* 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 7/96†† (November 24, 1996)
NMSP - New Mon State Party;
SLORC - State Law and Order Restoration Council;
KNU - Karen National Union;
MDUF - Mergui-Tavoy United Front;
Indigenous people have the rights to the conservation, restoration and protection of the total environment and the productive capacity of their land, territories and resources, as well as to assistance for this purpose from States and through the international cooperation.†† Military activities shall not take place in the lands and territories of indigenous peoples, unless otherwise freely agreed upon by the people concerned. (Article 28, UN Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples)
Human Rights Abuses Related to Total Co and UNOCAL's Gas Pipeline Project
Focus of this Report
In exploiting the untapped natural gas in Burma's Gulf of Martaban, the Total Company of France is the operator of the project and the Unocal of United States is a partner of the project. The main buyer of the natural gas is Thailand and it must be in need of energy to overcome the critical problems for its industrialization growth in the future. The three concessionaires agreed to corporate each other and signed agreement to exploit and buy natural gas from SLORC, even in situation when human rights situation in Burma is not improved enough.
Since 1993, large numbers of SLORC troops have deployed under the name of securing the project with several battalions. Since then, the ethnic population such as Mon, Karen and Tavoyan peoples have been suffered with various kinds of human rights violations. The evidences of such abuses have been regularly provided by the local sources and even the international community has condemned on Total Co and UNOCAL for their cooperation with SLORC, however they still maintain their investment in Burma.
The most facts contains in this report are provided from reliable source of local community and it also proved the reality of civilian situation of gas-pipeline projects. To get such information HURFOM human rights workers have conducted some interviews from local villagers and they explained the real situation of area. Because this gas-pipeline project and relative Ye-Tavoy railway construction, many thousands of local population have been displaced or escaped into Thailand.
To protect the persons we conducted interview, we did not use their real names but they explained the real situation of the area. However, all events mentioned here were true story of the local population happened in Burma and please feel free and can change the better usage of English. It is hoped that all information must be useful in helping the international community to halt SLORC from abusing such brutal human rights violations and promote internationally recognized human rights in Burma.
Limited Role of Company, in Implementing the Overall Project
The companies have been blinded their eyes regarding to the human rights situation in the areas and at the same time, they have been likely encouraging the security forces around the areas guarding the project. Since the Total started for its implementation of project in 1993-94, the SLORC deployed more troops in the area in order to guard the project. Thus, that new SLORC military deployment and its troops have created and increased threats against the security of local population Mon, Karen and Tavoy ethnic peoples.
The Total Company's field personnels (both French and Burman citizens) have been in limited position in surveying or monitoring surrounding areas to realize the real situation of the civilians. Total Co ever claimed that:
"Since April 1993, our engineers have conducted several surveys along the whole length of the Burmese pipeline route on foot, by car and by helicopter. The area is very sparsely populated. There are few villages and the region is perfectly calm. No population displacement should occur anywhere along the pipeline route."
The statement is unbelievable and impossible. It is very very inconvenient for Total Co.'s engineers to conduct survey along the route up to Thai-Burma border. In 1993-94, the large area of the gas pipeline route was controlled by ethnic armed oppositions of NMSP and KNU. Might be, the company could conduct survey by helicopter. Before the SLORC signed the contract of exploitation of the natural gas before 1992-93, the SLORC had already relocated several Mon, Karen and Tavoyan villages in the area. Since then, the SLORC has planned putting more military deployment in the area and tried to control the whole area. (The names of the villages that were forcibly relocated by SLORC Army before 1994, are listed in Page 14)
However, the ethnic armed oppositions still launched their activities in the area and it also impossible for the SLORC army to travel all area around. Despite launching the offensives to ethnic armed opposition, the SLORC local troops have inhumanely treated the local ethnic population with various kinds of human abuses such as killing the innocent villagers, forced relocation of local villages, forced portering and labour for the military, looting of villagers' belonging, tax collection and etc..
Before the New Mon State Party (NMSP) reached for ceasefire agreement with SLORC, there were several evidences that some Mon villages were forcibly relocated by SLORC troops. The most of those villagers were under the suspicion of rebel-supporters and the Mon army ever reached to those villages. In conducting forced relocation of the villages, the SLORC troops with several numbers came into villages and set out the deadline to the villagers to suddenly move from the villages. Last year in March 1995, one Mon village named Kyauktayan was forcibly relocated (It was described in 5/95 HURFOM report). The village is about 15 kilometers far from the gas-pipeline project area. In fear of the Mon troops could get easy access to the gas-pipeline area and that was why those villagers were forced to move from their village by the Burmese soldiers. Might be, the Total Co.'s field personnels will not know this case.
