Eye-witness

Accounts

 

 

Note: Names and specific places have been held back or changed where necessary to protect the victims, their families or information sources; but the names mentioned in their stories are real. While a some events occurred in 1993 or earlier, they were first able to be recorded in 1994 and, in any event, these accounts have a direct bearing on the overall situation of HRV in 1994, in that identical violations continue to occur regardless of the year or SLORC claims. Therefore these events were included.

 

The following keywords describing human rights violations (HRV) have been used for cross-referencing; interview numbers are referred to in the chapter texts.

 

Assembly

Freedom of assembly and association

Child

Rights of the child

Detention

Arbitrary detention and enforced or involuntary disappearances

Displacement

Internally displaced persons

Execution

Extra-judicial, summary or arbitrary executions

Forced Labour

Forced labour and slavery

Livelihood

Rights of livelihood (i.e. pillaging, extortion)

Minorities

Protection of minorities

Misc

Miscellaneous

Movement

Freedom of movement

Opinion

Freedom of opinion and expression

Refugees

Situation of refugees

Religion

Freedom of belief

Relocation

Forced relocation

Repatriation

Forced repatriation

Slavery

Forced labour and slavery (i.e. portering)

Torture

Torture and other cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment or punishment

Women

Discrimination against women

 

 

Interview: 1    HRV:  Detention, Displacement, Livelihood, Refugees, Relocation, Slavery

 


Name:                   Nai Win Nai

Sex:                       Male

Age:                       42

Ethnicity:              Mon

Religion:               Buddhist

Family:                 Married with 7 children (age 3 to 20)

Address:                Pa Nga Village, Thanbyuzayat Township,

                              Mon State

Interviewed:         5-7 August 1994


 

 

[Nai Win Nai was taken as a human shield by the troops on the way from Plat Hon Pai to Halockhani.]

 

I left my village almost 20 years ago because I couldn't stand the oppression of the government. They took porters. My father was making tobacco pipes for a living. When they came to take porters he tried to run away, they shot him and he died. That's why we left – we didn't want to stay there anymore. We went to Three Pagodas Pass. On the Mon side of the border [Three Pagodas Pass marks the border with Thailand; it was controlled by the Mon and Karen governments until SLORC occupied it in 1989-90]. Then 6 years ago the Burmese troops were coming often and attacking there, so we crossed to Thailand. At first we didn't go to a refugee camp, but then the Thais were arresting many people and we were afraid, so we went to Loh Loe [refugee camp]. We were there for one-and-a-half years, then last year we moved to Halockhani. First we lived on the Thai side of Halockhani. Then we had to move to the Burmese side when the Thai authorities told the refugees to move to the Burmese side of the border, so we went to stay in Plat Hon Pai.

 

On 21 July we were preparing the Buddhist celebration for the full moon so we were making various kinds of cakes to offer to the monks in the monastery. Then the Burmese troops came. At first we weren't afraid – we thought they wouldn't make any trouble so we stayed quiet. At first they stayed all around just outside the village, but then they came in and went house to house arresting the men. They arrested 47 men but no women. The troops ordered the men to go to Halockhani with them. It was 7:30 a.m. and there were about 300 troops. They told us we would have to show them the houses of the medics and the school teacher in Halockhani. We didn't want to do that because we were afraid they'd make trouble for the medics and the school teacher. Before we left I saw soldiers beating the headman of Plat Hon Pai.

 

On the way through the village we had to walk with one of us on the left and one on the right of each soldier [not all the soldiers went to Halockhani. Plat Hon Pai is narrow and about 1 km. long along a wide pathway]. After that the path becomes narrow and we had to walk in single file. They put eight refugees ahead of them as a cover, and these eight men ran away. The soldiers were ordered to shoot them but they weren't hit because they could hide behind the trees and rocks. The soldiers tried to run after them but they got away to warn the people in Halockhani [the path runs through thick jungle].

 

I don't know where the Burmese soldiers met the Mon soldiers, I only heard some shootings, then the Burmese soldiers shot back. I don't know who shot first. When we heard the shootings we ran away. We ran through the forest to a hill close to Plat Hon Pai, and we could see the village. We saw the soldiers coming back to Plat Hon Pai. Some soldiers made the women leave the village and didn't allow them to take anything from their houses. Then they burned the houses. I saw it. First they looked inside and if they saw anything good they took it, then they set all the houses in the whole village on fire. Some houses only got partly burnt, and some burned until only the wooden posts were left. [Actually some houses set apart from the rest of the village were not set on fire.] We were afraid to go back so we slept on the hill. Then the next morning we went to the monastery and found most of the women and children there. The monastery was the only building the soldiers didn't burn. My wife and children had slept there together with most of the women, some old men and one monk.

 

The soldiers left a half hour after they had burned the houses. With them there were some people whose hands tied up behind their backs with rope, and they had to carry the soldiers' things walking in the middle of the column, one soldier after each villager. Before they left, the Burmese soldiers told the women, "Within three days, everybody has to leave this village.” They said if they see anyone there after that, they would kill us. We fled and came here. Sometimes we go back to our old village just to pick up some vegetables and then come back. Our house was totally burned. We lost everything. The soldiers stopped my wife from bringing anything with her.

 

When we got here we had to make a shelter for the family, but we didn't finish the first day so we just put some bamboo on the ground to sleep on. We only had blankets for shelter, and it was raining. Five of our children were with us. Two days later we got some shelter. Other people cared for us because we'd lost everything. I hope we can stay here because we're afraid to go back to Plat Hon Pai or Halockhani, but I don't know if we'll be allowed to stay here. We're afraid because the Burmese soldiers said they would come back after three days and kill anyone they see, and I think they might do it. If we go back we'll have problems. I think they attacked because they think Mon soldiers might pass through the camp sometimes. I didn't see any Mon soldiers, but it's possible, so they don't want this camp to be set up. In Plat Hon Pai they said, "All of you can go stay at Three Pagodas Pass. We don't want to see you here anymore. " I think maybe they don't like it that we're in a refugee camp. They want us to stay under their control.


 

Interview: 2    HRV:  Refugees, Slavery, Torture

 


Name:                   Nai Tin Shwe

Sex:                       Male

Age:                       18

Ethnicity:              Mon

Religion:               Buddhist

Family:                 Single; Father, Nai Win Nai

                              (see related interview 1)

Address:                Pa Nga Village, Thanbyuzayat,

                              Township, Mon State

Interviewed:         5-7 August 1994


 

 

[Nai Tin Shwe was taken as a human shield along with his father (see above).]

 

I was born in Thanbyuzayat Township, in the village of my father. When we were living in Three Pagodas Pass I tried to go to school. But we had to run away. I began but we had to run, then began again, had to run again, and so on, so I never got any education. Then when we got to a refugee camp [Loh Loe] I didn't go to school. I was too ashamed because I was much older than the other children.

 

When the Burmese soldiers arrived at Plat Hon Pai they went to see the section leader and he said to the villagers, "The Burmese troops have come but there shouldn't be any problem, so don't run", so all the people stayed quietly. The troops surrounded the village because they didn't want anyone to run away, then they went to the houses one by one. They didn't beat me but they beat and kicked some people because they didn't come out quickly enough. I was in the street when the soldiers arrested me. A soldier grabbed my hand and took me to the school. I saw my father there – he'd been arrested at home. The soldiers took us with them towards Halockhani. On the way they kicked me because I wasn't walking fast enough and I fell and hurt my knee. I was near my father, and when we heard the shooting I ran away together with him, but other people further back in the line didn't escape. They were forced to return to Plat Hon Pai with the soldiers.

 

Interview: 3    HRV:  Livelihood, Slavery, Torture

 


Name:                   Nai San Lin

Sex:                       Male

Age:                       20

Ethnicity:              Mon

Religion:               Buddhist

Family:                 Single; eldest son of Nai Win Nai (see related

                              interview 1)

Address:                Pa Nga Village, Thanzyuzayat Township,

                              Mon State

Interviewed:         5-7 August 1994


 

 

[Nai Son Lin was conscripted as a porter, first to Halockhani and then on the subsequent trip to Ye.]

 

The soldiers arrived at Plat Hon Pai on 21 July at about 7:30 a.m. Burmese time. I was at home. When they arrived at our house. 10 soldiers stayed there. They cooked and ate inside our house. They ate all our rice and curry, and all the cakes we had prepared to send to the monastery for the Buddhist festival. Then another group of soldiers arrived and arrested my father and my uncle. They also took away my brother from the house while he was on the way to see his friend. About five minutes after they took away my father and uncle, the same group came back to arrest me. They didn't say anything. First they pointed their guns at me and then kicked me twice to frighten me. I was sitting down so they kicked me in the back with their big boots and it hurt afterwards. Then they told me to go with them so I went. My mother and some of my younger brothers and sisters were there, but they didn't dare say anything because they were afraid.

