INTERVIEWS 21-36



Interview: 21  HRV:  Forced Labour, Torture

 


Name:                   Tha Ghay Mo      

Sex:                       Female

Age:                       50

Ethnicity:              Karen

Religion:               Buddhist

Occupation:         Farmer  

Address:                Pa-an Township, Karen State


 

 

It was a militia unit that tortured me. Their leader is Pa Lu Kyaw and second leader is Pa Noe. It was Pa Mo Roe, the third leader, who hit me. They are Karen [SLORC often conscripts villagers and townspeople to be "militia" units, gives them some training and captured weapons, then orders them to find and kill any Karen “soldiers”. They operate in small groups of 8 to 10 men. Many immediately surrender their weapons to the Karen army and flee into hiding, but this particular group, whose three leaders are Karen, obviously relished their new-found power]. On 3 April 1994 they asked me if any Kaw Thoo Lei had entered the village, I said no. And then they just started beating me with a bamboo pole as thick as your wrist. They beat me three or four times on my ribs. I don't know, but I was told two of them are broken. It hurt a lot. I couldn't even breathe. After that I couldn't stand up, and I couldn't lay down either. Even now, people have to help me stand up or lay down. There is no hospital here, so I put special water and saffron on it. These men just accuse us, so we have to deny it and then they beat us. In our area usually only the militia patrols around. I hear that they're paid a salary but I don't know who pays it. Sometimes they are together with the army from IB 24, whose commander is Maj Kyi Myint [aka Kyaw Kyaw Htay]. Every time IB 24 wants to come to the village they call the village head first, and the village head has to lead them here. Maj Kyi Myint usually asks the village head, "Are there any Karen soldiers around?" If the village head says no, he says, "Come along with me. If Karen soldiers shoot at me, I'll have your village burned down and I'll kill you as well."

 

When they are making a road they forced us dig, clear the scrub, build the road, and they also force us to do so many other things. The village head has to divide the village into parts, and each part must send its quota of people. They assign a certain length of road to each part of the village and you have to work until it's finished. Otherwise we have to pack our food. If part of the road goes near your village then you have to build that part. They started this road at Kler Khay, and so far it's got to Thu Kaw Bo.

 

Interview: 22  HRV:  Torture

 


Name:                   Naw Thaw Thi Mo

Sex:                       Female  

Age:                       50

Ethnicity:              Karen

 

Religion:               Buddhist

Occupation:         Farmer

Address:                Pa-an Township, Karen State


 

 

I was beaten by a militia group led by Pa Noe, who is under Pa Lu Kyaw. This was on 16 January. They hit me three times with a stick as thick as my wrist, then they kicked me in the face once. They also beat me on the back with a stick. In hurt a lot, and when they kicked my face I fell down and hurt my arm. I couldn't move my arm for two months after that. Now it's getting better. They beat me because there was a Karen boxing tournament in our village and they said some Karen soldiers had come and joined in. I don't know if they did or not. At the time I was taking my turn as village head for 15 days, and when I told them I didn't know about it they beat me. I told the militia, "You are Karen, we are Karen, we tell you the truth and you do this. It's unbearable.”

 

Interview: 23  HRV:  Torture

 


Name:                   Pu Klo Wah

Sex:                       Male

Age:                       58

Ethnicity:              Karen

Religion:               Buddhist

Occupation:         Farmer

Address:                Pa-an Township, Karen State


 

 

The troops came from IB 36, LID 33. Their battalion commander is Thein Zaw, and second-in-command is Kyaw Htoo. They arrested me on 21 April, and ordered me to tell them who in the village are the families of Kaw Thoo Lei. They said they already knew who they were but that if I didn't tell them I would suffer. I said there are no families of Kaw Thoo Lei here. I said the truth.

 

Then they tied me up so tightly that my blood couldn't flow, and the officer drubbed the back edge of his knife back and forth across my throat. They didn't give me food or water for the whole day. They kept me tied up for two day after my arrest, then on the third day they released me. They kept asking me where the Karen soldiers stay and where they meet, and I told them I don't know anything, and finally they released me.

 

Interview: 24  HRV:  Detention, Forced Labour, Refugees, Torture

 


Name:                   Sai Lone

Sex:                       Male

Age:                       29

Ethnicity:              Shan

Religion:               Buddhist

Family:                 Divorced with 1 daughter (age 3) who stays with

                              her mother

Occupation:         Day labourer

Address:                Tachilek Township, eastern Shan state


 

 

[Sai Lone fled to Thailand after spending a year in a SLORC prison.]

 

I lived in a village, near Tachilek. In the winter of 1992/93, some of my friends said I should go with them to Ho Mong [headquarters of the MTA] and help them play music at the closing ceremonies of the military training there. So I went there as a drum leader with a team of girl dancers from my village, and they paid money. When I was practicing with my team in Ho Mong, I got message that the local SLORC authorities at home were calling me back. A Burmese man in my village had told them I'd gone to Ho Mong. The message said if I didn't return my parents would be arrested, so we had to go back. When I got home, they called me in every day for a week to answer their questions. I knew they were going to arrest me, so I ran away to Chiang Mai [in northern Thailand]. I worked there for awhile and saved some money, so I went back to my village to give it to my parents and then SLORC arrested me. One of the commanders from 359 Infantry Battalion came in a car with his men and arrested me on 15 April 1993. After I was arrested they accused me of being a member of MTA, and of leading a band to Ho Mong to play. They put me in the main prison at Tachilek and interrogated for one week. They kept me sitting in a chair with my hands tied to the chair, tied high up behind my head, and my legs tied to another chair in front. They slapped me in the face, and they hit me in the face with the butt of a revolver, hit, hit, hit, hit! I was going "Aw! Aw!", and I went dizzy. They hit me in the temple, and it was cut open and bleeding. They were army men, four of them; one interpreter [Shan to Burmese], two officers and one NCO [Non-Commissioned Officer, such as corporal or sergeant]. They asked me if I was a member of MTA and they said I must answer “yes”, when I didn't say “yes” they beat me. They told me, "If you say ‘yes’ you'll get a lighter sentence, but if you say ‘no’ you'll be dead." They wanted me to answer “yes”, but I never answered “yes”. After one month and 10 days in the prison I was called into the court by an NCO. There was nobody in the court except him and the judge. The judge was a civilian named U Tay Aung. Before that I had seen a lawyer, but he wanted too much money and I couldn’t afford to hire him. In court they let me talk, so I said I wasn’t a member MTA. But then they asked me if I thought the young girls who went with me should all be arrested and imprisoned like me, so I said “no”, I would take the responsibility for all of them. So I was sentenced to one year in prison.

 

After that I had to stay another 24 days in Tachilek Prison, then I was sent to Kengtung Prison. I had to stay over five months there. In Kengtung Prison I saw many kinds of people; bandits, addicts, Chinese, Shans, all sorts of people. Some people died in prison because there wasn't proper food and we were undernourished. We didn't even have salt, just plain rice. People got sick. I saw many people die who were from near the Chinese border. They were in jail for being illegally in Burma. Most of them were from China, they went through Shan State to Thailand, then the Thai authorities arrested them and sent them back to Burma, so they were put in prison.

 

There were usually about 200 people in Kengtung Prison, but there’s no limit. I was in a cell about 7 or 8 feet wide and about 100 feet long, with about 70 people. Our only job was fetching water for the families of the prison authorities. We weren’t given any blankets for sleeping. The floor was wooden planks and we had to sleep on that. For a toilet there were a couple of oil drums sawed in half with two planks on top [to squat on] and we had to use these. Some prisoners were given the duty of cleaning out those drums once a day. We had to go to the toilet right there, and eat in the same cell.

 

At 8 a.m. they gave us a bowl of rice and yellow-bean soup. In the evening we were given some rice and rotten vegetables, rotten papaya or something inedible like that, and some green leaves. Every day people got sick because of malnutrition. People died of malaria, diarrhoea and other diseases. There's a hospital in the compound but they don’t look after the prisoners, and there's no medicine there. People are only sent to the hospital when they're about to die. Every two or three days someone died.