In defining security reason for gas pipeline, it is not meant just security provision along the route, the military always have to look carefully to all ethnic villages situated nearby. If one village was in suspicion, that village must be forcibly relocated or, some villagers must be arrested or killed. The several evidences such forced relocation and killing the civilians related to project ever occurred.
The site where the Total Co.'s field personnels residing is situated in a restricted area and they could not get all update information of the whole area. They could conduct their activities only in area around villages such as Eindayaza, Ohnpingwin and Hpaungdaw (See map). But the SLORC local military battalions which taking security for the project such as LIB No. 407, 408, 409, 410, 273 and 274 could launch operation or patrol in largest area of the whole of Yebyu, Thayat Chaung and Tavoy townships and many villagers have been suffered with various kinds of abuses by those troops. Since Total Co started the project, the local people have been relatively suffered because of more military deployment for gas pipeline security. In 1996, the local people are in suffering such continuous human rights abuses by the SLORC Army.
Relative Tax Collection on Villagers and Destruction of Community Practices
According to the local reliable source, the battalions or the soldiers in the battalions have received some special salary from Total Co for taking security of the project. The Total Co has provided those soldiers with 6000 Kyat each monthly salary. Even those soldiers received enough salary, they never abandoned their behaviour of collecting tax from the local villagers. Tax collections such as portering fees, construction fees both railway and military barracks have been largely collected by the concerned battalions of SLORC Army.
The two battalions LIB No. 273 and No. 274 has been securing the project site along the seashore areas both sides of north and south of Hpaungdaw village and. They also put their troops along a river which reach to Ohnpingwin village (See map). The both battalions' troops have collected tax from fishermen of local villages such as Hpaungdaw, Ohnbingwin, Mae Taw, Kywe-tho-nyima and others. Those fishermen have to provide tax to the military with monthly basis. The amount of tax provision is depended on the size of the boat and the biggest one have to pay about 2000 Kyat while the smallest one have 500 Kyat to give them. Besides collecting tax, sometime, those fishermen also have to provide fishes for daily food supply of the soldiers. Sometime, they confiscated all fishes in the boats of some fishermen although they already provided them tax.
To facilitate for the security of the project, since 1993-94, the military has planned to construct their permanent bases around the project site. We could not get reliable information whether Total Co provided donation cash for such construction of military base or not. But the battalions around the area have always collected tax from the villagers to built barracks, trends, fences and etc., in their bases. The bases for LIB No. 408, 409, 410, 273 and 274 have facilitated building the bases around the area and collected big amount of tax from the villagers from village tracts close to project site such as Kywe-tho-nyima, Hsinku, Minthar, Eindayaza, Hpaungdaw and Kalein Aung.
As an example, to build a military barrack for LIB No. 273 that take project securing responsibility near Eindayaza village, the commanders from the battalion asked cash from the villagers of Kywe-tho-nyima village tract to provide them with 150,000 Kyat. In that village tract, there were about seven villages comprised and the village headmen collected 1000 Kyat each household in the villages. The smallest village in the village tract have to provide at least 20000 Kyat and the biggest village like Kywe-tho-nyima have to provide about 50,000 Kyat. According to the villagers, when the village headmen collected 1000 Kyat from each household they could get more cash than the military defined to them and they also took extra cash. Normally, the extra cash must be shared among the local commanders and the village headmen, and anyhow the commanders have chances to take more. In 1996 villagers from Kywe-tho-nyima have to provide such kind of tax for construction of military barrack for two times. Otherwise, they also have to provide portering fees with monthly basis.
While some villages provided them tax collection, other villages also have to contribute them with labour. In some village tracts the military asked both cash and labour from the villagers. According to Mae Taw villagers, their village was a small village with the most poor families, it was hard to provide them 1000 Kyat per each household. Some a few number of family provided them 1000 Kyat and the other have to provide them facilities such as hard-wood, thatch, bamboo, etc., or manual labour in the construction site. The villagers had to cut young trees and bamboo, to find palm leaves for roofing thatches and then they have to bring it back with their own ox-carts to construction site.
