News, Personal Accounts, Report & Analysis on Human Rights situation in Mon Territory and Other Areas Southern Part of Burma
The Mon Forum
Issue No. 3/99
The Suffering of Villagers in Area Around the Yetana Gas Pipeline
I. Multi-national investment and deployment of SLORC/SPDC troops in area around the Yatana gas pipeline
II. Human Rights Accounts in the past
A. Forced relocation
B. Conscription of forced labour
C. Arbitrary arrests and killings
III. Human Rights Record in 1998/1999
A. Forced labour in road construction
B. Regular tax extortion
C. Ill-treatments to villagers including killings
D. Constant conscription of civilian porters
Some Acronyms in this Report
SLORC: State Law and Order Restoration Council,
SPDC: State Peace and Development,
MOU: Memorandum of Understanding,
IB: Infantry battalion of Burmese Army,
LIB Light infantry battalion of Burmese Army,
NMSP: New Mon State Party,
KNU: Karen National Union,
KNLA: Karen National Liberation Army,
MDUF: Mergui-Davoy United Front,
The Suffering of Villagers in Area Around the Yadana Gas Pipeline
I. Multi-national Investment and Deployment of SLORC/SPDC Troops in Area Around the Yatana Gas Pipeline
In exploring and exploiting the
untapped natural gas in
Concerning to Yatana gas
Since 1991-1992, before these
companies agreed to explore the natural gas, SLORC had sent and deployed many
thousands of tatmadaw troops to the area to gain more control first. In
Following the military presence in the area, whenever these battalions launched operations against the rebel groups, the villagers were always accused as rebel-supporters or sympathizers by the government soldiers. Because of this accusation, several types of abuse committed by soldiers such as forced relocation, burning and destroying of villages, forced dislocation, constant tax collection of portering fee and development fees and etc.,. At the same time, to provide smooth transportation for companies or traveling for troops who take security for pipeline, project area and surrounding areas, the local military battalions were always instructed to build the railway or motor roads by respective military command, Southeast Region Military Command or Coastal Region Military Command of the military regime. In these road constructions, the local inhabitants have been constantly forced to contribute free labour in the construction. Similarly, whenever the battalions or joint military operations launched offensives against the rebel groups, the villagers were always forced to be civilian porters to carry ammunitions and supplies that essentially needed for soldiers and commanders.
The gas and oil companies, which have closely collaborated with these battalions or relied on soldiers always blind their eyes regarding to the human rights abuses violated by soldiers. For the safety of themselves and project sites, these companies always require huge numbers of troops to protect them. In comparison with other areas, this area is recognized as a specific area and the security forces are also provided with extreme numbers. Totally about 25 battalions including both light and regular military battalions have taken base in Yebyu, Tavoy, Thayet-chaung and Longlon townships area and these battalions always look at the villages in the area carefully. These battalions have launched the military operation into over 200 villages in these townships to check the activities of rebel groups or to attack them to protect gas pipeline project and prevent their possible approach to pipeline area or to gain the strategic roads where they could make harm to government troops.
The site where the TOTAL Co.'s field personnels residing is situating in a restricted area they could not get all update information happening in the surrounding area. They themselves cannot move to outside area because military or government officials have restricted their movement due to security reason. They could move only around the area where about 10-15 villages near the onshore project site are situating and normally, the government troops did not violate any abuse in there in the last few year and until now. Thus, TOTAL and UNOCAL always deny about the abuses committed by soldiers because they have not seen the actual evidences with their eyes.
II. The Human Rights Accounts in the Past
A. Forced Relocation
During 1991-1993 years, when the companies tested how to explore gas in the sea, SLORC already started its operation to secure the area to force all guerrilla troops to move to outside of this area. While the Burmese Army launched military offensives against three main rebel groups, NMSP, KNU and MDUF in the area, the soldiers also had operated "four cuts campaign" against the rural villagers. The Burmese Army attempted to halt the civilians to not support the concerned rebel groups. Thus, the local inhabitants in the area, Mon, Karen and Tavoyan people were inhumanely treated by government soldiers.
