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KHRG Report 97-11, part 1/2
KHRG #97-11 Part 1/2 (Dooplaya)
September 18, 1997
CLAMPDOWN IN SOUTHERN DOOPLAYA
Forced relocation and abuses in newly SLORC-occupied area
An Independent Report by the Karen Human Rights Group
September 18, 1997 / KHRG #97-11
*** PART 1 OF 2 - SEE SUBSEQUENT POSTINGS FOR PART 2 ***
[Some details omitted or replaced by 'xxxx' for Internet distribution]
In February 1997, the State Law & Order Restoration Council (SLORC) military
junta ruling Burma mounted a mass military offensive against large areas of
Dooplaya District which were strongly or partly controlled by the Karen
National Union (KNU). Dooplaya District lies in central Karen State, from
Kawkareik and Myawaddy in the north to Three Pagodas Pass in the south.
Troops from 6 different Light Infantry Divisions were involved in the
offensive, which led to the capture of most KNU-held areas and the flight of
over 10,000 civilians to Thailand. Many more were trapped inside their
villages and home areas by the rapid advance of the SLORC troops. [For more
background on the offensive and the refugees from it, see "Refugees from the
SLORC Occupation" (KHRG #97-07, 25/5/97)]
SLORC claimed to have brought "peace" to the area, and the testimonies of
refugees who fled in the first few weeks after the occupation indicated that
SLORC troops appeared to be minimising their usual human rights abuses in
areas directly adjacent to the Thai border, in the hope of drawing the
refugees back and also to give the Thai authorities grounds to force them
back. However, at the same time SLORC troops in the newly-occupied areas
just 10 or more kilometres further inside were already restricting the
movements of villagers, forcing them to work on military access roads, and
Now that the areas have been occupied for a few months, the general
clampdown appears to be widening and worsening. As indicated by the
testimonies in this report from villagers who have just fled the southern
parts of Dooplaya District, the attack troops from #44 Light Infantry
Division who temporarily occupied their villages have now left and been
replaced by troops from #22 Light Infantry Division and some other Infantry
and Light Infantry Battalions who will probably be there for the longer
term. These troops are going repeatedly from village to village, accusing
every village of being "Kaw Thoo Lei" or KNU, and demanding that they hand
over all of their guns. There are few Karen soldiers in the area and they
only occasionally pass through the villages, so the villagers have no guns
or knowledge of how to obtain any. As a result, people in every village are
being detained, beaten, and tortured while the soldiers demand that they
"give the guns". Villagers who have been Karen soldiers in the near or
distant past, village headmen, and church leaders are being especially
targetted, and at least one village headman (U Kyaw Ta, age almost 50, from
Klih Tu village in Ye township) has been beaten to death. Even when they
realise the villagers have no guns, the soldiers demand that they obtain
some in any way possible. The desperation of the
soldiers and their remarks to the villagers indicate that they have probably
been given orders to come back with guns or face serious punishment from
their officers. Demanding guns from villagers is a standard tactic of SLORC
Army officers, who can then submit false reports to their superiors that
they have been engaging the enemy without actually taking any risks. The
villagers have no guns and no way of obtaining any, so many of them are
fleeing into hiding, to other villages or to the Thai border between visits
by the troops.
The arrests and torture are augmented by the increasing demands for forced
labour building new Army camps and portering supplies and ammunition for the
Army, looting of rice, livestock and possessions by the troops, and demands
for extortion money in the form of 'porter fees'.
As part of the clampdown, an increasing number of villages throughout
Dooplaya are now being forced to relocate. At first, small villages,
particularly if they were in remote areas, and villages from which most of
the population had fled were ordered to relocate to larger villages. Since
then, people living on the outskirts of many villages have been ordered to
move their houses into the centre of their village. Now, since the
beginning of rainy season in May/June, SLORC troops in southern Dooplaya
have begun entering stable, established villages which are not close to Army
camps and ordering them at gunpoint to move to SLORC-controlled locations
near Army camps or along main roads. Five of these relocation sites are Ku
Du Gweh (a.k.a. Meh Pra), Taung Zone (a.k.a. Lay Noh), and Anand Gwin
(a.k.a. Noh Chut Neh), which are along the
Thanbyuzayat - Three Pagodas Pass road, and Kaneh Kamaw and Beh Hla Mu
(a.k.a. Ker), which are north of Ye near the Ye - Thanbyuzayat road. At
least one village has been ordered to move to Three Pagodas Pass village at
the Thai border.
The troops generally order the villages at gunpoint to move within 3 to 6
days, and in some cases they then stay in the village to watch the villagers
dismantle their houses and ensure that they move to the designated site.
