News, Personal Account, Report & Analysis on human rights situation in Mon territory and other areas southern part of Burma
The Mon Forum
Issue No. 5/98† †July 31, 1998
The Publication of Human Rights Foundation of Monland (BURMA)
(1)† SPDC Orders to Close down Mon National Schools
(2)† Forced Labour after Opening Ceremony of Ye-Tavoy Railway Construction
(3)† Polices Forced the Local Villagers to Grow Rice in Their Confiscated Farms
Revenge against the Villagers instead of Enemy
Some Acronyms in this Issue
SLORC- State Law and Order Restoration Council,
SPDC-††† State Peace and Development Council,
IB-††††††††† Infantry Battalion (of the Burmese Army),
LIB-††††††† Light Infantry Battalion (of the Burmese Army),
NMSP-†† New Mon State Party,
MNLA-† †Mon National Liberation Army,
SPDC Orders to Close down Mon National Schools
Since July 1, 1998, Mon State PDC has instructed its local authorities to close down all Mon National Schools in the whole Mon State, which was separately built and has been supported by local Mon community. The authorities accuse the teaching of Mon literature is illegal and the establishment of Mon National Schools in the villages where the government schools are providing education for children is against the existing laws. These Mon schools are normally closed down by forces by threatening to arrest the teachers, students, and community leaders who support the running of the schools. Concerning to forcible closing the schools, the NMSP leaders also have an official meeting with local SPDC officials including commanders from Southeast Military Command, which bases in Moulmein, capital of Mon State, on July 16, and SPDC rejected NMSP appeal to re-open the Mon schools.
On the day when the NMSP agreed for ceasefire deal with military regime SLORC, on June 29, 1995, the Mon leaders also proposed to SLORC officials for the teaching of Mon literature in government schools in Mon State. In that official meeting with objectives to implement border area development program, Lt. General Khin Nyunt, General Secretary (1) of SLORC, led the delegation and officially answered to Mon leaders that the teaching of Mon literature was not possible in school time in government schools accordingly to policy. But he promised that if the students in Mon villages had wish to study Mon literature, they can attend a special Mon literature class outside of school time in government schools.
Mon leaders and people gladly accepted this promise and planned to open special class to study Mon literature outside of school time. In fact, during 1996-1997 educational year, many Mon students in village level joined the Mon literature class and it was strongly supported by the community. Mon community including Buddhist monks found the Mon teachers and organized the children to attend the class. The community also paid for the salary of Mon teachers.
However, the government broke their promise. In 1997-1998 educational year, the Mon State LORC issued an official statement that it would not allow the using of government schools longer to teach Mon literature and later instructed their concerned township and village lever authorities to prohibit the teaching of Mon literature in government schools. The local authorities forced the Mon teachers to leave the schools and ordered the students through parents not to join the teaching of Mon literature class. And the government teachers also kept all school materials after school time and did not allow the Mon teachers to use these materials. They had used many ways forcing the Mon literature class to be stopped.
Concerning this new instruction, NMSP leaders also urgently asked the SLORC to explain the reasons why they forced the Mon teachers from government schools and prohibited the teaching of Mon literature. The Mon leaders also discussed about this issue directly to Maj. Gen. Ket Sein, Commander-inóChief of Southeast Military Command, and requested to re-allow the teaching of Mon literature accordingly to speech by Lt. Gen. Khin Nyunt again. Maj. Gen. Ket Sein refused and replied that if the Mon students would like to study Mon literature, the Mon community must have to build their own schools for those students. The government will not allow longer the teaching of Mon literature in government schools, and gave reason that the other ceasefire groups could possibly ask the same opportunity from government and was impossible to allow all ethnics in Burma to study their own literature in government schools. The situation would become confused and so the teaching of Mon literature must be stopped in government schools.
Then, the Mon community leaders thought they still had chance to encourage their children to study Mon literature in their own schools. Therefore, for the preparation of teaching of Mon literature in coming 1998-1999 educational year, the Mon community, with fund and manual labour, built many Mon schools in rural Mon villages, after they lost chance during 1997-1998 educational year. These schools were built during before the end of 1997 and beginning of 1998 by villagers and were named as "Mon National Schools". Then, the community leaders have continuously coordinated in preparation of opening schools and launched activities such as finding Mon teachers, collecting school materials, completing school buildings, organizing students and etc. Therefore, the Mon National Schools were successfully opened at the beginning of 1998-1999 educational year, which was started in first week of June, 1998.
