* 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 3/97 (June, 1997)
SLORC Troops intruded into a Mon Refugee Camp, Halockhani
The Dry Season Offensives and Population Displacement
SLORC - State Law and Order Restoration Council,
NMSP - New Mon State Party,
MNLA - Mon National Liberation Army,
KNU - Karen National Union,
KNLA - Karen National Liberation Army,
IB - Regular Infantry Battalion of SLORC,
LIB - Light Infantry Battalion of SLORC,
SLORC troops Intruded into a Mon refugee camp, Halockhani
The SLORC's Intrusion into the camp
These troops came to the border camp according to the order instructed from South-eastern Military Command to check the borderline with the Thai authorities. On 11 May, the two countries' authorities checked the borderline and no agreement on the exact borderline was reached. But the SLORC troops continuously stayed in the camp.
Soon after they reached into the camp, the soldiers asked several kinds of materials for their commander from the section leaders including sleeping bed and chicken for daily meals.
When one section leader could not find a good sleeping bed he was shout by the commander. The refugees were also asked to provide vegetables and other foods to all soldiers who stayed in their houses.
Like other border point, soon after they reached in the camp, the soldiers opened two check-points to collect tax from the villagers and traders. The first checkpoint was at the entrance of the camp and the second was in the middle of the camp. The soldiers collected 50 Baht per head from the villagers who passed their checkpoints whether they were refugees or traders. This was the way they restricted the movement of the refugees.
The troops also took bases on the top of the mountains surrounding the camp and the tension between the Mon National Liberation Army (MNLA) and SLORC troops intensed every day. The NMSP and MNLA leaders came and met the SLORC commander every day and told them to withdraw their troops as soon as possible. The Mon troops also took bases and a good position to fight, at the top of other mountains. The refugees were lied between the two troops.
After they checked for the borderline, the SLORC troops must have to return to their origin base in Three Pagoda Pass. But they declared to the Mon troops that they had another responsibility to attack the KNU/KNLA troops near the area, besides the duty to check the borderline. If the fighting happened in the area between the SLORC troops and other armed opposition groups MNLA or KNLA, considerably, many refugees who were blocked inside the camp, must be killed.
Then, the troops really planned to build the military barracks inside the camp and on the top of the mountains. The soldiers also ordered the respective section leaders to provide bamboo and thatches from each house for the barrack. The section leaders informed about the SLORC troops' instruction to the NMSP leaders. NMSP refused to provide these materials and barred the section leaders not to follow the instruction.
During their stay in the camp, the SLORC soldiers also made lots of trouble to the relief workers who worked in the hospitals and camp's relief office. They also asked the MNRC's camp leader to provide them rice for troops because they faced shortage of food for the military operation. The soldiers also went to hospital and asked several kinds of medicines from the health workers.
Background of Halockhani camp
Halockhani camp was established in the beginning of 1994 by Mon National Relief Committee (MNRC), to resettle the Mon refugees who were forcibly repatriated by the Thai authorities in duration from January through March of 1994. Before this settlement, Halockhani camp was a small village where the ethnic Mon and Karen were staying together.
At the beginning of 1994, the Thai authorities had constantly pressured the NMSP to enter into ceasefire talks with SLORC. In pressing the NMSP, the Mon refugees deep inside Thai territory, in Loh Loe camp, were used as pawns. These refugees had been taking refuge inside Thai territory since the fall of Three Pagoda Pass area where was controlled by NMSP and the Mon villagers were taken refuge there as internally displaced persons. In the course of the approximately five-decade-long civil war in Burma, many thousands of Mon villagers lost their homes and escaped into NMSP controlled area for a safe haven.
When the Thai authorities conducted the forced repatriation of the refugees, the MNRC, a relief organization representing Mon refugees, complained not to move these refugees as the situation inside Burmese territory was unsafe enough to repatriate them. But the Thai authorities cut foods for the refugees and pressed them to move from the Loh Loe campsite to Halockhani. Later the refugees abandoned the camp and agreed to move to Halockhani camp.
Geographically, the Halockhani refugee camp site situates on a very narrow area between the two lines of the hills. The camp area is very narrow and the most refugees built their on the slope side of the hills. When they initially resettled in this camp, the situation was very unsafe because the camp was five or six hours walk from the SLORC bases in Three-Pagoda-Pass. The camp was very vulnerable from the attack of the SLORC troops.
