EXTRACTS CONCERNING FORCED RELOCATION AND CONFISCATION OF LAND FROM THE REPORT OF THE ILO COMMISSION OF INQUIRY ON FORCED LABOUR IN BURMA
The 1998 report of the ILO Commission of Inquiry into forced labour in Burma (Myanmar) is the most authoritative report yet issued on the human rights situation in that country. Constituted of eminent jurists, including two former chief justices, the Commission employed a transparent and meticulous methodology which is exemplary from a judicial as well as a fact-finding standpoint. It received more than 10,000 pages of documentation, in addition to audio-visual reports; it held quasi-judicial hearings in Geneva with direct victims and witnesses of forced labour, specialist NGOs and human rights monitors, and on its field missions, collected testimony from 246 victims of forced labour. It held extensive discussions with governmental and UN officers, including the Special Rapporteur on Myanmar, and by these and other means sought to achieve as objective and balanced an assessment as possible.
Though its main focus was forced labour, the Commission of Inquiry also reported other violations of human rights. This series of customised versions of the report takes a number of these themes. The present document highlights references to forced relocation
and confiscation of land. The full and authoritative version of the report
is on the ILO website at:
These terms referring to forced relocation are highlighted in the text below:
relocate, relocation, confiscate, confiscation, expropriation, appropriate
FORCED LABOUR IN MYANMAR (BURMA)
Report of the Commission of Inquiry
appointed under article 26 of the Constitution of the
International Labour Organization to examine the
observance by Myanmar of the
Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29)
Geneva, 2 July 1998
[MEMBERS OF THE COMMISSION]
9. ...... the Governing Body decided that the Commission be composed as follows, as proposed by the Director-General (GB.268/14/8):
The Right Honourable Sir William DOUGLAS, PC, KCMG (Barbados), former Ambassador; former Chief Justice of Barbados; former Chairman, Commonwealth Caribbean Council of Legal Education; former Chairman, Inter-American Juridical Committee; former Judge of the High Court of Jamaica; Chairperson of the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations.
Mr. Prafullachandra Natvarlal BHAGWATI (India), former Chief Justice of India; former Chief Justice of the High Court of Gujarat; former Chairman, Legal Aid Committee and Judicial Reforms Committee, Government of Gujarat; former Chairman, Committee on Juridicare, Government of India; former Chairman of the Committee appointed by the Government of India for implementing legal aid schemes in the country; member of the International Committee on Human Rights of the International Law Association; member of the Editorial Committee of Reports of the Commonwealth; Chairman of the National Committee for Social and Economic Welfare of the Government of India; Ombudsman for the national newspaper Times of India; Chairman of the Advisory Board of the Centre for Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Geneva; Vice-President of El Taller; Chairman of the Panel for Social Audit of Telecom and Postal Services in India; member of the United Nations Human Rights Committee; member of the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations.
Ms. Robyn A. LAYTON, QC (Australia), Barrister-at-Law; Director, National Rail Corporation; former Commissioner on Health Insurance Commission; former Chairperson of the Australian Health Ethics Committee of the National Health and Medical Research Council; former Honorary Solicitor for the South Australian Council for Civil Liberties; former Solicitor for the Central Aboriginal Land Council; former Chairman of the South Australian Sex Discrimination Board; former Judge and Deputy President of the South Australian Industrial Court and Commission; former Deputy President of the Federal Administrative Appeals Tribunal; member of the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations.
5. VISIT BY THE COMMISSION TO THE REGION
(1) PROCEDURE FOLLOWED BY THE COMMISSION
77. The members of the Commission also considered it appropriate to supplement the information in their possession by visiting the region so as to meet the largest possible number of persons and organizations which could provide it with information on the practices referred to in the complaint.
78. This visit was particularly important after the refusal of the Government of Myanmar to receive the members of the Commission; it enabled the members of the Commission to form a direct impression of the situation described in the complaint, acquire personal knowledge of the circumstances described in the mass of documents submitted to them and assess the veracity of the allegations in the complaint. In doing so, the Commission exercised its fact-finding and inquiry functions.
79. With a view to making the optimum use of its time and determining the places that it wished to visit, the Commission established in advance a detailed plan of the journeys it intended to make and informed the competent authorities of its need to visit India, Bangladesh and Thailand during the period from 18 January to 20 February 1998.
80. During the inquiry that it carried out in the region, the Commission obtained personal testimonies from close to 250 persons. These testimonies were obtained with the assistance of persons and non-governmental organizations working in the areas concerned. At the request of the Commission, these people and organizations were asked to identify a pool of potential interviewees in relation to which the Commission gave explicit instructions that the witnesses be selected at random and not have been questioned previously on the matters that it was investigating, save preliminary identifying data. This request was made in order to avoid potential duplication with other statements already provided to the Commission as well as to minimize risk of any tainting of evidence together with ensuring currency of information. The Commission expressed the desire to cover as much of the territory of Myanmar as possible and in this spirit to interview people from the largest possible number of regions and belonging to a range of ethnic groups without distinction. Given the large number of interviews, priority was given to witnesses with the most recent experiences. The Commission also considered it important to include as witnesses persons who had served in the armed forces of Myanmar.
81. In view of the considerable number of persons that it could interview and in order to conduct as many interviews as possible, the Commission often split into three groups, with one member of the Commission and one member of the secretariat comprising a team. Each team then obtained testimony from witnesses. This procedure varied on one occasion in Thailand when the Commission was unable to obtain access to available witnesses. In that circumstance the Commission authorized a person who was able to obtain access to potential witnesses and who took the testimony of eight such witnesses. This person had previously given evidence before the Commission in Geneva(70) concerning his professional experience and his taking of earlier statements from persons who had experienced or witnessed matters relevant to the inquiry. The Commission gave instructions to the person as to the scope of the interviews and the manner in which they should be carried out. The Commission, on the basis of this person's previous evidence and experience, as well as on the debriefing which followed the interviews, satisfied itself that the testimonies obtained were voluntary and reliable.
82. In making these arrangements it became obvious that witnesses feared reprisals from the authorities; the Commission in the interests of obtaining full and accurate information decided it was appropriate to grant some measures of protection under which names and other identifying information would not be divulged. However, the Commission considered it essential that the summaries of these testimonies, from which this information had been removed, should be made public and form part of the report.(71)
83. The Commission took testimonies from witnesses on an individual basis. Exceptions were made in some cases where persons were from the same family or locality or interview conditions were not conducive to such an approach. In these cases a person's statement was taken and corroborated by others in a small group. In cases in which interpretation was necessary, the Commission selected the interpreters in advance and required them to make a statement in which they undertook to translate faithfully the statements of the witnesses. In addition, a member of the secretariat, fluent in Burmese, was able to ascertain that the translations were true.
84. Men, women and children were interviewed. In the latter case in particular, the Commission assured itself that the witness understood the mandate of the Commission and the need to tell the truth. The interviews were conducted under conditions ensuring full confidentiality to the persons concerned. Since several persons interviewed now lived in distant areas which were closed to the members of the Commission, they were transported and interviewed under conditions ensuring the safety of all concerned. For each witness, the Commission commenced by obtaining the identifying information necessary for the purposes of verifying, comparing and corroborating the various accounts of the facts. It then questioned the witnesses on their relevant personal experience of the practices referred to in the complaint and verified in particular the year, duration, location, context and conditions under which such practices were carried out. Furthermore, it questioned the witnesses on experiences that others may have recounted to them, including their family, close friends and any other persons. Each witness was given the possibility of making a personal statement. Where appropriate, the Commission also questioned witnesses on their political affiliations or allegiances.
85. The method of recording information was by handwritten notes taken by the Commission; because of their copious nature were later summarized. The Commission abandoned the taking of tape-recordings because of physical difficulties of use, particularly with interpreters; also interviewees felt less intimidated, given the environment in which many interviews took place: in huts, on the ground, out in the open and in a factory.
(2) PERSONS AND WITNESSES INTERVIEWED
86. The Commission went to India, Bangladesh and Thailand to meet with persons able to provide it with relevant information concerning the complaint. Their ages varied between 12 and 72; the vast majority of the factual elements presented by these persons occurred over the last year or two.
87. The Commission conducted interviews on 19, 20 and 22 January 1998 in Delhi. On that occasion, it held interviews with 17 people from the Chin and Rakhine States belonging to the Chin and Rakhine ethnic groups.(72) Despite its requests, the Commission was not however able to obtain in due time the necessary authorizations from the Government of India to visit the State of Manipur in the north-eastern region of India in which other persons coming from Myanmar and in possession of information which could have been of interest to the Commission were alleged to have found refuge.
88. On 22 January 1998, the Chairperson of the Commission paid a courtesy visit to the Secretary of the Ministry of Labour of the Government of India outlining in general the importance of the inquiry and the Commission's work in India.
89. The Commission travelled to Bangladesh, where it stayed from 23 January to 3 February. While in Dhaka from 23 to 27 January the Commission met representatives of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and non-governmental organizations who could provide it with information identifying the most appropriate places to meet persons with personal knowledge of the matters referred to in the complaint.
90. From 27 January to 3 February 1998, the Commission visited Cox's Bazar, a town located a few kilometres from the border between Bangladesh and Myanmar. A total of over 71 testimonies were gathered from interviews held in the town and the neighbouring areas.(73) Most of the persons interviewed were of Rohingya origin and came from the northern part of Rakhine State, which some of them had only left a few days earlier. Several of them had no fixed accommodation and were forced to live with no shelter.
91. The Chairperson of the Commission visited the Ministry of Labour and Manpower of Bangladesh on 2 February 1998 in Dhaka. During his visit, the Chairperson explained the origin and mandate of the Commission and the reasons for its presence in the region.
92. The Commission visited Thailand from 3 to 20 February 1998. From 5 to 9 February, it went to the locality of Mae Hong Son, a town situated near the Thai border with Kayah State in Myanmar. It passed through the cities of Bangkok and Chiang Mai, where it met representatives of non-governmental organizations who were able to provide it with recent information on the situation in Myanmar.
93. In Mae Hong Song, the Commission met 53 people from various States in Myanmar and belonging to the Karenni, Karen, Burman, Shan and Pa-o ethnic groups.(74) The interviews were conducted in three locations near to the town.
94. From 10 to 16 February 1998, the Commission then visited Mae Sot, a Thai town located near to the border with Kayin State, where it met 56 people from the Muslim, Karen, Burman, Shan and Pa-o ethnic groups.(75) From 15 to 17 February, one of the members of the Commission, accompanied by a member of the secretariat, visited Kanchanaburi, a Thai province bordering Karen and Mon States and the Tanintharyi Division. It held 12 interviews there with people from the Mon and Karen ethnic groups.(76)
95. After leaving Mae Sot a little earlier to return to Bangkok, the Chairperson on 15 February met with members of the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma (NCGUB).
96. The members of the Commission met once again on 18 February in Bangkok. The next day they paid a courtesy visit to the Ministry of Labour of Thailand and met a representative of a non-governmental organization concerned with forced labour in Myanmar.
97. Since two members of the Commission had to leave Thailand on early flights, a single member remained on 20 February to conduct interviews at a location near to Bangkok with 32 persons from the Karen, Burman, Mon and Rakhine ethnic groups.(77)
98. At the end of its visit to the region, the Commission decided to meet once again in Geneva from 29 June to 2 July 1998, to prepare and adopt its final report.
12. FINDINGS OF THE COMMISSION CONCERNING THE FACTS(309)
B. GENERAL PATTERN OF CONDUCT
BY MYANMAR AUTHORITIES
274. Information provided to the Commission indicated that the Myanmar authorities, including the local and regional administration, the military and various militias, forced the population of Myanmar to carry out a wide range of tasks. Labour was exacted from men, women and children, some of a very young age. Workers were not paid or compensated in any way for providing their labour, other than in exceptional circumstances, and were commonly subjected to various forms of verbal and physical abuse including rape, torture and killing. The vast majority of the information covered the period since 1988, the year in which the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) came to power. While the information indicated that the use of forced labour for all the purposes discussed was prevalent since at least 1988, the use of forced labour on infrastructure-related work appeared to have been much less common before 1992. In the paragraphs which follow, some indication of the range of purposes for which labour was requisitioned will be given, as it appears from the various documents and testimony provided to the Commission.
275. The information provided indicated that Myanmar's military and various militias made systematic and widespread use of civilians to provide logistical support. This most commonly involved the use of porters to carry a range of supplies and equipment. In comparison to other forms of compulsory labour, the treatment of porters, especially during military offensives, was particularly brutal; such porters were also likely to be exposed to danger in combat situations.(316)
292. The information before the Commission was that the penalties for failing to comply with forced labour demands were harsh. Punishments included detention at the army camp, often in leg-stocks or in a pit in the ground, commonly accompanied by beatings and other forms of torture, as well as deprivation of food, water, medical attention and other basic rights. Women were subject to rape and other forms of sexual abuse at such times. The first person to be punished if a village failed to comply with demands for forced labour would usually be the village head. For this reason, the position of village head was an unpopular one, and it was often rotated among those villagers competent to do the job, in some instances with each villager having a rotation of as short as two weeks. Also, it was mentioned that villages often chose older women to be village heads, because the villagers felt that in virtue of being women they were likely to be treated less brutally, and by virtue of their age they were less likely to face rape or other sexual abuse.(336)
317. Female porters were sometimes raped or otherwise sexually abused by soldiers.(379) Porters who walked too slowly were regularly beaten with sticks, punched, kicked, hit with rifle butts or prodded with bayonets.(380) Porters who were persistently slow, or who were unable to carry their loads because of exhaustion, sickness or injury were often severely beaten and forced to continue, or if this was not possible they were abandoned or killed.(381) The killing of porters who could not continue appeared to be more common in potential conflict areas.(382) In such areas, porters were usually not shot, but were beaten to death, had their throats cut, were thrown from the sides of mountains, were thrown into rivers with their hands tied behind their backs, or were burned alive.(383) Porters who were able to carry their loads at the required pace, who did not slip or fall and who were otherwise obedient were generally not beaten.
318. In addition to those who were executed, many porters died from disease, particularly malaria and gastrointestinal infections. Malaria was particularly endemic in the densely-forested mountainous regions away from Myanmar's central plains where most armed opposition to the government was located. In addition, porters were not provided with any form of prophylaxis and were rarely given medical treatment or medication of any kind.(384)
319. Porters were also exposed to dangerous combat situations.(385) This could include exposure to mines and other kinds of booby-traps, ambushes and major or minor battles. There appeared to be no attempt made by military units using porters to minimize the exposure of porters to such situations. On the contrary, soldiers sometimes forced porters to walk ahead of them in areas where mines, other booby-traps, or ambushes were suspected in order to minimize the exposure of troops to such dangers; if they were carrying ammunition, porters also had to take this to soldiers requiring it during battles.(386) There were also reportedly cases of soldiers forcing porters to exchange clothes with them, in order to draw enemy fire.(387) Many porters were killed or injured in this way.(388) Compensation for death or injury, or medical treatment in the event of injury, appeared to be minimal.(389) In cases of death, the family of the porter was not normally notified.
320. To prevent their escape, porters were guarded at all times. During the day they were often tied together, or to their loads, and they were kept guarded in bunkers or tied together in groups at night.(390) At night, they often had to sleep in the open, with no shelter or blankets provided, even in cold and wet situations. During actual fighting, where they might be able to take advantage of the confusion to escape, porters were often kept in the middle of the soldiers so as to make escape more difficult.(391) Former porters mentioned that it was less feasible to try to escape when they had been sent by the village head in response to an order from the military, because their identities, or at least the identity of their village, was known to the troops, and so they, their families or village could face problems. Porters who had been arrested directly by passing troops could not be identified as easily in this way, and so they were less likely to face problems if they managed to escape.
348. There is ample evidence before the Commission concerning the general conditions in which portering from one camp to another or during military operations or patrols is carried out and the ill-treatment to which the porters are systematically subjected. The persons requisitioned are not paid,(456) and if they are fed, the food is insufficient and of poor quality.(457) The witnesses often mentioned a portion of rotten rice so tiny that it could be held in the hollow of one hand. To prevent the porters from fleeing, they are sometimes chained up and closely guarded.(458) When injured or ill, all the porters questioned claimed never to have been given the necessary medical attention, some of them having even been left behind alone in the jungle.(459)
349. If the porters cannot keep up with the column, or if they show any sign of weakness, the military do not hesitate to beat or violently punch them, causing injuries which can have serious if not fatal consequences.(460) On other occasions, the military did not hesitate to shoot porters(461) because they were too weak, had tried to escape or simply with a view to inspiring fear and terror in the other porters.(462)
353. In addition to constructing and repairing the camps, the villages would also have to provide a number of workers on a permanent basis to carry out a number of services at the camps, such as cleaning and maintenance, cooking, collecting water or firewood, washing clothes and acting as messengers. It was these messengers who would normally deliver written orders or summonses from the camp to village heads, in addition to carrying out a variety of other tasks for the army camp or its officers.(467) These workers were often women, sometimes because the camp specifically demanded women, but often because this was generally a less arduous form of forced labour than others such as portering, for which men from the household tended to go. Army camp workers might be able to return home at night, but in certain circumstances this might not be possible, either because they were not permitted to do so, or because of the distance of the village from the army camp. In such cases these workers had to stay at the army camp for a number of days, until replacements arrived from their village, in accordance with the schedule arranged by the village head. In such circumstances, women were particularly at risk of abuse and rape. This did not appear to be uncommon. However, abuses other than sexual abuse of women appeared to be less common than with portering and some other forms of forced labour.(468)
372. As for the general conditions under which these tasks are performed, the workers are not fed,(514) and sometimes even have to bring food to the military.(515) The workers are neither paid(516) nor compensated for the materials that they have had to provide.(517) Some have been subjected to ill-treatment resulting in serious injuries(518) and most are constantly exposed to insults and violence.(519) Abuses of a sexual nature would also appear to have been perpetrated in some cases by the military.(520)
418. The workers were usually supervised by the military, though on certain projects soldiers might not be actually present all the time. Since the military knew who had been assigned to which section, they were able to take action if a certain piece of work was not completed, and thus did not necessarily need to be present while the work was being carried out (though they often were). Workers were usually forced to work for long hours, typically between eight and 12 hours per day,(647) with only a one-hour break for lunch in the middle of the day. Workers were usually not permitted to take rest breaks at other times.(648) Workers were subject to verbal and physical abuse by the soldiers overseeing the project, particularly if they were not working to the satisfaction of the soldiers; some workers had died as a result of physical abuse.(649) Cases of soldiers raping female workers were not uncommon.(650) Punishments given to workers in cases where they were perceived to be working badly or refused to carry out forced labour included kickings, punchings, beatings with canes, sticks or pieces of bamboo, arrest and detention at a military camps, confinement in stocks, or in some cases severe torture or execution.(651)
432. Working conditions are arduous,(697) and the working day is long, varying from 8 to 12 hours.(698) The work is sometimes accompanied by ill-treatment, including beating and kicking.(699) Acts of torture or extreme violence, including rape, also occur.(700) Some workers have died as a result of complications due to hunger, malaria, other infectious diseases and lack of timely medical care.(701)
435. Finally, the situation in the northern part of Rakhine State appears to be more severe in all respects than that prevailing in most other parts of the country. Most of the witnesses questioned on this subject, who were members of the Rohingya ethnic group, and who had left the country very recently, claimed to have been subjected to systematic discrimination by the authorities; the discrimination took the form, in so far as work on the roads is concerned, of an overwhelming workload.(708) In fact, the work is not really or ganized systematically;(709) the Rohingyas may be required to work by any authority, be it the army, the NaSaKa or the local police. The order may come via the village head or directly from any authority that needs workers for a given job. Working conditions are excessively arduous; tasks must be performed in an atmosphere where insults, abuse, ill-treatment and torture are commonplace.(710)
457. The workers are neither paid(783) nor fed(784) and sometimes have to spend several nights on the site of their work assignment.(785) Several witnesses stated that they could avoid having to perform this work if a replacement was found.(786) Finally, the conditions under which the work has to be performed are arduous; the workers are frequently subjected to ill-treatment or other violations of fundamental human rights, including acts of torture.(787)
482. "Menace of any penalty".(833) As indicated above,(834) orders for the requisition of labour or services do not make reference to powers under the Village Act or the Towns Act or any other legislation. Neither do they specifically refer to the penalties laid down in section 12 of the Village Act and section 9A of the Towns Act for failure to comply with a requisition,(835) although a few of the orders that were submitted to the Commission refer in general terms to punishment under the legislation in force.(836) However, as indicated in Part B of Chapter 12(837) and confirmed by the evidence set out in Part C of Chapter 12,(838) the written orders to provide porters and labourers which are sent to village heads by the local military or civil administration typically contain some overt or implied threat to anyone refusing to comply.(839) Penalties and reprisals imposed in practice for failing to comply with labour demands are very harsh and include physical abuse,(840) beatings,(841) torture,(842) rape(843) and murder.(844) Also, in order to be exempted from labour assignments given to them, people have to pay sums of money,(845) and likewise people directly rounded up by troops for portering may obtain their release only by paying a substantial sum of money.(846) Thus, the labour and services imposed in practice on the civilian population by formal requisition or direct round-up, as evidenced in Chapter 12, are covered by the definition given in Article 2, paragraph 1, of the Convention, which refers to "all work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty(847) and for which the said person has not offered himself voluntarily" -- the only exception being labour or services performed by any substitutes hired by some of those called up for labour or services.
