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SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON MYANMAR-II
- Subject: SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON MYANMAR-II
- From: darnott@xxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Fri, 14 Nov 1997 09:46:00
IV. THE RIGHT TO FORM AND JOIN TRADE UNIONS
43. With respect to the right to form and join trade unions,
and notwithstanding the fact that Myanmar is a party to
International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention No. 87 of
1948 concerning freedom of association and protection of the
right to organize, workers and employees in Myanmar do not
enjoy the right to join organizations of their own choice
outside the existing structure. Furthermore, such
organizations do not have the right to join federations and
confederations or to affiliate with international
organizations without impediment.
44. This year again, the situation in Myanmar was examined by
the ILO Committee on the Application of Standards at the
eighty-fifth session of the International Labour Conference
held in June 1997 at Geneva. Regarding the application by
Myanmar of ILO Convention No. 87, the Committee took note of
the statement of the Myanmar Government representative
indicating his Government's commitment to harmonize law and
practice with the Convention in promoting and protecting the
legitimate rights of all workers.
45. The Committee recalled, however, that the case had been
discussed by the Committee on numerous occasions, in 1987,
1989, 1993, 1994, 1995 and 1996, and expressed serious concern
that the Government had not acted on the observations of the
Committee of Experts over many years, and that no trade unions
in the true sense of the term existed.
46. The Committee also insisted on the need for those
organizations to have the right to affiliate with federations
and confederations and with international organizations,
without any interference from the public authorities. The
Free Trade Unions of Burma is not allowed to function in the
country, and workers identified with it were under constant
surveillance by the police and the military intelligence
agency in permanent fear of arrest and torture.
47. Being concerned with the complete absence of progress in
the application of the Convention, the Committee on the
Application of Standards once again urged the Government of
Myanmar to adopt the measures and mechanisms necessary to
guarantee, in legislation and in practice, to all workers and
employers, without any distinction or any previous
authorization, the right to join organizations of their own
choosing to protect their interests.
48. The Committee once again expressed its profound regret
that it had not received a report from the Government, and
that the government representative to the Conference Committee
had only repeated what had been said in previous years
concerning its intention to apply the Convention without being
able to indicate that any specific positive developments had
occurred in law and in practice. It recalled that it had been
commenting upon the serious incompatibilities between the
Government's law and practice, on the one hand, and the
Convention, on the other hand, for 40 years.
49. In conclusion, the Committee expressed a firm hope that
substantial progress in the application of the Convention
might be noted in the very near future and urged the
Government of Myanmar to supply a detailed report to the
Committee of Experts at its next session. The Special
Rapporteur cannot but join the Committee on the Application of
Standards in the hope that it has expressed and in its efforts
to assist the Government of Myanmar in fulfilling its
obligations under Convention No. 87.
V. FORCED LABOUR
50. The prohibition of forced or compulsory labour can be
found in several conventions. The 1930 convention concerning
forced labour (ILO Convention No. 29) requires the suppression
of the use of forced or compulsory labour in all its forms.
The Convention defines forced or compulsory labour as "all
work or service which is exacted from any person under the
menace of any penalty and for which the said person has not
offered himself voluntarily". Work or service exacted in
virtue of compulsory military service laws for work of a
purely military character is exempted from the provisions.
This concerns military service for the purpose of national
defence, but not compulsory obligations to execute public
works. The Convention also makes an exception for work or
service required in genuine cases of emergency and forming
part of the normal civic obligations of citizens in a fully
self-governing country. Another exception is prison labour.
Prison labour may, however, be imposed only as a consequence
of a conviction in a court of law, and the person concerned
shall be supervised and controlled by public authorities and
not be hired to or placed at the disposal of private
individuals, companies or associations.
51. Another convention concerning forced or compulsory labour
is the 1957 convention concerning the abolition of forced
labour (ILO Convention No. 105). The Convention prohibits
every kind of forced or compulsory work as:
(a) A means of political coercion or education or as a
punishment for holding or expressing political views or views
ideologically opposed to the established political, social or
(b) A method of mobilizing and using labour for purposes
of economic development;
(c) A means of labour discipline;
(d) Punishment for having participated in strikes;
(e) A means of racial, social, national or religious
52. A general prohibition against slavery or servitude is
found in article 4 of the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights. Also the International Covenant on Civil and
Political Rights prohibits forced or compulsory labour, with
similar exemptions as in the 1930 convention concerning forced
labour (ILO Convention No. 29).