Once at the relocation sites, the villagers get no food or help from SLORC,
but they still have to give food and money to the troops. They are not
allowed to work freely in their fields, generally being allowed only to
leave the relocation site in the morning and return by evening, which makes
it impossible to get any work done in cases where their fields are any
distance away. They are not allowed to sleep at their field huts, and even
while working in their fields with valid movement passes some villagers have
been arrested and beaten or taken as porters. All of this is happening
during rainy season, which is the crucial rice-growing season, and it is
preventing most villagers from growing a crop sufficient to feed their
families for the next year. Making it even worse, this year the rains have
been so heavy that many crops have been damaged or wiped out. As the
villagers can expect no support from SLORC, when their rice runs
out they will have to starve or flee.
Villagers report that even villages which have not been ordered to move are
disintegrating because so many people are fleeing torture and other abuses,
particularly the repeated demands for guns and the detention, beatings and
torture associated with this. One villager interviewed in this report fled
his village after witnessing many of the villagers severely beaten, only to
find himself in a village where he was used every day for forced labour
building fences around a new Army camp - so he fled back to his home
village, where he was then ordered to relocate. He finally decided he had
no choice but to flee the area. Many villagers in Dooplaya are facing this
situation, yet all of this is happening at a time when Thai authorities are
denying asylum to any new refugees and stating that refugees can go back
home because "there is no more fighting". However, the stories of the
villagers in this report show that there is
presently no possibility of refugees returning to Dooplaya District in
of safety and dignity, and that current SLORC activities in the region are
only likely to lead to continued flows of refugees to Thailand for the
The villagers interviewed in this report have fled their villages in Kya In
township of western Dooplaya, Waw Raw (a.k.a. Win Ye) township of southern
Dooplaya, and Ye township in Mon State, just south and west of Waw Raw. All
of their names have been changed, and some details have been omitted to
protect them. All false names are shown in quotes.
SLORC State Law & Order Restoration Council, military junta ruling Burma
KNU Karen National Union, main Karen opposition group
KNLA Karen National Liberation Army, army of the KNU
KNDO Karen National Defence Organisation, militia/police wing of the KNU
DKBA Democratic Karen Buddhist Army, Karen group allied with SLORC
IB Infantry Battalion (SLORC), usually about 500 soldiers fighting strength
LIB Light Infantry Battalion (SLORC), usually about 500 soldiers fighting
LID Light Infantry Division (SLORC); one Division consists of 10 LIB
Kaw Thoo Lei The Karen homeland, also used to refer in general to
Kyat Burmese currency; US$1=6 Ks at official rate, 250-300 Ks at current
viss Unit of weight measure; 1 viss = 1.6 kg. / 3.5 lb.
Demands for guns (Interviews #1,3,5-14), detention (#1,3,5,7-11,14),
detention in 'the hole' (#3,8,10,11,14), beatings/torture
killings (#1,5), rape (#7), looting/demands for money and food
burning houses (#4), forced relocation (#2,4,6,11,12),
movement restrictions (#1), disintegration/destruction of
villages (#1-5,9,12-14), DKBA involvement (#3,7).
Forced labour: portering (#1-5,7-14), at Army camps (#1,6,7,10),
on roads (#1), guides and sentries (#4,10), cart haulage (#3,10).
NAME: "Saw Htoo Heh" SEX: M AGE: 31 Karen Buddhist farmer
FAMILY: Married, 4 children
ADDRESS: xxxx village, Waw Raw township INTERVIEWED: 8/97
["Saw Htoo Heh" was headman of his village, but fled due to abuses by
the occupying SLORC troops.]
Q: Were you the headman?
A: Yes. I am the Karen village headman. There is also a SLORC headman.
[One villager acts as liaison with the KNU, while another acts as liaison
with SLORC.] I left my village this month on the 5th of the Burmese
calendar - maybe the 8th or 9th of August. We were afraid and we could not
stay. There are many groups of SLORC. The first group which entered the
village was #22 Division. They arrested people and bound their feet and
their necks, and tied their hands behind their backs. This group tortured
people a lot in our village. They tortured our people and then they left,
but even after they were gone our villagers were still suffering from what
they did. Now that it has been a while, they are all better.
Another group [of SLORC soldiers] came to the village and told the
villagers: "The people who work far away from the village have to go in the
morning and come back in the evening." So by the time we arrived at our
fields we already needed to come back. Then when the soldiers saw us along
the path they made trouble for us even though their officers had given us
permission to go. So we stayed in the village and we couldn't do any work.
Since we were afraid and had no chance to do our work, it was better to leave.
Q: Were you tortured?
A: No. They arrested me and I escaped immediately. But many villagers
have to suffer that, and they came with me here. Many families already
came and I heard more will come. The village has already been destroyed.
The houses are still there but no one is staying there anymore. Before,
there were over 40 houses. Some people ran to SLORC area. Some families
went to other places. They went to nearby villages and they come back
sometimes to look after their animals, fields and gardens. When they do
SLORC arrests them. The SLORC soldiers sawed the neck of one of my cousins
with the sharp edge of a knife until the skin was cut open.
