* 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 2/95 (May 7, 1995)
P. O. Box 11, Ratchburana, Bangkok 10140, Thailand
Human Rights Interviews on Forced Relocation of Ah Mae Village
Background of interviews
Since the SLORC had planned to construct the gas pipeline through the Mon and Karen rebel active areas, the SLORC has routinely and systematically tried to relocate local villages which were believed as the bases of the rebels. This happened in March and April. Ah Mae village of Yebyu township in the Tenasserim village was a village which was totally destroyed or relocated by SLORC during the second and third weeks of April. About 130 families of the inhabitants of Ah Mae village are Mon people and mostly they are local farmers.
Initially, since the beginning of dry season, when the SLORC restarted the railway construction, that villagers had to pay for the taxation and other kinds of taxation every month. As a common situation, while the SLORC troops came into village, they always arrested some men to use as porters and sometimes, continuously, they were transferred to the labour conscripts camp to be used as slave-labours of Ye-Tavoy railway construction. Later when the small fighting occurred between the SLORC and Mon troops, the village was accused as the military base of Mon troops. After such allegation, the SLORC had legal rights to confiscate all belongings of local villagers and destroy the village. Starting in March and April the SLORC local troops of Light Infantry Battalion No. 408 and 410 ordered the villagers to move their houses from the Ah Mae village and relocate in other village named Kyaethonenyima where SLORC have a base. The villagers refused for the new relocation. The troops came into the village oftenly and punished the villagers with many kinds of human rights abuses by taking the belongings, confiscating rice, arresting villagers for portering, torturing the villagers accused them as rebels and etc.,.
Thus, the villagers had to flee from their village and displaced in the forest nearby or farm-lands. They faced shortage of food and other sufferings. At the same time, all their belongings and rice in the village were regularly taken by SLORC soldiers. In this moment, some are still hiding in the forest, while some fleeing to the border refugee camps. At the end, the village became with empty of villagers. According to the villagers who escaped to the refugee camp, the Ah Mae was pleasant village with nice surroundings and many kinds of trees growing in the village. For that good surroundings, the villagers did not to abandon their village. It will be not so sure, they can return back and stay again in coming rainy season.
On April 16, about 10 families of Ah Mae village had arrived to Payaw Mon refugee camp and sought refuge for their safety and survival. Another about 15 families arrived again at the end of April. To collect the information on the forced relocation of Ah Mae village, the human rights workers from the Human Rights Foundation of Monland (HURFOM) met some escapees from the Ah Mae villagers in Payaw refugee camp. The following interviews were come out from those victims who were ever mistreated by SLORC troops.
Name: Nai Ah Krai
Sex/ Age: Male/ 25 years
Nationality/ Religion: Mon/ Buddhist
Native Place: Ah Mae village, Yebyu Township
Date of Interview: 24 April, 1995
I just arrived to this camp on April 10 before the new year festival (water festival of Mon traditional new year). I and my family walked to this camp for four days from Ah Mae village. I have no longer tolerance of the mistreatment of the SLORC soldiers and decided to come here. I think the whole of our village was totally destroyed in this time.
In recent March of this year, the Burmese troops oftenly entered to our village for several times with reasons to arrest villagers for portering and sometimes they tried to arrest some certain villager by accusing the supporters of the Mon rebels. One day in the second week of March, I was arrested at the entrance of the Ah Mae village by the SLORC's soldiers when I returned back from farmland east of the village in the afternoon time. I think the troops was from LIB (Light Infantry Battalion) No. 408 and led by one unknown commander together with his 80 men with arms. As soon as they arrested me, they tied me up with a rope. Other 20 of men, women and children were also prevented by them not to move into the village as they worried the villagers would flee after they heard about the Burmese soldiers came into their village.
