News, Personal Accounts, Report & Analysis on Human Rights Situation in Mon Territory and Other Areas Southern Part of Burma

The Mon Forum

 

Issue No. 11/2000

November 30, 2000

 

The Publication of Human Rights Foundation of Monland (BURMA)

 

Contents

 

News:

 

(1)     SPDC Plans to construct a gas-pipeline, lands and houses are confiscated,

(2)     LIB No. 299 ordered to fence villages,

 

Report:

 

(1)     Conscription of forced labour and tax collection in Kawkareik township, Karen State

 

Some Acronyms in This Issue

SPDC-     State Peace and Development Council,

SLORC-   State Law and Order Restoration Council,

BSPP-      Burmese Socialist Programme Party,

IB-         Infantry Battalion (of Burmese Army),

LIB-         Light Infantry Battalion (of Burmese Army),

NMSP-     New Mon State Party,

MNLA-    Mon National Liberation Army,

KNU-       Karen National Union,

DKBA-     Democratic Karen Buddhist Army

 

 

News

 

SPDC Plans to Construct a Gas-pipeline, Lands and Houses are Confiscated

(Tenasserim Division, Mon State, November 2000)

 

Since November 19, 2000, SPDC'S some government departments and army have planned to construct a gas-pipeline and bring natural gas from Yadana gas field via Kanbauk area of Tenasserim Division to Pa-an township of Karen State to provide the required energy for an extent cement production factory. In Myaing-kalay area of Pa-an township of Karen State, there is an existing cement factory and now SPDC extended another factory and so for the operation of this factory, SPDC planned to construct a gas pipeline from Tenasserim Division, and passes into Mon State and then connect into Karen State.

 

To implement this pipeline construction project, SPDC'S Nationality Race and Border Area Development Ministry, Construction Ministry and Southeast Region Military Command (Southeast Command) have coordinated each other and formed a gas pipeline constructing corporation and planned all rough construction processes to complete within 7 months. Thus, the concerned ministries' department and army battalions have participated in this project.

The corporation have planned to construct the pipeline along Yebyu-Ye motor road that connects Tenasserim Division and Mon State; between Ye and Moulmein motor and railways roads; along Moulmein-Kyaikmayaw motor road by passing Attaran river bridge; from Kyaikmayaw township of Mon State into Pa-an township of Karen State by passing Gyaing river bridge. (Look in the map.)

 

\

The curren

proposed

gas-pipeli

Location map where the pipeline route passes through

 

When corporation officials cleared the route for pipeline along Yebyu-Ye motor road, it had passed into Yapu village tract and the lands and fruit plantations owned by villagers were also confiscated by the authorities. When the route passes into villages, the officials ordered to cut down trees that lied in front of their house surrounding. The bushes and trees along the motor road were also cleared by villagers without payment.

 

When the route passed between Ye - Moulmein motor and railway roads, some paddy farmlands in these areas have been also confiscated. When the route into a Mon village near Thanbyuzayat town, called Wae-rat, about 20 houses and their gardens were also confiscated by officials on November 27 and the villagers were ordered to destroy their houses, cut their trees and leave from their houses within three days. The villagers have been homeless and landless within 3 days.

 

Similarly when the route passed Wae-thun-chaung village, near Thanbyuzat town, about 10 houses and lands were confiscated on November 29 and the villagers were ordered to destroy their houses, cut their trees and leave their houses within three days. Among the villagers, the houses and lands owned by (1) Nai Mun Tin; (2) Nai Nai Nyan Sein; (3) Nai Ai; (4) Nai Pyin; (5) Nai Kyaw Aye; (6) Nai Ohn; and (7) Nai Sein were also confiscated and they became homeless within three days. As common abuse by government authorities in Burma, no land and house owned by villager were compensated and they also did not provide any new space of lands. Then, the villagers suddenly displaced due to this government development projects.

 

Accordingly to villagers, these confiscated lands have price about 0.5 million Kyat to 2 million Kyat per plot of lands. The lands price differs because of different land spaces and trees have been grown in lands. The villagers have been resided with their families in these spaces of lands for over one hundred year and now they displaced within 3 days.

Then, when the route passes into Kyaikmayaw township along the motor road, although it does not cross into a village, about 50 feet of lands which have some fruit trees and paddy farmlands owned by the villagers in Kyaikmayaw township were confiscated.

