IN 1999










By:                 Hans Draminsky Petersen, Lise Worm, Mette Zander, Ole Hartling and Bjarne Ussing


For:               Amnesty International Denmark

Dyrkøb 3
DK - 1166 Copenhagen K

Tel: (+45) 33 11 75 41


and:               DanChurchAid

Nørregade 13

DK - 1165 Copenhagen K

Tel: (+45) 33 15 28 00


Embargoed for 14 March 2000





Summary                                                                                3


Preface                                                                                   4


Introduction                                                                           6


Methods                                                                                 6


Ethics                                                                                     8


Results                                                                                    8


  Forced labour                                                                         10


  Porter service                                                                         11


  Forced relocation                                                                    12


  Arrests                                                                                   13


  Other incidents                                                                       14


  Looting                                                                                  14


  Killings                                                                                  14


  Rape                                                                                     15


  Disappearances                                                                      16                         


  Torture                                                                                  16


  Landmine accidents                                                                18


  Army units                                                                             19


Discussion                                                                              20


Conclusion                                                                             22


Appendix, cases                                                                      23


References                                                                              38


Tables                                                                                     39


Figures                                                                                    40



Massive violations of human rights in Burma / Myanmar have been documented by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the International Labour Organization, and other groups.

In November 1997 we examined refugees from Burma / Myanmar and found that different ethnic groups, especially the Shan and Karen, had been to a very high degree subjected to forced labour and porter service, forced relocation from their villages, arbitrary arrest, and physical assaults, including torture and killings, disappearances, landmine accidents, and rape of family members or neighbours. In order to check for consistency between the testimonies and the findings, we performed a clinical examination in cases of reported physical violence. We concluded that the examined groups had suffered massive violations of human rights, and that there was nothing to suggest that the situation had changed during the 12 months before our 1997 examination. Apart from the problem of landmines, the Burmese army was held responsible for all the violations.

In December 1999 we examined refugees from Burma / Myanmar using the same methodology as in 1997. We concentrated particularly on persons from the Mon ethnic group, because their conditions have been less well described than others.

We interviewed and examined 129 persons who had fled Burma / Myanmar from December 1998 to December 1999, and compared the degree of reported human rights violations with that from the previously examined persons who fled November 1996 to November 1997.

Of the interviewed persons,  88% reported forced labour and 77% porter service, 54% had been forcibly relocated from their villages, 87% had had their possessions looted, and 46% had lost at least one relative through killing, disappearance, or landmine accident.

20% reported that they or a near relative had been tortured. Of the former, four had remarkable scars that strongly corroborated their histories.

The Mons we interviewed had been exposed to the same degree of human rights violations as the other refugee groups examined.

The December 1999 examinees reported just as massive and systematic violations as the earlier group, and there was nothing to suggest that the situation had improved during the two intervening years.

Apart from a few cases of arbitrary arrests by the police and landmine incidents, soldiers or units of the Burmese army were held responsible for all the reported violations.



Burma / Myanmar covers an area some 675.000 km2,  and has approximately 45 million inhabitants  (1995). Many provinces are inhabited by ethnic minorities that are estimated to include one third of the country’s population, which thus speaks more than 100 languages and dialects. Some of the largest ethnic groups are the Shan people (three to four million in Shan State) and the Mon people (one to two million in Mon State). Some of the large ethnic groups that live in mountainous pathless areas have been independent kingdoms for several periods of history.

Several European countries have had commercial interests in the area, especially the United Kingdom, which occupied the whole of Burma during the 19th Century, then known as ”Myanma”. The country became the world’s largest exporter of rice.

Resistance against the British grew during the 20th Century. During the Second World War the Burma Independence Army helped the Japanese to take over Burma and to expel the British. However,  resistance to the Japanese gradually grew stronger, and the Burmese changed sides and supported the British. One of the key people of this resistance was the Burmese general, Aung San.

After the Second World War the drive for independence increased, and at the first Burmese election in 1947,   Aung San and the Freedom League AFPFL won the majority. But a few months later Aung San was murdered along with other members of his cabinet.

Burma became an independent state on 4 January 1948 with U Nu as the first Head of State.

In  1962 General Ne Win took power in a military coup. In an attempt to introduce “Burmese Socialism”, extensive nationalisation took place. The country became isolated, and living standards deteriorated.

In 1987 the Burmese people started to protest, partly in frustration at a deteriorating economy. In 1988 the protests developed into demonstrations for democracy, but the authorities used violent force against the student-led demonstrations in Rangoon, and killed or wounded hundreds of demonstrators.

In the autumn of 1988 the military government the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) was formed. It promised free elections and changed the country’s name from Burma to Myanmar, which, according to the government, would help to dissociate themselves from the colonial period. The opposition formed the National League for Democracy (NLD) under the leadership of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the daughter of the national hero Aung San. Daw Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest in 1989. Since then she has received several international prizes, including the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991.

In 1990 the government called an election at which the NLD won over 80 % of the places in parliament, but it soon became clear that the government would not transfer power despite the election results.

Daw Suu Kyi’s house arrest came to an end in 1995 after six years. In 1997, SLORC changed its name to the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) without otherwise changing its policies.

Also in 1997, Burma / Myanmar became a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and thus has economic co-operation with its neighbours; but the USA and the EU introduced visa restrictions in 1996 and 1997. USA also introduced sanctions on investments in Burma / Myanmar.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) re-opened its office in the capital Rangoon in May 1999, and is now able to visit the Burmese prisons, the first organisation to do so. Apart from that there are no striking signs of  a change of conditions in Burma / Myanmar. There are still reports of violations of human rights, and people are still fleeing the country. There are more than 100,000 registered refugees in camps in Thailand alone. Since 1995 camps and the neighbouring villages have suffered repeated attacks of  military units co-operating with the SPDC.

In the past several decades, some of the national minorities have been at war with the central government. The Burmese army has reportedly increased from 170,000 soldiers in 1988 to some 400,000 today. Many military bases are under construction. A large part of the army is involved in the fight against armed opposition groups in controlling areas in which the infrastructure is so weak  that roads and railways deteriorate drastically during the rainy season. Army supplies to remote areas have therefore to be carried, and the roads are under constant repair. A large part of  the civilian population is forced to perform these activities. The present report includes a  description of the conditions under which forced labour and porter service are carried out.



Violations of human rights have been well documented in Burma / Myanmar. Different ethnic minority groups in the country’s periphery are particularly affected (1-9), but the conditions of all groups are not well documented, including the Mon people.

In November 1997 we interviewed 188 refugees in Thailand, including Shan, Karen, and Karenni people. We obtained information systematically from each person about human rights violations experienced by themselves and knowledge of violations of relatives, fellow porters or villagers. We quantified the violations and evaluated the individual accounts (10).

Burma / Myanmar joined the trade organisation ASEAN in 1997 amid hopes that a close economic and political co-operation with neighbouring countries could lead to improvements in the political situation together with lessening of human rights violations. We therefore found it relevant to compare accounts from recently fled persons with accounts we obtained two years ago. We were also interested in the conditions of the Mon people in Burma / Myanmar.

To make the comparison with November 1997 valid, we used the same examination methods and methods for quantifying human rights violations on both occasions.




The aim was to carry out a cross-sectional examination among refugees from Burma / Myanmar.

In Thailand, we were able to examine a large number of persons near the border with Burma / Myanmar. We included persons who had fled during the 12 months before our examination, i.e. December 1998 – December 1999.

Each interviewed person was asked whether he or she, or family or other members of the household, had suffered one or more of the human rights violations that have been commonly described in Burma / Myanmar:

·        forced labour

·        porter service

·        forced relocation from home / village

·        arbitrary arrest, detention / imprisonment

·        physical violence, including torture, e.g. during detention or on other occasions

·        killing or disappearance of relatives, e.g. during detention or porter service

·        rape

·        landmine accident

·        looting

We also asked  whether the interviewee have had friends, neighbours or fellow-porters, who had suffered similar violations and/or landmine accidents.


General demographic data were obtained from each person: age and sex, composition of family and household, profession, name of village and township (part of county), together with the stated violations of human rights.


Special interview questionnaires were designed for each form of violation, its character and extent, and the identity of the perpetrator. They were used when the interviewee, answering the general questions, reported a particular violation.

A clinical examination was done when it was thought relevant to do so. The findings were compared with the account,  and the degree of consistency between them was evaluated (11).