During the dry season in 1992, when Burmese Army launched "Than-lyet Sit-sin-ye" military offensives against KNU's 4th bridge, to clear and weaken the KNLA activities, the battalions in the operation also relocated about 19 villages in Thayet-chaung township to halt their support to KNU/KNLA. These villages were instructed to move along Tavoy-Mergui motor road where Burmese Army had firm control. Such grouping of villages to the motor road area made the villagers to have to face hardship for survival. They lost their belongings and resources, such as rice farming lands, fruit plantations, live-stocks and others, that had supported them for survival for survival years. Because of this forced relocation, about 2,400 families of estimably 13,000 population were homeless and faced helpless situation. (Look the list of forced relocated villages in 1992-1993 during SLORC military offensives in Tavoy District, Tenasserim Division.)
Since SLORC tried to have firm control including Ye-Mergui motor road and the villages situated western side of this road, its army have forced many villagers situated in east of the road to move to motor road or west of it. The similar forced relocation also happened in 1992/1993 dry season offensives in Tavoy township by Burmese Army. Normally, the villages situated in east side of the motor road were moved to the motor road or to west side of motor road. About 10 villages were relocated and about 730 families of 4,000 population had been homeless because of this forced relocation. In every year dry season offensives during 1992 and 1993 against KNU and NMSP, many villages in Yebyu township were also instructed to relocate and stay along Ye-Tavoy motor road. These villages were situated in east of Ye-Tavoy motor road and were accused as rebel bases and were forcibly relocated during these offensives. Because of this forced relocation, about 8,000 villagers from 12 villages had to abandon the villages, houses, belongings, plantations and others, and moved to the designated places along Ye-Tavoy motor road or to the plain area in the west side of the road, where the Burmese Army could keep control the new villages. (Look the list of forced relocated villages in 1992-1993 during SLORC military offensives in Tavoy District, Tenasserim Division.)
The forced relocation of the local Mon villages has continued before and after NMSP-SLORC ceasefire. Before NMSP agreed for ceasefire with SLORC, the military regime also worried about the possible attack by the MNLA troops, the military faction of NMSP. The Mon troops also kept control in some part of coastal area which close to pipeline area. Normally, the Mon navy troops took base from Kywe-tho-nyima village area in the south up to Thanbyuzayat township's fishing villages. To cut off Mon civilian support to Mon troops, the local military battalions also committed forced relocation of Mon villagers. In February, 1995, when NMSP refused to continue talks with regime, one Mon fishing village, Kyauk-tayan, with 300 households, was forcibly relocated by LIB No. 407 troops. The troops gave one week deadline to villagers to quickly moved from village. After 7 days, they came into the village again and destroyed the village and took villagers' belongings away. At the end, no villager dare to stay in the village until NMSP reached ceasefire agreement.
The list of forced
relocated villages in 1992-1993
during SLORC military offensives in Tavoy District, Tenasserim Division
Period of forced relocation:
During 1992/1993 dry season Effected villages:
Total houses and estimated population: 732 and 4,000
(2) Yebyu township
Period of forced relocation:
During 1992/1993 dry season Effected villages:
10. Kyauk-lone-gyi 11.Taung-chayin 12. Thonetanku
Total houses and estimated population: 1553 and 8,000
(3) Thayet-chaunq township
Period of forced relocation:
April, 1992, when "Than-lyet-sitsinye" military operation by SLORC
6. Kywe-gyan 7.Alezu
Total houses and estimated population: 2404 and 13,000
B. Conscription of Forced Labour
After relocating many villages into its firm area and the Burmese Army continuously deployed more troops in area. When SLORC expected it could protect multinational investment in the area, it have allowed TOTAL to visit the area and conducted a aerial survey by helicopter. However the villages were already and totally moved and the company personnel never saw forced population displacement of the villagers.
Another coincident preparation by SLORC to secure the area was the building of 110 miles long Ye-Tavoy railway. In late 1993, the government forced the villagers to find the route and then instructed them to clear the foliage, cut trees and to do other works to get cleared railway road. Since 1993 until 1997, hundreds of thousands of local Mon, Karen and Tavoy inhabitants were forced to build this railway unceasingly regardless of rain or sunshine. Every family had to send at least one family member or 3-4 members to work in this construction for at least about 1-2 weeks in every month. The villagers were instructed to build the embankment, find and lay stones on embankment, find wooden sleepers and lay them on embankment and do many other hard works to complete the whole construction. In estimation of 200 villagers died due to this construction's hard works, land collapse in the work-site and serious sickness during and after they worked for construction. In every construction site, because of over crowded population, the villagers always did not receive pure and enough water and the works were always hard. Sometimes, the villagers had to dig earth and cut off the mountains or hills, while sometimes, they have to climb about 20 meters high top of embankment with baskets of earth. The army did not provide any payment, foods and medicines to the conscripts and in addition, if someone was sick in the construction site, his/her village headman had to find a substitute for him/her to get permission from soldiers to go back homes or treat in hospitals.