Regarding to porter fees, the villagers of Kywe-tho-nyima, Minthar, Eindayaza, Kalein Aung, Hpaungdaw village tracts have particularly provided monthly basis portering fee. They have to provide tax mostly to the battalion which are taking security responsibility of the gas-pipeline project. Those troops are actively launching patrol around the area to prevent the advance of outside ethnic opposition troops. In patrolling for the security of project site and pipeline route, the troops never needed much number of porters but asked much portering fees. Every household in mentioned village tracts have to provide them portering fees at least 200 Kyat up to 500 Kyat to the concerned battalions. Since then, the military commanders have collected several thousands Kyat from the villagers by showing for the security of gas-pipeline.
Since the security forces and Total Co field personnels were attacked by the KNU guerrillas in March 1995, the SLORC have beefed up its troops around the area and carried out more military patrol in the area. To cut off contact between the guerrilla forces and the local population and to prevent the advance of the enemy, the local battalions set out order restricting the movement of local villagers of ethnic Mon, Karen and Tavoyan peoples.
Those ethnic communities are traditionally farmers and since the military set out order conducting restrictions on their movement, they have lost chance to work full time in their farming activities. The critical problems of losing crops in the harvest time also occurred and they have been suffered from food-shortage for some period. Besides the rice growing farmers, the are various kinds of plantation such as vegetables, betel-nut, cashew-nut, rubber, lime, orange and other fruits in the area. Those farmers also could not work in their plantations at any necessary time and they lost opportunity to receive all products of the plantations.
At the end of the farming activities in March, the most farmers are raising their catties in the forest area nearby the villages and put those animals there. Because of the restriction instructed by the military, sometime, the farmers could not have enough chance to raise their catties. After they put catties in the forest, and because of the restriction they could not bring it back to the farms or plantations. Then the catties became wild and they lost it. And the military guarding patrol around the forest area could have more chance to shoot those catties for their foods. Because of this restriction of movement of local villagers, they have faced various problems for their survival since they lost some income and at the same time they have additionally to provide tax to the military. They have no more choice and many villagers abandon the traditional living practices and fled into Thailand.
According to the situation mentioned above, the villagers have been burden for various kinds of tax and restriction of movement since the SLORC deployed more military forces in the area for securing the pipeline project. Those troops are under loose control of the military command headquarters and they have been making money from the villagers by collecting tax. Anyhow, because of the gas-pipeline project there have been more military deployment in the area and the more sufferings have been felt to the local population.
Execution the Local Karen Villagers Related to Project
Actually, the onshore gas pipeline route is lied under loose control of SLORC. Even though, the SLORC has put more military deployment around the area and provided intensive guard to the project site, the area has been totally controlled by the ethnic armed oppositions already and they could conduct their activities in destroying the project. The most Karen and Tavoyan villages are used to be under control of KNU or MDUF troops.
In defending the project, the military offensive of SLORC to suppress the ethnic armed opposition has been not so effective. Sometime, even it launched large scale military offensive to KNU's No. 4 Bridge, the Karen troops still keep control of their headquarters and its troops are also in active around the gas-pipeline area. The SLORC troops have only one choice, in preventing the activities of KNU or MDUF troops for approaching into gas-pipeline area, they must have to suppress on the local ethnic population and halt the activities of rebel troops taking base around the area or entering to the project site.
On February 2, 1996, a guerrilla force of KNU attacked the Burmese troops of LIB No. 407, near Eindayaza village of Yebyu township the area (see map). Because of the attack, the Burmese troops from LIB No. 403 and No. 407 arrested about 16 Karen villagers of Eindayaza village including two women soon after the occurrence of the attack. They were arrested under the accusation of rebel-supporters and suspicion of relatives of Karen guerrillas. Among the 16 victims, nine of them were already executed by those troops and some of them were still detained in Tavoy.
The nine of executed victims were (1) Saw Kabalar, (2) Saw Kyae Kyae, (3) Saw Lar Kay, (4) Saw Lar Khu, (5) Saw Shwe Phoe, (6) Saw Kyi Lwin, (7) Saw Dae Ba Rae, (8) Saw Paw Bo, (9) Saw La Day. Since they were arrested in February, after severe interrogation to them, they were killed one after one by the SLORC local troops.
A girl named Naw Só Só was also arrested along with her father Saw Bakalar (No. l). When she was detained in military battalion headquarters she was repeatedly raped by soldiers. And she was accepted pregnancy according to reliable source.