 

After more than five months there I was sent to work on the hydro-electric project at Mong Kwan. They took us on trucks, 50 of us at a time. It took from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. to get there because it was still the end of rainy season, so the truck kept getting stuck in the mud and we had to push it. At Mong Kwan we were given some more food than in the prison, but it still wasn’t enough. We had to stay in thatch huts, but the roofs were very leaky and it was very draughty. We had to work in chains. We had to carry rocks, and whenever we weren't quick enough or if the rocks were too heavy for us to carry, we were hit with a bamboo stick. They beat me so hard with it sometimes that I just wanted to die. We also had to carry bags of cement, and when we couldn’t carry them we were beaten. Some men were beaten until they lost consciousness, then they were left laying there the whole day like that. In front of me, I saw two old men beaten to death. One of them was 52 and the other was 57. I knew the 52-year-old man because he was my friend in prison – his name was Loon Ye, he was Palaung. He had been sentenced as a drug smuggler. I don't know if he was guilty, because we didn't talk about it. All I know about the other man is that he had an 8-year sentence, but it had been reduced to three years. I was working at Mong Kwan from 11 November 1993 until 26 February 1994, then I was sent back to Kengtung Prison, and on 1 March I was released because I'd served my time. I was released a little bit early for good behaviour. Six of the Burman prisoners were released with me. While I was in prison my parents had come across into Thailand, so I followed them, and I won't be going back. If the Thais try to send me back I'll run away somewhere. I feel bitter and I want revenge for what SLORC did to me. I’ve thought of joining the MTA because of it, but I don't think I will.

 


Interview: 25  HRV:  Detention, Livelihood, Minorities, Religion

 


Name:                   Sao Pala Dhamma

Sex:                       Male

Age:                       53

Ethnicity:              Shan

Religion:               Buddhist

Occupation:         Monk

Address:                Mong Nawng, southern Shan State, now living in

                              Thailand


 

 

[Sao Pala Dhamma has been living in Thailand for 28 years, but has just returned from a trip to his native southern Shan State and central Burma.]

 

I've been a monk since I was 12 years old, now I'm 53. That’s 41 years. I've been in Thailand for 28 years. On 15 June I left here. At that time there was fighting at Tachilek. I went by plane from Bangkok to Rangoon. From there I went to Taunggyi, capital of Shan State for four days, then to Laikha [just over 100 km northeast of Taunggyi], then back to Taunggyi and flew back to Rangoon. Then I led the pilgrims north to Prome, Pagan and Mandalay, then to Taunggyi again. Then we went back to Rangoon, and south to Kyaikto in Mon State. Then I flew back to Thailand from Rangoon. The first half of the trip I was on my own, and the rest was a pilgrimage.

 

I was very discouraged by what I saw in Shan State. I saw the people suffering too much. If anyone could help them to liberate Shan State within the next few years, then there is hope. If not, within 10 years there will be little left that is Shan. All the Shan will either leave or be slaves. I've seen and heard that the people there now have to serve SLORC as porters and for all kinds of labour. As porters they are taken to the frontline, and when they get there they are forced to put on uniforms and sent in front of the troops to be killed. If there are 100 soldiers they’ll take 200 porters, and put them around the soldiers so they’ll be killed. The Shans are being wiped out in ways like this. At night soldiers keep them tied up to a long bamboo, and if one person has to go to the toilet they all have to go along. They treat the people just like animals.

 

When SLORC needs land they confiscate it from the people. On the whole trip I heard this news and saw with my own eyes. They're doing it everywhere. They confiscate the people's land and then use part of it to set up a military camp. They don't build the camp themselves – they make the people bring all the bamboo and wood and build it. They make military farms to grow rations for the Army, and they make the people work on this land without payment. They tell the owner, "This land is owned by SLORC", so if he wants to get it back he has to buy it from SLORC. You can go and see the people suffering like that in Tachilek too. In Tachilek SLORC confiscates the paddy fields, divides them into blocks and then sells them back to the people or to their own officers. For a block as small as 40 by 60 feet they charge 200,000 or 300,000 or 400,000 Ks, etc. The people can’t afford to buy their land back, so they have to move away somewhere and make or buy a new plot for themselves. I don't know where to people go or how they survive. They have to send their children to work in Thailand to survive [this is how many young girls and women from Shan State end up trapped as brothel slaves in Thailand].

 

I didn't see any direct repression of religion, but they build pagodas in some places, and they force the people to contribute money to build them and all the materials they need. They look at how much money each family has and say "You, 3,000 [Ks]", and so on. This is how they take part in religion. They are also trying to wipe out Shan language and culture – they don't let people learn it in the schools. They only let the students learn Burmese literature, Burmese history, etc. If there were no monasteries then, by now the Shan language and culture would have already been wiped out. The SLORC soldiers are also forcing Shan women to marry them. The people of the world should take pity on the Shan people and come to help us, or else all the Shan people will be wiped out. When there's fighting, the people feel a little bit encouraged because they think that could finally make them free from SLORC. But now there's fighting and both sides are drafting people into their armies, so the people are in more trouble.

 

In central Burma in some areas, the army is confiscating the farmland and forcing the people to grow corn or soybeans. Then the army just sells it as they like, and the people get nothing for their own. Not only that, but if the crop in the field is futile then the people have to bear the burden of that too – they have to pay the money for the crop to the army. If they don't have it, they have to sell whatever they have. It is a must. That's why people have to run away to other places. In Shan State, there are places people can run to [the revolutionary areas or Thailand]. But in Burma, I don't know where the people to escape to. The army is just making its own business. They have plenty of soldiers who could work. If they didn't want to trouble the people they could do it by themselves. But they don't. They won’t let the people do any business either. All the companies, shops and department stores are owned by their people.

 

Now they're building and repairing roads, and they force people to build platforms along the roadsides. If a platform goes in front of your house, you're forced to pay the army for that segment. If you can't, you're driven out of your house. You have to pay taxes for electricity and water even if you don’t have electricity or water. The state electric department says that even if you don't have your own lights, you see lights on the street or in other places so you have to pay for that. They also make money by running the power very low, then suddenly jacking it up so everyone's fuses and things blow, and then they have to pay the state electric department to fix or replace them. SLORC is also still stealing a lot of money from people’s bank accounts for their projects in faraway areas. They just take the money out and then you get a statement that the money was taken as your obligation toward such-and-such project. That way they're robbing both the people and the banks.

 

Most of the people have no faith in SLORC and want it to be replaced. But they dared not rise up again like in 1988. At present if there's even a slight suspicion, SLORC will shoot them. Now in the schools SLORC says the teachers must take responsibility for their students and the parents for their children, and if any students try to demonstrate then both their parents and teachers will be arrested. If you try to demonstrate they'll kill you on the spot. The people are desperate, and that's why they feel encouraged when they hear the fighting. If they all had arms and ammunition, even the Burmese would rise up and overthrow SLORC.

 

When the SLORC leaders are on television bowing and making offerings to monks, those are only token gestures. The reality is very different than what they show on TV. They look very humble on TV, but if any monk opposes them they'll arrest him. A lot of monks have been arrested and are still in prison. Many monks have died after being arrested, but they just disappear and nobody knows what happened to them. On this trip, the monks at the monastery at Po Pa in central Burma told me about one of their monks who died. His name was U Parama Won Na Di Ki. He died not because they imprisoned him, but because they forced him to leave the monkshood. It was during Saw Maung's regime. He was forced to disrobe but he couldn’t bear to leave the monastery, so he stayed but he could only be like a holy layman. This mental torture killed him. He died of melancholy. He was about 50 years old.

 

If there is no outside help for the people, SLORC will remain as it is. The religion will continue, it won't vanish. But as for the SLORC leaders, they should remember that in return for oppressing the people and treating the monks like that, Saw Maung went mad. They will all go that way. I think this is why Khin Nyunt is now trying to be seen paying respect to the monks. On television we see them acting so humble and respectful to the religion, going to holy places and making donations, but actually they're still behaving the same as ever. You'll only see these things on television. They don't act like that except in front of the camera.

