* 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 5/97   (November, 1997)

 

 

Report One

The Prachuab Mon Refugees: Nowhere to Run

 

Report Two,

The Forced Labour and Arbitrary Execution in Mergui District

 

Some Acronyms

SLORC -      State Law and Order Restoration Council,

SPDC -        State Peace and Development Council,

NMSP -        New Mon State Party,

MNRC -       Mon National Relief Committee,

MAMD -      Mon Army, Mergui District,

KNU -          Karen National Union,

KNLA -        Karen National Liberation Army,

IB -              Regular Infantry Battalion of SLORC,

LIB - Light Infantry Battalion of SLORC,

UNHCR -     United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees,

MSF -          Medicines Sans Frontier,

 

Report One


The Prachuab Mon Refugees: Nowhere to Run

 

Unsafe Situation and Spontaneous Repatriation

 

Due to decade-long civil war in southern part of Burma, many ethnic Mon, Karen and Tavoyan displaced persons fled into KNU and NMSP or other ethnic armed forces control areas to escape from war or human rights abuses committed by government troops. Last about 4-5 years ago, the fighting between SLORC and the ethnic armed forces such as KNU's 4th Brigade, NMSP's Mergui district had intensified and about over 2,000 ethnic Mon, Karen, Tavoyan displaced persons have sought a safe haven inside NMSP Mergui district control area. In November 1996, according to NMSP-SLORC ceasefire agreement, some part of NMSP control area would have to transfer to SLORC and the NMSP must withdraw from the area. Some NMSP senior commanders dissatisfied on this decision and took a coup in district headquarters. This breakaway group called themselves as "Mon Army, Mergui District (MAMD)". The displaced persons have also remained under the protection of MAMD.

 

In April, 1997, the SLORC's offensives against the KNU and MAMD have intensive and many Mon villagers in Mergui district area were displaced and about one thousand of them fled into Thai territory. The offensive that advanced to MAMD was jointly operated by local SLORC troops from LIB No. 224, No. 358 and No. 432 which were under the command of Coastal Region Military Command of Major-Gen. Sit Maung. In launching the offensives, Brigadier Aung Khin led this military joint operation. On 18-19 April, this operation could occupy some bases of ABSDF and KNU in the north part of MAMD headquarters. On 23 April, the operation turned head to MAMD bases. On 26 April, the SLORC troops could occupy one base of MAMD troops and then hundreds of refugees poured into Thai territory. On 27 April, the SLORC troops burnt down Chaungchi village and then retreated back to Murntaing where they have a temporary base.

 

However the fighting inside the area was not ceased down and the SLORC troops had attempted to occupy more KNU, ABSDF and MAMD bases. Because of the constant fighting inside Burmese territory, Thai authorities allowed the Mon and other ethnic refugees who fled from Chaungchi area, according to Thai government's policy. About 400 refugees were allowed to encamp inside Thailand in a place about 5 kilometers far from borderline called "Nongyaplong". Thai authorities also allowed the aid agencies for survival assistance to refugees and other international organizations for visit.

 

In May, the fighting was intensive and more refugees fled into Thai territory. On 18 May, after SLORC repeated offensives, many refugees fled into Thailand group by group. Many of them did not join and stay inside the camp and disappeared inside Thai territory, because they distrust on the Thai authorities. However, some of them came and stayed in the camp. The temporary camp population grew up to 800. The MSF also helped those refugees with medical care and the MNRC also helped them with basic foods.

 

On 24 May, due to intensive military offensives by SLORC and precarious situation to defend the area, the MAMD troops contacted SLORC to surrender. On 25 May, the SLORC held an occasion of surrendering ceremony for MAMD and the MAMD troops also agreed to give many hundreds of arms to SLORC. Then the SLORC officials also ordered MAMD leaders to organize the refugees inside Thai territory to return their former villages for another ceremony to show that the villagers in the border area also welcome the surrender of MAMD. SLORC officials also promised to villagers that they may help in developing the border area and provide a lot of profit to poor villagers.

