* 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 Report 5/96    (August 25, 1996)

 

 

The Contracting State shall accord to refugees lawfully staving in their territory the same treatment with respect to public relief and assistance as is accorded to their nationals.

Article 23, 1951 International Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees

 

Spontaneous Repatriation and Uncertain Future of Mon Refugees

 

Background of Mon Refugees

 

In the course of the approximately five-decade-long civil war in Burma, the numbers of displaced persons and refugees have increased along the Thai-Burma border. Alongside other ethnic nationalities the Mon have revolted against the Burmese central government since Burma's independence in 1948, demanding racial equality and the rights to self-determination for all the peoples of Burma. Many parts of the rural Mon area where the Mon National Liberation Army (MNLA), the military fraction of New Mon State Party (NMSP), is active are also included in the so-called Black Area meaning Free Fire Zone, by the Burmese Army. The Mon villagers inhabiting these rural area are likewise regarded as sympathizers or supporters of the opposition NMSP and MNLA by the Burmese Army and are normally subject to the gross human rights abuses of the Burmese Army as other rural ethnic communities in the country.

 

To escape these continued human rights violations by the Burmese Army, hundreds of thousands of members of the rural ethnic communities have abandoned their homes in Burma and fled to the strongholds of the armed ethnic opposition as internally "displaced persons" or to the borders of neighbouring countries as "refugees". Out of those Burmese ethnic people who have fled their home areas in Burma to escape the continued gross human rights violations of the Burmese Army under the on-going civil war, more than 50,000 Mon people are estimated to have arrived at the Thai Burma areas before the current military regime of Burma SLORC seized power in 1988.

 

Since the military regime SLORC took over power by means of bloody suppression of the student-led nationwide pro-democracy demonstrations in September 1988, the Burmese Army has intensified its military offensive campaigns against the armed ethnic opposition and has occupied many of their military bases. In 1990, the NMSP general headquarters in Three Pagoda Pass was also occupied by the Burmese Army and thousands of local Mon people homeless and helpless on the Thai border.

 

To facilitate for emergency needs of the Mon displaced persons, the Mon National Relief Committee (MNRC) was formed and it asked the Thai government for the establishment of refugee shelters. The MNRC has also asked for humanitarian assistance and support from foreign relief agencies and NGOs for the refugees in terms of food, clothing, medicine, educational facilities and etc.. As the human rights situation in Burma was increasingly deplorable and the refugee camp was later gradually joined by many new arrivals.

 

However, sadly the stability of the Mon refugee camp did not last long under Thailand's "Constructive Engagement" policy in dealing with Burma's ruling regime SLORC. Many of the MNRC-administrated refugee camps as well as self-help Mon villages on the Thai border have been subjected to forced relocation or repatriation by Thai authorities since 1991. At the beginning of 1994, Mon refugees from one biggest Mon refugee camp "Loh Loe" were forcefully repatriated to a Thai-Burma border-disputed area "Halockhani", which the site was close to outpost of Burmese Army and the route that Burmese Army ever used. Then, one section of Halockhani camp was attacked by Burmese in July, 1994 and the Mon refugees accepted lack of protection from Thai government after it refused the request of MNRC for the resettlement of them in Thai soil.

 

Recent Development before Repatriation

 

Because of changes of global political situation, the pressure from its business-interested neighbouring country Thailand and the enormous military deployment and offensive of SLORC accompanying with sufferings of its people in the whole territory, the NMSP decided for ceasefire agreement with SLORC and hold a ceremony on June 29, 1995, in Moulmein, the capital of Mon State. At the same time, the NMSP decided to resettle the Mon refugees along the border, internally displaced persons and other immigrants in Thailand, for whom would like to voluntarily participate and wish to settle in areas under its control. The NMSP and the Mon refugees have realized the role of Thai government on Burmese refugees that the Thai government never recognized those suffering peoples as internationally recognized "refugees" and the previous treatment such as Halockhani incident motivated them to make decision to return back across the border.

 

Even though SLORC promised to discontinue human rights abuses such as forced labour, recruitment of porters and tax collection, the SLORC has never kept promise. For the MNRC, except it provided information of the current situation of its refugees and internal human rights abuses to world community, it has been unable to decide for the future of Mon refugees.

 

After the ceasefire agreement, the SLORC did not stop its continuous conscription of forced labour on local villagers and the Thai authorities also forced the MNRC and the NMSP leaders to move back across the border as soon as possible.

 

In August, Thai authorities in Bangkok pressured the Mon leaders to sign only six months assistance in 1996 for the refugees who will be returned and for the rest to ask from SLORC. It was impossible, because the SLORC could not provide those refugees for sure. In a letter which was signed by NMSP President Nai Shwe Kyin proposed to Thai National Security Council (NSC) Secretary-General, he asked only six month assistance for returning refugees. Then, several organization of international community dissatisfied on that NMSP's appealing letter to Thai authorities and created confusion for the future of refugees. Then, the MNRC attempted to get more assistance for one year provision from the international aids agencies and allowance by the Thai authorities. The international community concerned on those who have been passed hard experiences of perpetually relocations of Thai authorities in

previous time.