The examination was conducted in English, with interpretation into the local languages. The examination took place in Thailand near the border with Burma / Myanmar, 6-12 December 1999. The examined persons were grouped ethnically.

We used the following scoring system in the quantification of  the human rights violations:

two points: when the person himself or herself, or a member of  their family or household had experienced any of the following: porter service, forced relocation, torture, killing, rape, and other violations or trauma such as shooting of a relative or suicide in connection, for example, with forced relocation, disappearance, or landmine accident.

One point for forced labour, one for arrest, and one for knowledge about other persons (not relatives, not household members) who had been killed, raped, had disappeared, or had had a landmine accident.

Being a victim of looting was not included in the score because we had not covered that item consistently in 1997.


To verify that identified differences between the groups were not an expression of a simple incident, we used statistical tests for the comparisons. The different groups’ scores were compared using a t-test. The frequency of experiencing a particular form of violation was compared using a X2-test.



Each interview began with an explanation of its aim, i.e. the publication of  material on violations of human rights in Burma / Myanmar.

It was explained that participation was voluntary, and that we would not publish data that might lead to identification of the person, i.e. his name or that of his village. When a camera or video apparatus had been used, we sought the person’s permission to publish the result: we would not show the whole face because that might lead to recognition.

In consideration of the safety of the examinees and their families, we do not refer to the names of persons involved in our investigations.





129 persons fulfilled the inclusion criteria, i.e. had fled Burma / Myanmar during the 12 months before our investigation; three had fled in December 1998.

The number of persons, who were interviewed, their ethnic affiliation, age, sex, and profession are shown in table 1. The table also gives figures for the different forms of human rights violations, and there is a comparison with the 1997 results.


The large majority of the interviewees reported  that they or one of the household had done forced labour (88%)  or porter service (77%).

87% had experienced looting by the Burmese army.

Forced relocation had taken place from Mon and Karenni regions, but more often from the latter (by X2 test the p value was less than  0.0005, indicating that is was highly unlikely that the difference between the groups had occurred by chance).


46% had lost at least one relative from killing, disappearance, or landmine accident.


There was no significant difference in the scoring sum, i.e. the total exposures to human rights violations, between the two ethnic groups that were investigated  (p > 0.5). Nor was there any significant difference in degree of exposure between the 1997 and 1999 refugees (p> 0.5).


Persons who either spoke the Mon language or who had lived in Mon State were classified ethnically as Mon. Nineteen had fled from townships in Mon State itself, the rest from neighbouring townships, including 12 from the southern part of the Karen State and 10 from the northern Tenasserim Division.

We examined people from 41 families who had fled in the period December 1998 – December 1999 to the areas in Thailand where we performed the interviews. According to the local estimation, these 41 families constituted far more than half of all Mon refugees who arrived at this area in that period.

In 1999, about 1000 Karenni refugees came to the areas in Thailand where our examinations took place. We examined 68 persons from the group that had fled. The examinees had 314 relatives. These 382 persons therefore represent about 40% of the total Karenni refugee population that had come to the area in question during 1999.


The information on human rights violations that was collected in the general interview questionnaire was complete.

Information on the different forms of exposure was not complete, partly because of time constraints in Thailand. Those results are given the following.

The police were held responsible in a few cases of detention and related ill-treatment. In all the other cases where it was possible to point to those responsible for the violations, e.g. all forms apart from landmine accidents, Burmese soldiers or army units were held responsible.



Forced labour

Almost all the interviewees reported being forced to work for the Burmese military, i.e. forced labour without payment or food, often for 10-12 hours non-stop.


Example (LW 10):

35-year-old woman said she had been forced to take part in road construction for the military until August 1999. She had to take her five children with her, one on her back. She was near the end of a pregnancy, but had to resume work immediately after the birth. Often beaten for not working fast enough, though not during the last part of her pregnancy.

113 reported that members of their household had been forced to work during their last six months in Burma / Myanmar. We have detailed information on 82 persons, 74% men, the rest women. In two of the families that were interviewed, both men and women had done forced labour.

Most (64%) were recruited by the village headman, the rest directly by the army. 86 % did construction work – military bases or roads. None of the 81 who were asked had received payment. Only one said that he had received sufficient food;  92 % received no food from the army, and 6% said it was inadequate.

The working day was 6 - 12 hours, median 10 hours (n=49).

The number of days spent with forced labour during the six months before flight ranged from 1-150, median 25 (n= 50).

94% reported that every household in the village had taken part in forced labour.

58% said that women from their household had taken part; 27% that children in the family had done forced labour.

36 persons had seen children between 5-15 years at work.

21 of 58 (36%) said that they had been beaten during forced labour, and 37 of 53 (70%) had been threatened with weapons and beating.

59 % said they had been ill at least once during the labour, usually (53%) with fever or ”malaria”. When they were ill, 21 (87%) were forced to carry on working, two of them after being beaten.

67% had seen the soldiers beat other persons under forced labour; and 60 % of these had seen women being beaten, and 30% had seen children being beaten.

One had witnessed the killing of a fellow worker, and one had seen a person maimed in a landmine accident.

10 persons reported symptoms after forced labour, usually pain.


Porter service

Most, particularly the men, had been forced to walk over pathless ground carrying provisions for the military. It was usual for them to carry about 30 kilograms on their shoulders. They worked many hours daily and were given little food. Many said that they had to go in front of the soldiers in landmine areas or when there were encounters with armed opposition groups where they acted as shields. None was paid.


Example (MZ 11): 27-year-old Burman. Said he had done porter service for the Burmese military in December 1998. During it, some of the porters became ill, and he saw them being beaten because they could not keep up with the rest. Four died of illness and exhaustion. Together with the other porters, he was forced in front in a landmine area. One porter stepped on a mine; his right leg was blown off and he was left to an unknown fate.


99 persons reported that members of their household had done porter service. A further nine had paid “porter fee” in order to avoid being taken. We obtained detailed information from 83 (84%) households. In nine cases the women did porter service; otherwise it was the men. 67% (41/61) had been recruited directly by the army, the rest by the village headman. None received payment. 23 reported that they sometimes paid to avoid the service, from 50 kyat per month to 5000 kyat per tour. The food was inadequate according to 58 persons (72%); two of them said that the rice was rotten.

The number of working hours per day was said by 40 persons to have been 6-15 (median 11); 36 said that there was no upper limit.

67 persons reported carrying loads of 15 – 55 kilograms (median 30 kilograms). The women carried less, 15 – 30 kilograms (median 20 kilograms). Most (50/56 = 89%) said they developed shoulder or back sores following porter service.

54 persons had done porter service during the six months before our interview; 40 of them (74%) worked 1-140 days (median 22 days).

Every household in a village had usually taken part in porter service (32/41 = 78%).

43 persons reported that their children had not been forced to carry, but 24 reported seeing children aged 8- 15 years (median 14) taking part.

72% (n = 78) said they had been beaten, one burned, two cut or stabbed, one had suffered ”the roller” (see section on torture), and one suffered a broken leg from maltreatment.

75% (n = 43) had been threatened, 26 with a weapon.

65% (n = 52) said they had been ill, mostly with fever or ”malaria”. 79% of them were forced to carry on working, six were treated, and five were beaten. Two were left in the jungle, and one was carried home.

The interviewees had noticed that a majority of the other porters, if they got sick, were forced to carry on working (16 / 30 = 53 %), 30% said that sick porters were left in the jungle, and 17% had seen sick fellow  porters being killed.

83% (n = 36) had seen fellow porters being beaten, and 17% had seen women and children being beaten during porter service.

31% had seen porters being killed; 11% had seen landmine accidents during service. 34% (n = 50) had acted as human shields in areas of armed conflict, or as landmine sweepers. 23% had seen other porters forced to go in front of the soldiers in war zones, and 35% had seen porters (up to 40 persons) acting as living mine sweepers.

46% reported after-effects of porter service, mostly pain.



Forced relocation

Most people reported being forced to leave their village at short notice, under the threat of being killed if they did not obey. Many said that their village had been burned and/or mined. Some who ventured back to collect belongings or animals were killed, tortured, or maimed in landmine accidents. Most said that they were relocated to a few large centres, where they got neither land nor dwelling. Some said that in the large centres they were forced to work for the military.



