News, Personal Account, Report & Analysis on human rights situation in Mon territory and other areas southern part of Burma
The Mon Forum
Issue No. 4/98 June 15, 1998
The Publication of Human Rights Foundation of Monland (BURMA)
(1) One Mon village in Thai territory was burnt down,
(2) Land confiscation and cash extortion for area development program in Mon State,
The oppression against the rice cultivation farmers in Mon State
Some Acronyms in this Issue
BSPP - Burmese Socialist Programme Party,
SLORC - State Law and Order Restoration Council,
SPDC - State Peace and Development Council (new name of SLORC),
IB - Infantry Battalion (of the Burmese Army),
LIB - Light Infantry Battalion" (of the Burmese Army),
KNU - Karen National Union,
NMSP - New Mon State Party,
One Mon village in Thai territory was Burnt
On April 1 and 2, Royal Thai Army's Ninth Division forced the Mon displaced persons from Htut Mon village to leave their over 20 years-old village that situates in Bangsaphan district of Prachuab Kinchan Province, southern part of Thailand, and the village was also absolutely burnt down by the soldiers. The village had about 40 households and over 200 population. Actually, they 'were forced to return unsafe Burma where they fled from systematic persecution of Burmese Army during 1970s.
In 1970s, the Burmese Army under the operation of BSPP government had launched the well-known "four cuts campaign" against the villagers, to halt the relationship between the non-Burman ethnic rebel groups and the local inhabitants. To implement this campaign, many local villages in Tenasserim Division were relocated and grouped in the designated resettlement villages of the Burmese Army. The villagers who refused to join to the designated villages were accused rebel-supporters and they were severely punished by the Burmese soldiers. This kind of four-cuts campaign is still going on in many parts of non-Burman ethnic areas of Burma.
This systematic persecution of Burmese Army forced hundreds of thousands of Mon villagers in Tenasserim Division to flee from their homes and went into Thailand gradually during 1970s' operation. Among many escapees, about 100 Mon villagers who initially arrived to Thailand's southern area about 20 years ago established "Ban Htut Mon" village. Since then, they have taken refuge in Thai territory as labourers especially for Thai rubber plantations in Bangsaphan and Thepsakae districts' area, Prachuab Kinchan Province. Before the Thai government changed its policy to create better relationship with military regimes SLORC or SPDC in Burma, these displaced villagers were accepted to stay in Thai soil. And the Thai interior ministry also issued one type of identity card to those villagers with guarantee they could stay and work in Thailand.
Before the forced relocation for one week, Thai authorities came and informed the villagers that they must be repatriated into Burma. Although the villagers complained they have identity cards for longer stay in Thailand, the military constantly refused and set the dead line for them to move. The military also said to the villagers that they could choose three places to move. These places were (1) Kawthaung town, a border town in the most southern part of Burma, (2) Chaungchi village, opposite side of Htut Mon village, where the Burmese Army have firm control and, (3) Halockhani Mon refugee resettlement site, near Three-Pagoda-Pass of Burma. All these three places are inside Burma and considerably very unsafe for them to move. Among these, Chaungchi village was the most dangerous place and both Burmese Army and its ally, the surrendered Mon armed force MAMD, also wanted them to move into Chaungchi village. The commanders of LIB No. 358 that took base in Chaungchi village also had close relationship with Ninth Division and thus the villagers were afraid of being repatriated to Chaungchi village.
Before the deadline, April 1 and 2, almost villagers from village fled into various parts of Thailand or in nearest rubber plantations to escape from the forced repatriation of Thai Army. Thus when the soldiers came into village on April 1 and 2, they didn't meet any villager and burnt all their houses including some belongings that villagers could not carry along with them. Most houses were well constructed with hard woods for more than 10 years and the villagers also belonged various household materials.
Since a splinter group MAMD, which split from NMSP in December, 1996, surrendered to SLORC, the Mon villagers in these areas have faced unstable situation. About 600 Mon refugees who fled from war inside MAMD control area were forced to return after the surrender of MAMD in June, 1997. The" returnees were forced to construct roads and military encampment for SLORC troops and were arrested to be frontline civilian porters when the Burmese Army launched offensives against KNU and other guerrillas. Because of weak role to protect the returnees, some soldiers left from MAMD and created a new group. The new armed force have launched regular offensives against the Burmese Army. The Burmese Army always informed to Thai Army that Htut Mon villagers allowed for temporary base for the new group. That was why the Thai army ordered the villagers to suddenly move from villagers.