 

With dated August 31, the MNRC released an official statement to arrange for the repatriation program of Mon refugees. In the statement it also called upon the international community working for Mon refugees as a monitoring body in its Mon refugee repatriation process. To assure for the safety and voluntary return of the refugees, the international community especially UNHCR should participate as monitoring body. Additionally, the MNRC also asked the international community for the aids provision of community reconstruction as well.

 

With dated September 5, the MNRC Chairman Ven. Wongsa Pala invited Bangkok based UNHCR chief representative for monitoring of the repatriation of Mon refugees. In invitation letter, it made clear that the international community should lend a helping hands to Mon refugees to secure for safety of them and ensure of voluntary repatriation according to the international principles.

 

In the plan of MNRC, it described that to repatriate those Mon refugees to the areas close to the border and after the ceasefire was hold, the refugees can return to their native areas at the later date. Anyhow, to ensure for the safety of the refugees before, during and after repatriation, it must need a proper independent monitoring body. In the statement and invitation letter the MNRC clearly mentioned the refugees needed at least one year provision of adequate cross-border emergency assistance for survival. (See the attached MNRC's statement and invitation letter to UNHCR in page 17 and 18 respectively)

 

The situation for Mon refugees was likely unsure. The Thai authorities would like to push back those refugees as quick as possible without the monitoring of international community. The pressure to Mon leaders have been in order and some authorities also clearly mentioned that they did not need the UNHCR participation in repatriation. To ensure for at least one year adequate provision of foods and medicines and other emergency assistance, the MNRC has attempted and asked the international community to relieve from the crisis created by the Thai authorities.

 

Additionally, President of NMSP Nai Shwe Kyin also asked the international monitoring in Mon refugee repatriation by a appealing letter to UNHCR representative of Bangkok with dated October 17, 1995. (See attached Nai Shwe Kyin letter in Page 19) On 17 October, the UNHCR representative and legal officials also visited to Halockhani refugee camp and collected information for assurance of voluntary repatriation. In the visit, the representative also explained to NMSP leaders and MNRC that the UNHCR ever made cross border monitoring with the agreement of all parties concerned. To assure for voluntary repatriation and for the confidence building of returning refugees, it needs agreement of all parties such as Thai government, SLORC and NMSP.

 

On 27 October, the Thai authorities also arranged an official meeting with NMSP leaders and MNRC relief workers in Sangkhlaburi, in a small town close to border area where the Mon refugees are taking refuge. In the meeting, some Thai military commanders from Bangkok Military GHQs and Ninth Division of Kanchanaburi Province participated and discussed about the possible repatriation and smooth resettlement of Mon refugees.

 

Because of the campaign of MNRC, the Thai authorities did not mention for the amount of needed supplies and they agreed to allow transportation of total amounts of resettlement assistance by crossing border that provided by international aids NGOs until April 30, 1996 as deadline. It also meant that the refugees must move back to resettlement sites on that mentioned deadline, in situation which they are provided monitoring by international community or not. With humanitarian ground, Thai authorities promised they will allow for the treatments of referral patients from refugee sites' field hospital in Thailand. When the MNRC explained about the requests of UNHCR and other NGOs for the participation in repatriation, the Thai authorities responded that if the SLORC agreed for international monitoring, Thai government must agree for such process.

 

 

NMSP and MNRC Arrangement for Repatriation

 

By the way while the NMSP, MNRC and its refugee community were expecting for the presence of international monitoring in its repatriation process, it also arrange for the possible and smooth resettlement. To facilitate and helped the MNRC, the NMSP also formed a Mon Resettlement Committee (MRC) with its respective district members. Those MRC members have responsibilities to define the resettlement sites and measuring the house surrounding area and shared farmland to refugees. In defining the resettlement site, the MRC set up suitable village spaces in which they decided the place for school, hospital or clinic buildings. It also obligated to build the bridges across the main streams in the area for smooth communication. The most resettlement sites are mainly flooded areas in rainy season.

 

In the process of sharing lands to returning refugees, it is divided into two parts as the land for surroundings to build house and the lands for plantation. In sharing lands for the surrounding, the returnees firstly decided where the possible site for them to settle, and the same group of returnees have to clear the forest areas and then they selected the defined surroundings with secret ballot with arrangement of the resettlement committee.

 

In plans, the NMSP and MNRC have to facilitate the resettlement of participants are mainly the refugees living in the camps along the border, and also immigrants from Kanchanaburi Province and internally displaced person in respective areas. But those immigrants and displaced persons must settle in resettlement sites voluntarily. Initially, the MRC established for 17 resettlement sites in four NMSP control areas. The MRC also proposed the assistance for agriculture such as vegetable seeds, long-term plantation seeds, tools and other necessities that ever used by local farmers.

 

At the same time, the MNRC facilitated to transport all supplies before the deadline of April 30. In reports of MNRC, it dearly mentioned the difficulties that faced along the repatriation process. It also consistently asked the international monitoring. Following the request, the Bangkok UNHCR office informed about the invitation of MNRC and the official from the Geneva UNHCR office also came and visited to Payaw refugee camp. And he also flied to Rangoon and hold a meeting with SLORC officials concerning for the repatriation of Mon refugees. Since September, the UNHCR already sent a letter to Rangoon already for mandate in monitoring of the Mon repatriation. Up to February, there has been no response from SLORC.