 

As estimation, about 200 acres of lands with fruit trees and rice-fields along the motor road are confiscated in Kyaikmayaw township and nobody received any compensated cost.

 

Therefore in the official pipeline construction conducted by SPDC, some hundreds of civilians in Tenasserim Division, Mon State and Karen State have lost their lands, trees and houses. The government officials never take responsibility for these victims and just gave a complaint that all lands in Burma are own by the State.

 

 

LIB No. 299 Ordered to Fence Villages

(Southern Ye Township, November 2000)

 

To beef up the security and prevent the possible entry of the rebel members, a SPDC military battalion, LIB No.299, that bases in southern part of Ye Township ordered all villages in the southern township to fence their own villages by finding facilities. The order was given before the end of October and instructed that all villagers must complete fencing their own villages in the first week of November.

 

LIB No. 299 thought that after rainy season, the rebel troops from one Mon armed group could have some activities and enter these villages to ask for tax and foods. To prevent these possibilities, Burmese Army has found a way to fence the villages. About 10 small and big villages in this area such as Khaw-za, Kha-pya, Yin ye, Yin-dein, Hangan, Kalort and Kaw-hlaing villages have been suffered from this order. Although the village headmen complained to army commanders that as they were quite busy with their own farms because of harvest season, however the commanders just ordered that to complete building offence on the set date. In some village, if the fences were made, these could destroy their paddy outside of villages and complained to commanders to allow fencing after harvesting crops. But the army still did not accept any better suggestion. Therefore, the villagers have to find fencing facilities as quick as possible and fenced their villages according to order. Some villagers who have no time to find facilities also paid to headmen and they have to buy some bamboo and wooden poles used in fencing.

 

Besides fencing the villages, the army has made some restriction against the villagers. They also instructed to all villagers that they must not stay at their farms at night and must not keep extra foods in their farms. Whenever the villagers went to their farms or fruit plantations, they must take permission letters from the own village headmen and if not, they could be accused as rebel-supporters. In various types of restriction against the villagers, the villagers could not work at they like at their farms or they have less time to work in there.

 

Some villages were forced to form militia force in their own villages and instructed the villagers to pay for salaries and foods for these militiamen. To suppress the Mon armed troops that have been active in Ye and Yebyu Township areas, the Burmese Army have used about 5 battalions in these areas, but they still could uproot the activities of these rebel forces. Therefore since the beginning of 2000, it found a new way that ordering the villagers to fence their own villagers to cut contact with rebels.

 

 

Report

 

Conscription of Forced Labour and Tax Collection in Kawkareik Township, Karen State

 

I. Background of Kawkareik Township

 

Kawkareik township is a large township situating in the southern part of Karen State and there is a main river, called Gyaing river, which flows in the western part of township area to Andaman Sea, near Moulmein, the capital city of Mon State.   This rive provides for good communication for villagers in the area and main water source for paddy farms in the whole township.

 

Along the river in the township area, there are over 20 Mon villages situating and the majority of Mon inhabitants are paddy growing farmers and fishermen.    Karen villages are situating in the eastern part of this township and the majority of Karen inhabitants are farmers.   Economically, this township has a lot of food resources and these could provide enough for the survival of the local inhabitants and for other required the accommodation cost.   If there is no control by the Township PDC (Peace and Development Council), the local people could have stayed in the community peacefully and without trouble.

 

However, since 1993-94, SLORC have reinforced its military battalions in this area and tried to take more control of the area, because at that time, the Burmese Army launched big offensives against KNU to occupy many parts of KNLA control areas and its bases. In 1994, with objective to keep control the whole of township area and use them as liaison base, the Burmese Army deployed two military battalions, LIB No. 545 and No.546, in Kyone-doe area, near Kawkareik town, which is on the main road to Thai-Burma border.  Since the initial deployment of the battalions until now, the local villagers from nearly all villages in township have been constantly suffered from the conscription of forced labour for these battalions.

 

Meanwhile, whenever the military regime tried to extend itscontrol over one area, it needs to spend more expenses for both administration and army battalions.  As the regime always instructed order to collect tax or fund from civilians for these expenses, the people in Kawkareik township have been constantly asked by authorities or army to pay various types of tax or fund or paddy to them. Additionally, one DKBA battalion have taken base in this area and they also collected the similar tax like the Burmese Army's battalions.

