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KHRG Commentary #98-C2, Part 2 of 2

                      KAREN HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP

              November 24, 1998     /     KHRG #98-C2


         [Some details omitted for Internet distribution]

Pa'an district forms much of the heartland of central Karen State, but 
villagers here are finding it very hard to survive because of a steady 
increase in extortion of cash and materials by all of the SPDC troops in
region.  In the eastern part of the district, farmers seen in their fields
patrols are frequently grabbed as porters; to avoid this, people who see 
patrols usually try to run, and then the soldiers shoot them.  Many of
troops are fighting the KNLA in the east of the district, and in the
they have started to order the forced relocation of villages.  On the east 
side of the Dawna mountains, SPDC troops burned and destroyed Meh 
Lah Ah, Meh Keh, Tha Pwih Hser, Po Ti Pwa and Noh Aw Pu villages in 
September, and looted and terrorised several other villages until everyone 
in the area fled for the hills or for Thailand.  In southeastern Pa'an
they told the people of several villages that they are all to be forced to 
relocate as soon as the harvest is complete.  However, much of the harvest 
is already being lost because people are fleeing the increased extortion
forced portering.


"After the date of issue of this order, it is warned that the Army will go 
around clearing the area and should any village or small huts in the 
paddy fields be found still standing, they will all be dismantled and 
destroyed."  - Text of written order from SPDC Infantry Battalion #104 to 
several villages in southern Pa'an district ordering them to move, August 
1998 (Report #98-08)

"Three groups of soldiers came to the village with about 100 soldiers in 
each group.  About 300 soldiers came to the village altogether.  When 
the first group of Burmese entered the village, they burned many of the 
houses and then they continued on to another village.  Then another 
group came and burned down more of the village.  They burned down 
many houses in many villages.  First they burned Meh Keh, then Tha 
Pwih Hser, then Po Ti Pwa, and then Meh Lah Ah village. ? They took 
the newest clothing from our houses and then burned everything else.  
They arrived less than a month ago, within the last 18 days."  - "Saw 
Joseph" (M, 34), Meh Keh village, northern Pa'an district, describing the 
destruction of his village in September 1998 by SPDC troops (Report #98-

"?both the Burmese and the DKBA said that after we finish our 
harvest they would force us to relocate to Htee Wah Blaw K'Waw Bu.  
They said that if we ran to the jungle they would sweep us up like a 
broom.  The commander of the DKBA, Thein Shwe, said, 'If we see you 
in the jungle when we come, you will be in our gunsights.'" - "Pi San 
San" (F, 50), Taw Oak village, southern Pa'an District; the harvest will be

finished in December 1998 (Report #98-08)

"We barely escaped, just after we ran out of the village a bomb exploded 
behind us in Meh Lah Ah. ? We didn't even think to take our pigs and 
chickens.  We could only take what we were wearing and a small bag."  
- Woman from Meh Lah Ah village, northern Pa'an district, describing the 
SPDC destruction of her village in September 1998 (Report #98-08)

The KNLA, SPDC and Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) are all 
using landmines intensively throughout the area and many villagers are 
being wounded or killed by these.  In southeastern Pa'an district SPDC and 
DKBA columns are now taking women and children specifically to march 
in front of their columns to detonate landmines.  People from the small 
village of Taw Oak say that in their village alone 6 people have been
by landmines in the past year, most of them while being used as human 
minesweepers by SPDC troops.  At the same time as the SPDC and DKBA 
continue to demand porters more often and use them as minesweepers, 
they are demanding as much as 700 Kyat per month extortion money from 
each family, as well as other standard fees.  As a result the villagers
no more money to pay to get out of the portering assignments, but they 
don't dare go as human minesweepers so they are fleeing their villages.  
(See "Uncertainty, Fear and Flight", KHRG #98-08, 18/11/98.) 


