[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index ][Thread Index ]

FALSE PEACE-Increasing SPDC Militar

Subject: FALSE PEACE-Increasing SPDC Military Repression in Toungoo

District of Northern Karen State
To:  "Burma Net-l @igc.apc.org" <burmanet-l@xxxxxxxxxxx>,
X-MIME-Autoconverted: from quoted-printable to 8bit by igc7.igc.org id WAA02708
X-Mailer: QUALCOMM Windows Eudora Pro Version 4.0
X-Sender: strider@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Increasing SPDC Military Repression in Toungoo District of Northern
Karen State

An Independent Report by the Karen Human Rights Group
March 25, 1999 / KHRG #99-02

    [Some details have been omitted or replaced by ?xxxx? for Internet

This report describes the current situation for rural Karen villagers in
Toungoo District (known in Karen as Taw Oo), which
is the northernmost region of Karen State in Burma. The western part of
the district forms part of the Sittaung River valley
in Pegu (Bago) Division, and this region is strongly controlled by the
State Peace & Development Council (SPDC) military
junta which rules Burma. Further east, the District is made up of steep
and forested hills penetrated by only one or two
roads and dotted with small Karen villages; in this region the SPDC is
struggling to strengthen its control in the face of
armed resistance by the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA). In the
strongly SPDC-controlled areas, the villagers
suffer from constant demands for forced labour and money from all of the
SPDC military units based there, and from the
constant threat of punishments should their village fail to comply with
any order of the military. In the eastern hills, many
villages have been forcibly relocated and partly burned as part of the
SPDC?s program of attempting to undermine the
resistance by attacking the civilian villagers. Here people are
suffering all forms of serious human rights abuses
committed by SPDC troops, including random killings, burning of homes,
the systematic destruction of crops and food
supplies, forced labour, looting and extortion.

In order to produce this report, KHRG human rights monitors have
interviewed villagers in the SPDC-controlled areas, the
hill villages, and the relocation sites, as well as those hiding in the
forests and some who fled to Thailand to become
refugees. Their testimonies are augmented by incident reports gathered
by KHRG human rights monitors and Karen relief
workers in the region, and by SPDC order documents which have been sent
to village elders. To see more order
documents and photos which relate to the abuses documented in this
report, readers should see the KHRG report "SPDC

Orders to Villages: Set 99-A" (KHRG #99-01, 10/2/99) and KHRG Photo Set
99-A (March 1, 1999). These are both
available on the KHRG website

This report consists of several parts: this preface, an introduction and
executive summary, a detailed description of the
situation including quotes from interviews, and finally the full text of
most of the interviews and field reports upon which
the report is based.

                                               Notes on the Text

In the interviews and the situation report, all names of those
interviewed have been changed and some details have been
omitted where necessary to protect people from retaliation. The captions
under the quotes in the situation report include
the interviewee?s (changed) name, gender, age and village, and a
reference to the interview or field report number. These
numbers can be used to find the full text of the interview or field
report in the final section of the document. All SPDC order
documents which are duplicated or quoted here can be found in the KHRG
report "SPDC Orders to Villages: Set 99-A"
(KHRG #99-01, 10/2/99).

The text often refers to villages, village tracts and townships. The
SPDC has local administration, called Peace &
Development Councils, at the village, village tract, township, and
state/division levels. A village tract is a group of 5-25
villages centred on a large village; for example, Baw Ga Li Gyi village
tract has over 10 villages and its administration is
in Baw Ga Li Gyi (Kler Lah) village, which has over 300 households. A
township is a much larger area, administered from
a central town. The Karen National Union (KNU) divides most of Toungoo
District into two townships: Taw Ta Tu in the
south and Daw Pa Kho in the north. In Burmese, Taw Ta Tu is called
Tantabin and Daw Pa Kho is called Than Daung.
The official townships used by the SPDC do not correspond to the Karen
townships; in this report we have used the
townships as defined by the Karen, though usually referring to them by
their more familiar Burmese names. In this region
most villages and towns have both a Karen and a Burmese name, and both
appear in this report depending on which are
used by the villagers. Some examples are shown below.