(LW 32): A 40-year-old Karenni woman was told to get out of the village with her family with one day’s warning in 1998. The village was looted by the soldiers and then burned to the ground. Her aunt died in the flames. Her husband committed suicide because he had lost everything.


(LW 4): 37-year-old Shan man said that he and  the other villagers had been forcibly relocated in April 1997. It was difficult to find enough food in the new place. 27 persons therefore returned to their village to collect the harvest. They were stopped by soldiers, who shot them all.


70 of 129 refugees reported being forcibly relocated. Most of the rest were already living in or near the towns that functioned as relocation sites, which were usually near military camps.

Most, 32 of 51 (63%) were forced to leave their village in 1996; nine persons before 1996, ten after.

Seven were told that they had been evicted because they were suspected of supporting armed opposition groups with food or lodging. Most, 55 of 62 (89%), had little idea of why they were evicted. They just got a notice about it, either by letter or direct from the army, and none was given more than 10 days to pack and quit the village. 14 were given one day’s notice, or less, eight just a few hours. We have no information about another 13.


Most, 37 persons, were threatened with death if they did not obey the order to move. 12 refugees in fact knew about the deaths of relatives or other villagers in direct connection with the forced location, and three had heard of cases of rape.


Only one of those interviewed received any compensation for the loss of house and land; the rest received nothing, and most houses were looted. They all had to acquire or build a new house in the new locality.  A few took themselves and their families to other villages. Others escaped to the jungle, where they hid, some for three years before they fled to Thailand. Others again escaped directly to Thailand following the eviction.


68% (n=37) said that their village had been destroyed, usually by burning (in two cases a relative perished in the fire). Three persons related deployment of mines. Nine knew nothing about the fate of their village.

It seems that most families managed to stay together after being evicted. We have information about 34 of the 63 relocated refugees; 27 were still within the family. Seven refugees described dispersal of families; in one case the husband of a Karenni woman had committed suicide from grief at the fate of the family and the village.




28 persons described arrest of family members, and we got details of 24.

The arrests took place from 1993 – 1999, the majority in 1998 - 1999.

22 (92%) were men, two women; the age range was 14-69 years (median 32).

The majority (83%) were arrested by the army, the rest by the police.

43 % told they were suspected of having contact with armed opposition groups, 26% had refused to do porter service or forced labour. Only one of 15 had a lawyer. Almost all (92%) reported being maltreated or tortured.



Other incidents

10 persons said that a relative had been hit by gunshots or had been assaulted in a way that could not be classified as torture or killing. One person committed suicide in connection with the relocation, and one died in his home from exhaustion and disease soon after returning from porter service.




107 persons reported that soldiers, on one or more occasions, had stolen belongings from the family. We received detailed information from 22 cases. The looting took place during 1997-1999, usually from homes (95%).

Soldiers or army units were responsible in every case. During 1999 the villagers we asked had had belongings looted 1 – 45 times (median 4). It was always food and/or domestic animals. In some cases a very large part of the harvest yield was taken, or a large sum of money (5000 kyat).



Killing of relatives

50 persons said that relatives had been killed. We obtained information from 39 persons about 46 deaths, 44  (96%) of men, two of women; the age range was 15-72 years (median 32). The killings took place in 1979 – 1999, 53% in 1998 – 1999. The killings were committed in the victims’ village (33%) or in the jungle or in the field (63%). 33 % occurred during porter service, 36% in connection with forced relocation, and 17% with military activities. Most were shot (65%), while 29% were beaten to death; one of these, after the beating, was thrown over a precipice.

The family saw the body in 19 cases; nine of them had signs of torture.

10 persons said that persons other than relatives were killed on the same occasion. Two reported a massacre of 27 persons.



Killing of  persons outside the family

54 reported knowledge of the killing by the military of friends, acquaintances, or neighbours. 32 gave details about 34 incidents.

All the victims were male in the age range 14 – 83 years (median 37). The killings took place in 1985 – 1999 (51% in 1999); 18 of 40 (45%) in the jungle, 54% in the village or in the home. 23 of 40 (58%) during porter service, 15% in connection with forced relocation, and 15% during military operations.

56% of the victims had been shot, 28% beaten to death, four bayoneted, and two thrown over a precipice.

It was reported that, in connection with each of 16 of these cases, another 1-4 persons had been killed by shooting, beating, or bayoneting.




(MZ 14): a  25-year-old Mon woman said that her 31-year-old aunt had been raped in June 1999 while her husband was away doing  forced labour. She was raped by five soldiers while her child was present in the hut.

(LW 35): a 17-year-old Karenni woman told that, in 1997, on her way to the village with a girl of the same age, they were approached by two soldiers, and forced into the forest. She was pinioned and then raped while a bayonet was held against her throat. Her friend was raped nearby by the other soldier


Three of the 48 women interviewed reported that they had been raped.

Four reported that their mother or sister had been raped and eight that aunts, cousins, nieces, or other relatives, were raped.

44 said that friends (14), neighbours or other from their village had been raped. 

In all the reported cases the rape had been committed by soldiers. 46 persons gave details about 52 incidents. The victims were aged 12 to about 60 years (median 22). The rapes occurred in 1991 – 1999, 55% in 1998 - 1999. 51% took place in the forest, in the field, or at a public road, 44% in the home or in the village, and two cases in military camps. 81% (n = 35) took place during military operations, and two cases in the home while the husband was away doing porter service or forced labour. Only one soldier was involved in 33% of cases; up to 15 soldiers took part in the others. Most of the victims were raped only once, the others up to three times. Other women were raped at the same time in 42% of incidents. Other persons were present, including the victims’ children (20%), also in 42% of incidents. In two cases other persons were killed at the same time.

Eight of 20 of the victims had health problems that they related to the rape; for three persons the problems were mental.




32 persons reported the disappearance of relatives (n = 11) or other villagers (n = 21). 25 persons gave details on 33 disappeared, all men aged 12-65 years (median 28). 10 were relatives, the others friends, neighbours, or others from the village; all had disappeared during 1990 – 1999, 77% in 1997 - 1999. 59% disappeared in connection with porter service, 33% following arrest.




In this report, torture is defined as intentional infliction of severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental.

20 reported that they had been tortured, 19 in the period 1995 –1999. One man reported that he had been tortured 12 years ago, details of his history were not obtained. A further seven reported that eight relatives had been tortured; these were in two cases the husbands, in one case the father, in one case a son, in two cases an uncle and in one case an aunt. Details for 19 who had themselves been tortured, one of them during two periods, are shown in table 2.

Of these 19 persons 10 were Karenni, five Mon, two Karen, one Shan, and one Burman. All were men, their ages ranged from 16-70 years.

18 persons (95%) said they had been tortured by the military, one by the police.

Eight (42%) said they had been tortured because the military suspected them of supporting armed opposition groups, but they all denied having such contact. Five (26%) reported that they were tortured during porter service. One said he was tortured because he refused to do porter service, and another said he had been the village headman and was accused of delaying the recruitment of porters. Two had been tortured during forced relocation, and another on religious grounds (he was Christian). One of those tortured during porter service was later tortured again because he was suspected of laying landmines. One was tortured because he could not provide the army with the ordered quota of rice.

In seven cases the torture took place in the village, in another six in prison, and in one case at the police station. Four were tortured on the spot during porter service. One was first tortured during porter service and later tortured in prison.


18 (95%) of those who said they had been tortured, reported that they were beaten systematically with clenched fists, bamboo sticks, or rifle butts and/or kicked.

13 persons reported near-suffocation (68%). Eight had suffocation with water; five from having water poured into the nose, two had their heads forced under water, and one was tied up and thrown into a lake. One person had water into his nose and later had his hands tied and was then thrown into a river. Five were suffocated with a plastic bag over the head, one with a cloth that was forced into his mouth.

Five persons said that they had undergone ”the roller” (26%),  i.e. with the victim lying down a round stick or thick stave is rolled over the shin up and down or over other areas, often with two soldiers standing on the stave while, with small steps the roll up and down the legs of the victim. In this way the stave is pressed down with heavy force . 

Four had experienced  ”the roller” over their shins, and one had had a large fruit (durian) with prickles rolled up and down the arms, legs and back. Four had been burned with cigarettes, cigars, and/or candles. Three had been cut with bamboo sticks or knives. Three had suffered suspension.