Many people were tortured by the SLORC and came with me. They were
tortured in their houses.
Some people say that if we stay in Burma we cannot escape from the Burmese.
"If the Burmese come, no one should run", say the elders. The elders say:
"Stay!" But the Burmese elder [the headman for SLORC] also ran. He was the
first one to run. When the Burmese came, they beat him until he could not
eat for one day. Around our village area, the Burmese have beaten elders to
death. That happened in Klih Tu village. He didn't die immediately after
he was beaten. He treated himself for 7 or 8 days and then died. His name
was U Kyaw Ta. He was nearly 50. It happened in the month of T'Gu [in
April; see Interview #5 with "Saw Shwe Hla"].
Among the many people who were tortured in our village, some were seriously
beaten and some not. They accused us of being a KNU village so they demand
guns. They said that the Karen Army are staying in our village and that
they keep their rations there. People who cannot speak Burmese properly
were not beaten so seriously, but those who can speak Burmese were [probably
because this made it possible for the soldiers to interrogate them - this is
an exception to the rule, because normally villagers are beaten for NOT
being able to speak Burmese]. The Burmese kicked and slapped about 10
people this way. Three or four people were seriously beaten. They were
swollen, but not as badly as the Klih Tu headman.
In our village there are no Karen soldiers, only civilians and ex-soldiers.
They are beaten because this place is a 'black area' [opposition-controlled
territory] for the SLORC. The Karen soldiers sometimes crossed and
passed through the village, but they didn't stay. They don't have their own
place. Sometimes they just come and sleep one night and then leave. But
the Burmese said: "This village is Kaw Thoo Lei. After you give us their
guns, we won't trouble you and we won't come again. If you don't give us
the guns and if we go back, we don't have that option. We have to get guns
before we go back." [The soldiers must have been ordered to bring back
some guns or face severe punishment.]
Q: Which battalion?
A: #22 [Division]. When I came here there were many soldiers staying
around. They were staying in one village for one or two nights and then
going to another village for one or two nights. One time when they left our
village we secretly escaped and came here. We dare not face them, because
when they come back they will demand guns again. Maybe they will tie
people up and demand 10 viss of pork, or 50 viss, like that [1 viss = 1.6
kg./3.5 lb.]. So we left the village just before they were to come again.
Only a few people stayed behind in the village. All the young people left.
We were worried that our village would be destroyed, so we were staying to
try to prevent this. But when I escaped, everybody escaped at the same
time. Anyone who thought it was better to come here came. Other villagers
wanted to go to other places and they went. Everyone went separately. Some
people didn't escape far and went to stay downstream. Not many are in the
forest, only those who came back to look after their animals and their
fields. Those who had nothing just left. With their entire family, with
the children and everyone...
Q: For those who are still there, will they be able to harvest some paddy
A: I cannot say about this. If the situation is good they will
harvest. If not, they won't. The latest group which came to our village is
#355 [Battalion]. Then they left. So there was a little time there,
and at that time the villagers who had run not too far away came back to the
village, but only the older people, not the younger. They didn't bring the
children along and they left again on the same day. They came back just to
look at the situation and at their houses.
Q: Did the SLORC order villages from your area to move?
A: They didn't, but they are torturing people in villages which are
small and distant from them. In the villages close to the car road they usually
don't torture the people. Our village is away from the car road and away
from them, so they tortured us a lot and they considered it as a 'black
area'. When they called for loh ah pay [forced labour] we had to go to cut
and clear [the scrub along roadsides and around Army camps]. We have to
work for them. The loh ah pay was the same for all the villages which are
staying close to them. The car road [from Thanbyuzayat to Three Pagodas
Pass] is 5 klih [armspans] wide. They clear both sides of the car road, not
because they are afraid of mines, but so that when their trucks go along the
road no Karen soldiers can hide beside the road to attack them.
Q: Did they demand porters or labour in your village?
A: They asked for porters but we gave them money instead. Like this. In
the area, there are two different groups of troops and people have to go and
work for both of them. The troops which are staying nearby accept money,
but the other group who stay further upstream need porters. Before we came
here, they ordered 3 porters every day by turns. The nearest group is
#106 [Infantry Battalion] and the group further away is #545 [Light Infantry
Battalion], #22 [Division], and #355 [Light Infantry Battalion].
The nearest group ordered us to clear the car road and cut and clear a place
to plant vegetables. That is the loh ah pay, but for the porters we can give
money. When they plan to go to Tavoy area [this can mean Tavoy itself,
or the Karen expression "going to Tavoy", which just means anywhere
very far away], we dare not go and we give the money.
Q: Why did you come to this place?