 

 

Human Rights Situation and Spontaneous Repatriation

 

As the Mon refugees have been realized enough on treatment of Thai authorities, the refugees being fear of forced repatriation before March. The repatriation was started at the beginning of March. Previously, even the MRC arranged for several resettlement sites in Halockhani camp's nearest area, when it collected the desire of the refugees, very few of them moved to resettlement site Baleh Donephai (See attached resettlement map in page 16). The

majority refugees still remained in Halockhani of over-crowded population. But for refugees of Payaw camp, all of them were repatriated to defined resettlement area and a few of them moved to Bee Ree area. The population in Bee Ree camp remained in the same area except one small village was moved about two kilometers west from the former site.

 

Why the refugees would not like to move deepen inside Burmese territory? The majority of them are still reluctant to move because of the human rights situation happening inside Burma. The most resettlement sites for Holockhani were in distance close to the Burmese military outposts or the route which was normally used by the Burmese troops. When the MNRC and MRC arranged for resettlement, there have been several new arrivals also taken refuge in the camp.

 

Normally, in dry season, the SLORC local authorities gradually expanded their conscription of forced labour on local inhabitants to build the well-known 110 mile long Ye-Tavoy railway construction. (The HURFOM's report 1/96 and 2/96 already described about forced labour in Ye-Tavoy railway construction). About 1000 of new arrivals from Ye-Tavoy railway construction fled to border camp after they could not provide the demanding labour for the military. The MNRC and resettlement committee had to arrange for the sheltering of those new arrivals and provide foods for them.

 

In March, the Mon refugee community more cleared on the role of UNHCR monitoring and its mandate. The UNHCR also responded to MNRC that the SLORC did not provide mandate for monitoring. The SLORC responded to UNHCR that after the all ethnic armed oppositions along the Thai-Burma border agreed for ceasefire agreement with the regime, then they will allow UNHCR for monitoring of repatriation. Anyhow, the UNHCR provided moral support to refugees and arranged its visits to campsite such as Halockhani quarterly. To lessen the pressure and created troubles from Thai authorities, anyhow, the refugees mainly from Payaw were repatriated before the defined deadline. The resettlement process have been not so hard for committees and the most obligations were to move the Payaw refugees back to Burmese territory, but they could not accept the international monitoring although they hardly expected.

According to the international norm of refugee repatriation, the refugees must be voluntarily returned and provided protection and assistance and then to re-integrate for community development and reconstruction. The Mon refugees could not accept such international humanitarian treatments and they had been backed without international monitoring except the aids agencies active in the border area.

 

According to the registration collected by MNRC, the Payaw refugees were busy for settlement of their family, they have lack of opportunity to grow rice. Among the 4000 population of 600 households, only 96 family have grown rice when the rainy season started and for sure the rice production could not provide for the whole population in the area for the whole year 1997, after the 1996 food assistance was completely distributed. In Halockhani, among the 1000 families, only 250 families has grown rice and the rice production also could not provide the whole camp residents in 1997. The Bee Ree camp also have similar problem concerning food-shortage, if the aids NGOs could not get access for some provision of food.

 

 

Focus of This Report

 

This report focuses on the survival, safety, protection and assistance for the Mon refugees who are remaining in the border area and for the moment they have no chance to return back origin places where they escaped from. They just stuck in the border mountainous areas where they could not get enough chance for creating rice cultivation. Without the betterment of human rights situation in rural areas, those refugees will not return back and they are unsure how to decide for the future. For the Thai government, it has never cared of human rights situation inside Burma and always claimed that if the fighting ceased, the refugees must return to Burma. Therefore, the returning refugees have no chance to flee into Thailand again even in the situation they are facing food-shortage problems or abused by the Burmese Army.

 

This report would like the international community to be concerned on Mon refugees, victims of prolonged civil war. To assure for the information and create more understandings on plight of Mon refugees, the HURFOM workers conducted interviews with refugees after they were repatriated. In interviews, the refugees also described the background why they were fled from their homes, and what difficulties they have been faced. Those accurate information must provide the international community and hopefully, we expect the protection and assistance for Mon refugees.

 

 

Interviews

 

Interview #1

 

Name: Nai Dow Ye

Sex/ Age: Male/ 46 years

Nationality/ Religious: Mon/ Buddhist

Occupation: Refugees

Native Place: Ah Ruu Taung Village, Ye Township, Mon State

Current Residence: Halockhani refugee camp

Interview Date: 28 April, 1996.

 

Since the BSPP government intensified four cuts campaign in duration 1980s to the local ethnic community which has contacts with rebel group, several local ethnic villagers abandoned their native places and took refuge in rebel control areas, after they were extremely suppressed by the Burmese Army (tatmadaw).

 

When did you leave from your village and why? Before you arrived to the refugee camp, how was your family life?

I left from my village near Ye in 1984 after the Burmese Army arrested and detained me three times. They accused me as rebel-supporter. My youngest son joined the Mon army of Nai Shwe Kyin fraction in 1983 and was active around our village and the Burmese army told me to tell him to resign from Mon army and send to Ye. At that time, my wife opened a small shop and sold groceries mainly agricultural products in Ye. Before they arrested me they already arrested my wife as hostage and then I had to meet them.

