Facts about Human Rights Violations: An Overview



I tell you if anyone wants to enjoy the human rights they have in the US, England and India, provided the country accepts, I will permit them to leave. But in Myanmar [Burma], I can only grant human rights suitable for Myanmar [Burmese] people.

—Gen Saw Maung, SLORC chairman 1988-1992


The Index on Human Misery in 1992 ranked Burma as one of the world’s most miserable countries, estimating that over 16 million of 42 million inhabitants were under the poverty line, and living under insufferable conditions. 1994 represented no improvements in human rights in Burma, despite official claims; in fact, the situation of the common people is continuing to worsen. Systematic abuses of economic, social and cultural rights by the government and army has been continuing to grow as SLORC consolidates its power base in formerly insurgent-held areas. Ceasefire agreements have not decreased hostilities and suppression has been increasing.


While outright fighting seems to have subsided, that is not so. In the beginning of 1994, SLORC troops launched a lightening offensive against the KNPP; during 1994 heavy military operations against the people occurred in Shan State under the guise of “drug eradication” by attacks on MTA-defended territory; and even at the end of 1994, SLORC troops funnelled into the Liberated Areas around Manerplaw for a massive offensive that would send in some 10,000 refugees fleeing into Thailand by February 1995 and thousands civilians disappearing for military portering and “voluntary” labour on a host of infrastructure projects.


More disturbing still, the ethnic minorities less and less hold a once-believed monopoly on human rights abuses in Burma. Internal displacement not only affects those in the resource-rich countryside; hundreds of thousands of Rangoon-dwellers have been forced to move into inadequately equipped satellite towns. Poorer Burmans who cannot afford SLORC bribes are being kidnapped outside of theatres in central towns and find themselves as porters on the other side of the country. Mass rallies of the USDA and tourism projects involve many more townspeople who must comply with attendance or forced labour in urban settings. Clearly, the systematic abuse of Burma’s people covers the entire country, whether ethnic villager or Burman townsfolk.


What follows is only a sampling of incidents. Most remain unreported due to poor communication or a prevention of communication, as occurred during Special Rapporteur Yozo Yokota’s 1994 visit. He felt similarly when the year before when he noted in February 1994: “The Special Rapporteur continues to be concerned about the serious restrictions imposed upon people in the enjoyment of civil and political rights. The people do not generally enjoy freedoms of thought, opinion, expression, publication and peaceful assembly and association. They seem to be always fearful that whatever they or their family members say or do ... would risk arrest and interrogation by the police or military intelligence.”


The following materials have been divided into three sections: lists of individual incidents, eye-witness accounts, and SLORC orders to villagers and photographic evidence. The year of the individual incidents was 1994, unless otherwise noted. While some events occurred in 1993 or earlier, this information was first able to be recorded in 1994 and, in any event, these events have a direct bearing on the overall situation of HRV in 1994, in that identical violations continue to occur regardless of the year and in spite of SLORC claims. Therefore such events prior to 1994 were included.


Names and specific places have been held back or changed when necessary to protect the victims or information sources; but the names mentioned in the accounts are real. In all cases the information was reliably received or independently confirmed by other sources. Every effort was made to avoid exaggeration or altering the context of the incidents. Despite the attempt at a comprehensive list of incidents, many reports are lacking some information. This includes translations of local names into the English (see note under “Abbreviations...”) because most information was orally transmitted from inside closed and isolated Burma, where even a foreign newspaper can lead to instant imprisonment.


Abbreviations for sources and other information has been given under “Abbreviations...” above. For further information from our sources, please contact the organisations at the addresses under “List of Resources, Contributors...” below.


Chapter categories have been made under guidance from various UN organs; however, many incidents could be listed under more than one category, due to the nature of the violations. In most events cited, multiple violations have occurred during the same incident, which can often be spread out over several days or certain areas by one group of troops. What follows are examples involving multiple violations, related in a highly personalised style as not that of a victim (as under most “Eye-witness Accounts”) nor a straight report of an incident by human rights workers. Nonetheless, these examples illustrate the complexity of categorising or devising any clearly defined method of detailing violations. It is believed that the sheer volume of abuses alone will speak for the unspeakable acts of Burma’s military regime, and it is hoped that people will be inspired – or so sickened – as to act to prevent further such violations of human rights.