In 1996, with objective to get smooth communication, SLORC repaired 270 mile long Ye-Tavoy-Mergui existing motor road to get smooth communication. Thousands of villagers were forced for over one year to complete the repair of this road section by section. The villagers were required by soldiers to clear trees and foliage about 150 feet width in both sides of the road to prevent the possible ambush attack by the guerrilla forces to their company trucks, field personnel and government troops who traveled along the road. After clearing alongside of the road, the villagers were additionally instructed to collect stones, crashed them and filled them in the road.
During rainy season in 1997, because of unprecedented flood and related land collapse in Ye-Tavoy motor road, many parts of the road was badly destroyed. After rainy season, thousands of villagers were forced to rebuild this road for smooth communication. Normally, TOTAL four wheels drive trucks and field personnel have mainly used this road for their communication to the project site. Thousands of villagers were required to dig the muddy earth from the route and filled with stones along the whole road. Ten of thousands of Yebyu township's local inhabitants were used to repair this road for nearly six months.
Generally, all these road
repair and new construction were urgently required with purposes for smooth
communication to the project site and regular travel to be convenient by
SLORC/SPDC troops to take inner and outer security for company and pipeline.
Whenever these road were urgently required to rebuild
or newly build, many thousands of villagers were forced to complete these
construction. The local military directly informed the village tract leaders to
send the set numbers of villagers to the construction site. The local military
battalions shared the work-duties to a village tract or a village with pieces
of works to complete how long of the roads and then the village leaders shared
the work-duties to villagers again. When the villagers had to clear foliage or
cut trees alongside the road, they were shared with the length of the road to
be completed within the set time. When they were instructed to complete some
parts of embankment, the work-duties were shared with how many Kyins of
earth they had to dig within the set time. Anyhow, these work-duties were
always hard if compared with their own works at their farms or plantation or
fishing in the sea.
C. Arbitrary Arrests and Killings
While TOTAL had been working to implement its project, finding pipeline route and constructing pipeline, clearing- ground to install necessary machines and building roads near coastal area during 1994 until 1996, SLORC had taken dense security forces in both offshore and onshore area. Whenever the ambush attack to the SLORC troops was operated by guerrilla forces, the nearer villagers were severely punished by Burmese soldiers.
After NMSP-SLORC ceasefire in 1995, SLORC has no much responsibility to care for the Mon attack its local troops. However, in defending the project, SLORC military offensives against KNU/KNLA was not so effective. Sometimes, although Burmese Army launched large scale offensives to KNU's 4th Brigade, the Karen army has still kept control of their headquarters and its troops are also in active around the pipeline area. SLORC troops have only one choice, in preventing the activities of KNU or MDUF troops from approaching into gas pipeline area, they must have to suppress on the local ethnic population and halt the activities of rebel troops taking base around the area or entering to the project site.
Nine of executed victims were (1) Saw Kabalar, (2) Saw Kyae Kyae, (3) Saw Lar Kay, (4) Saw Lar Khu, (5) Saw Shwe Phoe, (6) Saw Kyi Lwin, (7) Saw Dae Ba Raw, (8) Saw Paw Bo, (9) Saw La Day. Among 9 victims who were killed, 3 of them were killed because of severe torturing while the soldiers were interrogating them how they had contact with KNLA guerrillas. After these 3 villagers refused they did not know about the activities of KNLA coming to their farms, they were severely tortured and then killed. The remaining 5 victims were used as frontline civilian porters for some months and then were killed in jungles and did not come back to their homes again.
Among the arrested villagers, a 20 year old single girl, Naw Soe Soe, who was arrested along his father Saw Kabalar, was repeatedly raped by soldiers while she was detained for 7 months in detention. At the end she have pregnancy and brought to Tavoy town. Later she was sent away by higher authorities to close the news of atrocities of the Burmese Army. The remaining arrested villagers were detained for nearly one year and were then released.