When I was tied up, they asked me how many acres of my farm and how many baskets of rice can I produce for one acres. Continuously, they asked me the amount of rice to offer the Mon troops for each family and how oftenly the Mon troops came into our village. I gave them some suitable answers which mostly true about the Mon troops and normal production of rice in my farm. I did not lie them as I was afraid them beating me. Again, they asked me who were supporters of Mon rebels in Ah Mae and Chabone village. It is hard questions for me to answer. I told them I did not know. They angried to me and beated me with their gun butts. And they asked the same questions to other men who were arrested and tied up like me. If they dissatisfied for the answers of those men, they also beated them with gun butts. I think they mostly did not satisfy to three of us among the six men they asked the questions and they accused us we knew about the Mon rebels very well and we refused to tell them.
About 5 o'clock in the evening, after they got information that there were no Mon troops in the village and they entered into the village. The whole village including men, women and children, after they knew the Burmese troops came, they fled from the village. It was seem the Burmese troops were very angry and they shot several time to the sky and if they met the men they shot directly to those men. After they arrived the village, they released other three men and all women and they detained three of us in one big house for one night. At that night, the soldiers climbed on every houses and took the belongings of the villagers.
In the next day morning, three of us were conscripted as porters to carry the ammunition along the troops. I carried six shells of 60 mm mortar which was very heavy for me as I was weak at that time. They told us we needed to carry the ammunitions to the Mae Than Taung village. On the way and first day of the trip we went to the Mae Than Taung village, one of our villagers escaped and the soldiers were very angry and beated two of us again. And they also warned to us that if they arrested the escapee, they will kill in future. We arrived in half way to Krone Zop village, we slept one night.
The next day we continued the trip again. When we arrived at Krone Zop village, we slept one night again and I got diarrhea. I could not sleep the whole night and I became weaker and weaker. In the morning, I told to one commander that I got diarrhea and to allow me to return home. But he said I lied him, and he beated me with the his gun-butt and warned me not to escape. In the morning when we left from Krone Zop village, I told the soldiers that I was very weak and to reduce the weight I carried. But they refused and I terribly carried those totally 40 kilograms on the way under the high temperature of hot sunshine.
In the mid-day, when we took a rest on the way, one of our villagers escaped again. The soldiers were very angry to me and beated me several times with their boots and gun-butts because the man came from the same village of me. They told me if they met those escapees in the village, they will kill and again, threatened me not to escape. They also kept my watch to prevent me to escape like other villagers. I thought I was nearly died after I walked together with them for three days as I got diarrhea. Sometime, even I wanted to take a rest, they did not allow me.
When they arrived at Mae Than Taung village, they stayed there for three days. In the whole time in there, they interrogated me to discover if our abbot in the village was as a supporter of Mon rebels who provided all needs. I told them I did not know was he a supporter of Mon rebels or not. Actually, in my village there were many village headmen who arrested and detained by SLORC soldiers in previous time and later, nobody dare to be a village headman. Even some village headmen who were selected by them, they ever arrested, beated and detained them for many day if they were abcent to provide for their troops. For two years ago, the abbot and village elders arranged for administration of the village, and the soldiers did not satisfy to the monk as they could not do anything as they liked. They had no way to reject the leadership of the abbot and tried to accuse him as a supporter of the rebels. After I totally refused our abbot was a supporter of Mon rebels, they beated me and forced me to admit. But I did not.
After we slept for three night in Mae Than Taung, we left from there and went to the Knot Krone village again. I was too tire. It needs for half day to walk from Mae Than Taung and Knot Krone. When we arrived Knot Krone, my diarrhea getting very serious and I got sick because of weak. The whole my body was hot and I could not eat anything. And, I asked for some medicine and treatment from medic of the troops. He gave only half tablet of paracetamol. My health condition getting more serious and I approached to their commander and asked him to release me or kill me as I had no enough strength to carry the ammunition. The commander told to the medic to check my health condition. The medic checked me and informed to the commander that I did not lie him and I had diarrhea. I thought at that time, I was nearly die. The commander told me to sleep one night in Knot Krone and made sure how much I suffered from diarrhea. On the next day, the commander knew I had serious diarrhea and allowed me to return home. I asked the commander to tell his man who took my watch to return it. He returned me. But, when I went out from the village, the soldier in the entrance of the village who took for the security forcedly took all my belonging except clothes on my body. As I wanted to arrive home quickly and I did not inform the commander about the soldier taking all my belonging. In the night I slept in one farm hut and the farmer treated me with herbal medicine for my diarrhea. I arrived at home on the next day.