 

In 1997, after SLORC instructed for self-reliance program for their military battalions, LIB No. 545 and No. 546 confiscated about 200 acres of lands in Kyone-doe area, near their military battalions and made their own farms.    However, the soldiers who do not know about paddy cultivating or farming technique, have conscripted the villagers nearby to work without any payment in their farms to produce crops for them.   These produced paddy crops still do not enough to feed all soldiers which regular come to this township for offensive purpose and so the authorities also forced the local Mon and Karen farmers in township to sell their own paddy at low price to authorities' designated paddy-buying centers.

 

The following facts are the accounts that how SPDC'S Kawkareik Township authorities and army battalions, LIB No. 545 and No. 546 have conscripted the villagers to contribute unpaid labour, to pay for tax and fund for several purposes in township and have forced the farmers to sell their paddy during Year 2000.

 

 

II. Conscription of Forced Labour by LIB No. 545 and No. 546

 

In this Kawkareik Township area, LIB No. 545 and No. 546 are the main military battalions that have taken base for some years and have constantly forced the local civilians to contribute unpaid labour in their needed various types of works.     In Year 2000, these two military battalions mainly forced the civilians in township to cultivate paddy in their confiscated about 200 acres of lands.

 

Since June/July 2000, Township authorities or battalion commanders have requested many hundreds of local villagers from Kyone-doe, Kharit, Kaw-bein village tracts that close to their farms to do farming in their own farms.   In this case, at least 15 villagers from each village tract or sometimes from a village have to go and work in the army's farms.   From these village tracts, the villagers from Kanni, Kaw-kyaik, Kawpareik, Meekalong, Kawlyan, Ngar-taing, Inn-gyi, Kaw-go, Thayet-taw, Kaw-bein, Kharit and others have been suffered from the forced conscription of the labour.

 

In June, when the rainy season started, the battalion commanders asked the villagers from Kanni, Kaw-go, Kaw-pauk, Thayet-taw and Kyone-doe villages to bring their own oxen and tools to plough their lands.   Thus, the villagers from these villages not only had to bring their oxen and tools, but also to bring their own foods from their houses to eat in the workplaces.   In ploughing lands, the villagers needed to spend for over 15 days to complete this process.

 

After the lands are completely and properly ploughed, the army and the authorities again ordered the local headmen to send many another hundreds of villagers to sow seedlings onto grounds, take small seedling plants and transplant them in the prepared places.   In Burma, since the farming is not improved like many other major paddy growing countries, it needs a lot of human power in every process of cultivation.   Every thing has been done by hands.

 

So, whenever the battalions asked the labourers from the villages, they have asked at least about 15 villagers for one day work in 100 acres of lands, to plough the lands or to transplant small paddy plants. When works such as growing paddy plants were quite huge in the farms, the army conscripted about 50 labourers from a village for one day work.   On a rotation basis, the headmen have to manage to send the required number of villagers to workplaces.

 

In any order which the authorities asked for forced labourers, the authorities or the army commanders always mentioned the number of labourers they required; the dates those villagers had to go which battalion's farms; and the works they needed to work in farms.

 

In an order dated on August 15, given by a commander from LIB No. 545, Maj. Moe Thwin, it described as below: (See the attached Order No. 1 in Burmese version on Page 5.)

 

 

To

Chairman

---------------Village

 

Subject: To help sending unpaid labour

1            As the subject mentioned above, your---------village must send the required villager labourers

accordingly to the following instruction and dates:

(a)   On September 18, 2000, to send about 50 men to weed out the paddy plants,

(b)   On September 19, 2000 to send about 50 women to grow paddy plants.

 

2.          To manage doing these types of works, one village leaders must lead the group of the villagers.

 

Signed -

(a Commander) LIB No. 545

 

 

Depending on the types of work, how was feasible to men or women, the commanders decided to have men or women to complete their works properly and easily.   The works such as taking the paddy seedling plants and carry them to the places for growing paddy was little harder and so commanders instructed the village headmen to send only men.    Generally, in transplanting paddy plants, the women could work very quick and so the commanders instructed to send only women.