According to reliable source, the new group always launched offensives against the local SPDC troops together with KNU or MDUF troops mostly deep inside Burma. The new group had no chance to cross border and stay in Htut Mon village because of Thai security forces along the border area of Prachuab Kirichan Province area. According to villagers, this accusation was made by local SPDC troops based in Chaungchi village and they also expected the villagers would be repatriated to their control area. After the surrender of MAMD group, SPDC also promised to start the border area development program in that area. But thousands of former civilians escaped from the area because of conscription of forced labour and portering and only few of them remained. Therefore, the implementation of road construction was impossible in this border area, which is always the main objective of the border area development program in every area of Burma. This was another reason why the local SPDC troops need the Mon civilians in Thailand to return to their control area. The Htut Mon villagers were afraid of being sent back to Burmese Army control area, thus they disappeared before the Thai Army came into village.
Land Confiscation and Cash Extortion for Area Development Program in Mon State
During second week of May, about 136 house surroundings of Thanbyuzayat town's Aungchanthar quarter were confiscated by local township PDC with purpose to build a telephone exchange office in there. The town inhabitants were instructed to move outside the town and settle in a designated place and they were not paid for their owned lands and houses. Last year (1997) in June, about 28 house surroundings in this quarter were initially confiscated with the same purpose. The last year confiscated land space was not enough to construct all buildings of the office and the Mon State PDC instructed new order to local Township PDC to confiscate another 136 house surroundings.
At the same time, in May, about 100 acres of rubber plantation outside of Thanbyuazyat town in southwest side were also confiscated with purpose to build a new railway station. These lands were owned by Nai Aung Ba and Nai Ain Wet, and they were not also paid compensation costs. Additionally, all their rubber trees were also cut down and township authorities shared it and sold hardwoods for their outside (extra) income.
To settle the relocated town inhabitants from Aungchanthar quarter, another three hundred acres of rubber plantation in east of the town were also confiscated. The villagers nearby owned most lands and they did not receive any compensated costs for their lands. They also lost chance to cut down all their own rubber trees and the authorities took and sold it all. The confiscated 300 acres were and measured and divided into many equal spaces of land for house surroundings. But the relocated town inhabitants have to pay to the authorities to get new land for their house surrounding. The first kind of land cost about 10,000 Kyat per space while the second and third types of land space cost 7,000 Kyat and 5,000 Kyat respectively. Normally, the most expensive land space is close to the main road or market place and possible to do business.
Besides land confiscation for area development project, the local township PDC also extorted cash from the villagers and town inhabitants for the same purpose. Recently in May, the Mudon and Thanbyuzayat township PDC authorities also planned to re-build or widen motor road that close to Thanbyuzayat town. According to the reliable, Commander-in-Chief of Southeast Military Command, Maj. Gen. Myint Aung, ordered to Thanbyuzayat township
authorities to widen the entrance road of the town. He also order Mudon township authorities to rebuild and widen the road from Mudon to Thanbyuzayat. This practice of re-building the old motor roads, those were built during British colony era, was adopted from the main policy of SLORC to attract tourists after its announcement "Visit Myanmar Year" in 1996.
Thus, the Thanbyazayat township authorities also collected cash 1500 Kyat from each house of Thanbyuzayat town. Besides extortion from the town inhabitants, these authorities also extorted about 4 millions Kyat from Phaungsein village. This village is close to entrance and the authorities said it should take responsibility for payment for most costs to rebuild or widen the motor roads. Similarly, Mudon township authorities also extorted 4 millions Kyat from Kwankalar village that situates in most southern part in the township area. The authorities also explained the purpose was to re-build the road.
In Mon State, Moulmein-Ye motor road was built during British era and it has been considerably destroyed by natural weathers such as rain and sun heat. In BSPP era, it did not plan to build it. But when the SLORC came into power, it had planned to re-build many old British roads in the whole country to pretend it was a legitimate government among the Burmese people. Both SLORC and SPDC they has not had enough budget to re-build these roads and instructed to the local authorities to implement the local area development projects with "self-help" of the local community. Therefore, the local authorities always extorted cash from civilians and additionally, they have always conscripted the local inhabitants to contribute labour in the construction.
The Oppression against the
Rice Cultivation Farmers in Mon State
In December, 1997, the military regime, with new name State Peace and Development Council (SPDC, officially announced in their control radio stations and owned newspapers that the government will not buy or take yearly paddy tax from farmers. Therefore, it was meant the farmers could freely sell in the markets or to merchants with prices they like. The rice cultivation farmers in the whole Burma were glad to hear this news and expected they could get better price for their own paddy or rice.