Apart from the above, eight persons described other forms of torture: two had cartridges inserted between the fingers, which were then pressed together; one had chilli put into his nose, was forced to drink petrol, and had electric shocks to the body and hands; one sat in a pillory for three days; one had needles pressed in under the nails; one was forced to stand on tiptoe for hours on end, knees bent, and buzz like an aeroplane, and was later forced to kneel on sharp stones; one had been kept for weeks in an overcrowded cell, that was so small, that the inmates could not lay down at the same time and had to sleep in turns. One was tied and held in an awkward position for many hours (case MZ 23, se appendix).

Five persons reported mental torture in the form of mock execution.


Eight persons said they became unconscious during torture (42%), and one had blood in his urine after torture.


Clinical findings:

Four persons had characteristic scars after being tortured. The others had suffered forms of torture that do not leave evidence, e.g. suffocation, or they had non-specific scars.

The four who reported being burned with cigarettes or cigars all had circular scars ½-1½ cm in diameter localised according to the history. Some of the largest, up to two cm, were slightly irregular at the periphery. We judge these round scars to be characteristic, though not specific, sequelae of cigarette/cigar burns. The slightly larger irregular scars probably resulted from several burns close together.

Another, tortured with a fruit with sharp prickles, had innumerable small scars all over the arms, legs, and back. Their number and size makes it very unlikely that they could have resulted from anything else but the reported torture method (case MZ 23).


One person (HD 25) had a 12 x 15 x 12 cm hydrocele and a deformity of his left temporal bone. He had been kicked and beaten by rifle butts on his face and also kicked in the crotch.


Seven persons said that close relative(s) had been tortured. One of these seven had been tortured himself and moreover reported the torture of two relatives; this man was classified among the group of 19 described above. One of these reports of torture was about a woman, the rest about men aged 28-62 years.

Three of the cases dated from 1999, and the rest from before 1999.

One was reportedly tortured because his father (the interviewee) had fled, two because of suspicion of having links to armed opposition groups, two because his / her son was member of such a group, one during forced relocation, and two because the harvest had failed, so that the family could not deliver the ordered quota to the military.

Six persons had been beaten with fists or bamboo sticks. Two had been burnt, one with cigarettes, and one from a steaming hot kettle tied behind his back together with his hands. Two had experienced suffocation, two ”the roller”, two strong sun for a long time, and one electric shocks. One had a bullet knocked into the forehead by a piece of firewood. One was found dead, both hands cut off, skin flayed as reported by his younger brother that we interviewed (case OH 30). Two died a month after being set free as reported by his wife that we interviewed.



Landmine accidents

38 of 129 refugees reported landmine accidents. 15 cases concerned family members; the others concerned persons from their village or persons known to the interviewee during porter service or forced labour (one person).

The mine victims were aged between eight and 55 years (median 22 years). 90% were males. 14 died in connection with the accident, while the 24 survivors lost parts of their limbs, the lower extremities being involved in 87% of these cases.


Most of the accidents (52%, n = 29) occurred during work in the field or forest, and 38% during porter service, including serving as living minesweepers. A boy eight years of age was killed while playing, and his same aged playmate was wounded. 


The victims or their companions never knew that the area was mined; only one knew something about the type of mine that had exploded by recognising it on a diagram.


Army units involved according to the interviewed

The Mon group pointed out the following units as responsible for one or more of the described violations:

Light Infantry Divisions (LID), nos: 22, 44,

Light Infantry Battalions (LIB), nos:  209, 210, 248, 273, 343, 406

Infantry Battalions (IB), nos:  25,  31,  32,  33,  61,  62,  106,  208,  408,  409,  410,  454



The large majority of the persons we examined were farmers from small village communities of the Karenni or Mon people. All 129 who were included in the general analyses had fled Burma / Myanmar during the 12 months before our examinations. Their histories therefore describe the actual situation in Burma / Myanmar.

With respect to the Mon group, we examined representatives from the vast majority of the families that had arrived within 12 months at the site where we performed our examinations, and we examined approximately 40% of the Karenni households. We therefore consider that our results are representative for these groups.

The population of the areas of internal armed conflicts of Burma / Myanmar can be divided in different groups: those who were still living in their villages, those who had been relocated by the military, those who had fled, for example into the jungle, and those who were refugees outside Burma / Myanmar. We examined only the refugees, i.e. from the last described group. Thus, our results are not representative of the overall extent of the violations of human rights in Burma / Myanmar, but they confirm what has been described previously (1-9), especially concerning the rural districts.

The clinical findings supported the histories. We found extremely remarkable scars and other physical signs in four persons that strongly supported their accounts of torture.

In agreement with the findings of other organizations, the persons we interviewed described a pattern of human rights violations. This is a pattern of a majority being exposed to forced labour, porter service, looting, and, with respect to the Karenni people, forced relocation, and a considerable risk of killing, rape, or torture.

Only one of those examined had not been directly exposed to any violations of human rights.

Almost half of those examined had lost at least one family member by killing, disappearance, or landmine accident.

Cases of rape could be underreported. Female doctors in our group tried to examine the women, but it was not always possible to find female interpreters. The presence of a man may have disturbed the natural woman-to-woman confidence. Men had other barriers, since rape within their families could be seen as  their failure to protect  their wives and daughters. The man who wanted a divorce following the rape of his wife  may have felt shame or thought of the rape as being equal to infidelity. Nevertheless, 12% of all households reported that they themselves or family members had been raped. Thus rape should be considered as a part of the pattern of violations against exposed groups.


The median score of exposure to violations was seven,  i.e. people in the study groups had been massively exposed to human rights violations, for example to two “very severe” and three  “less severe” forms.  “Very severe” forms included torture, killing, rape, disappearance, landmine accident, forced relocation, and porter service, experienced by the interviewee or his family. 

“Less severe” included killing, rape, disappearance, or landmine accidents, experienced by others from the village or by fellow porters. It also included forced labour and arbitrary arrest. 

A further 87% of the study group had had possessions looted by the army, but this violation was not included in the total score.

We distinguished between porter service and forced labour because the former is by far the more dangerous; there are numerous accounts of porters collapsing and being forced to continue by beating , sometimes to death, if not shot or left helpless in the jungle. In addition, there was the risk of  being used as minesweepers or shields, i.e. to walk in front of the soldiers in areas suspected of being  mined, or to act as a shield against bullets in encounters between soldiers and the armed opposition groups. Many accounts confirmed these conditions.


Until their flight from Burma / Myanmar the studied groups had in general been living at constant risk of being killed if they stayed in their home country. The amount of various forms of forced labour, coupled with repeated looting, also made it very difficult to support a family.


The overall exposure to violations of human rights was about the same for the Mon and Karenni groups, but forced relocation was reported more often by the Karenni people, probably because there is no cease-fire between the Karenni National Progress Party and the SPDC. The New Mon State Party agreed a cease-fire with the then SLORC in 1995. The policy of the Myanmar government in the fight against insurrection has been described as “the four cuts”: cutting off of food, soldiers, financial support, and intellectual support to the armed opposition groups. This included forced relocation of villages in areas where they were operating. 

Otherwise, the differences between the reporting of  the various forms of violations of human rights were small.


The present study was carried out in the same way as our study two years ago, and thus the results should be comparable. We found absolutely no signs of decrease of the extent or severity of human rights violations in the rural districts in Burma / Myanmar during the intervening two years.


In some cases the police had carried out arbitrary arrests. Those responsible for the mining could not be identified by the interviewed persons, but apart from that in all cases of  the described violations of human rights, soldiers or units from the Burmese army were held responsible. 



The persons who were interviewed and examined represented ethnic minority groups from the rural districts of  Burma / Myanmar.

Persons fled during the period December 1998 - December 1999  reported exposure to massive violations of human rights such as forced labour, porter service, forced relocation, looting, and killing of family members, as well as a great risk of being raped and tortured.

The examined group of Mon people was as exposed as the others.

We saw no signs of  an improvement in the human rights situation during the two past years.

Apart from a few cases of arbitrary arrest and landmine operations, the Burmese army was held responsible for all the cases of violations of human rights.







The following gives some concrete accounts of violations, supplemented in some cases with the results of a clinical examination.



HD 25


A 55-year-old male from Karen State.

He did forced labour and porter service for the army on several occasions during 1997.


In August 1997 he was taken in his village by a platoon of soldiers from LID 44. He was asked about his religion. When he said he was a Christian he was taken into a stable and tortured for three days and nights.