 

They took me to the school and on the way one soldier kicked me, put a gun in my back and asked me about weapons in the village. I saw my father and brother at the school just for a short time, then they took me with them to walk across the village and then on towards Halockhani. The soldiers had forced more than 100 people from Burma into portering. I think about a third of the soldiers and half of the porters were walking toward Halockhani. The porters had to carry bullets for the troops. The soldiers put many refugees in front of them. I was behind. I had to carry about 30 kg of bullets. None of the other refugees had to carry loads, only me, because one of the porters from Burma couldn't carry his load so they left him in Plat Hon Pai and gave it to me. Some of the refugees in the front could escape but I couldn't because there were always soldiers in front of me and behind me. The line was very long. I think there must have been about 60 refugees with them. When some of the people in front escaped, the soldiers asked the commander for authorisation to shoot, and the commander authorised it. After that, people stopped escaping. They tried to shoot at some of the people who escaped at first but they all got away. Along the way they kicked me in  my thighs at four different times. If I walked too fast they kicked me, and if I walked too slow they kicked me too. Then there was fighting. There were three or four shots from the other side – I think it was Mon soldiers. The Burmese troops started shooting back with 60mm mortars, then with their guns [G-3/G-4 assault rifles]. They told us to squat down on the path. The fighting lasted five or 10 minutes. I saw one Burmese soldier was hit at he hip and wounded. He was about 15 metres in front of me. They put a dressing on his wound right there, then they carried him back with them. After the fighting we went back to Plat Hon Pai.

 

When we got to the village they ordered me keep carrying the ammunition instead of the porter from Burma. Then the soldiers behind us burned down the houses. The first house they burnt was our house. They burned all our 200 tins of paddy, and all our belongings. They went to each house and told all the people to get out, then put kerosene on the house and burned it. They said to the people, "If you build a new house, we'll burn it again", and they said they would come back. They burned all the houses except some which are far from the road. Some were burned and completely, some only partly. I saw 6 refugees handcuffed together in three pairs. They also arrested other people along the road and tied them up with rope, maybe because some had escaped. Some other people had to carry loads too and I heard that some people were tied with rope around their necks, but I couldn't see it because there were so many people around. Even the people in handcuffs had to carry big bags. I saw the section leader there and some others I didn't know because they might have been new people from Loh Loe. After we left the village I didn't see them anymore because I was among the porters from Burma.

 

We left Plat Hon Pai about 1 p.m. We got to Chaung Zone at about 6 p.m. and slept there. Then next day the soldiers put a rope across the [Krain Thaung] river and we had to swim across holding onto the rope, carrying our loads. I sank with my load, and some villagers from Chaung Zone saved me. When I finally got to the riverbank, the soldiers were pointing their guns at me ad said, "If you lose your load, I'll shoot you." Then when I tried to stand up, my load almost fell in the river. Along the way every one of us was beaten because the soldiers were in a hurry. Sometimes they kicked me, sometimes they beat me with their guns. About 7 p.m. on the day we crossed the river there was fighting with the soldiers way in front [this was at Blad Kapow]. When it started, the soldiers ordered us to run to get to the battle. It took us about 20 minutes because our line was so long, and when we got there the fighting was already finished. We stooped there and slept on the path. I was only wearing a thin T-shirt and shorts and it was raining continuously, so I asked the soldiers for a plastic sheet to cover myself at night but they didn't give me anything. We couldn't sleep, so we sat all night long. There were a lot of mosquitoes and other insects. But I wasn't alone; many of us were all sitting together.

 

The day we left Plat Hon Pai we weren’t given any food – not until the day after at 1 p.m. After that we were given a small amount of rice once a day and nothing else. The soldiers were going to Ye Town. The next day after the first battle, there was more fighting [near Kyat Thaing]. I was at the back of the group and when the soldiers heard the fighting, they ran to get there quickly. They left us alone, so we dropped our loads and ran away. I think all the porters got away at the same time. After I escaped, I tried to find the way back but I was alone and I didn't know the way. One Burmese porter was with me, but he went back to Burma and I was alone. I didn't eat for four days, I couldn't find anyone and I had nothing with me. I survived on banana flowers. I met one Burmese man who was going back to Burma. He couldn't walk very well and I was too afraid to talk to him. Later I met one IDC person who [had been deported from Thailand and] was going back to Burma. Then I met two hunters. They gave me some food and I walked with them until I found my way. Then it took me one more day to walk here. I don't know why the Burmese attacked Plat Hon Pai. I'm afraid to go back.

 

Interview: 4    HRV:  Livelihood, Refugees, Relocation, Slavery, Torture

 


Name:                   Nai Chan

Sex:                       Male

Age:                       38

Ethnicity:              Mon

Religion:               Buddhist

Family:                 Married with 1 child (age 5)

Address:                Mon State

Interviewed:         5-7 August 1994


 

 

[Nai Chan is the section leader of Plat Hon Pai section of Halockhani Camp.]

 

I used to live at Loh Loe. I'd lived on the Thai side of the border for 20 years. Now I've been section leader of Plat Hon Pai for four months. On 20 June at midnight, two men came to make trouble at a hut in a rice field at Plat Hon Pai. It was dark so nobody knew they were soldiers. The farmer in the hut shot at them. We don't know who shot first, but I think the farmer shot first because he thought they were robbers. The farmer was wounded but not seriously, and he went straight to hospital. The next day we found the dead body of one soldier about 60 feet from the hut. Some of the farmer's friends said there were two soldiers who came, but I don't know for sure because the hut was away from the village. Then SLORC troops came to attack Halockhani. They didn't send any message or warning. It was only when they arrived on 21 July that they asked us for guns.

 

They arrived at about 8 a.m. and asked some refugees, "Where is the headman of the village?" The people came to inform me that the Burmese troops wanted to see me. They were afraid of the troops and I was worried for my villagers. So I followed immediately. I met them 15 minutes after they arrived. There were about 300 of them from IB 62. They asked me if I was the chairman of the village and I said yes. Then they put me in handcuffs. Just after me, they arrested three others and handcuffed us together in pairs, then took photos of the four of us. After that they said to me, "In this village you have a gun." I told them we only had some hunting guns to protect us. They said, "We don't believe you. One month ago one of our soldiers was killed in this village. Where is his gun?" I said I didn't know and I said, "What if I say ‘Yes’ but I really don't know, what will happen to me?" Then they started beating me and kept asking for the gun. They kicked me, punched me, slapped me, beat me with a gun on my chest and knees, and burnt me with a burning cheroot. I still have the scars of the cheroot burns [Nai Chan has 6 very visible burn scars]. They beat me on the chest and all over my body, but I told them I didn't know. They slapped and hurt my eye with their fingernails, and it didn't swell much but even now I can't see clearly. The other three men were beaten more seriously than me. They put a green plastic sheet over their heads and tied it around their necks so they couldn't breathe, then they interrogated them again. They asked them, "Are you Mon soldiers?" They said, "No, we're only villagers", and the soldiers stabbed with a knife into their eyes. After they beat us, they kept us in a house and guarded us. Then they brought in another person they'd arrested.

 

It was another group of soldiers who took the refugees to Halockhani. We were still in that same house when they came back. I saw them carving one wounded soldier. Then the soldiers guarding us told us to leave the house. Two of us had to go handcuffed in front of them, and we were also tied with a rope. There were soldiers behind us, then three more men with handcuffs also tied with rope, then one man who wasn't tied up nor handcuffed and then more soldiers. Six of us were taken together. I couldn't see who else was taken behind us. When we got to the end of the village we saw a lot of smoke, and I understood that they were burning the village.

 

We were all forced to carry loads. I had to carry a bag that weighed more than 10 kg, a soldier's bag that probably had their clothes and things inside. After the first day they made me carry two bags instead of one. The day after we left Plat Hon Pai we met another group of porters. One porter was a man from our village. When he came to get water for cooking we talked to him and he said there were four Plat Hon Pai villagers in his group. Then the soldiers started shouting at us because they didn't want us to speak to each other in Mon, and he had to go back to his group. The next day at 1 p.m. we met more troops and there were six Plat Hon Pai villagers with them. Their group stopped to eat with our group, so we spoke to them [the villagers from Plat Hon Pai]. They complained that they didn't have enough to eat, and we said it was the same in our group. Then their group went ahead of us. After that there was fighting, but only with a group ahead of us. They moved back and slept with us. One soldier was wounded in the hand.

