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KHRG Report #96-33
INTERVIEWS FROM NORTHERN PA'AN DISTRICT
An Independent Report by the Karen Human Rights Group
August 4, 1996 / KHRG #96-33
* SOME DETAILS OMITTED OR REPLACED WITH 'XXXX' FOR INTERNET DISTRIBUTION *
The following interviews are with villagers from Dta Greh Township in
Pa'an District of Karen State. (In Burmese, Dta Greh is called Pain
Kyone and SLORC considers it to be in Hlaing Bwe township.) The area
is 40-50 km. northeast of Pa'an, just west of the Dawna Range and the
Thai border. SLORC (Burmese military junta), DKBA (Democratic Karen
Buddhist Army, allied to SLORC), and KNU (Karen National Union,
fighting SLORC and DKBA) forces all operate in the area, and the
villagers are caught in the middle, having their livestock killed and their
money extorted from them by all 3 groups. Furthermore, anyone or any
village suspected of helping one group is certain to be punished by one of
the others, including the possibility of executions or destruction of the
village. SLORC in particular has a policy of relocating and destroying
villages which have the potential to provide voluntary or involuntary
support to KNU forces. As part of this policy, in Dta Greh township
SLORC ordered the villages of Ta Ku Klaw and Kwee Pa Taw to relocate
to Naw Ter Hta in January, while Noh Law Bler village was ordered to
move to Tee Per. Then in May, Tee Po Lay Kee and K'Law Lu villages
were ordered to move to Tee Per and these villages were immediately
burned down by SLORC and DKBA forces.
Villagers who moved to Tee Per as ordered found that no food or facilities
were provided, and that they were being used to build a new SLORC Army camp
in the village. Most of the families fled into hiding in the jungle and
are now struggling to survive, while some headed for the refugee camps of
Thailand. Their feelings on the situation in their area and on their own
personal situation are clear from their testimonies below. Their names
have been changed and some details omitted to protect them. All false
names are enclosed in quotes.
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;
Ko Per Lah = 'Green Headbands', name increasingly used by villagers for KNLA
troops, who now wear green scarves to distinguish themselves from DKBA.
TOPIC SUMMARY: Forced relocations (Interviews #1,3), burning villages
death of children due to relocation (#3), death threats (#1,2,3),
torture (#2), Army camp labour (#1,3), road labour (#1,3), porters (#2),
SLORC/DKBA extortion (#1,2,3), SLORC/DKBA stealing food/livestock (#3),
KNLA extortion (#1), KNLA stealing livestock (#3).
NAME: "Naw Muh Paw" SEX: F AGE: 22 Karen
ADDRESS: Tee Po Lay Kee village, Dta Greh township INTERVIEWED: 9/7/96
I arrived in this refugee camp about 3 weeks ago. From my village 4
families came here. I ran away from SLORC with my uncle at night and
stayed in the jungle for one night. Then we left early in the morning for
I left my village because I had no more house to stay in. Last month
[actually in May], it was burnt by Ko Per Baw and SLORC. The Ko Per
Baw leader is Mu Naw Nget. He and his soldiers burned down my house.
They burnt down all the houses in Tee Po Lay Kee. It was in the morning.
There were about 25 to 30 houses in my village. Some houses were wet
and they couldn't set them on fire, so they took straw in the village and
it in our houses and then set it on fire. They did it because we didn't
to Tee Per village. Tee Per is about 20 minutes' walk from our place. They
said: "If you stay in your village, you will support the Ko Per Lah [KNLA
soldiers] and you are KNU rebels". They came together [SLORC and
DKBA] and ordered us to move. Then suddenly they burned down our
houses. They didn't even send a warning letter. They came only once and
burnt our houses.
Only 3 families moved, the other families went to hide in the jungle [after
the relocation order]. If SLORC or DKBA finds them, they might be
killed. The SLORC said: "If anyone stays in the jungle they are rebels and
if we see them we will kill them, even babies, children and women." No
one was killed while I was there because they stay quietly and always post
one person to watch for the soldiers. Whenever they hear that the SLORC
Battalion is coming near their place, they get ready to run away.