 


Interview: 26  HRV:  Detention, Torture

 


Name:                   Maung F—

Sex:                       Male

Age:                       39

Ethnicity:              Karen

Religion:               Buddhist

Family:                 Married with children

Occupation:         Small goods peddler

Address:                Mone Township, Nyaunglebin District,

                              Pegu Division


 

 

[The following account was given by a Karen political prisoner who was released from Bassein Prison in the Irrawaddy Delta in June 1994. He was not arrested in the Delta and it is unclear why they sent him there, but most of the political prisoners in that prison are Karen church and community leaders who were arrested after an abortive armed Karen uprising in the Delta in October 1991. Since then, SLORC has maintained a reign of absolute terror over Karen villages in the Delta, completely out of sight of the world community. Many of the prisoners he was with are probably presumed dead by their own families after disappearing two or three years ago in the hands of SLORC troops. This man's name has been changed and some other details omitted to protect him and his family.]

 

They arrested me on January 29, 1992. I went to a village where there was a family whose son wanted to join the Revolution, and his mother thought I had come from the KNLA to encourage the village youth to join, so she reported this to the authorities mistakenly, and the police came and arrested me.

 

They took me to Chaung Gone lock-up. I remember that they started to torture me on February 14, and they kept torturing me until 5 March. They tortured and interrogated me for long periods of time. They asked, "How many KNLA soldiers went to join the Karen soldiers in Delta?" I told them I don't know anything about that, because I don't. They asked me about General Bo Mya and 101 Battalion [KNLA] at Kawmoorah. I said I don't know anything about that because it's so far from Mone Township and I've never even been there. They slapped both my ears at the same time very hard with their hands. It made my ears ring and I went completely deaf for five minutes. They punched me and kicked me, and they dragged me to the river and held my head underwater while they stabbed the back of my neck. They held my head underwater for over a minute at a time. The worst thing they did was electric shock. They put metal caps on two of my fingers and turned on the electricity, and they can control how much voltage they stab you with. They turned up the power higher and higher until it was unbearable. I felt paralysed for an hour afterwards, and it was so terrible that I couldn't do anything, I couldn't even eat.

 

I was interrogated by two police and an army intelligence. During my interrogation they didn't feed me any food for five days. One of the soldiers came and gave me some food secretly. The interrogators beat, punched and kicked me countless times and I got internal injuries, and you can see that my hand looks abnormal [Maung F—’s left arm is visibly deformed and shorter than his right arm with a distorted swelling of the bone just below the elbow and a partly disabled hand, the result of a broken arm during the beatings which was never treated]. Some of the political prisoners from the pro-democracy uprisings had lots of money and they felt sorry for me, so they said things to cheer me up like "It's okay, you are going against SLORC, so don't feel small. We're going to help you as much as we can.” They gave me some food and money and took care of me like their brother. I was at Chaung Gone for four months and 18 days, then they sent me to Ye Gyi for 71 days. Then finally on August 7, 1992 SLORC sentenced me to three years.

 

After the sentence, they sent me to Bassein Jail on August 15. In the jail there were so many people from different places, from Myaungmya, Ma U Bin, Bogale, Nga Pu Taw, Henzada, Inkapu and other places. There were 2200 people altogether, male and female. While I was there over 300 people died of diseases. When people got sick they weren't given any medical treatment – only when they were about to die they were sent to the prison hospital. Most of the patients died the next day after being sent. Most of them were over 60. A lot were KNU veterans or people who deserted from the KNU. After the Delta uprising SLORC had arrested them all again.

 

When I arrived at the prison they put me alone in a cell as a political prisoner. They didn't force the political prisoners to do labour. They put us each in a small cell. Early in the morning they let us go out to go to the toilet, then they made us go back in at about 7:30 a.m. At 12 noon we could go out again for a bath, and then back again at 3 p.m. After that they locked us up until the next morning. They fed us twice a day with enough rice, but the bean soup was very bad. They just put a few beans in much water, and they gave us bad prawn paste that was half paste and half sand. They just deliberately treated us badly. In the evening they gave us rice with boiled greens, just boiled in water without any salt or seasoning. Whether we liked it or not we had to eat it.

 

My cell was about 3 yards by 4 yards with a toilet pot in it. Sometimes three of us had to stay in there, and sometimes I was alone. I lived in that cell for over a year, and in an ordinary big cell with many others for over a year. After sentencing they never beat or interrogated us. We were never allowed to talk to each other, only to the guards, so I don't know much about the other prisoners. Even while we were taking a bath we weren't allowed to talk to each other.

 

Criminal prisoners, who were charged with rape or something, had to carry away the toilet pots. These are oil drums cut in half, and two of them have to carry them away on a pole. If they were too weak to carry them they were beaten like cattle. As for the old people, they made them catch or kill 1,300 flies every day. They said to them, "In jail all the people must work.” The prisoners with sentences under five years were just made to work in the jail. Those who had sentences over five years were sent to work camps outside the prison for convicts. [this means labour on government projects such as roads and railways]. Those people had to work very hard.

 

They never allowed us to get pens, books, newspapers, magazines or letters, but it was easy to get them anyway if you could bribe them. Some prisoners had money so they paid the guards 450 Ks every month, and the guards would get all those things for them. If they trusted a prisoner and liked him they'd let him act pretty freely. As for me, I was sentenced to three years but I was only in jail for just over two years.

 

After I was released I tried to go back to my family, but I couldn't even find my village. My village had been relocated. I only saw the pillars of the houses, and I had no way to stay there. Now I'm still looking for my wife. I'm trying to find them in the refugee camps. I don't know how to get revenge against SLORC. I'm afraid to fight them, and we've been oppressed since we were young, so all I want is to find my family. I miss my family, and I have no money and not even any clothes. I don't even want to stay alive anymore.

 

Interview: 27  HRV:  Religion, Torture

 


Name:                   U Ye Wa Ra Sara

Sex:                       Male

Age:                       29

Ethnicity:              Karen

Religion:               Buddhist

Occupation:         Monk

Address:                Pa-an Township, Karen State


 

 

[Note. U Ye Wa Ra Sara is a fully robed monk and stays in a monastery. When the soldiers beat him they were fully aware of this.]

 

I have been a monk for nine years. I was beaten by Than Htut. He is second in command of Coy 4, IB 36, LID 33. On 20 April, he accused me of spreading rumours that he is an alcoholic. He asked me if this was true, and I said no. Then later when he was drunk, he sent his soldiers to grab me, but I would not go to their camp so he came to me. He asked me the same question as before, then he took a carbine rifle from one of his soldiers and hit me on the mouth with the butt. It was painful, and blood started shedding from my mouth. My lip and tongue were split. I tried to run but they followed me and shouted, "You are a rebel's monk!" Than Htut was very, very drunk. He took a big knife and asked me, "Do you like Kya Ni Gan's speeches?" [Kya Ni Gun is a famous monk in Burma whose discourses are distributed on tape.] I said "Yes", and then he pointed the knife at me. Just then his commander, Aung Kyaw Htoo, came and dragged him away. [Aung Kyaw Htoo is Second-in-Command of IB 36.] These same soldiers always come to the monastery to take our durian [a prized fruit] without even asking permission.

 

Interview: 28  HRV:  Child, Detention, Refugees, Repatriation, Women

 


Name:                   G—

Sex:                       Female

Age:                       14

Ethnicity:              Burmese Indian

Religion:               Muslim

Family:                 Single; 12 brothers and sisters, mother dead

Address:                Pa-an Town, Karen State

Interviewed:         September 1994


 

 

[Thailand's Immigration Detention Centres (IDC) have become internationally notorious for squalid conditions and robbery, rape, and beatings by Thai police guards. They are built like high-security prisons; concrete cells, heavy bars, and armed guards. But the people in these cells are not dangerous criminals – they are mostly economic and political refugees from neighbouring countries and, as the following account shows, young children. Any refugee at any age who is caught outside of a refugee camp can end up here, whether a Karen farmer who fled being taken as a SLORC porter, a pro-democracy Burmese student who fled to Thailand after the 1988 massacres, a Shan girl who was lured into Thailand by a brothel procurer's promise of a good job only to end up a brothel slave, or a labourer who fled Burma's ruined economy seeking a better chance in Thailand's "economic miracle”. Thai police put all such people in IDC cells until they can be deported back into the hands of SLORC. If SLORC gets them, they are usually put in another cell until they either pay a heavy bribe or are sent to be frontline porters and human minesweepers for the military.