 

Anyhow, soon after the surrender, the SLORC troops took bases in all former villages of the displaced persons and began building military camps. All refugees were afraid to be repatriated, but Thai authorities explained them they must be returned because the situation inside Burmese territory was safe and no more fighting. The refugees, who have experience about the human rights violation of SLORC knew how they must be treated after return and stay under the rule of military regime, had refused to return and requested for longer refuge inside Thai territory.

 

On 29 May, some MAMD officials arrived at the temporary camp and organized the refugees to return to their former homes. According to officials, SLORC had promised them that they would develop the area with education, health assistance and other services. In the meeting, most refugees insisted that they would not like to return former villages because the Burmese troops setting up their bases. But according to MAMD officials, SLORC officials Major-Gen. Sit Maung, met with Thai military officials to arrange for the return of the refugees.

 

On 30 May, Major-Gen. Sit Maung officially met with Thai military officials from Ninth Division and they agreed to send those refugees back. On the following days, the SLORC and Thai military officials made many visits to the temporary campsite and put more pressure on refugees for a return to Chaungchi area. At the end, after several rounds of talks and intensive pressure, the refugees had no choice except to return. If they stayed inside Thai territory, they must be arrested as "illegal immigrants".

 

On 6 June, a spontaneous repatriation was conducted by Thai authorities. They also invited Bangkok based UNHCR to participate in a low profile monitoring of the repatriation and did not allow the UNHCR to inquire the detail situation in their homes and real desire of the refugees whether they would like to return or not. While the repatriation was conducting, about 200 refugees disappeared and fled into deep inside Thai territory. The process of repatriated to some refugees was anyhow succeeded.

 

 

Abuses after Repatriation

 

It was not the end of the story. After the refugees returned and stayed in their former villages, they were ill-treated and blocked by the army from moving into Thai territory again. All entrances of the village were made into check-points by the SLORC troops and the villagers could not leave. But some villagers tried to flee into Thai territory in secret ways.

 

Later, by using the secret ways, more villagers fled into Thai territory again. According to escapees, the SLORC has conscripted forced labour from the whole village to build their military encampment. In each village of Chaungchi area, the SLORC had planned to build their military bases and soon after the arrival of villagers on Burmese territory, they were consistently forced to work for the military. The SLORC officials ordered village headmen to take responsibility to bring the villagers to the worksites. The villagers have been forced to work with daily basis and if refused, they were severely punished.

 

Most of the village headmen were the main leaders who refused to return when they were in Thai territory and the SLORC forced them to take responsibility to build bases as revenge. The daily work in the military camps were clearing grass, digging earth, making fence, building barracks and etc.. Every able-bodied person including women and children in the villages has been forced to work. The SLORC officials promised to provide six months worth of rice to the refugees, but only the small amount of one week worth of rice provided at the end of June.

 

When they arrived in villages, the refugees did not have any opportunity to re-build their houses and make farms for survival because they were busy with work for the military. If the villagers disagreed with the military, they faced severe punishment. The SLORC officials organized some villagers to be their agents and checked opinion of the villagers. The villagers could not trust each other as they did not know who were agents. If anyone planned to escape and was revealed, people feared punishment and death. Thus, the villagers are staying in constant fear of most terrible circumstance.

 

On June 21, the SLORC officials called a meeting with the villagers and ordered them to complete the encampment as soon as possible. They also instructed the villagers to bring their own tools and food from their homes. At the end of meeting, a villager asked them not to use every villagers in daily basis and allow some of them to work in re-building house and clearing land for farms. While he was proposing his opinion, one official hit him with water glass and warned all villagers not to make any complaint to the military. They were also warned that to eat the rice distributed by military and work for the military, if they did not, they would be severely punished.

 

At the beginning of July, numerous villagers were arrested and SLORC attempted to force them as frontline porters in their offensives against the KNU bases situated nearby. About 15 men from Huayphak and 10 men from Chaungchi were arrested as frontline porters and they were forced to carry ammunition and supplies along the military operation. This military offensive was operated by LIB No. 358 and No. 224. Many of villager porters were beaten and were also used as mine-sweepers in advancing to KNU bases.