III. Human Rights Record
Since previously the military governments, SLORC and SPDC, have relied only on their local battalions in taking security of the TOTAL company's gas
pipeline and project site. Especially for the Yatana gas pipeline and foreign investment in the area, the government gives responsibilities to Coastal Region Military Command, led by Maj. Gen. Thiha Thura Sit Maung to manage for security. Under his command he provides about 3-5 battalions for inner security of project site and pipeline, and about 20 battalions to take outer security to halt the movement of guerrilla forces and build other infrastructure projects that could support for the transportation of pipeline facilities, traveling company field personnel and other purposes.
Therefore, the local military battalions have not halted any their actions in conscripting the villagers as forced labourers in building roads, bridges and military barracks. Similarly, the local villagers were also severely punished by the Burmese soldiers whenever the fighting happened near their villages or the guerrilla forces launch military movements near their villages. The looting from villagers and tax extortion are the common abuse for the corrupted commanders and soldiers during their military operations. During the local battalions launched military offensives against the rebels, the local inhabitants are always required to be frontline civilian porters to carry the ammunitions and food supplies. The previous abuses committed by the Burmese Army are mentioned as below:
A. Forced Labour in Road Construction
Among many roads in
This road is an old road and was built in British era. The width of the road is too narrow and so since 1996, the government planned to widen the road to use it an express way. Because of shortage of budget, the plan was not implemented in 1996. However, in mid-November, 1998, the government instructed the local military battalions to widen this road with government budget and fund given by TOTAL.
According to the military government source, the local military battalions base along Ye-Tavoy motor road were provided with 200,000 Kyat per mile budget to complete the road. Similarly, TOTAL company also provided budget for some parts of the road at least for twenty miles which are close to the project site. Both the government and company gave these fund directly to local battalions which are taking responsibility to widen this road. In widening these road, the local battalions, LIB No. 404, No. 406, No. 408, No. 409 and No. 410 have taken responsibility under the command of Tactical Command (l)'s Commander Col. , Maung Oo. Actually, the local battalions took these budget and shared their work-duties and provided possible payment to soldiers. A soldier will receive about 150-200 Kyat per day for their labour contribution. Some soldiers from LIB No. 408 and 410 actually have worked in the road widening construction.
However, all battalions which actually work in the construction or never work, have conscripted the local villagers from many village tracks along the road to contribute free labour in the construction. The military battalions sent order to all village tracts in Yebyu and Tavoy townships' area and the village tract leaders took responsibility to manage and send the set number of villagers to the construction site. The battalions also gave work-duties to the villagers with pieces of works that each family must complete widening 40 feet long road on both side. First they have to clear about one meter land on the both side of the road and continuously have to fill with small pieces of stones on the cleared ground. Then the villagers have to dig 2 feet width and one feet depth water canals along the both side of the road. Outside of water canals, they have to clear foliage and small bushes about 50 feet again. (See details in the News, The Mon Forum, Issue No. 2/99)
Similarly, the local battalions, LIB No, 402 and 273 also were also instructed to re-build or widening the 30 miles long Nabule-Kanbauk motor road, in the first week of March, 1999, by Coastal Region Military Command. This road is situating in the southern part of Kanbuak/ Ohnpingwin area, where TOTAL company is putting its main project site and infrastructures especially onshore gas clearing machines, factories, stores, guest houses and worker residence. This road is very close to TOTAL company's project site and their pipeline, and the main aim of widening construction of this road is to have smooth communition between outside area, Nabule, and project site. Until the end of March, the road widening is under construction and the road must be likely completed within two months.
In the construction site, about 100 villagers have been subjected to construct the road to complete one section by section. These villagers are conscripted at least from 10 villages in Nabule village tract. Strangely, the SPDC local battalions have not conscripted the villagers from Kanbauk, Ohnpingwin and other villages where the TOTAL company field personnel are residing. The villagers mainly from Zadi, Paya, Dike-ta-kaw, Kyain-chaung, Kyaing-pyan, Bwe-tutwa, Nabule and other villages have to send 5-10 villager labourers to the construction site. These villagers have to stay in the construction site about 5-7 days. There has been no news that the company supporting with fund to build this road. In conscripting the villagers, a military column of LIB No. 402, led by Maj. Soe Lwin, have entered every village and forced the villagers to go to the construction site, and other purposes for the army. (See below, about the using of villagers as security militia and permanent porters in the military battalion bases.)