He was beaten with fists, flat hands, and rifles, and kicked all over his body. Forced to lie on his back, his legs were held apart by soldiers while others kicked him in the groin. Cartridges were put between his fingers, which were then pressed together.

A metal stick three cm in diameter was rolled across his shins by soldiers standing on top of it. He was burnt with cigarettes on the front and back of his body. A bayonet was thrust against the front of his body.

He was taken on several occasions to the river where his head was forcibly submerged. He often lost consciousness.

He lost several teeth in his lower jaw, two on the right side, one on the left. The left side of his face became very swollen and tender.

He had numerous wounds all over, especially on the front of the shins and body. Both testicles were painful and swollen.

Some of the wounds on the right shin were infected.

The bone under his left eyebrow had been deformed since the torture.


After three days he managed to escape from the soldiers during the night; he immediately left the village with his family. Before arriving at a refugee camp they lived in the jungle for many months. A 39-year-old sister-in-law and her two children, aged five and one year, died in the jungle from fever.


Clinical examination:

a)      Inturning of the lower left eyelid

b)     An irregular bony projection under the left eyebrow and front part of the temporal bone.

c)      Several molar teeth missing on both sides of the lower jaw.

d)     An approximately two cm large irregular retracted scar to the right of the navel (figure 4).

e)      Several small irregular scars on the anterior surfaces of both shins, and an approximately 7 x 9 cm depressed scar on the lateral side of the right shin.

f)      Several circular scars on the abdomen (figure 4), up to one cm in diameter. Several similar, slightly smaller, scars on the back.

g)      Scrotal contents very swollen, roughly 12 x 15 x 12 cm, firm and elastic (figure 5).



An account of multifaceted torture for several days. Several scars and after-effects  in agreement, strongly supporting his history of torture.

Clinical findings a), b), and c) were consistent with severe trauma to the head, with use of a hard object. The scar (d) looked like the result of a cut, a deep incision wound. Most of the scars (e) were small and non-specific, but entirely consistent with the history of torture with an iron bar; the large scar consistent with sequelae of deep infection.

The small circular scars on the body (f) were typical for cigarette or cigar burns.

The very large hydrocele (g) was consistent with the trauma reported.



HD 26

A 42-year-old man from Karen State.

Soldiers very often raided his farm, taking the harvest yield and cattle.

An uncle aged 52 was taken in June 1999 by the LIB 273, and other porters reported that he had been beaten to death during the porter service.

In April 1999 another uncle, 46 years old, also died during porter service. It was reported that he was too exhausted to keep up with the convoy, and that, after being beaten, he was thrown down from a mountain precipice. The examinee also reported that two fellow porters were beaten to death in March 1999 by LIB 273 soldiers.

In 1999 he had to do forced labour and porter service very often, the latter about 10 times for two weeks each time. The last time he became ill. The soldiers left him in the jungle, but he was able to drag himself along to a nearby village, where he gradually recovered strength. He did not dare to return home for fear of being taken again by the army, but the platoon he worked for found him and the commander ordered five soldiers to beat him. He was beaten all over with fists and rifles. His hands were tied behind his back, and he was burnt with cigarettes and candles in front and behind, and in the upper parts of the thighs. The burning cigarettes were drawn slowly across the skin.

That night the soldiers began to drink, and when they were drunk, he managed to escape. He immediately collected his family and they reached a refugee camp.


Clinical examination

a)      Several irregular scars on the front of the body, 3 mm - 2 cm in size. Some were confluent, grouped together, others in lines of irregular width (figure 7). Both groins contained innumerable ½-1 cm large, confluent, ovoid/circular hyperpigmented scars.

b)     11 scars, up to 3 cm large, superficial and depigmented (figure 7).

c)      Several scars on the back, small and irregular, one of them 8 cm in length.

d)     Transverse scars at both wrists, 5-6 cm long, up to ½ cm wide (figure 7).



A detailed report of torture. The numerous scars over the whole body were fully consistent with and strongly supportive of his history of torture.

The round/ovoid scars  were characteristic of cigarette burns. The less regular scars might well have resulted from more complicated trauma, e.g. repeated cigarette burns near each other, or from cigarettes being drawn across the skin. The scars at (b) were consistent with relatively fresh sequelae after burning, burns that had not involved all the layers of the skin. The scars on his back (c) were non-specific, but many obviously resulted from traumas and we note that the back is rarely the seat of  trivial everyday trauma. The wrist scars (d) were entirely consistent with tight binding.




HD 15

A 33-year-old Burman male.

At home in his village, he was often the victim of looting. Soldiers from the Light Infantry Division LID 22 came two to four times a month and stole chickens or other farm animals and foodstuff.


A woman neighbour, 32 years old and four months pregnant, was taken by surprise by some soldiers from the LID 22 while she was working in the field with her husband. She was raped by three soldiers.

Her husband made a complaint to an officer, who asked him to return after a week, during which he said he would study the case carefully. The husband returned to the military barracks seven days later, but the three soldiers responsible for the raping were not present. Since he could not recognise the guilty men, he was himself accused of bringing false accusations against the army. He was beaten for several hours, during which his head was covered with a blanket. During the following 24 hours he lay with his ankles tied together, knees and hips bent. His hands were also tied together, under the bent knees; a stick had been inserted under the knee hollows in front of the arms so that he could hardly move.


Four people from his village disappeared during 1998. One was arrested by LID 22, accused of having connections with the armed opposition. He has not been seen since. The three others, aged 12, 18, and 65, were taken by LID 22 in November 1998 to serve as porters, and have not been seen since.


In 1998 the examinee was arrested by the police because his rice harvest was too small for him to provide the amount demanded by the army. He was detained for weeks together with 12 other people from the village. They were confined in a cell that was too small for them all to lie down at the same time. They slept by turns, four at a time. Often one or more of the inmates, including himself, was taken out of the cell and beaten all over as a punishment for breaking arbitrary rules set up by the warders, e.g. killing insects.

His land was confiscated during this detention. After three months the family sold some cattle in order to buy him free.


Before the detention he and all the other village households took part in forced labour and porter service. After his detention he was homeless and so moved to his brother who lived in another district. Here, on one occasion, he was ordered to do forced labour. He worked for three days with road construction. He was paid nothing and had to bring his own food. Women and children above the age of 12 took part in this forced labour. He saw men, women, and children being beaten because they worked too slowly.

In 1999 he was taken directly by the infantry battalion IB 106 to serve as a porter. He worked 10-12 hours daily for 15 days. He carried 40-50 kilograms on his shoulders and was often beaten and threatened with weapons and sticks. At night he lay with the other porters, surrounded by soldiers. For some days he had fever. He got no treatment and had to work as before. On two occasions his convoy was engaged in an encounter between the armed opposition and the army. The porters were ordered to walk in front of the soldiers. He was not hit himself, but one porter was killed and two others wounded. These latter had bullet wounds, one in the arm, the other in the leg. They were left in the jungle.

In July 1999 he fled from Burma / Myanmar.


MZ 16

36-year-old Mon woman, married, two children aged five and seven years. Her husband did forced labour and porter service in 1999 for the Burmese military. During a military operation in October 1999 several soldiers came to her village. During the night three soldiers banged on the door; when her husband opened it, two of the soldiers pulled him outside and beat him soundly. At the same time the third soldier entered the house and raped the woman. Both children were present. She cried and shouted for help. Her father, who lived in the neighbouring house, heard her and came running. He managed to get hold of the soldier but was shot dead by the other two. During the commotion, the woman’s mother got into the house to save the children. She was noticed by the soldiers who shot at her and hit her in the leg. She got away though with both children.

The same night two soldiers entered another house and raped a 15-year-old girl and a young woman of 18. After the rape they took the 15-year-old with them; her fate is unknown. And again that night an 83-year-old man refused to open the door for some soldiers. They shot him dead through the door.



MZ 17

A 44-year-old Mon man, married, five children. In 1999 he did forced labour and porter service for the Burmese military. He had to carry approximately 40 kilograms for 12 hours daily. While doing so he was beaten and threatened with rifles. Two other porters became ill; one of them was forced to carry on, the other, too weak, was left in the jungle to an uncertain fate. On two occasions during the service the examinee and three other porters were forced to walk in front of the soldiers in a minefield.