List of Incidents


On 22 October, SLORC troops under the command of LIB 403 penetrated Ye Pone Village, Ye Phyu Township, Tenasserim Division, brutally gunned down innocent Karen villagers who were running for their lives in fear of being taken for portering. U Si Aye (63) was hit and died on the spot. 2 other villagers, one of them a 16-year-old who was hit at both sides of his thigh, could no longer run and were arrested by SLORC troops. Since then they disappeared. According to escapees, SLORC troops also burned down and destroyed the villages. On 25 October, 25 escapees from 5 households reached at Moe Khao Phaw Karen refugee camp, near Nat-E-Taung in Kanchanaburi Province, and one of them is Naw Than Nu (23, daughter-in-law of the victim U Si Aye). About 450 refugees who escaped SLORC’s “Four-Cuts” strategy, are now taking shelter there and provided humanitarian assistance from Burmese Border Consortium. At an interview with Naw Than Nu, she revealed her story as follows:


“On 22 October 1994 as SLORC troops under the command of LIB 403 surprisingly penetrated Ye Pone Village in Ye Phyu Township, all the villagers were in fear and ran for their lives. I, bringing my 3 children, ran for lives with much trouble. Although I saw that U Si Aye, my father-in-law, was hit and fell down, I could not carry him because we were also running for our lives. A young man, about 16 years old, was hit on both sides of his thigh and fell down. According to my neighbours, he was hospitalised in Tavoy. The third victim, who didn’t manage to escape, was arrested by SLORC troops. Since then he disappeared. SLORC troops also burned down and destroyed the villages. As one of the victims of such a killing, I was very sorrowful and miserable... homeless and not able to bury my father-in-law.”


On 25 December, while villagers in the Karen village of Bee Cha in Mergui/Tavoy District, were preparing their Christmas celebration, SLORC troops of IB 17 commanded by Maj Kyaw Kyaw approached the village. Most of the villagers managed to flee before the troops arrived. The soldiers entered the village and opened fire on the first house they saw, which still had people in it. The entire house was riddled with automatic rifle fire and M-79 rifle‑fired grenades. Naw Weh Ber (50) and her son Saw Ko Poh (27) were killed, while Naw Weh Ber's daughter Naw Mu Sghee (12) was severely wounded along with her friend who was visiting the house. The villagers later took the two girls to Tavoy Hospital, but Naw Mu Sghee died on the way. Her friend survived the trip, but her condition was very serious and there have been no reports whether she is still alive. Soon after the killings, the SLORC troops captured the village pastor and forced him to bury the bodies at gunpoint. Three military trucks were then brought in from the army camp to loot the village. The soldiers ransacked every house, took everything and loaded it on the trucks. Before they left, they scratched in charcoal on the sign in front of the church, "Be careful – next time we'll burn down the village." The attack on Bee Cha was retaliation for an attack on SLORC troops by Karen soldiers not far away the previous day. On the same day, the same troops went to Beyo Po Kyi Village, stole some belongings and shot dead Naw Say Heh (female, Karen) and Maung Shwe Win (male, Karen) [source: KNU]




Sai San Loi, a Shan Buddhist aged 50, was elected as a Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) Member of Parliament in the 1990 general election. He is from southern Shan State which is close to Mog Kwwat where SLORC and MTA were fighting:


I'm still living in my home town. The soldiers are everywhere and the Shan people dare not stay there anymore, so many people have left. They're running away because they're afraid of the SLORC, because the SLORC have confiscated their land, they make them contributing labour without payment, take them as porters, loot and rape everywhere – so the people dared not live there anymore. Many are running into Thailand, but they have to get in secretly. If you are caught by the Thai border police or immigration, they'll be arrested and deported.


In March this year, local SLORC soldiers had a fight among themselves and one of them shot and killed another. Then he took 4 guns and left the military post, so the SLORC grabbed all the villagers around there and ordered them to tell where the man had gone. They were beaten, but they didn't know anything because the man had handed over 4 guns to MTA and gone into hiding. SLORC detained all the people in 4 or 5 villages, several hundred people altogether, and beat them at the military camp. The soldiers ordered them to buy 4 new guns to replace the 4 that were lost, and ordered them to go and search for the man. They said if those people didn't get the man then they'd kill them all. When the MTA heard about this they went and negotiated with the local SLORC and returned 4 guns. Only then the people were released.