530. Failure to comply with a call-up for labour is punishable under the Village Act with a fine or imprisonment for a term not exceeding one month, or both, and under the Towns Act, with a fine.(985) In actual practice, the manifold exactions of forced labour often give rise to the extortion of money in exchange for a temporary alleviation of the burden,(986) but also to threats to the life and security(987) and extrajudicial punishment of those unwilling, slow or unable to comply with a demand for forced labour; such punishment or reprisals range from money demands(988) to physical abuse,(989) beatings,(990) torture,(991) rape(992) and murder.(993)
535. All the information and evidence before the Commission shows utter disregard by the authorities for the safety and health as well as the basic needs of the people performing forced or compulsory labour. Porters, including women, are often sent ahead in particularly dangerous situations as in suspected minefields, and many are killed or injured this way.(1010) Porters are rarely given medical treatment of any kind;(1011) injuries to shoulders, backs and feet are frequent,(1012) but medical treatment is minimal(1013) or non-existent(1014) and some sick or injured are left behind in the jungle.(1015) Similarly, on road building projects, injuries are in most cases not treated, and deaths from sickness and work accidents are frequent on some projects.(1016) Forced labourers, including those sick or injured, are frequently beaten or otherwise physically abused by soldiers, resulting in serious injuries;(1017) some are killed,(1018) and women performing compulsory labour are raped or otherwise sexually abused by soldiers.(1019) Forced labourers are, in most cases, not supplied with food(1020) --they sometimes even have to bring food, water, bamboo and wood to the military;(1021) porters may receive minimal rations of rotten rice,(1022) but be prevented from drinking water.(1023) No clothing or adequate footwear is provided to porters, including those rounded up without prior warning.(1024) At night, porters are kept in bunkers or have to sleep in the open, without shelter or blankets provided, even in cold or wet situations, often tied together in groups.(1025) Forced labourers on road and railway const-ruction have to make their own arrangements for shelter as well as all other basic needs(1026).
SUMMARIES OF TESTIMONY
Ethnicity/religion: Rakhine, Buddhist
Age/sex: 22, male
Family situation: Nine (him, parents, one older brother and five older sisters)
Occupation: Farmer (paddy fields, and chillies in winter)
From: Thazegone, Minbya township, Rakhine State (village had 90 families)
The witness had to work for the military from the age of 14 (1990). The first time he had to work for the army, he was required to grow produce for them. Subsequently, he had to work as a porter, on road-building and he also performed other work for the military. It was impossible to refuse to do the work. He was not paid. Agricultural work. This consisted of tending paddy fields and growing chilli peppers for the military who had appropriated agricultural land one hour's journey from his village. Ten persons from his village had to go. During the rainy season, he had to work on this land until very late into the night. Portering. He first had to work as a porter for the military at the age of 16. Subsequently, he had to do it once or twice a year. He had to carry food. His brother-in-law had been hung from a tree by his hands for one hour because he was absent from a portering assignment for which the military had requisitioned him. He was unable to walk for one to two weeks. Road building. He had to work on the building of three roads since the age of 15: Minbya-Ann (100 miles), Minbya-Myebon (60 miles) and Minbya-Sunye (local road). He had to do this work during the dry season once or twice a year. His whole village was requisitioned to do this work. It was divided into two groups, which worked in a pre-established weekly rota. Each family had to provide one person. Personally, he shared the work with his older brother. It took him two days' walking to get to his place of work. The work was difficult and consisted mainly of digging earth. He had to bring his own tools. Three to four hundred people worked with him on the roads. Soldiers supervised the work. These roads were mainly for the use of the military. He worked on these roads for the last time just before leaving in 1996. The workers were regularly subjected to ill-treatment. If they were late, they were beaten by the soldiers. The soldiers sometimes chained them up and used shackles on their legs. The soldiers would also force them to stay out in the burning sun for three or four hours. In general, the soldiers dealt harshly with the workers. He saw people seriously injured, suffering among other things from deep cuts as a result of being beaten with wooden sticks. He was not injured personally. But he did suffer hunger, fever and pains in the legs. Other work. On several occasions he had to gather wood (nipa palm, bamboo) for the fires needed to make bricks and for roofs (leaves). He also worked on the building of embankments for a river. He had also witnessed villagers having to work without payment on shrimp farms. The army had taken possession of certain shrimp farms. The shrimps were raised for export. Any civilian who tried to take these shrimps for their own use was beaten. In his view, the most difficult work he had to perform, because of his youth, was the cutting of leaves and bamboo. He would like to improve his education.
Age/sex: 48, male
Family situation: Married with six daughters and two sons
Occupation: Farmer with 16 khani (6 acres) of land
From: Chit Chapandaw, Maungdaw township, Rakhine State (village had 25,000 to 30,000 inhabitants, it was situated close to a NaSaKa camp; population mainly Rohingyas)
The witness left Myanmar because (1) the Government had seized his land; and (2) he had been subjected to forced labour. He left Myanmar in early January 1998. It had become increasingly difficult for a Rohingya to travel freely in Myanmar (he could not, for example, go to Yangon). So far as the expropriation of his land was concerned, the NaSaKa seized his land five years ago to distribute it to the other inhabitants who were Rakhines. He said he received no compensation. Having been deprived of his land, he was taken on as a day labourer in the same village.
With regard to forced labour, his village was close to a NaSaKa camp. Orders to carry out work were given orally. They came from members of the NaSaKa who transmitted them through the village head. They informed the village head of their needs and he had to assemble the necessary labour. All the Rohingya men had to perform work for the NaSaKa. He did not see Rakhines doing this type of work. Three years ago (when he was 45), he had to (i) transport wood for construction; (ii) help with agricultural work; and (iii) work as a porter.
Transporting wood. He had to do this more times than he could count. It was difficult to say how many times: when members of the NaSaKa needed him, they called for him. All men (women were not requisitioned for forced labour) had to do this work. Two men were required to transport wood. The total number of workers depended on the needs of the NaSaKa, but could be as many as 200. A whole day was needed for a single tree (it took three hours to cut down a tree). The forest was quite a long way from his village. It was always possible to give bribes to be exempted. Agricultural work. He had to help more times than he could count in growing rice on land held by Rakhines. This work was required in the two annual growing seasons and had to be performed three days a week during harvests, which lasted for two months. He was not paid. He was not given food. He had to bring his rice. The same persons were required to do this work as for the transporting of wood. There were no children. Portering. He had also worked as a porter for the NaSaKa and had to take food from one place to another more times than he could remember. He began at the age of 43 (five years ago) at a distance of three to six kilometres from his home. The assignments generally lasted a day. The same persons were required to do this work as for transporting wood. Lastly, he had to stand guard for the NaSaKa to intercept persons coming from the sea. He had to do sentry duty 12 nights a month. The same persons were required to do this work as for transporting wood. Treatment. He was threatened badly by members of the NaSaKa. He was beaten at least 25 times and had his hair cut off for falling asleep on the job. Two people were killed last year in his village by the NaSaKa. His view was that the NaSaKa used people as if they were beasts of burden. Taxes. The NaSaKa informed the village head of the amount of taxes and he had to see to it they were collected. People had ten days to pay. These were monthly taxes. The amount had increased over the years and fluctuated considerably depending on the building work undertaken by the NaSaKa. He had to pay these taxes since childhood. Only the Rohingyas had to pay these taxes. If people did not have enough money, they had to sell their property to pay the taxes.
Age/sex: 30, male
Family situation: Married with wife, mother, two brothers and four sisters
Occupation: Owner of a small grocer's shopFrom: Nasil Para, Sittway (Akyab) township, Rakhine State (village had 4,000 to 5,000 inhabitants; the village was relocated some four years ago with other Rohingya villages. It was originally sited close to a main road. It was moved near to the sea.)
The witness left Myanmar at the beginning of 1998. He had to work for the military. He was not paid. No one could look after his business while he was away. All the Rohingyas had to do forced labour. His brothers and father also had to do forced labour. There was no woodcutting or transporting of wood in his area, since there was no forest. All the work was done for the military. He was physically ill-treated. Five days before his departure for Bangladesh, he was beaten because he had been unable to carry the load allotted to him.
He suffered from back pains as a result of this beating. It was possible to pay bribes: 1,000 kyat would buy a week's rest. He did not personally have the resources to pay for a substitute. The orders came from the military, but were transmitted through the village head. The soldiers sometimes came directly to people's houses. One kind of forced labour he had to do was carrying stones. He had to do this three months a year for 15 years. Every working day involved ten trips with stones. The last time he had to do this was a fortnight before he left. The tools were provided by the military. The stones were mainly used in road-building. They had to be crushed. The road on which he worked was a seven kilometre road in the district of Sittway (Akyab). He also had to work building bridges. He also worked on the construction of military camps. Each family had to pay 50 kyat if a new military group came to the region. In addition, on one occasion he was taken as a porter to Shan State.
Age/sex: 35, male
Family situation: Married with one daughter and two sons
Occupation: Farmer with nine khani (3.4 acres) of paddy fields (this was an area where there is only one rice crop per year).
From: Lamarpara, Rathedaung township, Rakhine State (very remote coastal village)
The witness left Myanmar at the beginning of January 1998 because he was no longer able to provide for his family. This was his first time in Bangladesh. The Government had seized half his land in 1996 and the rest in 1997, leaving him only one khani. The NaSaKa set up camp in his village in 1996/97. Before that period he had not been subjected to forced labour (very remote village). He worked on embankments for shrimp breeding ponds. He had to do this 15 days a month for seven months. Ninety to 150 people worked alongside him on this. He received two kilos of rice. He could not refuse. He knew men in his village who had been tortured because they had refused to do work. They were kept in a dark room. That episode had occurred about a year ago. He could not pay to be replaced or bribe the soldiers. He last did this work 12 days before he left. With regard to portering, he had to go with the army in April 1997. This was an operation against the RSO. The army deployed the porters in the front line in such a way that the RSO would hit them first if they opened fire. He had to carry equipment, food and munitions. He had to stay 41 days in the deep forest with the military. There were 90 other porters with him. Apparently, no one died that he knows of. He was not paid. To feed himself, he received a daily ration. He was beaten on three occasions with a wooden stick. Taxes. He had to pay taxes to the NaSaKa amounting to 150 to 200 kyat a month. The NaSaKa or the village head came directly to his house to collect the payment.
Age/sex: 40, male
Family situation: Married with one son and two daughters
From: Fatur Kila, Sittway (Akyab) township, Rakhine State (village had around 1,200 houses)
The witness left Myanmar in early 1997 because life had been made intolerable there. Three years before, his village had been relocated to Maungdaw. The Government had made insufficient land available for the 1,200 families in his village. It had become impossible to survive. He had to carry out forced labour at Kawalaung and Maungdaw. In the former case, there was no NaSaKa camp. Only the military and the police were present. His lands were seized by the authorities to redistribute them to the Rakhines. He had to help them cultivate them. He also had to work on road-building for six years. At Maungdaw, he had to work on road-building and in military camps (cleaning, grass-cutting, installation of drains). He did this work on average four times a week. The orders came from soldiers, who sent them through the village head according to their needs. There was no real schedule. Beatings were frequent. Rest periods were not tolerated. He had personally been beaten three or four times by the NaSaKa. He saw several people being beaten. Some had died. He had to pay taxes to NaSaKa. The amount varied. A typical sum was 1,000 kyat. He had to work as a daily labourer to obtain the money to pay these taxes. Refusal to pay could lead to torture. There was a torture cell in the NaSaKa camp. Stocks were used. Victims' legs were chained up and their arms were immobilized. The person could not move.
Age/sex: 27, female
Family situation: Seven (husband and five children)
Occupation: Family cultivated their own land
From: Khandong, Buthidaung township, Rakhine State (village had 900 families)
The witness left Myanmar at the beginning of 1997 with her family (she had left before in 1992 but went back). Fifteen days before she fled, a SLORC minister arrived in the village by helicopter and announced that a pagoda was to be built in the village. After this other SLORC officials arrived and announced that 60 families were to be forcibly relocated to make way for this pagoda, and that they had to move within 15 days. Another, larger area (300 families) also had to relocate within three months. This larger area was for Rakhine people to settle - since there was a pagoda, the officials wanted it to be a Buddhist village. The people in her village had to do forced labour. Groups of 20 to 40 people were taken away for periods ranging from seven days to three months. They had to construct roads, clear jungle, level ground. There was forced labour every month; her 12 year old son also had to do it. This had been going on since before the first time she fled to Bangladesh. The only thing that had changed after she returned to Myanmar was that there was then also portering for the patrolling NaSaKa, as well as the other kinds of forced labour. They had to do seven days of forced labour at a time, with seven days' rest in between, but the forced labour period was often more than seven days, and could be up to one month. Only Rohingyas had to do forced labour. When she returned to Myanmar in 1995, there was similar taxation and forced labour, but the duration of forced labour had increased from about three days at a time to up to 14 days at a time. The tax which had to be paid was a proportion of the rice crop; tax also had to be paid for renovating a house and for the birth of livestock or sale of livestock (700 to 1,000 kyat); one time her brother-in-law's house burned down and he had to pay tax to the NaSaKa to rebuild. She knew one person who was killed while doing forced labour. The person went for seven days of forced labour, and was killed because he was working slowly. The person was asked to clean the yard, and was slow to comply and tried to refuse, so he was beaten with a stick above the ear, and died. He was 30. The body was not returned. She also knew of another villager whose hip was fractured. She also heard that eight people were killed in another village, but since Muslims were not permitted to travel (particularly women), people in her village did not see this, but they did find one body in a canal. She criticised the UNHCR for saying that the situation had improved; when they went back they could not stay even 15 days before they had to do forced labour again. They found that the situation had not improved.
Age/sex: 45, female
Family situation: Married with nine children
From: Gariroa village near Fatur Kila, Sittway (Akyab) township, Rakhine State
The witness stayed at her village until the whole population was relocated to different places over two years ago. She then stayed with her family for over six months in Dumsofara
village, Rathedaung township until they came to Bangladesh one-and-a-half years ago (mid-1996). Before her relocation (over two years ago), the witness had to perform forced labour herself, carrying bricks for walkways in Tunku Shai military camp. The military gave the order to the village head, who did not ask her personally to go, but one person per family, so, if her husband was busy, she had to go (her husband made a living from two ox carts with four oxen). She had to go sometimes two or three times a month, sometimes once a month, sometimes for seven days in a row, sometimes for two or three. They did not know in advance for how long, the village head only collected the labour, then the military decided. She had to stay overnight at the camp. When her husband was there, he went. If someone was called and arrived late at the camp, the person was beaten by the soldiers. She had not seen this herself. Other women who had to perform forced labour at the camp were sexually molested and raped by the soldiers, including her husband's sister, in the camp, when she was taken as a porter six or seven months before the village was relocated. She did not know the name or rank of the soldier who raped her sister-in-law.
Relocation: In the Fatur Kila area, Muslims were a minority. Five Muslim villages, including Gariroa, were relocated "by Government order" over two years ago. Gariroa village was near the town and the whole Rohingya population was just removed, not for road building or some similar reason, and dispersed to several villages of Maungdaw and Rathedaung townships. Her family and a few others to Dumsofara in Rathedaung township. One day at 3 p.m. their house was marked, and the next morning they had to move, leaving their house behind; they were unable to organize their things. They had to leave their two ox carts and four oxen behind, the basis of their livelihood. The "authorities" came with guns and sticks, they were beaten because they were late moving, and were sent to Buthidaung by boat. From there to Dumsofara by truck and on foot. They were promised land in the new place but were not given any. They were not able to build a house, just a small hut smaller than the (small) hut they were currently in, and lived "almost as beggars". In the new place as in the old, they were not allowed to move to other villages, to stop them from going back to their old village. In any case, after the election of 1989/90, a new law prohibited people from moving, not only Rohingyas.
After relocation: In the new village, Dumsofara, none of the relocated Rohingyas from Gariroa were asked to do forced labour in the six months or more that the witness stayed there, while the original population of Dumsofara had to do forced labour. Most of the population was engaged in fishing, so they had to fish for the military authorities who came almost every day after fishing to see what they caught, and took all the good fish. In addition, they had to collect firewood and bamboo for the military, and work in their houses.
Age/sex: 70, male
Family situation: Twelve members (he and his wife and ten children)
From: Gong Gri, Buthidaung township, Rakhine State (before influx there were 40 families in the village, now four)
The witness indicated that soldiers came to a village near his (named Poimali) and picked up three students for portering, but they never returned. He feared the same may happen to his sons, and this is why he came to Bangladesh. He arrived in 1991, with 20 other families from his village; he knows of another ten families who came subsequently (some of these have since returned). Every house in his village had to provide at least one forced labourer, for up to 15 days at a time. If there was more than one male who was old enough, then they could take turns. The army took them as porters on patrol in the hill areas. There were two military camps near his village, one north, one south. Then it was the military, now it has been renamed NaSaKa. The villagers had to build these camps (the site would be selected by the military, then the order would be given via the village head to build the camp). The first army camps were built in the area in 1962-65; there has been portering since 1975. At first it was once every three or four months, but later (when he left) it had increased so it was almost every day. Other forced labour included working at the military camp (doing fencing and cleaning). The villagers also had to provide chickens to the military camp every month for food. He had three sons, who had to go for forced labour in turns. During forced labour, if anyone made a mistake in carrying out orders, they would be beaten (with hand or other nearby object). He has seen people return from forced labour wounded or sick (one person had a dislocated ankle); he has heard of people who died during forced labour, but has not seen it. There was no cash given for forced labour, but food was given (not good food, but edible, and only for the labourer, not family). They had to give rice as a tax. Everyone had to give this tax, but Muslims had to give twice as much as others. Also, monthly "donations" had to be give for maintenance of the army camp (about 100 kyat per month, but it was variable). Rakhines did not have to pay this money, or go for forced labour. People who couldn't pay the tax would be detained and beaten, and their land would be confiscated and given to Rakhine people. One month before he came to Bangladesh (in the dry season) Rohingya villagers went to the jungle to collect bamboo, as they always did. Forty-five people went for 15 days to the jungle, and on their return passed near to an army camp. They were seen by the camp and forced to distribute all the bamboo and wood they had collected to Rakhine families. People who have come to Bangladesh after previously being repatriated claim that some UNHCR projects required bricks, and this responsibility was given to the NaSaKa. The NaSaKa opened a kiln, then forced people to collect wood from the forest as fuel, without payment, even though funds for this had been given to NaSaKa by the UNHCR. People who had fled again after being repatriated say they could not stay a second in peace after being repatriated. That is why they fled again.