But the government changed its policy and broke the promise and secretly instructed the SPDC local authorities in the whole country to resume taking yearly paddy tax without announcing in radio or newspapers. Following this instruction, Mon State PDC authorities, the near military battalions and villages' militia troops, have constantly forced the Mon farmers to sell their paddy at low price set by the government authorities.
The government set price for any kind of paddy is about 350 Kyat per basket (the weight of one basket of paddy is about 46 pounds) and Mon State PDC instructed to every township to appoint paddy-buying authorities and set paddy-buying centers in the whole State. While the government paid 350 Kyat per basket of paddy, the price in the markets was about 600-700 Kyat per basket. On January 17, Mudon township authorities started buying paddy from farmers and set to every farmer to send 12 baskets of paddy per acre of farmland to the nearest paddy-buying centers. There were about 11 points of paddy-buying centers set in the whole Mudon township area and Township PDC required to buy about 850,000 baskets of paddy from the farmers. Similarly, Thanbyuzayat, Chaungzone, and Ye township PDG also set centers to get paddy from farmers at estimates of 450,000 baskets, 500,000 baskets and 400,000 baskets of paddy respectively.
When the local SPDC authorities initiated forcing farmers to sell their paddy, most farmers considered the local authorities played a game to get their paddy at low price, and thought the higher authorities would not know about the plan of local authorities. Against the activities of local authorities, about 60 farmers from villages situate southern part of Mudon town went to Moulmein, capital of Mon State, tried to meet with Commander-m-Chief of Southeast Military Command on January 24. But they did not meet with Commander-in-Chief, Maj. Gen. Myint Aung and met with Second Commander and he said to farmers that he would propose about the problem to Commander-in-Chief and let the farmers returned homes.
However, the situation was not improved. Mudon Township PDC and military battalions has escalated their action to get paddy from farmers by forces. Because of last rainy season's consequent flood in Mon State and Tenasserim Division, the farmers also lost paddy plants and relative crops during harvest sea-son. Very little percentage of farmers could sell full set amount of paddy to paddy-buying centers and most have been forced by authorities to sell. Additionally, the authorities by cooperating with soldiers and militia troops have looted many hundreds of thousands of paddy from many villages in the whole Mon State. Among many townships in Mon State, Mudon township's farmers were suffer more.
Looting of Paddy from the Whole Mon State
Before the government initiated to forcibly buy the paddy from farmers, it also instructed the respective local administration office to firmly form the paddy-buying committee that comprised Township PDC Chairman and the army commanders from the battalions that base in Township area. At the beginning of January, Mon State PDC also ordered every township in Mon State to form paddy-buying main committee to manage for receiving full amounts of paddy set by the government. This order came after three weeks announcement of government stopped buying paddy from farmers.
For example, Mudon Township main paddy-buying main committee was formed with Township PDC Chairman, U Tun Aung, Township Secretary, U Myint, Chief and Second Commander of LIB No. 209. This formation aimed to pressure the farmers to sell set amount of paddy to the respective and nearest paddy-buying centers in time, or Township authorities will take paddy from the farmers' houses by forces with cooperation from local military battalions. The main committee also appointed the paddy-buying officials at least two persons for each center and also formed respective village tract level paddy-buying committee that comprised village tract leaders, militia troops and appointed officials.
These paddy-buying committees could treat the farmers as they like if they could not get set amount of paddy from them. These committees always issued warning orders to the farmers to be sure selling their paddy to the centers and if the farmers did not act any response to bring their paddy to the centers, they could use forces. Therefore, from February through May, the concerned Township level main committees or village tract level committees broke many paddy-stacks of farmers and looted paddy without payment. In some cases, the authorities also took farmers' belongings when they did not get any amount of paddy from farmers. In addition, they also took live-stocks of farmers- and informed to change it with cash. Moreover, they also forced the farmers to give cash that was equal to grand total price of amount of remaining paddy to give the center. Every corrupted committee could anyhow make a lot of income for their own profit during paddy-buying season. The most instances of the forcible paddy-buying processes conducted by Mon State PDC authorities and the terrible situation of the farmers in some townships of Mon State are also described as below:
In January 1998, the Mudon township PDC authorities and local battalions warmed the farmers through town quarter/ village headmen to send and sell the set amount of paddy, 12 baskets per acre of farmland, voluntarily. Only little number of farmers could sell the full set amount of paddy to the respective paddy-buying centers. Many farmers could sell only some percentage and also requested the paddy-buying officials for reduction. Many of them were refused and very little numbers of them who close to these officials reach agreement to pay cash to buy the substitute amount of paddy that they remained to give the center.