Among the 16 arrested villagers, only two of them were released by soldiers earlier and the rest four villagers including a women were still detained by SLORC in Tavoy. This was an inhumane reward of SLORC on villagers who were victims under the suspicion of rebel-supporters.
Because of such severe execution on the villagers, the Karen troops are also reluctant to approach into gas-pipeline area. Actually, in spite of launching offensives to KNU base, the SLORC local troops ever used this tactic suppressing the same ethnic community of the rebel, by preventing the outside troops to come in. Since the Karen villagers were severely killed, the KNU troops have been carefully active in the area.
Total Co.'s Development Activities
Since September of 1995, the Total Co has provided some development program to the population. According to the reliable source, they provide building schools for Ohnpingwin and The Chaung villages. And, they also provide a generator to Eindayaza village and contribute electricity to the whole village. Sometime, the company also distributed rice to villagers and dolls or stationery to children of those three-four villages. In Christmas Festival of 1995, they also distributed dolls to the children.
Besides, the company also provided a hired Burman doctor and he also travelled around the villages to provide medical treatments to villagers. This is good sign. According to villagers, the doctor also asked to the villagers what kinds of abuses committed by SLORC soldiers. But the villagers were very reluctant to tell the true. They are still confusing to trust that doctor and are in afraid of being mistreated by Burmese soldiers after they explained their real situation.
This is all development activities of Total Co and when they distributed materials to villagers or children, they could take the smiling photograph of them. Likely, the villagers are very happy after the company arrived to their area to exploit their national resources.
In comparison with the abuses committed by the SLORC troops to local population, the development program of the Total Co is very limited because the company is residing in a very restricted area. Anyhow the company field personnels may know the real situation of the population of the area and but blinded their eyes.
Without the investment of the company, there may be no more SLORC troops like the moment and the people in the area must be suffered less. Those of villagers in the area must be suffering more and more if the company did not eliminate it project in the area. Because of this gas pipeline project, the military regime must be getting strong and more repressions must be conducted to the local ethnic community. Because of income from the project, the military regime could hold longer in power and the repression tactics to the ethnic community must be more terrible.
To improve for the betterment of the situation of the local population, it must have to welcome the political changes of Burma. The human rights situation must be improved first and should discuss such national resource is owned by whom. And then the investment for exploitation of natural resource in Burma will be possible.
Name: Nai Aung Myaing
Sex/ Age: Male/ 33 years
Nationality/ Religion: Mon/ Buddhist
Occupation: Hard Labourer
Native Place: Kywe-tho-nyima village, Yebyu Township
Interview Date: September 16, 1996
(When 'we conducted interview with this villager, he was in a border area tried to enter into Thailand to seek job. He arrived into Thailand together with his wife and one of his sons, 14 years old. He left one of his sons 9 years old with his mother in native village)
Because the unstable situation of Mon refugee camps and NMSP-SLORC ceasefire agreement, several escaped families of human rights abuses from rural areas of Mon State and Tenasserim Division have attempted to illegally enter into Thailand despite taking refuge in refugee camps or NMSP control territory.
When did you arrive this area
here about three days ago to enter into
More military deployment and various kinds of tax collection of SLORC
Did you hear about the gas pipeline project implemented by French?
Yes.† We ever heard, it is around Kanbauk and Ohnpingwin village. The English men (As Burma was a colony country of British, the people realize any westerner as English man) also came there to implement the gas pipeline project. Because of that project I think, many Burmese soldiers came into our area since three years ago but including to build the Ye-Tavoy railway. After they arrived and based in this area, the Mon soldiers had to move from our village and we have to provide to those Burmese soldiers with several kinds of tax and contribute labour in the railway construction.
Besides the railway construction, have you ever worked in other construction close to Ohnpingwin village (onshore gas pipeline project site)?
Yes. Last year (1995) in the second week of March, I was brought by the Burmese soldiers for 15 days as forced porter to bring the military supplies along with LIB No. 408 military operation in the area to guard the gas pipeline and then I was sent to Heinze Boke island for another two weeks to build the military barrack there.
Economic hardship and additional conscription of forced labour
Were you a hired porter or they arrested you? Can you explain me why you was brought by Burmese soldiers nearly one month?