When the villagers who moved went to Tee Per, they had to take along their
own food. SLORC soldiers even said: "If possible, you have to bring your
own land with you to build your house on." There is no SLORC camp
near our village but they are building a camp in Tee Per village, on both
sides of the stream. They ordered the villagers to build their camp, to dig
trenches and bunkers. One column is staying there but I don't know how
many soldiers and every month they are changing their column [a SLORC
column is anywhere from 100 to 300 soldiers]. Every day 15 people had
to go and work there and they had to carry their own tools for digging and
cutting. My family didn't go because it was not our turn yet before we
Maybe later we would have had to go, because all the villagers have to do
They were collecting taxes in our village [before the relocation order], 25
Kyats per month. They said it was for porter fees. They also ordered
people to clear the car road. I never went to work there. Only the men
were ordered to do the labour - for 2 days, 3 men from each village. We
also had to pay a lot of money to the KNU soldiers. 20,000 Kyats was
collected by Saw Day Day who is a KNU soldier. When he came to our
village he did the same as DKBA and SLORC soldiers, and the villagers
said, "They [KNU] are collecting even more money than our enemies".
KNU soldiers only came into our village once or twice. There was no
fighting near our village, but there was in T'Wee Koh village. No villagers
They also burnt down K'Law Lu village. That village was also ordered to
move to Tee Per village. That's why SLORC and DKBA soldiers burnt it
down. [These villages were ordered to move so that they could be
controlled by the military and not provide any support to KNLA forces, but
also to obtain a ready supply of labour for building the army camp.]
NAME: "Pa Li Kloh" SEX: M AGE: 35 Karen, buffalo trader
FAMILY: Married, 3 children, youngest one is a son aged 1 year
ADDRESS: XXXX village, Dta Greh township INTERVIEWED: 10/7/96
I arrived in xxxx [a Thai Karen village on the border] on 7th June. It took
me one day to walk from my village to here. I have been here over a month
already. I am waiting for my money from the Thai trader. I sold 15 bulls
to him. When I receive the money I will go back to my village. I have to
trade bulls for my family. That money is to support my family and my
relatives. We have to pay a lot of taxes in my village, like porter fees
labour fees. For porter fees, 150 Kyats to SLORC soldiers for 3 days. The
porters have to carry their food and bullets, usually to the Dawna mountain
range. They have to carry about 20 viss [32 kg.]. But I have never been
there. I always hire people to go for me.
They beat up Saw D---. A SLORC soldier borrowed some money from
him and when he asked for his money back, the soldier said, "I won't give it
to you. I spent it." He kept asking and asking and the soldier said, "Don't
come anymore and pester me when I am tired or I will kill you". Saw D---
was afraid, and angry as well. Before he went home, he went to the
company commander to ask for the money from his soldier. The
commander told him, "You can ask him for yourself. If he tortures you,
bring him to me." So he went to the soldier again. The soldier knew
immediately that he would probably ask for his money again. He kicked
him in his testicles, gave him 3 punches on his face, pulled off all the
on both his temples and told him, "You are a very headstrong and stupid
man. Go back to your village". Then he went back to the commander to
tell him that his soldier had tortured him. But the commander punched his
nose and the blood fell down like the rain. When the blood was running
down he asked for medicine to make the blood stop but the commander
showed him his gun. "Here is the medicine to stop your blood." And he
had to stay without medicine. So he took some sort of green leaves and put
them into his nose and it seems that it really worked. He couldn't get his
money back. He had received this money from a person who hired him to
go as a porter. He was a porter for 3 days. The soldier who punched him
was the commander's brother [company commander's brother]. He didn't
know what Battalion number nor the SLORC leader's name. He can't read
or write, and he only stayed with them for 3 days. But he described that
company commander was of dark complexion and with red-tinted hair and
was about 35 years old.