 

As an instance,

On July 27, 2000, in an order given by a commander from LIB No. 545, the commanders requested only 15 women to grow paddy.  So, in this case, they have not requested any man to work in farms.

 

Since July until the end of September, the commanders from both LIB No. 545 and LIB No. 546 have requested many villagers to do various types of works in their farms, including, ploughing lands, growing paddy plants, creating water canals and other works.    Since the farms owned by these battalions are quite large, they needed many people to work in the farms as the soldiers never work any work and they have even no tools for farming.

 

For the village headmen, as the military battalions requested labour continuously, they have been quite busy and headache in managing of sending the required number of labour to the workplaces.   Every village, the headmen have to send the set number of labourers to both battalions of LIB No. 545 and No. 546.   In sending the villager labourers, the headmen had to use a rotation basis and rotate the villagers, whose needed to go on which dates.   For small villages, where they were less population, it makes too difficult for headmen to manage sending the set number of villagers.

 

As an instance,

Tha-yet-taw village is in Kyone-doe village tract and it has about 150-200 households residing on the Gyaing river bank.  Since July, the army commanders from both LIB No. 545 and No. 546 instructed the village headmen in this village to send villagers regularly to work in their farms without payment.   Thus, thevillage headmen have to manage sending villagers to both battalions' farms and they were quite busy.

 

Since July LIB No. 545 requested village headmen to send 15 villagers (men and women) on July 22; 12 women on July 27; 50 villagers on August 18; 15 villagers on August 22; 50 men on September 18; and 50 women on August 19.  Similarly, LIB No. 546 commanders requested 50 villagers every time and the same village headmen have to manage sending 50 villagers on July 18; July 25; August 1; August 13; and Sept ember 27 respectively.

 

From reviewing the above constant conscription of forced labour from Tha-yet-taw village by two military battalions, the village headmen must be hard to manage properly for every thing that required by army.   The headmen needed to write down all possible of villagers who can work in farms and forced the villagers to go and work for army.

 

Not only the villagers from this Tha-yet-taw alone suffered from the conscription of forced labour, other villagers from about 20 villages have been similarly suffered from the same contribution of free labour in army's farms.     During the period from July to September while the army battalions were forcing the villagers to work in their farms, the villagers themselves were quite busy in their own farms.   Both able-bodied men and women were in the farms to complete their own works of cultivation.

 

Thus, sometimes, the headmen could not manage sending the set number of villager labourers to workplaces on set date.    When the village headmen could not manage sending the set number of villagers on set dates, the authorities and army angered to them and always gave threatening letters to concerned village headmen.

 

As an instance, the army commander from LIB No. 545 also sent a threatening letter to a village headmen as below, when he could not manage sending the set number of villagers to workplace. (See Order No. 2 in Burmese version on Page 7.)

 

 

To

Chairman

- Village

 

On August 18, 2000, we asked your help to provide about (50) villagers as labourers to work in our LIB No. 545 farms, to take seedling plants and grow them in farms.   But you didn't send any villagers to the workplaces, and you must explain why you could not send the set number of villagers. As our works in farms were quite important and busy, so we really need some villagers to grow the paddy plants.

 

Signed -

 

A Commander, LIB No. 545

Date: August 18, 2000

 

 

 

III. Tax and Material Collection

 

After more army battalions have taken control in the area, there have been more tax collection taken by army or the authorities for the military purposes.   Each household in a rural village or a town section, at least has to pay about 200-500 Kyat porter fee to authorities or nearest military outposts, which have been spent as a main military purposes.

 

Now, not only the porter fee for the military offensives purposes, Township authorities also collected administrative fee for various purposes of administration or to provide some fund for their government servants or for township fund.

 

As an instance,

On April 28, 2000, in an order given from Township's General Secretary, U Aung Lin, to all village headmen, he instructed to them that as a monthly basis, each village headman must bring 500 Kyat to provide fund for government servants in Township administration departments.   The deadline for providing the fund is April 20 for every month.   The authorities aimed that after they have collected this fund, they will use it as investment fund in some government sponsored income-generating program.

 

Besides the regular porter and administrative fees, when an occasion is held by Township authorities, such as Karen State Day ceremony, Union Day celebration, welcoming the SPDC higher authorities or army commanders and others, the authorities always collected fund from the town section and the villagers in the whole Township.