After that, as the Burmese troops came into village oftenly and we were not dare to stay in the village. So, my family and me fled into the forest near the farmland to escape for the Burmese troops. As I was a labourer of farming, I had not enough rice for my family to survive and I took a little food with me. I kept some rice like secretly at the behind of my house. Nobody was dare enough to stay in the village, as they afraid the arrests of Burmese troops to use as labours in the railway construction and porters like me. Actually, at the beginning of March, the SLORC troops had already issued an order to move to the
Kyaethonenyima village, if the villagers refused they might be considered as supporters of rebels or rebels, and the soldiers can shoot the man anywhere who fleeing when they came to the village. While we were staying in the forest, we had to eat rice soup as we had no enough rice for staying two weeks. When we had no rice, we catched some fishes for meals. One time I went to the Wae Dunprin farmland areas and I got very small amount of rice from one farmers, who also hid in the farmland to escape from the Burmese troops like us.
After the whole my family displaced for two weeks I returned to my home when I heard the Burmese went out from our village. As soon as I arrived at home, I knew that all belongings from my house had been taken by Burmese soldiers. My rice at behind of my house also confiscated by the soldiers. They
left only about three baskets from totally rice I kept about 30 baskets. I brought all my rice and I sold it in Chabone village and I decided to flee to refugee camp at the border.
Name: Nai Lon Tin
Sex/ Age: Male / 40 years
Nationality/ Religion: Mon / Buddhist
Native Place: Ah Mae village, Yebyu Township
Date of Interview: 24 April, 1995
In the second week of February, I was conscripted as forced labour in the Ye-Tavoy railway construction after I was arrested in my village, Ah Mae. One day, about 100 Burmese troops of LIB No. 404 came into our village and arrested all men who unable to escape from them. At that time, I was recovered from sickness and unable to escape while other men were fleeing to escape as common when the Burmese troops came into the village. They arrested seven men in our village including me. Initially, after they arrested, we were used as porters to carry food rations of the soldiers, ammunitions and other materials which they took from other villages they had entered. They forced me to carry five shells of 60 mm mortar. We had to carry those shells for five days to Kyaethalin military camp. After we arrived Kyaetalin, although we were very tire and weak they detained us in the camp for one night. On the next day, they transferred us to Kaetalin labour conscript center where many other prisoners from several jails of Burma had been used as labours. But we were as a separate labour group which all of us were arrested in the villages around the railway construction area. We had no chance to talk with prisoners and we were put in one place separately with prisoners. In our separate hut, most of the labours were arrested as porters by the troops in the village and sent to this labour camp to work. As we knew by the soldiers we, the villagers were punished as our villages refused to offer the labours for them. Like in our village, no village headmen and impossible to send the labours and so, they arrested us to use as labour.
The work time is the whole day, which started 6: 00 a. m in the morning and stopped 6: 00 p. m in the evening. They gave us for one hour break to take launch in the mid-day. As we were porters who became as conscripted labours, we were provided with very small amount of low quality of rice from the soldiers for two meals each day without any curry. We took our meals only with salt and fish-paste everyday.
In the worksite, we had to dig the earth for the surface of embankment of the rail route and sometime, to dig out the earth from the hill for balancing the equal height of the surface of embankment. Some labours were sick and laid down on the worksite, and we had witnessed the soldiers beated them with boots and gun-butts. The soldiers never gave any medicines and treatments to the labour who were sick. As we had experienced such atrocity when we were as porters, I maintained my health conditions to not suffer from any sickness. After two weeks terribly conscripted as a labour, I was released.