"The Burmese forced people in our village to be porters, and in other 
villages they forced everyone, even the old women and the children.  
They force people to go as porters and to go in front of them to clear 
landmines.  Many women and children have died when they went as 
porters. ? Now the villagers who are still there are giving them money, 
but if the soldiers go fighting they still gather the women and children to

go in front of them to set off the landmines.  If the Kaw Thoo Lei 
[KNLA] shoot at them the bullets will hurt the women and children, but 
if we don't go in front of them they torture the villagers."  - "Naw Lah 
Say" (F, 25), Taw Oak village, southern Pa'an district (Report #98-08)

"Every time they entered the village they forced villagers to go as 
porters, and some villagers didn't dare go as porters.  Some of those who 
went as porters died, and some got wounded or lost their legs and hands.  
Six people died as porters last year.  Yeh Paw Ta, and Naw Hser's 
mother.  Naw Hser's mother was 54, and I don't know how old Yay Paw 
Ta was, I think he was over 40.  Also Naw Sghu, she was just over 30.  
Dta Oh, he was 30 years old.  And Naw Hser Paw - she was 18 years old.  
Her husband's name is Hsa Ler Lah.  She was carrying her small baby 
daughter, who was only one or two months old.  When she stepped on 
the landmine she died together with her baby, and a girl and a boy lost 
their legs - Ma Leh Kyo and Pa Roh. ? All of them were from Taw Oak 
village.  They also killed Pa Mu Dah, who was 15 years old, and Set Lay.  
He was about 40.  He was married with no children, but his wife is 
pregnant.  Another one they killed was Maung Thaung Ngeh.  He was 
30 and married.  The Burmese killed his wife as well.  Her name was 
Naw Ga May, she was about 25.  They had 2 children, both daughters.  
They've killed all those people just this hot season [between March and 
August 1998]."  - "Saw Tha Wah" (M, 42), Taw Oak village, southern 
Pa'an district (Report #98-08)

Just south of Pa'an district is Dooplaya district, extending to the
tip of Karen State with extensive fertile plains in the west and mountains 
in the east.  Much of this region was controlled by the Karen National 
Union (KNU) until the SLORC mounted a major military offensive and 
overran most of it in early 1997.  The KNLA continues to conduct 
guerrilla activities there, and the SPDC is systematically working to 
consolidate total control over the region.  To do this they conduct
forced relocations in areas of central and far southern Dooplaya whenever 
KNLA activity becomes frequent.  They also impose heavy restrictions on 
the Karen rice farmers who populate the region; those who live in 
farmfield huts or houses far from their villages have been forced to move 
into the centre of their villages, and no one is allowed to be outside of 
villages without an SPDC pass.  In most places these passes only allow 
villagers to leave the village in the morning and return by sunset, making
extremely difficult for people whose fields are one or two hours' walk 
from the village.  Rice farming is labour intensive and during the period 
from June to November people need to spend most of their time living in 
their farmfield huts, but the SPDC has prohibited this.  Farmers going to 
their fields are only allowed to take tiny amounts of rice to eat with them

so that they will have none they could give to KNLA troops; however, the 
amount allowed is usually less than they need even to feed themselves 
while working.  Even with a pass to be in the fields, farmers spotted by 
passing SPDC patrols are frequently taken as porters.


"They [the villagers] can't stay in their field huts because when they go 
to their farms they must get a pass that only lasts for one day's work.  If

they don't have a pass then they [SPDC soldiers] treat them as their 
enemy. ? The villagers had to give the Burmese some rice even though 
they [the soldiers] already received some rice from town [their rations].  
Now in Kyaikdon area they have taken some fields.  The Burmese are 
supervising these confiscated fields and forcing the villagers to work 
often on the fields.  The Burmese have established a paddy plantation at 
Kyaikdon but it is the villagers who have to do all the work on it."  - 
Karen relief worker who visited central Dooplaya from July-September 
1998 (Report #98-09)

"(M)any people are sick, they are coughing a lot.  Some also have 
diarrhoea.  They can't find any medicine.  Two people have already died, 
a 2-year-old girl died ten days ago and another child died about a month 
ago.  They both died of diarrhoea, which they'd had for almost two 
months.  They wouldn't have died if they'd had medicine.  In the past, 
children in Kyo G'Lee [area] who had medicine didn't die from this."  - 
Villager from eastern Dooplaya district describing conditions since the 
SPDC occupation (Report #98-09)