In most Mon villages, the Mon schools accepted more student numbers than the government schools. Considerably, the government authorities, teachers and military dissatisfied on the new situation that many students left from their schools and thought Mon community have been active for a educational competition against the government schools and State education system. So far the authorities had sat several meetings to find the way how to prohibit the Mon schools. On July 1, Battalion Commander of Military Intelligence Service No. (5), Lt. Col. Myo Myint wrote an official letter to NMSP President Nai Shwe Kyin and strongly opposed the opening of Mon National Schools in the whole Mon State. Then, on July 6, Mon State PDC ordered to concerned Township PDC to close down all Mon National Schools in their respective township area especially in most Mon villages. The order also added that if the local community still acted against the instruction, the local officials have authority to arrest Mon teachers, students who join the classes, and community leaders including Mon monks who support the opening of Mon schools.
Since the ceasefire agreement has no objective to solve the political or ethnic problems in Burma, the SPDC officials did not accept any suggestion of NMSP leaders on July 16 meeting. SPDC officials just responded that the opening of Mon National Schools was against the existing laws and the using of Mon literature curriculum in those schools were illegal. After the meeting, the concerned authorities also forced the former Mon students to join the government schools via the parents. In fact, the government has still enforced its policy of "Burmanization" to assimilate all ethnic peoples to be Burmans and oppression against other ethnic identity is
Forced Labour after Opening Ceremony of Ye-Tavoy Railway Construction
Though Te-Tavoy railway was officially opened and attended by SPDC General Secretary (2), Lt. General Tin Oo, on March 26, many parts of its embankment collapsed by water flow in one week period heavy rain during 2nd week of May. The government railway officials prohibited the trains to run on this way on May 16, and the local Tenasserim Division and Mon State SPDC authorities and military battalions in the area have conscripted thousands of local inhabitants, Mon, Karen and Tavoyan ethnic villagers to contribute their manual labour in rebuilding the embankment without payment.
According to local source, two main parts of embankment in Malawe-taung and Gagaw-taung areas were absolutely cut by water flow and some bridges were also thrown away by the unpreceeded flood. Malawe-taung is close to Paukpingiwn village and Gagaw-taung is close to Kanbauk village where the Yatana Gas-pipeline is closely passes through to Thai border.
Therefore, the local SPDC authorities and military battalions mai[n]ly LIB No. 407, 408, 409, 410 and No. 273 has ordered to every village tract of Ye, Yebyu and Tavoy townships of Mon State and Tenasserim Division to send the set number of villager labourers to the defined work-sites to re-build the ruin embankment and bridge. About 3000-4000 villagers have been sent to these two main construction sites on a daily basis by the village headmen and the soldiers take guard in every site. Like previous situation of conscription of forced labour, the villagers are not provided any foods or payment and additionally, they have to bring their own foods, cash to buy vegetables and medicines, and tools from their homes.
In some places, about 15 meters high embankment was collapsed and huge amount of earth was thrown away with water. The villagers have not allowed digging wet and muddy earth near the embankment and so they have carry it from 20 meters to get strong earth to fill in broken embankment. Normally, these villagers were forced to work in muddy places under rain or sun heat for the whole day except one hour rest in mid-day to take lunch.
This railway construction was built before the end of 1993, and most parts of embankment were built with forced labour during 1994, 1995 and 1996. Hundreds of thousands of local inhabitants were forced to work in construction and they also lost chance to work their own jobs in plantation or rice-farms. The constant conscription of forced labour made them too difficult to survive and therefore, they wanted to complete their work-duties as quickly as possible. When the villagers built some parts of embankment where the authorities did not put any soldier to check them, they also filled grasses and small plants or tree branches underneath of the embankment and covered with earth on
it. This was the way how the villagers were in a hurry situation to complete their work-duties and have possible time to do their own jobs for survival.