53. With respect to the prohibition of forced or compulsory
labour and notwithstanding the fact that Myanmar since 1955
has been a party to ILO Convention No. 29 concerning forced
labour, Myanmar still continues to use such labour.
54. Amendment or repeal of national legislation providing for
the exaction of labour and services, under the threat of
penalty, from residents who have not offered themselves
voluntarily has been called for by the ILO Committee of
Experts for the Application of Conventions and Recommendations
in comments regularly addressed to the Government since 1964.
Following the lodging of a representation by the International
Confederation of Free Trade Unions in January 1993, the ILO
Governing Body had urged the Government of Myanmar, in
November 1994, to ensure that the relevant legislation, in
particular the Village Act and the Towns Act, would be brought
into line with the Forced Labour Convention, as had already
been requested by the Committee of Experts, to ensure
that the formal repeal of the power to impose compulsory
labour be followed up in practice and to ensure that those
resorting to coercion in the recruitment of labour be
punished. At the International Labour Conference in June
1996, the Committee on the Application of Standards noted the
persistent failure of Myanmar to implement the Convention, and
25 worker-delegates lodged a complaint against Myanmar under
Article 26 of the ILO Constitution.
55. The complainants alleged that the Government of Myanmar
had demonstrated its unwillingness to act upon the repeated
calls addressed to it by the supervisory bodies of ILO to
abolish forced labour in law and in practice, and that instead
the practice of forced labour was becoming more widespread,
and the authorities in Myanmar were directly responsible for
its increasing use.
56. At its two hundred sixty-eighth session, in March 1997,
the Governing Body decided to refer the complaint to a
Commission of Inquiry chaired by Sir William Douglas
(Barbados). The Commission's mandate is to consider whether,
and to what extent, the alleged violations exist or existed
and to make any recommendations it deems appropriate. The
Commission held its first meeting in June 1997 to establish
its rules of procedure, and is expected to hold formal
hearings of witnesses in November 1997 in Geneva.
57. Forced labour is reportedly also taking place in all parts
of Myanmar, including those where a ceasefire has been agreed
upon. The most notorious form is front-line portering,
whereby the army raids villages and towns for porters
to carry its supplies and ammunition for offensives in the
border regions. This is the form of forced labour where the
most brutal treatment is inflicted and where most deaths
occur. Front-line portering accompanies all SLORC military
operations, most recently the offensives against the Karen
National Union in the dry season of 1997, in which an
estimated 30,000 porters were recruited, and the offensives in
Shan and Karenni states of 1996 and 1997. As a result of the
ceasefires with the Kachin (1994) and a number of other
groups, and the surrender of Khun Sa's Mong Tai Army in 1996,
there has been a reduction in the number of actual front-line
58. On 28 June 1997, according to reports received by the
Special Rapporteur, 17 villagers were seized by SLORC troops
at the village of Ho Thi, Laihka township. The villagers were
forced to carry ammunition and other military equipment.
59. It has been reported that the Myanmar army has
substantially increased its permanent presence in the border
regions. This in turn has led to an increase in non-front-
line forced labour for the military, such as non-front-line
portering and courier duties; building, maintaining and
guarding military roads and bridges; sweeping roads for mines,
and building and servicing military camps and farms.
60. The Special Rapporteur has received reports about forced
labour in Thabaung township, Irrawaddy Division. For the
joint services manoeuvres of divisions 22, 33, 55 and 77 in
the cool season of 1996/97, on all the village tracts within
Thabaung township, villagers had to construct, at their own
expense, temporary camps, barracks, stores, houses and
furniture. The villagers also had to construct a road along
the Hgawun River. To provide soil for the road, each
household had to dig a pit of a specified size. While they
were engaged in work connected to the military manoeuvres, the
villagers were unable to carry out their own work, which
resulted in a considerable drop in income for many of them.