After three months resettlement, in July, the camp was attacked by the SLORC troops from the LIB No. 62 from Three-Pagoda-Pass. About 100 troops led by second-in-command of the battalion Major. Ohn Myint came to the camp and one section of the camp, Baleh Donephai, was totally burnt down by the soldiers. As result, about 5000 refugees of the entire refugee camp fled across the border into the Thai territory for their safety.
On behalf of the Mon refugees who fled into Thailand, the MNRC officially requested the Thai government to resettle them inside Thai territory for their safety until the Burma retained peace. The international community including UNHCR in Bangkok and western governments requested the Thai government to resettle these refugees inside Thai territory. The refugees, however, were consistently refused by Thai authorities to take refuge on the Thai soil. Their rice-warehouse was confiscated by the Thai soldiers and food supplies were cut for some days and then, they decided to move to former campsite. Eventually, the 5000 refugees were forced to return to their unsafe camp site over the Burmese border after one and half month in temporary shelters of the Thai territory. Until NMSP-SLORC ceasefire agreement, the all refugees had been again living in this camp in constant fear of possible further attacks by the SLORC troops.
After reaching of the official NMSP-SLORC ceasefire agreement, the camp situation became more safe. The refugees, however, did not return to their native villages because they were well-informed about the human rights situation in their area and they have been up to now adhering in this camp. Although the ceasefire have been stable, the activities of the SLORC troops in surrounding areas also made regular threat to the refugees. In addition, they have worried for the SLORC troop settlement in the area or in the camp and the SLORC troops actually took base for five days in the camp.
In conclusion, the NMSP-SLORC ceasefire agreement is not a political solution to retain peace in the whole Burma and Holockhani camp, as a part of Burma in border area, will remain unsafe for the Mon refugees. Additionally, when these refugees were repatriated, they were not recognized according to international principles of refugee convention, and they have been, thus, received less protection from the international community.
To realize the situation how the refugees felt while the SLORC troops took base for five days in Halockhani camp, our human rights workers, conducted a interview with a refugee in the camp.
Name: Nai Nyein
Age/ Sex: 47 years/ Male
Nationality/ Religion: Mon/ Buddhist
Native Place: Kwe-tho-nyima village, Yebyu township, Tenasserim Division
Current Place: Halockhani camp, Thai-Burma border
When did you arrive to this refugee camp? And Why?
I arrived here about two years ago. My native village is Kye-tho-nyima village. I came here because I escaped from the conscription of forced labour. When I was in village (in 1994 and 1995), we, the villagers were always asked the military through village headmen to work in the Ye-Tavoy construction. I had no time to work in my rice farm and faced food-shortage problem. Once, I was absent to go and work in the construction and I was severely beaten by the Burmese soldiers from LIB No. 408, and then I decide to leave my home and village. I came here with my whole family.
When the Burmese troops came into this village (Halockhani camp), did you stay in your house and how did you feel?
I was very afraid like other villagers. I went to Baleh Donephai and carried sugar cane to sell it and when I arrived home about 5-6 o'clock in the evening, the Burmese soldiers were in the village. Two young soldiers, about 14 years old, were staying in my house and my wife and children were quiet. It was hard to decide should I climb to house and turned to the section leader house. One commander was in his house and I stood on the road, then he came to me and said not to be afraid and stay in home. I went back home.
When I dropped sugar-cane in front of my house, one soldiers came and asked to give sugar-cane. The other soldiers came and took sugar-canes without payment. I was very afraid and did not tell anything to them. Every day during their stay, they always asked for vegetables and meats from us. Every family in the village were in fear of the fighting happened in their village, because the Mon troops also took base at the top of a mountain not so far from the Burmese soldiers. We told each other to flee into Thailand. But it was too difficult. Many Thai soldiers took base at the entrance of Thai territory and we had no ID card to go into Thailand. We thought if the fighting happened, we must be killed.
How did they treat the villagers?
The soldiers went around every house and checked the population of the camp. They searched around the houses for arms. They also asked the villagers to tell them the native villagers and why we fled to this village. We lied them we came here to get good jobs and more income.