Therefore, the embankment was not strong enough to prevent the natural disasters especially water flow. The authorities themselves did not have desire to use possible machines to build the embankment such as bulldozers and others to press the earth above the embankment. But they used bulldozers mostly to hire it to the villagers. In some places, the villagers could not dig out rocky earth from the mountains or hills and the authorities suggested or forced them to hire bulldozers. The villagers collected cash from all of them who had work-duties in these parts and hired the bulldozers. The authorities also received extra income by this way.
Since the military had used villagers manual labour rather than using machines, the embankment was collapsed every year during rainy season and the villagers were constantly forced to work again and again in this construction. Sometimes, the authorities also took notes who built what parts of embankment and the concerned the village tract leaders had to take responsibility to take care the embankment. If the embankment was destroyed by water flow in the rainy season, the concerned villagers were severely punished by the authorities. In 1995 and 1996, some villagers from Mintha, paukpingwin and Natkyisin village track also faced such kind of punishment and all villagers were forced to re-build the embankment until it was properly completed. They had to stay in the construction for nearly two months continuously.
Polices Forced the Local Villagers to Grow Rice in Their Confiscated Farms
During the first and second weeks of July, under the arrangement of Township police authorities, Kawkareik township of Karen State, the local polices, who are taking bases around many Mon villages, have forced the local villagers to grow rice in their confiscated farms. According to reliable source, the police officers, 2nd Class Warrant Officer Than Hteik Shein confiscated 5 acres of farmland from Kawbein village, Pol. Sergeant Ba Thein confiscated 5 acres of farmland from Kawgo village and another 2nd Class Warrant Officer Min Thu confiscated 5 acres of farmland from Kharit-kyauktan village respectively. These police are taking bases in stations in the villages for the security of the villagers.
On July 6, the police in Kawbein and Kawgo villages started forcing the villagers from both villages to grow their farms. They ordered village headmen to gather all villagers in the morning and go to their farms. First the villagers had to plough the lands and then to grow paddy plants on it. They forced the villagers to complete plough and growing rice within two days. Similarly, on July 14, Kliarit-Kyauktan villagers were forced to grow rice like previous villages.
After SLORC came into power and then changed a new name SPDC, it has constantly increased military and police numbers to control more rural areas where were recently controlled by rebel groups. The more the government getting control in the rural area, the more burden of various kinds of taxation the rural inhabitants have to provide. More larger area of Kawkareik township was recently controlled by SLORC/SPDC, after its occupation many KNU bases and agreeing for ceasefire with NMSP.
So far the Mon and Karen villagers in Kawkareik township have to sell yearly paddy to the government paddy buying centers at low price. On the other hand, the land in the Township area is low quality with most sandy soil when comparing with other areas, many farmers are unable to sell set amount of paddy to the government. In addition, the farmers have to invest a lot of cash to buy fertilizer and hire labour, to get possible amount of paddy from farms to be enough to sell to government and to feed their families. Besides a lot of cash investment for the farms, the farmers were very often demanded by authorities to pay various kind of tax such as portering fees for military offensives and development fees to build roads, bridges, schools, etc.. As a result, many farmers abandoned their farms and young male and female villagers fled into Thailand to seek jobs.
Since SLORC came into power, it also gives a special opportunity to its local military battalions or police stations to support for themselves and find the organization fund for long-term self-reliance. It is meant that the local authorities, military or police, could do business as an organization or individual and would confiscate any land in the whole country. When the military regime faced economic crisis during these years, it could not support much to its military battalions, police stations and other government servants. The local authorities have been more corrupted than before and more land confiscation from rural villagers including confiscating farmlands are taken place in many parts of Burma.
The confiscating of farm lands to grow rice to raise fund for police in Kawkareik is the result of the above mentioned crisis in government structure, but it is only small scale land confiscation. As a large scale, the higher military commanders also instructed to local authorities, to relocate the town or village inhabitants and confiscate lands from them to build the roads or other government offices or sell it to the multinational foreign investment. This manner of "abuse of power" by State government and its local authorities is taking place everyday in Burma.
Revenge against the Villagers Instead of Enemy
The Background Situation of Conflict in Ye and Yebyu Townships Area
Although the NMSP (New Mon State Party) agreed for ceasefire with military regime SLORC/SPDC over three years, since the agreement was not a political solution and the human rights situation has not improved and the local Mon villagers inside the former NMSP-SLORC war zone also faced various kinds of abuses by the government troops. Because of the agreement, the NMSP accepted to withdraw some MNLA troops from some areas mainly from Tenasserim Division. After the withdrawal of MNLA troops, the local SLORC battalions replaced in most areas such as southern part of Ye township in Mon State, and Yebyu and Tavoy township of Tenasserim Division.