 

As an instance,

In an order dated on January 14, 2000, given by Township authorities to all village headmen and town section leaders, they instructed that to hold Karen State Day celebration, each village must have to provide 3, 000 -10, 000 Kyat fund to authorities.  Depending on households and populations in each village, even a smallest village, with less than 50 household must have topay at least 3, 000 Kyat, while some other villages had to pay 4, 000 Kyat, 5, 000 Kyat, 7, 000 Kyat and 10, 000 Kyat.   The authorities showed the reason that in this Karen State Day celebration, they needed to buy some facilities and to feed the people who attended the ceremony.

 

On the other hand, sometimes, when Township authorities adopts or are ordered to implement a development program, such as building schools, clinics and self-help road building; tree growing; maintenance of some important building; construction of military barracks; creating dry season crop-growing and others, the authorities always have tried to collect fund from the civilians.

 

As an instance,

On July 24, 2000, when Township chairman gavean order to all village headmen to attend monthly meeting, he also instructed that all village headmen needed to bring 2000-5000 Kyat cash along with them to support tree-growing program conducted by forestry department.

 

Sometimes, unlikely to the above instances, the authorities also collected huge amount of fund or tax from villages for special purposes, such as launching military offensives; maintaining and rebuilding roads and bridges; building and maintaining military barracks or other buildings; and other purposes.

 

Kawakareik Township area is stratedgically very important for SLORC/SPDC to launch the military offensives against KNU and KNLA which takes bases in eastern part of Karen State, along Thailand-Burma border.   Thus, the Burmese Army also kept extra foods in this township area and requires maintaining or repairing the supply buildings every year.   When the authorities require rebuilding or repairing these buildings, they always ordered the village headmen to provide for fund.

 

As an instance,

In an order dated on June 5, 2000, given from Township chairman, U Aung Kyaw, to all village chairman in township, he mentioned that there was a requirement to rebuild and roof  4 buildings of  supply stores.   These supply stores have been keeping all supplies required for troops of the Burmese Army that took  base along Kawkareik-Nyi-naung motor road to the border town of Myawaddy, which is on the opposite of Mae Sot.   For the maintainence of the stores, the military required to buy roofed thatches, wooden lumbers, nails, other materials and labour casts.  As the supply stores are quite large, the authorities have to spend a lot of money, they estimated they have to spend about 110, 000 Kyat for each building.   Therefore, the authorities instructed that all town sections of Kawkareik town must have topay for the expenses of one building, that shared as Section No. 1 needed topay 14, 300 Kyat; Section No. 2 and 3 needed topay 18, 700 Kyat each; Section No. 4 needed topay 14, 300 Kyat; Section No. 5 needed topay 15, 400 Kyat; Section No. 6 needed topay 9, 900 Kyat; and Section No. 7 needed topay 18, 700 Kyat respectively .

 

And, the authorities instructed 22, 000 Kyat each from Kaw-nwe, Ye-gyaw-gyi, Yan-koke, T aung-kya-inn and Myauk-kya-inn village respectively.  Kyone-doe village tract (there are about 5 villages) also have to provide 110,000 Kyat; and Kaw-bein village tract have to provide 110, 000 Kyat and it shared as44, 000 Kyat from Kaw-bein village; 25,000 Kyat from Kaw-pauk village; 25, 000 Kyat from Min-ywa village; and 16, 000 Kyat from Kaw-go village respectively.  So, from 7 town sections and three village tracts, the authorities took about 440, 000 Kyat, a hugh amount of tax, from the civilians.

 

Not the tax or fund are for authorities and army battalion, the police in Kha-rit police station that bases on Gyaing riverbank also collected tax from the fishermen in river who are traditionally working as fishermen for several years.   Fisherman who owns one boat and net have to pay 2000 Kyat tax and fisherman who owns only one net have to 500 Kyat for every six month to police station.   The tax have been used for police station fund.

 

Thus, every month, the village headmen collected 2-3 rounds of tax or fund collection for authorities and army battalions in this township and these are quite a burden work for them. Each household, even a poor family have to pay about 500-1000 Kyat every month to headmen for tax or fund.

 

 

IV. Paddy Tax Collection

 

Besides fund or cash tax collection conducted by the authorities, the army, Township authorities and police department also have forced the farmers in the whole township area to sell their paddy at low price to them and it is meant also "yearly paddy tax" to authorities.