In February, the SPDC local authorities, by coordinating with armed forces, army or militia troops, acted brutally against the farmers who could not complete to sell the set amount of paddy. They rushed into many houses in various villages of Mudon Township, broke the farmers' paddy-stacks by axes and other tools and looted thousands baskets of paddy from farmers. On February 4, Township paddy-buying officials, U Pe Kyi, U Tin Win, U Aung Ba Ye and with 10 soldiers from LIB No. 209 went into Kamawet village, broke paddy-stacks of three farmers and looted all paddy for these stacks. The looted amounts of paddy from these farmers were more than the required amount to sell to the paddy-buying centers, but the authorities did not give possible payment according to the set price of the center.
On February 14, Kalort-tort village tract paddy-buying committee and one commander form LIB No. 209 went into Thaungpa village and looted about 500 baskets of paddy from farmers without payment. In some farmers' paddy-stacks, they did not see any paddy but noted the names of heads of households, house and section numbers. They also warned these farmers that if they could not give paddy to government they must give cash to the center to buy substitute paddy. On February 18, the same members of the committee came into village again and collected cash from farmers who did not have any paddy to give the center. Totally the committee received about 40,000 Kyat within one day from six farmers and also took two oxen from two farmers who could not give them payment or paddy. They informed these two farmers that if they would like to get their oxen back they must pay a ransom of 8,000 Kyat per ox. On the next day, the two farmers paid them and took their oxen back.
On February 19, the same committee also went Kawpeehtaw village and looted about 250 baskets of paddy from farmers and some belongings. They did the same action as they went into previous village, noting the names of farmers from whom they could not get any paddy. On the next day, they went into this village again and requested cash from those farmers.
In the whole month of March, Kamawet village tract paddy-buying committee also looted many thousand baskets of paddy from Kamawet and other villages in the same village tract. This village is the biggest village in Mon State and almost villagers are farmers. The authorities arrested about six farmers from this village for their activities against the paddy-buying officials. [About the arbitrary arrest is also described in detail in a separate sub-headline below.)
On April 3, Taguntaing Village PDC Chairman, paddy-buying officer, and militia troops went many houses of Taguntaing village and tried to loot paddy from the farmers. After they could not get the set amount of paddy, the also asked a ransom of 200,000 Kyat from the farmers who were unable to sell full amount of paddy set by the authorities. They said they would buy paddy with these cash to substitute with the paddy that those farmers had to sell to the paddy-buying center. About 7 farmers, namely, (1) Nai Tun Tin, (2) Nai Haing Lon, (3) Mi Than Shin, (4) Nai Soe, (5) Nai Aung Triwin, (6) Nai Tun Chain and (7) M Ngwe Kyin had to pay this ransom.
On May 7, Township PDC by coordinating with the military went into Thaung-pa village and confiscated about 500 baskets of paddy from farmers. One farmer, Nai Maung Due, did not have any paddy in his paddy-stacks and the military asked him to pay 18,000 Kyat. When the military and authorities did not get paddy or cash from the farmers they also loot some belongings owned by the farmers. When they arrived Nai Mue's house, there was no paddy in his paddy-stacks and he also could not give cash to buy the substitute paddy according to authorities. He also told them if they would like to detain him, they could do. After they did not receive cash or paddy, they also took his one and only bi-cycles that was used for his daily work. Similarly, they also took 10,000 Kyat from Daw Kwe and because of her incomplete payment to buy substitute paddy, they also confiscated her belongings, such as kitchen and farming facilities.
Continuously, on May 17, Township PDC authorities, paddy-buying officials and military went into Kawpeehtaw village and looted about 400 baskets of paddy from 6 farmers. On May 18 and 19, this group went into Doemai and Htown-murn villages and looted about 1000 baskets of paddy respectively.
Some parts of the rural area under the administration of Thanbyuzayat township is also under loose control of the government and thus the treatment by authorities on farmers in most villages is normally cruel. The KNLA troops also sometimes reach to the area in the most southern part of township area and the villagers in that area are constantly accused as revel-supporters by government officials and soldiers. Therefore, whenever the Township authorities wanted to loot paddy from farmers, they had to cooperate with military mainly from IB No. 32 and village militia troops.
During January and February, the authorities used the polite way by informing the farmers in the whole township to sell their paddy to the centers voluntarily. This order could not bring all farmers to sell their paddy to government voluntarily, as they also heard announcement of the government in last December. And, the paddy products were also low because of the weather and thus farmers could not sell the full set amount of paddy, 10 to 12 baskets of paddy per acre, to the centers. During these two months, the authorities received only 150,000 baskets of paddy and it did not reach to their necessary amount. Thus, in the next months, the authorities had changed the way from polite to brutal action.
