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FORCED RELOCATION AND HUMAN RIGHTS (r)
- Subject: FORCED RELOCATION AND HUMAN RIGHTS (r)
- From: brelief@xxxxxxx
- Date: Tue, 20 May 1997 15:43:00
Subject: FORCED RELOCATION AND HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES IN KARENNI STATE, Part I
The following is a report by the ALL BURMA STUDENTS' DEMOCRATIC
FRONT on human rights abuses carried out by SLORC troops against
the Karenni people. Maps, photographs and copies of original
SLORC documents have been removed from this version tailored for
the net. If you would like a copy of the report with these
included please contact us at caroline@xxxxxxxxxxxx and
lurie@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx or PO Box 151 Klong Chan PO, Bangkapi,
Bangkok 10240, Thailand.
FORCED RELOCATION AND HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES
IN KARENNI STATE, BURMA
Compiled and published by the
ALL BURMA STUDENTS' DEMOCRATIC FRONT
Documentation and Research Centre
This report documents human rights violations carried out by
troops from the ruling State Law and Order Restoration Council
(SLORC) against Karenni people in Karenni State in eastern Burma.
Information regarding human rights abuses in the area has come
from interviews with Karenni refugees who have fled into
Thailand, and with officials from the Karenni National
progressive Party (KNPP).
Since May 1996, thousands of new Karenni refugees have arrived on
the Thai-Burma border with stories of the mass forced relocation
of villages and other forms of human rights violations by SLORC
Hundreds of villages have been forcibly relocated, particularly
those between the Pon and Salween Rivers. While many people
decided to flee to the Thai-Burma border, some moved to the new
relocation camps near SLORC-controlled areas.
Refugees arrived at the border exhausted and seriously ill due to
their long journey. They told of their experiences of human
rights violations in Burma, and of the living conditions in the
new relocation camps where they said there was a lack of food,
shelter and medicine.
These refugees are currently living in fear of being attacked by
SLORC troops following the shelling of a camp on January 3, 1997.
The shelling killed a 19 year-old Shan refugee girl and a 30
year-old father of two. Ten others were seriously wounded.
The Karenni are the major ethnic group living in Karenni State
and an estimated 240,000 people from over a dozen ethnic groups
live in the state's rugged mountain regions. While most are
Karen-related, such as the Kayan, Kayaw or Paku, there is also a
small Shan minority and an increasing number of Burman
Karenni people have claimed that their territory is an
independent state from Burma according to a treaty signed in
1875 with the Burmese King Mindon which officially acknowledged
the independence of the western Karenni region. This independent
status was never altered throughout British rule and maps of the
Indian Empire always marked the Karenni State as outside British
Under Burma's 1947 Constitution, the Karenni State was granted
the right of succession after a ten-year trial period. But in
August 1948, Karenni leader U Bee Htu Re was assassinated by
government military police and an armed uprising swept the
Karenni State and has continued to the present day. Successive
governments have attempted to use the conflict to try to curtail
the demand for Karenni independence.
Government troops poured into the state at the start of the
uprising, and in 1952 'Karenni State' was renamed 'Kayah State'
by the then government, the Burma Socialist Programme Party
Like the Karen and Mon ethnic groups living along the border, the
Karenni have been fighting an armed insurgency against the
central government in Burma for decades. This fighting has
intensified over the past eight years following the suppression
of the pro-democracy movement in 1988 and the SLORC seizing
MILITARY OPERATIONS IN KARENNI STATE
During the last 40 years, civilians always have borne the brunt
of government attempts to crush the Karenni independence
movement. Under the SLORC's "Four Cuts" (Pyat Lay Pyat)
operation, entire communities have been forcibly relocated from
their homes and huge numbers of refugees and displaced people in
the region. Up until 1995, human rights violations forced some
6,000 Karenni refugees into five camps in Karenni areas bordering
By late 1993 leaders of the armed opposition were coming under
increasing pressure to agree to a cease- fire. Separate talks
began in January 1994, with the Karenni National Progressive
Party (KNPP) and Karenni Nationalities People's Liberation Front
(KNPLF), which signed its own cease-fire with the SLORC
in May 1994. Shortly afterwards leaders of the allied Kayan New
Land Party (KNLP), which operates in parts of the state, also
agreed to a cease-fire.