 

We walked for four days, handcuffed all the time, even at night. We couldn't sleep at night because it was always raining and we had no plastic sheet. We always sat up all night, and we tried to sleep like that but we couldn't. We were guarded all night. When we went to the toilet a soldier went with us, and we were still handcuffed together. On the way we weren't beaten because our loads weren't too heavy so we could walk easily. But when the porters with heavy loads fell down, they were kicked and beaten. All the porters were from Burma except one boy from Plat Hon Pai, a young school teacher only 20 years old. The soldiers didn't allow us to talk to the porters, so I couldn't speak to him.

 

There was more fighting. The second time was in a Karen village called Kyat Thaing, but like the first time it was ahead of our group. After the fighting, the soldiers entered the village and burned two houses. The soldiers didn't say anything, just set them on fire. I saw them throwing a child out of a house like you would throw your things, and then burning the house. We were with IB 62. They were on their way to Thanbyuzayat. We had to walk with them all the way to IB 61 Headquarters in Ye Town, then we slept there one night and they took the train back to Thanbyuzayat. The soldiers took our handcuffs off, went to get on a truck and left us in the camp. While the soldiers were busy, we walked away. I don't know if they were releasing us or not, we just walked away. Six of us left the camp together and started walking. Two people went other places, then on the second day the other three people went another way, and I finally arrived back on my own two days ago. It was three days' walk, but I got stuck at Chaung Zone for ten days because I couldn't cross the river. I built a bamboo bridge together with the villagers there.

 

I think the Burmese attacked Plat Hon Pai because they wanted their gun back. The soldiers also told me that people couldn't stay there any longer. They said, "If they want to stay they have to go the Three Pagodas Pass. We don't want to see any buildings here." I don't know why they also wanted to go to the main Halockhani Camp. Maybe because it's part of the same camp. They wanted to frighten the people. Now our situation is very difficult. We're very afraid that the Thai authorities will push us back to Plat Hon Pai, but it's not safe. We hope we can stay here.

 

Interview: 5    HRV: Livelihood, Refugees, Repatriation

 


Name:                   Nai Thein Dar

Sex:                       Male

Age:                       41

Ethnicity:              Mon

Religion:               Buddhist

Family:                 Married with 4 children (age 8 months to 12 yrs)

Address:                Mon State

Interviewed:         5-7 August 1994


 

 

[Nai Thein Daris camp secretary of Halockhani refugee camp, which includes Plat Hon Pai.]

 

When the troops came on 21 July, I was in Halockhani main camp. After 8 a.m., some villagers ran away from Plat Hon Pai and came to inform us that Burmese troops had entered the village. One said that there were 20 or 30 soldiers in the village and others outside, and another said there were about 300 soldiers and they were arresting the people. This was before the fighting. I spread the news to other refugees, and some people started leaving the camp. I stayed and prepared to send three men to find out about it, but they were afraid to go. At 11 a.m., when they heard the fighting, all the refugees fled and ran away to here. I worried because the Plat Hon Pai section leader didn't come. Then one of the monks and some people came to tell us that the Burmese troops had left. In the afternoon it was too rainy and cloudy to see, but in the evening some of the camp leaders climbed the hill near the office. From the top they saw the smoke so they knew the soldiers had burned the houses. Thai soldiers from the [Thai] 9th Army changed clothes and went to Plat Hon Pai to take photos, and after they saw it they believed us that the Burmese soldiers had attacked the village. They went back to Halockhani and told the refugees that the Burmese troops had now left. They said, "There are no more soldiers there, so you can go back to your houses” [Note: the Thai authorities already knew first-handedly there were no houses to return to].

 

Most of the villagers went back but that day they heard about fighting nearby at Blad Ka Pow. For a long time they heard the sound of guns, so then they ran away again to here. The Thai BPP let them stay here, but later they said the attack was over and told the refugees to go back. The camp leaders talked to the villagers but they were afraid to go back. They refused.

 

On 25 July there was a meeting between the Thai authorities and the MNRC. The Thai officials said that the refugees were not allowed to stay, so the MNRC talked to the refugees to tell them. But the people refused to go back and asked to stay on the Thai side. They said, "Even if they try to kill us we will stay." They want to go back only when there will be peace in Burma, and then they'll want to go back to their villages, not to Old Halockhani.

 

After the meeting there were many Thai soldiers here, and the Thais said everyone had to go back on 27 July [1994]. The Thai police said it is impossible for us to stay here because the situation here is difficult as there is no clean water and diseases are spreading. They also said that SLORC IB 61 at Three Pagodas Pass had promised not to make any more trouble, but the MNRC doesn’t believe this. We called a meeting with the villagers and they said they didn’t want to go back. After that, the 9th Army said that we would have to go back to Halockhani by 10 August. But still the villagers said that they will not go back, that they want to stay on this side.

 

Here the people have to stay in the rain with no proper roof, and they get malaria more easily. The old people and children are having problems of malnutrition because we're not allowed to grow vegetables and things here, and we have a problem with diarrhoea because the water isn't clean. Some rice at Plat Hon Pai was burned with the village, and we don't have enough fishpaste and salt. The rice supply is still at Old Halockhani, and the chairman slept there every night to look after it. The refugees had to go back to get their rations there every 15 days. [The site where the refugees now was at the time of the interview, was extremely muddy, and they are all living through the constant rains in small overcrowded shelters under plastic sheeting provided by foreign NGOs. Disease and malnutrition are a serious problem; NGO workers at the site say they have four times as many patients as before, but that it is actually a healthier site than Old Halockhani on the Burma side if the Thais would allow the refugees to make proper houses, dig proper latrines and set up a proper water supply system. The Thais refused to allow this and have officially blocked any further food or medical supplies, apparently hoping to “starve” the refugees back to the other side.] We have no place to keep the sick. If it's not serious we can treat them here at the dispensary and send them home. If it's serious we send them to the River Kwai Hospital. If there's a truck and the road is okay, they can go by truck. If not, they have to be carried on foot all the way [the road is very muddy and always collapsing in the rain. It is a 6 hour walk]. The Thais allow this if the patient is really sick as long as we guarantee that they will come back when they get better. One person is allowed to go along with the sick person.

 

Some of the people from Plat Hon Pai recovered a few of their belongings but most of them lost everything. Here we've got plastic sheeting, food, blankets, pots, plates and mosquito nets from NGOs, but 40 families don't have enough. For example, we could only give two plates and one pot to each family. If the Thai authorities let us stay here it is a good place. Old Halockhani is in a valley between mountains which is too narrow, the water is bad and it is too close to SLORC, only 2½ hours to Three Pagodas Pass. Here it is very good, more open and flat and we can get good water.

 

As for new arrivals three or four families just arrived from the Ye-Tavoy Railway and 6 or seven families who fled from being taken as porters. Now there are 6,063 people in this camp, all on the Thai side. Some people went back to Old Halockhani during the day time to get vegetables from their garden, but they came back here at night. Every Wednesday and Friday, the Thais bring 300 to 400 people from IDC and leave them here. Every 25 IDC deportees chooses a group leader and they get their rice and fishpaste from the camp supply. Some stay in a shelter here or with other families, some go back to Burma and some try to get back into Thailand.

 

Interview: 6    HRV:  Livelihood, Refugees, Slavery, Torture

 


Name:                   Nai Aung Nai

Sex:                       Male

Age:                       55

Ethnicity:              Mon

Religion:               Buddhist

Family:                 Married with 4 children (age 21 to 27)

Address:                Ko Dot Village, Ye Township, Mon State

Interviewed:         5-7 August 1994


 

 

[Nai Aung Nai was taken as a prisoner porter when the troops left Plat Hon Pai to go to Ye.]

 

I was a farmer in my village, and we tried to work for ourselves. But it was never for ourselves – we always had to give everything to the government. We could only keep 25% of anything we grew or earned, and we often had to pay porter fees or go as porters. So I left my village 6 years ago and went to Ba Leh Ngo, near Three Pagodas Pass. Then I crossed into Thailand when the Burmese troops attacked. First I stayed in a village, then I went to Loh Loe Camp, then I came here. I was in Loh Loe for two years and in Halockhani for three months, then when the rainy season began I moved to Plat Hon Pai because there was more land to grow vegetables there. I was there for one or two months. Then the troops came and arrested me. They came to my house and looked around to take things, then they called me out and tied me up with a rope. They pointed a gun at me, told me to go in front of them and took me to their commander. He was in a house close to the school. There were already five other people there who they'd arrested, including the section leader. I saw the soldiers beating others, but not me. They kicked, kneed and punched them. They asked the people for a gun but they had no gun. I had to stay in that house for two or three hours before we left the village. I was just sitting down, tied up with a rope to other people. There were five others – I was the last one to arrive. The others all had bruises on their bodies and their faces were swollen. When we left the village there were soldiers in front and behind us. We were in the middle, carrying the packs of the soldiers. I was only tied with rope, but the other five from the house were in front of me in handcuffs. There were 6 of us in that group. As soon as we left the village, I saw the soldiers of the last group burning the houses.