 

Fortunately, the Thais generally used to take the deportees to within a kilometre or two of the border and drop them there, which made it possible for many to sneak back into Thailand to be arrested again later. However, now Thailand has clamped down on refugees, and they have recently been deporting hundreds of IDC inmates every week to the remote border site of Halockhani, where they have been in the process of forcibly repatriating several thousand Mon refugees [see other related interviews]. They have also discussed with SLORC military officials at places like Three Pagodas Pass and Myawaddy. If this happens, it is horrifying to think of what SLORC will do with these people. Even now, when they arrive in Halockhani many of them are extremely thin, weak, and suffering from severe mental and emotional trauma from their treatment by the Thai authorities. If this is the effect of the IDC on hardened adults, imagine its effect on children of 13, or 10, or 8 years of age. The 14-year-old who gave the following testimony speaks surprisingly maturely for her age, but never forget that underneath it all she is still 14 years old, She was interviewed in early August as she was being deported through Halockani. She had already fled back to the Thai side of the border together with the Mon refugees who had sheltered her, when the Burmese army attacked their camp on July 21. Since then the Mon refugees have been forcibly starved back across the border into SLORC territory once again by the Thai Army, and she has probably been driven across together with them. If not, she may be back in Bangkok, in another IDC cell.]

 

My parents had a small shop in the market in Pa-an. Then my mother died, and my father was alone to take care of us. So I left more than five years ago [no more than 9 years old] with some of my brothers and sisters, and our father stayed in Burma. My eldest sister went to Thailand first. Once she was okay there, she came back to take me and two other brothers and sisters with her to live in Thailand. We went by truck from Pa-an to Kawkareik, then to Mae Sot [in Thailand] and from Mae Sot to Bangkok, step by step. We went in a group [in bribes].

 

In Bangkok I stayed in my sister's house. My sister had a small stand selling fruits, and I had to take care of the children in her house. Eleven people from our group of 21 stayed in her house, and the other 10 people stayed in another house. Her house only had two rooms. Another brother and sister of mine were working with cement on a building site. I learned to speak just a little bit of Thai, but I couldn't go to school.

 

A bit more than one year ago I was arrested for the first time. I was arrested together with a boy from my family. He was 8 years old. They put us in jail [IDC], and I was in jail for two or three months. In the evenings, a policeman came to the cell to ask some women to go with him. The women didn't want to go, but the policeman said, "You have to go. We will give you some money and we will feed you." After that, although the women didn't want to go he forced them. He grabbed their hands and took them with him. The police took five or six girls each time. Then in the morning, they sent the girls back to the cell. We asked the girls what the police did. They said the police told them to sit down near them. The men fed the girl with his spoon, the same one that he used, and then he made the girl feed him. Afterwards, they asked the girls to drink with them and after that, they told them to dance for them. [Interviewer’s question: What if the girls refused?] How could they refuse to do what the police ordered them to do?!! They gave the girls some money afterwards. As for the rest of us, they wouldn't give us anything even if we begged them. [Note: it is quite clear that the girls she talks about were raped before being sent back in the morning, but G— is very young and clearly didn't want to talk about that.] Once when the police called five or six girls from the cell they called me too, but I told them I didn't want to go. The policeman then said that he would feed me and give me some money, but I told him I had already eaten. He said "And was it enough for you?" I said, "Yes, it was enough", and then he didn't take me.

 

After two or three months they were deporting people to Three Pagodas Pass [a SLORC army post just across the border north of Sangkhlaburi, which is in Thailand's Kanchanaburi Province]. At the IDC in Bangkok, they asked us for 100 Baht each for transportation. When we got to Kanchanaburi, they asked us for 50 Baht to sleep there [there is another IDC in Kanchanaburi], and they also asked us for 100 Baht more again. I only had 50 Baht so I couldn't pay, but a man paid for me. After that, they took us by truck to Three Pagodas Pass, and when we got there some people from a foreign organisation gave us some rice. Then I stayed for two months in a village between Three Pagodas Pass and Sangkhlaburi [in those days, the deportation trucks usually unloaded the deportees a short distance before reaching the border itself, and it was easy for them to double back into Thailand]. While I was there I did some of the washing, cooking and helping to take care of the person who was looking after me. My elder sister's husband knew I was there, and after two months he came and took me back to Bangkok.

 

When I got back to Bangkok I did the same as before, just stayed in my sister's house and looked after the children. Then I was arrested again. I went out with my nephew to buy some water. While he was buying it, I sat down outside and the Thai police caught me in the street. They took me to the IDC. When I got to the lock-up, a Thai policeman was whipping some women with a wire cable and a belt because they were drug addicts and prostitutes, and they had been taking drugs. This time they kept me in the jail for 20 days. I met some of my cousins who arrived in the jail seven days after me – they are a family with four children. Now we've met again here at Halockhani. This time in the police had 10 girls who they took every time, 9 Thais, or maybe they were Shans, and one Burmese girl. [Note: Shans are closely related to Thais.] The police called them at about 6 p.m. and sent them back at 5 a.m. They did the same to them as to the other girls. They give them food and they have to drink, sometimes alcohol and sometimes other things. Sometimes the police give them money. Those girls were already in the jail when I arrived, and now they're still there. The police are using them, and I think that's why they don't want to release them yet.

 

The police called me too, but I didn't go. There were two or three men who were guarding us, standing by the door. They were black men. [The word used means racially black African – these men may be African IDC prisoner/wardens.] They said me, "Don't go with those other girls. If you go you'll get into troubles." They also said, "If the Thai police give you any food, don't eat it. You can get problems." The black men guards said that. I had four or five girl friends in the IDC, some girls are a little older than me and some are younger than me. Sometimes the police gave them some extra food to try to get them to go with them, but most of the time when the Thai police fed them they wouldn't eat it. They said they already had enough food with their rice.

 

In the IDC there were men who were beaten up, but not the women. The men were beaten up because they talked to the women, or sometimes because they had lost their papers or because they couldn't pay money to be transported. There were two full rooms of women and three full rooms of men. I don't know how many were in each room because I never went to the other rooms. In our room there were about 90 people. For one room, there was only one latrine and one place to shower, so it was very difficult. We had to take our baths during the night. The place was so narrow that it was difficult to sleep. We had to sleep on the floor with no mat or anything. There were many children who arrived together with their parents. The small children slept with their mothers.

 

In the IDC there were people from Burma, Laos, China, Cambodia and other countries, and I think even from Thailand. There were drug addicts there. We only got boiled rice to eat without anything else, no salt and no spices.

 

After 20 days I was deported. This time I didn't have to pay for transportation from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi, but from Kanchanaburi I had to pay. I only had 50 Baht. I gave them 50 Baht and I had to stay two weeks longer in Kanchanaburi IDC. Then they sent me here. I arrived here about 50 days ago, nearly two months. First I stayed with a family in Halockhani Camp. When the Burmese troops attacked we just followed the other people, and when we got here I had to stay in this IDC shelter [in "New Halockhani" on the Thai side of the border, many of the IDC deportees were staying all together in one narrow bamboo and plastic sheet shelter]. Between 20 and 30 people sleep in here, men and women all together. I stay beside my relative's family.

 

I want to go back to Burma and stay with my father. I haven't heard from him since I left. I don't know if my sister is still in Bangkok or not . My relatives here want to go back to Thailand, so I think I will try to go back to Bangkok with them and then go back to Burma through Mae Sot. [She will probably find that this is now impossible because of the Thai clampdown on refugees.]

 

Interview: 29  HRV:  Detention, Forced Labour, Livelihood, Refugees

 


Name:                   U Tun Nyunt

Sex:                       Male

Age:                       55

Family:                 Married with 5 children

Address:                Taung Tone Lone Village, Tavoy Township,

                              Tenasserim Division


 

                             

[The following story is told by U Tun Nyunt, who was forced to work as a labourer for the construction of the Ye-Tavoy Railway and is now detained at IDC in Kanchanaburi Province of Thailand. This story was written in Burmese by the victim himself in a letter forwarded to ABSDF.]