Similar to the Ye-Tavoy motor road widening processes, the villagers have to clear about 1 meter width on both sides of the road and lay there with small pieces of stones. Every family has to find about 1 kyin of small pieces of stones and bring to the construction. Then, the other villagers who are in the construction site have to crash and lay small pieces of stones. Besides the labour contribution, the villagers in Nabule village tract also have to pay 500 Kyat tax per household to LIB No. 402 and No. 273 for the foods and transportation costs. The two battalions have put about one column of troops along the road and those soldiers asked food costs and traveling expenses from villagers. Other costs is to hire six wheels trailer trucks to carry stones and other facilities to bring them to the construction.
B. Regular Tax Extortion
According to the local reliable source, the battalions or the soldiers in the battalions that taking inner security for the company project site have received some special salary from TOTAL company. The company has provided the soldiers from the battalions which take inner security for the project site, with
6,000 Kyat per month salary. These salaries are paid through Coastal Region f^
Military Command, and it is not sure whether all the soldiers received full payment or not. Whether the soldiers received more or less salary, that salary could not support enough for their family and so they never abandoned their behaviour of taking tax extortion from the villagers. Tax collections such as portering fees, construction fees for motor road, railway and military barracks have been largely gathered by the military battalions which take inner security to company and its project site.
The two battalions, LIB No. 273 and IB No. 106 has been securing the project site along the seashore areas both of north and south of Hpaungdaw village. They also put their troops along a river which reaches to Ohnpingwin village (see map). The battalions' troops have collected tax from fishermen of local villages such as Hpaungdaw, Ohnpingwin, Kywe-tho-nyima, Kyachattaw and others. The fishermen have to pay yearly tax to these battalions. Depending on the size of their boat, the smallest boat have to pay about 4,000 Kyat per year while the biggest boat have to pay about 20,000 Kyat. Besides the yearly tax payment, whenever the fishermen leave to the sea, they have to get permission letter from local military battalions. To sign the permission letter, the commander also asked 250 Kyat per boat every time they leave to the sea. When the fishermen returned from the sea, the soldiers took big fishes from fishermen and let their wives sell in the markets.
In normal situation, the villagers in every village tract close to the project site also have to pay at least 500 Kyat per household every month. According to battalions this tax will be spent for food costs and traveling costs that monthly used by soldiers who are taking security in the area. Besides the regular monthly tax, whenever the military operations enter into villages, the soldiers take soft drink, beer, pig, vegetables and other foods from the shops without payment. After the soldiers left from villages, the village headmen collect cash from villagers and pay for these food costs. Depending on the military activities in the area, each family have to pay about 300 to 1,000 Kyat per month to the village headmen to pay for food costs that are spent by soldiers and commanders.
The local battalions also assign the village headmen to be ready to provide the needed number of civilian porters when their military arrived into villages. The military operation takes some civilian porters and when the soldiers reached into a village, they also replaced with the villagers where they arrived. The village headmen have to arrange their villager porters on a rotation basis for the military operation. When one family could not provide a porter, that family have to pay about 1,000-3,000 Kyat to the battalions depending how long the soldiers will use him as porters. The battalions normally said they may have to hire someone to replace for villager who could not go, but actually, the cash must be taken by commanders. The porters are used normally to carry ammunitions and food supplies when the military battalions travel from one place to another. These battalions are actively launching patrol around the area to prevent the possible attack of guerrilla forces and related disturbance to the project site and pipeline.
Since the security forces and TOTAL company personnels were attacked by KNU troops in March, 1995, SLORC/SPDC has beefed up its troops around the area and carried out more military patrol in the area. In February, 1996, after its troops from LIB No. 407 were attacked again by KNU troops, the mistreatment against the villagers have been more terrible and inhumane. To cut off contact between the guerrilla forces and the local population and to prevent the advance of the enemy, the local battalions set out the orders restricting the movement of the villagers of ethnic Mon, Karen and Tavoyan peoples.