Because of lack of nutrition and the unhealthy conditions of
the surrounding areas, many villagers engaged in the forced
labour project suffered from various diseases. In addition,
whole villages had to be moved in order to make room for the
61. On 4 July 1997, SLORC troops under the 44th Division led
by Major Aung Zaw Htun reportedly forced the villagers who had
been forced to relocate in Kunhing in 1997 to work for the
army without any payment. The male villagers had to cut
bamboo and build four layers of fences around the military
camp, as well as dig trenches between the layers of fences.
62. Another form of forced labour that has been reported to
the Special Rapporteur is work on commercial projects for the
army such as rice farms, paddy, fish pond and tree-planting
operations, which the local farmers have to build up and
maintain. The required land is reportedly confiscated from
63. Forced labour reportedly also occurs on infrastructure and
"development" projects such as the construction and
maintenance of roads, railways, bridges, airports,
hydroelectric schemes and tourist-oriented projects.
64. According to reports received by the Special Rapporteur,
forced labour was used to build a road from Ywamon to
Zeebyugone in Natmauk township during October 1996. People
from more than 40 villages in Natmauk were made to take
part in the project. Households that could not supply
labourers were made to pay. Work hours were from 8 in the
morning until 8 in the evening. Soldiers from 301 artillery
regiment (Meiktila), in charge of the project, punished,
regardless of age, those whose work they did not find
satisfactory. The victims were punched, made to hop like
frogs, run up and down and turn somersaults in mud patches.
65. It was reported that 13 people, including two women, were
arrested on 15 January 1997 because they refused to take part
in a forced labour project to build a road from Bassein to
Thalatgwa to Morton Point. Each household in 33 village
tracts had to provide one and a half baskets of rock.
Households that could not provide rock had to pay 2,000 kyats
to the Village Law and Order Restoration Council. The people
who went to break rocks were not given any medical care and
many came back from their forced labour sessions with various
illnesses. U Chit is reported to have fallen sick and died at
the labour site. U Khin Maung Win, Maung Kyin Hoke and Mang
Nyo also died while providing forced labour. It is also
reported that Daw Ni, 60 years old and unable to provide
either labour or money, was arrested on 6 January 1997 and
sent to Bassein jail on 8 January 1997.
66. The Special Rapporteur has been informed that TLORC built
a stupa in the Kyingyi village tract of Wuntho township. The
farmers of the township had to provide labour in turn. TLORC
decreed that those labourers should be referred to as "donors
of labour". Not only were households obliged to provide
labour, but those who could not provide labour themselves had
to hire substitutes. Some of the villagers working on the
project were beaten. The authorities in charge said after
they had beaten the villagers that they did not care if
complaints were lodged against them.
67. There were reports about forced contributions towards road
and bridge construction projects in Pwintbyu, Magwe Division.
In Pwintbyu township, landowners were made to contribute money
towards the construction of the Man Bridge. The landowners
were assessed at the rate of 200 kyats per acre owned. The
whole township had to contribute to the construction of the
Kanthagyi-Kyaungdawya road. The contributions were assessed
at the rate of 250 kyats per acre. All the households in the
township, including the poorest, had to contribute 360 kyat
each to the building of Salin Road. Every household had to
contribute between 45 and 70 kyats once every two weeks for
years for the Natyegan Road construction. Farmers were forced
to sell two baskets of split beans per acre to the authorities
at specified prices. Those who refused to sell were made to
stay under the hot sun for hours as punishment. Those who
complained about their treatment were beaten.
68. Forced labour has also been resorted to in Kawhmu
township. In the construction of the road to Htamanaing
village in December 1996, every household had to provide
labour or contribute money.
VI. VIOLATIONS AGAINST ETHNIC MINORITIES
69. The Special Rapporteur addressed the situation in the
ethnic minority States, especially those along the Myanmar/
Thailand border, in his previous reports to the General
Assembly (A/51/466, paras. 37-51) and to the Commission
on Human Rights (E/CN.4/1997/64, paras. 65-100). The Special
Rapporteur has received well-documented information on
military attacks and looting on civilian settlements, forced
relocation of ethnic groups, forced labour for development and
industrial projects and portering for military operations in
apparent manoeuvres against insurgents or those suspected of
70. In his report to the Commission on Human Rights, the
Special Rapporteur called upon the Government of Myanmar to
take immediate steps to put an end to the forced displacement
of persons, to prohibit the practice of forced labour and
forced portering and to prevent arbitrary killings and
confiscation of property in the ethnic minority areas.