 

I am now detained at IDC in Kanchanaburi Province and when I was in Burma, I earned my living as a tin miner. Last summer [March-May 1994], when SLORC troops forced local people to contribute labour for the construction of the Ye-Tavoy Railway, each household was forced to send one labourer. It was compulsory; therefore, I had to go.

 

Along with about 100 villagers from Myit Te, Myitta, Wah Gone, Nyaung Tone and Har Myin Gyi, I had to contribute labour, arranging by myself for the expenses – travelling charges, medicines and construction tools including baskets, pickaxes, mattocks, chopping hoes, grab hoes, and axes. All SLORC gave us was just ORDERS!

 

We were forced to work at gunpoint near Nat Kyi Zin and Paukpinkwin villages, bordering Mon State and Tenasserim Division. The construction site was about 100 miles from my village. We had to sell our possessions or borrow money from somebody else in order to cover our own expenses because most of the labourers are as poor as I am.

 

Under the guise of collecting food for the labourers, SLORC troops forced the fishermen in that area to give fishpaste, dried fish and money. But nothing was given to us. Because of malnutrition and back-breaking hard work, we suffered from malaria attacks which resulted in the deaths of over 30 labourers. LIB 406, 407, 408, 409 and 410 are in control of that part of the rail line. Despite their tight security, two of my friends and I fled to the Thai-Burmese border because we could no longer bear these hardships.

 

I earned my living as a day labourer at a Thai corn farm in Kanchanaburi after I fled into Thailand at Nat Ei Taung. In May, I managed the escape of my wife and children who I had left in Burma. At the border, the Thai BPP arrested us and sent us to IDC in Kanchanaburi where over 50 other Burmese were detained. Since then, my family and I have not been able to meet each other. We are detained in separate cells. I am in one cell, my wife and three children are in another cell, while my 16-year-old eldest daughter is in another. We were sent to the court for trial and charged with illegal entry and sentenced to pay fines. When we were not able to pay, we were sentenced to imprisonment. It is known that, when the prison term is finished, we will be handed over to the SLORC troops in Three Pagodas Pass. We have no money to pay and nowhere to escape to. There has been a rumour that my eldest daughter was released when somebody paid for her fines. I am very much concerned about her. I am writing this letter to appeal to you to immediately save both my family and other refugees from IDC in Thailand as well as to save the people of Burma who are suffering under the rule of the military regime.

 

Interview: 30  HRV:  Child, Forced Labour

 


Name:                   Saw Htoo Wah

Sex:                       Male

Age:                       13

Ethnicity:              Karen

Religion:               Buddhist

Occupation:         Farmer  

Address:                Pa-an Township, Thaton District, Karen State


 

 

My age is 13. At Nataw Full Moon [on 28 December 1993] I was guarding the road. Three of my friends, all girls, came to bring rice for their relatives who were guarding the road and they stopped where I was. They were afraid to go further because of the soldiers. At the same time the SLORC lance corporal arrived and asked me who these girls were that he didn't recognise. Then he looked at another boy who was there and said, "He must be Kaw Thoo Lei", but I told him that the boy is just a civilian from my village. Then he pointed at me and asked one woman "Is she Kaw Thoo Lei?" She said I'm just a villager, but he didn't believe her so he pointed at me and asked one of the girls, "Is this a boy or a girl?" The girl said that I am gay. [Note: he is not gay, but this was probably just an effort by the girl to make the lance corporal go away, hoping that he would believe that no one who is gay could be a Karen soldier.] Then the lance corporal stopped asking her about me. The girls were very afraid to walk further to see their relatives, and they decided to go home. As they were leaving the lance corporal pointed his gun at them. They started running and lost their food. Then the lance corporal left.

 

Later it was time for me to go back home to eat. It was going to get dark. The lance corporal stopped me on the way and asked me to go with him to catch birds in the forest. I refused because I was hungry. He said he hadn't eaten either but that he wasn't hungry, and asked me to go just for a while. Then he said I had to go with him, so I started following him. When we got in the forest he stopped and asked me, "How many brothers and sisters do you have?" and I said, "Just two." He said, "Are any of your brothers Karen soldiers?" I said no, and he said "Don't lie", so I said, "If you don't believe me, go and ask the village headmen. He will tell you." Then the lance corporal told me to lie down face down. I thought he was going to shoot and kill me and I was going to die. But he started to rape me. He did it, and it hurt very much. After that, he let me go but told me not to say anything to the major or the headman about what he had done to me. He said, "If you tell anyone, I'll shoot you dead right away."

 

On the way back, I met soldiers who asked me who I was talking to, so I said, "The lance corporal." Then further on I was stopped by the major, who asked me the same question. I told him I was talking to his lance corporal, but he didn't believe me so I said he should ask the lance corporal. The major called the lance corporal and the lance corporal said it was true, so he let me go. Then I went home to eat. After that I didn't dare go back to guard the road, so I asked one of my uncles to go in my place and I had to pay him 30 Ks. Later I met the lance corporal again, and he said he won't kill me because I didn't say anything to the major about what he did to me. The lance corporal is from Coy 1. I don't know his name, but the company commander is Lt Tin Hla Win. They are in IB 13, LID 33. The major's name is Hla Win.

 

Interview: 31  HRV:  Child, Forced Labour, Minority

 


Name:                   Nai H—

Sex:                       Male

Age:                       17

Ethnicity:              Mon

Religion:               Christian

Family:                 Single; eldest son of Mi Ong Son

                              (see interview 7)

Occupation:         Farmer

Address:                Seingoo Village, Yebyu Township,

                              Tenasserim Division

Interviewed:         late March 1994


 

 

I'm 17 years old. I never went to school. When I was a child I went to school once. But then all the schools closed because of the 1988 Uprising. The schools were never open regularly. The teachers are from our village, and they just teach the children whenever they are free. [Other villagers present at the interview explained that given the difficulty of the struggle to survive, the comings and goings of SLORC troops, forced labour, etc., it is impossible to keep a school running properly in the village. Before SLORC, teachers were on occasion sent from Burma, but many villagers (usually with the influence of the NMSP) refuse to send their children to these teachers because they teach a nationalist Burman, anti-Mon curriculum where students are forbidden to speak anything but Burmese and learn the Burmese Army's version of history and other subjects.]

 

I had to go work at the railway line after harvest time in December because the soldiers ordered it. I only went once, then I ran away. It took one day's walk to get there, and I was there for 10 days. I worked with a group of 15 other young people, cutting down and carrying bamboo and vines and building shelters for the soldiers. The youngest person was 10 years old. We worked every morning until 11 a.m., then we rested and ate, then we worked from 12 noon until 4 p.m. Some of the huts we built were big, some were small. Most of them were big enough for two or three soldiers to sleep, with a raised bamboo floor and a roof of leaves. We built 6 or 7 huts Within 10 days for SLORC. We also built some shelters for villagers, just a leaf roof without a floor. Some villagers had shelters to sleep under, and others didn't. We built our shelter bigger than the others because so many of us had to sleep under it. Then we put leaves on the ground and slept on them. We had to bring tools from our house, and our food as well. I took four small baskets of rice. There were many people at the railway. In our group no one was beaten, but one or two of us got sick. The sick people could go home if they got permission.

 

Interview: 32  HRV:  Forced Labour, Livelihood, Refugees, Slavery, Torture, Women

 


Name:                   Naw Mu Mu Paw

Sex:                       Female    

Age:                       30

Ethnicity:              Karen

Religion:               Buddhist

Family:                 Married with 1 small child (2 other children

                              have died of illnesses)

Address:                Naw Pon Hta Village, Thaton District

Interviewed:         early February 1994


 

 

I arrived here about a month ago [early January 1994]. All of our family came together, directly from our village. It took us 10 days on the way, because we had to be careful of the Burmese. There was no way we could stay around our village anymore, because when we were there we had to do so much slave labour. My husband was forced to go and work for SLORC all the time, so often that he couldn't provide for our family anymore. It became almost impossible to provide food for ourselves, so we came here.