Age/sex: 51, male
Family situation: 12 (him, wife and ten children)
Occupation: Bicycle mechanic (owned a bicycle repair shop)
From: Buthidaung town, Rakhine State
The witness left Myanmar in 1992. The Government oppressed the Rohingyas in many ways. They were not allowed to travel and were discriminated against as Muslims (for example, they were not allowed to have Muslim schools or do business freely). Soldiers would take Muslims from the town to clean up their army camp. This had been going on for decades. The soldiers always said that they were not from Burma. There was one army barracks in the town, but several battalions in the township. They came in 1990. The camps and barracks were all built with forced labour from the local people. The situation was worse for people living in villages. The soldiers would force people to move to make space for an army camp, and then those same people would be forced to build that army camp. Once the army camp was built, the people would be forced to move away, but they would not be given any new place to go to. They were told: "You are Indians. Go back to where you came from." The soldiers would even take their money, saying "This is Burmese money. You are an Indian, so you have no need of this money." Whenever the soldiers moved, they took local people to carry their things. They only took Muslims. They just grabbed whoever they needed, often 100 or 200 people at a time. There was no fixed period that someone would have to do this work. They just had to continue for as long as the soldiers wanted them, sometimes for as long as one or two months. Many people died during portering. They gave the porters no money, and they even would have to bring their own food. When all the men ran away to avoid being taken as porters, the soldiers would rape the women. This happened very often. Some girls were taken away to the army camp and raped there; often they became pregnant as a result. Sometimes the soldiers would kill the girls who became pregnant. In one case, he knew of a girl who was taken to an army camp and raped. She became pregnant, and was kept at the army camp until she had the baby, but she died during childbirth. There was also forced labour that the people in Buthidaung town, including him, were forced to do by the soldiers. They had to clean up the town, and construct roads. There was usually no systematic way that this was organised; the soldiers would just grab people. There was also religious discrimination. The Muslims had no freedom of religion. They could not have Muslim schools. They were prevented from wearing Muslim clothing. They were told: "You can't dress like that. This is not your country. If you want to dress like that, go to your own country." The Muslims also had to pay taxes and extortion which the Rakhine inhabitants did not. Any time the soldiers wanted money, they would just demand it. The people gave them money, but it just got worse, because the people were very poor, and they were always being asked for more money. He was often taken from his bicycle repair shop for forced labour and portering. Rakhine people did not have to do forced labour.
Age/sex: 44, male
Family situation: Eight (him, wife and six children)
From: Village near Buthidaung town, Rakhine State
[village name withheld at the request of the witness]
The witness left Myanmar in 1992 with his family and his elder brother. In 1990 the villagers had to build an army camp. They had to provide their own food, and were beaten by the soldiers while doing this work. Also in 1990, some villagers' land was confiscated and given to Rakhine families. They had to continue to work on the land for the Rakhine families. They were forced to do this by the army, and were not paid. His land was not taken.
Age/sex: 45, male
Family situation: Ten (him, wife and eight children)
Occupation: Township clerk; his family did farming
From: Buthidaung town, Rakhine State
The witness left Myanmar in 1991. He had his land confiscated and an army camp was built on it. He and other people were forced to build this camp. He also did portering. While he was away portering one time, his wife was raped by soldiers. This happened on the 21 February 1991. That was when he decided to come to Bangladesh. He was a township clerk, and had to arrange for people to do forced labour. He also had to do forced labour himself. If he could not do forced labour, he had to pay a substitute 30 to 50 kyat per day. When he did not have money he would have to go himself.
Age/sex: 36, male
Family situation: Five (him, wife and three children)
From: Sittway (Akyab) town, Rakhine State
The witness came to Bangladesh in 1992 because of excessive taxation and forced labour. He could not continue to run his business and do forced labour. He was a trader, a middle-man for trade from Yangon. As of 1990 it was impossible for him to travel any more, and the traders he worked with from Yangon, who were also Muslim, could not travel to him. Some of the Muslims in Sittway had their houses confiscated. They also had to do forced labour. There were about 12,000 soldiers in the area. Locals had to carry supplies to the camps of these soldiers. This started after 1988. He only did forced labour once, in 1988. He was taken as a porter for 15 days in the jungle. The Muslims also had to pay very high taxes, which the Rakhines did not have to pay. As a businessman he usually managed to avoid forced labour, and the worst of the taxes.
Occupation: Village head
From: Village in Buthidaung township, Rakhine State [village name withheld at the request of the witness]
The main reasons why the witness fled to Bangladesh in 1992 were forced labour, taxation, and treatment by the authorities. After the elections in 1990, the SLORC did not accept the results, and began arresting students and community leaders. At this time, some people started to flee. Forced labour and oppression started to increase. Women who were left alone in villages were harassed. Property and land were also confiscated from the Muslims. As more and more Muslims fled, the situation began to break down. The authorities imposed strict travel restrictions on Muslims. Farms, shrimp ponds and other assets were confiscated from Muslims and given to Rakhines. His whole village had to do two days of forced labour each week, every week of the year. Treatment by the soldiers was very bad; many villagers were beaten.
Age/sex: 27, male
Family situation: Single. Six brothers and sisters
Education: 4th Standard
Occupation: Lead mine worker
From: Plo Ba, Mawchi township, Kayah State (relocated in 1996 to Lo Kha Lu, near Mawchi)
The witness left Myanmar early in 1998. Relocation. Upon an order given by an army officer to the village head, in June 1996 all Plo Ba village moved to a relocation site called Lo Kha Lu, also in Mawchi township, at a half-day's walking distance. Plo Ba village was all Karen, about 50 families. At the same time 12 all-Karen villages were relocated to Lo Kha Lu, where over 150 families now lived. Witness did not know the reason for relocation. No one was allowed to stay in Plo Ba village, they had to destroy their houses themselves. One or two families refused to go and were moved to a different place, all were prohibited from going back. At Lo Kha Lu they had three weeks to build a new village themselves, having carried everything they could themselves from the old village. Lo Kha Lu was at the bottom of a hill, an army post on top of the hill. He worked at the lead mine in Mawchi from 1994 until his relocation and continued thereafter. After relocation to Lo Kha Lu (June 1996), witness worked as a porter three times: twice upon an order received through the village head (for three weeks in August 1996 and for one month only two weeks later). About 150 people had to go each time, including women and boys of about 13 years old; they were not told beforehand for how long, were neither promised nor paid anything, fed one hankaw (soldier's rice carrier, equivalent to four condensed milk tins) of rice for three days and some fish paste and were not allowed to take vegetables from the forest. The third time, in November 1997, he was seized directly by soldiers in Lo Kha Lu village, together with around 100 other people, and forced to carry rice to Buko. He fell sick after a week and could not carry the load anymore; he was given no medicine, but hit with a rifle in his chest, beaten and left on the way; he walked back for two days coughing blood and still has a pain in the chest and cannot work (shows a small scar; he also shows an accidental gunshot scar sustained in 1995 when staying with his female cousin at her request when she was visited at night time by soldiers.) He also saw that when 100 people were seized as porters in November 1997 in Lo Kha Lu, some refused and were hit and kicked, punched in the face by the soldiers, he saw their swollen faces, bleeding. He saw nothing happen to women. In the old village (Plo Ba), before 1996, people had to do portering, including his family, but for short-distance, for instance carrying food rations for one day, once or twice a month. Starting December 1997, many villagers were ordered through their head to work on improving the old road from Mawchi to Toungoo. His family was allotted one mile to fill up holes with stones and widen the road by half a metre on either side. They had to bring all the equipment and food from home. Since their allotted stretch was close to their village, he went and did the whole work with his elder sister in ten days, walking every morning and evening two hours from and to the village. They were not paid anything. In addition, from his village, 15 people at a time were required at all times at the camp, plus people from other villages, altogether about 60 people at a time. Since relocation (as well as before, in Plo Ba), his family had to send a worker about three times per month for four days to the camp. He worked there for the last time in November 1997, upon the village head's instruction (before he was seized as a porter). For two days he dug a bunker; the next two days he started making a fence, which someone else had to finish after him. Furthermore, every Saturday, upon an order from an army officer through the village head, one person per family had to work a half-day to clear the bush around the village and do sanitation. Finally, at least twice a month for half a day, he had to do "emergency" work like carrying food rations or fetch water for the army. Overall, in the last few months of 1997, he had to work five days a week for the army and had only two days a week to work for his family. (Moreover, his sister also had to do forced labour on the road.) In his family, there was only one elder sister and their mother besides him; the other brothers and sisters had left. The father had died. The sister worked in the garden, but the mother could not work because of a stomach problem. At the mine, he received 150 kyat a day for pushing a trolley, but when he did forced labour, he was not paid. He was never paid for forced labour neither at the road building work nor elsewhere.
Ethnicity: Karenni (Padaung)
Age/sex: 67, male
Family situation: Eight (him, wife, four sons and three daughters)
Occupation: Tractor driver (previously in government service)
From: Loikaw town, Kayah State
The witness left Myanmar on 30 April 1997. He had to do forced labour and portering. He had to pay money if he could not go. The forced labour he had to do included digging ground and breaking rocks; he had to provide his own tools. Each family was given a quota of labour to complete. The worst time was in 1992 to 1994 when the Loikaw-Aungban railway was being constructed. At this time someone from each family had to go for the whole week, hundreds of people. They had to take their own food and tools, and even had to make their own arrangements for transport to the work site. Anyone who was not able to go had to pay money. He did this work himself, and his two eldest sons also did it (sometimes in turn, sometimes at the same time). They had to work for up to 10 days at a time to complete the assignment which was given to them, which was very tiring. They were not able to earn a living at this time, and ometimes had to sell property to make ends meet. Since the work site was very far away, they had to sleep there. The orders came from the Ward LORC, who were ordered by the Township LORC. He was never beaten while doing this work (because he was older, and other villagers would help him to fulfil his quota), but other civilians were hit and kicked and some received injuries. They were hit by the soldiers if they were working too slowly or talking too much. There were also prisoners doing the work (in shackles), and they would be violently beaten. He saw many prisoners with serious injuries from beatings, and also many prisoners who had died (usually from being hit with spades by the soldiers guarding them). One evening, he saw six prisoners killed in this way within two hours. He has also done portering twice, the first time in 1974, the second time in 1978. On the second occasion he was a porter for three months in a major military operation; four of his relatives died portering in this operation. The treatment was very bad and the porters did not receive enough food and water. One of his sons was also taken as a porter recently, but they paid 1,000 kyat to have him released. Since 1987 or 1988 people in his area have been forced to do work at army camps (digging trenches and bunkers, building fences), and cleaning pagodas. He never did this work himself, but he saw others do it. People were forced to stand guard around electricity pylons to prevent rebels from sabotaging them. People also had to carry firewood and water to an army camp on top of a hill, because the soldiers were too lazy to go down the hill to the stream to wash. The people also had to do forced labour in rice fields belonging to the soldiers. In Demawso and Loikaw he knows people who had their farm land confiscated by the army and who were then forced to work on the land without pay. They would be told by the army how much harvest they wanted, and if the villagers did not manage to produce enough from the army land, they would have to make up the shortfall themselves. This is very common. Half of his own land was confiscated (three acres of peanut plantations) in 1995; he was also previously forced to work in the army's rice fields, but it was not so much in the towns, whereas in the villages people had to do much more work for the army. Villagers also had to build and maintain all army camps, and provide for the needs of the soldiers; if a senior officer came to the camp, the villagers would have to provide food to entertain him. There was a hill called Sin Taung ('Elephant Hill') near Demawso. The Christians had put a cross on top of the hill, and as an act of provocation, the army forced the Buddhist villagers to build a pagoda next to it. The villagers had to do everything for the army. Owners of bullock carts, horse carts, tractors, boats etc. have to be on permanent standby at the army camp (by rotation) in case the soldiers needed them. In one case he knows of, a bullock cart driver was sent to a village four miles away to buy one packet of cigarettes for an officer. Another time, an officer called a bullock cart to come and take a love letter to a girl in another village. This kind of thing was common. When the Student Sport Festival was held in Loikaw, people were forced to 'donate' all the materials such as bricks and wood and were then forced to build all the necessary infrastructure.
He was a member of the NLD. The authorities forced him to resign in January 1996, but despite this, one night soldiers came to his home to arrest him. At that time he was not there, and so he escaped arrest and decided to flee. His family is still in Myanmar (except for three sons who had already fled six years ago). The situation is very oppressive; the authorities take any opportunity to oppress the people. The people, even government servants, are forced to work half a day almost every Saturday doing jobs in Loikaw. He himself has been arrested three times. The first time, in 1964, he spent six months in Taunggyi prison. The second time, in 1983, he was sentenced to six months, but only spent 15 days in Loikaw prison, and was released after paying 10,000 kyat. The third time was in May 1995. He was kept in a tiny cell, usually for solitary confinement, with nine people for 45 days. The cell was almost totally dark, with the only light from a five watt bulb. They were given two bottles of dirty water each day for drinking. Some of the others had been there for four months, and all of them had been tortured. He was released when the authorities could find no evidence against him. Finally, one of his neighbours, a Karen, was returning from Toungoo with 10,000 kyat and some gold when he was taken as a porter. They put him on a military truck, then accused him of being a rebel, and shot him. The soldiers stole all his possessions. He was told this by two eye-witnesses.
Age/sex: 36, male
Family situation : Married with one son and one daughter
From: Si Ko Leh, Shadaw township, Kayah State (whole village relocated by force to Shadaw on 7 June 1996)
(The witness gave his testimony in the presence of witnesses 101, 102, 103 and 104.)
The witness had to do forced labour before and after his relocation. He left Myanmar in February 1997 after escaping from prison. Before relocation he was a porter on one occasion in 1990, during the dry season, just after New Year. He was 27 then. He received the order from the village head. He had to carry rice rations in a mountainous region near Shadaw for three days. The distance covered was a total of 22 miles. He went to a military camp in the mountains (average size, one company). There were about 34 porters, including five people from his village, for 60 soldiers. There were no women, but children (13 to 15 years) and one old person (60). The day began at 4 a.m. and ended at 4 p.m. The porters had to start before dawn and were not allowed to use electric torches. They were allowed a few minutes rest. The first night he slept in the forest and the following two nights he slept in villages. He did not see any fighting. He was not personally ill treated, but he saw other people beaten or struck with sticks, rifles or kicked because they could not carry the load they had been given. It was possible to pay a substitute. The amount necessary was around 300 to 400 kyat. The whole village was relocated on 7 June 1996. Apart from a little rice, he could not take anything with him. He went to a site near a military camp at Shadaw. He had to build a shelter for his family as there was nothing on the site. He did not see anyone ill-treated. The authorities suspected him of belonging to the rebels. He was arrested a few days after his arrival. He was kept in prison for six months. He was tortured, mainly through his hands being tied to the ceiling and his feet bound for long periods of time. During the month when he was not in prison, he had to do various types of work for the military. All the families were subject to forced labour. They could not do anything else. After relocation, he had to build fencing and cut wood. He had to work on four occasions, once a week during the month when he was not in prison. The village head gave him his work assignment. The day normally started at 6 a.m. and finished at 4 p.m. About 30 to 60 people were working with him, including five to ten women who had to do the same work. He was not paid. It was not possible to refuse. In the event of refusal, the authorities deprived them of the small amount of rice which was distributed.
Age/sex: 23, male
Family situation: Married with no children
From: Daw Taku, Shadaw township, Kayah State (village forcibly relocated to Shadaw in June 1996)
(The witness gave his testimony in the presence of witnesses 100, 102, 103 and 104.)
The witness had to work for the army before and after his relocation. He left Myanmar in October 1997. Before relocation, he had to do portering on four occasions. The village head transmitted the order to work. The first time, he was 15 years old. On that occasion, he had to work during the rainy season near the river Salween. The portering lasted 20 days. There were 40 porters, three from his village, for 250 soldiers. There were no women, but young men of 15 to 16 years. The oldest might have been 50. He had to carry cooking pots. He did not see any fighting. He was once kicked because he was not going fast enough. Same routine and treatment the other times he was a porter, aged 15, 16 and 17. The assignments lasted: three days (the second); six days (the third); and 15 days (the fourth). After relocation he also had to do forced labour, the same type of work as witness 100. The work just never ended. He had to work two or three times a month. He was allowed to go home in his free time to fetch food. There were two battalions of 500 men each at Shadaw (LIB 350 and LIB 428).
Age/sex: 33, male
Family situation: Widowed with one son (his wife died at Shadaw a few days after giving birth, due to lack of necessary medical care)
From: Daw Kraw Aw, Shadaw township, Kayah State (village had 103 families about 1,000 people; the village was forcibly relocated to Shadaw in May 1996) (The witness gave his testimony in the presence of witnesses 100, 101, 103 and 104.)
The witness's village was burned by the army so that the inhabitants could not go back. He carried out forced labour before and after relocation. He left Myanmar in August 1996. Before relocation, he was a porter on one occasion in 1993 during the rainy season. The assignment lasted two days. There were 30 porters for 70 soldiers, including two children (13 years old) and four people over 60. All the porters were men. The day began at 9 a.m. and ended at 4 p.m. He had to carry ammunition and rice rations for the army from his village to another village. He received very little food and had to sleep in the forest. He was not paid. He was not personally subjected to ill treatment. However his friend was beaten with a stick because, exhausted, he dropped the load he had been given. After relocation, he had to do forced labour for the military. The village head transmitted the work order to him. Same nature as witness 100. The work demanded by the military just never ended. During the one-and-a-half months he stayed at the relocation site, he had to work for the military three times. The military provided food intermittently. The rations were in any case inadequate. He was not allowed to go home. He was not paid. He could not refuse. It was always possible to pay a substitute or bribe someone to be exempted. He did not do so and did not know how much would have to be paid. The military had seized all his animals (buffalos, one cow, four pigs, ten chickens). He went back to his village for a few days before coming to Thailand.
Age/sex: 30, male
Family situation: Married with three sons
From: Daw Klaw Leh Du, Shadaw township, Kayah miles from the relocation site at Shadaw; it was forcibly relocated there in June 1996)
(The witness gave his testimony in the presence of witnesses 100, 101, 102 and 104.)
The witness's village was relocated to Shadaw in June 1996. In August 1997, he left Shadaw to live in the Soh Paw hills six miles away. There he farmed rice and vegetables, but was forced to move by the army, so came to Thailand at the end of 1997. He had to do forced labour before and after his relocation. Before relocation, he had to work on road building (carrying rocks) and had to carry out various types of work for the military: cutting bamboo, building shelters for relocated people, cleaning the camps. As the relocation site was near his village, he helped in the preparatory work. He did that work for three years, ten times a month, six times a year. He saw men, women, children (ten years) and older people (over 50 years) working. After relocation, he had to do the same work as witness 100. In addition, he had to build shelters for people who had been relocated and help repair the road to Loikaw. He had to work three times a month, a total of 12 times in the year. The remaining time, he worked as a day labourer on farms near the camp (the owners were Karenni and Shan). He was paid in kyat and rice. He was arrested once because he refused to work. He spent a night and two days in prison. He was beaten. He saw many other people beaten (30 to 50 people). Soldiers appropriated all his animals without compensation, arguing that the animals were wild and so they could take them.
Age/sex: 70, male
Family situation: Married with two daughters and five sons
From: Daw Ta Ma, Shadaw township, Kayah State (village had 50 houses and a population of 1,000; it was forcibly relocated to Shadaw in June 1996)
(Witness gave his testimony in the presence of witnesses 100, 101, 102 and 103.)
The witness left Myanmar in October/November 1996. He had to do the same type of work as witness 100 at the Shadaw relocation site. The month he stayed at the relocation site, he worked about three times for the military. Three to four hundred people were doing the same work as him. He did not see any women or children working. He was able to go back to his village several times to fetch food. On one occasion he was arrested by a soldier who threatened him. They tied his hands behind his back. He had to stay like that for a day and a night. Then he escaped. He saw many other people subjected to ill treatment.