After I returned back from the railway construction, the Burmese troops had already issued an order to move the villagers and to relocate in the Kaethonenyima village. All families in the village, did not want to move from their village by abandoning their houses and surroundings, farmlands and other plantation which situated close to the village. Anyhow, if they stayed in the village, they must accuse as supporters of Mon rebels and they soldiers must shoot anywhere in the village. The villagers had no way for choice and most of them including my family impossible to stay longer in the village.
One day after one week I arrived back home, when we were not ready to flee into the forest, one company of Burmese troops from LIB No. 410 came into our village and we immediately fled away from the village including my wife, my sons and daughters. We fled to the Kow Done farmland area where my farmland was there. We stayed in that area nearly for three weeks. During we were staying there, sometime, my youngest son went back to the village, and he said the soldiers took all belongings from our home and the troops were still staying in the village or oftenly came into village. I had to borrow for rice and cash from other villages for the survival of my family. After two weeks we were in farmland, I had a chance to return back to the village and to have a look to my house because I got informations the Burmese troops had already left from the village. About 40 baskets of my rice was taken by troops and they crushed many baskets of rice from our village in two small rice-mills of the village. It left only 10 baskets of rice in my house. So, I brought all those rice to Kyaethonenyima village and sold it with cheap price as I decided to escape to the refugee camp. I pay for the debts which I borrowed some cash when we were in the farmland. I did not want to stay longer in the village as the Burmese troops always threatened to us and again, I did not want to stay in the Kyaethonenyima village because I had no cash to buy some land and to build new house.
We, a crowd of altogether five families, left from the village on April 8, it took for 5 days on the way to arrive here. It was very hard experiences to arrive here by avoiding the dangers of the Burmese troops on the way. When we came here, we heard some SLORC troops' activities after two days we reached near the Kyaetalin village. In Kyaetalin village the SLORC have military outpost on the top of the hill and we needed to cross the under-construction railway and motorway in night time. One night we failed to cross the railway, as we got informations the Burmese troops went out of their outpost to take night time patrol. We were too afraid and the night was also cold. One of babies cried at night as he was sick by cool and the mother had to close her baby's mouth to be quiet. And at that night we slept in a place very close to the railway, then about 3:00 a.m., we crossed the railway.
We have ever heard about this camp from traders of our village who regularly arrive the border area. They told us when we were in the village, there were many Mons were assisted with rice who were unable to stay longer in their village for many reasons.
Name: Nai Aye
Sex/ Age: Male / 56 years
Nationality/ Religion: Mon/ Buddhist
Native Place: Ah Mae village, Yebyu Township
Date of Interview: 24 April, 1995
Since last year, we have fled from the Burmese troops many times and had no chances to stay in the village longer because of the many kinds of suppression by them. The whole dry season last year, I stayed in my farmland which far about 5 kilometers east of the village, and not dare enough to stay in the village. The Burmese troops conscripted the villagers to be porters or labours for the railway construction. Even though I was an elder man, I knew they did not forgive me in conscription of such porters or labours. Under the hard conditions of shortage of pure water, no enough food in the farmland, at the beginning of last year, I was seriously sick. My daughter brought me to Kyaukthaung village and treated me the whole rainy season. Instead of me, my son had worked in the farmland the whole rainy season.
In the third week of January, after I recovered from the sickness I returned to my home in Ah Mae again. At the time I arrived to my house, the Burmese troops oftenly came into our village and sometime they came to me and suggested to relocate our village and to tell them the place where the Mon troops took bases as I was elder man among the villagers. I thought in anytime they can make problems to me if they dissatisfied for answers. Thus it was unsafe for me to stay in the village and I would like to stay in my farmland again although my health condition was sometime seriously occurred. At that time, my son had already fled from the village and stayed in Kyaethonenyima village for day labourers or sometime as a fisherman to get some small income and he did not dare to return the village. In the first week of February, I decided to stay in my farmland again. My daughter disagreed on me to stay in farmland and prevented me. But I had no way to choose beside to stay there.