 

When we were there we had to do so many things for the Burmese we had to guard the road, do labour and sentry duty at the military outpost, and other things too. Our village had to send people for camp labour five times a month, for five days each time. We had to rotate going, and every family had to take turns to guard the road. We also had to send 15 people at a time, for 15 days and nights each time. We had to sleep and eat there. We had to take our own food. If we wanted to sleep, we had to take turns – some had to guard while the others slept. The soldiers told us, "You must guard carefully and watch out all the time for any Karen soldiers, and if you see any come and report it to us at once, or else we'll shoot you dead". Sometimes we saw some Karen soldiers, and we reported them right away. Sometimes this happened once or twice a month, and sometimes it was very rare. It depended on the situation.

 

The road was just about one kilometre from our village, and so was from the SLORC camp. While we were there guarding the road, sometimes they also forced us to carry rice for their camp, and we had to go do it day or night. If we tried to refuse they kicked us, beat us and yelled at us, so we had to go. They made us carry very heavy rice sacks [probably standard 100 kg sacks], only two of us to each sack. Most often, they forced us to guide their soldiers to wherever they wanted to go, day or night. They gave us no chance to refuse. Even when they were just going back to their camp or our village, they forced us to go as guides [this is probably to prevent Karen soldiers from shooting at them]. The forced labour situation is gradually going from bad to worse now.

 

When the Burmese troops come to the village it is unspeakable. If they see any men, they take them all away as porters, so many of them. If someone runs from them they shoot that person. They try to steal whatever they want in the village. They take our livestock like it was their own, and no one dares to stop them. They arrest villagers for absolutely no reason. They come to capture you, and if you run then they shoot you to death. I've seen them do this many times, to at least five or six people. Just before we left, SLORC kept coming to our village again and again, whenever they heard news that Karen soldiers were in the area. Whenever we heard SLORC were coming we dared not stay in our village. Their camp was only one kilometre away. It's called Ku Lay Camp, and they are IB 24, but I don't know the officers' names. Now they're in the village almost every day of the month. They take porters all the time, including the village girls, and send them to their frontline operations here in the border area.

 

They summoned us to send porters for them so many times that the villagers were all too tired to go any more, so they came to the village themselves to get porters. One time a man was sent orders by an officer to go to their camp to be a porter but he didn't go, so they came and got him themselves. They blindfolded him, beat him and poured hot water into his mouth. The man's name is Pa Moh Roh. It took him a very long time to get better after that.

 

One time when we were forced to go as sentries, we were there with 12 soldiers spaced out on either side of us. At one sentry post there were three girls aged 16 or 17 and an old woman together. In the night a group of Burmese soldiers came to them wearing Karen soldiers' camouflage uniforms and carrying a big knife. They called, "Don't shout, we're Karen soldiers", but they were SLORC. There were five of them and only three girls, and they tried to rape the girls. The old woman tried to stop them, but there was nothing she could do and a soldier said, "Don't move or I'm going to kill you". One of the girls tried to stop them by yelling, "Go and rape my Grandmother!" [i.e. the old woman; a sarcastic remark aimed at embarrassing the soldiers] so they strangled her and raped her – afterwards her neck hurt so much that she couldn't eat for three days. Another girl climbed a tree to escape, but the soldiers pulled her down out of the tree and then raped her. Later she ran back to the village and told the village headman, "We can't go back there – they raped us" – and described what had happened. The next day the village headman reported it to the SLORC officer, and he took action by beating those soldiers. The girls' names are Naw Mee Mee, Aye Mya Kyi and Ma Kyi Ket.

 

Interview: 33  HRV:  Displacement, Execution, Livelihood, Refugees, Relocation,

                                  Slavery, Women

 


Name:                   Daw Mya Thein

Sex:                       Female

Age:                       39

Ethnicity:              Burman

Religion:               Buddhist

Family:                 Married with 5 children

Address:                Mi Kyaun Win Village, Papun District

Interviewed:         early February 1994


 

 

My village is located southwest of Papun. It is a Burman village and there are about 50 houses. There are many Burman villages in the area, and many Karen villages. Two of my sons are in Burmese army, but I don't know where they're posted. [Note: like the majority of people in the area, the boys are probably illiterate and cannot write letters, or they may be prevented from writing letters by their officers, a common practice in the Tatmadaw.]

 

We came six days’ walk to the refugee camp about 15 days ago [late January 1994] because at home it was very hard to survive anymore. SLORC made us do slave labour and pay tax for "porter fees". For porter fees each family had to pay 320 Ks every month [SLORC claims that this money is to pay salaries to conscripted military porters, but porters are never paid]. We had to do so much slave labour that we had no time left to work. If my husband couldn't go I had to go in his place. Mostly we had to carry the soldiers' rice and supplies from the village to Nat Kyi Military Camp. As a woman, they made me carry 16 kg at a time. We also had to go for a week or 15 days at a time to do labour at the military camp. We had to clean the military camp compound, clear all the scrub from both sides of the road, dig trenches and make fences for the soldiers, cut down trees and bamboo, and make leaf roofing shingles for them. If you don't go you have to pay money. Sometimes even while we were carrying for them they also forced us to give them chickens, goats and pigs in addition. Between each 15-day shift of labour we were left with only 10 days to provide for our families. While we were working at the camp they only gave us some food. They beat people and sometimes even killed them. I saw them beat men from my village – their names were Nga Tin, Nga Soe, Aung Khin, Maung Aye, and Ta Yot Pyu. I don't know why the soldiers beat them – maybe they didn't like the way they were working. SLORC soldiers have also beaten my relatives and others in Bilin Town and Mi Kyan Win, Shan Ywa, Tha Yet Pin Kyaun, and Meh Pu villages. They beat my relatives Maung Tin Than [male] and Ma Khin Nyunt [female], because they were too afraid and didn't answer properly when the soldiers asked them some questions.

 

The people they killed were mostly from Karen villages. They suspected them, accused them of being Kaw Thoo Lei and killed them, but these people were just civilians. I saw five of them. Three of their names were Aung Thin, Ngy Soe, and Aung Pu, but I don't know the names of two others, and I don't know where they were killed. We just saw the SLORC soldiers beat them with a very big stick, drag them out of their houses and then out of the village. The soldiers killed them just on account of "suspicion".

 

The soldiers force all the men to guard the road, and sometimes the men have to go in front of the troops on operations just to clear the landmines. One man from every village or group of houses has to go, sometimes 200 or 300 men altogether because there are so many little groups of houses around. They have to walk in front along with one cart pulled by a cow, then the soldiers follow behind. No landmines exploded near my village, but it happens sometimes in other places. The villager steps on the landmine and the soldiers just ignore and leave him there. They never help those men. In our area they don't force us to clear the road when a truck is coming, but when they come on foot they always drive people in front of them.

 

Last November [1993] SLORC were on operation, and they came and raped Mi Cho, Aye Ma, and Mi Nwe. The soldiers just went into their houses and raped them. They didn't get pregnant, but they reported it to the SLORC officer. He punished the soldiers by making them run around the village with heavy packs on.

 

Sometimes the villagers are so afraid that they run away from the soldiers, and then the soldiers try to catch them and beat them. Whenever SLORC goes on operations they come and take women porters from our village. When they can't catch the men they force the women to carry supplies to Nat Kyi Camp for them. Two months ago they came and took 50 porters from our village, including pregnant women. They forced them to carry supplies to Noh Kaw Hta and Noh Kaw Kee. They don't care about age. If a girl is big enough to carry two big tins (one tin holds about 15-18 litres) then the soldiers force her to carry for a one or two night trip, including old women and pregnant women.

 

They also force villages to move. They forced villagers from Tha Yet Pin and Shan Ywa villages to move to Mi Kyaun Win, and Tha Yet Pin Seit had to move to Kyaik Maw Win. At the new places the villagers had to clear the bush to build houses by themselves, and there were landmines close all around. They have to go very far just to get water, at least 500 metres down the hill. Now they just have to survive day by day, doing day labour for money cutting bamboo, cutting sugarcane or cutting wood. About 400 families from my area have already fled. Everyone from small villages has to flee to big villages, the forest, or the refugee camps. My village has 50 houses, but when I left there were already 200 houses there from all the smaller villages around. Over the last three months very many villagers have been sick. At least five or six adults have died of sickness in my village, and at least 10 children.