Five of the interviewee’s relatives were killed by the military in 1998, all beaten to death. In 1999 his 16-year-old nephew was shot dead by the military. The village was forcibly relocated in May 1999. During the move five villagers, three men and two women, were tortured in public. They were forced to lie down, fixed by hands and legs, while water was poured into their noses until they almost lost  consciousness.



MZ 19

50-year-old Karen man. He did forced labour and porter service for the Burmese military in 1999. He had to carry approximately 50 kilograms for 12 hours daily, and so developed sores on his shoulders and back. He was beaten and threatened with rifles, as were the other porters, including women and children, the youngest 12 years old. The porters were tied together during the night. 15 other porters became ill during the service. They were given no treatment, and were forced to carry on. One was too weak to work and was therefore pushed to his death over a precipice. On one occasion he and two other porters were forced to walk in front in a minefield. On another occasion three women were forced to serve as a shield for the soldiers by walking in front through a shower of bullets. Later that year he fled with his family. Having taken them to a safe place in May 1999, he returned to his village to collect the family belongings. On his way back he was found by the Burmese military in another village. The soldiers asked what he was doing there. They tied his hands and feet together, beat him with bamboo sticks, and kicked him with their boots while continuing to ask what he was doing there and why he was lying. After some time he was forced to lie down on his back, and water was poured into his nose. This continued for about 20 min, and he almost lost consciousness several times. Finally the soldiers pulled a plastic bag down over his head, and he became unconscious. When he regained consciousness, he was still bound. The torture resumed later that night. The soldiers put cartridges between his fingers and pressed them together, causing terrible pain. They continued to ask what he was doing in the village, and where his family was. Later that night a soldier allowed him to escape, and he hid in the jungle.

In December he returned again to his village. However, the village was about to be forcibly relocated because the inhabitants were accused of supporting the armed opposition. They were given 10 days to move, and if they were not out by then, the military threatened to burn all their houses. The interviewee received no compensation for his loss of house and land. During the relocation the men were collected in one group, the women in another. One night he and the other men heard cries and calls for help from the women. He is convinced that they were being raped. During the same move, his 38-year-old nephew and a 25-year-old villager were shot dead. He saw their bodies, which had signs of torture.



MZ 23

26-year-old Mon man with a four-year old child. In 1999  he did forced labour and porter service for the Burmese military. During his service he witnessed the killing of two porters, one stabbed with a knife, the other beaten and then shot.  In June the military forced their way into his village and took him and six other men into a hut. Here he was separated from the others and taken into a room with three soldiers. They started to ask him why he supported the armed opposition. When he denied it, they stripped him and bound his hands and feet. They also tied a rope tightly round his neck, and fixed it to a beam. A soldier kept his head steady while the others beat him on his jaw with their fists and rifle butts. He was burned several times on his chest with cigarettes, and also beaten with rifle butts. The soldiers took a durian, a large fruit with a hard skin and prickles, and rolled it across his back, arms, and legs. The torture continued from the afternoon till late in the evening. In the end he became unconscious. When he regained consciousness, he was still bound. It was impossible for him to rest because of the rope round his neck, which tightened every time he tried to rest his head. The torture was resumed the next morning. He was told to lie down; one man stood on his chest, one on his legs, while the third poured water into his nose, making him suffocate. At a certain point, a soldier placed a pistol in his mouth and threatened to shoot him.  Hands tied behind him, they and his feet were bound together, and then fixed to a rope hanging from the ceiling. He laid on his knees, his face against the floor, for several hours. Later that day the soldiers returned and, after beating him again several times, they took him outside the village and they threatened to shoot him. The military left the village, and the soldiers left him in the field. He fled into the jungle and continued to the refugee camp.


Clinical examination:

a) on the front of the chest depigmented scars  ½  - 1½ cm diameter, some circular, the largest of slightly irregular shape (fig. 6).

b) on the back, arms, and legs numerous non-specific scars, the largest on the lower part of the back 4 x 5 cm.

c) scattered over the chest, shoulders, back, and particularly on both thighs, hundreds of scars, some 2-3 mm large, some 2-3 mm wide, irregular, oblong, or angled, all depigmented.



Some of the circular scars on the chest were larger than usually seen from cigarette burns; particularly thick cigar-like cigarettes are often smoked in Burma / Myanmar, and should be expected to leave similar scars as some of those described here. The largest, not completely circular, scars were consistent with the sequelae of multiple cigar burns. These scars and the numerous non-specific scars all support the account of exposure to torture.

The numerous small scars, particularly on both thighs, were remarkable because of their number and density, and they are completely consistent with his account of an object with many prickles being rolled up and down his thighs. The irregularity and linearity of some scars could have resulted from the object being scraped rather than rolled across his skin while he was writhing in pain.



OH 1

48-year-old farmer from Shan State. He was forced to move three years ago, and the Burmese soldiers burned the whole village. After the move he did forced labour for the nearby military camp. He worked from 8.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. every day, digging ditches, trenches, and shelters for the soldiers. He was not given any payment, and had to find his own food.

He twice did porter service, lasting 16 and 18 days. He carried weights of about 24 kilograms, or more, until he was near collapse, when the load would be slightly reduced. There was no time limit for the porter work; he walked all day and only had short breaks. He was allowed to drink water only during these pauses. If he walked too slowly, or became unsteady, he was kicked, as he was when he tried to drink water along the road. He was kicked with boots from the chest down. His hands were tied at night, like the other porters, and they slept  in the middle with a ring of soldiers outside. The bamboo stick he used across his shoulders for carrying splintered, and that gave a sore. Following the porter service he had chronic muscle and shoulder pain.

When he returned home, his rice harvest had been taken, but he got no compensation. At first the Burmese army took the untreated rice, but they gradually forced the villagers to thrash it for them.

He then decided to escape. Together with two other families, he took three days to reach the Salween River. Here they built bamboo rafts and sailed downstream for one day. They then walked for three more days before crossing the border. He was not lucky enough to find work. He was tired the whole time and had chronic muscular pain and limited movements in the right shoulder.


Clinical examination:

His right arm could not be raised over his head, actively or passively, and there was difficulty with outward  rotation. Attempts to do these movements gave pain.

There were five 1-2 cm large, slightly atrophic circular or oval scars across his shoulders – three on the right side, two on the left.

On the front of his right shoulder a 2 mm wide and 8 cm long slightly hypertrophic snake-like scar.



Account of looting, forcible removal, forced labour and porter service.

The clinical findings were non-specific but consistent with the sequelae from overloading of shoulders and from gnawing sores and deep scratches inflicted during porter service.



OH 2

29-year-old man from Shan State, a married farmer who was forcibly relocated in 1998. In the new village he was forced to work in the nearby military camp. He also had to cultivate corn for the soldiers. The work lasted the whole day, usually from 8.00 a.m. to 4.00/5.00 p.m., sometimes longer. The women were also forced to work. They were all watched constantly.

In connection with his arrest he was forced into porter service for the army. First the soldiers collected the village’s 50 men in a temple. They were all tortured by near drowning, their heads repeatedly being kept under water for a period of up to one hour. One villager had boiling water poured down his throat, and a temple monk had a spar rolled to and fro across his shin (the “roller”).

During the service he had to carry about 50 kilograms of ammunition and landmines. He was kicked if he fell. After seven days he escaped but was caught and beaten with a bamboo stick on his back until the stick broke.

Later he often succeeded in paying another villager to take his service. He paid approximately 3000 kyats monthly.

His 43-year-old father-in-law was shot dead near his original home in 1998. He had gone back to fetch something after being forcibly relocated. He was stopped by soldiers together with 26 others, including two women, one a teacher. It appeared that they had been offered a meal, but were later bound together and shot, all 27. The remaining villagers found them with bullet wounds, but otherwise no signs of torture.

He fled to Thailand on about 1 October 1999.



Account of torture, forced relocation, forced labour, porter service, and a massacre that had been published previously.



OH 5

27-year-old man, a married farmer from Shan State. He did forced labour for the military from 1994 until his flight to Thailand in November 1999. He worked from 7.00 a.m. till 7.00 p.m. for about 20 days monthly. He saw 12-year-old boys forced to work. He was not beaten at work, but saw others being beaten.

He fell ill with fever once during work; he got no treatment, just had to carry on. Because of having to lift heavy weights, he had a lot of pain in his back; he still has pain when he does lifting work.