When the farmers went to their farms or plantations they have to ask permission letters from village headmen or military commanders. Normally, the villagers are not allowed to stay at the farms and plantations over night and not permitted to take more foods than one day. When they asked permission to go their work places, they also have to pay 50 Kyat for a permission letter. If the soldiers met them at farms or plantations without permission letter, they must be accused contact persons to rebel groups and must be severely punished by government soldiers. Therefore, those farmers could not work in their farms or fruit plantation at necessary time and they also lost their crops.
C. Ill-treatments to villagers including killings
Under the suspicion of rebel-supporters or sympathizers, the villagers who are staying closely to the project site and outer area, where the rebels have ever arrived, have been constantly suffered from various kinds of mistreatments such as arbitrary arrests, detention and killing. Generally, there are three different groups of rebels, KNU, MDUF, and a Mon armed group without name, have been active in the area and the government troops always attempt to push those guerrilla troops to move outside of the area that close to the project site or the roads that can easily proceed to the site or can make possible attack to government's security forces and company personnels.
There were several evidences, such as killing, detaining and arrests, happened by government troops.
As an instance:
After SPDC troops from IB No. 61 were attacked by a Mon armed group in the last week of May, 1998, SPDC's joint military operation including LIB No. 408, No. 273 and IB No. 61 went into some Mon villages where the attack happened and checked the villagers who they suspected as rebel-supporters. On June 6, when LIB No. 408's 60 troops went into a Mon village, Kronekanya, Ye township, the soldiers also arrested two men, Nai Mit (48 years) and Nai Aung Kyi (35 years) with accusation they are supporters of Mon guerrillas. After arrest they were severely tortured when the soldiers interrogated them about the Mon guerrillas. Column commander also cut the skin of Nai Mit throat and his face until he lost conscienceness. When they interrogated Nai Aung Kyi, he could not speak Burmese and the soldiers also beat him severely. Then the soldiers took his eyes and open his stomach with knife. Thus, he died in the hands of LIB No, 408's soldiers.
Whenever the fighting happened, the villagers have to pay compensation for every thing to the government troops if they lost something in the fighting. If one soldiers died in the fighting, the villagers from villages nearly have to compansate for the life of that soldiers. If guns lost in the fighting, similarly the villagers have to compensate it. The local battalions also instructed the villagers through their headmen, to not use torch light at night, to not go and stay in the rice-farms or fruit plantations over night and etc.,. If the met someone breaking the instruction he must be accused as rebel-supporters and could be severely tortured or killed.
As another instance:
Besides the killings of Mon villagers in rural area connecting to the attack of rebel groups against the government troops, many other Karen villagers were also killed by government troops with similar accusation as supporters of KNU and KNLA troops. The Karen villagers are mostly inhabiting in the hilly and mountainous area of lower part of Tanasserim mountain range and KNU's No. 4th Brigade also operates military attack against the local SPDC troops. Many Karen villagers are in Thayet-chaung township, which situates in the southern part of gas pipeline and the SPDC's LIB No. 285 also takes responsibility to prevent the access of KNU troops into many Karen villages while LIB No. 282 troops are taking security along the pipeline route. Therefore, ill-treatments against the Karen villagers including killings were widespread happened in the rural villages of Thayet-chaung township.
As an instance,
On November 19, 1998, while the troops from LIB No. 285 launching military patrol around Thayet-chaung township area, when they arrived near Thanyin village, the soldiers also arrested 9 Karen villagers including a woman, two years old girl and three years old boy, in a hill rice-farms and accused them they were supporters of KNLA troops. The Burmese soldiers did not meet any permission letter from those villagers to stay and work in the farms and as a result, they were accused of rebel-supporters. All elder villagers, namely, Saw Pyar Pyar, Saw Yo Hmawe, Saw Pauk Too, Saw Dar Buu, Saw Htoo Mee, Saw Kalay Sar and a woman was Naw Si, were severely tortured before they were killed. When the soldiers shot the villagers, they also shot into two children and they were also killed with their parents. The woman, Naw Si was repeatedly raped by soldiers before she was killed.