Although both sides have agreed to not conscripted forced labour from local villagers such as in government infrastructure projects and portering for military purposes, the SLORC/SPDC has broken their agreement and continuously conscripted forced labour for their own purposes after ceasefire. During 1995-1997, the military regime SLORC had used hundreds of thousands of villagers to build Ye-Tavoy railway construction. This construction is the biggest infrastructure project of government in southern part of Burma. Similarly, the military also arrested many thousands of local villagers and town inhabitants during 1997 offensives against KNU. And the SLORC/SPDC authorities and military have more chance to travel around the area, which was used as former war zone, and have collected various kind of taxation from villages especially yearly forcible purchasing of paddy from farmers.
Following the new military deployment of SLORC/SPDC in many former war zone, the villagers faced more and more abuses by soldiers and their dissatisfaction the authorities and soldiers have grown. At the end it blew out to response by means of violence against the military regime.
Since 1997, a Mon armed group, without name, with objectives to protect their rural villagers from the looting of Burmese Army, was formed in Ye and Yebyu township areas. This new group has no connection or support by the NMSP, and SPDC also forced the NMSP to attack this new group. However, the NMSP always has cleverly refused. The SPDC also gives a name to this group as "robber group". Since the formation of armed group, the fighting between the new group and SPDC troops regularly occurred in area.
The last fighting happened before the end of May. On May 25, some members of new group led by Nai Kyaing Teik and Nai Sein launched an ambush attack against a military column of SPDC troops from LIB No. 273 led by Maj. Hla Naing Htwe. The SPDC troops were attacked on the road that connecting two Mon villages, Danikyar and Magyi, which are situated in the most southern part of Mon State. In the attack, three soldiers died on the spot and other two got serious injuries. Because of this attack the villagers in the whole area were accused as "robber supporters" or "sympathizers". After the attack, the SPDC troops could not make any attack in revenge against the Mon armed force. After the SPDC troops could not revenge the Mon troops, the local villagers are so far accused as supporters of Mon troops that they have allowed the members of the group to hide or take base in the villages. Then the punishment in revenge to the villagers are committed by SPDC troops.
Punishment by LIB No. 273
a. Tortures in Danikyar Village
Since the fighting happened near Danikyar village, the SPDC troops were angry much to the Danikyar villagers. On June 5, about 30-40 troops from LIB No. 273 led by Maj. Hla Naing Htwe, came into Danikyar village in the morning. Soon the soldiers arrived in the village, they arrested all villagers and tied all men including the village headmen. The soldiers interrogated every villager whether they knew or met Nai Kyaing Teik group or not. They beat two times in stomach of everyone by fists who gave answer they did not know and meet the armed group. They beat more to whom gave answers have known about the armed group. They also asked and searched the relatives of the members in the armed group and contact persons. By inquiring from the villagers each other and beating them severely, the soldiers later accepted about 10 villagers who were the relatives of the members in the armed group. The soldiers tied them up and brought them outside of village. The soldiers beat them and asked the background and personal biography of the members in the armed group. They also brought village headmen, village chairman and secretary, to Magyi village and detained and tortured them for one whole night for their missing to cooperate with nearest SPDC troops.
b. Tortures and Rape the Kyonekanya and Khawza Fishing Villagers
The same troops from LIB No. 273 also arrived to Kyonekanya village on June 6, at afternoon time with reason to punish the villagers. Soon after they arrived, they asked each villager from every house to go to the middle of the village. Then they tied up all villagers and brought them to a village, which is named as "Khawza fishing village". Normally, in most Mon village in the coastal area, the villagers have one main village and when the villagers work as fishermen, they also create another small village for fishing and making drought fishes, fish-paste for sale. Such these villages are called as fishing villages. Here, Khawza village is the big one in southern part of Ye township area (see map) with over 500 households and the closest fishing village is given name as Khawza fishing village.