 

Suffering of local population along the civil war

       

Every time in detention, they accused me my son joined army because of  my encouragement.   I, myself have ever joined Mon army when I was

young and that was why they accused me like that. Then I met them and they detained me for one week in Ye police's detention cell and after I

promised I will tell to my son to resign they released me. I contacted my son but he refused to return back and after one month the Burmese Army informed me to meet them in Ye and I was arrested and detained again. And I told my wife to close her shop in Ye and to stay in village. She returned back to village and to avoid the arrests of the Burmese Army, we stayed in farm-huts nearly for one year. I didn't return back to village and my wife brought me necessities which I needed. While I was in farm, several letters from Ye town's council (Township level BSPP administration body) reached to me and I kept quiet and I refused to meet them.          

 

Arbitrary arrest and torturing by suppressive BSPP government

 

Unlucky, I was arrested in my farm. In harvest time, I was sick in hut and when they Burmese Army came close to hut I hid in a paddy warehouse nearby but my wife was in hut. As soon as they reached to hut they stole eggs and chicken that I raised. They also took some vegetables and drank toddy. My wife was afraid and did not tell them anything. Among the soldiers, a warrant officer knew my wife very well and he ever bought products in her shop in Ye. When I was arrested in Ye, he ever interrogated and beat me. He could recognize my wife and asked her where I was. My wife lied him that I left to Kanni village for treading but he threatened my wife he will kill if he met me in farm. Then he ordered to his soldiers to search me around farm-hut and a soldier met me in rice warehouse. He also ordered his men to tie me up and beat me with his jungle boots and rifle butts. He said the town officials sent me several letters and asked why I didn't meet them. I lied them I didn't receive letters but they didn't believe and will ask and check to village leaders. He also interrogated me that I had contacts with my son or not. He also ordered to search in the whole farm-hut to find gun. I told them I never contacted and he already moved to military headquarters. However, they didn't believe me and brought me to Ye's IB No. 61 battalion headquarters. My wife also cried and asked them that as I was sick to pardon me and I will meet after recovered. But they refused.

 

When I reached to their battalion, they put me in a small cell with other two criminals. My fever getting serious but they never gave me any medicine. After I slept there one night, an officer brought me to a room. Then, I think the battalion commander and two warrant officers including the one who arrested me arrived in front of me and told me if I told them true, they will release me. I agreed.

 

Accompanied inhumane treatment whenever the Burmese military interrogated civilians

 

They interrogated me one by one. Firstly, the commander told me he knew I was a former Mon soldier and had contact with Mon soldiers who arrived around our village. I told them the true, if the Mon soldiers arrived to my house or farmland, I had to feed them as I was afraid. He was smile and told that I knew every commanders of the Mon soldiers why I had to be afraid of them. I said I knew just their names and I was not familiar with them. And a warrant officer asked the names of Mon commanders whose I knew including their ages, native places. I told them as much as I knew because I feared they beat me. After he noted he said I knew many of Mon commanders and that made them sure I was a rebel-supporter. Moreover, he questioned why I encourage my youngest who failed Ninth Standard (Ninth Grade) examination to join the Mon insurgency. I told them that I was very unhappy for my son as he still had chance to learn in school and to pass exam. They said I lied them and accused that I, by myself, sent my son to attend medical school opened in insurgent headquarters. I refused but I agreed he and me went to farm together and one night he followed with Mon troops and then he didn't return. I also found and met him in a village southern part of Ye and but he refused to return. Anyhow, they didn't believe me. The commander just beat with his fist for one time on that day.

 

On the next day, my fever getting worst but they didn't care. Brought me to the room again and tied me up tightly with a pole. The two warrant officer came and asked why I didn't meet them when the township authorities sent me letters. I told I was afraid and they beat me. They didn't listen to my complaints and continued their beatings. They beat with rifle butts, jungle boots and sticks. I think they beat for one hour without rest. As I was weak and lost consciousness at the end.

 

 

The local villagers have to escaped the systematic persecution of the BSPP government

 

On the next day, they brought to a room and the commander said I have only one choice to abandon my village, if not he will imprison me. He said as I was unable to bring back my son, so I had guilty. As soon as he released me he said to leave from village, if not he will arrest me and imprison me according to existed laws. I didn't know what kinds of law. As soon as I arrived at village I arranged to leave. I collected some materials and I abandoned the village on the next day with my elder son and his wife and two children. He worried for me and he also accompanied with us. We traveled up to Wengka village of Sangkhlaburi District of Thailand.

 

 

The so-called refugees initially became as immigrants in Thailand

 

When you were in Sangkhlaburi, what was your occupation and did you take refuge in NMSP control territory?

I stayed in Sangkhlaburi for three years. I worked as a hard labourer in a Thai plantation which I had to grow banana and mango trees and took care of that plantation. After three years, when trees grew up, the owner didn't need me and then I went to Three Pagoda Pass. I stayed there and worked in a furniture factory and then, I cleared a plantation around the area and planted some vegetables and sugar-cane. It could provide enough income for family and our life was very comfortable.

 

 

The refugees later on took more refuges in rebel control area for safe haven

 

How many years had you stayed in there and when the Burmese troops occupied Three Pagoda Pass, how did you flee and what happened on your family?