A: Even though my heart is not cool here [Karen expression meaning that
he is worried and afraid], it is better than there, because if we stay in our
village we dare not do our work so we have no work to do. We stay in our
houses and we dare not go out. Just like this... We came with our children,
so we had to walk for 9 days. Without children, it would take only 4 days.
NAME: "Saw G'Lu Taw" SEX: M AGE: 50 Karen Christian farmer
FAMILY: Married with children
ADDRESS: xxxx village, Waw Raw township INTERVIEWED: 8/97
["Saw G'Lu Taw"'s village northeast of Ye was ordered to move. Adding to
his comments in this interview were an elderly woman who is a relative of
his (noted as 'Old woman') and a church elder from their village (noted as
"Saw G'Lu Taw": We just arrived today. Just now! Because we are afraid of
Old Woman: We were afraid of the Burmese. We dared not stay because
they beat us, hit us.
Q: What did they do to you?
"Saw G'Lu Taw": They didn't beat me but...
Old Woman: But they beat some people. And hit them...
"Saw G'Lu Taw": The Burmese will come, so the headman asked us to
leave the village. Around our village, they tortured so many people. They
make the people like their slaves. When they arrested porters, they never
Q: When were you a porter?
"Saw G'Lu Taw": Just now! That's why I escaped and came here.
Old Woman: We had to come because the Burmese are getting worse and
worse. If we stay there, we have no more strength left to face all the
problems. If we go back to our village, they will force us to move to the
Q: Did your village receive an order to move?
Old Woman: Yes. We had to move to Ker.
"Saw G'Lu Taw": It is over 2 miles away from our village. It is a little bit
away from the car road. We had to move at the beginning of the rainy
season. When it was already raining heavily. We didn't know why, they just
ordered us to move. In May, the soldiers came to the village by themselves
and waited there with their guns watching while the villagers had to
dismantle their houses. The big houses are built of wood and we stripped
the wooden planks off of them. All the houses had to be destroyed within 6
days. The bullock carts had to carry our things to Ker and we didn't have
any time to work any more.
I know of 5 villages which were ordered to move: Htee Ter, Wah Ka Ter,
Wah Pa Theh, Kru Maw Hta, and Tar Ba Taw villages, but there are many
others. The other villages had to move to Kaneh Kamaw. They were given
the order during the same month but not on exactly the same day.
Q: Did the SLORC prepare a special place for you to stay at Ker?
"Saw G'Lu Taw": It is only a temporary place. People just build like they
do here [small bamboo shelters].
Church Elder: They divided the plots separately, group by group. There
was no fence.
Q: Did you get any rice or support from the SLORC?
"Saw G'Lu Taw": No, they don't give us anything. Moreover, they are
asking things from us. Our chickens, our rice.
Q: Can you still go to work on your fields?
"Saw G'Lu Taw": Some people work half their field and can work only
for a short time. They cannot complete their work. They don't allow us to
stay at our farm huts. We cannot work anymore. Even if they see us in the
fields, they will beat, hit and kill us.
Q: Now, where are your villagers?
"Saw G'Lu Taw": They all moved to Ker. We destroyed our houses and
moved at the same time. The Burmese didn't allow them to stay in the
village. Now I am arriving from Ker.
Church Elder: All moved to Ker. No one is hiding in the forest.
"Saw G'Lu Taw": Most of them moved to Ker and some came here.
Many more want to come but it is difficult because of the heavy rains.
Their children are very small so they couldn't come now. They are waiting
until the rainy season is over.
Old Woman: We are not the first group. They started coming two months
ago. As soon as they moved to Ker they saw that they couldn't stay there,
so they decided to come here immediately. They have already arrived.
Q: How many houses were there in your village?
"Saw G'Lu Taw": About 40. At Ker there are over 100 houses.
Old Woman: No Burmese [troops] stay in Ker yet, but they come sometimes.
"Saw G'Lu Taw": They come from #343 Battalion... No, it is #31 battalion.
[SLORC constantly rotates its Battalions, so villagers often cannot keep
track of which is which.]
Q: In Ker, did the soldiers ask for porters?
"Saw G'Lu Taw": They asked for money for porter fees, and we had to
give it every time. One house, 150 Kyats, every month regularly. If you
give them money, no need to go. But then another group of Burmese orders us
to go as porters and we have to go. That's why we don't want to face that
problem. If people don't go [as porters], they arrest them.
Q: Why did you choose to come here?
"Saw G'Lu Taw": If we run, we meet the Burmese everywhere. We run
this way, we meet the Burmese, we run that way, we also meet the Burmese.
We don't want to be there. So we came here. It took 6 days to come here
[he showed the blisters and calluses on his feet from walking].
Old Woman: When we ran, we had nothing to eat.
Q: Are there many people who want to leave Ker?
Church Elder: The Ker villagers didn't come but the villagers who were
forced to move there want to come here. Some will come and some will
stay there. Our church congregation members are all going to come here.