 

For instance,

One villager from Huayphak area, Nai Thaung Shein (42 years old), was hit by a mine and his left leg was cut, when the SLORC launched offensives against KNU's 4th Brigade.   The villager porters brought him back to the village, but the military did not provide special treatment for him. He was transferred to a Thai hospital and his family has to pay for all costs of treatment. He has five children altogether and the military did not give any help to his family after his leg was cut.

 

Besides the conscription of forced labour in building the military encampments and forced portering to the frontline, the villagers were also forced to build the roads to connect from one SLORC base to another. On 13 July, the whole villagers from Huayphak and Chaungchi areas were forced to build the road from Huayphak to Chaungchi. Some villagers from Chaungchi were also forced to build the road from Seik Mon to Murntaing (see map).

 

After the refugees were repatriated in June, there was no follow-up monitoring conducted by Thai authorities who took responsibility sending them back, and international organization especially UNHCR. Despite no community reconstruction assistance was provided, they were inhumanely treated by the military. Due to the consistent forced labour and other abuses, the villagers had tried to flee into Thai territory again.

 

 

No Welcome Situation inside Thai Territory

 

Starting from July 12, the villagers from Chaungchi, who were recently repatriated, fled into Thai territory group by group. They came by secret ways, where the SLORC have no checkpoints, with their whole in dark mid-night. They twisted the way and climbed the mountains, slept in jungles for some nights, and then reached into a number of Thai owned plantation inside Thai territory. But they were not allowed to stay in those plantation and were drove out by the Thais. About 400 refugees have reached Thailand's former campsite area "Nongyaplong" again during the period of July 12 through July 20.

 

They were not, however, given protection by Thai authorities as they had been before. When they reached the Thai border area, the Thai authorities did not allow them to regroup and they were sent to a number of Thai owned plantation in the area by some officials but unofficially. They were accused of being illegal immigrants and threatened with deportation to Burma. Actually, they were recognized as refugees who were repatriated by Thai authorities recently and were insisted that if there was no fighting, they were not refugees and no shelter for them in Thai territory.

 

Among those refugees who could speak and understand Thai language, easily fled more deeper inside Thailand and sought refuge and job for their survival. On July 18, about 200 refugees, including women and small children, were arrested by Thai border police. The police chief involved was from the district of Nongyaplong and former shelter area. They were not detained, but rather given three hours to gather their belongings and travel to an area in Thai territory situated right at the borderline. In such a location they were readily accessible to attack from SLORC troops. Because of the fear this created, almost all of them had fled seeking haven deeper in Thai territory. They left if they remained where they were, the SLORC troops would seek them out and kill them for having left in the first place.

 

On July 21, SLORC's LIB 358 Commander Col. Tun Wai came into Thai territory and discussed with Thai border authorities the subsequent deportation to Burma of those escapees. The Thai authorities told the SLORC commander that the escapees had been already returned to the border area. Naturally, this heightened the fear of the escapees. When, finally, on July 23, a UNHCR official visited the area, only 20 families of over 80 population remained. Thai border officials misinformed the UNHCR official by saying that the refugees were not recent returnees to Chaungchi area and were illegal immigrants came from deeper inside Burma to seek jobs.

 

After the visit of UNHCR, the Thai authorities, the army from Ninth Division and border police, met with the escapees and gave them three days to voluntarily return to Burma. Following that "rest period", the Thai officials said that they would be arrested, and detained for a month and then deported to Burmese territory, Chaungchi area again. All of them refused to return to Burma and they have since fled deeper into Thai territory becoming, in fact, illegal immigrants.

Thus, those who accepted the offer of repatriation with assurances by SLORC to be provided with several development services and inadequate monitoring of UNHCR, have been systematically shuffled from location to location, placed in danger, forced into conscripted labour and have given up the relative security of the original refugee camp for the uncertain and hazardous status of illegal immigrants. They will, as have others before them, be forced into hazardous, low-paying work under threat of arrest.

 

 

The Last Incident: The Repatriation to Halockhani Camp

 

Because of the human rights abuses and intolerable situation among the MAMD members, the MAMD, itself, split each other in November. This split also made the flee of the refugees into Thailand and they did not get any protection from any organization.