From March through April, the authorities and military also looted many thousands baskets of paddy from these villages and they did the same brutal actions against the farmers like in Mudon Township. First in March, the Township authorities instructed village tract level committee to force the farmers to sell their paddy to the centers or loot the paddy from the farmers who refused to sell. But the village level committee could not implement the plan and later in April and May, the Township authorities, themselves cooperating with military and looted paddy from farmers in rural villages. Normally, the authorities went into farmers' houses and broke their paddy-stacks and looted all paddy that they met in stacks including foods for farmers' families.
For an instance, on May 6, Thanbyuzayat township PDC authorities, paddy-buying officials, military and militia troops went into Waekalong village and
looted about 2,000 baskets of paddy without payment. On the same day, these authorities went into Karoatpee village and looted about 1,000 baskets of paddy. The township authorities required about 15,000 baskets of paddy from these two villages and they will loot more until they completed defined set amount of paddy.
During first and second weeks of May, the Township, Village tract paddy-buying committees and the local military battalions IB No. 32 has cooperated in looting paddy from the following villages and amount of paddy without payment. The villages situate in the southern part of the Thanbyuzayat town.
Name of Villages Amount of Paddy (baskets)
During the same period in this two weeks, the authorities also confiscated many thousand baskets of paddy in Thanbyuzayat town and other villages situate in the western and northern part of the town. Therefore, the authorities looted at least 20,000-30,000 baskets of paddy within two weeks period from the farmers.
Although Ye township is under loose control of the authorities, after reaching of ceasefire agreement with NMSP, the SPDC troops could move many parts of this township area and have more chance to pressure the farmers to sell their paddy like other townships, Mudon and Thanbyuzayat. Since 1996, the local authorities set many paddy-buying centers in the northern part of Ye township area, where they have more control and firstly forced the farmers to sell their paddy with a set amount, 8 baskets per acre. Most farmers did not agree to sell their paddy, but the soldiers went into most villages and looted many thousand baskets of paddy. Thus, the farmers faced more sufferings after NMSP-SLORC ceasefire.
In 1997, the authorities by cooperating with local battalions ordered the farmers to sell 12 baskets of paddy per acre. They set many paddy-buying centers in both northern and southern parts of township area. Similarly, in 1998 paddy-buying season, the authorities has tried to get about 400, 000 baskets of paddy from the whole township area.
In last rainy season, there was a heavy ram and a tremendous flood in both Ye northern and southern area and it also destroyed paddy plants in many hundred acres of farmland. Some farmers in Koemile village also lost their farmland because of unprecedented land collapse with flood. The rain and the flood also made a big loss in paddy production of the local farmers and the one who owned good land got only 30 baskets of paddy per acre from his farm.
However, the authorities ordered all villages even a small village or the flood-suffered village, to sell their paddy, at least 500 baskets. The big village so far has to sell about 10,000 baskets. For example, two Mon villages, namely Kawdort and Thaungpyin, have to sell about 8000 baskets of paddy per village. In January, the farmers in each village sold only about 1,000 baskets of paddy to the centers and the authorities came into villages with soldiers and looted another about 2,000 baskets of paddy from each village. In February, the village leaders also put an appeal letter to Township authorities to kindly consider for the reduction of set amount of paddy for their villages. The authorities did not listen their appeal and went into most villages in April and May, and looted paddy from many farmers' paddy-stacks in villages.
The authorities' treatment on farmers from one village to another was very similar. Most villages could not sell the full amount of paddy set by authorities and then they came into villages with arms and, looted the paddy and emptied the paddy-stacks. For the villages, where the authorities and local battalions could not have much control, they went into these villages and looted many thousand baskets of paddy only one round or within few days. For example, the authorities and troops from LIB No. 343 went into Khawza village on February 11 and looted about 7000 baskets of paddy within two days. They also brought all amount of paddy to Ye town and later they did not come to that village again.
Punishment to the Farmers
Since 1980s, the farmers have been constantly forced to sign the agreement with government officials of township level in every year harvest season to sell the set amount of paddy. The government price of paddy was less four times than the market prices. However, the farmers had to sell to the center at low price. That was how the farmers had to serve for their Socialist country in BSPP era and if they could not sell the required amount of paddy, they must be detained in jail until the rest of their family members could give the rest amount of paddy. Thus, government officials regularly detained many farmers from every township in the whole country in harvest season. Sometimes, the government officials also beat the farmers in detention whenever they dissatisfied on them.
A Mon farmer, Nai Kyi Sem, from Wet-tae village, Mudon township, he was severely beaten by Township LORC officials in March, 1997, while he was detaining in Mudon township police station. He was arrested and detained in there because of his inability to sell full amount of paddy to government. When the officials asked from where he could get paddy to give to the center, he said he could not get anywhere and explained he already sold his oxen and bought paddy for government. He also asked the officials to forgive him and said he will abandon his farmland. They have arguments each other and as a result,( the officials beat him.