Before the Burmese troops came into Three Pagoda Pass area, I and my son helped Mon troops in bringing some belongings to hide in Thai territory. All the people in the area helped the party (NMSP) as possible as we can. we have responsibility to prevent the Burmese troops' advance and Sometime, we had to sent ammunition and food to the frontline.

 

When we knew the Burmese troops advanced to Three Pagoda Pass area, I moved our family to Thai side of the border. I lost my wooden house and plantation in there. Firstly, I moved them to Songkhlia village in Thai territory and after the Burmese troops occupied NMSP headquarters, the Songkhlia village was very close to their outpost and then I moved them to Wengka village again. In Wengka, I had no house and very uncomfortable to stay with other family. Then when the refugee camp was opened in Krung Kung village, I moved into refugee camp.

 

According to Thai successive government policy, they never recognized the peoples of Burma who fled from systematic persecution by the military as "refugees" and since they have been displaced persons in Thailand, they were perpetually relocated by Thai authorities.

 

 

How is your life in the refugee camp?

We received rice, fish-paste and salt normally every month. We have to find vegetables and bamboo shoots in rainy season. We can get meat from hunters or cattle traders. In every camp, we established hospital and school. We have no problem for treatments when we were suffering from malaria. My grand-children also can attend to primary school and they got books and other stationary with free charge. The book price in Burma is very expensive.

 

 

Establishment of shelters for Mon refugees and international humanitarian assistance

 

Did you often to move from the refugee camp from one place to another? What arrangements of the Mon and Thai authorities?

When we were in Krung Kung, the camp committee informed us our camp and Panang Htaw have to move to Hla Brad (in 1992). The Hla Brad is about one hour walk from our camp and about one and half hour walk from Panang Htaw. We would like to stay more in Krung Kung but any how we would have to follow according to camp leaders' instruction. Before we moved, the Thai officials including soldiers came to the camp very often with Mon authorities (MNRC officials) and arranged meeting with camp leaders. The arranged to move nearly for one month. Then all our village moved to Hla Brad. (Later, Hla Brad camp was renamed as Loh Loe)

 

 

Perpetual relocation of Mon refugee campsite

 

If you refused to move from there, what will happen for you?

The Thai police will arrest you. When we moved to Hla Brad, some villagers from Panang Htaw refused to move. The Thai militias came to Panang Htaw and threatened them to move to Hla Brad. Because of the villagers still refused, the militias arrested them and detained in Sangkhlaburi detention cell. They were put in detention cell about three days and forced them to agree to move. After the release, the villagers moved to Hla Brad.

 

 

Forced Relocation by Thai authorities

 

How long could you stay in Loh Loe or Hla Brad and then how you have to move to another area?

We stayed in Loh Loe for nearly two years. And then, at the beginning of 1994, we were also have to move Payaw or Halockhani. I decided to move to Halockhani and the camp committee also explained us we can choose the place where we would like to move. At that time, we were very complicated because the camp committee said the Mon leaders (NMSP and MNRC) attempted not to move from Loh Loe and not to hurry to move. But in February, the Thai military came into camp and stayed in the houses in the whole camp and told the refugees to move to Halockhani or Payaw. Actually, the refugees would not like to move but they were afraid of Thai soldiers. Even they did not treated badly ordinary villagers were already afraid of them. Then, they hurried to move. My family also moved to Halockhani.

 

 

The Burmese troops attacked Mon refugees and additionally, terrible treatment of Thai authorities

 

When the Burmese troops attacked one section of Halockhani, what happened to your family?

We have to flee into Thai territory over the border again. Just three months after the refugees were resettled in Halockhani. Firstly, we didn't know what happened in Baleh Donephai (the section which was initially attacked by Burmese soldiers) and when the fighting occurred between Mon troops and them on the way to Halockhani, we knew close to us, we had to flee. Luckily, they didn't reach to Halockhani, but when they returned back, they burnt down Baleh Donephai and some men were arrested and tortured.

 

We had to stay in muddy area near Thai border police station more than one month. The camp and main committee (MNRC) told us they requested the Thai government to allow us to resettle in Thai territory again. We agreed with leaders, because it was very dangerous for us to stay longer in Halockhani. The Burmese troops could come any time. May be they have to walk one hour from their nearest outpost to reach the camp. At that time, the party (NMSP) had no ceasefire agreement. We were waiting kind consideration of Thai authorities. We expected that they will allow us to stay. Waited and waited, at the end they didn't allow us. The Thai army came to rice warehouse of the refugees and close it and forced us to move, if we refused to return to their former campsite Halockhani, they will cut off supplies. All of us were just depend on that rice. As a result, all of us slowly moved back to dangerous place again after we have no choice. After we returned back even no more attack, we have been reluctant to move to another area.

 

 

Unsuccessful resettlement process and flexible future of Mon refugees

 

After the party (NMSP) had ceasefire agreement with SLORC, the party planned to settle you in some area. You already knew that. If you went the resettlement area you could get wider surrounding for you. Why you don't move there?