 

In Kawkareik, there are a large paddy farms along Gyaing river and the paddy is also the main crop production of the area.   Thus, the higher authorities also instructed Township authorities instructed to collect a hugh amount of paddy from the local farmers.   Karen State PDC instructed that it required about 150, 000 baskets of paddy (one basket is about 46 pound in official measurement) and ordered Township PDC to force the farmers to sell this amount of paddy to their designated paddy-buying center.

 

Why the government authorities have taken this huge amount of paddy?   Because, as mentioned above, this township area strategically, militarily and in communication important to have control and every year, many thousands troops of the Burmese Army, besides two main bases in township, have come and stayed in township when they prepared to attack KNU along Thai-Burma border.   And a main motor road that connects to the border is also in this township and the army has to take security for this road.   Many traders moved along this road and the authorities and army also received tax from them.

 

Whenever the authorities extend their administration or army extends it military control, they both needed more government servants and armed forces.    So, this privileged groups of servants and armies could not produce any foods for themselves and the farmers have mainly to provide all required foods for them.    Since the beginning of 2000, in January, the authorities have created many paddy-buying center in each village tract of township area and forced the farmers to sell their paddy as quick as possible.   February 15 was the deadline for all farmers.

After deadline, when farmers from some villages could not complete selling their paddy, because those farmers lost some of their crops during rainy season, the authorities also wrote a threatening letters to village headmen.   They also asked village headmen that to make a detail list of their villages' farmers and the amounts of paddy each village headmen sold to the paddy-buying centers.

 

As an instance,

In an order dated on February 15, Township PDC's General Secretary, U Aung Lin, mentioned that Kawkareik township was requiring to buy 150, 000 baskets of paddy totally from the farmers in township.  But the authorities still had not received this amount of paddy and so the concerned village headmen have responsibility to complete this task.   Thus, township authorities must makea detail list of farmers and how many baskets they sold to which paddy centers.  A U lists must arrive to township office on February 20 as deadline.

 

That was an action taken by Township authorities and the headmen again had to force the farmers who failed to complete their duties of selling the set amount of paddy to government.    So, the farmers who lost the crops during the last rainy season also had to sell their belongings and bought paddy at high price in market and sold them to paddy-buying center at low price.

 

Additionally, separating from paddy bought by Township authorities at low price, some police stations at villages or town section also asked supplies without payment from farmers in the respective village tract and town sections.   The paddy is food supply for police members in station and their families.

 

As an instance,

In February 2000, the police chief in Kha-rit police station ordered the village headmen in Kha-rit village tract to provide the police and their families with 300 baskets of paddy.  In his instruction to headmen, he asked for 60 baskets of paddy from Kha-rit village, 60 basketsfrom Kaw-ka-taw village, 60 baskets from Mon-hlaing village, 40 basketsfrom Kyauk-ye-twin village, 50 baskets from Ngar-chun-gone village and 40 baskets from Kyauk-ka-pin village.

 

In Kawkereik township, the land soil for growing paddy is not quite good as lands along Andaman seacoast and the paddy production is not so high.   The farmers could produce not more 40-50 baskets of paddy from one acre of lands.    However the authorities instructed the farmers to sell about 10 baskets of paddy for one acre of lands in Year 2000. After selling paddy at low price to government, paying for labour cost to labourers for farming, spending various costs for farming in the whole year, buying fertilizer and other materials, the farmers left nothing but debts.

 

 

V. Conclusion

 

In case of conscription of forced labour, each family have to work for army or authorities about 5 days at least every month and sometimes nearly two weeks.    Sometimes, if the Burmese Army planned to launch the military offensives against KNU and KNLA, many thousands of civilians in this township were arrested as "frontline civilian porters" again.

 

Because of government or SPDC'S shortage of budget to provide their subordinated administrative office and army battalions, the collection of tax or fund have been increased and the local civilians have been suffered to pay a huge amount of tax which they have never to pay during BSPP era.

 

However, the Karen and Mon civilians in Kawkareik township have been similarly suffered from the various of unlawful and illegal tax collection by the authorities and constant conscription of forced labour, while some Karen villagers in rural areas are additionally suffered from cruel, inhumane and degrading treatments by the Burmese Army's troops with accusation they are rebel-supporters.