* To monitor human rights situations in Mon territory and other areas southern part of Burma
* To protect and promote internationally recognized human rights in Burma
human rights foundation of monland
Human Rights Publication
4/95 (May 22, 1995)
P. O. Box 11, Ratchburana, Bangkok 10140, Thailand
Human Rights Interviews with New Arrivals in Halockhani Refugee Camp
Backgrounds of Interviews
Many ten hundreds of new arrivals from several townships of Mon territories had fled to border refugee camps like Halockhani and Payaw after they were severely persecuted by SLORC troops in their native places during this dry season. Mostly, more than 1000 new arrivals fleeing from Tavoy district areas sought refuge in Payaw where they hoped it has more safety than Halockhani refugee camp. Among the three districts of Mon territories, the Tavoy district have been under the most serious conditions of SLORC's abuses for the villagers and the most refugees had to flee from the many villages of this district. Although the villagers in Moulmein and Thaton districts have been seriously suffered by violation of SLORC troops, they have very lack of opportunity to flee to the border areas. When the villagers from Moulmein and Thaton districts decided to flee, mostly, they fled to Halockhani refugee camp.
Halockhani, which the campsite is in the dispute areas of Thai-Burma border, have been situated under the vulnerable conditions for the attack of SLORC troops. It was already attacked by the SLORC's Infantry Battalion No. 62 in July of last year and the troops burnt down one section of the camp which far about three kilometres from the main camp and they also attempted to advance to the main camp. In such situations, all 6000 Mon refugees had fled into Thai territory and appealed for the new resettlement in a safe site of Thai territory. But the Thai authorities had consistently refused to allow those displaced refugees in their territory and pushed them back again to the former unsafe campsite. In 1993, those refugees were safely taken refuge in deeply Thai territory. But at the beginning of 1994, the Thai Government forcedly repatriated them to the mentioned unsafe campsite by giving more intensive pressure to the New Mon State Party to urgently make cease-fire agreement with SLORC.
After the SLORC took power in Burma in 1988, the Thai Government had established business relationship with SLORC to exploit natural resources from Mon and Karen territory. The Thai government had planned for buying natural gas from Burma's western offshore parts of Mon territory and construction darns in Karen territory.
Even though the Halockhani camp have been likely very unsafe site, for the new arrivals who were suffering for many kinds of human rights abuses by the SLORC troops in Burma, after they had no choice for the safe place for their families, they have sought refuge in Halockhani camp. During recent March and April, there were about 200 new arrivals had arrived to Halockhani refugee camp, mostly from Moulmein and Thaton District. To collect the informations from those new arrivals how they were suffered of SLORC abuses, the human rights worker of Human Rights Foundation of Monland (HURFOM) made interviews for the special cases from respective areas of their native place.
Name: Nai Ha Geed
Sex/ Age: Male/ 32 years
Nationality/ Religion: Mon/ Buddhist
Native Place: Panga village, Thanbyuzayat Township
Date of Interview: 28 April, 1995.
I left my village because the Burmese troops conscripted me to join in Burmese Army in the recent second week of February and I had to flee from my village. Actually, I would like to stay there to survive the life of my family and earnestly to allow my children to study in the school.
Over 10 years ago when I was 17 years old, I left from the my village and joined the Mon Army at that time. After I served as Mon soldiers in Mon National Liberation Army for three years, I left the Army and I went into Thailand to seek a job. I had worked in mining areas of Thailand-Cambodia border for two years, even I got some money in mining I spent it all as I was single. After I worked in mining for two years, I returned back to the Kanchanaburi Province (in Thailand) again, to work as labourers in plantation areas. I got good jobs with good salaries and at that time, I could save some my money. When I was 24 years old, I got marriage with one Mon woman from Sangkhlaburi.