The soldiers also went to the hospital and made troubles to the female medics. They asked medicines from the hospital and ordered the medics to take care their commanders. They also asked the section leaders to provide bamboo and thatches to build the military barrack. I suddenly remember about the forced conscription of the villagers in our village to build the military base. They did the same. On the next day, the Mon commander came and told the villagers to not provide bamboo and thatches. We were afraid of fighting the two troops.
How did they leave from the village?
After their stay for five days, they left from the villagers. The Mon commander pushed them every day to return Three-Pagoda-Pass. At the end, they agreed to return. But they said about 20 porters from the village to carry their supplies and weapons. The village and section agreed to provide them 20 porters to carry their materials because we needed them to leave the village as quickly as possible. The 20 porters carried the materials to a place, Day Sot, on the half way to Three-Pagoda-Pass.
The Dry Season Offensives and Population Displacement
Gross Human Rights Abuses and the Population Displacement
Since March, after the SLORC troops intensified the military offensives against the KNU/ KNLA, more Karen villagers have fled to Halockhani refugee camp, which is administered by the Mon National Relief Committee (MNRC) and the majority refugees are Mon. The population of Karen refugees had suddenly grown from 500 to over 2000 in dry season (from March to the end of May). These new arrivals have left from the villages along the Three-Pagoda-Pass -Thanbyuzayat motor road and villages in Kya-Inn-Seikyi township.
After the intensive offensives, the SLORC troops occupied many bases of the KNLA troops and the Karen villagers in the area were accused as rebel-supporters and they were inhumanely mistreated by the soldiers. These areas had been controlled by KNU/KNLA for several years and this offensives is the first one which KNU lost many bases in the area.
Many villages along the Three-Pagoda-Pass - Thanbyuzayat motor road such as Maezalee, Taungzun, Apalon, Kyunchaung, and other villages were occupied by the SLORC troops and the soldiers have also restricted the movement of the villagers. They also forced the villagers to show the KNU/KNLA bases in the areas nearby and let the villagers advance in front of the troops in finding the rebels. In each occupied village, the SLORC troops have planned to build the military encampment to keep firm control in the whole area and prevent the new deployment of the KNLA.
Soon after the villages were occupied, the soldiers confiscated all foods inside the village by forces or without payment. The soldiers shared a little amount of food to villagers and then forced them all the time to contribute labour in building military encampment. The villages were created as concentration camps and the soldiers used all villagers to be forced labourers. Sometimes, they were used as front-line porters.
One villager from Kyun Chaung said,
"The troops closed all entrances of our village and arrested all villagers including elder persons and children. They forced the men to cut trees and bamboo to build the military barrack in our village. They took all our food and kept in their base and distributed few to villagers. All men had to work in building military barracks and some were used as porters to carry the rice and ammunition for the soldiers. One of our villagers, Ba Mu (54 years old) were disappeared up to now after he was taken as porter in second week of March."
In using them as front-line porters, the villagers were forced to advance in front of the troops in the battle fields as human shields. The porters were also killed by soldiers when they could not walk more or after they were re-arrested from unsuccessful escape attempts. Normally, these porters were not fed with adequate amount of food and water by the soldiers.
In some case, the SLORC troops also shelled rockets or shot with small guns into village where was believed the KNU/KNLA used as their base, thus the innocent villagers died. Sometimes, the fighting also happened inside village and the villagers died. Moreover, when they arrested for porters, they also fired on escaped villagers in attempting stop them.
On February 8, while the SLORC troops from LIB No. 343 launched a military patrol along the Zami river, entered a Karen and Mon village, Apalon, the fighting happened inside there and the SLORC troops fired on two villagers. One girl, Naw Thit Shu (20 years) died on the spot. The other Karen villager got a severe injury. One shop inside village was burnt by fire.
These villagers were originally farmers when they were in the native villages. When the SLORC offensives intensified in the area, they also lost chance to start farming activities. All movements such as farming, gathering forest products, trading, of the villagers were totally retracted by the SLORC troops and if they met the villagers outside of village, they could shoot and kill them as the area has been declared as Black area or Free-fire zone.
In this circumstance, the villagers could not survive longer in the area and abandoned their villages, farms, plantations, livestocks, and etc., and fled into refugee camp or displaced internally. Very few of them migrated into Thailand as illegal immigrants to seek jobs. Because of the new arrivals from the area, the population in Halockhani camp suddenly increased in dry season of 1997 (from March to June).