 

I walked with the soldiers for four day and five nights. I think they were going to Ye. After one day they changed my pack for a heavier load. It didn't fit and I couldn't carry it but the soldiers said "Go! Go!" and kicked me. My load weighed about 30 kg. It was food, pots, plates and clothes for the soldiers. We had to climb up many muddy mountains. I fell with my load and they kicked me. Once I lost my shoe and they kicked me. I couldn't get it back. We got  three  mouthfuls of rice with fishpaste to eat twice a day. At night if there was no rain we put some banana leaves on the ground and slept. If it was raining, the soldiers gave one plastic sheet for all 6 of us to sit under [these sheets are only big enough for one]. It was raining a lot. I got a cold and later it got worse. I think I have a chest infection. [Nai Aung Nai was coughing badly throughout the interview.]

 

There was fighting two times, but it was at the front and I was in the middle so I couldn't see. After the second fighting, the soldiers burned two houses. They also burned a house in another small village. In every village we passed they were taking more people as porters. I escaped on the evening of the fifth day. During the day while we were walking they untied us, then every evening they tied up again. That night just before they tied us up, while they were busy I ran away. I'm from Ye Township so I knew the area a bit. That night I slept in the forest, then the next day I found a village and came back with three of the villagers. It took me four or five days to get back because I had no tools with me and I couldn't get across the river. Along the way I didn’t meet any soldiers, but I found three dead bodies lying along the path. I don't know who they were, but they were most likely porters. I arrived here about three days ago and met my family. We went back to try to salvage things from our house in Plat Hon Pai, but it had been totally burned. My wife was left alone and so was my daughter. The soldiers took away my son-in-law and he hasn't come back yet. I don't know why they attacked Plat Hon Pai. I'm only a villager. I helped at the monastery there. It's not so bad here, and we're too afraid to go back there. The soldiers said they'll come back and shoot anyone on sight.

 

Interview: 7    HRV:  Detention, Displacement, Livelihood, Slavery

 


Name:                   Mi Mee Ong

Sex:                       Female

Age:                       57

Ethnicity:              Mon

Religion:               Buddhist

Address:                Ko Tun Palayin Village,

                              Kya In Seik Gyi Township, Karen State

Family:                 Married with 7 children (age 16 to 37)

Interviewed:         5-7 August 1994


 

 

[Mi Mee Ong watched the soldiers take away her son and burn down her house.]

 

I left my village 15 years ago. First we went to Azin Village, near Chaung Zone, then to Ba Leh Ngo. Then when the Burmese attacked Three Pagodas Pass six years ago, we came to Thailand. We spent four years in Loh Loe Camp, then five months ago we were moved to Plat Hon Pai. But I was often at the hospital in Old Halockhani, because my husband is always sick. On 21 July, I was in Plat Hon Pai. I saw the [Burmese] troops when they arrived at my house. They came inside, they cooked inside my house and they ate. They arrested my son. Two of my sons were there, one ran away and they arrested the other. They also wanted to arrest my husband but he was sick with fever and he couldn't go. One soldier was going to beat him but another soldier said, "He's sick. Don't beat him. Don't take him." So they didn't beat him. One of our neighbours was eating in our house, and when he got up to go they arrested him too.

 

The soldiers fired a gun and ordered everyone to come out of their houses. Then they grabbed the villagers by their hands, took them to the road and made them walk in front of them, firing their guns. They arrested many people. They had villagers walk two-by-two, and behind every three or four people there was a soldier, and they fired their guns. First they went to the school. After they gathered many people, they left for Halockhani. There was still a soldier in my house who stayed to cook and eat. He told me to stay inside the house and not go outside. I stayed in the front of the house but I couldn't see much. I saw porters underneath the houses of some people with soldiers around them. The soldiers cooked the rice with the porters, then they gave them only a little rice to eat while all of the soldiers ate together. The soldier stayed around my house for more than two hours. I didn't hear the Halockhani fighting because I'm a bit deaf. I just saw people running back from the fighting, so I went to hide underneath another house.

 

When the soldiers got back, they ordered the people to leave and burnt our houses. First they searched the houses, then they put kerosene on everything which burns – the leaves, the roof, the walls – everywhere. They got the kerosene from our lamps. Then if they couldn’t get the house to burn, they opened fire into the house to make sure that it set them on fire. There were many soldiers in groups of four or six all burning houses. When they finished one, they'd go to the next. First they forced us to leave the houses, then they went inside and then they didn't leave until the house was burnt, so I don't know what they stole when they went inside. I cried and pleaded with them, "Please don't burn down my house!" but the soldier said, "I have to do it. It is the order of our commander." When they left, I went to my house while it was still burning and with a long bamboo I managed to save a couple of plates and one basin. That's all I could save. Afterwards I stayed near my house and I sat down. That night I slept close to my house on the ground. Some people went to the monastery but others slept like me, on the ground near their houses. I was so angry at the soldiers, and so depressed. It's horrible, because they took my son and I also lost everything I had. I gathered utensils and house equipment for many years and now I've lost it all. My husband stayed by the house with me. He wasn't well. We got a plastic sheet for cover. I hadn't eaten since that morning. I didn't think about coming to Halockhani at the time, I just felt lost. I couldn't sleep that night, only sit there.

 

I didn't feel safe. I was afraid the soldiers would come back. They said they would come back in three days and that "If we see anyone around, next time we'll bury you in fire." The next morning my daughter came and called me to come here. My husband walked very slowly with the help of a stick, and our youngest son came with us too. Now it's very hard to build another house, because my son is gone and my husband is always sick. When we got here we stayed in this shelter with four other families. Now, we are only two families in this shelter. Two of the men built it. [Her shelter is about 3 x 6 m, 6 feet high with a bamboo floor, plastic sheet roofing and no walls.] My son came back, but now he's left again to make charcoal, get bamboo shoots, etc. He's always working. They took him as a porter. He told me he has wounds, and even now he still has pain in his chest. They only fed him a bit of rice with some beans sometimes, and it smelled rotten. He escaped. He didn't tell me if they beat him, but he said they threatened him with a knife. He probably didn't want to tell me if they beat him, because he's worried his mother will be sad.

 

I don't know why the Burmese attacked Plat Hon Pai. I feel safer here. I'm afraid to go back, because the Burmese troops might come back. I don't know if this place is really safe or not, but it's safer than there.

 

Interview: 8    HRV:  Forced Labour, Refugees, Slavery, Torture

 


Name:                   U Mya Aung

Sex:                       Male

Age:                       47

Ethnicity:              Mon-Indian

Religion:               Buddhist

Family:                 Divorced with 2 daughters (age 10 to 15)

Occupation:         Day labourer

Address:                Ye Township, Mon State

Interviewed:         5-7 August 1994


 

 

[U Mya Aung was taken as a porter in Ye, and was a porter with the troops who attacked Halockhani.]

 

I am a mixed blood between Mon and Indian. My grandfather was an Indian and my grandmother was a Mon. When I was young, I was a Muslim, but now I don't have any more religion. I'm Buddhist for now, because sometimes I go to the monastery. I'm a daily labourer. Sometimes I sell things, like fish or clothing. Sometimes I clean the compound for people who hire me, or go with a fishing boat, or work making salt. Lately I was working clearing bushes and grass for a rubber plantation owner. I was paid 50 Ks a day, and they fed us and gave us cheroots. I gave as much of the money as I could for my elder daughter's clothing and schooling. She's staying with other people. I was staying at my friend's house. I usually ate at my workplace. One night over a month ago when I came back to my friend's place he told me the soldiers were looking for porters to go to Three Pagodas Pass. At midnight, soldiers came to his house to check his household registration list. He hadn't reported me in his guest register, so they arrested me and took me to their office. The ward chief arrested me. I reported to him when I first came to stay at my friend's house, but I hadn't bothered to report in quite a while. That's my crime.