I still had good jobs in a rubber plantation and had a son after we married for two years. Then, last two years ago, I had another one daughter and so, I decided to return to my native village to live with my parents and to survive my life and the future of my children in there. As soon as I arrived at village in April last year, the Burmese soldiers from Local Infantry Battalion No. 32 came to me and interrogated me how many years I had joined in Mon Army and what was my promotion. I answered to them all true of my past about joining Mon Army for three years and I left Mon Army for a long time. Actually, after I left the Mon Army, it did not use or conscript me to work for the army when I was in civilian life, even sometime I met my old commanders. I also admitted to the Burmese soldiers that I was a corporal when I worked for Mon Army and I retired for a long time and when I was civilian, the Mon Army never used me. But they did not satisfy to me and slapped me to admit I was Mon soldier and to surrender to them officially. I was brought to Thanbyuzayat military battalion and interrogated me again and again by accompanying with many kinds of tortures. It was very impossible for me to admit as I was Mon soldier last years. But I was released by the guarantee of my aunt who married with a Burmese soldiers.
After that, I was enabled to stay at my native village again and my son could attend to the school. I worked as a farmer in my parent's farmland. But the problem was come out again when one Mon commander, Tala Bone, surrendered to the Burmese Army at the end of last year. After that commander surrendered, the Burmese Army have tried to form a Mon faction to oppose the New Mon State Party. I did not know why he surrendered to Burmese troops and what was the next plan of them, as I was very busy in my farmland. In second week of January, the Burmese soldiers approached to husband of my aunt again and started to organize me again to release information I was a commander of Mon Army and had already surrendered to them and would cooperate with local SLORC authorities for the development of Mon areas. They said they will offer a possible rant, houses and other belongings which I needed if joined the new Mon faction. But I refused to join with them and reasonably, I wanted to stay in the village as an ordinary civilian, not to participate any politics or army. They were very dissatisfied on me. Then, I was taken by them to Thanbyuzayat military battalion for three days and they beated me severely. And they also told me if I refused to cooperate with them, the will imprisoned me with crime of insurgency.
At the end, I promised them I will join to the Burmese Army when the possible time was arrived after I kept all my crops in my farm. Thus, they allowed me to return home or my farm to take all of my rice to the village. It took the time for three weeks. In this three week the oftenly came to me and threatened me not to flee from the village and I told them to trust me. One day in the first week of February, I was called by them together with my aunt again. When we arrived at the military outpost of village, I was given a letter to sign. I did not know what kind of letter as I could not read Burmese language and not dare to ask them and then I signed. And they also forced my aunt to sign the letter in another room. When we left from the outpost, my aunt told me that the letter we had signed was to give them promises not to flee from village and to join the Army and the signature of my aunt was to guarantee me not to flee from the village and to force me in joining the Army as quickly as possible. Even my aunt did not want agree, but she had no choice.
In the second week of February, my aunt received informations from her husband that the Burmese soldiers will arrest me on the day after tomorrow. I realised that after they arrested they forced me as I was a surrender and the put their uniform and I must became Burmese Army's man to oppose Mon rebels. They must put to became a member of counter-insurgency group. I did not accept it. If I accepted my relatives will angry to me and the Mon Army will misunderstand on me. Therefore I decided to flee to border areas again. My aunt also agreed with me and she said she will take all responsibilities brought from Burmese soldiers. Therefore, on February 14, I left from my village at night time without bringing my wife and children as I worried for delaying. I came in the jungle way to Kannee village of Ye Township and waited them. My relatives in the village arranged for everything in bringing the whole my family to reach me in the next four days. And we fled to Halockhani refugee camp. It lasted about six days from Kannee to arrive to the camp.
Name: Nai Joon
Sex/ Age: Male/ 54 years
Nationality/ Religion: Mon/ Buddhist
Native Place: Lakepoke village, Ye Township
Date of Interview: 28 April, 1995.
I left from my village because of my ages as I could not serve for the survival of my family and the oftenly severe torturing of the Burmese troops. I had a small betel nut plantation in east of my village which I had to get income. In my plantation, the Burmese troops particularly came to take patrol for the prevention of Mon troops. When they came they always crossed around our plantation. At the same time, the road close to plantation was also used for the local peoples to travel into Thailand to seek jobs in there.