The other villages also want to come but it is raining now. In our village,
we have about 30 families who are church members. And all the church
members from xxxx will also come. Their church has more than 45 families.
"Saw G'Lu Taw": Even the Pastor will come too. We came here because
we were worried that the Burmese will come [to Ker] and do more terrible
things to us than before. The SLORC don't give trouble to the [Karen]
soldiers, they just give trouble to the civilians. When the Burmese shoot, it
is the villagers who have to suffer. We don't know exactly why they do
this. The head of our village has to go to see the Burmese every day, and
he told us the Burmese said to him: "The Karen are like a tree. If you cut
the trunk, branches will come up again, so you have to dig out the roots so
it will never grow again." The Burmese from #106 [Infantry Battalion]
told him that during a meeting at Maw Kaneh about one month ago.
NAME: "Saw Tee Wah" SEX: M AGE: 35 Karen Christian farmer
FAMILY: Married, 4 children
ADDRESS: xxxx village, Kya In township INTERVIEWED: 8/97
["Saw Tee Wah" is the son of "Saw Nee Th'Blay" (see interview #14 in this
report). He fled after being forced to carry Army rations on his bullock
cart, being beaten and being taken as a porter.]
Q: What did the SLORC do to you?
A: The Burmese ordered us to go and bring their rations with our bullock
carts. On the way back, when we arrived at Kru M'Tee, they tied us,
interrogated us and tortured us. They were demanding guns. They didn't
get any guns, so they tortured us. We are only villagers. How can we have
guns? But they ordered to find some and give them. How can we find guns
and give them? We don't have any.
Q: How were you arrested?
A: When they first came to our village the men ran into hiding [when they
first occupied the village during the offensive]. Then the Burmese made
trouble for the women, so we came back into the village. They welcomed
us and they registered the number of houses and people. At first they didn't
disturb us too much. They only imposed stricter rules. Then later on, bit by
bit, they started capturing us.
It was in April. I arrived at Kru M'Tee in the evening, on the return trip. I
had just gone to Seik Gyi to get their rations with my bullock cart and
carried them back to Kru M'Tee [where there is a SLORC Army camp].
Altogether we were 30 people with our bullock carts. They caught and
tortured 15 of us. They never tortured us at our own village because they
were worried that our wives would see it. The Burmese use their brains. If
they tortured us in our village it wouldn't look good for them.
They didn't ask anything. They just started calling names from their list. I
don't know how they knew my name, but one person [a Karen soldier]
had surrendered to the Burmese and he knew me. The soldiers called our
names and demanded guns, tied us up and tortured us, all at the same time.
They were asking for guns and beating us. You couldn't even talk. It was
night time, and many soldiers were torturing us. I couldn't see them. Two
of them punched and kicked me while they asked for guns. They punched
my chest 5 times and slapped my face 5 times. They also burnt my beard.
Other soldiers, I don't know how many of them, came and touched us with
their guns. They beat me for 10 minutes. Other villagers were tortured for
15 or 20 minutes. They were all young and their foreheads were bleeding.
My face was also bleeding. They took everything that belongs to me, like
my knife and my watch. Afterwards, we had to carry their rations as far as
their camp. Some had to go to Paw Ner Mu and Ya Kra to carry rations for
the soldiers who were staying temporarily in the villages.
The soldiers came from Seik Gyi [Kya In Seik Gyi, 3 days' walk away].
When they arrived at our village they didn't build a camp, they just stayed
temporarily. They went patrolling to the other villages. After #44
[Division] left, they [other groups] came for three or four days at a time.
They went by sections, 100 soldiers covering 7 villages. The Burmese stayed
very close to me, two houses away from my house. I couldn't tell whether
there were DKBA together with the SLORC or not, but a lot of them were
speaking Karen language. They all had the same [SLORC] uniform. I knew
some of them but I don't know their names. I don't know where they came
from. Before I saw them walking along the road, following the Burmese.
[These may be SLORC soldiers who are Karen, DKBA soldiers attached to SLORC
units, or soldiers from KNLA Battalion #16, whose commander surrendered to
SLORC in February; some Battalion #16 soldiers have reportedly joined SLORC,
commander has set up a SLORC-run militia in Dooplaya District.]
Q: When were you a porter?
A: I was a porter once and then I escaped because I couldn't bear it. The
first time, in April, I was ordered to take their rations with my bullock
but the second time I had to carry things on my back. I had to carry gun
barrels and one bag - I don't know what was inside. I carried for 4 days.