The Karenni National Progress Party (KNPP) signed a cease-fire
agreement at a ceremony in Loikaw on March 21, 1995, making it
the fourth and final armed group in Karenni State to do so.
However a month later on June 28 the KNPP issued a statement
claiming that the SLORC had broken the terms of the agreement by
sending an additional 2,000 troops into its territory and by
continuing to take porters from the area. Two days later,
fighting broke out after the SLORC launched an attack on the KNPP
headquarters near the Thai border. The SLORC insisted that the
offensive was launched in order to chase away illegal Thai
loggers and to secure a route through KNPP territory to that of
drug warlord Khun Sa. Later the SLORC claimed that it had
positioned troops in the area close to Thai border because of
possible threats to national security during a general election
As soon as the cease-fire agreement between the KNPP and the
SLORC broke down the first wave of refugees began arriving at the
Thai-Burma border near Mae Hong Son Province in Thailand.
Throughout 1995 and early 1996, SLORC troops conscripted Karenni
people as forced laborers and forced porters during the "Tai Lone
Hein" offensive ("echo all over the State").
In February and March 1996, the offensive by the SLORC
intensified and Swiss-made Pilatus PC-7 fighter planes were used
in an operation against the headquarters of KNPP and bases of the
All Burma Students' Democratic Front (ABSDF). The planes were
sold to sold Burma for training purposes only. On March 9, four
PC-7 fighter planes dropped shells on the Naw Kaw Ki mountain
range near Mae Hong Son Province in a 15-minute attack. The next
day, three PC-7s fired three rockets and dropped seven bombs
during a 25-minute attack. In two further attacks that day, five
PC-7s fired another 13 rockets and dropped another 16 bombs on
the area. The bases in the area were subsequently abandoned, and
the last of the KNPP border military bases, Kaut Kaut, fell to
the SLORC on March 27, 1996.
In a statement issued on May 11, 1996, the KNPP reported several
successful ambushes of troops in the area between the Pon and
Salween Rivers. Following this, some villagers in the area were
killed in reprisal by SLORC troops.
Commenting at the end of April 1996 on SLORC's recent exoneration
of opium-warlord Khun Sa, the Minister of Tourism, Lieutenant
General Kyaw Ba, said the SLORC could forgive Khun Sa following
his surrender as this was in keeping with the Burmese way.
However he said the KNPP, who remained recalcitrant, would not be
granted any clemency. "We will smash them", he said. This comment
contrasts to the SLORC's highly publicized peace making efforts
to encourage "the remaining groups who still have not yet
returned to the legal fold...to join hands in building a
peaceful, democratic and modern union."
Since the beginning of 1996, SLORC has moved some 37 battalions
to the Karenni area each consisting of between 300-400 soldiers.
There were 27 battalions in place in March 1996, then an extra
ten were moved in, including five from 99 Division, following the
surrender of Khun Sa's Mong Tai Army (MTA) troops in Shan State.
Since the start of the 1996 offensive, human rights violations
such as forced relocation, extra-judicial killings, rapes, forced
labor, burning villages, and forced porterage were carried out by
During the offensive, some porters who had been taken by troops
in Loikaw escaped into Thailand. These porters told of witnessing
the death of fellow porters from landmines, beatings and torture,
and also witnessing civilians being killed as suspected
supporters of the KNPP. According to their testimonies, many
villages were reduced to ashes by SLORC troops in order to clear
According to reliable sources from the region, many people were
reportedly arrested and detained by the SLORC for allegedly
having contact with the KNPP and ABSDF groups. In July 1996,
Christian Pastor Richard Thomas from Daw U Ku Ward in Loikaw was
arrested for allegedly having communicated with the KNPP. Other
sources reported that many school teachers in Loikaw were also
detained during the month of June-July 1996, for the same charge.