A. Violations of civil rights
71. Allegations received by the Special Rapporteur concerned
serious and widespread violations of almost all civil rights.
In particular, there are persistent allegations of violations
of the rights to life, liberty and security of person; the
freedom from arbitrary arrest, detention and torture and
cruel, inhuman treatment or punishment; the right to due
process of law; and the freedom of movement. According to
reports and testimonies received, those allegations related
especially to three governmental tactics:
(a) Forced displacement;
(b) Indiscriminate bombardment of civilian settlements and
(c) Arbitrary arrest and torture of suspected "insurgents"
1. Forced displacement
72. Reports indicated that the effect of the actions of the
Government of Myanmar in the ethnic minority areas was to
force the relocation of the inhabitants from their traditional
and ancestral homeland to relocation sites that were subject
to tight military control.
73. The Special Rapporteur observes that at present, forcible
relocations appear to be taking place in two main contexts:
as part of development projects and under counter-insurgency
operations in ethnic minority regions of the countryside.
Although the practice of forced relocation by the military as
a means to control the population living in ethnic regions is
not new, the scale of such moves increased significantly in
1996, and it is still taking place today, especially in
central Shan State and in Kayah State.
74. Victims of displacement are mostly peasants, including
members of indigenous and/or ethnic groups such as the Karen,
Karenni, Shan and Mon, who are living in areas of insurgency
and victimized by counter-insurgency activities or caught in
the crossfire. Most of them have not been officially
registered and do not possess any identification cards or
other documents. In most cases, it was reported that persons
were given at most one week's notice to move and were told
that they would be shot if they did not comply. They were
forced to leave their piece of land, their crops and most of
their animals; much of the property was reportedly stolen
immediately or confiscated by SLORC troops.
75. Beginning in early March 1996 SLORC troops reportedly
relocated more than 600 villages, comprising more than 20,000
households, in central and southern areas of Shan State.
76. Beginning in April 1996 SLORC reportedly started a mass
relocation programme in Kayah State, relocating 100 villages
between the Pon and the Salween rivers to relocation sites in
Shadaw and Ywa Thit. Villagers received written orders
stating that they would be treated as enemies if they did not
move to the two relocation sites by June 1996.
77. Since 29 August 1996 SLORC troops stationed at Murngai had
reportedly forced the villagers of Kun Sai, Nar Loi and Wan
Mai, Murngnai township, to move into the town. The villagers
were given five days to transport their possessions. On 9
March 1997 SLORC troops reportedly ordered villagers from Wan
Nong Dee, Laihka township, to move to Laihka.
78. On 23 May 1997, SLORC troops from Murngkerng forced the
people of several villages, such as Wan Yab, Ton Pek, Ho Nar,
Loi Yang, Nar Taed, Tong Zu, Ham Ngai and Ho Khai, to all move
to Murngkerng town. People in Wan Phen and Nar Phen had to
move to Kaesee town.
79. On 1 June 1997 Captain Naw Win, head of TLORC in
Murngkerng, issued a written order forcing all the people in
the rural areas of Murngkerng to move close to the motorways.
The movement had to be completed within eight days, from 1 to
8 June 1997. Any villages or houses that failed to move would
be burnt down. In addition, the villagers were forbidden to
cultivate their farms and fields.
80. On 25 July 1997 a combined force of SLORC troops ordered
the residents of Lisaw village of Nawng Tao, 15 miles east of
Murngpan town, to move within three days, leaving much of
their property behind.