 

After a few minutes at the office the soldiers' truck came over and they put us on it, so we knew they were taking us as porters. They took us to IB 61 headquarters at the edge of Ye Town. They gathered porters from Ye and Azin there. They kept us in the barracks for five days under guard. Even when we went to the toilets they followed us with guns. They gave us rice and beans, but never enough. Sometimes the soldiers' wives came around selling egg curry for 30 Ks. Then they took us to IB 106 at Mao Ka Nin near La Mine, first by train and then by truck. There were porters from La Mine, Po Taw and Taung Bo. We got to La Mine at 9 or 10 p.m., and then an hour or two later they took us to Mao Ka Nin. We rested for a couple of hours and they loaded the truck with many things, then we took the truck for half an hour to a bridge. We started climbing the mountain from there. I had to carry five mortar shells, which weighed about 32 kg. The others were carrying supplies, rice, cooking pots, but mostly ammunition. There were about 80 or 100 porters. The youngest were 16 or 17 and the oldest were 50. There were two porters for every soldier around me. Once we heard shooting behind us and we knew there was fighting. We climbed up and down for days. Then we heard gunshots again far away, then behind us then in the middle. The soldiers shouted at us to lie down or else we'd be killed.

 

We walked nine days on the way. The soldiers always said it wasn't much farther, but we just kept on climbing up and down mountains and never saw any road. We cooked and slept along the path. They just gave us rice with salt, sometimes with a fingertip of fishpaste. It was terrible, always undercooked or overcooked. They guarded us all the time. One night we stayed in some abandoned houses, but every other night we had to cut banana leaves to sleep on, and sleep on the ground just covered by plastic sheets that we'd bought along the way. If someone didn't have a plastic sheet we shared with him. It was raining all the time, and the path was very muddy. We had to pull ourselves up to the mountains, and walk backwards going down. I fell with my load at least 10 times a day, and more than that when it was raining. They swore at me, and sometimes they kicked, beat or punched me. Two porters in front of me were kicked all the way because they fell down all the time. They looked so weak. Whether you were sick or not, you had to carry and follow. We walked from 5 a.m. until 7 or 8 at night, and only then we got to eat. To cross the flooded rivers, sometimes they just put one rope across and we had to hold onto it.

 

After we reached Apa Lone Village, we talked to each other and I heard that five porters had escaped. Finally after nine days we got to Chaung Zone. We had to cross a river by boat, and then there was a road and ten trucks waiting for us. They put all our loads on the truck, then they told us to wait. They took 35 of us back across the river and put us in a lock-up at the checkpoint, 20 in one room and 15 in the other. They kept us there for two days, and we found out we'd been handed over to IB 62. Up until then we'd been with IB 61. Then they took us across the river again, put us on a truck and drove us to Three Pagodas Pass. I saw a sign that said it was Three Pagodas Pass Army Camp. We saw a great many other porters there, and we were put with them. They checked the names of all other porters but didn't call our names, so we were very happy because we thought they were going to release us. A soldier came into our cell, and we pleaded with him to free us because of our bad condition. He said, "Don't worry. We won't make you carry a heavy load. " Then they locked us up in an unfinished building together with all the other porters. At 9 or 10 p.m. they ordered us to pick up the loads and start walking. I had to carry the baseplate of a mortar tube. It weighed the same as the mortar shells I'd carried before, but it was much more awkward to carry. We had to carry very heavy loads the whole night, then the next morning we arrived at Plat Hon Pai.

 

First some soldiers went into the village to look, while we waited outside the village for a long time. Finally they ordered us to go into the village and stay underneath the houses, and they stayed all around us. There were 27 of us under one house. They told us to cook, so we cooked. Then we heard gunshots. One of the soldiers yelled, "Don't try to escape or I’ll shoot you dead!" After the gunshots we ate, then we fell asleep for a few minutes. They woke us up and we had to carry again. [This was when the troops left Plat Hon Pai to go to Ye.] When we were leaving we looked around and saw a lot of smoke. We started talking to each other and the soldiers yelled at us: "Don't worry, they're not your fathers-in-law's houses. Just keep carrying!"

 

We followed the path to a river and slept the night there. The next morning they made a bridge and we crossed. A soldier took my load across because he was afraid I'd drop it in the river. We had to cross one-by-one. Then we started climbing every steep mountain. It was very hard, and my shoulders were badly wounded. I have so many scars all over my body. We didn't even notice when we got a wound because they always yelled at us to hurry. We only had flip-flops [loose, backless foam or rubber sandals] for our feet and we couldn't wear them because it was always too slippery. Whenever a porter fell they kicked him and beat him with their guns, and sometimes punched him. I fell once. and they kicked me and swore at me. Whenever porters were going too slowly, they pushed them and said, "Go, go go!" I started looking for a way to escape. I got a bit ahead of the soldiers and when I looked back I couldn't see them, so I dropped my load and ran a few yards into the forest. Then I saw a hole and hid. I hid there for one hour and I was very afraid, then it was very quiet so I looked out and didn't see anybody. I didn't know which way to go. I dared not go back to Plat Hon Pai because I didn't know if it was safe. My legs were in such pain and I couldn't move fast. I found a hut where a couple were tending their cows. Then I met two men and went with them to Plat Hon Pai. It was almost dark and we saw the monastery and asked permission to sleep there. In the morning, they woke me and told me that I'd better leave because the soldiers might come back. They gave me directions to Halockhani. On the way I saw that all the houses were burnt, even the house I'd stayed underneath. Then I met two men who saw my wounds and told me I should go to hospital in New Halockhani to get treatment and some food. Finally I arrived here.

 

Now I have scars all over my body, and my shoulders are badly bruised. After I escaped I couldn't even lift my arms. When we were being held at Chaung Zone the others told me about three porters who'd been left behind; two of them couldn't carry and one had twisted his knee. They probably died, because there were no villages around. One of them was from Rangoon, one from La Mine, and another, named Kaung Lay, from Ye. We were with IB 61 from Mao Ka Nin to Chaung Zone, and IB 62 after that. IB 61 is based in Ye and IB 62 in Three Pagodas Pass [Note: now IB 61 is at Three Pagodas Pass, while IB 62 has returned to base in Thanbyuzayat]. We were the weakest when we were with IB 62, and they abused us the worst. I was a porter for 19 days, and I got here about 10 days ago.

 

When we came here with the soldiers we didn't know anything, we only knew we had to face the fighting. When we left Three Pagodas Pass on our way here, we thought they were taking us back to Burma. Now I dared not go back, I escaped and if they figured out, they can make me get into trouble. They'd arrest me. One soldier told me he had an order from the commander to shoot dead any porters who tried to escape. So I've decided to stay here. I've told you everything in detail so you can spread it outside, and then maybe they won't treat the porters so badly anymore.

 

Interview: 9    HRV:  Livelihood, Refugees, Slavery, Torture

 


Name:                   Nai Win Tint

Sex:                       Male

Age:                       31

Ethnicity:              Mon

Religion:               Buddhist

Family:                 Married with 4 children (age 8 months to 12 yrs)

Address:                Mon State

Interviewed:         5-7 August 1994


 

 

[Nai Win Tint was taken as a prisoner/porter when the troops left Plat Hon Pai to Ye.]

 

I arrived in Thailand about eight years ago. First I stayed on the Burmese side of Three Pagodas Pass, then when the Burmese troops attacked five years ago I crossed into Thailand. I stayed in refugee camps, first in Loh Loe before it was a big camp, then to Halockhani on the Thai side, then back to Loh Loe when the big camp was set up there. When Loh Loe had to move, I came back here. After three months here we went to settle in Plat Hon Pai. When the soldiers came, I didn't see at first because my house is at the end of the village. They came to my house and said, "There is a meeting in the village. We're not making any trouble." When I came out of the house, they aimed their guns at me and said, "Don't run anywhere. Come with us." They made us to walk in front of them and pointed their guns at us.

 

They took us to the school, and when we arrived they sent us two-by-two to see their commander. They handcuffed four of us and called us to have our photo taken. One of the four was the section leader. Then they started beating us. They asked me if I had a gun. I told them I only had one that uses gunpowder [a primitive flintlock used by hunters]. Then they said I was lying and beat me. I told them, "I'm not lying. I don't have a gun. If you don't believe me, ask the other. If I had one I'd give it to you. If I'm lying, you can kill me." Then they kicked and beat us one by one. They put a knife on my throat and pointed their guns. They asked, beat, then asked and beat. Five soldiers were beating me. When they stopped, they put me in another room so I couldn't talk to other villagers, then they started beating up the next person. After he was beaten up they put him in the room where I was, one after another. There were four of us. Afterwards, another three people arrived, and they beat them as well. Other than the section leader, we were all just villagers.