LIFE FOR THE KARENNI PEOPLE
Human rights violations carried out by Burma s military against
civilians in Karenni State is not a new occurrence. Recent abuses
carried out by SLORC troops include extra-judicial executions,
arbitrary arrests, torture, rape, beatings and other forms of
Rape and extra-judicial executions have been extensively
documented in the context of the forced conscription of Karenni
people into front-line porter service and other forced labor for
the military. Karenni people have been forcibly conscripted or
seized by the military to work as porters carrying arms,
ammunition and other supplies, or as unpaid laborers building
roads and army camps. The Working People's Daily on May 8, 1992,
reported that on the Aungban-Loikaw railroad in Karenni state,
over 300,000 people had "contributed voluntary labor" to that
project alone. Many prisoners working on forced labor projects in
Loikaw are reported to be dying from the cold and a lack of food.
Many refugees who fled to the Thai-Burma border have told of
their experiences of human rights abuses by SLORC troops.
According to them, when soldiers come to a village, many
villagers, especially young people, are subjected to arrest and
accused of being supporters of Karenni armed groups. Soldiers
frequently arrest and torture people who can then only be
released when the village headman provides an amount of money and
a guarantee that they are not involved with the KNPP.
Rice farmers in Karenni State, like farmers elsewhere in Burma,
are required to sell a portion of their rice to the SLORC at a
fixed price. They must sell to the SLORC between four to ten
Burmese-unit baskets (150-400 kilograms) per acre of cultivated
land at the fixed price of sixty kyat a basket, or about US$0.60.
This is compared to the market price of around 300 kyat.
In some cases, SLORC officials took the rice from farmers without
paying them. If a farmers' yield was insufficient to cover the
SLORC tax because of poor harvests or other reasons, he would be
forced to purchase rice at the market price and sell back to the
SLORC. Those who fail to pay this tax face arrest by the
FORCED RELOCATION IN KARENNI STATE
Forced relocation has been a strategy of the Burmese military for
decades. In ethnic minority areas forced relocation was
undertaken both as part of military strategies to deprive the
ethnic rebels of their support, and to provide the military with
"free labor" for their "development" projects. The mass
relocation has often been accompanied by other forms of human
rights abuses. Under the "Four Cuts" operation, large areas are
declared "free-fire" zones, ethnic minority communities are
forced to move to "strategic hamlets" under strict curfews and
rigid controls, crops and villages are destroyed, and expulsion
orders warn that any villagers remaining in their homes will be
shot on sight.
At the beginning of 1996 a forced relocation order was given in
the Shadaw area of Karenni State, and at the same time the SLORC
launched a major offensive against the KNPP in the area. However,
even after the forced relocation from the area the KNPP was able
to on June 6, 1996, successfully attack a hydroelectric power
station at Lawpita, near Loikaw. It is believed that the forced
relocation from this area was designed to pressure the KNPP into
signing a new and binding cease-fire agreement which would
enable the government to open up the area to tourism for the
start of 1996 Visit Myanmar Year.
Prior to this, the Karenni people had experienced similar forced
relocation operations and other forms of human rights abuses. On
March 6, 1992, 57 villages with a total population of 8,000 were
relocated to Pruso, a small town with inadequate water supplies
in northwest Karenni State. The villages were accused of
supporting Karen and Karenni rebels and more than 400 people died
of starvation and disease at the relocation camps. Those
relocated were also forced to provide labor for the Loikaw-
Aungban railroad and by that October at least 90 people had died
at the work sites.
RECENT FORCED RELOCATION ORDERS
According to a KNPP statement, a relocation order was issued at
the beginning of May 1996 to 296 households from 14 villages
located between the Pon and Salween Rivers flowing north to south
through Karenni State. Villagers were ordered to leave their
homes and relocate to Ywathit municipality in the south of the
state. Later, all the villages between the Pon and Salween Rivers
began receiving orders to move to centralized security areas in
Shadaw. Subsequently on May 31, 1996, the remaining settlements
in the river valley received orders under the authority of the
Central Command Control to move by 7 June (see Appendix). Local
orders were issued by Infantry Battalion (IB) 54 and Light
Infantry Battalion (LIB) 337 and 530. All of the 96 villages, or
approximately 30,000 residents, were ordered to relocate to
Shadaw municipality in the north of the state (see Map). The
order stated that those found in their homes after the deadline
"will be categorized as rebels and will be shot".