To realize the human rights situation in villages along the Three-Pagoda-Pass-Thanbyuzayat motor road and in Kya-Inn-Seikyi township area, our human rights workers also conducted an interview a villager from these area as an instance.
Name: U Thar Htae
Sex/Age: Male/ 56 years
Nationality/ Religion: Karen/ Buddhist
Native Place: Kyun Chaung Village, Kya-Inn-Seikyi township, Karen State
Interview date: 5 June, 1997.
When we conducted with this victim, he and his whole family were displaced and stayed in a Mon village (Ywa Thit) near Three-Pagoda-Pass in his friend house.
Why did you leave from your village and when?
I arrived here one month ago. I cannot survive if we stayed in our village longer. The Burmese soldiers took all our rice; and they didn't give us to feed our family. That was why I fled here to escape from the mistreatment of Burmese soldiers and seek a job for income.
Do you get job here, now?
Yes. Now, I am a worker in a furniture factory. Can you explain me how the Burmese soldiers confiscated your rice and when?
It was at the beginning of March. About 500 Burmese soldiers from the joint operation (especially from IB. 61, IB. 32, LIB. 343 and other Light Infantry Battalions and these troops are under the command of SLORC Brigade No. 44) arrived to our area and rounded our village up. The soldiers came in and called a meeting with all villagers. Firstly, they asked how often the Karen troops came to village and then explained that if we keep our paddy or rice in our village, the Karen soldiers will take it. They instructed the villagers to carry all their rice in the middle of the village and keep it in one place.
How did they (the soldiers) keep all paddy and rice from the villagers? Did they distribute to the villagers later?
They forced the villagers to build the military camp and keep all these rice and paddy in their base inside the village. The villagers have to build a big rice store and all villagers' paddy was kept there. Yes, they distribute to the villagers. First, they distribute one basket of paddy to each family for one week. It was not enough to eat. When we asked them to give, the commander refused. After two weeks we had to buy our rice from the soldiers. The commander said they will keep these paddy for their troops and if the villagers need they have to buy it.
How much you have to pay for one basket of paddy?
About 80 Kyat per basket. Most villagers had no cash to buy and we gathered cash and bought the rice, and then shared it equally.
You said, the soldiers also forced the villagers to build their military barrack? How did they conscript the villagers and when it was?
Soon after they arrived to our village, the soldiers planned to build the military camp. Recently, the Burmese Army arrived to our village, they stayed only few hour and never planned to build their base. This time, they changed their plan. The conscripted all male villagers including boys to build the military barrack. These villagers went to their base in the morning and returned home in the evening. We had to work for the whole day except one hour rest for lunch.
What kind of works did you have to work?
Several kinds of work. We dug earth to make bunkers and trenches. We cleared the land and dug the earth for a plain ground. We built the barrack and cut bamboo to make fence. The trees around the base were cut down and used in building barracks and etc.,.
Did they use the villagers as front-line porters?
Yes. They brought many porters together with them and these porters were arrested from other areas. But they also used our villagers to show the base of the Karen troops. Once, after two days they reached the villagers, they used about 20 our villagers including me to show the Karen bases. They forced us to walk in advance and if the Karen troops shot, we must be killed before them. But luckily, there was no fighting or shooting from the Karen troops.
Did you hear about the killing of the porters when you was there?
Yes. When we built the military barrack, I also talked with a porter from Kya-Inn-Seikyi town. He was a Karen. He said the two Karen villagers who were arrested as porters from villages near Taungbauk (a village close to Kya-Inn-Seikyi town) they were killed by the soldiers on a mountain before reaching to our village. These men were sick and could not walk more. The soldiers were getting angry on these men and beat them. Then they shot them and left behind.
Because of the forced labour and portering, did the men flee from village?
No. You couldn't flee, because your wife and children were in the village. They also made registration of the villagers and told the head of family that if they fled from the village, they will punish their wives and children. So nobody dared to flee without their whole family. When I fled I brought all my family members. If I left someone there, he/ she must be severely punished.
When will you return home?
It is depended on the situation in the village. I will stay here for the whole rainy season and next dry season, if there is no fighting, I will go back.