Their ability to support themselves also suffers because in addition to
farming work they must do rotating shifts of forced labour at army camps, 
as porters, and upgrading the road network through the area for the 
military.  They are also forced to pay extortion money and often see their 
livestock, fruit trees and vegetable gardens looted by SPDC troops but 
cannot dare say anything about it.  As the SPDC entrenches its control 
over the area, the patterns of extortion and demands for rotating forced 
labour become more systematic, and steadily heavier on the villagers.  
Some flee to become internally displaced, but it is not as easy to hide in 
the plains and forests of Dooplaya as it is in the remote hills of Papun or

Taungoo district.  Many have fled to Thailand, but it is very difficult to
admitted to refugee camps in Thailand without being forcibly repatriated 
by the Thai Army.  Most of the people simply stay in their villages or flee

from one village to the next, trying to find a place where they can
(See "Dooplaya Under the SPDC", KHRG #98-09, 23/11/98.)


"You the headperson are informed to send 5 permanent servants with 
their own rice to arrive today for the use of Frontline #208 Light 
Infantry Battalion, Column 2, and prepare to rotate the servants every 5 
days."  - Text of written SPDC order to a village in western Dooplaya, 
July 1998 (Report #98-09)

"They ordered the Kwih Kler villagers to go to their camp every day, 
their camp was there.  They forced 2 villagers to do sentry duty around 
their camp.  Even though the villagers had a lot of work to do they 
forced them to help them.  They only called men to help, but if there 
were no men in the house a woman had to go.  The women were forced 
to clean their camp.  The women also had to clean [wipe and polish] the 
gate that was in the fence surrounding the camp.  The men were forced 
to clear and dig out mud from the bunkers. ? When I was digging I got 
a cold with a bad cough and chest pain.  My body was in a lot of pain 
and I had to take penicillin. ? I also had to do sentry duty twice for one 
day and a night each time.  They didn't give me food and I had to sleep 
at the camp in the evening.  I could see my house from their camp but 
they still forced us to sleep on the ground at the gate of their camp?"  - 
Villager (M, 25) from central Dooplaya district (Report #98-09)

"When they were forcing you to porter, did they say anything to you?"
"Yes, they said to us, 'Nga Lo Ma Tha!' ['I fucked your mother and you 
are the child!'], 'Kway Ma Tha!' ['Son of a bitch!'], and 'You are a lazy 
porter and if I kick you, you'll go flying!'"  - Villager (M, 21) from Saw 
Hta (Azin) village, central Dooplaya (Report #98-09)

In Tenasserim Division, which forms the southernmost leg of Burma, the 
KNU controlled a lot of territory until the SLORC mounted an offensive in 
early 1997 at the same time as the Dooplaya offensive.  They succeeded in 
taking away the KNU's control over territory, but they have not been very 
successful in establishing any control of their own because of the rugged 
terrain of much of the region and the strong resistance put up by the 
KNLA and other associated armies.  According to KNU sources in 
Tenasserim, the SPDC is now forcing many hill villages to relocate to sites

near the vehicle roads or their garrisons, but most villagers are not
and are trying to stay in the forest in the hills near their villages. 
report that some villages have been shelled, and that recently SPDC troops 
have been going through the hills in some areas destroying rice crops when 
they can and sometimes shooting at farmers working in their fields.


"I don't think the Burmese will make peace.  If the KNLA gives their 
guns to the Burmese, then the Burmese will only persecute us more 
easily and abuse us until we're lost." - Village elder (M, 58) in 
northeastern Pa'an District (Report #98-08)

For all of the SPDC's rhetoric about increasing rice production and 
exports, it is clear that they are doing everything they can to wipe out
production in any part of the country where they are not completely in 
control, apparently without realising that they will never gain complete 
control as long as they continue to alienate the people in this way.  In
where they are in control, confiscation of ever-increasing quotas of rice 
from farmers for only 10 to 20 percent of market price, combined with 
steady demands for extortion money and forced labour, are making it very 
difficult for farmers to continue.  In many cases, particularly in bad crop

years like 1997 and 1998, the quotas demanded of them exceed their entire 
crop, so they must buy rice on the open market just to sell it to the SPDC 
for 10-20% of market price, then live on rice soup themselves.  Facing 
situations like these, farmers throughout Burma are finding it harder every

year to obtain enough seed paddy to grow a full crop.  Many have to go 
into debt to the local SPDC authorities to do so, and when they cannot pay 
they lose their land, even if their failure to pay was caused by extortion 
demands by the local military.