                                                 Burmese		Karen
                                               Toungoo			Taw Oo
                                               Tantabin			Taw Ta Tu
                                               Than Daung		Daw Pa Kho
                                               Baw Ga Li Gyi		Kler Lah
                                               Baw Ga Li Lay		Wah Tho Ko
                                               Yay Tho Gyi		Kaw Thay Der
                                               Yay Tho Lay		Klay Soe Kee
                                               Bu Sah Kee		Bu Sah Kee
                                               Naw Soe			Naw Soe
                                               Si Keh Doh		Si Kheh Der
                                               Saw Wah Doh		Hsaw Wah

                                               Law Bi Lu		Der
                                               Kyaut Pon		Law Bi Lu
                                               Dtay Sein		Ler Ko
                                               Taung			Kaw Soh Ko
Villagers refer to Baw Ga Li Gyi as Kler Lah, Baw Ga Li Gyi or simply
Baw Ga Li. In the interviews villagers often refer to
?loh ah pay?; literally this is the traditional Burmese form of
voluntary labour for the community, but the SPDC uses this
name in most cases of forced labour, and to the villagers it has come to
mean most forms of forced labour with the
exception of long-term portering. The villagers also often mention ?last
year?; if the interview occurred in late 1998, this
means prior to the rainy season, or October 1997 to May 1998. All
numeric dates in this report are in dd/mm/yy format.


SPDC = State Peace & Development Council, military junta ruling Burma
PDC = Peace & Development Council, SPDC local-level administration
         (e.g. Village PDC [VPDC], Village Tract PDC, Township PDC
SLORC = State Law & Order Restoration Council, former name of the SPDC
until Nov. 1997
KNU = Karen National Union, main Karen opposition group
KNLA = Karen National Liberation Army, army of the KNU
DKBA = Democratic Karen Buddhist Army, Karen group allied with
IB = Infantry Battalion (SLORC/SPDC), usually about 500 soldiers
fighting strength
LIB = Light Infantry Battalion (SLORC/SPDC), usually about 500 soldiers
fighting strength
Na Pa Ka = Abbreviation for SPDC?s Western Military Command from Rakhine
Viss = Unit of weight measure; one viss is 1.6 kilograms or 3.5 pounds
Bowl/Pyi = Volume of rice equal to 8 small condensed milk tins; about 2
kilograms / 4.4 pounds
Kyat = Burmese currency; US$1=6 Kyat at official rate, 300+ Kyat at
current market rate
loh ah pay = Forced labour; literally it means traditional voluntary
labour, but not under SPDC

                                 Introduction / Executive Summary

Toungoo District (named Taw Oo in Karen) forms the northern tip of
Karen State, sandwiched between Karenni State to
the east, Shan State to the north, and Pegu Division to the west. The
vast majority of villagers in this region are Karen.
Many live in small, difficult to access villages in the very steep and
forested hills covering most of the district. Further west,
the hills let off into the gentler terrain of the Sittaung River valley
near Toungoo town.

For two to three years now the villagers in the western plain of the
district have faced heavy burdens of forced labour on
roads, army camps and the Pa Thee dam project, while some of their
villages just east of Toungoo town were forcibly
relocated to make way for the dam. Things have been even worse for the
hill villagers in the east of the district, as over the
past two to three years the SLORC/SPDC has steadily increased its troop
presence in this previously inaccessible area.
Several villages in the region were destroyed to force the people to

move to SLORC/SPDC-controlled areas, and villagers
throughout the hills of Tantabin (Taw Ta Tu) township were forced to
build a road from Baw Ga Li Gyi (Kler Lah) to Bu Sah
Kee, opening up much of southeastern Toungoo District to the SPDC Army.
Several Army camps were subsequently
established along this road, at Kaw Thay Der, Naw Soe, Si Kheh Der and
Bu Sah Kee. The new road is not passable
during rainy season, so villagers have to do forced labour as porters
carrying supplies to and from all of these Army camps,
then they have to do forced labour rebuilding the road after every rainy
season. They also face regular demands for Army
camp labour from these units, and suffer from regular looting and
extortion of money. 