There's been no fighting in our village but there was some nearby our
village. No villagers died, only a KNU soldier. I think it was about 2
months ago. I heard that he was deaf and couldn't hear the shooting. His
friends ran away and left him alone behind. DKBA came and surrounded
him and shot him.
DKBA also collects 45 Kyats per month. They said it is for porter fees too.
If someone can't pay, he is taken as a porter for 15 days or more. Last
month on a Saturday, this happened to Saw T---. He is about 30 years
old. DKBA told him: "You don't want to give money to us because you
save your money for the KNU soldiers. So we will treat you as we like".
They ordered him to carry food to XXXX village.
NAME: "Naw K'Paw Ghay" SEX: F AGE: 35 Karen
FAMILY: Married, 3 children aged 9 months to 13 years
ADDRESS: K'Law Lu village, Dta Greh township INTERVIEWED: 9/7/96
I arrived in the refugee camp about 3 weeks ago. I left my village last
month [June] because SLORC and DKBA forced us to move and burnt
down our houses. Two months ago, they forced us to move to Tee Per
village near where the SLORC column stays. It is on both sides of the Noh
Ree stream. It is 20 minutes away from our village. They will build a camp
there. We worried that if a SLORC camp is in the village, we will be
ordered to build it and to do labour in other places as well. They also
forced Tee Po Lay Kee village to move.
The DKBA said: "If the Ko Per Lah [KNU] soldiers come to your village,
they will order you to go to the refugee camp or ask money from you. So
come and stay with us in the other [Tee Per] village". The SLORC and DKBA
told us that, but they also steal the rice in our rice barns and the rice
that we hide in the jungle. I saw them once when they were stealing my
rice and I told them, "Don't do that", and they pointed their guns at me.
Then I was afraid so I stayed quietly, like the mouse hiding from the cat.
In our village there were 27 houses. Only 2 families went to stay in Tee
and the others went to hide in the valley. They took some rice with them
they stay there like that. I think they can stay like that for a long time.
Our forebears did like that, and we will follow them. They didn't starve.
Our Karen people can live like that. Our mothers used to tell us, "Villagers
from our village used to live in Pa'an, and then they found this land. And
they called this village K'Law Lu".
They will kill us if we don't move. I stayed only one day in Tee Per. We
had no time to carry our rice. So the next day we asked permission to go
collect our belongings and the rice from our village. They allowed us to
Then when we arrived in our village, all of us ran into the jungle. I
there for 7 days and nights. Two children got sick and died in the jungle,
Pee Htoo, 14, and Taw Lay who was 12 years old. They were coughing
and sneezing with blood.
They also ordered us to do labour but I never went, I hired someone
instead. They usually ordered 3 people from our village to clear the car
road in Lu Pleh for 3 days at a time. Each household also has to pay 45
Kyats as porter fees [per month]. Sometimes when the new SLORC soldiers
arrive in the village [on regular rotation], they order us to give them
one pig. "If you can't give it, we will kill you. You are Karen rebels",
they said. This happens every time. So if you come to my village, you
won't find any animals. Some were eaten by SLORC and DKBA and some
were caught by Ko Per Lah [KNU] soldiers.
There was some fighting between KNU and Ko Per Baw. No villagers
died. One time the Ko Per Lah fired one RPG [rocket-propelled grenade]
and it fell in front of the Ko Per Baw, but fortunately it did not explode.
They were very happy. They looked at the shell and passed it to each
other, saying: "Our monk's medicine really works for stopping bullets".
Then suddenly they dropped the shell amongst them and it exploded. Two
of them died and 5 were wounded.
Q: Did you meet any soldiers on your way to the refugee camp?
A: No, but don't even talk like that. It makes me afraid. Kwih da lah!
['Kwih da lah' is a Karen exclamation which does not translate directly
into English; depending on context, its meaning is somewhere between
"Oh, it's so hard", "Oh, what to do?", and "It hurts to even think about
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