In the Demawso area villagers were ordered to relocate to several
different sites. Around Pruso, Daw Tanaw, Daw Ta Kle, Ke Biso,
Daw Leh Ku, and Leh Kut Ku villages were told to move to Ke Lya
by June 25, 1996. Villages near Tee Po Klo on the Demawso-Daw Nye
Ky highway were ordered to relocate to Tee Po Klo. Those near Da
Tama Gyi were given orders to move to Da Tama Gyi and Daw Nye Khu
by June 25, 1996. The villagers had also been forced to build
fences around Daw Tama Gyi Village for LIB 420 and 423.
At least 30 villages around Mae Chee were given orders to move by
17 July, 1996, to five sites in Phasaung township between upper
and lower Maw Chee. These sites were Se Ba Gwe, Lokalo Kwe The,
Mawchi Aw Ywa, Se Thon Gon, and Se Chauk Gon. The villages
ordered to relocate included Sho Do Ko, Plaw Htee, Kaw Thu Doe,
Ywa The Doh, Le Law Htee, To Do Lay Ko, Paw Per, Ko Thuro, Bwe
Lo, Bo Klo, Pwaw Doh, Ho Sa Kee, Bu Ko, Kwa Kee and Ler Boh.
Another eight villages in the Pasaung vicinity were given a June
20, 1996, deadline to relocate. The villages ordered to move
included Na Kee, Bo Haw Ku, Ya Tha Ga, Ye Mu Der, Ka Pwe Doh, Ka
Pwe Pa and Ka Thu Doh. The villages of Ge Lo, Ywa The Kah, Bhu Ko
and Kwa Kee had been burnt down, including all their fields and
East of the Salween River which is near the border, villages were
also ordered to relocate by June 25, 1996, many of them with
almost no notice. The order followed fighting at Daw Plaw Du on
June 20-21 between KNPP and SLORC troops in which four
SLORCsoldiers were killed and four others wounded.
Despite being relocated, most of these villages have started up
The village headmen in the Loilemley area north of Loikaw were
also given relocation orders. However, they were able to
negotiate an agreement under which they signed papers
guaranteeing there would be no fighting in their area. If any
fighting did occur, they would be relocated as well as punished
for transgressing the agreement. However, KNPP troops attacked
SLORC troops in the Loilemley area near Su Plaung Village and
accordingly villages around Lin Phon Gyi were forced to move to
the Pan Kan area by August 15, 1996.
Many villages were given time ranging from three days to a week
to relocate, but some were given orders to move within a day.
Such short notice forced the villagers to leave all their major
belongings behind and most had to abandon their farming during
the raining season. Relocated persons were not given any
compensation. Any villagers who remained in their homes were to
be shot on sight as sympathizers of Karenni armed forces.
Villages were also burnt to the ground after a relocation in
order to prevent reoccupation. Soldiers also told the villagers
that landmines would be planted on the roads and paths
surrounding settlements after the residents had been relocated,
again to avoid reoccupation. The Karenni Public Relations and
Information Department has estimated that as many as 75,000
people have been affected by the mass relocation orders in
Karenni State out of a total population of up to 300,000.
Ku U Reh, a 47-year-old headman of a group of nine villages near
Shadaw municipality explained why he did not want to move to the
relocation site in Shadaw town. He is from Daw Kraw Aw Village
which is 15-miles south of Shadaw town.
"First is the climate change in the rainy season. It was June
when heavy rain started. The second reason is the children's'
education. Their education would be interrupted if we moved to
Shadaw immediately. Third is our farm. We had just started our
cultivation because the rains had began. If we had to move, all
of our farming would be lost. Fourth is the elderly in the
village. The journey is harsh and long for them to walk during
the rainy season. Fifth is our animals. It is essential to take
all our animals in order to farm or live with them in the future.
Sixth is the food supply at the new site. We could not bring our
rice and other food stuffs within the short period mentioned in
the order. I was sure that the food could not be provided by the
authorities when we moved to the new site."
Nge Myeu, a 20-year-old Karenni girl from Dee Leh Village told of
the difficulty in complying with the order.