Battalions operating in the area include SPDC Infantry Battalions (IB)
#26, 30, and 48, and Light Infantry Battalions (LIB)
#535 and 707, all under the Southern Regional Command, and LIB #234 from
the Western Regional Command. Their
troops rotate every 4 months, and the Battalions are regularly changed;
IB 39 was there in 1998 but was replaced by IB 48.
There is one Strategic Command (usually consisting of 3 Battalions) from
the Na Pa Ka, which is the Western Regional
Command based in Arakan (Rakhine) State of western Burma, and there have
been reports of troops from the Rangoon
Military Command in the area as well. The Karen National Liberation Army
(KNLA) is active in the hill areas of most of the
district, performing guerrilla operations, harassment and ambush of SPDC
columns. The Democratic Karen Buddhist Army
(DKBA) and other SPDC proxy armies are not present in the region.

Like in other areas, the SPDC forces try to undermine the KNLA
activities by targetting the villagers. Most villages which do
not have an SPDC camp and are not along vehicle roads have been ordered
to relocate; more than 10 villages have been
ordered to move to Baw Ga Li Gyi (Kler Lah) alone since the beginning of
1998. Rather than move as ordered, most people
still stay in their villages or the surrounding forests, dodging the
SPDC patrols which come through the area. Those who
moved as ordered were provided with nothing at the relocation sites and
could only build small bamboo huts in which to live.
Unable to farm or earn a living and with no support, many of them have
fled back to the forests around their villages. People
found hiding in areas around the outlying villages and villages which
are perceived as uncooperative have been treated
brutally. Villagers found in their fields in outlying areas are either
grabbed to be porters, shot dead or brutally executed and
robbed on the spot. On 17 January 1999 troops from IB 48 opened fire on
a group of villagers sitting talking in their betelnut
plantation near Wah Paw Pu, wounding two and then executing them with a
bullet in the head. On 16 January 1999 an
SPDC column shot dead a 16-year-old boy and knifed to death a
60-year-old man on finding them tending cardamom near
Htee Hsah Bper village, and after killing them brutally mutilated the
bodies by cutting off the boy?s arm and carving off all the
flesh on the old man?s face with a knife. In mid-1998 an SPDC column was

ambushed by KNLA troops near xxxx village [a
?Peace? village] and responded by going into the village, calling out
all the villagers, beating some and killing their livestock
in front of them while taunting them to say anything. Hsaw Wah Der
village has been ordered to move to Kler Lah since
several years ago but has never obeyed, so in May 1998 the church and
all of the best houses in the village (those with
wooden construction and metal roofing) were burned. This village has
been burned many times over the years. Now some
of the villagers have fled to Toungoo town, while others live in hiding
in the forest, dodging passing SPDC columns. Three
years ago the villagers of Bu Sah Kee settled in the forest away from
their village for fear of SLORC abuses, and they are
still growing their hillside rice crops but fleeing further into the
hills whenever SLORC/SPDC patrols come close. In
response, troops from Infantry Battalion #26 went through their fields
in September 1998 before the harvest, pulling up and
cutting down their rice plants. All rice supplies found in outlying
areas by SPDC troops are either confiscated or destroyed.

As a result villagers of Hsaw Wah Der, Bu Sah Kee, Klay Soe Kee and many
other outlying villages are now all displaced,
living in their farmfield huts or the forests outside their villages and
dodging SPDC controls which come through the area.
They survive by trying to grow cash crops such as cardamom and betelnut,
then travel to SPDC-controlled villages to sell it
and buy rice. The trip to the SPDC-controlled villages is dangerous;
some have been killed or taken as porters when they
encounter SPDC patrols on the way, and others have been arrested and
tortured on arrival in the big villages. However,
even more villagers could find themselves in these circumstances as the
SPDC continues to clamp down on the area.