There were at least 100 farmers were always arrested and detained in Mudon police station every year. Moreover, the government officials always instructed the farmers to grow rice plant in roll and take the paddy seeds provided by them. Because of this instruction, the farmers were always unhappy to grow their own fields. When they did not follow the instruction, they must be punished in many ways, such as detaining in police station for some days or beaten in the rice-fields. In BSPP era, the government mainly depended on the rice farming by exporting over one million ton of rice to foreign countries to obtain foreign income.
Since the farmers had to serve a duty for the country by selling a lot amount of paddy every year at low price, they did not have much extra money when they started rice cultivation. Therefore, the farmers would not like to follow according to government instruction. If they grow the paddy plants in roll, the farmers will have to hire many labourers and contribute a lot of payment for labour cost. And they would like to grow paddy with their favorite kind of paddy seed. If they would like to grow government instructed seeds they may have to buy it and when the paddy products came out in harvest season, they have to sell of it to government paddy-buying center at low price. The government exported these kinds of paddy for foreign countries. If the farmers did not follow according to government discipline in growing paddy, sometimes, the officials also punished these farmers.
In June 1997, Township LORC officials and militia troops traveled around the paddy fields in northern part of Mudon Township. They instructed the farmers to grow paddy in roll and to take government seeds. When they met with farmer, Nai Kyaw (46 years old), in Kawkhapone paddy fields while he was growing his paddy plants without using officials' instruction, they asked why he did not grow paddy in roll. He simply replied that he had no cash to hire labourers. But the officials angered to him and beat him in his farm. The other militia troops also beat him with gun butts.
In 1998, paddy buying season, the officials did not make any contract with farmers like every year because the government did not have exact plan to buy paddy from farmers but forced the farmers to sell their paddy. However, the higher authorities instructed to township level PDC to buy the paddy again and agreed to pay a slight higher price than previous years. The farmers who lost a lot of paddy production during harvest season still would not like to sell their paddy. The punishment to the farmers who did not complete selling the set amount of paddy was also terrible.
When we conducted interview with a government servant whose father was a farmer, she also explained how the village PDC and concerned militia troops treated her father:
In second week of January, our village chairman and I had a problem about his constant opening of casino in the village. He accused me I had informed about casino to the PDC authorities in the town and said to me that it was impossible to dismiss him from his post, village chairman. He said he had paid a lot of payment to Township officials and so they will not take action against him. So he had dissatisfied on me for a long time. But he could not make problem to me, as I was a government servant.
Therefore, he made a problem to my father. On January 27, he and three village militia troops came and arrested my father for his delay to sell full amount of paddy set by authorities. My father had delayed to send to the center because an ox was ill and he could not use it to pull the cart. But he already gave away about two third of the total amount of paddy required by center and received low price of payment from the authorities. According to Township officials, our village had to sell about 10 baskets of paddy per acre to the center because the soil quality of our farmland in surrounding of our village was not good.
But the chairman told to my father that he must have to give 12 baskets of paddy per acre to the center. My father refused and told them he would give to the center like other farmers in the village. He angered to my father because of his refusal against the order. Thus, they took all
amount of paddy in our paddy-track as a punishment.
And they tied his hands back and took him around the village. When they arrived at cooperative shop, the chairman also declared that that old man was unable to sell full amount of paddy to the center in front of a crowd of villagers. He also threatened the villagers that if they could not sell full amount of paddy set by authorities, they must be treated like this old man. And they also brought him around the village and told to every house about my father's inability to sell the paddy to the government. Actually, the action of the chairman aimed pushing my father to get a big shame. He also pointed his gun to the head of my father. My father also told him that he was not a guilty man and if they would like kill him they can. The village chairman also told to my father that if the higher authorities did not detain him for killing someone, and said he would kill my father first.
In comparing with farmers under the control of SPDQ the farmers in the Black Area, where has been declared free-fire zone by the government, are ruthless and brutally treated by Burmese Army or local authorities. Normally, the government troops always launch constant military operation against the ethnic armed forces in the area and the local non-Burman ethnic inhabitants are accused as rebel sympathizers or supporters. Thus, the authorities also put or instruct movement restriction against the villagers via village leaders to halt the support of local inhabitants to the rebels. In fact, many farmers are not allowed to do their own rice cultivation fully and freely, or they can not get the necessary time to go to their farms such as during growing paddy plants and harvesting crops. Besides the movement restriction, their paddy stacks are also accused as the food stores for rebels and these are regularly destroyed or burnt down into ashes. However, the farmers in these areas are yearly asked to sell their paddy at low price to the government.