After the troops reached to Khawza fishing village, they also asked each villager from every house and tied them up. They also asked and beat the villagers from both villages about the activities and members of Mon armed group. They detained a group of villagers
who gave answers never knew the armed group in the fishing village under the house of village secretary where he put oxen and cows. And the soldiers brought other 29 villagers to Magyi village who gave answers they have known about the armed group. They detained 29 villagers in a paddy-husking factory which has proper roof and walls. Then, about 8 o'clock at night time, the soldiers took the villagers one by one to a dark place about 200 meters far from factory where had many shady trees and interrogated about the armed group. Among the villagers, three women also included in the group. First the soldiers brought a forty year old woman, Mi Hla Tint (40 years old) and interrogated her. Then the soldiers raped her repeatedly. The rest villagers also clearly heard her voice from the interrogating place that she cried for help loudly. After half an hour, they brought another two women and raped again. They also the guns to these women and forced them to not cry for help. Then, they kept all those women in other place. They continuously interrogated and tortured the other men.
They tortured the villagers for the whole night and did not allow them to sleep. On the next day morning, the other villagers did not meet three women and thought the women were brought by soldier to other places. In the morning, the soldiers released four villagers and others were detained in the factory for many days. The soldiers also asked a ransom of 90000 Kyat for the dead soldiers and cost for treatment for soldiers who got serious injuries in the attack. Before they received the set amount of cash from the villagers, they did not release any of them. On June 14, after they received about 70000 Kyat ransom from villagers they released 21 men and still detained village secretary to get all set amount of cash. On June 16, after the villagers gave another 20000 Kyat, they released village secretary. When they brought the village secretary to the village, the soldiers also let the villagers dig two long holes and said to village chairman and secretary that when the Mon armed forces came close to the village, they must urgently inform to the nearest SPDC base. If not, they will kill both chairman and secretary and put corpses in the holes.
c. Tortures in Tawbaung Village
Similarly, on June 7, the SPDC troops from LIB No. 273 led by Maj. Hla Naing Htwe also went into Taw Baung village and arrived at mid-night time. They went to village chairman house and asked for the village security forces. Since before, the local SPDC troops instructed every village in the area to put three security forces who are gathered by village headmen to get information about the Mon armed group and to inform their troops as quickly as possible. They also intruded to do night-duty to walk around the village and care the activities of strangers outside of the village. When they arrived at night time to the village, they met only two village security guards and angered to village headman. They also asked where was the other security guard. The village chairman tried to explain the soldiers that other one guard was sick. However, they did not accept the chairman complaint and continuously beat him until he lost consciousness. Then the soldiers took some of his live-stocks and left from the village before dawn.
Punishment by IB No. 61
a. Tortures and Rape in Ba-round Village
To launch offensives the armed group, the SPDC battalion IB No. 61 also took responsibility together with LIB No. 273. Therefore, the troops from IB No. 61 did the same treatment against the villagers under their operation area. While LIB No. 273 punished the villagers and inquired more information about the armed force, at the same time, IB No. 61 also punished other villagers.
On June 6, about 20 SPDC troops of IB No. 61 led by Cap. Kyi Lwin Oo approached to Ba-roung village and waited at the entrance of the village. In the
morning, many villagers left from entrance and went to their farms. The soldiers arrested about 14 villagers including village secretary, women and young girls. Then the soldiers brought all these villagers into village and tied them up in trees in the middle of the village. And they also asked the village -chairman whether he know these villagers or not. Although the village chairman said they were all his villagers and the .soldiers did not believe and put them in the trees for several hours. They did not give any foods.
And the commanders also asked foods from the village chairman. He had to give them beer, ducks and chicken that cost about 7000 Kyat to the soldiers. After all soldiers took lunch, they also brought all arrested villagers outside of the village and when they! reached at the bottom of a mountain, they continuously brought all men but left women and girls with some soldiers. They forced the men to show the base of armed group and whenever the men replied they really did not know the base of armed group, they were severely tortured.
The rest soldiers with women and girls also separated two elder women in one place and brought one marriage woman and three girls to another place. First the soldiers interrogated them about the armed group and beat them. They let the woman and girls hold the trees and beat their back. The soldiers teared clothes and beat them with sticks and belts. They also put ants on these women's back and let it bite them. Then they raped these four women separately. The marriage woman told other villagers about the rape of the soldiers and other three ladies kept about this case. Then they also moved other villages soon after their release.