Larger villages along the vehicle roads, such as Kler Lah (Baw Ga Li
Gyi), Kaw Thay Der (Yay Tho Gyi) and Naw Soe, are
under tight SPDC control and have Army bases adjacent to the village.
These villages are known as ?Nyein Chan Yay?
(?Peace?) villages, in reference to an informal agreement existing
between the village elders and the local military that they
will cooperate with all SPDC demands and in return will not be forced to
relocate or have their houses burned. The leaders
of these villages receive constant demands for ?porter fees? and other
forms of extortion money, food and materials. The
Army also sends regular demands for porters, and to avoid sending people
on long-term frontline portering duty the villages
have to pool their money and pay labour agents to hire itinerant
labourers from Toungoo town to fill the Army?s demands.
However, even after paying all this money the villagers regularly have
to go for ad hoc forced labour portering Army rations
to outlying camps; women often do this forced labour because the men
fear that they will be held for several months if they
go. The villages also have to provide rotating forced labourers for Army
camp labour and as messengers. All vehicles
transporting goods or passengers to and from Toungoo have to pay bribes

to all of the SPDC checkpoints along the way.
This causes the price of rice to be 1,000 Kyat more per sack in Kler Lah
than it is in Toungoo, and has also led to a
shortage of transport because some drivers have left to find work
elsewhere. Villages which are slow in complying with
demands for money and forced labour are threatened with having their
people and vehicles prohibited from travelling to
Toungoo, or with having their homes burned, despite their designation as
?Peace? villages.

People in the ?Peace? villages have also had to do forced labour
clearing the route for a new road from Toungoo to Mawchi,
over 100 kilometres to the southeast in southern Karenni (Kayah) State.
A road already exists from Toungoo to Kler Lah,
and they are now continuing this road towards Mawchi along the route of
an old pre-war road. Much of the actual road
construction is being done with bulldozers, but villagers have been
forced to do all the initial clearing of the road route by
hand. Many farmers with fields along the route could not plant a crop in
1998 for fear of being taken for additional forced
labour by the soldiers along the road. Construction is still ongoing and
is far from complete, and there have been reports
that construction is also ongoing from the Mawchi end of the road using
the forced labour of Karenni villagers.

                   SPDC-Controlled ?White? Areas and ?Peace? Villages

"If battles occurred the Burmese came and beat and tortured our village
head. They accused him of having
contact with the ?tha bone? [?rebels?] and feeding the ?tha bone?." -
"Saw Min Shwe" (M, 56), Zee Byu Gone village
(Interview #1, 2/99)

                                                    Military Strategy

"The Burmese said that if they [KNLA soldiers] come to shoot at them
they will force the villagers to move. Their
commander, and sometimes Sergeant xxxx, often came to tell us that. ?
The Burmese commander also calls a
meeting once a week and one person from each house must go. At the
meeting they said that the villagers have to
carry things for them and that if we don?t we will have to move or we
will be fined." - "Naw Ghay Hser" (F, 28), xxxx
village (Interview #4, 9/98)

For decades now the policy of the Burmese military dictatorship has been
to undermine armed opposition groups by
targetting the civilian populations who allegedly support them, and
Toungoo District has been no exception. The district is
divided into SPDC-designated ?white?, ?brown?, and ?black? areas.
?White? indicates SPDC control with little or no incursion by
opposition forces, ?brown? areas are SPDC-controlled but opposition
forces can and do penetrate and operate there, and
?black? areas are either opposition-controlled or cannot be effectively
controlled by the SPDC. The western part of the
district, which falls within Pegu (Bago) Division and consists of
villages in the Sittaung River valley near Toungoo, is
considered a ?white area? by the SPDC; KNLA forces cannot easily
penetrate this area so it is under complete SPDC
control, and villagers have no option but to submit completely to SPDC
authority or face harsh punishment. Villages along

the access road eastward into the hills as far as Kler Lah, and some
villages further into the hills along roads where there
are SPDC bases, are considered ?brown?, and all areas in the hills away
from the military access roads and Army camps are
considered ?black?. Villages in ?brown? areas face heavy demands for
forced labour and extortion by the military, particularly
by columns which go to patrol the ?black? areas, and if there is any
failure to meet these demands village elders can be
arrested and executed or homes can be burned as though the village were
?black?. In ?black? areas villagers are regularly
tortured or killed on sight and villages are regularly forcibly
relocated and burned. 