But I was unlucky. On March 30, about 10: 00 a. m about 100 soldiers of LIB No. 408 came close to my farm-hut and I had no ability to escape and I also considered they would not arrest me as I was old. If I fled, I worried they would shoot me. There were also thirty porters with them and they arrested some women from the farms nearby. I though they arrested the women because they wanted to prevent the flow of information about their troops if the women returned to village. When they arrived very closely to my hut, they suddenly surrounded my hut and arrested me. They investigated me with many questions about the Mon troops. They asked me did I see any Mon troop yesterday or today and how many of them. I admitted them for true that I met some ten Mon troops three days ago and I did not meet them yesterday. After they stayed in my hut about ten minutes and when they left, they told me to show the ways for their troops as they never came before in this area. I did not know their destination for sure. Even I have known the ways in this area well, I did not want to go with them as I was weak because of my age. Therefore, I told them to forgive me to not conscript me for portering or to show the ways. The commanders refused. I was put at the front of the troops and so, I was too frighten from the attack of Mon troops.
After we walked for three hours from my farmland, when we approached to one hill, the Mon troops ambushed to Burmese troops. I quickly laid down on the ground as soon as I heard the sound of the bullets from machine guns. The women with the troops loudly cried and it was noisy in the whole incident. Most of the bullets came from the Mon troops who were on the hill and the Burmese troops had no enough chance to attack back the Mon troops. The fighting lasted about 15 minutes and the Mon troops retreated away. The four Burmese soldiers got serious injuries and three died.
As soon as the fighting came to an end, the commander called and told me "you said there was no Mon troop around here, why did they shoot us", and he angried too much to me. And, he continued "are they Mon troops or Ah Mae villagers who attacked us", as I knew well about the attack, which was ambushed by Mon troops and I told "they are not Ah Mae villagers and I am sure they are Mon troops". But he did not believe on my any word. It was seemed that the commander wanted to accuse the attack was arranged by Ah Mae villagers who were encouraged by Mon troops. After I consistently refused for that accusation and he was very angry to me and gave order to one of his sergeants to beat me. The sergeant severely beated by fists in my stomach several times and told me to admit for the attack of the Ah Mae villagers. I got a lot of terrible painfulness. Many soldiers around me also beated in several parts of my body and the sergeant told me again and again to agree and admit for their accusation. They beated me for five minutes and I could not tolerate for further torture and I admitted like their accusation by telling "yes, the Ah Mae villagers attacked you". After I admitted like that, they stopped beating me. They treated the wounded soldiers for one hour and they left again. In that time, I was not only to direct the ways at the front of their troops and also I became as a real porter by carrying two heavy wet military bags of dead soldiers. On the way, because of the heavy bags, while my walk was slow down, the soldier behind me beated me with his gun-butt severely. I tried hard to walk as fast as possible. But impossible to walk fast and slow down again and he beated me again and again. I thought at that time, it was better for me if I was died in the previous fighting.
After we walked for one hour, we arrived close to betel nut plantation area and they stopped advancing. They ordered me and two brave soldiers to enter to the plantation to check for the Mon troops waiting to ambush in there or not. After we entered about 10 minutes in plantation, retreated back and informed the commander that the plantation area is safe. Thus, all troops entered to plantation area about 20 minutes and took a rest in one hut. As soon as I put down two heavy bags, one sergeant came close to me and suddenly beated me with his military boot and also other two soldiers came to beat me by accompanying with sergeant. I knew they were very angry to me as they though I showed the way where the Mon took convenient position to attack them and they were dissatisfy on me for their friends died in fighting. Although the soldiers severely beated me, the commander did not stop them. After they satisfied beating me, they treated their wounded friends for half hour and continued the trip again.