"I used to live in Dee Leh in Shadaw municipality. There were
twenty-five houses in my village. In the rainy season last year
(1996), when we were planting paddy, the SLORC sent a letter to
our leader ordering our relocation. None of the villagers wanted
But the SLORC said if we did not move, they would burn our
village and arrest us, so we decided to move."
Another refugee woman from Daw Takya said:
"The SLORC officials wrote a letter to our village telling us
that we had to move to Shadaw - a relocation site. We were told
that if we did not go, we would all be killed."
In some cases, soldiers suddenly appeared and ordered villagers
to move immediately to a relocation site.
Preh Mou and Ei Meh, a couple with four children from Daw Tam Wi,
say they were ordered to move to a new relocation site within a
"When we were sitting in the house, the SLORC came into the
village and they drove us out of our home and then forced us to
go with them to Shadaw - the relocation site. At that time some
villagers were not in the village, they were working on their
farms. Later I heard that the SLORC troops had met them in the
village and killed them at once. They left the bodies in the
In Phasaung municipality, some villages were destroyed or shelled
by SLORC troops in order to threaten villagers to comply with the
relocation order. The soldiers then gave the people ten days to
relocate to Maw Chee town. Saw Eh Gay, a boy from Swa The Doh
"On May 21, soldiers from LIB 418, 429 and 531 led by Htant Lween
and Ye Myint (Commander of tactical operation command) arrived
and fired M-75 grenade launchers into Law Htee Village in Maw
Chee municipality, without any reason. One house was damaged. The
next morning they fired again at Kaw Du Doe Village in the same
area, but no houses were damaged. After that, Ye Myint ordered
that all villages in district No. 2 of Karenni State had to move
to relocation areas in Maw Chee within ten days. They also
threatened that if anyone did not move, they would be killed."
HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS DURING RELOCATION
During forced relocation orders, Karenni civilians have been
subjected to torture, extra-judicial killings, rape and other
forms of cruel and inhuman treatment by the military. Villagers
have been killed when they were found in their homes after the
relocation deadline, or killed while on their way to Thailand.
Information gathered from interviews with Karenni refugees who
have fled to Thailand and now live in refugee camps along the
border clearly demonstrates the human rights abuses committed by
Scores of interviews with Karenni refugees on the Thai-Burma
border provide details regarding human rights violations during
forced relocation orders, including extra-judicial killings.
Soldiers were given the authority to kill anybody found in their
village after the deadline of a forced relocation order. People
were killed if soldiers suspected them of being sympathizers for
the ethnic armed forces. In some cases people were killed for no
Soldiers severely abused people or killed them simply because
they could not speak the Burmese language well enough to answer
their questions. According to an ex-porter who managed to escape
from SLORC troops, a soldier from LIB 530 killed a 60-year-old
Karenni elder from Daw Lar Leh Village for this very reason on
July 25, 1996.
"A young soldier from LIB 530 bayoneted the man because he
did not understand the Burmese language. He died immediately and
was left on the road. The commander of the column saw the dead
body, but did not say anything or take any action against the
A 70-year-old Karenni woman who arrived to the border in late
September 1996 also told of the cruelty of some soldiers.
"U Law Reh, a 53-year-old Karenni man from Daw Tama Village,
was burnt to death in the last week of July when his house was
set on fire while he was still inside. I had been left behind in
the village by my family because they thought I could not walk to
the border and the soldiers would not harm me as I was an elder.
However, I hadn't dared remain any longer in the abandoned
village after I saw this brutal killing".
Ngar Reh, a villager from Daw Htaw Vee Me Le Village spoke of
when the soldiers entered his village.
"I saw Bu Meh, a 50-year-old woman from Daw Hti Kaw Le Village,
being dragged out from her house by the SLORC troops in the last
week of July. She was hiding in her house when the SLORC troops
entered the village. All of us fled and hid in the paddy fields,
but she did not have time to run away. She was shot twice in the
stomach and she died instantly."
In some cases, soldiers made no attempt to establish the
identities or status of their victims before killing them. People
were deliberately shot by the troops. According to Poe Meh and
Nga Reh, a couple from Daw Nawklu Village, innocent civilians
were killed for no apparent reason.