No. I was not a hired porter. I had stayed in Kaw Thaung (the most southern border town with Thailand) for four months there working in harbour as a worker to carry fishes. When I was there, I left my wife and sons at home. When I worked in a factory there the owner gave me salary quarterly. Before I sent back my salary to my family, they faced hardships. My elder son had to work in farming and provide for the survival of his mother and brother. When I was away, the military and village headmen always asked for labour in railway construction and porter fees. My wife also informed me to return back. If I returned home, I will lose my salary and I had to stay in the factory longer. When I arrived back home, my wife did not give them (village headmen and local military officials) monthly portering fees and labour fees for railway construction. Then the village headmen informed me to come and meet him. When I met him, he said I have to pay them 10,000 Kyat as I was away to work in the railway for three months including the portering fees. I was shocked. I brought back only 11,000 Kyat for my family after I paid back some 6000 Kyat to factory owner for my living accommodation cost. If I paid them again, I left nothing and I decided to flee from village with my family. I told him I will pay but to wait for more three days. He agreed and he said he will inform to military commander.
Unlucky, in evening soon after I reached to my home, about 60 troops of LIB No. 408 arrived into village and asked two porters from our village. The village headman came to me and told me to follow with troops. I refused and I told him I will provide portering fees. But he told to the military commander that I was the one in the village who never provided labour in the railway construction and urged them to take me as a porter. And the village headmen also provided another one porter for them.
When you was along with troops, where did you have to go and what you have to work for the military?
I have to carry the supplies and ammunition for four days along with them to the pipeline project area, and they just travelled around from Kywe-tho-nyima, to Eindayaza and Kalein Aung. They did not feed me enough foods for us. There were about 20 porters from other villages to walk with troops. But no fighting happened when I was with them. After four days, they put me in Kalein Aung and I had to cut fire-wood for or carry water the daily uses of the troops for 10 days more. At that time, there were about 2,000 villagers in Kalein Aung as they have to work in railway construction. They came from the several villages. I didn't have to work like them but just works for the military.
Permanent forced porter in the military bases
Then, LIB No. 410 brought me to Kanbauk and then to the Heinze Boke island with another three porters. At the time, they released many porter to return back home, but they didn't release me. One warrant officer told me I will have to work in Heinze Boke for one month. And he accused I was the one who refused the order to work in the railway construction.
Conscription of forced labour in the gas-pipeline project implementing site
When you were in Heinze Boke island, what you had to work? And how they fed you?
We had to work several works especially to build the military barrack and to build other stores (to put facilities for company) there. They fed us like soldiers but we had to work for the whole day. We had to go into forest to cut trees and bamboo and brought it back to construction site. Then we made those hardwoods to became lumbers making ready to build the barrack. We had to clear the foliage for building and to dig some trenches there. Furthermore, sometime we have to carry down the materials such as bricks, nial bags, cement and etc. from the boats. And we had to enlarge the ground which may use for helicopter to land down (helicopter landing ground). It was a heavy work than I had worked in Kaw Thaung as a hard labourer. In mid-day, even we were very hungry, they did not give foods. They fed with very low quality of rice and curry. The soldiers' rice was bad and they fed us with bean curry and some small amount of vegetables. I was become weak because of hard work and low quality foods. After two weeks I got sickness and I asked the commander there to allow me to return back home. He was too angry to me and ordered his men to watch carefully on me if I fled to shoot me down. I was very afraid and continued to work. On the next day, I lost consciousness in the workplace and other villagers brought me to the barrack. As I could not work more in the construction sites they released me on the next day. I arrived to Hpaungdaw village and I had to stay there for three days. My wife came and brought me back to the village.
Relative torturing under the suspicion of [being] rebel-supporters in the project site
When you were working in that island, were the soldiers beat you and other villagers?
They didn't beat me but shout me all the time and as I was afraid of being beaten by them, I also tried hard to complete the piece of work defined by them. One Karen man from Yabu village was severely beaten by the soldiers. I think they beat him with accusation he had contact with Karen troops. The Karen man was about 45 years old. They put him in a barrack where was the residence for the most young soldiers. Those soldiers beat him every day and they always called him as "Nga Pawe" (the pronunciation of Burmese soldiers to Karen rebels). When we worked in the forest to cut bamboo, I also asked him whether he was a Karen soldier. He said his young son joined to KNU army and they accused his son and the Karen guerrilla were active around the Yabu area. Actually, he said his son was away, may be to attend the military training. But they accused him he was keeping contact with his son and arrested him, and then brought him to the island. When they released me, they didn't release him. He must have to stay longer.
Did you meet English men (Total Co field personnel, French citizens) around the area.
I never. But I ever heard some English men came and stayed in Tavoy, Hpaungdaw, Ohnpingwin and Eindayaza. According to my Tavoyan friend he ever met them in Ohnpingwin.