 

I was in the school when I heard the fighting near Halockhani. The soldiers asked me if I was afraid, and I said yes because I was handcuffed. When the other soldiers arrived back from Halockhani, they told us to come out of the school. They prepared loads for us to carry, then we left. At the beginning, two of us were attached to one pair of handcuffs. Then after we left the school each person had their own handcuffs. Three of us in handcuffs were also tied with a rope attached to the handcuffs, and the other three people were tied up with rope. My load was a pack weighing about 15 kg. I don't know what was in it. Just after we left the village, we saw the houses were burning. They started by burning the houses at my end of the village.

 

I think the soldiers were going to Ye. After two days I was separated from the other Plat Hon Pai villagers and put with another group that needed one more porter. Then I had to carry a heavy load of three bags. I told the soldiers it was too heavy and I couldn't walk with handcuffs, so they took the handcuffs off. They told me not to run away or they'd shoot me. I was the only one from Plat Hon Pai in that group and the others were behind us. We were only given a little rice and fishpaste to eat, and I had to sleep under the rain because I had no plastic sheet. Along the way I saw them taking more porters. There was fighting two days after we left Plat Hon Pai, and then again on the fifth day. That's when I escaped. The soldiers all rushed to the front and left the porters behind, so I ran away. I slept one night in the forest, then I came back. I arrived in a village where they'd heard that Plat Hon Pai had been burnt, and I told them it was true. The headman said the troops had also taken one porter from their village and he hadn't come back yet. They fed me and I slept there for one night, then I walked here with two women. On the way we met a porter who'd been left behind. His foot was badly wounded and he couldn't walk anymore. He asked me to send him back to Burma, but I couldn't carry him so I told him to wait for someone from the village. Later we saw another porter who was already dead. It looked as if he had died the day before, like he had been sitting against a rock and fell over when he died. I didn't look closely to see how he died, but I can understand it because I saw myself how the soldiers treated us while I was a porter. If the porters can't carry as they like they beat them, kick them and shoved them with their guns. Very often they kicked or beat me when I was a bit slow, and I am still painful for it. The day after we found the dead porter, we met another porter who couldn't walk. Then we arrived in Chaung Zone, and the next day we made a small bridge across the river and arrived back in Plat Hon Pai. It took me three nights to get back.

 

In Plat Hon Pai I saw that all the houses were burnt down. Some were partly burnt, but my house was completely reduced to ashes. I found two or three people in the monastery and they said everybody else had come here, so I came here. I arrived four days ago. My wife managed to grab some of our children's clothes while the house was already burning, but other than that we've lost everything. I don't know why the Burmese attacked Plat Hon Pai.

 

Interview: 10  HRV: Child, Displacement, Forced Labour, Livelihood, Refugeess, Torture

 


Name:                   Nai Kror

Sex:                       Male

Age:                       29

Ethnicity:              Mon

Religion:               Buddhist

Address:                Ye Pyu Township, Tenasserim Division

Family:                 Married with 2 children (age 2 and 5)

Interviewed:         5-7 August 1994


 

 

[Nai Kror arrived in Halockhani recently after fleeing slave labour on the Ye-Tavoy Railway.]

 

I arrived in Halockhani from Ye-Tavoy Railway about three months ago. Before I escaped I had to work there for two months non-stop. Once I started, I never stopped. There were no rest days. I had to work every day, and if I couldn't go for one day I had to pay 200 Ks. First we had to cut down trees, clear the forest and scrub, then dig the ground to level it, and we had to build shelters for ourselves to stay in. At first it was close to my village, but then later it was farther away, close to other villages. We couldn't go home at night. If I felt sick. I had to ask authorisation to go home from the soldiers on guard, and then I had to send another person to replace me. Once I was sick for seven days I wanted to hire someone to go in my place, but I had no money so I had to send my younger sister to replace me. I think I had malaria. I had to buy medicine with my own money.

 

At night we slept in small shelters of banana leaves that we made ourselves. They didn't give us any food. I had to bring rice and fishpaste from home. I brought enough for one month, then when my food was nearly finished I asked permission from the soldiers to go back to my village to bring more food. When we first went to the railway they told us we'd have to work until it's finished. They didn't tell us how long that would be. We had to work on three sections, from our village to three other villages [there is a fork in the railway at his village, with one line coming into the village and two lines going out in different direction]. While we were digging the ground on the third section, there was a landslide and three men from my village died. Their names were Soe Win, Chan Soi, and Hsa Aung, On the same section, a pregnant woman got diarrhoea or dysentery and they didn't give her any medicine so she died. She looked about 28 or 29 years old. She wasn't from my village. When these people died the soldiers made the villagers to take the bodies away.

 

There are also children working on this railway – some are 10 or 15 years old. They have to work the a man but they couldn't. Some children got very serious sickness. One nearly died. His village was too far away so he couldn’t go home. Some of his relative tried to treat him right there. Sometimes the children didn't bring enough rice, and the soldiers wouldn't give them any. Sometimes people who had money bought rice from the soldiers when they ran out of food. The soldiers sell rice. We had to start work at 6 a.m. If someone was two or three minutes late, the soldiers beat them, then at noon they forced them to take off their shirts and sit down in the scorching sun. They beat people with bamboo canes in the back, the thighs, on the feet, etc., until the skin breaks. Sometimes they hit at the head, and I saw one man with a large infected wound on his head. They beat people when they didn't work so well or if they tried to rest, or sometimes if they tried to smoke. There's no time to smoke or rest all day long. If you try, the soldiers beat you. We had to work from 6 a.m. until noon then we ate, then worked again from 1 p.m. until 5:30 without a rest. When they wanted us to finish something, we had to work later, till 7 p.m. There were old people working there too, 50 or 55 years old. We had to bring our own tools. The soldiers were always just walking around to guard and watch the people. If they saw anything they didn't like, they beat us. During the night, the soldiers went back and left us.

 

There are 550 houses in our village, divided into nine sections. At first, each section had [to take] one [shift] and one person from every house [had to come work] all the time. Then after 1½ months, they divided each section into half and the halves had to rotate. After 15 days of that, I escaped. I just went back to my village. First we sent our children to another village, then my wife and I went to join them. That was in May. It was already raining. Just for awhile they stopped the work to let the people go and plant rice because they're all farmers, but now they're back to work. Some sections of the embankment are collapsing because of the rains and the people have to go to repair it. In some places it's completely collapsed and they need a lot of wood to repair it, so they demanded money for the wood from the villagers. The poorest families have to pay 1,500 Ks, and others have to pay 2,000 to 5,000 Ks. I had to pay 1,400 Ks and my father had to pay 5,000 for that. They're not laying any railway sleepers around there yet.

 

Before the railway. I had to go as a porter, and I had to clear the compound at their camp, sometimes once a month, sometimes twice. We had to pay them taxes for our own land, fields and gardens. When the troops came to the village we had to give them rice and money for them to buy their food. Sometimes they also took our pigs and chickens and ate whatever they wanted. We also had to pay 4 tins of rice per year and 100 Ks per family for their militia. SLORC set up their militia but didn't give them any training. They made a draw and chose people from our village to be militia. No one can refuse. They have to report to the SLORC headman everything that happens.

 

When I left my village I went to Pa Yaw refugee camp, but it was not so far from my village and I was afraid of the Burmese troops, so I went to Loh Loe, but the Thais were already destroying the houses there so I went to a Thai village and then finally to Halockhani. We only brought one cooking pot with us. With the children, it was too difficult to bring anything else. It took us four days' walk to Pa Yaw Camp from the village, but the Burmese troops could do it much faster. I didn't know Halockhani was on the Burmese side of the border until after I got there, but by then I'd already built my house. I wasn't in Halockhani when the fighting happened because I'd gone to cut bamboo shoots. When I arrived back the people were already fleeing, and my wife had already left. Now that we're here on the Thai side it's not so bad but not so good either. I'm very afraid to go back. Even here. I'm afraid. Even if the Burmese troops don't come, they can fire artillery from Three Pagodas Pass to Halockhani. A mortar shell could hit the camp, so I'm really afraid to go back. I don't think the Thais will let us stay here though. I'm afraid of that too!

 

Interview: 11  HRV:  Forced Labour, Livelihood, Refugees, Torture

 


Name:                   Nai Win Aung

Sex:                       Male

Age:                       27

Ethnicity:              Mon

Religion:               Christian

Family:                 Married with 1 child (age 2)

Occupation:         Farmer

Address:                Seingoo Village, Yebyu Township,

                              Tenasserim Division

Interviewed:         late March 1994


 

 

I came here one month ago with my family and six other families. We came because of our problems with the railway. We were forced to work on the railway, we weren't paid and they didn't give us any food so we couldn't provide for our family. Then if we couldn't go for work we had to hire someone to go in our place. We also had to pay porter fees all the time. Even when we were working at the railway our families had to pay porter fees as well. It was very hard – we had to sell all the rice we had saved and use the money we had saved to pay them. When this wasn't enough we had to borrow money from someone and pay it back little by little. We had to work for SLORC and pay porter fees to them until we nothing left to eat. Now it is worse than ever before.