 

Although the SLORC gave several kinds of promise for assistance under the banner of border area development program before their return from Thailand, only the consistent forced labour had been conscripted by soldiers. Actually, the SLORC's (or SPDC's) border area development program was the plan to build roads and military barracks in the border area. No machines were provided in the construction and the villagers were constant suffered as forced labourers to contribute manual labour on the daily basis.

 

When the SLORC conducted the conscription of forced labour in the villages, its troops also encourage the MAMD to help them in conscripting the villagers to be labourers in all constructions. Under the instruction of SLORC troops, some MAMD members disagreed on their behaviour, but they have no opportunity to complaint and kept silence. At the same time, top leaders of MAMD were offered with business opportunity by SLORC and the ordinary soldiers were getting more dissatisfaction on those top leaders. It was a tactic of SLORC in breaking the unity among ethnic armed forces. Because of unkind behaviour and consistent conscription of forced labour by SLORC and additional disunity situation also created a rebellion among the MAMD group. A coup without blood was happened in Huayphak area while SPDC troops were taking permanent base in Chaung Chi area.

 

On November 16, a group of retired and ordinary Mon soldiers in Huayphak area under the leadership of Maj. Sein Hla took a coup from MAMD again. These soldiers took all arms left in the bases and brought it to another place and declared to resume fighting against SPDC and MAMD troops. All soldiers in Huayphak area joined with this breakaway group and moved to other place. After coup, the situation of the villagers in the area became very unsafe and they must be accused as rebel-supporters by the SPDC and MAMD troops.

 

After the SPDC and MAMD leaders knew the incident happened in Huayphak area, they prepared to launch an offensives in a hurry to Hauyphak area. Before the reaching of SPDC and MAMD, all about 300 villagers, including women and children, in the area fled into Thai territory by secret ways. They were not allowed to walk along the way that connected Huayphak and Thai territory, and twisted the way, climbed the border mountains, slept in the jungles and entered into Thai owned plantation in the Thai territory. They spent for nearly two days to reach into Thai territory as they could not use the straight way that takes about one hour walk.

 

When they reached inside Thai territory, they were afraid the arrest of the Thai authorities and then deportation, most of them continuously fled deeper inside Thailand. About 60 villagers were arrested by the Thai border police and detained for two days. Before the news of these escapees was flow, the Thai authorities mainly, Ninth Division, arranged to repatriate them to Halockhani, a Mon refugee camp on the borderline in Kanchanaburi Province.

 

On 21 November, the NMSP and MNRC were informed by the Thai authorities that those about 60 escapees were being deported to Halockhani camp. At night time, those escapees Sangkhlaburi and the MNRC accepted them and resettled in Halockhani camp. Before this repatriation, about 16 refugees from four families voluntarily returned to Halockhani by their own arrangement.

 

 

Interview

 

To realize how the refugees have been suffered from spontaneous repatriation and human rights violation inside Burmese territory, we also conducted interview with a escapees who reached into Thai territory again in July.

 

Name: Nai Khaing

Sex/ Age: Male/ (53) years

Nationality/ Religion: Mon/ Buddhist

Occupation: Refugee

Native Place: Kyauktaung village, Boke Pyin township, Tenasserim Division

Temporary Home: Chaungchi village, Mergui District, Tenasserim Division

Interview Date: 24 July, 1997.

 

 

When did you arrive into Thai territory again? How did you come and are you alone or with your whole family?

 

I came with my whole family and arrived here about 5 days ago. We could not come along straight way that easily reach into Thai territory, and we twisted the way in the north side of the mountains. We climbed the mountains and slept for one night in forest and then climbed down into a Thai plantation.

 

 

Are you a returnee in June repatriation by the Thai authorities?  Did you really want to return to Burmese side of the border?

 

Yes, I was a returnee. Actually, we would not like to return but we were afraid of being detained by the Thai soldiers and we didn't know how to stay inside Thailand like other families. At the same time, we were also afraid about the new military deployment of the Burmese troops in our village. We knew very well about them. If they met us, we knew, they will use us as porters like in our native village.