One day in third week of January, when I arrived to plantation in the morning, I knew that some villagers who travelled into Thailand had slept in my hut and I though they had managed for dinner in hut and left in that early morning. It was a common happening. But on that day, I was unlucky. As I never minded on those villagers and I continued my works in the plantation by cutting the grass. In the afternoon on that day, one company of Burmese troops, I did not know they came from which battalion, entered to my plantation. I was very late to escape. Those soldiers went around the plantation and the commander stayed in my hut and they took me with them. Initially, they asked me about the activities of the Mon troops and then when they saw like many peoples had cooked meal in my hut and they had suspicion on me. They asked me did the Mon troops come to my hut last night and did I provide them some foods for their meal. I refused and I explained them that there were some peoples who went into Thailand had cooked dinner in my hut who I did not know as I was at my home in village last night. I insisted them I just arrived in this morning and I did not know for sure who had meal in my hut, as I though some peoples, not Mon soldiers, had done it. I explained them most the peoples always slept in my hut and cooked meals, as my hut was close to stream which very possible to get water. They refused for my complaints and the commander ordered his men to beat me. About three soldiers beated me with their combat boots and rifle-butts for several time and forced me to admit I fed some Mon soldiers in my hut last night and to tell where they were. As I did not know, I constantly refused and they continuously beated. After about 15 minutes torturing, I did not know for everythings. And they left me alone and went away. When I recovered, I was unable to walk back to village and could not do anythings. I stayed at hut for all night and could not make any foods. On the next day morning, some villagers came to my hut and brought back me to village.
In the second incident, one day at the weekend of February, I was arrested on the way when I went to plantation area. In that month, I hired some labourers in my plantation to pick betel nut there and so, I brought more rice from village to feed those labourers. After I left from village about half hour on the way I went ahead, I unexpectedly met about 20 Burmese soldiers, I though they came from one outpost in Kwanbae village (where a company of Burmese soldiers from Local Infantry Battalion No. 61 of Ye, taking base), who came opposite of me. Also, I had no ability to run away in this time also. As soon as they were close to me, they asked me where I went and why I carried extra rice to plantation. I explained them as I hired about 7 labourers in my plantation, I needed to carry more rice. Actually, the military already issued orders not to keep extra rice in farm huts or plantation huts. They asked me did I know they had issued orders. I explained them that I knew the order and but I carried extra foods for labourers. Anyhow, they did not listen my words and they accused me as I sent foods for Mon soldiers who were taking base in one hill about 10 kilometres from our village. Then they took all my rice and beated me severely like the first time. I was pain too much and lied down on the ground. After they beated enough, they tied me up and took to the village. When they arrived at village leader house, they severely beated me in front of villagers as a punishment for bringing rice to Mon soldiers as they said.
In the third incident, when a company of troops from Battalion No. 61 came into our village to arrest the men to use as porters. They needed altogether about 15 men in our village and many young men had escaped, I was arrested again. And I told them to release me as I was elder persons. But they angered to me as they could not get the total 15 men from our village and beated with rifle-butt two times in my back. They said not to make any complaint to them and gave me six shells of 60 mm mortar to carry. Although it was too heavy for me, I did not dare to refuse because I afraid for their beatings. After the more distances I carried the more I was weaker and weaker and getting more tire. When we arrived at Kannee village, I went to their commander and appealed for release me. He did not want to release me and told me to pay them 5000 Kyat to hire someone to replace me. At that time, I had nothing to pay them. When they took a rest in the village, I approached to village headmen of that village and told them to help me for borrowing cashes about 5000 Kyat. As they knew me well for ever visits to their village and also I was looked like very weak and tire, they tried to find out 5000 Kyats cashes. Then, I paid to the commander and he released me. I did not know for sure they will hire someone to replace me or not, at that time. But, later I knew that they did not hire anyone with my cashes and they asked one more porter in Kannee village.