"When the villagers don?t obey them they enter the village, threaten the
villagers, steal their belongings and shoot
their guns. That happened in our village 5 or 6 months ago. They fired
carbines and G3?s [M1 carbine rifles, usually
carried by officers, and G3 automatic assault rifles]. They didn?t shoot
any big weapons. Two of the bullets they
fired came down through the roof of the church. When they were firing
their guns some villagers were afraid and
said, ?If you need us to do something for you, tell us and we will do
it!? Some villagers fled to their farms and
gardens. They said that if we didn?t like them staying in their camp in
Kler Lah they would shell the village with
large shells. They threatened us." - "Saw Tha Muh" (M, 52), xxxx village
(Interview #6, 9/98)

Whenever Burmese troops are attacked or otherwise suffer setbacks in the
?black? areas, they tend to retaliate in the easiest
way possible: by going back to the ?brown? villages and demanding cash
compensation, arresting elders, executing villagers,
or burning houses. After suffering this for years on end, having no
control over it and seeing no end in sight, the elders of
many villages in the ?brown? areas of Toungoo and some other districts
made their own informal agreements with local
Burmese Army commanders: they gave promises not to help the resistance
forces in any way, to report on all movements
and activities of the resistance forces and to fully and quickly comply
with any and all orders of the Burmese Army, and in
return they were given assurances that they would not be arrested, their
villagers would not be tortured or executed, their
village would not be forced to move and their homes would not be burned.
Villages which have made such agreements are
generally dubbed ?Nyein Chan Yay? (?Peace?) villages by SPDC commanders.
In Toungoo District this includes most of the
villages along the road from Toungoo to Kaw Thay Der, such as Thit Say
Taung, Kler Lah (Baw Ga Li Gyi), Ler Ko (Kyaut
Pon) and Kaw Thay Der (Yay Tho Gyi).

"Recently, IB #48 went to the front line and some of them were shot.
Because of this, when they came back they
were very angry and threatened the villagers. They beat the ducks and
the chickens to death and then took them to
eat. One soldier was shouting while beating the animals. He said, ?I am
going to do what I want to do to anyone
who says anything to me.? Then he beat 4 ducks to death and asked the

owner of the ducks, ?What do you want to
say to me?? The owner, Naw S---, answered that she wouldn?t say
anything. She was afraid." - "Saw Kaw Doh" (M,
42), xxxx village (Interview #16, 9/98)

"About one or two hundred soldiers from Infantry Battalion #48 arrived
on September 10th from Taw Oo with 60 to
70 porters. Some of the porters were old and some were young. They
carried ammunition, rice and other things
that the military uses. The soldiers carried their rations and their
guns. They stayed one night in the village. The
soldiers tortured N---, a 22-year-old unmarried boy, because they?d been
shot at. The Burmese Sergeant hit his
head 3 or 4 times and took his watch, a Seiko 5, then they tied his
hands behind his back. ? He robbed the
villagers? things and then forced them to leave. He kept N--- tied under
the house for half an hour and then
demanded that he follow him to the Bu Ler Der road and to the betelnut
gardens. They were going to Bu Sah Kee
village to send food to the operations commander. After keeping him tied
up for a day and a night he forced him to
go back. When N--- came back to the village he said that the Burmese had
tortured him." - "Naw Ghay Hser" (F, 28),
xxxx village (Interview #4, 9/98)

                                           Restrictions and Punishments

"[S]ometimes if battles have occurred in the hills of their area, they
don?t give permission to buy rice. They say that
we are feeding the resistance, so the resistance is becoming stronger
and shooting at them with guns. Now
they?ve closed the path to carry rice [from Kler Lah], so it?s not easy
for those of us who stay in the hills to get
food and we can?t eat rice regularly. Sometimes we eat rice once a day,
and sometimes we don?t even have enough
rice to eat once a day." - "Saw Tee Muh" (M, 48), xxxx village
(Interview #3, 9/98)

In the past villages have been forced to relocate for any perceived
failure to cooperate, or simply because they were close
to the hills. A few years ago the villages of Zee Byu Gone, Sha Yi Bo,
Taw Gu, Yay Sha and several others were forced to
move to a site at Taw Ma Aye on the main north-south road, even though
these villages were in SPDC-controlled territory
on the edge of the Sittaung River valley