Age/sex: 22, male
Family situation: Married (in Thailand) with one daughter
From: Daw Ta Ma, Shadaw township, Kayah State (village had 15 families and a population of 200)
The witness left Myanmar in June 1996, when his village was ordered to relocate to Shadaw. Before relocation of his village, he was a porter twice in 1991 and 1992. He could not forget the experience (which clearly traumatized him). The first time, the assignment lasted 14 days while the second was extended to two-and-a-half months. In his group there were 20 and 50 porters respectively for 300 and 2,000 soldiers (he could not remember the exact number of porters each time). Women had to do portering on the first day of the second occasion that he was recruited. He himself had to carry cooking utensils and ammunition. The second time, he was used as a human shield for the army in a battle. He was not paid. He was beaten twice because, too exhausted, he could not keep up with the column. After relocation, he left Myanmar because he did not want to go to the relocation site to which his village had been ordered to move. He had heard that people were subjected to ill treatment and that you could only do what the army ordered you to. However, he could not stay in his village. He knew that if anyone refused to move, the whole village would have been executed as a reprisal. A written order was transmitted to the village head to that effect. He saw it and read it. The document was signed by a staff officer of the Loikaw command. The document also stated the place of relocation, the fact that all the villages in the Shadaw area were to be transferred to the relocation site and the deadline (7 June 1996). He saw people who had been arrested by the army because they were hiding in the jungle in order to avoid being relocated. A man who escaped after being arrested by the army told him that he had been beaten and struck while his hands were tied behind him, because he did not want to go to the relocation site.
Age/sex: 35, male
Family situation: Married with three sons and three daughters
From: Daw Kraw Aw, Shadaw township, Kayah State (village had 105 families and a population of over 500; village was forcibly relocated to Shadaw in June 1996)
The witness left Myanmar in June 1996. Before the relocation of his village, he had been a porter, and had worked on the roads and the railway. He was a porter four times. The first time ten years ago (aged 12) and the last time about five years ago. He had to carry food and munitions, during the dry season (three times) and the rainy season (once). Only men were porters. However, he saw children of about ten years old accompanying the group and having to carry various things. The assignments lasted two, three and seven days. He had to sleep in the forest. The military only intermittently provided one meal a day. The ration was totally inadequate. He did not see any fighting. He was not personally beaten, but saw his friend beaten because he could not keep up with the group. He worked on the road between Shadaw and the river Salween (about ten miles). He worked there for a day about eight years ago (1992). The village head informed him of the work to be done. More than 1,000 people from various villages worked with him, including women (about twenty), children (about ten aged seven) and older people (about thirty aged over 60). The day began at 7 a.m. and ended at 3 p.m. He had to clear the route. He had to bring his own food. He was not paid. He was not subjected to ill treatment. He did not see any ill treatment, either. He had to carry logs six years ago, for the railway near Shadaw. He did not know which railway. The village head informed him of the work that had to be done. About fifty other people had to do the same. He was never paid, even though he was promised that he would be compensated. After relocation he left his village because he did not want to go to the relocation site. The village head showed him the order from the military stating that the whole village was to be transferred to the Shadaw site by 7 June 1996. He saw the document three days before the deadline. As he could not read, the village head told him what it said. He did not want to move to the relocation site because he was afraid that he would not be able to provide for his family's needs. In addition, he had been told that people who were relocated were forced to work for the military without pay.
Age/sex: 41, male
Family situation: Married with three daughters and three sons
From: Daw Kraw Aw, Shadaw township, Kayah State (village had 105 families and a population of over 500; it was forcibly relocated to Shadaw in June 1996)
The witness left Myanmar in June 1996, after a few days at the Shadaw relocation site. Before the relocation of his village, he was a porter for the army three times. The first time when he was 15. The last time, two years before his departure. That was during the rainy season. Only men were porters, including children (about eight years old) and older people (over 70 years). On leaving his village, he had to go to Shan State. There were more than 80 porters for 500 soldiers. He was not able, however, to see all the porters. He had to carry munitions. The days began at 6 a.m. and ended at 5 p.m. He was allowed only one meal a day, a handful of rice. He had to sleep in the forest. He was not paid. He was beaten and kicked because he was too weak to carry the load he had been given. He also had to work for a military camp at Shadaw three years ago, seven or eight times. The village head told him about the work to be done. He mainly had to do road repairs, work on bunkers, cut bamboo and carry rocks. About 500 to 600 people were working with him each time, including women (about 20) and children (about twenty as young as seven years of age). They did the same work. The day began at 6 a.m. and ended at 5 p.m. He was not paid. He could not refuse and could not pay for a substitute. He was beaten several times because the soldiers thought he was not working properly. He also saw several other people beaten. However, he did not know why they were beaten. The village head told him that he must leave with the rest of the village. He did not personally see the relocation order. He left the relocation site after a few days because he did not even have a shelter where his family could stay. He had not been able to bring anything with him. The few days he stayed at the relocation site he was not forced to do any work.
Age/sex: 40, male
Family situation: Married with two daughters and one son
Occupation: FarmerFrom: Daw Klaw Leh Du, Shadaw township, Kayah State (village had 35 families and a population of over 200; forcibly relocated with all his family to Shadaw in July 1996)
The witness left Myanmar in July 1996. Before his village was relocated, he was a porter for the army on innumerable occasions. The first time was ten years ago. The second three years ago. The assignments lasted from one to ten days. He had to sleep in the forest. The village head transmitted the orders of the military to him. Only the men were porters, including children aged about 15 and older people (over 60). The number of porters depended on the number of soldiers. For 100 soldiers, 40 porters were required. For 200 soldiers, 80 porters were required. He had to carry munitions. The day began at 6 a.m. and ended at 6 p.m. He was only allowed one meal a day. The ration was always inadequate. He was not paid. He saw one battle seven years ago near his village against the KNPP. During the battle, the porters had to stay with the soldiers. No porter was killed. He had not personally been subjected to ill treatment. However, other porters had been beaten. He had seen one porter who had tried to escape being caught by the soldiers. He was tied to a tree and had to stay like that all night after being beaten and kicked. He had been moved to the relocation site in July 1996. The village head had told him of the relocation order and the deadline. Anyone who stayed in the village would be shot on sight. He stayed at the relocation site for about thirty days. He was forced to work about five days during that time. The village head told him what work he had to do. He mainly had to cut wood and bamboo and build fences. He had to work for whole days at a time. Between 20 and 60 people, including women, children (eight years of age) and older people (over 70 years of age) were working at the same time as him doing the same jobs. He was not paid. He could pay a substitute to do the work in his place. He did not do so because he did not have the money. If workers did not find a substitute or did not pay a bribe, they were generally punished by being imprisoned for three days and then forced to work. He was not beaten personally but he saw two people who were beaten because their work did not satisfy the soldiers. The rest of the time, he had no work. He was able to go back home twice to fetch food.
Age/sex: 34, male
Family situation: Nine (him, mother, two sisters, wife and four children)
Education: 6th Standard
Occupation: Collected and sold firewood, etc.
From: Shwenyaung, Taunggyi township, Shan State (Shwenyaung had about 6,000 households, 400 in his ward)
The villagers in his Shwenyaung had to do a lot of forced labour and portering. If someone did not go for portering when ordered, they would be arrested and forced to pay a fine of 3,000 kyat. If they did not have this much money, as was often the case, property to that value would be taken. If an important person visited, the people would be forced to clean up the village. The first forced labour he did was constructing a railway line from Shwenyaung to Yatsauk (Lawksawk) in 1992/3. This work started in 1991, but the preliminary clearing work, etc. was done by rural villagers, and only when larger numbers of workers were required did the army start to use urban dwellers such as people from Shwenyaung. The order was given to the Ward LORC (YaWaTa) by the army, and the Ward LORC (YaWaTa) ordered one person from each household to work without fail. Those households who could not send anyone had to pay 150 kyat. He saw hundreds of people working on the railway line. Shwenyaung was split into groups, and one person from each household in the group would have to do forced labour one day per week, with people from different groups working on different days, by rotation. The workers would have to take their own food, and would not be able to return from the work site until late at night. This work went on for a year, but he only did it himself for two months, after which he paid money so he wouldn't have to go, as it was affecting his income. He was only able to afford to pay this money for a month, after which he neither did forced labour, nor paid money. He was in constant trouble because of this, and was called to see the authorities several times, but managed to avoid arrest. The authorities threatened that if someone didn't do forced labour, or pay their fine, they would be arrested and locked up. He saw both women and men doing the work, ranging in age from 13/14 to 60/70. The workers were not beaten, but one person was forced to go from each household, regardless of the situation, so this is why women, children and old people had to go (about half the workers were women). The work he had to do was building an embankment, digging and levelling the ground, and breaking rocks. The workers were collected and taken to the work site in trucks, but they had to find their own way home, late at night. If workers were sick, they did not receive any treatment. If they did not complete their work assignment in time, they would have to come back the next day. He didn't see anyone beaten when doing forced labour, but he himself was beaten during portering. The next type of forced labour he did was also constructing a railway, this time from Shwenyaung to Namhsam. This was in 1995 or 1996. The work was the same as before, and was arranged in the same way. He did this work himself for the first two weeks, then sent his 13-year-old son for the following two weeks. After that he paid 150 kyat per time to avoid going. He paid this money for three months, then could not afford to any more. Then he neither paid nor worked, and was constantly in trouble. The railway line still was not finished. The next forced labouring he did was portering. He started on 17 November 1997. The order again came from army to the Ward LORC (YaWaTa). The order required 40 porters from Shwenyaung, and the residents had to come to the LORC office and draw lots. Five porters were required from his ward (he was one of those chosen). It was possible for those chosen to be porters to pay 3,000 kyat to be exempted; officials would then use some of this money to hire a substitute. He did not have money so he had to go. The lottery to choose porters took place at 8 a.m., and those who were chosen were detained in a military-owned movie house; this was where all the porters were collected from the different wards, a total of about 60 people. He had to send his wife to bring some personal items from their house. They were not informed of the period that they would be away. At 1 a.m. or 2 a.m. they were moved from the movie house and taken by truck to a military camp in Loikaw, and kept in the lock-up there. They spent one night in the lock-up and were then sent by truck at about 7 a.m. to the Shadaw area. They spent one night there, then at 6 a.m. the next morning they were taken to the Salween river. They crossed the river with motor boats. Once on the other side of the Salween, the porters were given their loads (rice, ammunition, and other supplies); he had to carry rice. At this time two porters threw down their loads and ran away. The soldiers shot at them, but did not hit them. The soldiers and porters walked for the rest of the day, then slept in the open beside a stream that night. They continued walking the next morning and arrived at Meh Te in Kayah State (a village which has been relocated and burned). At this point one porter was unable to continue as he was delirious from a sore leg and shoulder pain. Three or four soldiers began kicking him and beating him with rifle butts, until his face was badly injured and blood was coming out of his mouth. A soldier with two stripes then pointed his gun at the porter and was about to shoot him when the commanding officer intervened. The porter was forced to continue, but was given a military backpack to carry instead of his load. That night at around 8 p.m. they arrived at Kyauk Tat Kwe army camp (battalion 261). The porters then had to cook (for the army as well as for themselves, but separately). The porters were given one condensed milk tin of rice to cook between two people. They were not given any curry or salt or anything with the rice. That night it rained. The porters had to sleep on the ground under the house where the soldiers stayed. They left at 6 a.m. the next morning. On the way, some of the porters who were about 60 were beaten by the soldiers because they could not keep up. At 6 p.m. they arrived at the top of 3222 Hill (named after the elevation), and slept the night. The next day they left again at 6 a.m., and went to Sin Taung ("Elephant Hill"). They had to walk the whole day to get there, and they stayed one night. The next day at 6 a.m. they went to Tin Shu Hill, and arrived at about 1 p.m. On the way, one man was tired and could not continue. The soldiers beat and kicked him, and burned him with cigarettes. Then he was tied up and thrown by the side of the path (he later heard that someone had been sent to get him, but he does not know for sure whether this happened). At Tin Shu Hill they stayed two nights (rested for one day). Then they set off back to 3222 Hill, carrying a soldier who had a bullet wound. On the way back they stopped at Daw Taket (a supply base) and picked up some rice to take back to Tin Shu Hill. They stopped for the night at about 10 p.m. at a village known as Thit Set ('Saw Mill'). The next morning they left at 6 a.m. and went to Tin Shu Hill, via Sin Taung. They stayed one night at Sin Taung (where one porter managed to run away). The next day they got back to Tin Shu Hill and rested there for a few days. After this rest they set off with heavy loads for another hill (he does not remember the name). On the way he began suffering from malaria, and was beaten with a rifle butt by a soldier because he could not keep up. They did not reach their destination that night, and had to sleep the night next to a river. He was very sick, and was given two tablets, but they did nothing, and he thinks they were just painkillers. He thought that he would probably die if he had to continue, so that night at 2 a.m. he went to go to the toilet, and ran away. They came looking for him with flashlights, but he hid behind trees when the flashlight beams came near him. He walked for three days to get to the border. His family has no idea what has happened to him.
Age/sex: 33, male
Family situation: Him, wife and four children
Education: 4th Standard
Occupation: Worked as a Government servant for the township (doing various work)
From: Duro, Pruso township, Kayah State
The witness worked in Loikaw for the government until 1986. He was unable to support himself and left to work in the mines at Mawchi digging lead. He was unable to support himself here either, because whenever the workers had a day off they were likely to be taken away for portering by soldiers, so then they would miss work for the period they were portering and lose income. Because of this he went back to Loikaw. At this time the authorities only controlled the area around Loikaw, but the rest of the area was controlled by the Karenni opposition, and he found it easier to earn money in the Karenni-controlled area, regularly bringing money back to his family. Because he moved between Loikaw and the opposition controlled areas, he was accused (falsely) of working with the opposition and was arrested in 1992. He was released from prison in March 1997, and then was on probation and had to register weekly with the authorities. He was unable to support himself, and also missed a registration because of illness, and so fled. He arrived in Thailand one day before the interview. When he was working for the authorities at a hospital in Loikaw (while working as a government employee before 1986) he had to do work one day a week on his day off doing forced labour. All government employees had to do this, and were paid six-and-a-half kyat for the day (in 1980), but would have to pay a fine of 60 kyat if they did not go. He had to do this one-day-a-week work for several years. His wife, who was also a government employee, had to do this work as well. The situation for government employees was better, because they had to work once a week, but were not forced to complete a given amount of work. If the villagers or townspeople did not finish their work, they would have to continue working until they did. When villagers arrived to do forced labour, they had to report to the army and sign their names against the name of their village; if they didn't finish their work assignment, they would be beaten and could not return to their villages until they had finished. The treatment by the soldiers was also more harsh for the villagers. He was beaten himself while doing forced labour. There was a gunshot, and the soldiers thought one of the villagers had shot at them. They rounded up the villagers and started beating them; they mistook him for a villager, and so he was beaten as well. He was released when he said he was a Government employee. He did not know what happened to the villagers after this. Later, he had to work on the construction of the Aungban-Loikaw railway. The other townspeople also had to do this work. They were given the order by the Ward LORC, with each household or group of houses having to do a given assignment of work (for rural communities, each village was given a certain work assignment). He saw thousands of people at a time doing work. As well as building the railway, he also had to do other work, such as building a motor road, and clearing ground for the Student Sport Festival - every year it was something different. When he worked at the hospital in Loikaw he saw patients who told him they had received their injuries from being beaten by soldiers while doing forced labour.
Age/sex: 26, male
Family situation: Parents, 14 children (of which he is the youngest)
Education: 6th Standard
From: Tee The Klo, Demawso township, Kayah State (village had 100 households)
The witness left Myanmar at the end of 1997. He first did forced labour in August 1996. Previously the area had not been under Government control, which is why he had not done forced labour before. When the army came in, anyone who did not do what they ordered was accused of being a rebel and was shot. The village was given three days in August 1996 to relocate to the centre of another village two miles away called Tee Po Klo. Whatever belongings could not be carried to the relocation site in this time had to be abandoned. At the relocation site the villagers had to stay with friends or family until they could build their own shelter. They were forced to build a fence around the relocation site; there were only two exits, and these were guarded. The villagers were allowed to leave the relocation site during the day to do cultivation, but had to come back at night, and could not take food out with them when they left (in case they gave it to rebels). In order to leave the relocation site for the day they had to buy a pass for ten to 15 kyat per day. At the relocation site he and the other villagers had to do forced labour such as work at the army camp, clearing ground, forced cultivation, cutting trees in the jungle. Whenever the army needed people they would just be taken from the relocation site. The army conducted investigations to find out which of the villagers were rebels. His name came up and soldiers from battalion 429 came to arrest him. They blindfolded him and tied his hands to a rope tied around his neck; they also tied his feet together. They took him away with 11 other people and tortured him in various ways. Five of the group died during torture. The torture included having a plastic bag put over their head, chilli powder up the nose, hot water was poured into their nostrils, being hit and beaten, and being cut with knives. The torture lasted for three days and two nights; they were interrogated during the torture. The seven remaining were sent to Loikaw prison, where they were kept in a small dark cell, and they were interrogated again by military intelligence. During the interrogation he would be asked if he was a rebel, then punched when he said "no". They finally decided he was not a rebel, and moved him to the lock-up at the camp of battalion 530 in Loikaw. The situation there was very bad, with not enough food or water, and bad treatment. His family did not know where he was. He thought that if he continued to stay there he would die, and if he tried to escape he would probably die in the attempt, so he decided he had nothing to lose and would try to escape. He punched the soldier who brought him his food, and ran away with one other person. He was shot at but was not hit, and after six days made it to Thailand; the other person was rearrested. He had to be admitted to hospital with internal injuries because of being kicked during torture. He also has a problem with his leg.
Age/sex: 48, male
Family situation: Ten (him, wife, four daughters and four sons)
Occupation: Village head, and Chairman of a grouping between the VLORC and TLORC levels; before this he had a position within the BSPP (Burma Socialist Program Party), and before this he was a leader of the youth wing.
From: Tong Pet village-tract, Shadaw township, Kayah State
The witness did forced labour for the SLORC many times: portering, cutting bamboo, working at the army camp ... all sorts of things. Even though as a village head he was responsible for arranging for his villagers to do forced labour, he also had to do the labour on behalf of his own household. The first type of forced labour he did was portering for the military, carrying rice from Po Kyaw to Shadaw, a distance of about 15 miles. This was about ten years ago (though he had previously been a porter in 1971/72). Since then he has done portering a total of about ten times. Because he was the village head he would only have to go on short portering trip of around three days; the longest trip he went on was ten days. When he was portering he had to carry rice, ammunition and other supplies. The treatment of porters by the soldiers was bad; the soldiers were rude and sometimes beat porters. He was never beaten himself, but one time some of his villagers ran away during portering, so because he was the village head he was arrested. He was beaten which resulted in some damage to his chest; he was only released when the escaped porters were replaced. His chest wound was made worse by having to carry heavy loads while portering, sometimes up to 60 kg. He still has some trouble with his chest. He has seen other porters with serious injuries from beatings, such as broken noses and blood coming from the mouth. Porters would be beaten if they could not keep up, or if the soldiers thought they were going to run away. He saw some porters killed by the soldiers when they were unable to continue. The bodies were then left by the side of the path. In the case of his village (which was quite large, about 100 houses), orders for porters were sent from the military to the village head (in writing), and the village head had to arrange which villagers went. Because these orders came so often, the villagers could not take it and would often run away. It was thus sometimes difficult to find people to go, so sometimes he had to go himself. One time he went himself and had to carry supplies to Shadaw. When he arrived he was released, but then arrested again by some other soldiers. He was released only when a local VLORC Chairman, who was his friend, complained to the military. The written orders did not contain threats, but verbal threats that the village would be burned down and the village head arrested if an order was not carried out were often made. Porters would only be released when replacements arrived, usually after about ten days, but often as long as two months or more when it was difficult to find replacements. Porters were not paid, but as village head he would arrange for a collection of a little money from the villagers to give to the families of porters so that they could survive. Women were not normally taken as porters, but occasionally, when the soldiers could not get enough men, they would take women, even nursing mothers. Villagers also had to do forced labour at the army camp (he did not do this work himself, but had to arrange for villagers to go). They had to build fences, dig trenches, etc. There has been an army camp in the Shadaw area for many years, and this work has been going on for a long time. The order for this would come from the TLORC, and if workers did not arrive, the army would come directly to the village and grab people. The villagers were also required to provide thatch and other building materials. Sometimes as many as 20 people at a time were required, with the requirement to provide labour rotating among the villages in the area. Women were also required to do this work. He does not know of any case of physical abuse of women during forced labour/ portering, but verbal abuse was common. Other forced labour his village had to do included cutting bamboo and making thatch for use renovating the army camp (one to two times a year). The army camp was ten miles away, so when villagers had to work there they had to sleep one or two nights at the army camp. All the villagers also had to do forced labour on the Aungban-Loikaw railway. Each village was given an assignment to construct a given length of embankment. Most of the villages in the whole of Kayah State were involved. His village first had to go in 1992. Once in 1991 or 1992, 100 people from his village (one from each house) had to go to work for a few days building a road from Shadaw to the Salween River. He came to Thailand with his family after his village was given seven days to relocate to Shadaw on 1 June 1996; about 100 families came at the same time, from various villages. After the order came, he discussed it with the village, but they did not want to relocate. He wrote a letter to the authorities in Shadaw explaining the reasons why the villagers did not want to be relocated, viz. health problems, lack of shelter at the relocation site, the lack of education for relocated villagers, food shortages at the relocation site, and the difficulty for old people of making the trip. These arguments were not accepted, and the authorities said that the village would be burned, so some villagers relocated to Shadaw, but many others fled. The villagers had to walk 12 miles to the relocation site, so they were unable to take all their possessions. The village was then burned and the animals and remaining possessions were stolen by the army. "Not even one dog was left".