To repay for my debt in Kannee village, I had to sell half areas of my plantation with low price because I did not want to stay in the village anymore. I did not know why I was very unlucky in this year. Another half of my plantation was offered to my relatives to maintain it. My eldest son had already entered into Thailand and with hopes he can provide me and previously, I decided to join my son. Actually, It was not so easy and the situation was not offered to enter into Thailand. It is very different from last 20 years ago. Therefore, I decided to stay in this camp because we can get assistances for our survival.
Name: Nai Ah Gai
Sex/ Age: Male/ 20 years
Nationality/ Religion: Mon/ Buddhist
Native Place: Taungchun village, Yebyu Township
Date of Interview: 29 April, 1995.
I came here to take refuge because the Burmese soldiers had already burnt down the whole village of us including my house and decided to came here. The reason they burnt down our village was I think they suspected our villagers supporting the Mon troops to stay in our village. Actually, our village was in the fighting areas between the Mon soldiers and Burmese soldiers, the Mon or the Burmese soldiers always came into our village. The difference one is that we always had to flee when the Burmese soldiers came into village because they arrested the men for portering and tortured the villagers, while Mon troops came it was no need for us to flee. When we fled from the village, the Burmese troops angered to us and later, they accused us the supporters of Mon troops, because we were always in village when Mon troops came.
Following this suspicion, about 80 soldiers of Burmese troops with 40 porters came into our village on March 23 to destroy our village. The troops was from Local Infantry Battalion No. 104 and led by Lt. Aung Nyein. They arrived at our village at mid-night. As soon as they arrived in the village, all men in the village urgently waked up and fled away to escape from the arrests of Burmese soldiers. I also escaped without my family to the southern part of my village. At that night I slept in one farm hut which 2 kilometre far away from the village with another two villagers. In the whole night, the Burmese soldiers climbed on every houses by searching for Mon soldiers but they took the belongings and properties of the villagers. The troops slept there for one night and in the morning about 8:00 a. m., they gathered everybody in the middle of the village and told to the villagers, mostly women and elders, to tell them which houses the Mon soldiers had always slept. The villagers were quiet. The villagers who can speak Burmese explained them, they did not know which houses the Mon soldiers had slept and as they knew the Mon soldiers always slept at monastery or buildings in the road sections (in Mon tradition, they always build a small building in every sections of road in the village, to take rest or use for offering foods to the monks in the morning). Although some explained them a lot and they did not accept for the complaints and they told to the villagers, if they refused to show the houses they wanted to know, they will burn down the whole village. At the end, about 10:00 a. m., they burnt the whole village. They did not allow any villager to pick up their belongings.
When I saw some smoke came out to the sky, I and other villagers knew our village was burnt down and three of us fled back to the village. On the half way, my wife and other women also fled out of village because the Burmese soldiers drove out them with acute order. No one dared to stay in the village at all. After I got my child and we fled back to hut I slept last night again. The reason why the soldiers angered to villagers was that they had already told to the villagers last one week ago that all villagers to move from Taungchun village and to relocate in Kyaethonenyima village. But the villagers always refused to relocate by themselves in Kyaethonenyima. Because the villagers did not want to abandon their village of with proper households, good surroundings and the farmlands nearby. Our village had about 60 households and mostly we were farmers. But most of the villagers were poor as we had to pay for many kinds of taxation to the Burmese troops and they always took our properties or belongings when they came into village, was as a common.
After they burnt down our village, they had waited in the village to prevent for whom tried to return to the village again. I was not dare to return back and stayed for two nights in that farm hut with shortage of food and I tried to get some foods around the farms. I went to the my relatives in Kyaethonenyima and I borrowed some cashes and rice from them. And, altogether three families of us tried to take refuge in the border areas. As I have never came in this area and we were wrong the way and so, we crossed into Ye township areas which took the time nearly one week to reach Halockhani. On the way, we needed to avoid the Burmese troops' activities taking there and it was very dangerous. Because of the long trip to the border, my 9 months child seriously got sick. When we reached Halockhani, one family, who have no child like us, went into Thailand to seek job there.