81. Numerous accounts received by the Special Rapporteur
indicated that the civilian population living in or near the
combat zone was the most susceptible to being forced to move:
in those "grey zones" (zones controlled or influenced by the
insurgents), the armed forces often resorted to ground
searches, destruction and burning of houses and confiscation
of property and food, which led the people to move temporarily
82. In April 1997 the seven villages of Wan Phar Wawng, Wan
Nawng Kern, Wan Zalai Loi, Wan Ho Nam, Wan Nawng Wo, Wan Kung
Parng and Wan Nam Maw Long, all in Laihka township, were
reportedly relocated and burned down by SLORC troops.
83. On 17 July 1997 a military column led by Captain Myint
Shwe came to Pa-nweh-po-klo village, Tavoy-Mergui District,
and allegedly burnt down the village's Christian church. On
26 July 1997 the column allegedly burnt down five houses and
the church in Pay-cha village.
84. Since the end of June 1997, as a part of the Myay Lan
Sanit campaign, SLORC troops have reportedly burnt down
approximately 256 Karenni houses in seven villages in the
Mawchhi area, as described below:
(a) On 20 August SLORC troops under the command of Win
Htwe burnt down 25 buildings in Lwe Po village, including the
(b) On 21 and 22 August SLORC troops allegedly burnt down
70 houses in upper and lower Gay Loe village and destroyed 21
acres of planted rice paddy as well as a substantial quantity
of brown rice;
(c) On 24 August SLORC troops under the command of Aung
Myo Min reportedly burnt down 28 houses in Kaw Moo De village;
(d) On 25 August SLORC troops under the command of Soe Nwe
and Win Soe allegedly burnt down 16 houses of Ywe Beh village
and destroyed 35 acres of planted rice paddy;
(e) On 25 August SLORC troops under the command of
Lieutenant Colonel Khin Mg Htay allegedly burnt down 25
buildings, including the church, in Hu Muu Lah village;
(f) On 26 August SLORC troops under the command of Major
Win Htwe allegedly burnt down the church of Kwe Kee village
and 54 houses of Htee Sar Beh Htee village;
(g) On 27 August SLORC troops allegedly burnt down 28
buildings in Bwe Lay Kho village, including the church.
2. Indiscriminate bombardment of civilian
settlements and arbitrary killings
85. Reports of artillery bombardment of civilian settlements
and the burning of villages have been received by the Special
Rapporteur on a regular basis since he was first appointed in
June 1996. He now has lists of allegedly destroyed villages
and ethnic settlements located in many areas (Shan, Kayin and
Kayah) of the vast border between Thailand and Myanmar.
However, there was a noticeable increase in the receipt of
allegations of arbitrary killings of civilians during the
summer of 1997.
86. On 9 March 1997 SLORC troops reportedly fired 79-mm mortar
shells into the village of Kun Hong, Laihka township, killing
Nang Seng and Loong Zum and wounding three others. Earlier
that day, SLORC troops from Laihka had forced the villagers to
move. However, five of the villagers had to spend the night
in the village owing to a shortage of carts in which to carry
them. Patrolling troops had fired mortar shells when they
heard a dog barking.
87. On 4 April SLORC troops allegedly fired M 79 grenades into
the Tard Mawk relocation site. Three villagers died and
another three were wounded. On 8 April 150 SLORC troops came
into the Tard Mawk relocation site and ordered all villagers
to move to a Laihka township within two days. On 10 April
SLORC troops reportedly burnt down all the more than 1,000
houses at the Tard Mawk relocation site.
88. On 16 April SLORC troops reportedly dropped six rounds of
mortar shells into Murangkerng town, causing a lot of damage.
For example, one of the shells exploded in the compound of
Kyawang Kham temple.
89. While the Special Rapporteur has received reports and
specific allegations of shelling and bombardments of civilian
settlements, the most consistent violation of the right to
life is said to stem from the continuing summary and arbitrary
executions within the border areas, resulting in the death of
large numbers of innocent persons, including women, children
and elderly persons. Such killings often take place when
relocated people try to go back to their original villages in
order to work their fields or take their possessions 90. On 19
April 1997 two women from Kung Kyawng village, Namzarng
township, were reportedly raped and killed by seven SLORC
troops south of Kho Lam. The two women had gone to tend their
91. On 4 May Sai Nya Mon was reportedly shot dead by SLORC
troops from Nam Mo. Sai Nya Mon had gotten permission from
the SLORC troops to work on his farm at his former village of
Kun Sai. While he was driving his old bullock cart towards
Kun Sai, SLORC troops went after him and shot him dead in a
field near the village. The soldiers left the cart and took
the oxen back to Nam Mo where they killed them for meat.