 

Now around my village everyone is getting poorer and poorer, especially every time SLORC starts an operation. There are so many ways they abuse us, and I feel great pain about them. If I were a man I would arm myself and fight to avenge all of their horrible treatment of villagers. But as for going back, absolutely not. I'll end my life here.

 

Interview: 34  HRV:  Child, Execution, Forced Labour, Livelihood, Relocation

 


Name:                   Maung I—

Sex:                       Male

Age:                       42

Ethnicity:              Burman

Religion:               Buddhist

Family:                 Married with 2 children

Occupation:         Trader

Address:                Hlaing Bwe Township, Kaen State

Interviewed:         16 March 1994


 

 

[The following account of some of SLORC’s severe mistreatment of villagers in the Hlaing Bwe Township area of Pa-an District in Karen State was given by an ethnic Burman trader who travels the area buying and selling goods. As such, he gets a very good view of the systematic human rights abuses being conducted in the whole area by SLORC troops.]

 

I’m Burman myself, but I want to tell you about all the many kinds of abuse SLORC does to all the villagers around there, about forced labour, slave labour, torture, collecting porters, and murder. They do such horrible things. Starting from last November and December 1993, it was time for them to build roads up to their operations areas [the “frontline”]. There are very many villages in Pain Kyone Township [east of Hlaing Bwe] – like Tha Mo, Pah Gyi, Pah Ka, Leh Ghay, Leh Gyi, Nya Mayaw, Pa Nah Gyi, and Eh Thay Gone. The SLORC troops collect at least 20, or sometimes 30 or 40 villagers from each village to do slave labour building the road, and the villagers have to bring their own food. Mostly what the villagers have to do is clear the bushes on both sides of the road. SLORC hopes that if there are mines there the villagers will step on them, so by clearing the bushes they are really clearing mines for SLORC. Also, before the army trucks come along the road they force the villagers to go along the road first in their cattle carts. SLORC wants to get rid of landmines, so they use the people to sweep for them. All the villagers who live near the road have to suffer like this.

 

SLORC is building a road from Hlaing Bwe Town to their Operations Camp of 928 Military Strategic Command, at Ler Bu. They are building the road right now. I’ve heard many times of villagers being beaten while working on the road, but I haven’t seen it myself. The village heads are all getting orders demanding slave labour. I think they could use their soldiers to do the work, but they just oppress the villagers instead. The Karen villages have to suffer the most. The villagers have no time to work for their families, because most of the time they have to work for SLORC. They have nothing to eat. They have already given all their livestock to SLORC soldiers.

 

There are also many kinds of slave labour cleaning the compound in the army camp, finding firewood for the soldiers, cutting bamboo for them, and sometimes we have to carry water for them. It is hard labour so the villagers don’t want to go. Sometimes the villagers don’t go, so the soldiers send an order to the village head saying, “You’re responsible for the village, so collect the villagers and bring them to work or else we will come arrest all of you and take severe action.” Once when Tha Mo Village refused to go for slave labour they sent a package to the village head with a message that said, “You figure out what this means.” When the village head opened it he saw one red chilli, one bullet, and one piece of charcoal. At first no one understood it, but then people guessed; the chilli is very hot, so it means we have to suffer a hot situation and a great deal of trouble, the bullet means they will shoot us and kill us, and the charcoal means they will burn down our village. After that the villagers were very afraid to refuse again. SLORC was threatening them.

 

They kill porters – they use old porters and if they can’t carry anymore or get sick, the soldiers kill them or leave them behind. We see their dead bodies in the forest. They also killed a friend of mine named U Soe Thein from Ka Ma Ko Village. They just beat him to death with a very big stick. No one knows why they killed him. This happened in November 1993. In every village which is anywhere near a military camp, SLORC orders the village head that no lights can be used in the village, no one is allowed to use a flashlight, and no one can go out before 6 a.m. The order says anyone who breaks the rule will be shot on sight.

 

In Ter Pa Ket Village in March 1993, one night at about 9 o’clock there were many villagers at one house for a funeral. The villagers were drinking. SLORC IB 28 came into the village and went straight to that house. When the villagers saw the SLORC troops they were very afraid, so one began to run so they grabbed him and shot him, but he was still alive so they beat him to death with a very big pounding stick. The villagers’ names were Bo Dot and Saw Heh. Both of their wives had already died. Saw Heh took very good care of his three children, but now his three children are orphans. It’s a horrible crime.

 

The soldiers are trying to drive Pain Kyone Village out, but the village has not moved yet. The people there say they won’t leave their village and their farms, so for now they are still living there. SLORC came with a bulldozer and bulldozed Gaw Ler Village without even warning them first. It was a small Karen village, with about 10 houses. The villagers had to run away, and they couldn’t even carry their belongings. Then SLORC built a camp for IB 338 and 39 there. They had a budget from the army to build the camp, but they didn’t use it. They used slave labour of villagers from Ta Maw, Pa Gyi, Wah Kyi, Pah Ka, Da Maw Kah Kee, Nat Kyi, Tha Yet Taw, and Leh Ker Day villages. Most of the people there are Pwo Karen.

 

My village is Burman, so they don’t do too much there, but they abuse the Karen villages much more. There are IB 338, 39 and 28, and they belong to 928 Operations based at Ler Bu. I only know Lt Kyaw Kyaw from IB 28. IB 28 is the worst, but the others are also bad. Whenever they enter villages they steal as much of the villagers’ livestock as they can catch, and loot the villagers’ property. Most of the Burman villages are closer to the town, so they are more careful about human rights and they treat the people better. But sometimes if they need porters, they surround the cinemas even in the downtown area, grab the people and use them as porters.

 

The “porter fees” we have to pay are indescribable. We have to pay them several times a month. One old woman complained that, “We are very poor already, but to make it worse we must pay porter fees many times. Sometimes there’s no money to pay with. I had to sell my daughter’s new sarong just to get money to pay porter fees.” The amount depends on the situation – sometimes we have to pay twice a month, sometimes three times. Each time we pay 200, 300 or 400 Ks – the minimum is 200. Most people are now just living from hand-to-mouth. Some are traders, like me, but we have to cross so many high mountains just to get our living. It’s a very hard road, and rocky. No one wants to earn their living the hard way, but they have no other way to earn it, so they must in order to survive.

 

Some villages are quite big, so the villages collect money and build a school for their children, but then SLORC doesn’t allow it. They come to the village and give the villagers big problems. So the villagers have to teach their children secretly. SLORC has a school close to the town, and they say that any villager who wants their children to go to school must send them to this school and no other. But the villagers can’t because it’s too far. To get there takes a 7-hour walk, from early morning till noon. [With all SLORC’s looting and porter fees, the parents could never afford to pay boarding fees in town for their children, and they also need them at home at least part of the day to work for the family’s survival]. Now SLORC has called all the heads of villages to a meeting to pay donations for education. Each village must pay 1,000 Ks, and SLORC says this money is to pay for education everywhere, including Rangoon. But I think they’re just taking the money for themselves.

 

Interview: 35  HRV:  Forced Labour, Refugees, Torture, Women

 


Name:                   Pa Li Kloh

Sex:                       Female

Age:                       25          

Ethnicity:              Karen

Religion:               Buddhist

Family:                 Single

Occupation:         Farmer

Address:                Hlaing Bwe Township, Karen State


 

 

I arrived here a few weeks ago. In my village, the SLORC troops always came and grabbed people to do forced labour. Because of that, we don't have any time to do our own work. Even when we go to our fields the soldiers come and grab us. One day the soldiers suddenly arrived at my hut. My older brother and sister escaped, and I was left alone with just my two younger sisters. They started crying loudly, and then two of the soldiers came up to me, pointed their guns at me and told me to follow them. They took me to their camp. When we got there I saw our village headman and asked him to vouch for me so I could escape. Some of my girl friends were also there.