"They asked me for money but I had no money because I was just a 
farmer.  I only had money sometimes when I hired myself out to work.  
If I couldn't give them money they said they'd hit me and kill me.  So I 
had to borrow some money from another villager.  If I couldn't find the 
money, I had to go as a porter for them."  - Villager (M) from Pah Klu 
village, southern Pa'an district, describing extortion by SPDC troops 
(Report #98-08)

"If we stay there we have no money to buy food.  We had to find one 
Kyat or two Kyats, then use it to buy food, but whenever they asked for 
money we had to give it to them.  The Burmese demanded money as 
taxes.  We'd earn money for food but then we couldn't buy any because 
we had to give it all to them, 2,000 Kyat, 3,000 Kyat, sometimes 4,000 or 
5,000 Kyat every month.  If we couldn't pay them they threatened that 
they would come to burn our houses, drive us out of the village or do 
many other bad things."  - "Naw Lah Say" (F, 25) from Taw Oak village, 
southern Pa'an district (Report #98-08)

"[You] are informed to send (30) logs, (6) inches in diameter and (8) 
feet in length, for repairs to the camp, to Kyaung Ywa camp before 25-1-
98.  If [you] fail to send [them], it will be the gentleman's [i.e. your] 
responsibility alone."  - Text of written SPDC order to a village in 
southern Dooplaya, January 1998 (Report #98-09)

The entire system is unsustainable.  Those who look only at the cities, and

possibly even the SPDC leadership itself, can choose to ignore what is 
happening in the rural areas if they like, and can try to explain the
of the Burmese economy and rocketing rice prices by looking at foreign 
stock exchanges when the real explanation is in the villages.  The SPDC 
can continue trying to avoid urban uprisings by making the rural people do 
all of the forced labour, hand over their rice and pay most of the
money.  But in the end Burma's economy is based on agriculture, that 
economy is steadily being destroyed, and the people in the cities are 
already feeling the effects.  For all of the SPDC's intimidation and
tensions have been rising in Rangoon and people have mounted 
demonstrations right in the face of the guns once again.  People are 
becoming more angry and more desperate, and it remains to be seen how 
much more they are willing to take.


"I worked in my village but I couldn't get any support.  Burma is our 
country but nobody there treats us fairly when we work.  When my 
children got sick, I had to buy medicine for them in the shop and treat 
them myself.  When I stayed in  Po Hsi Mu for the last two months I 
spent over 10,000 Kyats that way, and I realised I could not stay like that

anymore.  If I'd stayed there much longer my children would have died 
there, we all would have died there."  - "Naw Ghay Wah" (F, 31), 
schoolteacher from Pa'an district who was ordered to move and become a 
teacher in Dooplaya after the SLORC occupation; she and her husband 
were both schoolteachers but found they couldn't survive in either Pa'an or

Dooplaya districts, so they fled to Thailand (Report #98-09)

"Right now we have to suffer from poverty, but we can survive.  But if 
the problems or the poverty get any worse than they are right now, about 
all we can do is cut off our own heads and die.  We already tried to run 
to the refugee camp, but then we had to come back here because the 
DKBA attacked the refugee camp." - "Pati Lah Say" (M, 43), villager in 
northeastern Pa'an District (Report #98-08)

"I would like to say that if the situation is good in the future I will
you about the good things, but if the situation is bad I will tell you
the bad things.  What I have told you is true and I hope that the 
situation will be better in the future.  Now we villagers have difficult 
lives because the SPDC persecutes us.  I would like to ask the foreign 
countries to please help us and to do whatever they can as soon as 
possible."  - "Saw Win Than" (M, 50), a village elder from southern 
Dooplaya district (Report #98-09)

                       - [END OF REPORT] -