92. On 11 May 15 Palawng villagers of Pha Ngarb village,
Namzarng township, were reportedly killed near the village of
Nawng Kwai. The villagers, who had been relocated at Kho Lam,
had gone back to their former village of Pha Ngarb with five
hired bullock carts to gather their belongings. Their bodies
were dumped together in a pile, and all the carts and oxen
were taken away by SLORC soldiers.
93. On 11 May Sai Nan Ti of Pa Mai village, Namzarng township,
was reportedly shot dead on sight by SLORC troops. He had
gone searching for his oxen near his former village of Pa Mai
after being relocated at Kho Lam. On 14 May Sai Nan Ta
and his brother, both from Wan Nang village, were reportedly
arrested and killed while cleaning the irrigation ditches in
their rice field at the village of Wan Nang near Nam Mawng
stream, five miles south of Kho Lam. One of the brothers
had run and jumped into Nam Mawng stream, but was chased and
shot dead in the water. The other was tied up and beaten to
death with a heavy stick on the bank of Nam Mawng stream.
94. On 6 June troops led by Major Nyunt Oo arrested 26 people
in Pha Lang village, Kunhing District. The people were
accused of having relocated without permission. According to
the information received, all 26 villagers were tied up and
shot dead at close range. The following villagers were
reported killed: Pu Loi Kaw, Nai Loi Poi, Lai Zern Yong, Nai
Zing, Su Nan Ta, Nang Kham, Sang Aw, Khat Nya, Wi Ling, Mu
Ling, Kaw Ling, Su Ping Nya, Khing Thun, Khing Min, Sai Wong,
Loong Man, Ae Nang, Kaw Ya, Su Ling, Loong Saw, Nang Lao, Nang
Mart, Nang Seng Zing, Ook Ta Ma, Na Ling and Su Nan Ta.
95. On 11 June a patrol of SLORC troops killed 10 villagers
who were gathering at a rice paddy in the deserted village of
Wan Phai in Kunhing township. The reported victims were Loong
Zarm, Pan Ti, Sai Suay, Sai Ekka, Su Zing, Kaw Na, Khing
Khong, Wa Ling Ta, Khing Ung and Pan Ta.
96. Apart from the allegations of indiscriminate killings and
burning of civilian settlements, the Special Rapporteur has
continued to receive allegations of other arbitrary killings
and extrajudicial executions of persons, either in their
villages or after having been taken by the military from the
area. General reports have been received stating that all
persons are at risk of arbitrary killing on the mere suspicion
of being a "criminal" or "sympathizer", or of harbouring or
assisting "insurgents". Testimony indicates that some persons
who tried to flee were threatened or actually prohibited from
doing so. Attempting to flee is said to be interpreted by the
authorities as positive proof of participation in or sympathy
with the insurgency and of an intention to report on the
abuses committed by the army. Others were required to obtain
safe-conduct passes or pay high fees at checkpoints for
permission to leave. Other sources have reported incidents of
women and children being shot at while fleeing in areas near
the border with Thailand.
97. On 29 March 1997 SLORC troops from Kho Lam under the
command of Major General Khin Maung reportedly killed Sai Phit
of Nawng Kwai village, Namzarng township. He was arrested at
his house while sleeping with his wife and children, tied up
with rope and taken to a place near a white bridge in the
village, where he was beaten while being interrogated and
finally shot dead.
98. On 18 May 1997 Major Aye Thant and his troops reportedly
killed Sai Vi, Sai Vilarsa and Sai Saw Ta in Wan Mawk Zali
village, Murngton township. The three men were arrested,
accused of being soldiers of the Shan United Revolutionary
Army (SURA), tied up, beaten, put into sacks and submerged in
water several times before they were killed.
99. On 20 May SLORC troops led by Major Aye Thant reportedly
killed Sai Ti Mar and Sai Thun in the village of Mawk Zali,
Murngton township. Accused of supporting SURA they were tied
up, beaten, put into sacks and submerged several times into
water until they were dead.