Have you ever been as labourer for those English men around the Ohnpingwin village?
Never. The most Tavoyan villagers around the Kanbauk, Hpaungdaw village tracts could have more chance to be hard labourers in construction sites near Ohnpingwin. They had to construct some buildings to store the materials and had to carry materials from the trucks to the stores.
The company and the military have been reluctant to use Mon and Karen villagers to work in their constructions as they always accused we have contacts with Mon or Karen rebels.
Limited area for the activities of the Total Co and limited work opportunity to local community
You said, the villagers (the most Tavoyan population) in the area accepted more work opportunity. Are they happy and what improvement in their lives because of this project?
They got jobs in the construction sites with 200 Kyat per day earning. But the military also took profit and refused to pay them the full salary. The villager labourers dissatisfied on the military but they didn't dare to speak out about the corruption. Later, the company changed the manager from a military commander to one Burman civilians. He contributed the full salary.
They didn't get the jobs for the whole year. Just about 5-6 months. In the other times, they have to build the military barracks like us and provided payment to the military or contribute labour to the railway construction and portering almost the time. How much they left?
Besides the conscription of forced labour from the local villagers to construct some necessary buildings related to the gas pipeline project, they also collect enormous amount of tax to build the permanent military base around the project site.
Tax collection for the construction of military bases surrounding the project implementing area
Did they collect tax regarding to the gas pipeline construction or for the military construction?
The collected portering fee every month. They also collected tax to construct the military barracks in Kanbauk village. On February 10, a warrant officer Aung Lin of LIB No. 273 and a headman of Kanbauk village came to our village and asked our headman Nai Min that the whole village tract of Kywe-tho-nyima have to provide them with totally 150,000 Kyat for construction of military barracks. LIB No. 273 will take base in Kanbauk village to take security of gas pipeline project.
How many villages in Kywe-tho-nyima village tract? And how much your family have to provide?
There are about 7 villages in our village tract. They said to pay them 1000 Kyat each house. Our village (two villages, east Kywe-tho-nyima plus west Kywe-tho-nyima) have about 200 households and the village headmen could receive about 200,000 Kyat from the villagers. They collected tax in every house and they didn't explain you how much they received from tax collection and how much they provided to the military.
You think, the village headmen will take the extra tax collection, Did the villagers inform the military there?
I don't think so. They have the same behaviour. I think the military commanders also knew about the extra tax collection and they blinded their eyes. The village headmen will share some percents to them. And they might be quiet. The villagers have no chance to tell about their corruption to the higher authorities. Every higher authorities in the area always took cash from the civilians.
How many times you have to pay such kinds of tax for constructing of military barracks that related to the security reason of gas pipeline project?
Two times. In August we have to give also to LIB No. 410 and the will build their base, may be, in Hpaungdaw. I don't know for sure. They took 1000 Kyat from each household. Then, they also started to take villagers to be labourers in railway (Ye-Tavoy) construction.
No protection and improvement after NMSP-SLORC ceasefire
Have the situation been improved since the NMSP-SLORC reached ceasefire agreement?
No improvement at all. The Mon leaders could not have chance to travel around the area at the moment and recently in September 1995, some Mon leaders came into our village and explained to villagers that the Burmese soldiers will not conscript forced labour and collect tax from the villagers. But it has been not true, we are suffered like before the ceasefire was reached. But it has been better that they didn't accuse us as Mon rebel-supporters.
Name: Nai Ngwe Wae
Sex/ Age: Male/ 42 years
Nationality/ Religion: Mon/ Buddhist
Native Place: Pyin Gyi village, Yebyu Township
Interview Date: July 24, 1996.
Several families of new arrivals from the gas pipeline project implementing area have reached to the refugee resettlement area of Kwan Tamoit since the beginning of 1996 up to May. According to them, they have to provide various kinds of tax to the project security forces of Burmese Army and their activities of movement to work in plantation and raising animals have been additionally restricted by the military. The interviewee explained about the SLORC's restriction on the community traditional practices.
When did you arrive to this camp and why did you flee for your village?
I fled from our village in May. I came from there mainly to escape from the railway construction. By the way, it have been very difficult for me to stay longer there because we could not go to the plantation to work for income and several kinds of restrictions were instructed by the local military officials and the village headmen.
Restriction of movement against the local villagers and arrests related to securing of project site
What kinds of restriction they have been instructed on the villagers?