 

The soldiers didn't give us any food, and at night we were very hungry. I told my friends I didn't want to sleep there, but it was raining heavily and my friends said, "Don't try to escape. We will sleep close together tonight for safety." Later I found that there was a soldier there who speaks Karen who already wanted me and had already told his officer that he wanted to sleep with me, but at the time I didn't know, so I went to sleep close to my two girl friends. When I fell asleep, the soldier came over and grabbed me. I told him, "I don't like you. You are not of my people," but he said, " I'll take you and you'll have to be my wife." I kept refusing. The next day they let us go, but he followed me to my house. Along the way I tried to look very angry and didn't smile, because I hated him and wanted him to know it. Then he stayed for three days at my house with my family [SLORC soldiers often intrude on families this way, and there is nothing the family can do]. After three days he asked me to go back with him. My mother was very worried because she said he would just take me and keep me in the jungle, but I dared not refuse so I had to go. He kept me at the camp for three days and raped me in the daytime. I told him, "I don't like you and I won't marry you," but he kept saying, "I will marry you and look after you." Then he took me back to my house and forced my parents to marry him. They had to because they couldn't do anything else. Then he said he would take me home with him. He took my earrings and my clothes and sold them. Then he took me to Rangoon. He asked me to go watch videos with him, but when we arrived at the movie house he slapped me in the face so hard I got dizzy. He dragged me back to his house, started beating me up and told me he would sell me in Myawaddy [meaning across the border into a Thai brothel – Myawaddy is at the Thai border]. After that I escaped when he wasn't there and went back to my village, but every time I did this he followed me, caught me and beat me again. He told me to give him all my belongings, and he kept beating me up all the time. One day when I was in my village he came back to my house very drunk. I told him to eat something, but he told me he didn't want to eat and slapped me in the face. I got very angry and told myself, "I hate this man. I didn't want to marry him, and now I have to retaliate even though I am a woman." So I kicked him right out of my house. He fell under the house, then tried to climb the ladder to get in again but every time I kicked him down again.

 

He got very angry and said, " You don't respect me – you're trying to humiliate me. You're a woman but you keep kicking me." Suddenly he managed to grab me and tried to strangle me. One of my cousins came to help me and I escaped and ran away. The soldiers went to my father and told him, "Tonight I'll kill her and burn your rice barn." He ordered my father and sister to look for me, and they found me in a small hut where I was hiding and took me home. I washed my feet and went in, and the soldier asked me stupid questions like, "Do you have brothers and sisters? Are your parents still alive?" I said yes. He asked, "Do you have your own family?" I said no. Then he told me, "Make your bed. Tonight you will be killed, and I'll drink your blood. I won't leave this house until I've drunk your blood. Here is the knife. Wait and see, you are worthless. When I kill you, I'll also kill your parents, brothers and sisters. But the most important thing is that I must drink your blood before I leave. Then I'll burn your body until only ashes remain, and I'll put all the villagers on a skewer and burn them all. And I'll kill all the monks!"

 

I got up and escaped. I went to another house, and the people told me, "He's taken his gun and he's looking to kill you, and he's going to burn the rice barn at your house." I dared not stay in the village anymore, so I ran to J— Village and talked to the headman. He said, "If you want to go, then go. He might try to follow you. Just go." So I came here together with my father and we built this house. We arrived a few weeks ago. I was married to a soldier for about three months ago. His name is Soe Soe, and he is from IB 358. If he ever finds me, he'll kill me at once. The battalion commander is Maj Aung Khine.

 

I got pregnant, but when the soldier was beating me he always kicked me in the belly, and it hurt the baby inside. When I was two months pregnant I lost the baby because he beat me. Even now, I still don't feel completely well. It hurts inside, and I can't do heavy work or carry anything heavy anymore. I feel dizzy all the time.

 

We are all suffering because of them, and we can't suffer any longer. If people had enough food they could survive in my village, but they don't. We had a religious ceremony in our village and many people came, so SLORC came to get people for forced labour. We asked them to wait two or three days for the ceremony to finish, but they didn't listen. They came in and tied up the headman they'd appointed for the village [in each village SLORC appoints a villager as headman and others as a "committee" usually against their will. The villagers also have their own real headman]. They told him, "You said your villagers are good, but when we need them they are lazy." Then they started beating him up, kicking him, and slapping him in the face, and then they took people away without even letting them get a change of clothes or their slippers [when entering a Buddhist temple compound people must leave their footwear outside].

 

Once when my younger sister had to go do labour and guard the road, the soldiers said to them, "We asked for 20 people for labour and you only send 10. Why? Do you feel strong enough to do the work of 20 people?" Then they forced two women to carry one sack of rice [this is a job for four people] and they didn't even give anyone any food. When they got home they were sick. I've been a porter many times and they never gave us food. When we got weak and couldn't carry anymore they yelled at us: "Go!" They beat up the men but not the women. Whenever they caught a man, they tied him up and beat him up right away. They come to the village to grab porters every month, in every season. We have to for two or three days at a time. Then sometimes we have to go home to get some food and go straight back to work. As for my brother, he was arrested last year. They tied him up, beat him and tortured him. We asked the soldiers for permission to see him but they refused. Then this year, they beat him up again. They kicked him, hit him with a bamboo rod and slapped him.

 

It took us two days' walk to come here. We dared not go back. We wanted to go across and stay on the Thai side [of the border] but we were told to stay here.

 

Interview: 36  HRV:  Livelihood, Refugees, Slavery, Torture, Women

 


Name:                   Naw Paw Ther

Sex:                       Female

Age:                       32

Ethnicity:              Karen

Religion:               Buddhist

Family:                 Widow with 2 children (age 5 and 11)

Occupation:         Farmer

Address:                Hlaing Bwe Township, Karen State


 

 

I arrived here two weeks ago. Last month when I had to go for slave labour, I was raped by a soldier. We went to work at their army camp for five days, and when we got there they refused to give us any food. Everyone had to work without food, so the next morning my friends and I had to go back to the village to get some food. After we brought it back to their camp, two men escaped from the slave labour at night, so the soldiers went to try to catch them and made things harder for the rest of us. That's why they wouldn't let us go back to the village after that. Altogether there were 19 of us, 11 men and 8 women. That night a soldier came, grabbed my shoulders and pushed me down. Then he covered my mouth so I couldn't yell. Then he kissed me and he raped me. I felt so terrible. The soldier said, "Don't tell anyone about this", but I said, "I will tell because I fell so terrible about it." I went to his commander Myint Shwe Htoo to report it and told him how terrible I felt, and he told me I could go do whatever I liked, so I left. He made the soldier carry a log around the camp just once as punishment. I don't know the soldier's name. This happened a month ago at K— Camp of IB 28. It is close to our village.

 

The labour we have to do at the army camp is cutting trees and bamboo. We haven't been beaten at this army camp, but when we have to go for work at other army camps I've seen the soldiers beat people on the head with a big stick. Then when they've beaten them enough, they start kicking them, and then they make them keep working. The soldiers never give them medical treatment, just beat them and make them work. I've also had to go as a porter to carry ammunitions and rice – sometimes only 3 viss [5 kg] but sometimes 10 or 20 viss [16 to 32 kg]. We had to go two days' walk in one direction, and sleep on the ground, in open places in the mountains. I saw them beating the porters who got weak and couldn't carry. They beat them with a bamboo rod on the back, the hips, the arms and legs, and yell "Go! Go!" One time they didn't give us any food, just let us starve for two or three days. My aunt L— was crying because she was hungry. We cried and we asked permission to go home and get food but they refused. Even though we were crying they refused. My aunt L— is 48 years old and has four children. People got stomach-aches from starvation. All of our food we'd brought from the village was finished because they told us we were going for just one day, then they kept us for several days. The soldiers also make us give porter fees of 45 Ks from each person every month, and when we can't afford to pay them, they come to our village and arrest people [the soldiers claim that "porter fees" is money to pay munitions porters, but the money is never used for anything like this – all porters are taken on a slave basis].

 

When I have to go as a porter, my children have to stay with relatives. My husband died last year. He was taken as a porter, he was sick when he got home, and then he died. My father is also dead. Only my mother is still alive. We didn't want to stay there anymore, so I came here with my children. I don't want to go back.