 

Many villagers disappeared while the Thai soldiers were bringing them with trucks to Burmese side of the border. Some of them ever knew how to travel inside Thailand and also knew sources where they could get jobs. Like me, I never stayed inside Thailand and if I fled from the group, I must be arrested by police. Though I didn't want to return but I did.

 

 

Why did you come back to the Thai territory again?

 

Soon after we reached in the village, all villagers were used by the military and we have no to build our house or make farm. They used all men, women, children in the whole village to build their military barrack and forced us to build the road. Before we fled here, the soldiers also arrested the villagers to use them as porters for Burmese Army in the frontline against the Karen troops.

 

 

How did the soldiers force the villagers to build the military encampment?  And what kind of work you have to work everyday?

 

Normally, the Burmese commanders ordered to Mon soldiers to bring all villagers to worksite. They also gave responsibility to village leaders to manage and bring the needed labourers. Almost all villagers were conscripted to work in building their military encampment. We went early in the morning to the designated place and first, had to clear all trees and grasses to get a plain ground. After clearing ground, they forced us to dig bunkers with 9 feet deep and covered with piece of wood and earth on it. We also had to dig three long trenches inside the base compound and later build fences outside of the camp. When I left the village, the rest villagers were forced to build the military with hard-woods and bamboo. All villagers were forced to cut and bring big pieces of hardwood from the forest.

 

 

Did you have enough food while you were working for them?    Or, did they provide some foods for village?

 

No. At that time, they also use some villagers to bring rice from Murntaing village, about one day walk from our village. When the rice arrived, they took first for their troops and distributed very few amount to the villagers. They also told the villagers that not to expect the rice from relief agency and if they would like to eat rice they must go to Murntaing. They provided us only about 10 days of rice supplies and we made rice soup and ate it for several days before we fled.

Once, they also called a meeting with all villagers and asked to complete their military encampment. One villager also request the soldiers to give time to build houses and make farm. He was hit by a glass threw from the commander. They also shout not to make any complaint and to continue building military encampment if the villagers ate their rice.

 

 

When did you decide to flee from the village?

 

On 10 July, the soldiers also told the villagers that some of them will have to carry ammunitions and supplies for Burmese army in the offensives against the KNU and other student groups. I don't know where was the fighting happening. Many villagers were afraid of being arrested to be porters and then I fled into my old plantation and stayed there. On the next day, my sons and wife came and joined with me. Then, we decide to flee here.

 

 

Report Two

 

The Forced Labour and Arbitrary Execution in Mergui District

 

The Offensives and Accompanying Abuses by SLORC

 

Since the beginning of 1997, SLORC had planned to launch military offensives against the rebel groups such as KNU, MAMD, ABSDF and MDUF. which were based or active in Mergui district, Tenasserim Division. From March through July, even in the rainy season, the SLORC local battalions under a number of military operations had continuously fought those rebel troops and sometimes, arranged a large offensives and occupied some border bases of the rebel groups. In the military purposes, the SLORC troops also relocated many villages and declared some villages as rebel bases, killed many villagers in the places they defined as free fire zones. After their occupation of the border bases, they also forced the villagers in building various truck roads.

 

In 1996, the SLORC also planned to relocate over 40 Karen, Tavoyan, Mon and Thai (of Burma) villages into their designated sites and grouping them in one big village where they took. The SLORC local troops from LIB No. 432, 434, 358 and 224 had participated in moving all villagers from their villages. This forced relocation program was instructed until the end of 1996 and thousands of villagers displaced or moved to border areas or migrated into Thailand. Most local Thai nationality of Burma moved into Thailand. The SLORC also had two designated resettlement sites to settle these villagers according to initial plan. The first place was called Myoh Thit, a satellite town outside of Tenasserim town. The second place was Moetaung, a planned border town, opposite of Prachuab Kirichan city of Thailand.

 

Most villagers refused to stay in new resettlement sites as they would not like to abandon their farms or plantation in their native villages. Later, at the beginning of 1997, the local SLORC troops knew that the relocation program was not successed. Then, they tried to organize the villagers again to return their former villages. But only some big villages were allowed and forced all villagers from small to move into big villages, where they mostly have military bases.