Since many years after the
government started to invite the multinational investments to this area, many
local inhabitants have been arrested, tortured and killed following the
suspicion of rebel-supporters. In this area, there are only three main ethnic
groups, Mon, Karen and Tavoyan inhabiting and no Burman people in the area. Due
to government's assimilation policy against the other ethnic groups, the civil war in
D. Constant Conscription
of Civilian Porters
Besides the regular launching of military patrol, the Burmese Army every launches large-scale military offensives against the ethnic armed groups which did not agree for ceasefire deal with government. In 1995, after NMSP agreed for ceasefire with SLORC/SPDC, there has been no more Burmese Army's offensives against the NMSP. However, KNU and MDUF still remain in fighting against the government. Even the government offered for ceasefire talks to KNU, no agreement was reached between two parties.
Therefore, large-scale military offensives against the KNU has been yearly launched by Burmese Army in dry season, to prevent military activities of KNLA troops and the possible disturbance to the pipeline and project site. Whenever Burmese Army launched offensives to KNU, many hundreds or thousands of civilians were arrested in every year offensives. During the first quarter of 1999, Burmese Army's local battalions has continuously arrested many hundreds of civilians to use them as frontline porters in securing gas pipeline and offensives against KNU's No. 4th Brigade.
On January 4, 1999, a SPDC battalion, LIB No. 282, which is mainly taking security for pipeline along the route to Nat-ei-taung and based in the border point with Thailand, was attacked by an unknown rebel group. The SPDC's Coastal Region Military Command accused KNU's No. 4. Brigade for the attack and KNU refused it. In the fighting, 4 rebels died and LIB No. 282 also received some explosive materials with the dead rebels. Thus, the SPDC Command worried for the future attack of gas pipeline and then extent the security forces along the pipeline and the area nearby.
Before the end of January, the command formed a new security special battalion with troops from LIB No. 408, No. 409, No. 410, IB No. 267, No. 273 and Armored Battalion No. 324. The five LIB and IB battalions were asked to provide one column of their troops each and armored battalions also provided five tanks for the new special battalions. The new battalion has unceasingly launched military operation to clear all areas near the pipeline route until the end of February. During the military operation, many hundreds of local civilians from Yebyu, Tavoy and Thayet-chaung townships were arrested to be frontline civilian porters.
The Instruction Order to Get Villager Labourers in
[for facsimile of the original Burmese Order, see the pdf version when online – DA]
Translation of the Order
To repair (Ye-Tavoy) motor road,
we informed you that to send (30) labourers from your village to (59) Mile
construction site, on
Signed/- Win Tun (On behalf
of Chairman) U Win Tun (Member) Yebyu PDC,
Additionally, in March, 1999, Burmese Army planned to launch large-scale military offensives against KNU's No. 4th Brigade. Since the beginning of March, 1999, when Burmese Army started launching offensives against No. 4 Brigade, Coastal Region Military Command required about 700 civilian porters from Mergui district area and 800 civilian porters from Tavoy district area. The instructive order was given to many local battalions in these two district areas by Coastal Region Military Command that civilian porters must be gathered before the third week of March. Therefore, mass arrests in Pa-law, Thayet-chaung, Longlon, Yebyu, Tenasserim, Tavoy and Mergui townships were widespreadly happened during the second week of March.
The navy battalions also arrested fishermen and traders, who used boats and trawlers for fishing and trading in the sea, were arrested and brought to the concerned battalions that needed civilian porters. About 20-30 boats and trawlers were arrested in the sea and nearly 80 fishermen and traders were sent to frontline. The arrests also happened in towns especially in public places, such as movie theaters, markets, coffee shops and etc.,. The arrests in the villages have been widespread. In addition, Tavoy and Mergui prisons also provide about 350 prisoners to use them as frontline porters.
The civilian porters were generally used to carry ammunitions and supplies for the soldiers that necessary in the frontline. According to the experience of the villagers, who were regularly used as porters, the soldiers did not feed them with enough foods while they were along with soldiers. They received just small amount of foods, which was equal only half of their every time meal. The soldiers fed them just plain rice without curries or other supplementary foods. Some porters are also used as human-shields or mine-sweepers at frontlines. The porters are beaten by soldiers when they could not carry supplies, ammunitions or could not walk like soldiers. Such suffering stories on the civilian porters have happened for several years during decades-long civil war in Burma.
