs into the forest. Sometimes the headman told us, "The situation
is not good. Stay in the village. Don't go anywhere. If the person who is
looking for SLORC gives the message that the SLORC is near our village, I
will fire 3 bullets and then all the villagers have to run into the jungle.
There is no time to go and give the message to each house." When people
are doing the farming the whole family goes to the farm together, because
when they have to run they don't want any of their children left behind in
Usually SLORC comes twice a month, because the SLORC troops change
places twice a month, one group replaces the other. At these two times
each month, we are always ready to run to the forest. Sometimes we are
hiding there one day and one night, sometimes longer than 2 or 3 days.
When we hear that the SLORC soldiers have left our village, we go back.
The headman himself never meets with the SLORC, because he is always
hiding too. Their camp is near our village but the SLORC soldiers never
see us in the forest. If SLORC comes nearby we run, and if they come
nearer we will run further.
The SLORC waits until the farmers finish harvesting the paddy. After the
people harvest the paddy and hide their paddy in the forest, then if they
paddy or rice stored in the village or in the jungle, they destroy it
completely. I never lost any rice [he hides it well]. But before I used to
get 100 baskets of rice per year from my field, and now only 30 or 40
baskets, because we have no time to look after our paddy [they are always
running and hiding].
I am pleased to stay here. I dare not go back for the moment. I will stay
here for a while.
NAME: "Saw Wah K'Paw" SEX: M AGE: 36 Karen Christian (RC) farmer
FAMILY: Married, 2 children aged 4 and 6
ADDRESS: XXXX village, Dwe Loh township, Papun Dist. INTERVIEWED: 4/6/96
I arrived here [the refugee camp] one month ago. The Ko Per Baw and
SLORC asked us to do a lot of labour and moreover they collected a lot of
money from us. So I left my village. They asked for porter fees and we
also had to pay someone to go instead of us if we were not able to go and
carry their food. 1,000 Kyats. Sometimes it took 20 days. For 20 days,
you get 1,500 Kyats from someone who hires you. DKBA asks money so
many times, and quite often we don't even know what the taxes are for.
When they ask and collect money they say it is for porter fees or to hire
someone as a replacement, but sometimes they don't even know themselves
what taxes they are collecting. Even so, we must pay every time they order.
Both collect the same. We don't have to give rice [to SLORC or DKBA].
Our village has about 40 houses. I know two of our villagers who joined
Ko Per Baw, Maung Than Oo, 24, and Kyaw Lwin, 22. They are not collecting
money, their leader does. Before a lot of villagers wanted to join DKBA,
but now not so many. Some who joined before have now come back to their
We have to build houses for the DKBA families, dig holes, cut down trees,
guard the road, ... Their camp is about 2 kilometres away, near the
[SLORC] Battalion camp, but they stay separately from the SLORC camp.
Only the DKBA families [soldiers and their families] are staying there.
Most of them are from other villages. Before, when DKBA was formed,
the DKBA soldiers received some salary, but now I heard that they have no
salary. They receive food like rice, yellow beans, and cooking oil. Not so
We had to work on the Papun to Ka Ma Maung road. We had to clear and
cut the trees along the old road. The road is wide enough for one truck.
We have to clear the roadsides. Sometimes 7, 8, or 10 villagers have to go,
sometimes groups of people and sometimes one person from each house.
People who live far from the road have to come and stay at the military
camp and work every day on the road for 10 days. But people who live
near the car road have to go by turns every day. They have to work each
time for 3 days, sometimes one week, by turns. The road is near our
village. Just before I left, I had to work there 5 days in a week and
sometimes 4 days in a week.
I also had to build a fence around the Ko Per Baw battalion camp. I spent
one week doing that. Mostly we have to work for Ko Per Baw. We are
always building houses for them. I had to build 20 houses for DKBA
families and people are still building them. When we finished one house,
we had to carry on building another one. I worked there sometimes 2 or 3
days, sometimes 3 or 4 days. Altogether, it must have been over 10 days.
I had only one week in a month to do my own work.
KNU doesn't come to our village but they go near it. There was some
fighting near our village between KNU and SLORC but not between KNU
and DKBA. It happened at the end of last year. None of the villagers were
wounded, and SLORC didn't come to our village afterwards.
My village is about 3 days' walk from Khaw Taw. It is near Papun.
Before, when the DKBA was formed, all the villagers were ordered to
move to Khaw Taw. Now they are not ordering us anymore. All the
people who went to Khaw Taw came back to the village. Two or three
families from our village had gone and all of them returned to the village
about one month ago because they had only little rice to eat when they were
staying there. Their children were dying and they were not allowed to eat
meat. They wanted to eat meat, so they returned to the village. I was
in my village at the time when they came back. They were ordinary
families, not DKBA. They asked permission from DKBA [to leave Khaw
Taw] and they had no trouble. When DKBA was formed, they did not
allow the villagers to go out [of Khaw Taw]. They started allowing them to
go out at the end of last year.
We came here secretly. We didn't let Ko Per Baw know that we were
coming here. It was the day DBKA pay homage to the monk there and
there was also a big Roman Catholic party. Two celebrations were going
on when we left. My plan is to stay here. I dare not go back to my village.
- [END OF PART 1 - SEE SUBSEQUENT POSTING FOR PART 2 OF 2] -