Age/sex: 39, male
Family situation: Married with three children
Occupation: Farmer and village head (1994 to 1996)
From: Pa Ku Da, Bawlake township, Kayah State(village on the bank of the Salween close to Ywathit; forcibly relocated to Ywathit in 1996)
The witness's village was part of large-scale relocations. The entire village was ordered to relocate. Order came from an army officer on 16 April 1996. Fifteen families, about 50 to 60 people (mostly children) affected. He tried to stay and ignore the order. Second order came saying the villagers had to move, and that if they stayed the village would be burned down. Other villages in the area were also being relocated at the same time: about seven (100 families in total) all Shan villages in Kayah State. His village was relocated to Ywathit near an army post on the hill above the paddy field where they were sent. Half-day travel by foot away from their village. They were given one week to move and had to leave most of their possessions behind, including water buffaloes and chickens, since there was no motor road to the new site. Other villages moved with them were Wan Loi, Wan Pla, Ko Su Pa, Ho Hta, Wan Pha Ku and Leh Way. They could only take one pot of rice with them. Went back one time after one week time period elapsed without authorization to try to find buffalo, but could not find them. They were given much less land in the new place: ten to 20 times less than cultivated before. Told to build new houses themselves. Not given building materials, just a very small amount of rice, equal to one soldier's rice pot a week per person. Had to live with villagers already there until they built their own houses. Military units in area of original and relocated village: Battalion numbers 54, 72 and 102 before 1994. Division 55 and LIB 429 after 1994. As village head he had a lot of experience with forced labour. The work his villagers were ordered to do was mainly work at the army camp, including maintenance work and portering. This was done on a rotating basis: five people each week every week, one per family, from ten days to one month in length. Orders came in written form and were received by him. No one dared to refuse to go when told to do so. If someone was sick someone else had to go in their place. The village collected 30 to 40 kyat per day to cover the cost of 210 to 280 kyat per person per day. This was paid to an administrative officer, not the military. He did forced labour himself before he became village head in 1994, but not after. Forced labour was also required for work on the road to the mouth of the Pai River from the village, one week per family; work was also done with forced labourers from other villages in the area. This was in 1994, before portering and army camp work was required on a regular basis beginning in 1995. Other types of forced labour were not required because the village was small there were only a limited number of available families and workers. With regard to the way people were requested, the first order that came was simple, telling a certain number to report for work. But if the villagers were late or did not come then the second order came and would be more threatening. It came with a bullet and a chilli. These were traditional warnings meaning death and making things hot for the village. He had to keep the order at all times, and send back the bullet and chilli to show he had received them and understood the message. Orders came from LIB 429 and/or 55 Division. He saw abuses when he was a porter (pre-1994). Labourers were forced to go on foot with very heavy loads, and to keep up the steady, fast pace. Once a porter could not keep up and a soldier took his rice sack and hit him hard on the back of the neck, forcing him to the ground. He was badly injured and died. That was in 1992 during the big offensive in Mye Leh, near the river Pai. Villagers who returned reported never getting enough food and only a small ration of rice per day. If a villager fled during a forced labour assignment the village head had to go to the army to bribe them or pay a fine. Usually, they paid in chickens. Once he had to send women as porters as men were not available. Once they told the soldiers there were not enough people to send and meet the quota. The soldiers came to the village, called everyone out: men, women and children, even babies, and took everyone to the camp for forced labour for four days. The men cut bamboo, the women cooked and cleaned the compound. They were told "this was the first punishment. If you disobey again we will punish you this way again." He heard about but did not witness mistreatment of others during forced labour. Rapes were reported when the soldiers were on patrol or entered a village. He was paid only once for forced labour when repairing an old traffic road. He received 25 kyat a day for seven days.
Ethnicity/religion: Shan, Buddhist
Age/sex: 55, male
Family situation: Married with eight children
Education: 2nd Standard
Occupation: FarmerFrom: Pa Ku Da village, Bawlake township, Kayah State (village on the bank of the Salween close to Ywathit; forcibly relocated to Ywathit in 1996)
The witness came from the same village as witness 115. He took some food provisions when relocated but had to leave behind 300 baskets of rice and ten water buffalo. Took chickens and pigs, but had to eat them for food at the new location. Took some tools. It was five days' walk to the relocation site. The army promised to help and said they would cut logs at their sawmill for free, but villagers had to pay them to haul the logs to the mill and to transport the wood back, so this could not be done as it cost 70 kyat a day to rent a bullock cart. They were given neither food nor money at the relocation site. He left before completing his new house. With regard to forced labour, the army sent an order for five people to make a fence on the army post for two days of work on a rotating basis. Even the old men (60 to 70 years old) had to go if no other people were available. Workers were given one day of rest and then had to return if assigned work not finished. No food or money was given. He was also asked to send two, three, four or five people as porters on patrol. Guide porter heads the march and was subject to stepping on land mines. There were also porters from Wan Loi village (close to Pa Ku Dah). Three porters were killed from mines during portering: two as porters, one as guide. This happened in 1975. The families of the first porter killed received nothing. The families of the other two shared 10,000 kyat paid by the army as compensation. For all these forms of work, they were not paid anything nor given food. After 1995, three people were required to serve as porters every week on a rotating basis. Five others were assigned to perform other tasks: building fences, digging bunkers, building camp facilities. This involved work three to four times a month per family for at least two days. If the porters complained about the excessive weight they were beaten, even old people. Two roads used forced labour. One from Bawlake to Ywathit and the other from the village to the mouth of the Pai river. This was in 1995. It involved five days work, two days off, then five days work again for a total of ten days of work per family. Paid three kyat and 50 pya (he received a total of 33 kyat and 50 pya for the work). No choice, had to go.
Age/sex: 27, male
Family situation: Married with three children; had eight siblings
From: Daw Ku Say, Shadaw township, Kayah State
The witness left Myanmar in July 1996. Before this, he had to porter for the army. Soldiers came to his village and called him as a porter and beat the porters. He and brothers left because of fear of staying in the village. Came with whole family (wife, children and siblings). They were being called and taken as porters one or two times a month or more, usually for two or three days each time, but sometimes people would be taken for one or two months at a time. They were requisitioned either through written orders to the village head or arrested directly by the military. If the village head questioned anything he was told to "... go away or we will seize even more people for portering". It was not done in a systematic way. Sometimes twice a month, sometimes once in two months. It got to the point where the villagers tried to flee when they heard soldiers were coming. The soldiers would shoot at those they saw trying to flee. They beat and tortured some villagers too. That was in 1995. As a porter he was taken to the north-eastern part of Kayah State. Sometimes fighting would break out. He carried ammunition for 16 days the first time, in 1991, for one month in 1993 and a third time, also in 1993. He was told it would be for a short time. They went down the Salween river. He feared for his life, so escaped and returned to his village. He was also made to work for the army cutting bamboo and making fences at the army camp, four hours walk away. Orders came in writing for this too. Shadaw army camp was the site. Worked one day. Other work done on rotation basis too: five days per person per family per month, sometimes once in two months, sometimes twice a month. For all these forms of work he was neither paid nor fed. No medical care or treatment was given if sick or injured. Workers were beaten when tired or if they took a rest. Once the army came to the village looking for porters. All the men were away working in the fields, so they took all the women in the village to work in the camp for one day and they were beaten there. They did not report sexual abuse. Talked only about being beaten. The last order that came that caused him to flee Myanmar was for the village to relocate. It came just before he left in June 1996. They were relocated because the army was afraid they would supply the insurgents.
Age/sex: 21, male
Family situation: Was single when left Myanmar (now married); four siblings
Education: 1st Standard
From: Daw So Kya, Shadaw township, Kayah State
(village forcibly relocated to Shadaw in June 1996)
Order came in June 1996 to relocate to Shadaw. He left there one month after the relocation to flee to Thailand with parents. There were 89 families in Daw So Kya that were relocated. Order was to relocate in one week or be shot. The new site was five hours walk away. Could only take what could be carried. Buffalo were left behind. Given only a tiny piece of land of five metres square, only enough to build a house but not enough to farm. No materials for building were provided. Given a small amount of rice as a ration. With no land and no job there was no way to survive. That was why they fled across the border. Every villager had to do forced labour, even women and children. He portered himself four times, three times before he was 18. First and second times were when he was 11, when he was used as a guide to lead the troops. The third time troops came in and seized people. They tied and beat the village head and took him (he was 12 years old at the time) and used him as a guide again. The fourth time, he was working in his field plowing with his father. Troops came and seized them both to carry ammunition. He was 17 or 18 at that time. He portered for five days. A fight broke out with the insurgents near Daw Ei Lah village. One woman porter tried to run from the fighting that broke out with others and her baby on her back was shot and killed. Those who could not carry their loads were beaten. No food was given so people were weak, and then they were beaten and kicked. Sometimes they would torture the workers by hanging them by the legs with a stick under their knees. Women and children over 12 or 13 were also used as porters, as well as old men. The porters were neither paid nor fed; they had to beg food from houses in villages along the way. They were given only a small amount of dry bread when they got to the Pon river. Orders were also issued for forced labourers to cut bamboo and do other work in the military camp. Five to ten at a time were called from the village to do this from the 89 families on a rotating basis. They had to build bunkers and cut logs for camp buildings.
Age/sex: 25, female
Family situation: Married with one daughter
From: Wan Mai Hong Nai, Nam Mong village-tract, Laikha township, Shan State (village had about 80 families)
The witness's husband wanted to leave Myanmar because he did not want to be a porter for the army. He left nine years ago and she joined him in mid-1997. She had not been personally forced to work. As her husband was in Thailand, he had not worked for the military either. The men of her village fled when the military approached the village so as to avoid being recruited. However, other people in her village had been forced to cook (rice, curry), for the military when they stopped in the village. It was impossible to refuse. Just before she had left, a woman had been killed near her house because the military suspected her of links with a Shan soldier. She had heard that the village had been relocated to a site near Laikha.
Age/sex: 22, male
Family situation: Married with one daughter (aged two)
Occupation: FarmerFrom: Wan Yong, Panglong village-tract, Loilem township, Shan State (village relocated to Panglong at the end of 1997)
The witness's village was relocated to Panglong at the end of 1997. He left Myanmar in January 1998 and walked for four days to reach Thailand. Before relocation he worked as a porter, on construction of roads and railways and in military camps growing maize and rice. He was a porter for the army for the first time at the age of 16 and the last time about a year ago. He had been a porter countless times. The village head informed him of the order from the military. The assignments could last from one to three days. He had to carry rice and ammunition. Only men between 14 and 50 years of age were porters. The food rations were always inadequate. The hours could vary. He often had to march for many hours without rest. He had to sleep in the jungle. He had not seen any fighting. He was not paid. It was possible to pay a substitute: 400 to 500 kyat a time. It was impossible to pay bribes, because the military needed porters. He had been subjected to ill treatment and had personally been beaten with a rifle on three occasions because he was walking too slowly. He saw many other porters beaten because they could not carry the load given to them. He had also worked on the railway for a year two years ago, on the line between Namhsam and Mongnai. These lines were finished and used by both military and civilian traffic. He had to work there every day. He had to level the ground, carry and break stones. He had to sleep at the work site. Five hundred to 600 people worked with him on the site, including men and women (no children). He was not paid. He had to bring his own food. The day began at 8 a.m. and finished at 5 p.m., with an hour for lunch. He had to take on day labourers to work on his farm. He had not personally been subjected to ill treatment. However, if the workers tried to escape and were caught, they were beaten with a stick. He saw that happen twice. He worked on road construction three years ago on the road between Panglong and Namhsam. He worked about 25 times there (for one day) during the year. He had to bring his own food. Twenty to 25 people worked there at the same time as him, including men and women (no children). He had not been subjected to ill treatment and had not seen others ill treated, although the military often shouted at them. He had also been forced to work five times a year ago on the military's fields, growing maize and rice. Twenty people had worked there at the same time as him. He had been relocated two months ago. The village head had informed him that he had three days to move. No one was allowed to stay in the village. All the people of the village were relocated to different places. The village was then burned by the military. He stayed at the relocation site near Panglong for two months. He left there because he could not find enough work to provide for his family's needs. He was not allowed to return to his village to fetch food. However, he had not been forced to work for the military or anyone else.
Age/sex: 23, male
Family situation: Nine (him, wife and seven children)
From: Bang Nim, Sanin village-tract, near Panglong in Loilem township, Shan State (village had 80 households)
Twenty days ago the whole of Sanin village-tract was ordered by Infantry Battalion 513 to relocate to Panglong within seven days. He and his family moved to the relocation site, but there was nothing there and they had to build a house and set up everything, so he fled with his family (his parents were too old to make the trip, so they stayed behind with his sister). He thought the relocation was done because the army was frightened of rebels. They were told that those who did not relocate would be shot. It was a one-day journey to the relocation site, so they could not take all their possessions and had to leave animals behind. They could not go back to work in their fields, so the farmers who were relocated had to get work as labourers for farmers in Panglong; some people had to beg. Relocated villagers were allowed to leave the relocation site during the day, but had to return by 5 p.m. There was not much forced labour before, but once they arrived at the relocation site, they had to do a lot of forced labour. One person from each family had to do forced labour permanently. The people had to plant three acres of sweet corn for the army. People also had to make thatch sheets for roofing the army camp. The villagers did not have to do much forced labour before, but there was portering. There was an army camp in the area of their village, which had been built by the villagers. The troops changed every three months, and the village would have to provide them with their food, and even cook for them. They would send orders to the village head, demanding whatever they needed. He was taken as a porter many times, usually for one or two days at a time, but sometimes longer. He had done longer periods of portering twice. The first time was in 1993 or 1994, when he was taken for four months. Soldiers surrounded the village and arrested about ten porters, including two women (the women were kept for three days, and when they got two male replacements the women were released). The ten people were tied up and beaten. They were not informed how long they would be away. They were then taken to an army camp at Panglong, where they spent one night. The next day they were taken to Langkho by army truck (a distance of about 80 km). They spent the night at battalion 99, then the next day went on foot to No Kong village. He had to carry a load of 4 RPG (rocket-propelled grenade) shells. They then crossed the Nam Taem river by boat, then went to Pang Hat in the MTA (Khun Sa's Mong Tai Army) area. At Pang Hat there was a battle. The porters stayed behind the soldiers, and none died. Many soldiers died, however. The battle lasted 48 hours, day and night. The porters had a little food--rice and watery fish paste. They stayed in this area for about one month. There were about 600 soldiers and 80 porters, but there were also many horses, which is why there were not many porters. During this period, seven or eight porters became sick and died without receiving treatment. Two porters also died when they tried to escape and ran across a minefield. This happened near to the Salween river. When the soldiers were marching, the porters had to go ahead of them, but not at other times. He also went as a porter for 15 days in 1997, in the Laikha-Mongkaing area. He was arrested by soldiers early in the morning when he was working in his fields. He had to carry a radio set to Lin Yok, which was one day walk. They then slept there for five nights. Then they had to continue to Wan Larng Long, about two hours' walk away, where they spent the night. He was released in Wan Larng Long. In total there were six porters and four horses for about 90 soldiers. During portering, the soldiers would steal chickens to eat from villages. If a porter could not keep up, he would be beaten. Porters who could not continue would just be left where they were at the side of the path. The porters ate two times a day; they were only given a little rice with some fish paste.
Age/sex: 18, female
Family situation: Married (wife of witness 121) with one child
From: Wan Yong, Panglong village-tract, Loilem township, Shan State (village relocated to Panglong at the end of 1997)
Witness left Myanmar in January 1998. For her and her fellow villagers forced labour started only after relocation to Panglong, about two years ago in the dry season. The order to relocate was given by soldiers from battalion 513 to the village head, giving them three days to move to Panglong and prohibiting them to go back. They said that if the villagers did not move, they would burn the village, round up all the villagers and beat them to death. They were not allowed to take with them livestock, paddy, building materials. The livestock was shot for the soldiers to eat. They had to walk to the relocation site. The villagers were too afraid to take carts. At the new place, they collected some wood and built little tents and huts. The soldiers did nothing during relocation. Since then, it has become very difficult to get enough food to make a living; they are not allowed to go and work. At the military compound, the villagers had to clear the ground, supply bamboo and thatches. She herself had to prepare the ground for planting chillies and grow them, and cut bamboo, once or twice a month for one or two days. This was all the forced labour she did. Her two elder brothers had to go more often, three to four times a month, out of which two to three times, two days in a row (over a two year period). She had to go only when they were not available, as the soldiers mostly asked for men. Also, the road to the military camp was regularly washed out by rain and they asked for people to repair it. Her elder brother had to go many times, also fetching sand to pile up for the road even when it was not being repaired. At least four times a month a family member was away doing forced labour.
Age/sex: 35, male
Family situation: One younger brother and one younger sister
Education: No formal education
From: Mong Maw, Namtu township, Shan State (he fled to a village in Laikha township when his village was forcibly relocated nine years ago)
The witness left Myanmar early in February 1998. Nine years ago his native village of 85 families was forced to move to Pang Hai village-tract in Namtu township, where there is a silver mine. At that time, he himself went in four days to Laikha township in central Shan State, because he did not want to go to Pang Hai. The soldiers told the village head (of Mong Maw) that the village had to move within three days. The villagers were reluctant, so the soldiers came back and, seeing that the majority of the villagers were still there, burned the village. His younger brother broke his knee when running out of the burning house and falling. He got no treatment from the soldiers. Another person broke his arm. The soldiers shot and ate the livestock as if it belonged to them. If they saw people around the village they beat them or even shot them. When the village was burnt, people lost all their things. In Laikha township, witness went to a small remote village of only 13 houses, where there were no SLORC soldiers and hence, he never did any forced labour there. But over one year ago in the cold season (end of 1996), that village was forced to move by the Burmese soldiers, who hated the Shan opposition soldiers who were around at that time. They gave the villagers three days to move to Laikha and shot one villager dead after he went back to the village in spite of their prohibition. They were relocated to the outskirts of Laikha, from where he fled here two or three days ago because the situation was quite chaotic. Forced Labour in Mong Maw. He had to stand guard all the time, taking turns, about three times a month for one night. He also had to cut bamboo and wood, dig trenches and build fences and houses, all for a military camp. He had to go almost every day for three months, until the camp was finished. He was the only one in his family who went. He also had to do forced labour building bridges, repairing roads. His family could only send him, because his brother and sister were too young. He had to go 15 days at a time about 15 times. The soldiers told him to finish a marked stretch in a given time and, if he could not, they beat him. He was beaten with a cane as long as his arm, very painfully, on three occasions. Other people doing forced labour were also beaten by the soldiers because they were slow at work, some because they were opium addicts. Railway construction in Laikha. He did forced labour working on the new Taunggyi to Namhsam railway line. He had to work there 15 days straight, sleeping where he worked, with hundreds of others. They had to bring their own food. SLORC soldiers told the villagers how to do the work. They did not beat them, but warned that, if they ran away, they would be shot. Also, for electricity lines from Panglong to Laikha, he had to work three times one day. There were hundreds of people at the same time, but not from all the villages at the same time.