I don't trust the Burmese soldiers. If I moved to Baleh Donephai, the Burmese troops will pass through the village very often and will make trouble to me. Also the IB 61 always passed through the village. May be some of them will know me. I am still afraid of them and don't trust them up to now. Even I would like to visit to my native village but I don't trust them. That was why I don't want to move to Baleh Donephai. I don't want also to move to Palaing Japan village which was newly resettled. The site is very close to Burmese military battalion of Three Pagoda Pass. And, if we stayed in Halockhani, we have been possible to attend hospital easily or they (the medic) will transfer the serious patient to treat in Christian hospital in Huai Malai (in Sangkhlaburi District of Thailand).

 

 

Last dry season and on the eve of rainy season, did you grow rice in the mountain? How much you grew and can you estimate the amount of the products.

Yes, I grew rice. But I could not clear large area and grew only two tins of rice seed. The amount of rice production is depended on the weather. If the rain fell too much before the end of rainy season, it will destroy the crops. At the beginning of rainy season, the rain fell very little and the plants grew up very slow and weak. Estimatedly, we can get about 20 tins of plain rice from each one tin rice seed. Our family could have enough rice for three months. We still need the help of relief committee.

 

Do you have plan to return back your native village and to work in your farm?

I already sold my farm. At the moment I don't want to return back to native village. If no Burmese army around the area I will return back. I can find out new farm and create new life.

 

 

Interview #2

 

Name: Nai Lane

Sex/ Age: Male/ 52 years

Nationality/ Religious: Mon/ Buddhist

Occupation: Refugees

Native Place: Paukpingwin Village, Yebyu Township, Tenasserim Division

Current Residence: Payaw refugee camp

Interview Date: 4 May, 1996.

 

The conscription of forced labour in Ye-Tavoy railway construction other kinds of human rights abuses have created the massive influx of displaced persons and refugees. Those refugees reached to Payaw since at the end of 1993.

 

Why did you leave from your village and when?

I left from the village in March 1993 while the Loh Loe refugees were relocating to Payaw. I also settled and built my house in Payaw. At that time, there was busy time while many refugees from Loh Loe and new arrivals reached to same camp. And the small side of camp became bigger.

We have to abandon the village because the Burmese soldiers treated us very severe. Since October of 1993, we have to work in clearing foliages and cut down the trees along the planned railway route. And at the same time, the villagers also have to find facilities for the construction of military outposts. We had to cut tree and bamboo in the forest and brought it to the military outpost and then the villagers including the women and children have to build the fences, barracks and other buildings in their outposts.

 

 

Under the constructive engagement policy, Thai and SLORC created better relationship and the Thai always tried to push refugees back. At the same time, the SLORC intensive military operations and accompanied human rights situation have created massive influx of refugees and displaced persons

 

At that time, the NMSP did not reach a ceasefire agreement with SLORC. Several fightings happened around our area and the military also issued the order not to move to farm or forest areas. But when they asked for tree and bamboo, they said we could go to there forest but they did not provide us any insurance letter. Once when me and other two villagers went into forest to cut trees for their ouposts, we were arrested by the Burmese soldiers from LIB 410 and they beated us very severely. We also explained them that we cut trees for LIB No. 407 but they didn't accept our complaint and at the end we were forced to be porters to carry their materials for nearly one week. When we arrived we did not get any materials and the soldiers from No. 407 punished us again. They never listen to us.

 

I ever been as porters for several times before I decided to flee. Besides the railway construction, portering, we also have to provide them several kinds of tax and later, we have been shortage of income and foods. Sometime, even our area has large farming, we have to eat rice-soup and became food-shortage. Every year, before the harvest time, we faced food-shortage problem.

 

 

Displaced population movement around the local areas

 

When you escaped from village, how many families accompanied with you?

Three families. We were the most poorest families in the village and we had to flee first. We could not provide them any payment or labour. If we worked for them, we left nothing to eat. We decided to escape from the village. After we escaped the army conscripted more labourers from our villagers, nearly 30 families continuously arrived to Payaw after one month we arrived. All of them are likely poor family. Among the villagers who escaped from the village, many of them left to several villages in Ye, Thanbyuzayat and Mudon townships and avoided from conscription forced labour. Some also left to Thailand by boat while some hid in the forest. Some families still left in the village and they have to permanently provide payment to the army.

 

 

Please compare me what are difference in your life when you stayed in your village and now (in refugee camp)?

When we were young, it was very nice to stay in our native village. We have our own farm and no Burmese soldiers around the village. We have to give some small tax to Mon troops and we were safe. About 10 years ago, the Burmese soldiers came into our village very often and built a small outpost and tried to control the village. And the army, themselves, selected the village leaders and adopted the administration. All villagers disliked them and informed Mon troops to drive them out. But the Mon troops sympathized on villagers and never shot while the Burmese soldiers were in village. And they just fought outside the village. The Burmese troops kept more control on villagers and treated very bad after the knew the villagers have cooperation with rebel.