Like previous time, I was at the front of troops and carried two heavy bags again. After we walked for half hour, when we crossed the small river, the Mon troops ambushed again. As soon as I heard the sound of machine guns, I laid down on ground beside the road. In this time when the commander gave order to his troops to advance quickly, and I put down two bags and I fled to behind the troops. As the soldiers were hurry in advancing to attack the Mon troops, they had no time to watch me when I escaped. After I arrived behind the troops I quickly ran away to reach far from the troops. I ran to my farmland without stopping in anywhere as I worried the Burmese troops retreated back again. When I arrived closely to my farmland, I had to cross the big river. The water level in the river had already increased as the tide is rising because the river is close the sea. But I swam about 200 meter width of the river.
After I was not dare to stay in my village longer or in the farmland and I hid in the forest. I was very afraid the further arrest of the Burmese troops, as they oftenly came into our village and sometimes they crossed very closely to my farmland. Like other villagers, some of my rice in the village was confiscated by Burmese troops and later, my family members also joined me to stay in the forest. I decided to escape from my village and sold the left rice to get some small money. I left from my village on April 12 and decided abandon my farmland.
As the latest information we got, also the abbot left the village and after that, all villagers abandoned the village and I think, at presence, the whole village was empty and totally destroyed.
Name: Nai Ah Toee
Sex/ Age: Male/ 28 years
Nationality/ Religion: Mon/ Buddhist
Native Place: Ah Mae village, Yebyu Township
Date of Interview: 24 April, 1995
On the full moon day of Mike (February 14), when a group of our friends happily making the cake and other foods for religious ceremony on the next day, about 80 soldiers of Burmese troops from LIB No. 410 came into village. As we considered the Burmese troops will allow us to make cake and foods for monks as we knew most of soldiers were Buddhism. But, as soon as the troops arrived in the village, they suddenly surrounded a group of us and arrested. While some of my friends knew they arrested, they tried to escape. Some were escaped and seven of us were arrested. "The soldiers tied up with ropes and detained us in one house. They beated all of us and asked for what reasons we made the cake and foods. We told them, in tomorrow we would like to celebrate a religious ceremony in the monastery. But they did not believe us and accused us we had to celebrate Mon National Day (also on February 15) by encouragement of Mon rebels. But we refused.
The soldiers ate all foods and cakes which were aimed to contribute to the monks in tomorrow ceremony. Even though we were too angry, no one dare to make any argument to them. On that night they went around the village and they took all belongings of the villagers including rice, clothes, and even things used in the kitchen. After they finished taking foods and belongings from every houses, they slept one night in the village.
In the morning of February 15, we were used as porters to carry the ammunitions and rice, clothes and other materials which confiscated from our village. They continued the trip to Chabone village. When we arrived at Chabone village, they detained us again. And they informed to our village, if our family members wanted to release us, they must pay 5000 kyat of ransom for each. They offered for three days deadline, and if our family members unable to pay ransom, they would use us as labour in the railway construction. They told to Chabone Villagers to quickly inform the families concerned of our village.
On February 16, they brought us to the Ahbure village and detained us at that village again. When they arrived there they sold some materials which they confiscated from our village and Chabone village. On both days, they gave us only one meal food with very few amount of rice without any curry while they were cooking chicken curry, caught the chickens from our village and Chabone village. And they also threatened us as we were supporters of the Mon rebels by making foods and cakes for the troops on February 14. And they told us if our family cannot pay for ransoms, they must use us as labours in the railway construction. On February 17, as the troops did not get any informations from our village, they severely heated all of us and to write a letter to homes. One of my friend wrote a letter to the village and they allow one man of Ahbure village to send the letter.
After the families of us heard such information threatening, otherwise, to conscript us as forced labours, they tried to get some cash. To pay such ransoms to Burmese troops, they has sold some belongings and rice quickly. Some family had to sell some parts of their farmlands while some borrowed the cash from suitable people in other villages. My family sold rice with cheap price as we needed to get cash quickly. The villagers also asked the commander of the troops to delay some more days, as the families surely pay for ransoms. I did not know why the troops urgently needed for the cash and they agreed to delay one more day.
As the troops wanted only for some cash, they delayed one more day in Ahbure village and on February 19, my mother and other women arrived at the place they detained me and paid the money they brought. And they released us.