He was forced into porter service three times: for 20 days in 1996, 17 days in 1997, and five days in 1998. The work had no upper time limit and sometimes continued during the night. He was carrying loads of about 35 kilograms. In general he was not beaten or kicked during the service. Once however, when he fell down, the soldiers thought he was trying to escape; they used his bamboo stick to beat him, including the shins. The strokes were so heavy that his right shinbone was broken, so that his foot was placed at a wrong angle and could move freely to the side. Two other porters were told to carry him back to the village. He was treated with herbal compresses and was in bed for one month; he received no other treatment. Since then he feels that his leg has become shorter and slightly crooked, and he gets pain in his leg when standing or walking for long periods.

The day before this episode, another porter, 43 years old, was shot in front of him. The man had collapsed from exhaustion and was executed with three bullets by the sergeant in charge of the platoon. The body was just left where it had fallen.

In 1994, his one year older brother, then 23 years old, was taken away from his home by soldiers without explanation. The family has not seen him since.

He fled to Thailand in November 1999 with his wife and a son three years of age; a younger son was left with the family in Burma / Myanmar.


Clinical examination:

On the left shoulder an approximately 3 x 2 cm. irregular scar with a brownish (hyperpigmented) circumference and lighter (less pigmented) centre.

On the right lower leg, 11 cm above the ankle, a 4 x 3 cm tender hard bony deformity from the previous fracture. By visual examination, no shortening or angle distortion of the leg, or other deformity.



Account of forced labour, porter service, maltreatment, killing, and disappearance.

The scar at the shoulder consistent with sequelae from sores after carrying. The bone deformities are sequelae from a fracture, consistent with the account.



OH 6

38-year-old man from Karenni State. Forcibly relocated in 1996. He did forced labour for as long as he could remember. Had done porter service for the army several times, usually carrying about 35 kilograms of ammunition. He got sores on the shoulders. While working he was beaten on the shoulders, lower back, and thighs, and was also kicked. Furthermore, he was burned with cigars on the inner sides of both calves when he did not walk fast enough. He saw how two porters died from exhaustion during their service. The others buried them. He and five other porters had to walk in front of the soldiers, i.e. he was forced to be a minesweeper. One porter stepped on a mine and was killed. He also functioned as a living shield for the soldiers when, in areas of armed conflicts, the porters were dressed like Burmese soldiers. In this way four porters were killed..

He was imprisoned for two years and three months. The soldiers had found a landmine near their camp and accused him of putting it there. While in prison he was beaten and, with his hands bound behind, his head was kept under water at intervals during one hour. He was suspended for a whole day; his feet could just reach the ground, and in this position he was beaten. He was stabbed with a knife point in his neck and was exposed to mock executions. A spar was rolled across his shins (the “roller”). Chillies were forced into his nose, and he was forced to drink petrol. He became unconscious during electric torture to his body and hands.

His headman of the village and one more person were forced into the jungle by the army and shot.

Two soldiers raped his 31-year-old sister.

A 28-year-old nephew, who returned to the village to collect his belongings, stepped on a mine and lost his right leg. The interviewee told that the mine was placed there by the army to prevent the villagers from returning to the village. He was immediately taken to the hospital where his leg was amputated above the knee. Today he walks with the help of crutches.

The interviewee paid for the hospital treatment.

He fled to Thailand on 1 October 1999.


Clinical examination:

1.      On the inner side of the right calf three circular scars almost 1 cm diameter, and two similar scars on the inner side of the left calf.

2.      On the left shoulder a small non-specific scar.

3.      Several small non-specific scars on the back and front of the chest.



Account of forced labour, porter service, forced function as living minesweeper and as shield for bullets, torture, killing of fellow porters, killing, and rape.

The non-specific scars were consistent with the described maltreatment and lesions from the porter service. The circular scar was more specific in shape and localisation, strongly supporting his account of burning with cigars.



OH 30

20-year-old male, farmer from Karenni State. Married but no children. He had done forced labour since he was 15.

In January 1998, when 19, he was accused of having contact with the armed opposition. He was in prison for one month and tortured, including “ the aeroplane” for five consecutive days; he had to stand on the tips of his toes with slightly bent knees and hips, arms raised to the side, and to make a sound like a motor. If he did not maintain this position he was beaten and kicked. For 1½ days he lay on his knees on sharp stones. He put his weight on his left knee so as to save the right one. He was exposed to mock executions with pistols, and was beaten and kicked.

His 25-year-old brother wanted to return to the village to collect rice because the family was starving. Some time later the villagers found his body. Both hands had been cut off, and there were other signs of torture, including burned hair and torn off skin in several places.

An aunt, whose son was part of the armed opposition, had a bullet knocked into her forehead with a piece of firewood.


Clinical examination:

A 1x2 cm atrophic scar at the left knee.



Account of forced labour from the age of 15, imprisonment and torture, and mutilating fatal torture of a brother.

The scar at the left knee completely non-specific, but consistent with the account.



LW 8

13-year-old  Karenni girl, a farmer’s daughter. Before  her flight she was at school in Burma / Myanmar, where she learned to read and write Burmese, but not her own language.

She fled to Thailand in September 1999 together with her uncle and aunt, and eight others from her village. They  walked through the jungle for about 14 days; they had brought food and slept in the open. The girl hopes that her parents will come soon to Thailand, but they thought it might be too hard to walk so far with three younger brothers and sisters.

Forced labour:

She did forced labour for about two days every month from 1995, when she was nine, to the flight in 1999. She was recruited by the military through the village headman. She was usually made to cut down bushes in connection with road construction.  She got no salary or food (she brought it herself) and worked all day. Her parents and two brothers, 15 and 17, also did forced labour, but in different places. She used to work with other children, even as young as seven years. The youngest were never beaten by the soldiers, but she had seen the men and women beaten with bamboo sticks, and kicked by the soldiers. On one occasion, because she refused to fetch the family’s hen and give it to the soldiers, she was beaten on the head with a flat hand. During the night the soldiers stole the hen from her home.

On one occasion she was ill with a cough and fever for a few days, but she was still sent to labour.

Forced relocation:

In 1997 the military came to her village, threatened the villagers with rifles, and said, without any explanation, that they must leave the village within three or four days. Her uncle was beaten with fists. The family lost their house and land. In the new village they were not allowed to fetch bamboo from the forest to build a proper hut, but had to make do with a small shelter under which they slept on the ground. They got a bit of farming land from relatives. She was allowed to go to school, but her schooling was interrupted now and then by forced labour. The old village was burnt by the soldiers, and the fields destroyed.

Reported rape:

One night during 1999 she and two others whom we also interviewed saw three soldiers arriving at her village and threatening a 15-year-old girl with a rifle. They took her with them into the jungle for an hour or two. The girl came back naked and complained of pain in her lower abdomen.


In July 1998 a 30-year-old man from her village collapsed from exhaustion during porter service. He was beaten to death with bamboo sticks. His body was left behind. The villagers did not dare to ask for its return.


She said that she was afraid of working in the fields because she knew that the military had laid mines roundabout. In 1999 her 30-year-old cousin was on his way to work in the field. He stepped on a mine and lost one leg. He was taken to hospital. He has not got an artificial leg, nor crutches, nor a wheelchair. Since then he has not therefore been able to work, but just sits in the house.


In 1997 the military approached the village chief and asked him to conscript three men from the village, among them her 17-year-old brother. The three presented themselves to the military; they were arrested and have not been seen since. The girl does not think that her brother had ever been involved in political work.


The account of child forced labour, killing, disappearances, and landmine accidents was consistent with similar accounts from other refugees. The description of the rape and the forced relocation was in complete agreement with accounts of the same incidents by other refugees.



LW 20

38-year-old Karenni, two children, widow of a farmer. She escaped to Thailand in July 1999.


She was widowed in 1992. Her husband never returned from porter service. She learned from other porters that he was dead, but has never heard how he died and has not seen his body.

Forced labour:

She did forced labour since 1990 - cultivation of food stuff and water carrying for the soldiers. Worked two to seven days per week, up to nine hours per day. She had both children with her; the 10-year-old had to remove bushes, and the younger one she carried on her back. It was hard for her to carry her child and at the same time carry water for the soldiers, so she was beaten for being too slow.