Ye Township's rural area is normally recognized as "Black Area" by the government. Most villagers in this township area are Mon people and before the NMSP has dealt for a ceasefire agreement with regime, they had been constantly accused as NMSP supporters and mistreated by the government. Many farmers were also killed in the farms after the Mon troops took base for a while in their farm huts.
After the NMSP reached ceasefire agreement with regime in 1995, the situation in this area has not been stable. One Mon armed group, without name, but the government troops gave name as "robber group", has launched some activities in the area and, the local inhabitants have faced various kinds of torturing by government troops because of new armed group. The villagers are always accused as robber-supporters. Some villagers were also killed and some villages were also relocated in Ye and Yebyu township in late 1997 because of the group' activities. (See the report "The suffering of Mon and Karen Villagers during the SLORC/ SPDC'S Continued Offensives in Ye and Yebyu Townships, in The Mon Forum, Issue 2/98).
After this group's activities in the area and fighting with government troops, the military and local authorities have restricted movement of all villagers in the area including over 80% of farmers before harvest season, December, 1997. The farmers had to ask permission letter from village leaders or military commanders nearby to go and do their work in their rice fields. Whenever they asked permission, they had to pay tax to authorities or military commander. (See the news "New Kind of Taxation in Mon State and Tenasserim Division, in The Mon Forum, Issue 1/98)
Sometimes, the military and authorities restricted the movement for about one or two weeks continuously. They will not take any payment from farmers and other villagers to go outside of their village. If they arrested the villagers outside of the village or in the farms, they must be tortured cruelly and ruthlessly by the soldiers with accusation of robber-supporters or robbers.
Concerning to this situation halting movement of the farmers and relative ill-treatment, we also conducted an interview with a farmer, Nai Shein (46 years old), from Kawhlaing Village, Ye township. He also told his story about the ill-treatment of Burmese Army and the continued forcible paddy buying process.
"In second week of December, I knew my paddy was ripe and I really worried that all crops will drop to the ground. I also informed village chairman that I would like to go to my farm to reap the crops. He said the military ordered to not allow any villagers to go to their rice fields, plantations and to the sea for fishing. On the next day, I went to his house again and explained him about the situation of my paddy. He said I could go to the farm but to be careful not to be arrested by the Burmese soldiers and if I was arrested, to not tell them that I was allowed by him to go to the farm. We agreed on each other. Then I went to my farm.
In the morning about 5:30 a.m. on the second day in the farm, I did not know one column of the Burmese troops (from LIB No. 106) approached and arrived close to my farm hut. My son and I woke up and I told him to make break-
fast to have before we left to reap crops. The soldiers arrived in my farm huts suddenly and arrested two of us and tied with ropes that we used in the farm. An officer (Sergeant) slapped both sides of my face and asked me did I meet the robber group. I tried to explain him that I arrived to the farm only one day and did not meet the robber group. And they also asked permission letter from village chairman guaranteeing I was from Kawhlaing village. I lied them I did not take it because chairman was away when I came to my farm. They were angry to me and beat both of us. My son is only 11 years old. The soldiers beat us with jungle boots and fists many times in the whole of my body. They kicked two times to my son.
Then they brought us to my village, and asked the village chairman to make sure I was his villager or not. He said I was his villager and told them he did not know I was in the farm. The tied at a house's pole and beat me again. They accused me I was a contact person for robber group and asked me many questions about the robbers. I constantly refused that I didn't know about them. Then the village chairman came and told them that I was a real farmers and honest person, and had no connection with robber group. Then the officer warned me that he would not like to meet me in my farm again and if he met he must kill me. Thus, I was very afraid of being killed by soldiers and didn't go to farm. All of crops were ripe and dropped to the ground. I lost all of it except the crops I reaped for one day. Although the villagers were allowed to reap their crops, the time was too late for me to get my crops.
After one month, the soldiers came into village and looted many baskets of paddy from our village because of the villagers' denial to sell the paddy in their set paddy-buying center in Hangan village. When they arrived to my house, they didn't see any paddy and asked to give them a ransom of 10,000 Kyat. I told them I have nothing and they tried to arrest me again. I give them 5,000 Kyat. Then they released me.