Our loads were over 30 viss [48 kg./105 lb.]. We could barely even move,
it was too heavy. So I escaped and went back home. They didn't beat the
porters, but after 4 days carrying like this you couldn't even lie down on
your back. I had to carry for a distance of 3 miles, going and coming back,
again and again. We had to go by turns, one man for two or three days. In
xxxx [his village] they demanded 7 villagers every day. If the headman
didn't collect people to send replacements, they would never release the
porters. We had to carry rice and ammunition, ducks and chickens,
everything... They put everything that they took by force from the villagers
into baskets and ordered the porters to carry them. They started in Paw
Ner Mu, to Ywathit, Ywa Haw and then back to Meh Ta Kreh, Kru Kyi
and K'Kyar and then to M'Ya Done. Just around the whole area.
Q: How did they order you to do that?
A: They told the headman to call the people. If it was not for the headman
calling us, the Burmese would never find us. Our headman was afraid that
the Burmese would burn down the village so he tried to control the
villagers. We listened to our headman until we couldn't carry anymore.
After that, he couldn't do anything [to stop them from fleeing].
I cannot explain how much they torture the people. Some of our villagers
were beaten until they were bleeding. Many of those who were tortured by
the SLORC went to stay at xxxx. Some other villagers in our village were
put in the hole, but not me. They didn't allow us to see it and we couldn't
go near. We could listen from far away. My uncle had to suffer more than
me. He was put in the hole. When they put people in the hole, we were
not even allowed to go and give them some food.
Many people didn't dare face that any longer and ran away from the village.
The villagers don't even care about their property anymore, they would
rather flee. I came here without my wife even knowing. I dare not suffer
all that. My family still stays in xxxx. I don't know what to do. I came
just a few days ago and now I've decided to go back to xxxx and stay with
my wife. My family should move away from the Burmese. If it is possible,
I would like to go with them and stay in a refugee camp. If not, we will stay
there hiding. We could go and stay in the forest if there are not too many
of us. We are Karen people, we would like to stay there because it is our
land and our country. My farm is in the village, but we dare not work on
our farm and we have to leave the land. We are not free. Sometimes we
have to get passes, sometimes not. They treat us like children. People don't
want to work anymore and try to find a way to escape. Thinking about it, it
is better to stay in a refugee camp or somewhere else. If we escape, we
want to be safe.
NAME: "Saw Lay Htoo" SEX: M AGE: 56 Karen Christian farmer
FAMILY: Widower, 5 children (3 daughters and 2 sons)
ADDRESS: xxxx village, Waw Raw township INTERVIEWED: 8/97
["Saw Lay Htoo" lived in a Karen village along the Thanbyuzayat - Three
Pagodas Pass road, but had to flee after his village was ordered to relocate
and his house was burnt down.]
Originally I am from Doe Way Paw village, about 2 days walk from here in
Kya In township. I left my village 10 years ago because the Burmese were
doing operations in the area and they forced the villagers to work, so we
dared not stay. We went to live in xxxx village.
I arrived here one week ago because the Burmese burnt down our house in
xxxx, so we had to leave and we came to stay here. The Burmese forced us
to move to the village [to Three Pagodas Pass village], we didn't go and
then they came to burn down the houses.
Q: How did they order you to move?
A: They first came and told the villagers to move. I don't know which
Battalion, but I saw "62" on their uniform [this is #62 Infantry Battalion,
notorious in the region for destroying villages; it was this Battalion which
attacked Halockhani refugee camp in 1994]. We didn't move and after 4
days they came back and said to the villagers: "Don't stay here. Go and stay
at Three Pagodas Pass." I told him: "Yes, we can go and stay there but we
cannot bring our belongings with us." The villagers didn't go and the same
day they burnt our house down. xxxx. They burnt my house while I was
hunting in the forest but my family saw it. We lost everything which was in
the house, like clothes, pots, plates, ... everything! I felt very angry.
The villagers couldn't stay anymore, so all the households moved to the
Burmese place [to Three Pagodas Pass as ordered by the SLORC]. We
stayed there for a short time and they asked us to do this and that. They
ordered us to carry their things but I am old and I cannot carry anything, so
I asked the children to go. If any troops came, we had to go as their guides.
So altogether 6 members of my family came here: one daughter, one son,
the other daughter with her husband, one grandchild and myself.
Q: You were a farmer. Did you have to give paddy to the SLORC in
Three Pagodas Pass?
A: We haven't had to give any yet because we haven't stayed there very
long. If we had stayed there, we would have to.
Q: Before they burnt your house, did they take porters or ask for labour?
A: They demanded porters but the villagers had not gone yet. I haven't
been a porter but my children sometimes had to carry their things. Before
they burnt my house, we could stay there.
Q: What are your plans for the future?
A: I cannot do anything here so I am trying to work collecting bamboo
NAME: "Saw Shwe Hla" SEX: M AGE: 21 Karen Buddhist
FAMILY: Married, 2 children
ADDRESS: Klih Tu village, Ye township INTERVIEWED: 8/97
["Saw Shwe Hla" witnessed the beating by SLORC troops and subsequent
death of his village headman. He was interviewed just a few days after
fleeing the area.]