Forced relocation:

The village headman received a letter in 1996 to the effect that the villagers should leave the village. No one believed that that could be true, but the military appeared a few days later and gave them three days to get out. The village was then burnt. She packed a basket with some food and some blankets, and put the baby on top. She walked for about three days to the new village, the basket on her back, and her other child walking by her side. The newcomers to the village were not allowed to fetch bamboo from the forest so she had to build a small primitive shelter, which was therefore cold and wet at night. She was forced to work for the military most of the time, and so did not have time to cultivate anything for herself and the children. The military gave her soup and rice for a small meal every day. She and the children did not have enough to eat and she therefore decided to escape to Thailand.


Two children, one of them her nine year old nephew, were playing near a spring at the village in 1996. They found a mine that the military had left and wanted to play with it. It exploded, and her sister’s son was killed; the other child was hit by numerous small splinters, gravel, and small stones.


Account of forced labour, porter service with fatal outcome, forced relocation, and landmine death of child, consistent with accounts from other refugees.



LW 27

25-year-old Karenni woman. Married with a farmer, two children. Escaped to Thailand in February 1999.


Forced relocation:

The military told the villagers to leave the village within five days. Her mother refused to leave her house. The soldiers set fire to the whole village and  her mother had to escape from the burning house. She died later the same day.  Neither she nor her husband wanted to go to the new village. Instead they fled into the jungle with the children. At first they lived on rice and dried food, which they had brought with them. They later found a small bit of land that they could cultivate. 

Her sister, who was pregnant, had fled with them. She gave birth in the jungle, but she and the newborn both died. They lived for two years in the jungle, but it gradually became too difficult. There was not enough food, and in particular there were too many Burmese soldiers in the area. They therefore fled to Thailand.  


Account of a forced relocation and a subsequent clandestine life in the jungle.



LW 36

16-year old unmarried Karenni girl. Both parents died from natural diseases. Fled to Thailand with her sister in October 1999.


In 1997, when she was 14, the military came to her village to conscript men for porter service. Most of the men hid, and the military arrested six men and four women, of whom she was the youngest. She was taken to a prison and put into a small room with the three other women. She had little to eat, was in the same room for 100 days, was never allowed out. She was often threatened verbally, but said that she had not been beaten, tortured, or raped. She did not think that the other women had been raped.


Account of imprisonment of a child.



LW 19

28-year-old Karenni woman. Married to a farmer, four children. She was very emotional during the interview, with tears in her eyes.


In 1997 she was walking with her husband and two other women. She was carrying her two-year-old child on her back. Some soldiers appeared suddenly and threatened her husband with a rifle, telling him to go back to the village. The three women were forced into the forest and raped. Three soldiers, one a sergeant, raped them. She described how she was held  fast and threatened with a pistol. Her child lay on the ground at the side and cried. One of the other women shouted but was beaten on the throat and shoulder with the flat side of a military knife to make her keep quiet.

Just after the rape the interviewee had pain all over, but she was free of pain at the time of our interview.

Immediately after that episode her husband wanted a divorce, but the village headman did not give permission. Her husband gradually accepted the situation. 

Comment by the victim:

”That rape destroyed my life”.



1.      Amnesty International. Report 1999. London: Amnesty International, 1999.

2.      Amnesty International. Myanmar. Aftermath: Three years of dislocation in the Kayah (Kanenni) State. London: Amnesty International, 1999.

3.      Amnesty International. Myanmar. Update on the Shan State. London: Amnesty International, 1999.

4.      International Labour Organization. Forced labour in Myanmar (Burma).  Geneva: International Labour Organization, 1998.

5.      The Karen Human Rights Group. Wholesale destruction. Chiangmai Thailand: Nopburee Press, 1998.

6.      US Department of Labour. Child Labour. Washington DC: US Department of Labour, 1997.

7.      Human Rights Watch. Burma / Thailand: No safety in Burma, no sanctuary in Thailand. New York: Human Rights Watch, 1997.

8.      Documentation on internally displaced persons in Karenni. The Committee for Internally Displaced Karenni Persons.

9.      The Shan Human Rights Foundation.  Dispossessed. Forced relocation and extrajudicial killings in the Shan State. Chiangmai, Thailand: The Shan Human Rights Foundation, 1998.

10.   Petersen HD, Lykke J, Hougen HP, Mannstaedt M.  Results of medical examination of refugees from Burma. Danish Medical Bulletin1998; 45: 313-6.

11.   Petersen HD, Rasmussen OV. Medical appraisal of allegations of torture. Forensic Science International 1992; 53: 97-116.


 Table 1.

Demographic details and exposure to human rights violation of persons examined in 1997 and 1999.


All 1997, arrived within 12 months

Mons 1999,  arrived within 12 months

Karennis 1999, arrived within 12 months              

All 1999, arrived within 12 months






Median time from emigration

5 months

3 months 

7 months

6 months

















31  (15-70)

38  (22-70)

35 (11-60)

36 (11-70)






Male / female

29 / 5

22 / 19

40 / 28

81 / 48







30   (88%)

38   (93%)

64 (94%)

116  (90%)






Forced labour

29   (85%)

34   (83%)  

62 (91%)

113 (88%)






Porter service

24   (71%)

34   (83%)  

48  (71%)

99   (77%)






Forced relocation

16   (47%)

5    (12%)

55  (81%)

70   (54%)







8     (24%)

12   (29%)

11  (16%)

28    (22%)






Assaults to family

5     (15%)

6     (15%)

2    (3%)

10    ( 8%)








35   (85%)

60  (88%)

107  (87%)







7     (21%)

11   (27%)

10  (15%)

26    (20%)






Killings, family

13   (38%)

18   (44%)

25  (37%)

50    (39%)






Killings, others

14   (41%)

22   (54%)

23  (34%)

54    (42%)






Rape, family

4     (12%)

6     (15%)

9    (13%)

15    (12%)






Rape, others

4     (12%)

12   (29%)

25  (37%)

44    (34%)






Disappearances, family

2     (6%)

4     (10%)

6    ( 9%)

11     (9%)






Disappearances, others

3     (9%)

6     (15%)

10  (15%)

21    (16%)






Landmine accid., family

4     (12%)

2      (5%)

13  (19%)

15    (12%)






Landmine accid., others

10   (29%)

6     (15%)

11  (16%)

23    (18%)






Score, median







Table 2. Description of torture, own observations and clinical findings for 19 persons. * For description of “the roller” and “others”, se page 20-21.






Burns (B)/

Cuts (C)

Suffocation or drowning- (D) procedures

”The roller”





others *

Own observations

Characteristic  scars and sequelae

HD 14











HD 15











HD 25



B (cigarettes)

C (bayonet)

Water in nose,

(D) in river





Swelling of genitals and


Lost teeth,




Hydrocele (figure 5)

Deformity of face,


Small round scars

HD 27



B (cigarettes,     candle)

Water in nose






Small round and irregular  scars  (figure 7)

MZ  4



C (bamboo)








MZ 19




Water in nose,

Plastic bag








MZ 23



B (cigarettes)

Water in nose






Unconsciousness      wounds

Small round scars (figure 6) and innumerable small scars

MZ 24





Water in nose







OH 2




(D) in tub with water







OH 6



B (cigar),

C (knife)

(D) in tub with water






Small round scars

OH 7




 Plastic bag







OH 8











OH 11




 Plastic bag





Blood in urine


OH 12











OH 30











OH 35




(D) in lake







OH 37




 Plastic bag







OH 41




 Plastic bag







OH 43




Cloth in mouth









Figure 1

Scars from lesions said to be due to cuts or bayonet thrusts.




Figure 2

Fresh scar said to be due to rubbing pressure during porter service.




Figure 3

Scar said to be due to a blunt injury (kick) during porter service.




Figure 4

Irregular scar and small circular scars said to be due to bayonet cuts and cigarette burns (case HD 25).




Figure 5

Large scrotal swelling (hydrocele) said to be due to blunt injury (kick) (case HD 25).




Figure 6

Circular scars said to be due to cigarette burns (case MZ 23).




Figure 7

Large depigmented irregular scars on the upper part of the front of the chest, smaller circular and irregular scars on the lower part of the abdomen, as well as a transverse scar at the left wrist, said to be due to burns by candles and cigarettes and from sores due to tight binding of the wrists (case HD 27).




Figure 8

Large irregular scar at the left elbow and loss of the left index finger, said to be due to bullet injury.