 

After all villagers came back to their former villages, they had been constantly conscripted to be forced labourers or frontline porters by the SLORC troops again. The SLORC had continuously operated military offensives against the ethnic rebels during the whole dry season until the end of July. Whenever the soldiers arrived into rural villages which were recognized and declared as free fire zones, many villagers were shot and killed by the soldiers with suspicion of rebel-supporters.

 

 

Constant Conscription of Forced Labour

 

The SLORC has attempted to complete the building of Tenasserim-Moe Taung motor road to use it as a trade route with Thailand. Since three years ago, this road has been built with forced labour conscripted from rural villagers and prisoners. But the construction process was not completed and conscription of forced labour has continued.

 

After SLORC troops repealed their order to relocate the villagers in designated places, many villagers returned to their former homes. When all villagers gathered in the villages, the soldiers gave order through village leaders to provide labourers in building about 50 miles long Tenasserim-Moe-taung motor road construction or frontline porters. The village's entrances were also blocked by soldiers and their movement was also restricted, and had been constantly demanded to provide labour in construction.

 

In Tenasserim-Moetaung motor road, on a daily basis, at least about 500 villagers and prisoners were used to build the embankment, lay the small crashed stones, crash the rock and build the bridges. Every big villages in Boke Pyin and Tenasserim townships were asked by forces to provide at least from three to five villagers to work in this construction. Sometimes, when the troops came into villages, they also arrested the villagers suddenly and then sent to construction sites, without demanding order.

 

The villagers who were sent by a rotation basis of their village leaders had to provide manual labour for one or two weeks period and when other villagers came, they could return from the work-sites. The villagers who were arrested and sent to construction were used in the construction for several weeks and without arriving of new substitute arrested villagers, they could not return homes. Some villagers have to work in this construction up to two months period. In some case, those arrested villagers were also arrested as frontline porters when the troops needed them to use.

 

Besides the Tenasserim-Moetaung motor road, the villagers were constantly used to build the local truck roads inside their own area. If these road constructions are completed, the local SLORC troops will accept the smooth communication from one place to another in this area. The truck roads such as Manawtone-Theinkhun-Tenassersim road had been built with forced labour of the villagers nearby. According to escapees, within one week, they had to construct this road for almost five days and only two days left to work their own jobs. After the MAMD surrender, the truck road from Chaungchi to Murntaing was built with forced labour of the villager returnees (see above report) and the villagers from inside area.

 

Additionally, in launching offensives against the KNU, MAMD and other groups, the SLORC had used hundreds of civilian porters. In April, when the joint military operation consisted LIB No. 224, No. 358 and No. 432 launched against KNU and MAMD, they used about 800 porters together with about 1,000 of their troops to carry ammunitions and supplies. In this operation, over 10 porters died on the half way because severe diseases or killed by the soldiers after their unsuccessful escape attempt in this operation. (See interview)

 

Most porters were arrested from three townships namely Boke Pyin, Tenasserim, and Mergui of Tenasserim Division. On the towns, the military asked for some number of porters but when the troops reached into rural areas, went into villages and arrested the villagers suddenly. The troops brought those arrested porters along with them. They forced the civilian porters to walk advance as mine-sweepers in most offensives to occupy the KNU bases.

 

Again, like other porters in the whole frontlines of Burma civil war, the civilians porters were not fed with adequate food and when they fell sick, they were not provided with proper medical care or medicines. In fact, many" civilian porters died because of malaria, diarrhea and malnutrition. Because of difficult situation and shortage of food, the porters always tried to escape. Some of them could escape but some were killed after their unsuccessful escape attempt.

 

 

Arbitrary Execution

 

Since some areas in Mergui district were declared as free fire zones, the internally displaced persons, who did not agree to move into SLORC designated villages, were always shot and killed by the soldiers very often. To halt the activities of KNU troops, the SLORC military operations were launched around Tenasserim and Boke Pyin townships' area. The displaced villagers were always suspected as rebel soldiers or rebel-supporters and they were also killed with this main suspicion.