After the soldiers raped the women, they let them go back to village. The arrested men were continuously tortured by soldiers and were released on the next day. Among all villagers, the village secretary was severely tortured and had to lie on the bad for nearly two weeks for treatment. He was constantly accused as contact person of the armed group and as he was village secretary, he must know the base of armed group, said the commander.
b. Tortures in Kaw-hlaing Village
On June 5, in the evening time, some members of Mon armed group led by Nai Hlein arrived to Kaw-hlaing village and took dinner in the village and then left to the southern part of the village. On the next day morning, the SLORC troops from LIB No. 61 led by battalion commander Col. Aung Lwin arrived to Kaw-hlaing village after they received the news of Nai Hlein group. The soldiers climbed onto every house in the village and then gathered all villagers and asked which direction Nai Hlein group moved out from village. And the villagers told the group left to the south. The soldiers arrested many villagers, both who knew Nai Hlein group and have fruit plantation in the south part of the village. Then the soldiers forced the villagers to show the base of the group in southern part of the village. The villagers were unable to know the base of group, because it never took base around their village. The soldiers dissatisfied on the villagers and tortured with various ways. They put bullets between the villagers' fingers and gripped them to get inner pain. They covered the heads of villagers with plastic sheets and poured water on it. And they slapped all villagers.
When they arrived to the village after could not find any members of armed group, they still tied the villagers up and told to village chairman that they would bring them to Ye for more interrogation. Then, the village chairman bribed to commander and make a lunch with a good foods for all soldiers. After the soldiers have lunch they also warned the villagers to not go to fruit plantations in the south of the village. If they knew someone went to south, he/she must be severely punished.
Effects after Movement Restriction on Villagers
Additionally, the villagers about 20 big and small villages in the surrounding area were also instructed to not go their paddy fields, fruit plantations and to the sea for fishing. If the SPDC troops met the villagers outside of the villages or in the work-places, they must be accused as robber-supporters or contact persons for the armed group. They could be punished to die. As the villagers are traditionally farmers and fishermen, whenever they could not go to their farms or to the sea, they have faced various difficulty for survival. At the same time, whenever the SPDC troops arrived into their villages, their belongings including food supplies and livestocks were always looted. In some villages, the villagers have to share food supplies from each other for survival as they are blocked inside their own villages with out enough foods.
Like Kyonekanya village, besides the villagers could not move to the work-places, they also paid addition 90000 Kyat as a ransom to the soldiers for a release the kidnapped villagers. To get this amount of cash, most villagers had to sell their paddy, rice and other livestocks in other villages. Considerably these villagers faced difficulties to survive.
Normally, during June and July, the villagers must have to start working in their farms to grow rice and other plants. Because of this new movement restriction on them, some farmers also have to abandon their traditional farming for one year. Similarly, the farmers who owned rubber and fruit plantations also could not go their farms and all villagers in the area received less and less income or foods. Some villagers also moved to other villages where they felt more safe. Some also moved to nearest towns, Ye, Yebyu and Tavoy.
Because of threat against the village headmen, mainly village chairmen and secretaries, in the whole area, all village headmen moved and stayed together with armed group to avoid further punishment against them. Although the SPDC troops would like to elect new village headmen, nobody accepted for these poses, and whenever someone was elected as village chairman in one village, he immediately fled from his village after SPDC left from the village. Almost villages in the area became under loose administration and the population are normally displaced. They moved from one place to another and sometimes stayed in temporary shelters in the jungle.
In July, about 15 families from this area moved to the Mon refugee resettlement (reintegration) camps to take refuge there. These families have no expectation that they could return to their native villagers until the end of this year, and decided to stay longer in the camps. They said the SPDC local troops will launch more activities to attack the armed group and the punishment against the local villagers must be continued. And they also said that they had faced food-shortage problems and no chance to go to the farms. Therefore, they tried to flee to the places where they could survive.
According to local relief workers, they will accept more and more arrivals in the resettlement camps because of worst human rights situation deep inside Mon State and Tenasserim Division. And they also believe that without solving a political problem, the armed struggle against the military regime must continue although NMSP has agreed for ceasefire with regime.