 

 

The local population never exercised a better life since the BSPP launched four cuts campaign to ensure more control in every area

 

Killing the innocent villager with accusation of rebel-supporter

 

Every the Burmese soldiers were attacked by Mon troops we were terribly treated by them. They checked every men asked who keeping contact with Mon troops and firstly the village leaders whose were selected by them were severely beaten. And they arrested every men and detained them. Or they were forced to be porters. Some villagers were also killed and our villager Nai Htawe was killed by them. It might be about 7 years ago, I could not recognize the date. He was killed in Ye IB No. 61 headquarters. We didn't know what the exact accusation was put on him by army. Might be they accused him Mon rebel-supporter. He was arrested in his betel-nut plantation. According to one participant of Burmese soldiers, he said he gave shelters and foods to Mon troops in his plantation. It has been normal that the Mon troops always taking a rest and cooking food in plantations near village. But which the Mon troops were in his plantation he was in village. When he arrived to plantation the Mon troops already left and when the Burmese soldiers arrived they met such evidences and accused him as rebel-supporter without checking for the accurate information. After they severely beated him for one hour, they shot him and he died on the spot. The villagers heard the gun sound and nobody dared to go to incident place. On the next day, the villagers searched around his plantation and met the dead body. Then they brought back to the village. After that case, when the Mon troops had activities around the area, the villager never went and worked in their plantation. We always feared the maltreatment of Burmese soldiers when we were in the village.

 

Anyhow, when we were staying in the native village, we could have living stocks and we have relatives to help each other. When we were young we had a better life than now in our native. After the Burmese Army deployed more troops in the area, all villagers have been unhappy and they have to provide the military for several things which they asked. The life here is better than in our village. But if the Burmese troops retreated from the area, the life in there is better than here.

 

 

The refugees from Payaw camp were repatriated to Burmese side of the border by the MNRC and MRC in March. Even the refugees were hoping for the international monitoring before the repatriation they were not provided.

 

 

The explanation to refugee community concerning to the international monitoring

 

When did you move here?   Who mainly arranged to move you here?

At the beginning of cold season (in October) we were explained by the camp committee that we have to move down to Tavoy district area because the party (NMSP) already reached a ceasefire agreement. They also explained if we were moved in dry season (February-March), the English (The Mon called all Westerner or foreigner as English and in case, the camp would like to mention that international organization will provide monitoring in the repatriation) will stay along with us and arranged for the trips, sharing lands and houses for us. They will help us to build hospitals and schools in the new place. Sincerely, we would not like to return back Paukpingwin (native village), but I accepted to move down to Tavoy district area. According to the camp committee and party leaders (MRC), they explained we will have to create the plantation the in area and before our native village was safe enough to return back, we will have to stay there.

 

 

In  fear of forced repatriation by Thai authorities

 

Since then, the English came often and asked some questions to some villagers (refugees). But when we moved to the Tavoy District areas, only Mon authorities arranged for us for smooth settlement. Every family hurried up move as they were afraid of Thai soldiers. If they delayed to move, might be, Thai soldiers will came to village and threaten to move like situation when Loh Loe refugees moved to Halockhani. I was also afraid of the bad treatment of Thai soldiers and hurried up to move there. And we arrived there before others, we also more chance and time to clear house surrounding and to build house. If we have more time we can create plantation.

 

 

Lack of time for creation of rice cultivation after repatriation

 

Did you create any space for plantation?   If you did, what you grew?

I hurried to arrive here (in the new site). I arrive here at the beginning of March and I arranged to build house. I have to cut trees for pole and bamboo for one week. I cut in the forest nearby and brought it to village. After I collected the needed facilities, I had to build my house for another one week. Therefore, I have been delayed to clear land space to grow rice. I could not grow rice because I have no enough time. If you plan to grow rice, you have to cut every things in the hill and put all foliages and things to be drought in there for nearly one month, and you have to burnt all into ashes. And you have to pick and throw every things left from the burning. It is a serious and busy job to create a rice plantation in hilly area. As I have no time, I just created a small vegetable plantation and I grew some vegetables such as green bean and egg plant. I sold it in the village for income.

 

What do you think on ceasefire? If the ceasefire is broke out, where you will flee?

We never trusted the Burmese troops. According to Burmese troops in Aleskan village, they said the ceasefire agreement is a short term of them and after they finished building the railway, I think they will resume fighting to Mon troops. If the Mon and Burmese troops fought each other in this area, may be, I will flee to former place (Payaw) again.

 

Unsafe situation for returning refugees and food-shortage

 

As you said you have no rice plantation and next year, if you could not rice from English what you will plan.

Surely, I could make any products this year. Some other families also have the same situation like me. They also have nothings. If the English and camp committee could not provide us rice, we will face more difficulties and we don't know how to plan. We will flee to the place where we can get foods.

 

Do you go back to your village?

No. I'm afraid of Burmese soldiers.

 

 

 

MNRC Statement Calls upon International Monitoring in Repatriation

 

statement of the mon national relief committee regarding the repatriation program of mon refugees

 

As a recent political development in Burma, the New Mon State Party (NMSP) and the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) celebrated a ceasefire agreement on June 29, 1995.

 

The Mon National Relief Committee (MNRC) welcomes this good tidings. After many years of miserable life, Mon refugees now have an opportunity to return back home in peace.

 

Mons never wanted to become refugees. They had to flee from their native places in their homeland (Mon State, Burma) because there was fighting between the NMSP armed forces and the SLORC troops for several years during which systematic persecution on Mon people, such as, forced relocation, forced labour, press-ganged for porterage to be used also as mine-detectors and abuse of women porters.

 

Mon people who fled persecution are entitled to be accepted as refugees in accordance with the international norm.

This means that these refugees are entitled to be repatriated under secure conditions and it should be voluntary according to the established international principles.