 

This year we had a very bad harvest because the dam broke and flooded our fields. Then SLORC took part of our crop, and we didn't have enough. We must sell 14 baskets of paddy per acre to them at government price – if market price is 250 Ks for one basket, then the government price is only 170 Ks. This year, we couldn't even sell them the full quota they demanded. We had finished harvesting in December and were preparing to plant other crops when SLORC came to get people for the railway. I had to go three times, sometimes for one week and sometimes for 15 days. While I was working there, my wife and child had to provide for themselves as much as they could. It was very hard for us to solve this problem. The families just had to help each other.

 

Our village is small. Sometimes 27 people had to go to the railway, including women, children and old people. Sometimes 15 people had to go, all men. The village head came around collecting people every one or two weeks because he got orders from SLORC. He tried to treat everyone equally, but 15 people went the first time, and then the second time there weren't enough people so he had to choose some people who already went the first time. The same happened the time after that. The usual rule was one person from each family, but everything depends on the situation. Some families have two or three men and the village head must plead for all of them to go, but some pregnant women had to go as well. Some women even gave birth at the railway.

 

At the work place we had to cut trees and clear the bushes. It was forest with a few big trees and the rest were bushes. We had to dig out the roots of big trees, and we had to cut through a small hill. We had to clear two to three furlongs (440 to 660 yards) every day with a width of about 100 yards – it was very wide. There were about 1,000 or 2,000 people from different villages working for this. The majority of the workers are men, but I can't guess the number of women. The youngest was about 15, the oldest over 40. We had to bring our tools from home, as well as our rice.

 

There were always soldiers around us. Some just guarded us, and some ordered us what to do. They didn't do any work, they just walked around and ordered us. We couldn't rest except at mealtime. They were always yelling at us and telling us to hurry. If someone stopped to rest they beat him up or kicked him. Sometimes the person fell down because they were kicking him. Some people were beaten severely, but not so hard as to prevent them working. I was never beaten. Nobody in my group got sick. People who got sick could tell their village head, and if he vouched for them with the soldiers they could go home, but only if the village head could get a replacement for them. Our village head was there sometimes, but when he wasn't there we had to talk directly to the soldiers.

 

We worked from 7 till 11 a.m., then we ate, then we worked from 12:30 till 5 p.m. In the evening we cooked and rested. We slept along the side of the railway without any shelter, but it never rained because it was dry season. We laid big leaves on the ground to sleep on. The soldiers guarded us all the time at night, but they never spoke to us. Sometimes someone escaped, so the soldiers reported it to the village head and he had to send a replacement. Usually SLORC didn't know exactly who had escaped, but if they did know then they made that villager getting into trouble.

 

I don't know what they are planning to do with this railway, but it will take at least three years to finish. Even when it is finished, we won't be able to live peacefully in our village, because we'll still have to pay porter fees until they make peace with the revolutionary groups. We were working for SLORC again and again and paying porter fees until we had nothing left to eat. So we tried to escape from the village one night and we got away. We had to cross the railway line and a car road, so we had to wait until no soldiers were around. It took us 10 days to get here. When I got here I worked very hard, earned 50 Thai Baht (US$ 2) for one day and bought some rice. Then we got some rice from the refugee camp, so we are okay. Here it is better – at least if you work and get 50 Baht you can use it for your family, but there if you get 50 Ks you have to give it all to SLORC. I want to go back when it becomes peaceful in my village, but if we still have to pay porter fees and work for SLORC, we won't go back.

 

Interview: 12  HRV:  Forced Labour, Refugees, Women

 


Name:                   Mi Pan

Sex:                       Female

Age:                       36

Ethnicity:              Mon

Religion:               Buddhist

Family:                 Married with 4 sons (age 5, 9, 11 and 14)

Occupation:         Farmer

Address:                Kaw Ka Village, Ye Township, Mon State

Interviewed:         late March 1994


 

 

My father arrived here one month ago, but I just arrived four days ago. I came with my whole family. I came here because I couldn't let them force me to work on the railway. It's too hard. While we were there I didn't have to work on the railway, but both my husband and my father had to. They had to start this work in October [1993]. The work is still going on, but they ran away from it and came here. They had to go so many times, and each time they had to work for 15 days. After they finished, sometimes they only came home for three or four days and then they had to go back and work again. Each time when they went to work, they had to take their own food. Those who refused to go had to pay 700 Ks.

 

From each house one person had to go to build the railway. My father stays in a different house, so he had to go too. My husband had to go about six times, and my father eight times. SLORC gives authority to someone in the village to order who has to go and when, and that person orders you to go. While my husband was away, I had to borrow money to live, and afterwards I couldn't pay it back. Two tins of rice costs 400 Ks, and I also had to pay "porter fees" – 700 Ks each time, and I had to pay three times.

 

To go from the village to the railway it takes six hours on foot. SLORC doesn't come, the workers just have to go on foot by themselves. Then they have to carry the rails for making the railway, dig the ground, carry dirt, cut wood, and many other jobs. The most recent work is carrying logs. All the workers cut them, and then they have to carry them to the railway or SLORC brings them on trucks. My husband and my father had to do this, as well as all the other steps in building the railway. They had to work all day long – they never had free time. They start at 7 a.m., then at noon they're allowed to eat breakfast, then they stop working at 6 p.m. There were altogether over 1,000 people working along with my husband and my father. They had to clear a path wider than a car road along flat land. Not only clearing, but they also had to carry dirt and smooth it, and carry stones both big and small. The workers, including my father and husband, had to break the stones. Then they had to carry them a long way by themselves. They had to dig with hoes, and SLORC provided some tools.

 

There were very many women included in the work. They have to work together with the men. There were also old people and children. The children were as young as 8 years old, up to 14 and 15 years old.

 

SLORC never gives food, they all have to bring their own. My husband and father just took rice, salt, and fishpaste. Each time they went they had to take half of the food in the house, and then if they aren't allowed to come home and they run out of food and they have to borrow or buy food from others. [Note: the reason she says they took "half the food in the house" instead of 15 days' food is that they probably never even had 15 days' food in the house. Due to SLORC looting and forced labour, these people are already living from hand-to-mouth, close to starvation.] Those who go to work knowing they don't have enough food and who can't ask for any from relatives or friends will face starvation, so they just have to open their arms and beg food from other people.

 

At the railway construction site they have to sleep under the trees, in the bushes. They have no mats, so they must sleep on the ground, and SLORC patrols around. To go to the toilet they had to ask permission from the SLORC troops, and then the soldiers followed them. The soldiers also guarded the area all the time while they worked. You can't rest, even when you're tired you have to keep working. Some soldiers forced the people to work by scolding or beating them, and some of them don't. My husband and my father weren't beaten, but they saw others getting beatings. Those who were beaten were working together with them, and when they were beaten they were very close. They were beaten all over their bodies, until they bled. When people got sick the soldiers didn't heal them, they just left them. The sick weren't allowed to go home. They just had to stay where they were until they got better. If they couldn't work, then they weren't forced to work but they had to stay until they could work again. The soldiers give them nothing.

 

I don't know why they're making this railway, but it's not good. I don't want to go back. People will have to work on it until it's finished. I came out here with five families altogether – my own family and my relatives. It was difficult and it took a long time because we had to avoid the SLORC troops, so it took at least 8 or 10 days. We didn't bring any belongings, just some personal things. Now my husband and my father have gone back to the village to help other families find their way here.

 

Interview: 13  HRV:  Detention, Movement, Torture

 


Name:                   Maung A—

Sex:                       Male

Age:                       29

 

Ethnicity:              Burman-Indian Buddhist

Occupation:         Trader

Address:                Bilin Township, Mon State

Interviewed:         May 1994


 

 

I was arrested by IB 36 on 21 April 1994. I don't know why. I was just on my way home from trading and they arrested me. They stopped me on the outskirts of a village. After they grabbed me, they tied me up. The soldiers took (brought) me to one of the officers and said "He is a Ringworm," I said, "I am not – I am from A—.” But they just said, "Shut up" and took me away. They didn't even look at my movement paper from the village head. They took it from me, as well as 310 Ks I was carrying. They went and talked with the officer again, but I don't know what they said. They took me to the village and after the evening meal they interrogated me again. I told them again that I'm not a Ringworm, just a trader. They said, "Do you know anyone in this village?" so I answered, "I know B—'s parents.” They untied me while they called them, then they tied me up again. At about 9 or 10 p.m., they started beating me up. They made me kneel down and then lie down with my legs bent back. [The position he describes is lying on his back on the ground with his knees bent back tight and his feet touching his hips, a painful and humiliating form of torture.] Then they stomped on my thighs, sat on my chest and poured water up my nose. They poured three or four buckets full of water up my nose. They also punched and kicked me. I told them I can prove I'm from A—, because their column stopped and cooked right in front of my house on its way here. They just said, "Just answer my questions. Don't lie."