"In the first week of August 1996, SLORC soldiers came to
Daw Maw Klu Village in Shadaw municipality in Karenni state. The
soldiers shot two villagers - they were Bu Meh and her daughter,
Klaw Meh. Bu Meh was wounded in the stomach and Klaw Meh was
shot in the head and died. The soldiers shot them because
they thought Karenni soldiers had been in their house".
People who were not able to leave the village before the
relocation deadline, or before the troops entered the village,
were labeled as "enemies" and arbitrarily killed. Many of these
victims were disabled and elderly who were left behind by their
families either because the journey to the border was considered
too difficult, or because it was thought the soldiers would not
Preh Mou, a 45 year-old Karenni woman from Daw Miku Village
told of her experience seeing a disabled woman from her village
being killed by soldiers in August 1996.
"One woman from Daw Meh Khu Village in Karenni state was disabled
and could not get away when the SLORC soldiers ordered her out of
her house. She was killed by one of the soldiers with a knife
while she was sitting on her bed. "
Tee Reh, a 34 year-old Karenni man from Daw Klaw Du Village,
told of how he saw the death of an elderly woman who was left
behind because she could not walk. Tee Reh had gone to a new
relocation site in Shadaw and returned to his village on two
occasions with permission from the SLORC in order to collect
rice for his family.
"When we left the village an old woman stayed behind because
she could not walk. We were unable to carry her. The second time
I went to the village to collect food I could smell something
very bad. I wanted to know what it was so I climbed into the
house where the smell was coming from. It was the old woman. She
had been killed by SLORC soldiers with a knife. I thought she had
been dead about a week."
Similarly, Nyine Reh, a 60 year-old villager from Daw Miku
Village, saw the dead body of his sister who was left behind in
the village. Hoping that he would be able to come back for his
sister and take her to Shadaw town, his family left the ailing
woman in the village.
"We moved but my sister could not walk. She had a pain and felt
ill so we left her in the village. I told her that we would come
back the next day and carry her. When we arrived at Shadaw, the
SLORC wouldn't let us go back. We stayed there two days and then
we left without permission. We arrived in our village at about 5
o'clock in the evening and saw that my sister had been killed.
There was a hole in her stomach. The SLORC had already left my
village when we arrived."
Other sources said that in the last week of July 1996, two women
from Nga Maloh Soe Village were burnt to death in their village
by troops from LIB 530. They were Pay Mo and Ko Mal, both of whom
were in their 50s.
In another incident, U Se Reiko, a 60-year-old blind Karenni man,
was bayoneted by soldiers from LIB 307 on September 24, 1996.
Soldiers from the same Light Infantry Battalion killed another
four people from Daw Klaw Du Village on October 2, 1996. The four
were found hiding in Daw Kalaw Du Village and were killed for
failing to obey the order to relocate from the village.
There is no doubt that women, particular young girls, are more
vulnerable than men to exploitation and deprivation of rights,
especially as refugees. Many refugees who arrived at the Thai-
Burma border have told of rape and sexual harassment by SLORC
soldiers against the Karenni during the mass relocation process.
One such rape victim is Hse Mae, a 20 year-old Karenni girl
from Daw Leh Ku Village. Hse Mae was gang-raped by soldiers from
IB 306 during the last week of September 1996. She remained in
her village with her foster mother who was 70 years old. The
military column of IB 306 came and randomly arrested villagers
who could not escape. Hse Mae was caught by the soldiers and this
is her account of what followed:
"I did not understand Burmese so I did not know what they were
saying to me. However, I understood a little bit from their mime
and body language that they would kill me if I attempted to
escape. The soldiers kicked me with their military boots on my
chest and my legs. I could not stand up due to the beating all
over my body. You can see the scars on my body as a result of it.
Then they tied a rope to my neck, hands and waist and to a tree.
At night the soldiers came and gang-raped me. I could not
remember how many. I screamed and asked for help, but in vain.
When I refused their will I was beaten up. They punched and
slashed my face. It occurred every night until I escaped after
After the deadlines for the relocation orders were over, SLORC
troops launched a "mopping up" campaign in the region between the
Pon and Salween Rivers. Soldiers from SLORC LIB 530 were assigned
to implement the campaign. Their duties were to kill anyone found
in the region without official permission and to destroy all
property belonging to the villagers.