 

 

The instances of the extrajudicial killings were as below:

 

When two columns of SLORC's LIB No. 224 military operation led by Col. Ye Myint Aung launch a patrol in east side of Boke Pyin town, near Ponechaung village, in third week of March, one Karen villager, Po Taw Ei (46 years) was shot by soldiers and died on the spot. While he was staying in his high-land rice plantation and dressing with civilian clothes, he was accused as rebel soldiers and the soldiers shot to him without careful inquiry. He was shot with six bullets at behind.

 

Similarly, when this LIB No. 224 led by Maj. Than Aung launched a patrol in Manawtone area, they also killed an elder couple of Karen in a forest, in first week of April. When more arrest of porters in the area, many villagers fled into forest to escape and they were also accused as rebel-supporters when the SLORC troops met them in the forest. The man, U Kway Ni (52 years old) and his wife, Naw Day Tet (49 years old), were arrested by the soldiers in the forest east of Manawtone village, and asked them the place of KNU bases. The couple constantly refused that they did not know the place of KNU troops. While the soldiers were interrogating, the couple were severely beaten by sticks, jungle boots, and gun butts. After they did not get a satisfied answer, they shot to couple and killed them. They also cut the bodies of the couple into three parts and left in a plantation.

 

The two Thai (of Burma) men form Theinkhun village, Tenasserim township, were also killed by military operation of LIB No. 358 led by second commander Maj. Thein Soe in second week of April. They were namely, Son Lin (36 years old) and Aye Ngwe (28 years old) and while they were cutting hardwoods for their house building, they were arrested by soldiers, and asked for MAMD and KNU troops. After these two villagers could not give a satisfied answer, they killed them.

 

 

Interview

 

To realize the situation of the local villagers in Mergui district area and their suffering because of military offensives in their area, we also conducted an interview with a victim, who escaped from forced portering used by SLORC's LIB No. 358 in July, 1997. He was used as a porter for nearly three months along with military operation and he escaped into Thai territory with refugees who fled into Thailand. (See the first report)

 

Name: U Bo Thar

Sex/Age: Male/ (52) years

Nationality/ Religion: Karen/ Buddhist

Occupation: Farmer

Native Place: Manawtone village, Boke Pyin township, Tenasserim Division

Interview Date: July 18, 1997.

 

 

When did the Burmese soldiers arrest you and how did they use you in their military operation?

 

I was arrested on 27 April and since then I was constantly used as porter, to carry rice and ammunitions along with LIB No. 358 military operation. Mostly, this military operation moved to Moetaung, Pongkachit and Chaungchi areas and launched offensives against Mon and Karen soldiers. For nearly three months, I was not given rest time and always have to work for the military.

 

 

How did you escape from them?

 

When I arrived into Chaungchi village, I have chance to talk with villagers there and always tried to escape from them (the Burmese soldiers). I was very tired and could not walk more. I was lucky, when the villagers came to here (Thai territory), they also informed me to go with them. When the soldiers let us cut bamboo and hardwoods in jungle, one villager hid me in forest and then he brought me here. This villager, Nai Aung Kyi, save my life. If I stayed longer with them, I must die.

 

 

What is you native village and how did the Burmese soldiers treat to your villagers?

 

I was from Manawtone village. My wife and children are still in my native village. Last year (1996), our village was destroyed by Burmese soldiers. They drove all villagers to move into Moetaung or Myoh Thit, a section of Tenasserim town. All villagers would not like to abandon their farms and plantations, refused to stay there. All villagers fled outside of village and stayed in the jungle or plantation.

At the beginning of this year (1997), the soldiers came into our area and declared that the villagers could go back their homes and they will not punish to anyone who refused to stay in Moetaung or Myoh Thit. I also went back to my homes with my whole family before the end of January. The situation was better for two weeks. We repaired our houses which we abandoned for three months. And, we arranged to prepare our farms.

 

In third week of February, about 200 Burmese soldiers from LIB No. 224 led by Maj. Than Aung came and told the villagers that they will not allow any villager to go outside without their permission. Then, they asked the village headman to provide 5 villagers every week to work in Tenasserim-Moetaung motor road construction on rotation basis. At the same time, the military also administrated to build Manawtone-Tenasserim truck road and asked about 20 villagers to work in this construction sites on a daily basis.