Name: Nai Soe Khaing
Sex/ Age: Male/ 50 years
Nationality/ Religion: Mon/ Buddhist
Native Place: Hlaingkhani village, Kawkareik Township
Date of Interview: 30 April, 1995.
When I came to this refugee camp, many villagers who were staying in the forest and some in the farmlands, although would like to come, it was impossible for them as they did not want to abandon their farmlands but it was also very dangerous of the actions of the Burmese troops on the half way. I just arrived here one month ago. Now, I had already abandoned my farmland and house in the village. I do not want to return back if the Burmese troops were still active in the village because I ran away to avoid their tortures.
In third week of December, when I worked in farmland for keeping my crops, a company of Burmese troops from Infantry Battalion No. 62 which was active in that areas, came straightly to my hut and many labourers working with me had run away. But I did not run as I think they would not mistreat me because I was elder man. When they arrived my hut, they asked why other peoples run away and from where they came. I told them they came from the same village of me, as they were afraid of arrests. And the commander angered to me and said they did not arrest any innocent villagers and accused those fleeing villagers were as rebels. He said "because of they are rebels so, they flee and you are the one who allowed the rebel to stay around this farmland areas and did not to inform the Tatmadaw (Burmese Army)". I refused for his accusation like those villagers fled away were farmers who worked with me and they were not Mon soldiers. But he did not believe to me and ordered his men to torture me. Then, two strong soldiers brought me to water pool near my hut and dropped me into water. They immersed me in water to admit for the true and not to make any argument to their commander and they beated me with rifle-butts and combat boots several times and immersed in the water again. I was nearly died. They immersed me and tortured me for three rounds and brought me to their commander again. The commander kicked me two times with his boots and told me to admit for my crime. After the soldiers tried to torture again, I admit the villagers were rebels and they stopped beating me. They asked me that the names of those villagers. Before they left, they warned they will return back to my farmland again and if someone fled from my hut like that, they said they would kill me.
After I was severely tortured, the villagers brought me to the village and treated with one tradition doctor for one month. Because of the military offensive of Burmese troops in our areas, mostly, the men in the village had gone away and I could not go anywhere because of my inter pain. When I was treated in the village in the second week of January, about 100 Burmese troops came into village again to arrest some men for portering. Although I slept inner room of my home, when one soldier climbed on to find and take some belongings, and he arrested me. As soon as I was arrested, I insisted that I was a patient and to release me. But they refused, and one soldier beated in my stomach and it was too pain. Then they gave six mortar shells to carry and I demanded them I was unable to carry. So, they told me to pay them 6000 Kyat to hire for replacement of me. And my daughter immediately find to get 6000 Kyat of ransom. They said they had no time to wait us and they continued their trip and they forced me to carry mortar shells. When troops were ready for trip, my daughter arrived and paid them the ransom. And they released me.
As I had a lot of debts in recent time, so I needed to sell half of my farmland. Another half of farmland was offered to my eldest son who decided to continuously stay in the village. Although we stayed in the village, the most of our time was to hide in the jungle or escape in farmlands. Therefore, even it was not so easy, our family decided to come here. On the way (in the areas of Moulmein District), we had to swerved the way for avoiding the activities of the Burmese troops and it took for three weeks to arrive this camp. We slept many nights in the thick jungle as we did not dare to approach some villages which were in suspicion of the Burmese troops taking bases. But we could reach to this place with many difficulties.
Name: Nai Ngwe Htun
Sex/ Age: Male/ 25years
Nationality/Religion: Mon/ Buddhist
Native Place: Baleh Kapol village, Ye Township
Date of Interview: 30 April, 1995.