Age/sex: 38, female
Family situation: Married with six children
Occupation: Agricultural day labourers
From: Yebu, Hlaingbwe township, Kayin State (before village had 1,000 households, now the majority have left)
The witness left Myanmar with her family in late 1997 because of the amount of forced labour for the military (including portering), sometimes up to 20 days in a month. As day labourers, if they went to do forced labour one day, they had nothing to eat the next. The soldiers treated Muslims, Karen and hill people badly, but Muslims even worse than the others, making it very difficult for Muslims to stay in the villages. They were subjected to harder forced labour and had less food, so they fled from the villages into the towns. In her village, there used to be 200 Muslim households, now only 15 or 16 were left. Normally, the soldiers ordered the required number of porters through the village head, but if the village did not send them, or not quickly enough, they fetched them themselves. At that time, if the villagers went with the soldiers immediately, it was okay, but otherwise the soldiers would chase the villagers and beat them In her family, portering was always done by men. Her husband thus had to carry ammunition and food for the army. For many years, the practice had been to be required to do portering once a month, normally for some five days, but often for a week or ten days and sometimes over a long time, for two months or more. Sometimes, for a very short distance, it could take only one day (e.g. to the nearest army camp), but then they would take two or three people from the same household, making it more difficult. Sometimes they would instruct porters to pack up food for so many days (e.g., 15 days) for the porters to eat. Strong people who could do the work were usually okay. If porters were tired, unable to do the work, they would be beaten and kicked and sometimes shot dead. Some of her friends from other villages were killed in this way. On one or two occasions, her husband was beaten on the back with a bamboo cane, opening the skin; she saw it, and it has happened a lot to other people. Working as a porter, a villager would only be fed a small amount and would be expected to do heavy work. They would beat and kick the porters and sometimes leave them on the roadside. She had seen a lot of injuries done to porters from beatings and kickings all over the body that had to be treated medically. When there was fighting, as in the Kayin State, the soldiers put the porters in front so they would die and the soldiers stayed alive. It had happened to her husband. Even at other times, when the soldiers expected an attack on the army camp, she had been used as a human shield. They called the whole village, with the infants, to be placed in front of the army camp. Villagers had died this way, even from her own village about 20 people: Muslim, Karen, hill people, some in the last few months before she left, some over the last year. With regard to camp building and servicing, three military camps were in the region, Yebu, Nabu and Painkyone, (with smaller outposts around them). They had been there for at least 20 years, but not always in the same location. If any camp moved to a new location, people had to build the new camp: men, women, children, everybody. In the case of Nabu, the people from Nabu village, about 1,000 families also had to move themselves two or three years ago to make a place for the army camp. Nobody lived there anymore. Some moved to Kawkareik and other places, or nearby into the hills. At Yebu there was a big camp, she did not remember it moving, but little outposts around it where the soldiers went on patrol had changed location. When they were building a camp, people from far away villages also had to come and do forced labour, but for the routine servicing, she only had to go to Yebu camp, not Nabu or Painkyone. For camp service, written orders were given to the village head, but if there was a problem with compliance, the soldiers would come and beat people. They did not always call up one person from each house in the whole village, sometimes, for example, if they wanted five people, it rotated among households. It was one person from the household, they did not care whether her husband was away (e.g. working far from the house as a day labourer, or serving as a porter). In his absence, and if she had no money to pay them off, they would not accept no for an answer, she had to go. Her eldest son having left long ago, her second child, a daughter, also had to do forced labour; sometimes even young children had to go. In the camp, men also had to do portering, and men and women alike fetched water, were on standby for messenger service, cooked rice for the soldiers and did any kind of work needed. When the soldiers changed (i.e., a different army unit moved into the camp) it meant more work, new things. They also had to cut and split bamboo and make things from it. Sometimes, men would be sent deep into the forest to fetch trees, cut them and deliver the logs to the soldiers. Often, there was much more of this than needed in the camp, and the soldiers had it transported elsewhere, she does not know whether it was for use elsewhere or sale. The witness also had to do all kinds of forced cultivation. The villagers had to do all the work and deliver the harvest to the soldiers for sale. They also had to provide chickens and meat asked for by the soldiers. If someone did not, the soldiers would put him in the lock-up and kill and eat his cattle. She, her husband and children had all worked on the Nabu to Painkyone road. Af ter she left, people in her family still had to do it: one person per family, even children 12 and 13 years old. She knew of ten-year-olds who had done forced labour. If nobody from a house went, they had to pay a fine, but nobody had money to pay, so a child had to go; if not, the soldiers came to the house and beat people and swore. Villagers quite far from the road also had to do the work. From her village, they would take one person per household, but not always all at the same time, maybe 50 at a time, by rotation depending on how many were needed. This road running from Nabu through the Yebu area was close enough for her to go home at night, others had to make their own arrangements, building shelters or sleeping in the open air. The treatment was different from portering, which was much worse, since porters could only rest when the soldiers rested, and the soldiers did not care whether porters were tired, hot, cold, hungry, and gave only a small amount of food. Here, the villagers could arrange themselves for eating, sleeping, and could rest, provided they did the work. They were assigned a particular stretch of road, normally without a deadline, but sometimes a given amount of work had to be finished within five days. The money/fine to be paid for not providing forced labour was about 100 kyat per day. If the work was farther away, one had to pay for three days: 300 kyat. Other times the sum may have been only 60 to 70 kyat. The amount also depended on how hard the labour was, for portering one must pay more, both because it was often longer, up to two moths, and because it was harder work, so maybe 200 to 300 kyat per day was paid for portering. If there were three villages, the soldiers would go to the first village and, if the villagers could pay, take the money. Likewise in the second. Only if they came to a village that could not pay did they take the workers. They much preferred money over workers, but if they really needed workers, they would get them. Even if people payed, someone had to do the forced labour.
Ethnicity/religion: Karen, Christian
Age/sex: 48, male
Family situation: Married with five children
Occupation: Day labourer (before relocation)
From: Mye Yeh, Kyaukkyi township, Bago Division (village had 57 families; relocated four years ago to Yan Myo Aung village along with 650 families from eight villages)
The witness arrived in Thailand in early January 1998. Four years ago, following an ambush by KNU soldiers in the forest near Mye Yeh village when 14 SLORC soldiers were shot, the SLORC troops destroyed three wells and coconut, mango and lemon trees in the village and rounded up all men, women and children from the village as well as two neighbouring villages (Ter Paw and Po Thaung Su), tied them up and kept them in the sun, preparing their guns to shoot them. After a soldier convinced the commander of the villagers' innocence, they were not shot but made to walk to the relocation place, four hours away. With regard to forced labour, starting two years before relocation, the villagers had to work on road construction every day throughout dry and wet seasons. One person per family, man, woman or child, had to go and carry stones. He himself worked six days, then his wife one day, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., with a break to eat rice once a day but no time to rest. While he was working on the road, his wife earned money getting vegetables from the forest and selling them. When his time came to do portering while he worked on road construction, he borrowed money to pay instead of going as a porter. After relocation, he had to do road construction work only in the dry season, and only for a few days a month, because the work was shared among many villages, in rotation. When the villagers arrived at the relocation place, they had to do sentry duty every day and night beside the road. His quota was three days and nights in a row per month, in a group of three people split between three watches. Between February and November 1997, he had to cut fast growing grass/weeds once every two weeks while on sentry duty next to the relocation place. Seven times, he did carrying work for the soldiers: before relocation, five times for three days each time; and after relocation, two times, while on sentry duty. Throughout the last six years, he was called up as a porter once a month, but he paid instead of going; to be exempt from portering three days a month, he had to pay 200 kyat a day. Everybody had to do forced labour and go for portering, or pay. Some people who could not pay went portering; his wife had a small baby, and he was afraid to be killed while portering, so he paid. Khin Maung Win (from his village) died while portering in January 1997, leaving a young widow with a baby. He had not wanted to go, but was rounded up by the soldiers. One of his fellow porters came back and said that he had died with a soldier, stepping on a land mine. Also in January 1997 four people from Yan Myo Aung village were lost while portering, so the other villagers guessed they died. After relocation, at one time, one person from each family in the village had to go to the forest and cut many kinds of trees and bamboo, for one and a half months. Then villagers from two other villages, Lay Way Gyi and Ner Gu had to go and plant chillies. Later, water flooded the planted chillies and destroyed the crop, whereupon the SLORC soldiers went to the villagers who had planted the chillies and asked for 150,000 kyat from each of the two villages (300,000 kyat total). While doing portering, soldiers kicked him a few times. Once soldiers forced him to carry 20 shells, which he could not, so several soldiers kicked him on the chest so that he fell down, punched him in the face, until a sergeant-major came and ordered ten shells to be taken off his load, so he carried ten to the next village. Once he saw that a boy captured by the soldiers while looking after the cattle was kicked and bled from the mouth but he doesn't know why he was kicked. On road construction soldiers just yelled at people but did not hurt anyone. The last time he did forced labour was in November 1997, carrying shells for five days. After that he always ran away (like all the villagers) when SLORC soldiers approached the village. Since relocation, when not doing forced labour, he lived from catching fish and frogs, eating some, selling some. He came to Thailand because there was no rice left in the house and he had no chance to work for his own family.
Age/sex: 48, female
Education: 10th Standard
Occupation: Head of a village section
From: Bee T'Ka village, Hlaingbwe township, Kayin State
(village had around 200 families and was divided into eight sections; each section had 20 to 30 families)
The witness left Myanmar in early February 1998 because she had finished her period as section head and no longer wished to be in contact with the military. The soldiers knew her. If she had stayed, the soldiers might have come to her house. She had done her work against her will, but could see no other alternative since she could have been arrested or beaten if the military found her work unsatisfactory. Villagers took on the role of section head on a rota basis. She had been section head for a month and had helped her successor for six months. Women are often appointed section heads or village heads because they are generally less badly treated by the military than men who take on the same functions. She did not dare return for fear of being arrested. At the request of the military, she had to organize the villagers' work on the building of the road between Hpa-an and Dawlan. The order received from the military was a written one. One member per family had to contribute to this work. She had to organize the work of 150 people, including 90 women, over six days. The villagers were neither paid nor fed. They were generally reluctant to work, but ended up complying and in the end seemed happy to work together. A person who refused to perform the allotted work could face sanctions administered by the military. In cases where a family could not contribute to the work, it had to pay. She then used the money collected in this way to buy food for the other villagers who were working. It was also possible to pay a substitute. She also organized portering, which had to be done once a month. The work was performed in accordance with a written order from the military. Each time, eight to 12 villagers from her section were designated. The villagers could pay her money directly if they were unable to go, or they could engage a substitute. There were two types of portering. The first consisted of carrying materials, equipment or food from one camp to another. The second was required during military operations. Women generally did the former type, while the latter was reserved for the men. Women's portering work lasted one day on average, whereas the men's portering depended on the scale of the military operation. The porters were not paid, but were too frightened to refuse to go and do the portering demanded. In the case of an unjustified refusal, the military threatened to relocate them or burn down their village. Further to this, she had also once a year for three years had to organize the construction of two military camps which were close to her village (three miles away). The villagers also had to provide the necessary materials (mainly wood), for which they received no compensation. They were not paid. She had to organize the collection of food for the military. Twice a month, the villagers had to provide pigs, chickens and vegetables for the military, who paid less than half the market price for them (70 kyat a bundle instead of 150 kyat). Finally, at the request of the military, she had to convince the members of the KNU living in her village when she was section head to leave that organization. She did not do this of her own free will, but was expressly required by the military to do it.
Age/sex: 43, male
Family situation: Married with seven children
Occupation: Farm labourer
From: Nabu, Kawkareik township, Kayin State
(village had about 300 to 400 households)
The witness arrived in Thailand in May 1997. He left because could not stand the trouble and oppression of the SLORC any longer. His village was relocated in December 1996. He performed wide variety of forced labour and portering assignments on an extensive and continuous basis, especially in 1996 after a military camp was built near the village. In August 1996, he witnessed a woman who was doing road building work being beaten to death by soldiers when she could not do the work. In the six months before relocation, 28 of 31 days per month were spent on portering and forced labour. In June 1996, he had to do road building work on the Nabu to Kyondo road. This work was done by the villagers in rotating shifts throughout the year. Also, a new camp was built in 1996 before the village was moved using forced labour. A third type of labour that was required was portering. All these types of labour were taking place one after the other on a continuous basis. The village was not given the order to relocate until all this forced labour was done. For six months they were doing the three kinds of forced labour: road building, army camp work and portering, one after the other with almost no rest or time off for their own work. There was, at most, one day's rest from time to time. People died from exhaustion and inadequate food. All adults had to go, not just one person per house: women and children as young as 13 were required to go. They even put him and some women in stocks. Orders for this work would come through the village head. But if they had a problem filling quotas then the soldiers would come directly to the village and arrest people. With regard to roads, about 200 to 300 people at one time, from several villages, would work on the road for 15 days at a time. They could return to the village to sleep. The work of the group ended only when the designated assignment was completed. They were told what to do and by what time it had to be done. Road work involved digging earth for the embankment, clearing trees and roots, and breaking stones for surfacing. He himself went on four different assignments of 15 days each during the six months before relocation. There was six months of continuous work on this road before the relocation using people from his village. When he returned from this assignment there was portering or army camp work to do. With regard to army camp work, there were three army groups: Infantry Battalions 541, 548 and 549. They built three encampments in Nabu village. They were built right on villagers' land that was appropriated for this purpose. The villagers had to clear the land, destroy the houses, then build the camp buildings. They cut timber and carried it to the site. It took one year to build the three encampments from the time they started the clearing of the ground. The buildings were constructed of cement and wooden posts. This was also done in rotations of 15 days. When the building was finished there were other types of work they had to do in the camp. It was an endless process of forced labour. The situation was so bad that when the relocation came it was almost a relief, because it gave the villagers a chance to escape. Women and children were also involved in the army camp work. The soldiers cursed the Muslims and beat them if they worked slowly. He also did portering three times for ten days each in 1996. He had to porter way up into the Dawna mountains in Kayin State, to very high elevations. Sometimes the soldiers would make the porters go through the night, without sleep. For portering half the time orders would go through the village head, the other half the time they would just come and round up porters by arresting them where they could find them. He was arrested three times: he ran away twice and finished the portering assignment once. The first two times he portered, he escaped. His load was of rice and ammunition, and artillery shells weighing 20 viss (33 kg). Soldiers would swear at the labourers and beat them as you would a buffalo or a cow. They would shoot at them if they tried to flee. Beatings were about the same in forced labour as for portering, but the treatment was worse in portering because food was not available. Sometimes porters would be starving and be only given rice soup. In contrast, labourers brought their own food to forced labour sites. All porters received was two meals, morning and evening: a total of one condensed milk-tin portion of rice, no salt, curry or fish paste. They picked leaves from the forest to eat with the rice and worked all day without breaks, sometimes through the night too. If you fell sick there was no treatment or medicine. Porters were left by the side of the road if they were too sick to continue. He never saw a porter shot by the soldiers, but has heard about this happening. Normally, there were no women porters taken. The youngest boy working as a porter that he saw was about 13 years old. Men of up to 70 were also taken. Sometimes women were called if the soldiers could not get men. He did not see any cases of sexual abuse of women. There were, however, other kinds of physical abuse. During army camp work villagers had to provide their own food and everything that was needed by the soldiers, including food for the soldiers. If the villagers did not give what was requested there was trouble. If they could not provide animals they had to give money instead. The village was relocated in December 1996. When that happened he went to other Karen villages and stayed there until he could escape to Thailand. Between January and May 1997, he was in hiding in various villages, so he did not perform forced labour. The witness added that everyone was subject to forced labour, not just Muslims. But the oppression of Muslims was even worse than the treatment of Karens. In September 1997, he received the news that the Mosque in Nabu had been destroyed by soldiers now living there after relocation. At the time of relocation another site was selected for the villagers to move to. But there was no water there and it was a bad area, so no one went. The villagers knew they could not survive there. "They had no compassion for us" he said.
Ethnicity/religion: Karen, Buddhist
Age/sex: 36, female
Family situation: Married with three children
From: Meh The, Hpa-an township, Kayin State
The witness fled to Thailand in early January 1998 with her family when their village of 36 houses was relocated. The order had come several times but the villagers had ignored it and stayed. The first order was given by the authorities to the head of the village before the harvest, in Tazaungmon month (around November), and people did not care. Then twice they came to the village and asked the villagers to move by force. The villagers left the village, but later came back. The fourth and last time, the DKBA fired mortar shells into the village, one house was burnt; fortunately, nobody was hurt, as many were working in the fields. They were asked to go to Htee Nu, where before there had been a monastery, no village (nor a military camp), two to three hours' walk from her village. She did not know whether others moved there, because her family left, fleeing to Thailand with nothing but 2,000 kyat; even the clothes they were wearing at the time of the interview were given to them by other people. With regard to forced labour, there were so many kinds: road construction, portering, or camp building. For instance, she might have to go to work in a military camp, then, as soon as she arrived home, be called to serve as a porter. One was never sure. There were many battalions in the area, some would catch people for portering, others for other work. Some months, she did not have a single day for her own work, nor her husband for his. Both were called up for the whole month, engaged in different work, portering, road construction, building a military camp. In the rainy season there was more forced labour than in dry season (when military operations started and they were forced to move from their village). To refuse to do forced labour, she would have had to hire a substitute (which she never did). Two years ago, the witness saw the acting village head, a lady of over 60 years old (name given to the Commission), being beaten. She was asked to tell the villagers to go for messenger service and nobody listened or turned up, so Government soldiers came into the village and beat her. She suffered a cut on the head from a blow with a bamboo stick, leaving a big scar. She was tied up the whole night, then beaten. After her release, the soldiers asked for a pig. She didn't know the name or rank of the soldiers involved. The company commander was Bo Hla Phine. Some time later, the same acting village head, when asked to look for forced labourers, was too frightened to go to the camp, so they wrote to her three or four times, and also included a bullet in the letter. At last she went and was put in a pit the whole night. The next day she was released, they asked her for a cow which she could not provide, so she took a pig to the camp commander. With regard to road construction, the witness worked for the past three to four years on the road between Lay Kay and Ta Paw, which was there long ago and never used before. Now the work was finished and the road, about four metres wide, was used by military trucks and cars. She had never seen a bullock cart on the road. The order had come through the village head that one person from each family had to go, for one or two days at a time, depending on the work. They were given no food, nor money, nor tools, which had to be taken from home. They had to work till sunset and could go home for the night. Each household had to go three or four times per month. She had also done portering herself four times. Two years ago the first time, for two days. She was rounded up while sleeping at home. Early in the morning the military woke her up, gave her a basket to carry, about 13 to 14 viss (about 22 kg). The load was too heavy for her and she cried while carrying it. Her husband was not at home, he was in the fields. She had to carry the basket to a place near Shwegun. There were many porters, mainly women. Men were beaten, when accused of leading the soldiers in the wrong direction (while portering). They were hit on the head, suffered a lot. The same year (1996) she had to do portering four times in all, three times rounded up, once called up through the village head. The second and third time, she had to go for three days, the last time two days. Her husband had portered only once. He was very scared of the Burmese and ran away whenever soldiers were around. When rounded up for portering, he managed to escape after four days, because he could no longer carry his load. He was not tied up, nor beaten. If someone had money, they could hire a substitute when called up by the village head. When rounded up, he had no choice but to go. In any case, no one in the village had money. When Ta Line Kayin camp (Commander: DKBA officer Bo Than Tun) was set up two years ago, two hours' walk away from her village, the military gave orders through the village head for one person from each household to contribute labour. If orders were followed, it was one person per household, if not, everybody was rounded up. They had to go there until the camp was finished, it took months, beginning at the start of the rainy season. Other villages also had to contribute labour, sometimes ten, 20, 30 people would be there. She herself had to cut and split bamboo, make fences and bamboo booby traps, cut trees, make roofing, clear bushes, help carry trees to a place from which soldiers would take the logs away. Her husband was not well, so she had to go, do everything. She was not paid, had to bring her own food, but could go home at night. Her 17-year-old son also had done forced labour, cutting trees for the military camp last year, not at the same time as herself. Sometimes people tried to run away. She saw people being beaten and ill treated. Usually two persons from the village had to go at the same time for a full day to the camp, to be on standby for messenger service; other villages, altogether over five, also had to supply messengers. Her eldest child had done messenger service (not at the same time as herself). Moreover, villagers had to perform sentry duty. The order for this came through the village head. One person had to be on the road for five days, sweeping the road, for example before and after military trucks passed. Last year she went three times for five days each, always without pay, having to bring her own food and sleeping on the site, under a bush, while soldiers guarded the villagers. The soldiers did not hurt them. She heard about sexual abuse, but was not sure. Two years ago, her mother (who lived with them) went once for the family, and her son once. In addition to providing labour, when soldiers asked for whatever they wanted in the village (a cow, a pig), the villagers had to supply it, arranging among themselves. Also, any amount of rice the soldiers asked for had to be given. Money also had to be paid. In 1977 the soldiers asked for 3,000 kyat from the whole village.