 

As ceasefire agreement had been effected there will be no more fighting.    The SLORC has promised to discontinue its systematic persecution, except using voluntarily given labour.

 

Even though the long-awaited ceasefire came into effect, Mon refugees are still reluctant to return because of their past miserable experiences. Therefore, Mon refugees need assurance for their safety and voluntary return.

 

The MNRC believes these refugees need protection and assistance as provided to other returning refugees worldwide.

 

Firstly the MNRC calls for the establishment or identification of a proper independent monitoring body which can ensure the safety of the refugees before, during and after repatriation.

 

Secondly, the MNRC calls for the provision for cross-border resettlement relief assistance for the Mon refugees for a period of at least one year (or until they can subsist on their own).

 

We request the international community to provide us with development aid to help us rebuild the Mon State which had been shattered by protracted civil war.

 

The Mon refugees now are looking forward to returning home and are hoping to go back as early as possible. However, to attempt to return them prematurely without necessary protection and assistance would cause uncertainty among the Mon refugees as to their future existence in Burma and this

could lead them to flee back to Thailand once again in the near future.

 

The MNRC calls upon the international community working for Mon refugees; the Royal Thai Government and the SLORC to ensure a safe, secure and confident return of the Mon refugees.

 

Date: August 31, 1995.                                       Mon National Relief Committee

Thai-Burma Border

 

 

MNRC Letter to Bangkok Based UNHCR

 

To

Mr. Ruprecht von Arnim

Representative

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

Bangkok

 

Date: September 5,1995

 

SUBJECT: Invitation for monitoring of the repatriation of Mon refugees.

 

Dear Sir,

 

The Now Mon State Party (NMSP) has signed a ceasefire agreement with SLORC, the military regime in Burma, at the end of June.

 

Because of the prolonged civil war between the successive central governments and the ethnic nationalities armed forces, the local inhabitants have suffered from the persecution of Burmese troops such as forced relocation, forced labour, press-ganged for porterage to be used as mine-defectors and abuse of women porters. Even though those local inhabitants have escaped systematic persecution to the Thai-Burma border, they have received lack of protection from Thailand, and its governments also barred the international community from offering possible protection and assistances under the recognition of refugee status.

 

In view point of our relief committee, the NMSP had to sign ceasefire agreement because of the outside Thailand pressure and inside SLORC inhumane treatments to Mon community. The example of resumed fighting in Karenni areas and other ethnic areas show the ceasefire agreement does not mean absolutely that peace is returned to Burma. And. it also means there is not enough safety for the refugees to return back to their native villages where are deeply situated inside Burma, in the current situations. However, because of the ceasefire, the refugees must be repatriated to Burma side of the border in coming dry season and we would like those refugees who fled persecution to be repatriated under secure conditions and it should be voluntary according to the established international principles.

 

Therefore, the MNRC has plan to repatriate Mon refugees to the areas close to the border and if the situation becomes unsafe because of fighting, they could flee back into Thailand again in easily. We hope that in the future, it the ceasefire holds, that the refugees can return to their native areas at a later date. To ensure for the safety of the refugees before, during and after repatriation, it must need a proper independent monitoring body. As we hope, the most suitable international organization to establish a proper independent monitoring body is your Bangkok branch UNHCR. We would like you to consider this. We think, only the UNHCR monitoring can provide enough safety for the future of Mon refugees, provision for adequate cross-border resettlement relief assistance and other community reconstruction assistance as well. Thank you very much.

 

 

Yours sincerely, Sd/-Wongsa Pala

 

(Ven. Wongsa Pala)

Chairman, Mon National Relief Committee

 

 

NMSP President Letter to Bangkok Based UNHCR

 

THE NEW MON STATE PARTY

GENERAL HEADQUARTERS

 

 

 

Mr. Ruprecht Von Arnim

Representative

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

Bangkok.

 

Dated, October 17, 1995

 

Subject:    Resettlement of Mon refugees.                

 

Dear Sir,

 

The Thai Royal Government looks forward to the quick systematic repatriation of Mon refugees stranded on Thai-Burma border into Burma. Therefore, in reference to my letter to General Charan, Secretary-General to the National Security Council, dated August 1, 1995, a copy of which was also forwarded to you, I made a request for supply of food, medicines, seeds and necessary farm tools to facilitate the resettlement of Mon refugees for 6 months.

 

The Mon National Relief Committee (MNRC) which have all along been taken appropriate action to facilitate the welfare of Mon refugees, had already requested for food, medicines and other necessary assistance from the Non-government Organizations for one year is quite adequate.

 

The request made by the New Mon State Party (NMSP) to the Thai Royal Government should not be confused with the request made by the MNRC to the NGOs. The two requests, actually supplement each other in the smooth resettlement of Mon refugees.

 

The NMSP hope that the UNHCR would give every possible help to the request made by the MNRC. dated September 5, 1995. to it, regarding the resettlement of Mon refugees.

 

 

(Nai Shwe Kyin)

 

President

New Mon State Party

 

 

Photos

 

 

There have been large number of new arrivals escaped from human rights abuses of Burmese Army to Mon refugee camps, while the refugees were preparing to move back into Burmese territory along the border

 

 

 

One refugee family built their house in a resettlement village of Tavoy District