They have restricted all activities of the villagers to travel into their plantations or to their rice farms, and additionally you could not raise your own catties as you like in the forest. Every time, you go to the plantations or rice farm, you have to ask for permission from the village headman. Without permission paper of village headman, you could not go. If you go, you must be severely punished by the military. There have been more military activities launched by the Burmese Army since the company started their works such as constructing stores and permanent residences, and sending necessary materials to project area.
How did you know those troops are taking security of the gas pipeline?
I am sure. Last year (March 1995), the Burmese soldiers and some company field personnels were attacked by the Karen soldiers. Since then they have been intensified more security forces and conducted more restrictions on local villagers. In February 1996, their troops were also attacked by the Karen soldiers again near Eindayaza. They Burmese soldiers were angry to the rebels and they arrested more than 10 Karen villagers from Eindayaza village by accusing them being contacted with Karen rebels. They didn't release yet when I came here. (We received information those Karen villagers were killed and one girl was repeatedly raped by Burmese troops later in November, 1996)
Restriction of raising cattles in the forest and severe punishment related to security reason
If they Burmese soldiers met a villager in the forest without permission paper, what is their treatment to villager?
May be they will kill him or they severely beat and brought him to be porter along with their troops. A villager from Le Gyi (near Hmaw Gyi village) was severely beaten by the soldiers in March, when he tried to find his two oxes. His left leg was broken and his back was terribly injured by the soldiers. Before he went into forest a week ago, he put two of his oxes in the forest to eat grass and when he was hurry up to bring some facilities to his farm from his home, he suddenly wanted to get oxes and went into forest without permission from the village headman. They beated him and brought him to Kalein Aung. After the village headman provided assurance he was an ordinary villager to the military, they released him.
Loss of crops in hardest time and other living stocks accompanied with restriction of movement
You said, the villagers have more difficulties to go to their plantations or rice farms and could not raise their animals freely in the forest, can you explain me what are the follow up problems happened in the community?
The villagers around the area have mostly have betel nut, rubber, lime plantations and rice farms. Sometime when the Burmese soldiers received any news about the activities of the Karen guerrillas around the area, they will bar the villagers not to go work-places. They instructed the orders through village headmen. Recently, before more military deployment around this area, we could go our plantation and rice farm any time. We could meet with Karen or Mon soldiers there, but they didn't create any problem to us. Now, the villagers could not go to their own plantation or farm at any time. They could not bring back their own catties any time they needed. Because of the restrictions, many farmers lost crops and catties. In harvest time, the Burmese soldiers always instructed orders to the villagers not to go to their plantations or farms. Normally, at that time, the Karen soldiers were in plantations to prevent the activities or offensives of Burmese Army. The crops became over-ripe to harvest and similarly the catties in the forest for long time became wild. There are many used catties became wild as the military didn't allow to bring back those catties in time and lost to use it in the farm again.
Did the Burmese troops shoot and eat those wild cattles that are in the forest?
Yes. They often killed the cattles and ate it. According to one porter from our village who ever travelled along the Burmese troops told me, they shot a cow in the forest and made it into beef, and distributed it to the soldiers. He said he didn't think that killed cow was wild because when the troops approached close to it to kill, the cow didn't flee suddenly.
Tax collection to the fishing community and destruction of community's practices
How are the lives of fishermen along the seacoast?
Since last year
up to now, the military have not allowed the fisherman to fish in some area (may be the area close to Heinze Boke is defined as
restricted zone). The
most fishermen who would like to go to the sea have to pay tax to the military
especially to LIB No. 273 and No. 274 monthly. If the boat was fixed with
engine propeller, the fishermen have to pay more tax. Later on, several
fishermen took out their propelling engine from boats to be less for tax. Even
the ordinary boat, the smallest one have to pay the military
500 Kyat. The biggest one may have to pay 2000 Kyat. Sometime when the
fishermen came back from the sea with fishes, if they met the Burmese soldiers
on the way back home, they have to give some fishes to the soldiers. All
fishermen have been felt disappointed and left the boats,
changed the jobs or went into
Besides the destruction of the practices of the local community, the constant contribution of tax and labour for the construction of the Burmese Army has been taken place since the beginning of the pipeline project.
Have you ever arrived to the gas pipeline construction site?† When?