 

After two days I was transferred to another column because the villagers had vouched for me, and the officer there was good to me. He said, "We recognise you, you're not a Karen soldier." Then they released me. After I was released I saw the woman who had vouched for me. She had been tortured and still had wounds. I couldn't even recognise her, and she couldn't even talk to me. Her eyes were closed and she was lying on her bed.

 

Interview: 14  HRV:  Torture

 


Name:                   Pi Say Wah

Sex:                       Female

Age:                       60

Ethnicity:              Karen

Religion:               Buddhist

Occupation:         Farmer

Address:                Pa-an Township, Karen State

Interviewed:         May 1994


 

 

I was beaten by IB 36 on 22 April 1994 because I vouched for Maung A— [see related interview 13]. The soldiers asked me, "Are you sure you know him? Is he a relative of yours?" I said, "He is a friend of mine. We have been to each other's houses many times." If didn't vouch for him, they said they would kill him. Then after I vouched for him, They said, "Now that you've vouched for him, you should know that we already shot him dead. Now we'll have to kill you as well." Then they punched me in the face three times, then once on my ear and once in the neck. My nose was bleeding. You can still see my wounds. Then they stomped on my throat. I said, "Don't do that – I'm about to die!" They said, "You vouched for a rebel. You have to die." Then they poked me with a knife.

 

All this happened in my house. Then they left me there, and when they left they took the steps from my house and put them over against the fence. [Karen houses are built raised above the ground with a bamboo ladder to enter. They took the ladder away to make it impossible to leave until others came.]

 

Interview: 15  HRV:  Torture

 


Name:                   Maung Than

Sex:                       Male

Age:                       24

Ethnicity:              Karen

Religion:               Buddhist

Occupation:         Farmer  

Address:                Pa-an Township, Karen State

Interviewed:         Spring 1994


 

 

I was tortured by Myint Way Oo. He is a platoon commander from Coy 4, IB 84, LID 99. The commander of his company is Maung Myint. Myint Way Oo arrested me outside of the village, while I was working on my farm. It was 22 February 1994. First they told me that I'm a Ringworm. They asked my name and I told them, then they tied me up. Myint Way Oo started to slice the flesh on my foot with his knife. Then he hit me on my head with his gun. Then he started to burn my leg with fire, and then they all kicked me and punched me. Myint Way Oo poked my head with a knife and then hit me in the head with the shaft of the knife. Then he untied me and started rolling his gun barrel up and down of my shins. Then he closed my nose. He sliced my belly and burned my navel, sliced the flesh on my arm and burned it, and the same on my thigh. He hacked at my shins with a knife like you would chop up a fish. Then I lost consciousness.

 

They didn't give me any medicine for my wounds, they just rubbed sand and dust on them. I still have scars on my legs, thighs, belly, my shoulders and my head from the cuts and burns. This scar on my shoulder is where they put a burning cheroot on it.

 

They didn't release me – they just left me there after that because they thought I was dead. The next morning, the monks and villagers came and picked me up. I was still unconscious. The monks took me to the monastery, and after a few minutes there I regained consciousness.

 

Interview: 16  HRV:  Livelihood

 


Name:                   Saw C—

Sex:                       Male     

Age:                       53

Ethnicity:              Karen

Religion:               Buddhist

Occupation:         Farmer  

Address:                Pa-an Township, Karen State


 

 

They shot me on 27 December 1993 while I was on my farm. There was a small boy whose basket was broken, and he was going to the forest to get vines to fix it. As soon as he entered the forest I heard a gunshot. I thought they shot at the boy, but the bullet came and hit me. Then the boy ran away and escaped. I was hit in the back of my knee. At the same time they hit two cows of mine as well, and one of them was killed [the "shot" was probably a burst of several rounds of automatic rifle fire]. I think the soldiers were just looking around, and after that they didn't see anyone so they just left. My farm hut is beside the stream and there are one or two trees, so they couldn't see me and they left. The troops were from IB 84 of LID 99.

 

Interview: 17  HRV:  Slavery, Torture

 


Name:                   Maung Hla                        

Sex:                       Male     

Age:                       20

Ethnicity:              Karen

Religion:               Buddhist

Occupation:         Farmer  

Address:                Bilin Township, Mon State

Name:                   Saw Mu Deh                      

Sex:                       Male

Age:                       20

Ethnicity:              Karen

Religion:               Buddhist

Occupation:         Farmer

Address:                Bilin Township, Mon State


 

 

Maung Hla:

 

The soldiers who captured us were from IB 119 of LID 33 – their company commanders are Win Tay from Coy 1 and Min Than from Coy 2. We were captured on 22 March 1994 and released on 27 March.

 


Saw Mu Deh:

 

Before asking any questions, they punched us. Then they asked us, "Have you ever been a Karen soldier?" Then they kicked me in the lower back over 10 times and punched me in the face about 10 times. I lost half a tooth, and my nose and mouth were bleeding. Then they kept on accusing me of being a Karen soldier but I told them I wasn't. They said, "You must be!" and they carried on punching me and asking questions again and again. Then they tied our hands behind us, tied us up to trees and left us there. It was until the next morning that they untied us. Then they didn't release us, they made us carry things for them. We had to carry most of their supplies and some supplies that Karen soldiers had hidden in a field and they'd found. We had to carry things to their camp for four days, then they released us at their camp. While we were carrying, sometimes they fed us twice a day but sometimes only once, and it was never enough.

 

Interview: 18  HRV:  Slavery, Torture

 


Name:                   Saw Win Htun

Sex:                       Male

Age:                       38

Ethnicity:              Karen

Religion:               Buddhist

Occupation:         Farmer

Address:                Pa-an Township, Karen State


 

 

I was captured in the village during a funeral, on 6 February 1994. They arrested eight of us. They tied all of us to trees except one. SLORC soldiers asked me, "Did you join with Maung Thein?" [Maung Thein is a Karen officer famous in the area] and I told them "No.” Then they pointed a knife at my throat, and burned my leg, belly, nipples and face with a burning cheroot. I still have scars on my belly, my chest and on both of my sides. I kept denying that I ever joined Maung Thein, and then they demanded two chickens from me. Once my wife send them two chickens, they untied me from the tree. Then they forced me into portering for two weeks. I had to carry baskets weighing 20 viss [32 kg] to their camp. I escaped from them on 19 February 1994. The soldiers were from IB 84, LID 99. Their commander was Nyo Soe Min from Coy 1.

 

Interview: 19  HRV:  Livelihood, Slavery

 


Name:                   Maung D—

Sex:                       Male

Age:                       37

Ethnicity:              Karen

Religion:               Buddhist

Occupation:         Farmer  

Address:                Pa-an Township, Karen State


 

 

I was arrested with the others on 6 February. They were from LID 99, IB 84, commanded by Nyo Soe Min. They arrested us and asked, "How many of you are Karen soldiers? Three of you are Karen soldiers, isn't that right?" When I said no, they punched me in the face and once in the chest. They asked me for 250 Ks and 8 bottles of alcohol, and then I was forced to carry rice for them to their army camp for two weeks. Each time I had to carry one and a half big tins full. After two weeks, I escaped.

 

Interview: 20  HRV:  Livelihood, Minority, Slavery, Torture

 


Name:                   Saw E—

Sex:                       Male

Age:                       23

Ethnicity:              Karen

Religion:               Buddhist

Occupation:         Farmer  

Address:                Pa-an Township, Karen State


 

 

On 6 February 1994 there was a funeral in our village. The soldiers arrested eight of us while we were going to the funeral service . Then they asked me some questions, but I don't speak Burmese, so they punched me twice in the face. They burned me on the legs, and I still have the scars. After they untied me from the tree, they forced me to give them a package of cheroots and a bottle of alcohol. Then I had to carry 1,500 bullets at a time to the army camp for two weeks. Then three of us escaped; Saw C—, Maung D— and myself [see related interviews 16 and 19]. The troops were from LID 99, IB 84. The battalion commander is Aung Kyaw Min, and second commander is Zaw Min Oo.