Age/sex: 16, female
Family situation: She lived with her widowed mother, elder sister, and two nephews
Education: 3rd Standard
From: Dawlan, Kawkareik township, Kayin State
(village had 150 households)
The witness left Myanmar in January 1998. Her village comprised 150 households, at present only one, two or three houses remained. Since September 1997, the authorities announced the village had to be relocated because an army camp was to be set up in its place. No location was indicated for the inhabitants (Muslim, Mon, Burman, Karen) to go to. The people were forced to move. Some went over the border to refugee camps, some (Muslim) wanted to stay, but with the KNU fighting in the village, the authorities did not allow anyone to stay, and there was a lot of shooting. In January, they burned down the village and when villagers tried to come over the border the Myanmar army stopped people to check their identity cards. The Muslims had no identity cards, although they had been promised them already three times by the authorities, which had come and taken photos and data (before September 1997). But the Muslims and Karens never received identity cards. She and her family spoke to soldiers and crossed the check point. Actually, no military base was being set up at the site of the village, which was merely close to an existing base and therefore removed. For her household, she had to go from the age of ten to do forced labour, because her elder sister was not healthy. She did men's work, making a fence around the army base, surfacing the road. The military stayed with sticks behind the people, yelled at them and beat them when they did not work. She saw many men being beaten by soldiers and when she was younger, up to the age of 13, she was beaten herself. Now she was afraid of that, so she always worked. Every month, she had to go for 20 to 25 days. From the age of ten, she had to go to the army base, building houses for the soldiers, digging and carrying mud to make the floors; she also had to help make a fence, carrying bamboo, and doing whatever work the soldiers wanted, such as digging a bunkers and trenches, cooking every morning. In the dry season, she had to carry water. Even if sick, she had to work, was not allowed to be free. By order handed down through the village head, all 150 households in the village had to contribute every month ten days of regular work for the army camp. In her family, she had to go for 20 to 25 days, in part (ten days) as regular work for the army base; the remainder was because her family could not pay for porters fees, over 1,000 kyat every month. When they told the village head they could not pay, the soldiers came to the house, pointed a gun at them, so that she feared for her life, then told her to work at the army camp. Thus, they came every month when the family could not pay the porter fees. In her family, one person (herself) worked all the time for the army. She did not work as a porter. With regard to sexual abuse, when single women were sent to the army camp, soldiers did to them what they wanted, afterwards they either married or paid them; the women were very shy to talk. The villagers could not do anything about it. When she did work at the army camp, every evening her mother went there and fetched her back home. When she was 13 or 14 years old, she also had to work surfacing a car road from one army base to another. It was always for 15 days, people had to take food with them and sleep beside the road. The frequency of the call up was not regular, it depended on the road situation; in the dry season, it was more often, sometimes once per month or every two months. They had to cut trees, place the trunks on either side of the road, carry soil and fill the space between the trunks. In rainy season, girls had to transport ammunition and guns ten days a month, paddling a canoe; men had to carry them over land. Every rainy season, the village was flooded, the water almost covered the houses, but people still had to pay porter fees and transport ammunition and guns in canoes (dugout or made of planks, for three to four people, two girls paddled - one in front, one at the back). These three types of work filled the year for her. In addition, there were the following minor jobs. First, the villagers had to pay 20 kyat per month (per household) for the soldiers' wash, then the army paid someone to do their laundry (single women). She worked twice because her family could not pay the 20 kyat. Second, every day, every family had to carry a bundle of firewood, a tin of rice and 10 kyat to the army. She collected and carried the firewood. Third, every day four families (out of 150) had to supply one person to watch for strangers outside the village, two in front and two at the back of the army base. Her family could not stand watch because they had too much other work to do, so about once a month, when it was their turn, they paid 100 kyat to someone else to go. She decided in the end that she could not stay in the village because she was overloaded with work. That is the reason why she left.
Age/sex: 62, female
Family situation: Married
From: Antwe, Kawkareik township, Kayin State
(village had 32 families)
The witness left Myanmar in November 1997. She was appointed as village head in March 1997 and served in this capacity for three months. The military requested her to organise the work of the villagers so as to construct their camp in Hlawlay. She divided the families into two groups which had to work on a rotational basis. She personally had to work with the other villagers and believed that the toughest work which she had to perform was to cut and carry bamboos from her village to the camp, on a two-mile distance. During the 1997 rainy season, her village was relocated to Hlawlay together with Klaw Chaw, Thawaw Thaw, Po Kaw and No Po Khee. She had to move to Hlawlay in June 1997. There she had to build fences. In November 1997, the military ordered the villagers to give two thirds of their rice crops to the army camp. Her husband served as a porter five times in 1997. He was beaten when he was too slow and was given rotten rice as food ration.
Age/sex: 18, female
Family situation: Three (her, husband, one child aged 14 months); she had four siblings
From: Taung Khun, Yebu township, Tanintharyi Division
(village had 40 households)
The witness arrived in the Mon refugee camp in January 1998. She married three years ago. Her parents came to the refugee camp before her. She did forced labour on railway construction, on the Natkyizin section of the Ye-Dawei (Tavoy) railway. She started to do that work again about seven months before arriving in the camp (this was during the rainy season), after a break to have her baby. She had to do work on the railway until she was 5 months pregnant, then she rested until the baby was five months old. During the period while she was resting, she had to pay a substitute to go in her place on three occasions (each time she had to pay the substitute 1,000 kyat and food for 15 days). The orders for work on the railway were given by the army to the village head, who then instructed the villagers; the soldiers also demanded porters in the same way, as well as food and alcohol on a regular basis. The village was divided into two sections for the purpose of arranging the work. One person from each house would have to go from each section in turn for a period of two weeks, by rotation (i.e. 20 people at a time). The villagers had to walk for over one hour to reach the work site. They had to take their own rice, salt and fish paste, as well as money to buy vegetables at the work site. There were some small shops at the work site which were set up by soldiers' wives (with prices slightly higher than normal). Her household had to do seven such rotations of forced labour. Of these, she went four times (3 times before and during her pregnancy, once after having her child), and her husband three times. She had to go more often, because her husband was often away portering when it was their household's turn to do forced labour. There was a labour camp at the work site, and the villagers had to stay there during their two-week work period. The work they had to do was collecting rocks and breaking them into chippings using a small hammer. This was very hard work. They had to work from 6 a.m. to 5.30 p.m., with a break from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. They had to work in the rainy season as well. The soldiers stood on the embankment and supervised and guarded the labourers. They beat and shouted at people who were working slowly. She often saw people beaten and kicked by the soldiers (at least three times in a two week period). When she went back to work after having her baby, she had to bring the baby to the work site. While she was working during the day, she had to leave the baby unattended at the camp. She was able to arrange with the other villagers that she worked at a place which was close to the camp, so that she could keep an eye out for her baby while she was working. She fed the baby before starting work in the morning, then had to ask permission from the soldiers to feed it during the morning. She was only allowed one break in the morning to feed the baby, and one break in the afternoon. There were other women from her village with babies at the work site, but their babies were older so they had less of a problem, since they could put their babies beside them while they worked. About seven or eight of the people from her village were women, most of whom had to bring children with them to the work site. There were four or five children under five from her village at the work site. People from other villages were also working on the railway, but each village had to work on a different point on the railway. The camp where she worked had only people from her village, but there was another camp nearby with about 100 villagers from another village. The youngest person she saw working was about 14, and the oldest over 50. If workers became sick they received no medicine (if they had money, they could buy some medicines at the small shops). When her baby was sick, she could get no medicine. Her husband had to go for portering ever since they were married three years ago. This was the same time that she and her husband first had to do forced labour. The soldiers usually asked for ten porters from her village at a time, but sometimes as many as 15. The soldiers asked for porters about three times a month, and usually took porters for a period of about seven days. Because her husband was often doing portering and she was doing forced labour, she hardly ever saw him. Three days after they got married, her husband had to go and do forced labour on the railway. Her husband had no regular income. He worked on his father's farm, for which his father fed their family. Because she had to do hard physical work while nursing, she did not have enough milk. As a result the baby became malnourished, and also developed epilepsy, she said it was because of the shock of having to stay in very bad conditions without care at the work site. Since arriving at the Mon refugee camp she had been able to send the baby to hospital and take a rest herself, so it was better. Her husband did not leave the village with her, and she still did not know where he was. She last saw him five days before she left her village. He was taken for portering by LIB 409, together with five other villagers. They were told they were going to Mae Than Taung village near Kanbauk, so he did not take much food. After three days, however, none of the villagers had returned, and she heard that her husband had been sent to Kanbauk by the military. She decided to leave, because in the absence of her husband, it would be impossible for her and her child to survive; all the forced labour would fall on her. She still had no news from him, and did not know if he was still alive. It was difficult to leave her village, because the troops had given an order preventing people from travelling, because they were worried people would try to flee forced labour. She managed to go to Yah Pu village, however, and there she met someone from the Mon camp buying vegetables, and went to the camp with him. Her parents had already been at the camp for two years. She had also experienced forced relocation. In February 1997 her village, along with two others, was forced to relocate on three days' notice by LIB 409. The villagers were told that anyone who did not relocate would be shot. No specific relocation site was provided, and the villagers moved to nearby villages such as Kywe Thone Nyi Ma and Kyauktaya (the nearest being two hours' walk away). About three months later, in June when the rains started, the villagers tried to move back to their area because they had farms there. They were allowed to return to their village, but under strict curfew. If they wanted to go outside the village to tend their farms, they had to pay 20 kyat, and had to return by evening. If a person was found outside the village without permission, they would be fined 1,000 kyat and beaten with a rattan cane. This happened to people who came to the village from other villages, and who therefore were not aware of the curfew rules. The soldiers were always in the village, and stayed in houses in the village when they were there. There was a military camp at Chaungphya, about a one hour walk away. This camp had been built by the villagers about four months ago, who also had to provide the wood and bamboo for the construction. Each woman had to cut 50 bamboo poles, and 100 saplings to make the fence, and each man had to cut 100 bamboo poles and 200 saplings. This would take three to four days for a person to cut. During the actual construction of the camp, workers had their hat, knife and food taken from them during rest times, so that they could not run away. Also, at least two villagers had to be permanently outside the village as sentries. Sometimes the soldiers came to check, and if the sentries were asleep the soldiers would fine them 1 viss (1.6 kg) of chicken.
Age/sex: 32, male
Family situation: Married with four children
Occupation: Day labourer
From: Tada Pyat, Kya In Seik Gyi township, Kayin State
(village had 60 households)
The witness came to the Mon refugee camp in early 1998. He did forced labour in March/April 1997 on the construction of a road from Kya In Seik Gyi to Taungbauk. This was a new road being constructed across farm land. The construction of this road started in the 1996 dry season. The work was ordered by the soldiers who ordered a meeting of all the villagers to inform them that one person from each house in the village had to go to the work site. They were told that any villager who did not go would be punished. They were told that if a household did not have a male worker, a woman would have to be sent. The work site was a one day walk from the village. When they arrived they had to work for a period of four days. The villagers had to bring their own food. He did this work about five times before the rainy season, when construction halted. Each time he had to work for four days, with a one day walk at either end. About 60 villagers went at a time, of which about 20 were women; there were also about ten children under 15, the youngest about 12 or 13. The work they had to do was to collect large stones, crush them, and lay them on the embankment, with larger stones on the bottom and smaller pieces on top. All the villagers had to do the same kind of work. He saw a total of about 1,000 people working on the road. Each person was assigned a given amount of work to do. They had to start work at 6 a.m. and finished at 6 p.m. Rest times depended on the arrangement made by the village head, with workers usually getting a one hour rest in the middle of the day. No arrangement was made for the workers who had to sleep at the work site; they had to sleep on the ground in the fields around the construction site. There were soldiers at the work site. They did not supervise the actual work as it was the village head who was responsible for this, but they patrolled the work site and checked on the work that was being done. The village also had to provide porters to the military. Six people had to be provided, and these were rotated every three days. The village head was responsible for arranging the rotation. He had to find out where the troops were and send six replacement porters to that place, after which the first six would be released. Sometimes it was difficult to find out where the troops were, so sometimes it was two weeks or even a month before the village head was able to change the porters, especially if the troops were very far away, such as in an offensive against the KNU (the troops could be as far away as Three Pagodas Pass). He himself did portering about ten times since June 1997, for a different period each time, but ranging from three days to nine days. During portering he had to carry ammunition (seven to nine mortar shells). He had to carry them for the whole day, sometimes even at night. There was little rest, especially when the troops were in a hurry. The porters were only provided with a small amount of cold, hard cooked rice and some fish paste. They usually slept in the jungle, but sometimes in a plantation or in a Karen village. If porters were slow they were treated very badly by the soldiers. Once he was portering at the same time as his brother, and his brother was mistreated because he could not walk quickly as he was very tired. The soldiers kicked him with their heavy military boots, punched him, and jabbed him with a knife (the knife blade entered about one inch into his buttocks). After this his brother could not walk properly, and was allowed to walk with no load for one day, but then the next day had to carry his load again. He saw this himself. He was sworn at by the soldiers, but never beaten. He saw many other porters beaten by the soldiers, some of whom were from his village. Soldiers always beat porters who could not work properly; he saw this on every occasion he went portering. No porter was allowed to return home even if they were suffering from exhaustion or illness. He also did portering, less regularly, since he was 14 or 15 years old. At this time the soldiers took porters by coming into a village and rounding them up, so the villagers often fled at this time. Before the Mon cease-fire, portering was much less regular. He did portering a total of about eight times before the cease-fire, but he ran away to avoid being rounded up on many more occasions. In the period after the cease-fire, he did portering on a further eight occasions (not including the ten times since June 1997). Before the cease-fire, when porters were rounded up by the soldiers they were never released and the only way was to run away. The treatment of porters was also worse before the cease-fire. If a porter could not walk quickly he was beaten, but before the cease-fire he would have been shot. He saw the bodies of over 30 dead porters when he was portering before (they had either been shot or beaten to death). His father was seriously injured during portering about ten years ago. It was during an offensive and his shoulders were rubbed to the bone from carrying a heavy load in a cane basket on his back. During offensives, porters were also used as human shields, by being put in front of the troops in dangerous areas. It was like this in every offensive, and hundreds of porters were killed in this way. Porters were liable to be shot if they tried to run away, but they had no choice because they would not be released otherwise. He always ran away; 13 days was the longest he did portering. After the cease-fire, portering was arranged through the village head. It was not then possible to run away, but porters were released when replacements arrived. In the beginning of 1997 his village was forced to build an army camp for IB 32 at Taungbauk village (about one hour walk from his village). One person from each house in the village had to do the work constructing the camp. Villagers also had to bring five small trees and five pieces of bamboo with them for the construction. Owners of bullock carts in the village were also forced to provide their bullock carts for the transportation of construction materials to the camp. During construction of the camp, villagers had to stay at the camp until their work assignment was finished (about two days). About half the workers were women; there were no children. Treatment by the soldiers was not bad. Whenever the soldiers came into the village they asked for rice, chickens or alcohol, which the village had to provide. They sometimes informed the village head what they required, but at other times they just stole what they wanted directly. There were usually about ten soldiers staying in the village (they stayed at the houses of the village head and village secretary), and the village had to feed them. If the soldiers wanted anything, they would just take it. The village head was elected by the villagers, and was sympathetic to their problems, but he had to do as he was ordered to by the military. The situation in some other villages was much worse than in his village, especially when villages were suspected of helping rebels. In these villages there was common torture of the villagers, and rape. Recently, before he went to the camp, there was forced relocation in his area (though not of his village). Other villages in the area had to move to Taungbauk village. The relocation order was issued in October. He heard about the case of one Mon family who did not want relocate, because they had a rubber plantation. this was near Kyauk Kyat village, about 1 hour walk from his village. Because they did not relocate, the family was held at gunpoint while four soldiers raped their daughter in front of them. He heard about this from people in the area who knew the family. The 10 villages which were relocated included Kyauk Kyat, Tha Shay, Ma-U, Klaw Taw Chaung, Kyaik Raung, Tha Ya Gone and Ye Le. Of these, Ma-U and Kyaik Raung were mainly Karen, while the others were mainly Mon. The villages ranged in size from 60 to 200 families each. They were given one month to relocate to Way Tha Li village (which is between Taungbauk and Kya In Seik Kyi, and so under military control) and Taungbauk village (which has an army base). Some villagers moved to the relocation sites, some went to refugee camps, and a few remained secretly in their villages. The battalions he knows of that were involved in the relocations were IB 32, LIB 355 and LIB 356. He decided to go to the refugee camp, because he was a day labourer and had no farm, so had to work every day just to survive. He was unable to do this, however, because of portering, which meant that he could not continue to feed his family. His family, his brother's family, and three other families fled to the refugee camp together. It was mostly the poorer villagers who fled, but the better off villagers (those with farms) generally did not flee. The farm owners in his village were warned that if they allowed rebels to stay in the village, their village would also be relocated. His village and another close-by village were not relocated, because the soldiers wanted to use them as somewhere to stay. The other village was mostly Mon, with some Tai inhabitants also.
Age/sex: 65, male
Family situation: Seven (him, wife, three daughters, two sons)
Occupation: Hill cultivation (dry rice farmer)
From: Methali, Kya In Seik Gyi township, Kayin State
(village had 15 households)
The witness came to the Mon refugee camp in early 1997. His village was relocated during the rice harvest last year to Taungzun village. This was when he came to the refugee camp. Five or six other families fled from the village at the same time. The soldiers gave the village five days to relocate. He did forced labour for the army constructing the road to Three Pagodas Pass. This work started early last year, and the work was continuing when he left. He first did road construction in 1996. At that time the work was close to his village, and the villagers could return to the village to sleep. Because his village was so small, there was no system of rotating labourers. Sometimes one person from each household had to go, sometimes all workers in the whole village had to go. So sometimes he was the only person from his family doing the work, sometimes he worked together with his son. The work they had to do was cutting down trees, building an embankment, and collecting rocks to put on the embankment. They were forced to work from first light to dusk without a break. They had to eat before they started, and again after they finished. If people were tired and could not work the soldiers demanded that they do the same as everyone else, and beat them, slapped them on the face, or kicked them with army boots. One of his sons who also did forced labour was never beaten; the other son was in the KNU and so never did forced labour. He himself was also beaten by the soldiers. He also had to do portering over the last three years. In the beginning portering was arranged through the village head, but later the soldiers just used to come to the village and round people up. He could not count how many times he had done portering. Sometimes it was six times a month if it was just short trips (one or two days). If they had to go to a village a little far away, it could be two weeks. He had to carry loads of 10 viss (about 16 kg), and sometimes up to 20 viss (32 kg) of artillery shells or three tins of rice. There was no problem for porters if they could keep up, but if they were slow they would be beaten. When he was slow, the soldiers would shout at him, saying he was useless, and then kick him. Sometimes this would happen 4 or 5 times a day. He saw other porters beaten unconscious or with heads split open. Sometimes porters who were too sick or weak to continue would be killed and then thrown from the side of the mountain. He saw this happen twice. Some porters were so sick or weak when they were released from portering that they could not even return to the village. Villagers would have to collect them from the side of the road where they had been left, bring them back to the village and nurse them back to health. Twice when he returned to the village after portering he was so weak he could not work, and other villagers had to look after him. Some soldiers were better natured than others. Sometimes the soldiers even wanted to give him water, but they could not because they themselves would be beaten if they were seen doing this. The last time he did portering was for two weeks in April 1997. On this occasion he had to carry six large artillery shells. It was very heavy, but the soldiers told him he was lucky because his load was so light. One day, early in the morning, the SLORC soldiers came to his house and accused him of having a son who was a KNU soldier. One of his sons had in fact been in the KNU, but had already left. The son had got married and lived in Mi Hki village (close to Three Pagodas Pass). In fact his son had been arrested by the SLORC, and had recently escaped, but at the time he did not know this. The soldiers then beat him with a bamboo stick and shouted 'stupid ringworm' ['ringworm' is a slang term used by Tatmadaw soldiers to refer to KNU soldiers]. The soldiers then accused him of being in the KNU and of hiding a weapon, and demanded to know where it was. They hit him many times on the back of the head, shoulders and back, until he was unconscious. His son was now in the refugee camp. After his son escaped he came to his house, but he told his son not to stay there because it was dangerous, so he went to the camp.