Besides the arrest of frontline civilian porters when the Burmese Army launched the military offensives against the rebel groups in every year dry season, the battalions which took base close to TOTAL company's project site and pipeline route have always conscripted permanent porters to work several things that they needed in their military base. The local battalions have used the local villagers as permanent labourers to work many works in their bases, such as, building or repairing the barracks, finding firewoods and charcoal, cutting trees and bamboos for fence, growing vegetables for foods for soldiers in base and etc.,.
As an instance,
During January until March, 1999, a local military battalion, LIB No. 401 led by Lt. Col. Ta Kha Mun, which has taken base on Ye-Tavoy motor road near Zimba village, where the pipeline passes the motor road and railway road, asked 2-3 villagers from each villages nearby and has used those villagers to work daily works for their battalion. About 10 villages from Kalein-aung and Natkyisin village tracts have been asked to send the villagers to the battalion base and they were instructed to work in the construction for 5-7 days. The village headmen have to manage to send the needed villagers to base on a rotation basis, and have to replace the villagers in every 5 or 7 days. If one villager could not go and work in the base as permanent porter or labourer, he must have to pay 3,000 Kyat to the battalion.
In the base, the soldiers
daily used about 30-40 villagers and instructed them to find woods and made
charcoals, cut young trees to make fence, grow vegetables, make foods and bring
water for soldiers and do other jobs.
After the villagers make a lot of charcoals, the soldiers also sold it
to traders for battalion fund. Similarly, when the battalion received a lot of
vegetables, they sold it to traders.
The using of forced labour and the contribution of illegal tax to the military battalion are always connected. In building motor road, railway, and to civilian porters for army, the villagers have been instructed to give payment to soldiers if they could not contribute labour to the battalions' instructed works. Normally, in Yebyu township area, the villagers have to work for army more days than they work in their farms or plantations. Therefore, the local villagers face a lot of difficulties to arrange for the survival of their families because of constant conscription of forced labour and portering.
Since the military government
and the multinational oil and gas companies planned to exploit gas in Gulf of
Mataban, Andaman Sea, west of Mon State, even though they did not clear which
route they should send gas to Thailand, the government has systematically
planned to uproot the rebellion in Tenasserim Division where they had plan to
construct and connect pipeline to Thailand. In Burma, most national resources
are only available in the non-Burman ethnic nationalities' areas and there have
been many year of rebellion has also risen in many parts of the areas. The
successive military governments in
In securing the area, large numbers of troops from Burmese Army came to these areas according to government policy and implementation. Whether the
foreign companies has provided all or some costs for military offensives or not, the government received regular payments from these companies as tax or support for the government management to have stable conditions to input their investment.
Practically and generally, whenever the Burmese Army went into area, their military operations always conducted "four cuts campaign" against the local ethnic civilians to cut off their support and communitions with rebels. When the local battalions implemented to gain more control in an area, many villagers were forcibly displaced and some villages, which were suspected as rebels' temporary bases, were always ordered to relocate to the main roads or designated villages where the government troops keep firm control. During offensives, the usage of civilian porters were also widely occurred in the rural area.
Additionally, hundreds of thousands of rural civilians have been conscripted as unpaid labourers in many SLORC construction projects that directly supported the better communition to the pipeline area and achievement of full military control in the area. Initially, the local villagers were used as forced labourers even in the companies' project site such as building of helipads, facility warestores and military barracks. Because widespread condemnation against the companies for their ignorance of SLORC's usage of forced labourers, had said the local military battalions to not use unpaid villagers in their project site. However, they had not prevented or have no ability to stop SLORC/SPDC's regular and continuous use of forced labourers in the construction projects. These government project sites are a little bit far from gas-pipeline project site and pipeline route, but these are directly related for the security of gas-pipeline.
Although the companies have refused they are not in the position abusing the local villagers, in reality, however, the companies already failed to safeguard the safety of local ethnic inhabitants, who have been killed, arrested, detained with accusation of rebel-supporters and conscripted as forced labourers in the construction site. They, all the time, have blinded their eyes and tried to avoid moral and social responsibility for the abuses violated by local military battalions which have been taking security for them and their facilities. The safety situation and peaceful life of local inhabitants have been ceaselessly destroyed by these troops if compared with the situation in the past before the companies invested in these areas.