I have ever been to a place near Ohnpingwin to build a military barrack there at the beginning of this year (January-February).††† At the time, our village tract around the area have to build three military barracks in the near Ohnpingwin village. Our village is in Eindayaza village tract and I have to work in the construction there for one week. We could see the place where the company built their stores, buildings, helicopter landing ground and large ground to put facilities including iron pipes. As we were not their workers, we could not accept any chance to go closer to the site.
Tax collection for the construction of military bases for security provision to pipeline implementing site
Did the military your village tract with cash to build that military barrack.
Yes, they did provide, but very little. I don't know the order to build three military barracks was come from which battalion. I think LIB No. 410 gave the order. We were provided only 10000 Kyat to build all those three buildings. They said that cash was totally they could provide especially to buy nails, lumbers, thatches and bamboo mat-wallings. The measures of each building are 35 feet in length and 24 feet in width. So it was anyhow not enough with cash we got and the village headmen have to collect from the villagers again to complete the construction. They also instructed in building process that to construct it with high quality lumbers and to be looked good. Then the villagers have to buy the lumbers or took it from the forest and brought to the site.
Population displacement and loss of work opportunity in community because of the project and its security forces
How do you think on the company? Did the villagers get more work opportunity from the company? Is the company really bring some development for your villagers?
I think just about only 300-400 villagers nearby could receive work opportunity from the company. Many rest villagers like us could not get job. Otherwise, we have been suffered by the Burmese soldiers as I explained. Those soldiers are taking security for the company. Because of the company, project, and the security forces the numbers of the villagers more than the company workers have to flee from villages like us. Many of them also went into Thailand to seek jobs. We don't know when we can return back. They also built some schools in some villages such as Ohnpingwin and The Chaung. They didn't build in every village. At the same time, we have to pay for the military barrack and work in the railway construction. We have no free time to take a rest. After returned back for the railway construction and military barracks, we have to go to farm again.
The names of local ethnic villages around the gas-pipeline project area which were relocated before 1994
(1) Tavoy Township
Date of forced relocation: During the 1992/1993 dry season
Conducted by: LIB No. 403 and other units
1. Taung Zin
2. Badat Chaung
4. Laung Minba
5. Hti Kwar
6. Ka Hti War
7. Inn Ywar
8. Peinbin Aing
9. Oat Tu
10. Kado Twin
Total houses and estimated population: 732 and 4000
(2) Yebyu Township
Date of forced relocation: During the first quarter of 1993
Conducted by: Regular IB No. 104
2. Yapu (recently the village was situated in east side of Ye-Tavoy motor road and
it was relocated close to motor road) Total houses and estimated population: 200 and 1000
(3) Thayet Chaung Township
Date of forced relocation: April 1992
Conducted by: SLORC's LIB joint military operation 'Than Lyet Sit Hsin Yay"
1. Thayet Hna Khwa
2. Ye Byat
3. Me Ke
4. Kyauk Aing
6. Kywe Cyan
8. Byat Wi
9. Taung Byauk
11. Thabyu Chaung
12. The Lan
13. Gonnyin Zeit
14. Yegyo Chaung
15. Thayerpin Aing
16. Si Dat
18. Sone Zin
19. Si Taw
Total houses and estimated population: 2404 and 13000
Location Map of Gas-Pipeline Project
[see pdf version, when online, for unscrambled legend etc.]
-|-|-|-|-| - Ye-Tavoy railway under construction
------ Motor Road under† construction
Proposed gas pipeline route
Orders of SLORC's local battalion, conscription of forced labour
and material collection for the army that guarding the pipeline project
[see pdf version, when online, for the full Burmese facsimile]
Date: 19 August, 1996
------- As soon as you received, this letter, the village chairman or secretary must have to come and meet us. Please arranged for voluntary labour (portering) along with you.†† The village representative must have to meet us. If the village is good to us, in turn, we will be good to you
Note: Please come to ----- village, at 2:00 p.m.
(2nd Lt. Win Sein)
LIB No. 408 military operation
quarter/ villager tract
(d) The township (Yebyu) have to send 20000 sheets of palm roofing thatches to Heinze Boke island.†† The area project (gas pipeline) implementing group will send it. Please take and use the cash to buy the thatches from your quarter/ village's Ye-Tavoy railway construction tax collection for digging earth.
Township Secretary, Township LORC
Photos in the project area
Coastal region: the fishermen have faced more† difficulty since the company and military came to exploit the natural gas
The field personnels: the French citizens on the trucks, they have operated to lay pipe in the area under dangerous conditions and unstable political situation of Burma