Last year, although I stayed at Halockhani refugee camp of Baleh Donephai village, after it was attacked by Burmese troops I went away as not dare to stay here again. After we were attacked by Burmese troops last year I escaped from the arrests of Burmese troops because I was in jungle to cut bamboo shoots, when they used the men as human shields in advancing to attack the main Halockhani camp. When I returned back in the evening, the whole village was already burnt down by the Burmese troops of Battalion No. 62 and my wife was crying and busy for picking some rest belongings like rice, clothes, pots and etc., which were in our half-burnt house. And we fled with other refugees to the Thai Border Police checkpoint for safety. We stayed at checkpoint with temporary shelter nearly for two months and after the Thai Army took the rice warehouse in the camp, the camp leaders told to return back to our former site again. I would like to build my house in main camp, but it was impossible and I decided to stay in Baleh Kapol village which had only five houses at that time. After we moved there it increased about 20 households because some refugee family joined in. The houses situated separately in the slope of mountain and it far for one day walk from Beleh Donephai village.
On April 6, while I was on the way to return my hut after cutting heavy bamboos, the Burmese troops arrested me because I had no enough chance to flee by carrying heavy load. About 200 troops was Light Infantry Battalion No. 403 and it came from Three Pagoda Pass. They also arrested other 30 porters with their troops. When they crossed closely to the Baleh Donephai village, it was small fighting also occurred with Mon troops and also the porters carried two wounded soldiers. As soon as they arrested, they beated me first and asked the activities of Mon troops and Karen troops. I said I did not know by shaking my head because I did not understand the Burmese language well and they beated me again mostly with rifle-butts. Initially, they gave me only one bag of their wounded soldiers to carry and on the next day morning they gave another one chain round of ammunition, and it became too heavy for me. On the second day of the trip, when they arrived one Karen village Kamon they shot four innocent Karen villagers to dead. Those four men just came out from the village and so, they thought the Karen soldiers tried to ambush them and they shot. The four villagers died on spot as I was eyewitness and we also stepped over the dead bodies of those villagers.
In the evening we arrived one Karen village again. As soon as they arrived the village they catched animals in their houses and took the belongings. Except the elder persons, most villagers had already fled away. After we left from that village about half hours, the Karen guerrillas ambushed them again. It lasted only 5 minutes and one Burmese soldier wounded. The commander was angry too much and he kicked all porters each time with his combat boots. And the porters needed to carry another one wounded soldier. They also changed the loads with me by offering six shells of 60 mm mortar. It was more heavier than before.
All porters became weaker and weaker, because the soldiers gave us very few rice of meal. They told us they had shortage of food and no extra food for us. On the third day of trip, they gave us only one meal per day. As they were very afraid of attacks from Mon or Karen guerrillas, they did not use the common way and swerved the way by using the mountainous areas. On the fourth day, one old Mon man unable to carry the load and one sergeant severely beated and forced him to carry. The man said to the sergeant "I cannot go far away by carrying the heavy loads, please put me here sir". We heard the voice of man, no one dare to watch. By accompanying with another two soldiers to the sergeant, they beated him several time and at the end, they kicked the him from the high and steep mountain. We heard the crying voice of the man like "please help me, please help". No one could help him. As I knew among the porters, he came to the border areas to transport cows and oxes and sold it. After he sold his cows and oxes, he returned back and arrested by Burmese troops on the half way. I did not know his native place. I think he was old about 50 years.
By swerving the ways, the trip took for 10 days to arrive the Aleskan military outpost. We, all porters, were weaken and tire. Immediately, after we arrived at Aleskan, the soldiers detained all porters and did not give any food for one day and one night. On the next day, the Battalion NO. 403 troops returned to its Tavoy battalion headquarters and released all of us. Therefore, I quickly return to my home and I arrived at home after 5 days they released. At home, I got serious sickness and the villagers brought me to treat in Halockhani hospital and also my wife moved in. After I was recovered, I decided to stay in Halockhani again which must be more possible for our family to get foods and I hopes we can avoid such terrible portering.