All the villagers are used by SLORC as porters, hard labourers, to work in the fields and to work at the army camp washing clothes, fetching water and so on. The MTA too sometimes use the people as porters and demand food from villagers, but the SLORC is worse – they even force the women to go as porters. When there's fighting, the villagers feel a little bit hopeful, because if SLORC men die then there are fewer of them to make trouble for the villagers, and if MTA men die then there might be less trouble for them as well. The people have to do things for both sides, so they don't see much difference.


As an elected MP, I can go about more freely than most people and they don't usually make trouble for me. But I dared not go back to my home town anymore. When they're arresting porters, they might know I'm an MP but they wouldn't spare me because of that. They even take pregnant women, so they'll certainly take me.


Now the world doesn't know that the Shans and other people in Burma are suffering so much, and the world doesn't understand that the people will continue to suffer like this until we can get rid of SLORC. Now the people have an elected government but SLORC won't transfer power to those who were elected – they're robbing the people. If the world thinks the SLORC is okay despite that, we can't help it. It's quite obvious that the SLORC has robbed power from the people, but still they say they are legal. So what can the people do? The people have suffered so much and sacrificed so much.


I haven't been invited to the SLORC's National Convention, and I haven't decided whether I would go if I were. I'm not satisfied with the SLORC. The country is not prosperous, but the people in power are prosperous, and getting richer every day. All the companies, even the companies going overseas like the shipping line, they're all owned by the military. The military buys everything the people have produced and pays almost nothing for it, so the people are only getting poorer. If every government in the world acted like SLORC, what would happen to the world? I'm worried. In Burma, Aung San Suu Kyi has been under house arrest for 6 years. We don't know what to do with a government like this. So if the world still thinks the SLORC is legal and the people aren't good enough to form the government, then that's up to the world. But I want to ask the world to accept the people. [source: KHRG]




The following account describing the situation in northern Karenni (Kayah) State and the southern tip of Shan State northwest of Loikaw was given by Khon Mar Ko Pan, who is Kayan and was elected as a Member of Parliament in the 1990 elections representing the DOKNU (Democratic Organisation for Kayan National Unity) Party. He was a delegate to SLORC’s National Convention when it began in January 1993, but after one month he decided that the National Convention was just “a fraud which has been arranged by SLORC only to perpetuate their inhuman, illegal and dictatorial rule in Burma”, and left for the Revolutionary Areas. He has now just returned from three-and-a-half months in areas west of Loikaw, the capital of Karenni State, in Karenni and Shan states, and describes some of the ongoing political problems and human rights abuses happening there. Note that SLORC “regional development projects” which involve slavery and land confiscation to generate income for the military are the kinds of projects which the UN Development Programme is currently funding as “income-generation” projects under SLORC’s BAD programme. The foreign NGOs now considering entering Burma are also looking at funding projects like these, which SLORC can easily display to project monitors as “community income-generation” while SLORC takes all the profits and the enslaved villagers stand there too terrified to speak.


Note that there are three revolutionary groups fighting SLORC in Karenni State: the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP), Kayan New Land Party (KNLP), and Karenni Nationalities People’s Liberation Front (KNPLF). SLORC has recently offered ceasefire talks to each separately, but the talks generally consist of SLORC officers demanding surrender and refusing to even discuss any political or human rights issues:


SLORC recently made an offer to the Karenni to come to peace talks to make a ceasefire. The Karenni knew that these would not be real peace talks, but the KNPP went to talk anyway because the Karenni people want peace. The first talks were at Tee Paw Klo Village, and the second time at Loikaw. Both times the talks were the same – no progress was made. At the talks, the main thing the Karenni representatives asked was for SLORC to withdraw its army from the Karenni area, but SLORC refused and after that fighting broke out one or two times. As far as I know, that’s why the Karenni aren’t going to the peace talks again. The talks were suspended, and now they’ve been broken off. The KNPLF also went to talk to SLORC, and SLORC’s offer was, “Just surrender your arms for now, and we’ll give them back to you later. In the meantime we’ll supply all your living needs.” The KNPLF didn’t believe that so they quit the negotiations.