100. On 22 May Major Kyi Aung and his troops from Murng Tar
reportedly killed Loong Tan, Loong Than Ou, Loong Su, Sai Aw
Ta, Sai Vi Zing Tar and Nang Kham in Wan Huay Aw. The six
villagers had been arrested two days earlier and accused
of having given SURA food and news.
101. It was reported that between mid-June and mid-July at
least 400 civilians had been killed by SLORC troops in the
areas of Sai Kao, Kaeng Lom, Kaeng Kham and Kho Lam in Kunhing
102. On 11 July, on the road that branches out from the
main road to Kaeng Lom, the corpses of 26 villagers were lined
up with their heads laid besides their bodies. On 12 July, on
the road between Kaeng Lom and Kaeng Tawng, 17 corpses were
lined up in the same manner.
3. Arbitrary arrest and torture of suspected
"insurgents" and "terrorists"
103. Reports indicate that the people living in Shan State
are in constant fear of arbitrary arrest and detention. It is
further stated that in the course of arrest and detention
persons are subject to harsh treatment and torture while being
denied access to virtually any form of judicial process. As a
result, there appears to be a widespread, if not universal,
fear of governmental authorities in the region.
104. Reports received refer to the army, Tatmadaw, as
responsible for arbitrary arrests and detentions. Large
numbers of security checkpoints are said to have been placed
in and around the towns and cities of the region. Military
patrols are said to move in and out of the border areas
arresting civilians when they are so inclined. Testimony
indicates that often the distinction between insurgents and
non-combatants is not made and that, therefore, the
inhabitants of those areas who are suspected of being
insurgents or sympathizers of insurgents are subject to
indiscriminate torture, beatings and arbitrary arrest.
105. On 31 March 1997, SLORC troops reportedly tortured
four villagers of Wan Parng village, Laihka township. The
soldiers tied them up with ropes, beat them and interrogated
them. After a while, when the villagers could not tell
soldiers what they wanted to know, they tied hay to the body
and arms of one villager, set fire to the hay and let him
loose. They tied another villager to a post of a hut and
burned him with the hut. Meanwhile, the soldiers forced the
other two villagers to watch and threatened to do the same to
them if they did not tell what they knew. The soldiers beat
the two men several more times and finally threw them into Nam
Tawng stream east of Wan Parng. After the SLORC troops left
the scene, the two villagers who were burned managed to free
themselves and walked to the home of their relatives at Zalai
village, seven to eight miles to the south. Although their
relatives immediately sent them to the hospital in Laihka,
both of them died there shortly afterward. One of the
victims, who was accused of defying orders by refusing to move
away and of having connections with the Shan resistance, was
Sai Lao, 18 years of age.
106. In early April Loong Pingnya, a villager of Kan Kan,
Murngpan township, was reportedly tortured by SLORC troops.
His hands and feet were reportedly bound and he was stuffed
into a gunny sack. The troops tied the mouth of the sack and
submerged him in the water under a bridge near the Pho Ti
temple, pulled him out after a few minutes and trampled on his
chest until water gushed out of his mouth while interrogating
him. Then the troops submerged him in the water again. The
procedure continued until he died.
107. On 13 April SLORC troops reportedly tortured a
villager from Pang Tet Teo, a 60-year-old man named Loong La,
near Nawng Ya Sai village, Laihka township. They tied him up,
beat him, rolled a piece of bamboo on his shins and finally
cut off his lips. He was arrested while tending a small plot
of onions on his farm, accused of supporting the Shan
108. On 1 July SLORC troops led by Major Htun Mya ransacked
the Kaeng Lom area and reportedly arrested 96 villagers of
Waeng Kham, Kun Mi, Wo Long, Nar Taw, Wan Parng, Ho Ha, Nar
Poi, Karng Nar, Nar Yao, Son Sarng, Nar Khar Awn and Nar
Khar Long villages. They were all gathered together at the
village of Kun Mi and were beaten, tortured and questioned.