This story is an example how the SPDC local battalions have treated the local farmers to give them full amount of paddy set by Township authorities. In stead of Township authorities to buy paddy from farmers, the local battalions took responsibilities to get the set amount of paddy for township. In forcing the farmers in the Black Area, they have used many ways. Sometimes, Township authorities came together with troops and looted many baskets of paddy from farm-In some villages, the troops themselves went into village and took all amount paddy they got and let all villagers brought it to the nearest paddy-buying center or military battalions. If the farmers could not give set amount of paddy, the soldiers just asked them to give cash. Almost the action of the soldiers and authorities were cruel and ruthless to the villagers in Black Area.
The Arrest of Farmers
On March 11, 1998, one Mon farmer from Kamawet village, Mudon township, Nai Win Hlaing (27 years old), was arrested by Township PDC authorities and military intelligence officer, because of, according to authorities, his activities against the local paddy-buying committee. On the next day, the authorities also arrested the other five farmers again. They were accused as supporters of Nai Win Hlaing.
The problem was connected from the authorities' recent illegal paddy confiscation from farmers. On February 12, the Township paddy-buying officials came into Kamawet village and looted many thousand baskets of paddy from many farmers by breaking their paddy-stacks. Nai Win Haing's father, Nai Win Kyi was the one who had to sell some the left amount of paddy, about 100 baskets, to the paddy-buying center. When the authorities confiscated the paddy from Nai Win Kyi house, they also made a mistake, and looted Nai Win Hlaing paddy from his paddy-stack that was built close to Nai Win Kyi house. All amount of paddy, about 200 baskets, was absolutely confiscated from his paddy-stack. Actually, Nai Win Hlaing already full amount of paddy set by authorities to the center in January.
While the authorities were looting the paddy in the village, Nai Win Hlaing was away for his purpose. When the authorities, soldiers and militia troops arrived to Nai Win Kyi house, they also shout him for his absence to sell paddy to the authorities. Because of the authorities' nasty comment against him, Nai Win Kyi also immediately left from his house. Thus, when they confiscated paddy, they broke the wrong paddy-stack and all amount of paddy owned by Nai Win Hlaing was confiscated.
When Nai Win Hlaing arrived to his home back from his purpose, he was surprised about the authorities' careless action and he immediately informed the village PDC about the mistake confiscation of his paddy and the destruction of his paddy-stack. He asked to give his 200 baskets of paddy back. He also wrote an appeal letter to military commanders in Southeast Military Commander, to take action against their men for their wrongdoing and to re-give his paddy back. He also went to paddy-buying center and told the authorities there to give his paddy. But the center refused and told him that they have to inquire about this paddy confiscation and added they never had routine to give paddy back to any farmer that already reached or sold to the center.
Although he informed about the authorities' illegal confiscation of his paddy even to higher authorities, his case was not observed any authorities and there was no sign the authorities will give his paddy back. Therefore, he had worried that he could be faced food shortage problems for the whole year. Later three days after confiscation, Nai Win Hlaing went to the paddy-buying center with 5 oxen-carts and took about 125 baskets of paddy from the center. The authorities could not prevent him because they had no armed forces in the center.
Therefore, the local authorities knew about Nai Win Hlaing activity taking back his paddy, and most authorities in both Township and Village PDC were angry to him. Later two days, the authorities and soldiers came to Kamawet and looted 200 baskets of paddy from his father's paddy-stack without payment again. This was the revenge of the authorities. Actually, his father Nai Win Kyi left only one hundred baskets of paddy to sell the center. On the next day, Nai Win Hlaing went to the center and asked the rest of paddy he had to get from it. But the authorities put many security forces around the center to prevent the farmers' activities taking their paddy back. Since then, the authorities were angry to him more.
Therefore, the Township PDC authorities, military intelligence officer, soldiers and militia troops came and arrested Nai Win Hlaing on March 11, and brought him to Mudon town police station. On the next days, the authorities also gradually arrested another five farmers, namely, (1) Nai Mon San, (2) Nai Pe Thein, (3) Nai Ah Pin, (4) Nai Ah Naing, and (5) Nai San Htwe. The farmers were those provided and drove the oxen-carts when Nai Win Hlaing took his paddy back from the center. They were accused as supporters of Nai Win Hlaing. Most of them were relatives or friends of Nai Win Hlaing. Firstly, all of them were detained in Mudon station for one week and then sent to Moulmein notorious jail without trials.
Concerning to this arrest, the NMSP leaders also discussed with SPDC important officials or policy makers from the Southeast Military Command, to release these farmers. The SPDC Mon State officials refused for the release of these farmers and Brigadier Ohn Myint, Strategic Commander of the Command, gave a strong comment that they must anyhow have to take action against Nai Win Hlaing and other farmers who disturbed the authorities and government policy. The meeting had no agreement or improvement between the two groups. At the moment, these farmers are still in jail.