 

In mid March, the Burmese soldiers from LIB No. 358 prepared to launch an offensives against Karen and Mon troops, and asked for 20 villagers to be porters from headman again. Every villagers were afraid and fled outside of village without their permission. The village headman could not manage the village and he was also beaten by the soldiers. In second week of March, after the soldiers knew the village headman could not provide the villagers, they suddenly came into village and arrested the villagers. I don't know how many villagers were arrested at that time. I also fled outside village and but they didn't arrest my wife. I stayed in my plantation and sometime moved into forest nearby.

 

Whenever the soldiers came into village, they shout the rest villagers, women and children, that if they met our villagers outside of village they will kill. They also accused all our villagers as Karen rebel-supporters and said male villagers are soldiers.

 

 

Did they kill someone else after they met outside of village?

 

Yes. U Kway Ni and his wife were killed. The soldiers from LIB No. 224 met them in forest near their plantation while they were hiding there to escape from arrest of porter. They tied the man and his wife and asked them to show the Karen bases. After U Kway Ni and his wife Naw Day Tet could not give a satisfied answer to the commander and then he ordered to kill them. Both of their bodies were cut into three parts and put it in a betel-nut plantation. On the next days, the villagers met these corpses and kept it well.

 

When the men left the woman inside the village, did the soldiers rape these women?

LIB No. 224 was very bad. The operational commander Col. Ye Myint Aung raped about three girls from our village alone. I would not like to tell their names. He was also well-known as a bad guy in the area and that was why many young women also hid in forest with their fathers or brothers.

 

 

When did you are arrested by the soldiers and how long you have to work as porter along with military operation?

 

I was arrested in my betel-nut plantation before the end of April, while I was hiding and escaped from their arrest. Soon after I was arrested, the soldiers beat me and asked me where the Karen troops were. I said I didn't know and they beat me again and again. They also ask my native village and I told them true. Then, one Sergeant said "I will not release any Manawtone villagers if he was arrested by me".

 

And they brought me with their military operation all the time and forced to carry rice and motor shells. After two week, I was sent to road construction (Tenasserim-Moetaung) for another two weeks. I had to work hard jobs such as carrying earth to build embankment, crashing stones and laid it on embankment, cutting bamboo and hardwoods to build the military camps, and sometimes, the military operation took us to Moetaung as porters. Then brought us to the worksites again.

 

In May, I was taken by LIB No. 358 as a porters in their offensives against the Mon troops at the border area. After Chaungchi fell and the Mon troops surrendered in June, I was kept for two weeks in Chaungchi base. We, the porters were forced to carry rice and other supplies from Murntaing to Chaungchi every day and had no time for a rest. I was too tired. Then we managed and cooperated with Chaungchi villagers to escape.

 

 

Did you meet someone die in the road construction?

 

Yes. When I worked in the construction, two men, one was Karen and another was Tavoyan, died at the worksites. They were suffering from severe malaria, but the soldiers still force them to work. They were not dare to tell true to soldiers, because they were afraid of being beaten by soldiers. One Karen man died in the bed after he could not move. Later, after five days, the Tavoyan man was seriously sick by malaria again, but he was brought to Moetaung. He died in Moetaung.

 

 

Likewise, did you meet some porters die in the offensives against KNU and Mon troops?

 

In May offensives against the Karen troops, three porters died because of mines. They forced porters including me to walk in front of them. I was anyhow lucky and was not hit by any mine. The Tavoyan man who walked beside me died after his right leg was cut by explosion. He was hit about 10 feet on my left side. The soldiers ordered to retreat back and twist the way. We left that porter and he cried and loudly asked for help. The soldiers didn't take him. I think he died. After this offensives, we talked each other and knew that there were three porters died because of mine explosion. No soldiers died because of mines, but got injuries because of launcher shells.

 

 

Now, you are in Thailand?   What is you next plan?

 

I don't know. I will follow along with these villagers. They said, if we arrive into Thailand, we can get rice and stay in the camp. I will stay with them and if they move, I will move with them.