There’s no fighting for now – SLORC appears to be preparing for a new offensive, but I’m not exactly sure. SLORC also says they want to restart the peace talks, but the Karenni are just waiting to see if SLORC is going to attack or not. After the talks broke down last time, there were two skirmishes and SLORC burned down two villages. Both times the fighting occurred outside of a village, so afterwards SLORC went and burned down the whole village. All the villagers came to the refugee camps in the border area. For now, most of the time the SLORC troops aren’t going very far from their camps, but sometimes they still patrol around.


All the villagers are living in fear because the SLORC army constantly comes to get slave labour for their military outposts, slave labour for roads, slave labour for digging ponds or for guarding the railway line. They always make the villagers work for them. They always come and collect money from the villagers and say it’s for porter fees (this is just an excuse for extortion – none of the money is spent on porters), they take porters, and they take fees people must pay to avoid going for slave labour. The people are never allowed to just stay peacefully in their villagers, even in Loikaw Town itself and the villages around there.


Four or five miles west of Loikaw, near Kayeh Ni Village between Loikaw and Mo Byeh, SLORC has a plan to dig fishponds covering 600 acres. All of this land belongs to the villagers around there, although some of it isn’t suitable for crops because of annual flooding. SLORC has taken all the land. They plan to make each pond about 200 feet long, covering about one acre. They plan to stock them with fish during the rainy season, and grow paddy during the other seasons. They just started this project about one month or more ago. They’re digging the ponds now. There are so many villagers there, and even people from Loikaw Town are forced to do labour there. There are over 10,000 people altogether, being forced to work in turns. I was in the villages in the area and we heard that the soldiers had ordered that anyone who won’t go to dig the ponds will be arrested, so I had to keep running from village to village. One person from each family has to go, and anyone who can’t go has to pay 100 Ks per day. This order comes directly from the State Level SLORC itself [the SLORC administration for Karenni/Kayah State]. The people have to work all day long, they don’t even get a chance to rest. I can’t say how many days at a time they have to go. None of these orders come from the local military, they all come from the Kayah State SLORC, and this whole project is just for their own purposes and profit.


All the villagers are also being forced to guard the Loikaw-Aungban railway line [this 100-mile railway between Karenni and Shan states was built entirely by slave labour from 1991 to 1993. SLORC says over 800,000 people “contributed labour”; many of these were Pa-O and Shan, and the project also involved driving 20,000 Karenni villagers out of their villages and into concentration camps and then using them on the railway, where hundreds, possibly thousands, died of starvation, disease and SLORC beatings, including women and children as young as 12. SLORC admitted that “people are dying every day”. When the railway was finished it was merrily opened by foreign diplomats, including the German ambassador and British representatives. The KNLP stays in the area around the railway. So SLORC laid a mine around the railway, then they found it and told everyone, “We found KNLP mines on the railway line”, and so now with that excuse they force all the villagers to guard the railway line 24 hours a day. The KNLP denied laying any mines. It was the train driver who “found” the landmine. SLORC says he saw it, stopped the train in time, got out and picked it up. This is impossible, so we’re sure SLORC mined the railway themselves. Now everyone has to take turns guarding the railway for 24 hours at a time. Anyone who can’t go has to pay 100 Ks per night. Most people have to go at most two times per month. It depends on the village – if the village is big, you don’t have to take your turn so often, but if it is small then your turn comes quickly. [Other reliable sources add: “Watch huts” have been placed about every 400 yards along the railway line. Four villagers at a time must stay in these watch huts day and night. This makes a total of about 400 watch huts along the entire railway, and 1,600 villagers doing forced labour as “guards” every moment of every day.]


There are so many human rights abuses that trying to list them would be endless. Every SLORC battalion and regiment in every area takes money and land for themselves, then forces the villagers to work the land for them. I will only tell you a few examples. I know three battalions, Battalions 421 and 336 based around Pay Khon and 422 in Mo Byeh, which have each confiscated 1,000 acres of land from the local villagers, for a total of 3,000 acres. On this land the villagers are forced to do everything for them – plough the land, plant the seed rice, pull up and transplant the seedlings into the paddies, everything right up until reaping time, when the villagers have to harvest it for them. For all this work the villagers aren’t even given 5 pyas, but they have to do everything for the soldiers on the land, cut wood, build fences, everything. As far as we know, the soldiers send the profits to their headquarters to invest it in a company. SLORC sends orders to every battalion and division telling how much profit money they have to send in to buy shares in this company – if you want to find out how much exactly, only SLORC centre of operations can tell you that. SLORC has created this to be a very big company, and then they make sure that no other businesses or people get any bigger than them. [Another source indicates that this company is called “Myanmar Holding Company Ltd”, set up by SLORC as a front company to launder their profits from the seizure of land and other assets from civilians by the military.]