Before his son escaped, he was tortured, and they cut his ears (but not completely off), and cut part of his lips off.
Age/sex: 54, male
Family situation: 12 (him, wife, ten children of which two still live at home)
Occupation: Village head
From: Thi Paw Way, Kya In Seik Gyi township, Kayin State
(village had 47 households and was established only ten years ago; before this he was in Kya In Seik Gyi town)
The army came in March 1997 and took all the chickens and other animals from the village. The villagers were scared and so said nothing. Also in March 1997 they were ordered to build an army camp at Ya Kra, five miles away. The camp was for Brigade 44. His village had to provide two porters and one bullock cart all the time for the construction; these were rotated every three days (they would be released only when their replacements arrived). Other villages in the area were also forced to construct the camp, a total of about 40 people at a time. It took about two months to complete the construction. Because he was the village head, he had to go there almost constantly to supervise his villagers and check on their work. The soldiers were rude to the workers, and swore at them, but they were not beaten. The treatment was much worse during portering. Portering began in March 1997. The village was ordered to provide two people permanently for portering. If these people were not sent, the army would come and arrest people. Also, there were usually two KNU soldiers staying in his village. The soldiers came and made this accusation, but initially he denied it. Then they punched him hard in the kidneys twice. They said that if the two KNU soldiers did not give themselves up, they would kill all the villagers and burn down the village. The soldiers who said this were from LIB 2. The two KNU soldiers had families in the village, and so they gave themselves up. They were not killed, and were in fact released after about 10 days. After this Brigade 44 was replaced by Brigade 22, in April 1997. Later, in September, they forced the village to relocate within 15 days to Bo Deh village, one-and-a-half miles away. The commander said that if the villagers didn't want to go there, he didn't care, as long as they went away. The villagers were told that anyone seen in the village after this time would be shot. After this, the villagers were allowed to return to their old village during the day, but they had to be back in Bo Deh between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. They did not have to pay money to leave the relocation site during the day. It was Brigade 22 who ordered the village to relocate. After the relocation, Brigade 22 was replaced by LIB 545; they were really bad and very violent. Soldiers from LIB 545 would steal the pigs and chickens from the villagers, and if the villagers complained, they would punch and hit them. The village had to provide three porters for LIB 545, but some villagers didn't dare to go, and paid 1,300 kyat for a three-day period to avoid going. He didn't personally ever go portering, but his son-in-law went about 10 times. The other villagers did a similar amount of portering to his son-in-law. Treatment during portering was very bad. Porters were punched and had wounds caused by the cane baskets they carried their loads in. He saw porters with their backs split open from the baskets. Portering was continuing in September (when he left). There was a particularly bad incident which happened before the village relocated. Some soldiers came and arrested four villagers (two of the names are U Kyaw Ku and Ngwe Tu). It was a Sunday, and they arrested them after church. The soldiers then held a meeting of the villagers inside the church. The reason they arrested the people was that they had received information that these people had guns. This was not true. Inside the church, they tied the four villagers' hands behind their backs, then beat them up in front of the other villagers. They were kicked, punched and beaten with sticks and a looped rope. Two were injured very seriously. One was unable to open his eyes and the other had chest wounds. The villagers were particularly upset by the fact that the soldiers deliberately chose to do this in a church. Since he was the village head, he tried to offer himself for arrest in place of the four villagers, as a guarantee, but the soldiers refused and threatened to arrest him also. The whole village was then forced by the soldiers to stand in the hot sun, even the children. After this, the four villagers were taken away. One was so badly injured he could not walk, and two other villagers had to carry him. As the village head, he also went along (making a total of seven villagers). They were taken to a nearby army camp where they spent the night. No medical treatment was provided for the injured villagers, except some ointment which did nothing. (One of the villagers, when he was finally released had to be admitted to hospital because of serious injuries). They were all very scared. The next day they were taken to another army camp about six miles away, and they were all beaten by the soldiers on the way. He was hit on the head with a pistol and slapped across the face. Once at the second army camp, they were left tied up for three or four days. They were given rice and fish paste, and had to sleep with their hands tied behind their backs. After this they were released, and one of the villagers had to be sent to the hospital. There were other cases of the army torturing villagers. One person in a nearby village was suspected of having a gun and was hung upside down from a tree and then beaten so that he spun around. Another person was tied up in the river for four days (with his head kept out of the water). A friend of his from another village was put in a hole in the ground because he was accused (wrongly) of having contact with rebels. He was kept in the hole, which was covered over with mud, for four days, but was given food and water. All these cases involved Brigade 44. He left for Thailand in September 1997, when the village was relocated. At least 50 other people came with him.
Age/sex 35, male
Family situation: Married with one child
Occupation: Day labourer
From: Unspecified village, Thanbyuzayat township, Mon State
(village-tract had 3,000 households)
The witness had to leave Myanmar in 1996 because he no longer had the means to survive. He had inherited an eight acre rubber plantation from his family. This was confiscated by the military in 1990, to build a military camp. For the next six years, he had to do a great deal of work for the military: portering, railway, military camp work. He had to pay 50 kyat portering charges every month. Moreover, the military requisitioned porters twice a month on average for their military operations against the Mon forces and the Karen National Union (KNU). He acted as a porter on two occasions, the last time in 1994. On the other occasions, he had managed to escape before being taken for portering. On the two occasions when he did work as a porter, the military had apprehended him directly. Three hundred porters were with him on the first occasion, 500 on the second. There were only men in his group. He witnessed many engagements with the Mon forces and the KNU. He saw many porters wounded or ill, but they received no medical treatment or medicines. The last time he worked on the building of the railway was in 1992 for four months. Two to three hundred men and women worked with him, aged between eight and 70. He was not paid and had to bring his own food. He also had to sleep near the work site, without shelter. He was subjected to ill-treatment and abuse, as were several other workers whose work did not satisfy the military. In 1993, the military demanded the sum of 3,000 kyat from him as a tax for the railway which each household had to pay. In addition, each household in his village-tract had to pay 500 kyat not to have to perform various types of work at the military camp. Since 1992, he had paid on three occasions. However, his father-in-law had done work for the military camp in 1992.
220 to 228
Age/sex: 220: 63, male; 221: 63, female; 222: 23, male; 223: 40, male; 224: 30, male; 225: 44, male; 226: 14, male; 227: 30, male; 228: 19, male
Occupation: Witness 220 was a village head, witness 221 was a monk
From: Anin village, Thanbyuzayat township, Mon State (except witness 228 who was from Chabone village, Yebyu township, Tanintharyi Division)
Witness 220 and his wife, witness 221, came to Thailand over two years ago. Before that they stayed for about three years in Ye Bu (but often went back to Anin village). They left because they could not afford to pay porter fees and contributions to the SLORC and the People's Militia (Pyithu Sit), to whom the Government provided weapons, while the villagers had to provide food and accommodation. Before they left for Ye Bu (five or six years ago), there were 700 households in A Anin village. From their extended family, all five households had moved. From the extended family of witness 223, six households had left the same village. When he and his wife, after two years' stay in Thailand, returned briefly to the village at the beginning of this year, only some houses remained. Witness 228 testified that his village of about 70 houses, Chabone, was relocated last year, whereupon most inhabitants came to Thailand. Witness 220 was a member of the Local Council of Anin village for four years before the SLORC was set up on 18 September 1988 and became village head one-and-a-half years later. Two to three years after the SLORC was set up on 18 September 1988, forced labour, which had before been limited to portering, expanded in Anin village, taking the following forms: building barracks for soldiers; later, building the Ye-Dawei (Tavoy) railway; building the road from Thanbyuzayat to Anin; portering; sentry duty to watch the railway; whatever the soldiers wanted around the village (roofing for the police station, digging trenches, cleaning up the village, barracks, and police station, repairing barracks, and during the rainy season, collecting leaves for roofing). The organizational setup of forced labour was as follows. For portering: since 1990 people were always rounded up, i.e., the soldiers arrested them themselves. In earlier cases as well as for all other kinds of work or service, the military sent a letter to the village head, stating for example that they were going to take 40 or 50 people to some other site for this or that purpose. The number of people depended on the job to be done. To choose the people who had to go, there were about 40 sub-leaders in the village, in charge of 20 houses each. When the village head received the order, he told them to provide people (sometimes in rotation). For building barracks the order came from IB 31, for building the railway and guarding it, from IB 104. As for threats of what would happen if people did not turn up, they would not be included in the letter, but conveyed orally when handing over the letter, indicating that work had to be performed according to rules and, if the order was disobeyed, the village head would be arrested, as well as the villagers. For those who could not go, 2,500 kyat had to be paid per household per stint (not per day). For building new military barracks, the work lasted about one month; for repairing old ones, seven days. Since the site was close to the village, people could return home at night. They had to work from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m., bringing their own food and feeding the soldiers. From the age of 12 upwards, men and women worked, up to 50 or 60 years old. Children and old people worked when they were the only persons free in the household. Soldiers did not beat people building the barracks, but shouted at them and scared them. The Ye-Dawei (Tavoy) railway construction started around 1993 (and was still going on). About 700 people from Anin village worked on this, separated in two groups of 350 people taking turns of 14 days each working on the project. The workers were selected through the approximately 40 sub-leaders, each of which was in charge of about 20 households and had to bring 20 people with him; if he could not, he had to pay a fine of 2,500 kyat per person for two weeks, collect the money from the household concerned and give it to the soldiers. It was a six-hour train ride to the work site near Kalot village. Normally, the workers slept in the jungle and built themselves small shelters and also had to cook themselves. The work assignment was by segment of the track to be build, and people had to work each day until they finished their quota. The military gave orders directly to the sub-leaders for the work to be done by each group; if they did not comply, they would be punished. Women, children from age 12, and people up to 50 or 60 years also had to work. For Anin villagers, there was normally no ill-treatment, but villagers from other places who disobeyed orders were beaten by soldiers. Every day, eight people from the village had to be on sentry duty to watch the railway. Finally, with regard to portering, this practice existed even before 1988 but increased after the SLORC was set up. Up to 1990, porters were either rounded up directly by the soldiers or the village head was ordered to find them. For portering they could call up any number of people, as required, at least 40 people at one time. When fighting was heavy at the border, they took everybody. Troops kept marching to the border or close to it, and on average once a month (sometimes twice a month or once in two months) they took porters for 20 to 30 days (some people for one to two months, some for only ten days). Some porters never came back, they died or escaped, so nobody wanted to go, and when the military ordered the village head to find 100 porters or pay money instead, the men ran away, only women and children stayed. Around 1990, the village head told the military he did not want to be responsible for collecting porters anymore, and he asked them to arrange for it themselves. Subsequently, whenever the villagers were informed that forces were coming, they went into hiding. Witness 225 was rounded up for portering with about 200 other people, including three from their village, in 1990/91. The military took him for one month to Kalama mountain. They had to carry peas, rice, other food: about 80 kg between two porters. When a porter was tired, the soldiers would kick him with their boots. In some situations, such as when a porter was sick and could not carry his load anymore, they would shoot him dead. Witness 225 saw almost ten out of about 200 people shot dead. About 15 to 20 people were kicked, and some seriously injured. Normally, the soldiers did not care for those who could not move, they just shot them. The porters sustained wounds from the heavy loads, normally on the shoulders. Witness 225 was sick, coughed blood. The porters never got medical treatment, normally treated themselves. They were not allowed to smoke, were given only raw rice and some banana leaves and were not allowed to cook. Witness 225 was sent to Kawkareik (with about 1,000 people on a ship) when he was released. Witness 222 did portering around 1993/94 for IB 109, carrying supplies (in his case about 40 kg of rice) to Nat Ein Taung near the gas pipeline project. He was sent by the village for portering, because it was his turn, with about seven or eight others from the village. On the whole, there were about 7,000 people. But those who could afford to pay 1,000 kyat were released, some paid, so finally 300 went. He was away for about ten days from the village, it took them six days to Nat Ein Taung. On the way, there was fighting, two porters were wounded, and soldiers shot them dead because they could not carry their loads anymore. One soldier was in charge of five porters (in case they ran away, etc.), some escaped and were shot at. He did not see this personally. If a porter managed to run away, the soldier was punished. He saw one officer punching, hitting a soldier with a gun because a porter escaped. From Nat Ein Taung, he had to carry the soldiers' household goods back. On the way back, he saw about 15 dead bodies, mainly porters, some killed from gun shots, beatings, etc. When fighting was on, the soldiers ordered the porters to lie down. Witness 222 was never beaten, but some porters were who could not carry their loads well. He did, however, see some old people who could not carry their loads being relieved of weight. The porters were given a small amount of rice and fish paste to eat. Witness 226, who left Myanmar three years ago when he was 11 years old, had not done any forced labour.
Age/sex: 21, female
Family situation: Five (her, parents and two sisters)
From: Hpa-an town, Kayin State (lived since 1979 in KNU-controlled areas of Kayin State)
(This is a summary of the testimony provided by "Wa Wa" at the Commission's Second Session in Geneva.)
In her capacity as Women's and Children's Officer of the FTUB, she interviewed refugees who had done forced labour. She did interviews for three months, starting in April 1996. The people she interviewed had done road construction (Nabu to Dawlan, Nabu to Kawkareik and Nabu to Kyondo). Nabu was a Muslim village, and was relocated when the army moved in during 1995. Some of the villagers had to travel far from their villages to do this forced labour, and had to stay at the work sites. Women and children as young as 10 or 12 also had to do this work, as well as people who were 50 or 60 years old. The villagers could only rest for one hour during the day. The villagers had to provide their own food, firewood and cooking equipment. Some villagers died from illness. Some were beaten by the soldiers. One old man (over 60) died of exhaustion. One girl was killed in a work accident (landslide); her family received no compensation. If a villager could not go for forced labour, they had to hire a replacement which could cost between 200 kyat and 1,000 kyat. Villagers she interviewed also talked about having to do portering. People she interviewed said that they were forced to sign a blank piece of paper by the army, and then they had their land confiscated without compensation. None of the villagers had cars; the roads were for military use. Orders for forced labour and portering were given by the army through the village head.
(This is a summary of the testimony provided by "Min Lwin" at the Commission's Second Session in Geneva.)
The witness left Yangon in 1982, and went to work in a cement factory in Thayet in central Burma. He left the cement factory during the uprising in 1988, and went to the KNU-controlled area near the Thai border. There he worked in the mechanical maintenance department of the KNU. While in that area, he talked to people who had escaped from being porters for the SLORC. They told him they had had to carry loads of between 20 and 45 kg. They had to go with the soldiers to the front line during offensives. During fighting they had to keep the soldiers supplied with ammunition. They also had to dig trenches and fetch water for the soldiers. These porters had been arrested in cinemas or rounded up from the road. Porters were beaten if they were slow. After working with the KNU, he worked for the FTUB as secretary of the human rights and workers' rights department. He prepared human rights documentation. He interviewed many refugees (70 or 80) about their reasons for leaving Myanmar. The last people he interviewed was on 24 October 1997. Most of the people left because of forced labour and confiscation of their property by the army. Forced labour included work constructing roads and working in army-owned plantations. There was also forced logging work (Lahu people from the region near Mong Hsat in Shan State did this). People from Hmawbyi in Yangon Division had done work on a road in Hmawbyi township. Other people had done forced work on irrigation projects in Yangon Division. He interviewed a prisoner who had to work at the Kalaymyo power station, and at a quarry in Kabaw. People from Kayin State had told him about forced labour at brick kilns owned by the army (battalions 547, 548 and 549), and on army plantations. They had also done work constructing roads between Hpa-an, Myawady and Mawlamyine (Moulmein), as well as constructing army camps. If the work site was far from their village, people had to sleep there. No shelter was provided. If a person could not go, they had to hire someone to go in their place. People from Ayeyarwady Division also told him they had to do forced labour building a fish farm, and constructing a bridge in Myaungmya. He also interviewed people who had done forced labour at a quarry near Kyaukkyi (Bago Division). He had also acted as interpreter for an interview with people who had done forced labour on the Ye-Dawei (Tavoy) railway construction. Orders were usually given to the village head by the army. In large villages, the village head was appointed by the military, in small villages the villagers chose themselves. In the villages where the villagers chose their own village head, the position was usually rotated between villagers. This was because the village head was responsible for what went on in the village, and so was often punished by the soldiers. Because of this, no one wanted to be village head so it rotated. Often women were chosen because the villagers thought that the soldiers would treat them less harshly. The position often rotated as often as every two weeks. People who had done forced labour also told him about punishments given by the soldiers during forced labour. Many people were beaten for not working hard, and one woman who was pregnant was punished by being told to do repeated forward rolls on the ground. As a result, she miscarried.
(This is a summary of the testimony of "Ka Hsaw Wa" given by video conference at the Commission's Second Session.)
The witness left Yangon in 1988, after the student uprising in which he participated. At that time, he had just completed high school. He went to KNU-controlled areas near the Thai border. For six or seven months, he lived in a KNU-controlled area in Kyaukkyi township (Bago Division), designated by the KNU as the No. 3 Brigade area. He had to hide. Having lived in Yangon up to then and had not seen or experienced forced labour at that time. While travelling, he talked to many villagers about their situation and learned that many of them were trying to move from military-controlled areas because they had to work for the army all the time. They would need to cut firewood, build roads and railways and work for military camps. He personally saw villagers working for a military camp. Some villagers were also hiding because they would otherwise be called for porter duties for the military. Men, women and children were taken as porters. Children were also used to do work for soldiers such as carrying messages for them. As early as 1988, he saw written orders to perform forced labour. The orders would specify the number of persons required, the work to be carried out and the duration of the assignment. Sometimes the orders were accompanied by charcoal and bullets, the former meaning that the village would be burnt down if the order was not respected and the latter representing a death threat. He started to work for Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG) at the beginning of 1992. He then gathered reports of all forms of forced labour concerning, inter alia, portering, railway and road. Villagers wold also have to work for military camps. KHRG's representatives interviewed hundreds of porters who explained the various forms of portering and the vary bad conditions in which the work had to be done. They would be shot if they tried to escape. Porters were neither paid nor fed. Neither was there a medical examination performed to ensure they were fit for the job. He personally saw villagers performing portering in 1992. Porters to whom he talked came from several places, including Yangon, Shan State and Kayah State. The porters would have to carry supplies, ammunition and food. In fights, porters could be used as human shields or mine sweepers. After the fall of Manerplaw, he went to Mae Sot (Thailand) in early 1995. He left KHRG and started to work on the establishment of EarthRights International organization, the main function of which was to gather information concerning the pipeline being built in Tanintharyi Division. Between April 1995 and May 1996, he made four long trips into the area to see people. Otherwise, he would make many short trips per month to the areas close to the border. His last long trip was in May 1996 to get plaintiffs out for his organization's lawsuit before United States federal district court. He interviewed more than 200 people out of which 100 had something to say about the pipeline. He observed that a lot of the portering going on in that area was closely associated with soldiers guarding the pipeline. He believed that the pipeline security was the reason why there was an increased military presence in this area. He interviewed villagers from Migyaunglaung and Eindayaza, who told him about having to work on the Ye-Dawei (Tavoy) railway. People had to work for 15 days and then went back to their village for 15 days. Villagers from Natkyizin had to pay pipeline fees ranging from 500 to 1,000 kyat which was requested and collected by the military. In addition, he talked to villagers from Migyaunglaung and Heinzebok Island who had to perform work for the military.