On 3 and 4 July the SLORC troops put plastic bags over the
villagers' heads until they suffocated and threw the bodies
into the Nam Parng River. The women were allegedly raped
before being killed.
109. On 12 August 1997 the Ler-der-poo villager Saw Bla
Daya was allegedly arrested and executed by a military column
led by Khin Maung Win. The following day the column
reportedly arrested and executed Hseet-ku villagers Saw Ko
Sher, Saw Ba Nee, Saw Pee Ler, Saw Ba Shwe and Saw Wah Ler.
B. Treatment of the Muslim population in Rakhine State
110. According to information received by the Special
Rapporteur, there are estimated to be about 7 million Muslims
living in Myanmar today approximately 1.2 million of whom live
in the Rakhine State. The first Muslims in the Rakhine area
immigrated in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. A second
wave of immigration occurred in the seventeenth century, and a
third in the early nineteenth century. The third immigration
movement took place while Myanmar (then Burma) was a colony
under British rule. The movement of person across what would
later become the border between India and Myanmar was
unimpeded and natural. By the time Burma became an
independent union in 1948, there was a consolidated Burmese
Muslim population of Indian ethnic origin.
111. In early 1992 there was a mass influx of some 250,000
Muslim refugees, referred to as Rohingyas, into Bangladesh
from Rakhine State in Myanmar. In order to address the
problem, a joint statement was made by the Governments of
Myanmar and Bangladesh, on 23 April 1992, concerning the
voluntary repatriation of the refugees. Bangladesh requested
the assistance of the Office of the United Nations High
Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to facilitate the
repatriation and memoranda of understanding between UNHCR and
the Governments of Bangladesh and Myanmar, which were signed
on 12 May and 5 November 1993 respectively.
112. Between September 1992 and the end of 1996, a total of
220,118 refugees had returned to Myanmar and, according to
UNHCR, it was anticipated that the remaining 30,000 refugees
would have returned from Bangladesh to Myanmar by June 1997.
113. Although the repatriation process was scheduled to be
completed by mid-1997, the Special Rapporteur has been
informed that between 5,000 and 25,000 Muslim refugees had
fled over the border to Bangladesh in the first half of 1997
in order to escape forced labour, portering and starvation.
114. Indeed, extensive recruitment for compulsory labour
was mentioned as one of the main reasons for the mass exodus
in 1991 and 1992. It continues to be an issue of concern.
Although UNHCR has, from the outset of its involvement,
focused on this issue and has repeatedly intervened with
regard to returnees being called for compulsory labour, the
authorities agreed to exempt the returnees only for the first
two months after their arrival and to limit compulsory labour
for the entire population in the area. In addition, the
Muslim population of northern Rakhine State, including
returnees, are subject to compulsory labour requests by
different government authorities. They are forced to provide
physical labour for 7 to 10 days a month without pay.
115. In December 1996 and January 1997 Rohingya villagers
were reportedly used for forced labour in Rakhine State.
Prisoners in chains and villagers were forced to work on roads
from Kyautaw to Buthidaung and from Sittwe to Kyawtaw.
116. According to testimony received by the Special
Rapporteur, many of the new refugees said that they had fled
because of starvation. The food situation worsened in
mid-1997 because of the fact that the whole of Myanmar
suffered severe inflation, with the value of the kyat falling
from $1:120 kyats in January 1997 to $1:380 kyats in June
1997. In Arakan State rice prices increased to 60 kyats per
kilo in June 1997, compared to 20 kyats in June 1996. Taking
into account that an average wage for a day labourer was only
50 kyats and that SLORC reportedly refused to allow local
traders to import rice from Bangladesh, people were left with
no option but to flee.
117. Cases of physical abuse and extortion of returnees
have also been reported to the Special Rapporteur. As is the
case for the rest of the local population in Rakhine State,
all the families are requested to contribute financially or by
contributing crops as taxes for the various development
projects that are being carried out in the region.
118. In February 1996 Rohingyas reportedly had to pay a fee
when going to the river to fish or to the forest to cut
bamboo. Further, a 35-year-old man from Maungdaw reportedly
had to pay 20 kyats for a permit to travel every time he
wanted to go to the market to sell his eggs or chicken meat.