I ran from the Burmese because I do not dare stay. When the Burmese came,
they called us and we had no more time to work. They came and ate
our rice that we had prepared to store for our food, and they ate the fowl
that we reared. When they order us to work for them, they do not feed us
and we have to take our own rice with us. If they ask for porters and they
don't get them, they torture the village headman.
Q: Were you beaten?
A: Most people were but I escaped. The whole village was beaten and the
village head as well. It was at the beginning of this rainy season. They were
asking for guns. When the people said we didn't have guns, they started
beating people. They tortured our village leader and now he has already
died. They beat him with a stick, they hit him with a gun butt and they shot
him with a slingshot. They burnt him with a fire, they beat him with a rock
and they cut through his skin with a knife. I saw him. He was a tall man.
He was completely bruised and black. After the Burmese tortured him, he
went to the hospital in the morning, but the hospital wouldn't accept him
[for victims of shootings or beatings, written passes from SLORC officers
are required for admission to hospital; any doctor or nurse who treats such
a person without Army permission risks arrest or the loss of their licence
to practice]. So he came back to the village and died in our village.
He was the secretary of the village. His name was Kyaw Ta.
Q: Did your village receive an order to move?
A: No. There were 100 houses in our village and about 80 or 90 are still
left. Some people went to the towns, like Ler Moe Mor and Lai Sa Bya
[these are big Mon villages]. Some families came here. Some from Wah
Pyi came here too, after the Burmese came to their village.
Now the Burmese have left our village, but people are saying that they will
come again. I left my village about one month ago and went to stay outside
the village, in xxxx village. It is not near here. I stayed there because the
heavy rains stopped me from going further. There was no problem in xxxx,
because the Burmese never arrived there yet. But we heard that they will
come there too. So we came here. We slept two nights on the way. We
couldn't carry anything. We came with the children and it was raining too.
I came only with my own family. If we go to any other place we will be
among the Burmese again, so I don't want to go.
NAME: "Pa Ngeh" SEX: M AGE: 36 Karen Buddhist farmer
FAMILY: Married, 2 children
ADDRESS: xxxx village, Waw Raw township INTERVIEWED: 8/97
["Pa Ngeh" saw a woman and the headman tortured in his village so he
fled to Kyun Chaung, where he had to do forced labour for SLORC. Then
he fled back to his village, only to be ordered to move, so he finally
fled the area.]
I arrived last week, just over 10 days ago. We had to face so many
problems. They tortured people a lot. One or two people. The soldiers
tortured one of the women very seriously. There was a woman buying
something at the shop and they came close to her. She was afraid and ran.
Then the soldiers grabbed the woman shopkeeper and asked: "Who is that
woman?" She answered: "She is a good person." Then they said, "She is
not good. If she is good, she wouldn't have run!" And they started beating
the woman shopkeeper until she passed stools in her sarong. She had to
suffer instead of the woman who ran away. They wanted to beat the other
woman but couldn't run after her, so they accused the shopkeeper of being
a "Kaw Thoo Lei trader". They beat her I don't know how many times.
They hit her with a bamboo as big as this. I dared not look at it.
Many people were tortured in xxxx [his village], even the village head. I
saw the Burmese burn him with their cheroots and demand guns from him.
Now he has fled and is hiding in that area. I was not beaten, but I didn't
want to stay in xxxx anymore. That's why I went to stay in Kyun Chaung.
In Kyun Chaung I had to suffer too. I had to work for them weaving
bamboo every day. We had no time to work for ourselves. We had to go
and stay with them. I was there for two months and we had to cut the
bamboo, weave it and build a fence [part of the 7 layers of fencing SLORC
has placed around their new Army camp in Kyun Chaung]. So I went
back to xxxx [his home village], but I saw them there too. We had to
move. I was living in the outskirts of the village and they forced the
villagers who were living in the outskirts to move to the centre of the
So I fled. I came here because I had to move.
Q: Do you feel safe here?
A: I don't know but I will stay until other people move. Then I will move
with them. I won't go back.
NAME: "Saw Tamla Wah" SEX: M AGE: 41 Karen Christian pastor
FAMILY: Married, 3 children
ADDRESS: xxxx village, Kya In township INTERVIEWED: 8/97
["Saw Tamla Wah" is the Baptist pastor of his village. He fled 3 months
ago after being arrested and tied to a tree for 2 days by SLORC troops.]
Q: Why did you leave the village?
A: When #44 [Division] entered the area, the villagers heard that they
were torturing people a lot so they all ran here and there. I told them not
to run. I said if the Burmese make trouble for the villagers, I will face it.
We don't want our church and our congregation destroyed, our congregation
scattered, and we don't want our village and our families destroyed either.