On these SLORC farms, whenever the soldiers see one cow or buffalo footprint, they go and fine the owner 500 Ks, and if they catch a cow or buffalo on the land they charge the owner 3,000 Ks to get it back. I know of at least 10 villagers who have had to pay just for their cow’s footprint, and over 10 villagers who had to pay to get back their cattle. The soldiers also shot dead over 20 cattle, for no reason at all. Now whether they find the cattle on the SLORC farm or elsewhere, they take them and charge the owner 3,000 Ks.


In Deemawso Township [south of Loikaw], Battalion 102 takes all the best land. In one area there is about 1,000 acres of very good land where the villagers grow corn, and Battalion 102 took about 300 acres for themselves right in the middle of it. Now they force the villagers to grow corn for them, so some of the villagers who lost their land joined revolutionary groups. Then when the SLORC soldiers were inspecting their corn one time, KNPP soldiers came and shot at them, and three SLORC soldiers died. So SLORC called all the villagers, assembled over 1,000 of them, and forced them to cut down all of their own corn, everything except SLORC corn. It was nearly ready to harvest, so some of the villagers asked to take some of their corn with them to feed their horses, cattle, and other animals, but SLORC wouldn’t allow them to take any for themselves or their animals. They just made them cut it all down and leave it laying there, like clearing an area of forest.


SLORC has just started a new road between Lu Pa Ko and Ko Pra, two villages on the way between Loikaw and Taungoo. The length of the road is about seven miles, but there are only three small villages around there who are being forced to do all the labour. They’re doing it right now – they’re not even to the halfway point yet. They’re also making a slave labour road from Mo Byeh to Pee Kim [in the far south of Shan State] which isn’t finished yet, but they’ve stopped work on it for the moment. It’s 20 miles long. SLORC and Aung Kham Hti’s group are working together in this area. [Aung Kham Hti took his faction of the Pa-O National Organisation and signed one of the first ceasefires with SLORC in early 1991. SLORC has made a great deal of propaganda from this ceasefire since then]. Aung Kharn Hti only has 50 or 60 people, and no one supports or likes him because he killed his 2nd Chairman Tun Gyi and also killed some other people – he has a big problem. His name is Aung Khan Hti but all the people there now call him “Aung Maung Htwee” which means “Burmese Dog”.


All the villages around Pay Khon Township were ordered by SLORC to go to the USDA mass meetings in Loikaw. There were many people in all the villages around there who didn’t want to go because they thought the rally was meaningless so they just ignored the order and planned to stay in their villages. L– Village [name omitted by request] is bigger than most other villages, so the SLORC major himself came from Battalion 422 in Mo Byeh, while other groups of soldiers went to other villages. The major threatened the village head that he’d be arrested, so then the village head had to arrange two tractors with trailers to take people to the meeting. The major gathered all the villagers in a nearby field, scolded them and the village elders and threatened to arrest them and put them in jail if they didn’t go. The owners of the tractors had to collect money from the villagers, just enough so that they could buy petrol for the journey, and then had to take everyone to Loikaw at their own expense. When everyone got to Loikaw, they had to find a place to stay themselves.


The SLORC army also called a meeting in one village and said to the villagers, “You can say everything you want openly, and we won’t act against you no matter what you say”, so the villagers told them everything. They said, “You forced us all to go to the USDA rally against our will, and your soldiers always come and steal all our livestock. Most of your soldiers are very bad”, and things like that. SLORC didn’t respond, but it was only a few days later that SLORC planted a mine on the railway and forced everyone to start doing guard duty.


Everything SLORC does, like these mass meetings and all their slave labour projects and other things, they pretend to do for the people, but the people will never follow them or trust them. As for whether a ceasefire would improve anything, the answer is no way. The only thing that might improve is that SLORC might take a few less porters, but all the stealing will only get worse under a ceasefire, and the forced labour will continue from bad to worse. All SLORC is doing is just make believe to fool the people, but the people will never believe them. The situation between the military and the people could explode at any time. [source: KHRG]