So when #44 Division entered, I faced them in the village. I had to solve
their problems for them, so I became a leader among the villagers. The
Burmese started registering the names of all the villagers, and they often
called me for any number of reasons. And later on, #44 left.
Then #22 Division came into the village and they ordered me to go and see
them. I thought that I had done nothing wrong so I went. When I met their
group, they asked me to sit down beside the Captain and he told me, "Don't
tell me anything. Only when I ask you questions, then you must answer me.
Otherwise you mustn't question me or say anything." Then he told me many
things, and he accused me of having two guns and one walkie-talkie
and ordered me to bring them to him. Later on, he interrogated me three
more times. He sent the soldiers to call me to see him. I went three times
like that. After that, he said to me: "You are choosing the way to death!" I
had to go and bring these things [guns and a walkie-talkie] to him but I
had nothing, so I couldn't. Then he ordered me to get them from anywhere
I could and bring them back to him. I couldn't do that either.
So the Captain, I don't remember his name, tied my hands behind my back.
They tied up many people. They tied people up in the garden under the
trees. First they tied people with a rope, then they tied the rope to a tree,
and they had 3 sentries to guard each group. I was tied up to a friend of
mine. I didn't see the others because we were kept separately. I can't say
exactly how many were beaten, but I know more than 10. Their wives told
me about it later. They kept me like this for two days and one night. We
couldn't sleep because we were very anxious and we just had to sit there like
that. They gave food to us, the same food they ate. They didn't beat me
but they beat the others and dunked their heads in the Tha May river.
Some were beaten and kicked until they were bleeding. Some escaped but
they still haven't returned home yet. The man tied to me was not beaten,
but later on they ordered him to be a porter and sent him to another place,
about 5 or 6 miles away. I wasn't beaten, just kept like this for 2 days and
one night until the Battalion Commander arrived. He ordered the soldiers
to untie all the people that they had tied up. Then one by one, he
I escaped when the Major ordered me to go and talk to the villagers. He
said: "If they have any gun that is hidden or buried, they must show it and
give it to me. You are the pastor and most of the KNU leaders are
Christians, so if you speak to them they will listen to you. Tell them that
their fighting is now over, they must join us and work together with us."
That is why they let me go to the village. He let me go at 6 p.m. in the
evening and told me: "This same night you have to report to us!" and I said
to him: "Tonight I cannot arrive there." So he told me then: "Tomorrow at
6 a.m., you have to be back." I promised that I would be back at 6 a.m.
But I left with my family and didn't go back.
Q: What other things did the soldiers do in your village?
A: Three people have to go at all times and work for them. If they're
staying in their camp then the villagers have to work in their camp. They
also order the villagers to carry things to the frontline. The soldiers
front and keep the porters in the middle of their group [so they can't
escape]. They know that the Karen Army hasn't put mines around there so
that is why they don't send the porters in front of them.
The situation for the villagers is very difficult, because if the Karen
make any action close to the village, the blame is put on the villagers. For
example, if any mine explodes near the village, the village will be destroyed
by SLORC and the villagers have to move to another place.
In other villages too, some people were tortured badly but I didn't see that.
Pastors like me were tortured until the skin broke on their heads and their
jaws became swollen. I saw one that had to suffer that, but I heard that
many others suffered it too. His name was Thra E--- from H--- village, not
very far from us. We are friends and we work together. The Burmese hit
his head with their gun butts, kicked him and punched him, and his whole
body got swollen. He was beaten because one of his church congregation
members, Padoh T---, is a KNU leader. The SLORC told him, "He is your
church member. You must know everything about him and his
movements." That is why they beat him!
I didn't see it but I heard they raped 3 women from xxxx and yyyy villages in
Waw Raw area. When they entered the village the men were afraid, ran to
the forest and slept there. Then the Burmese went and raped the women.
This happened not so long ago, shortly before I came here. After I left my
village I also heard that one woman was raped by the soldiers in xxxx
village, a nearby village. That information I know is true. That happened
last month in July, when her husband went to sleep in the forest and the women
stayed alone in the village. She was 32 years old and she has 3 children.
She is the mother of G---. She is still staying there in the village.
Q: Is your village all Christian or mixed?
A: Our village has 20 households. Some are Buddhists, not all are
Christians. The SLORC don't care which you are. They also arrested
some Buddhist people but most of them were Christians. I didn't see any
sign of DKBA. When they arrested me, the soldier who was guarding me
was a Burmese guy from Rangoon. He talked about many things to me and
he said, "Among our #22 Division, some are DKBA. DKBA only
combined with us because they couldn't join the other Divisions." I knew
that some DKBA were with them so I was afraid. [Because DKBA members often
identify anyone they don't like, particularly Christians, as 'KNU' so that
SLORC will execute them.]
- [END OF PART 1 - SEE SUBSEQUENT POSTINGS FOR PART 2] -