News, Personal Accounts, Report & Analysis on Human Rights Situation in Mon Territory and Other Areas Southern Part of Burma
The Mon Forum
Issue No. 11/2001
November 30, 2001
The Publication of Human Rights Foundation of Monland (BURMA)
(1) SPDC's IB No. 62 burnt down a Karen village near Thailand border,
(2) Suspected villagers are still in detention after a train bomb blast,
(3) SPDC's order restriction against farmers,
(4) No crop alongside gas pipeline ordered by SPDC
(1) Growth of anti-Muslim sentiment and oppression against Buddhist monks in Pegu Division by SPDC,
(1) Plights of young soldiers in SPDC battalions
Some Acronyms in This Issue
SPDC- State Peace and Development Council,
SLORC- State Law and Order Restoration Council,
IB- Infantry Battalion (of Burmese Army),
LIB- Light Infantry Battalion (of Burmese Army),
MOC- Military Operation Command (of Burmese Army),
USDA- Union Solidarity and Development Association (of the regime)
NMSP New Mon State Party,
KNLA- Karen National Liberation Army,
ILO- International Labour Organization,
SPDC's IB No. 62 burnt down a Karen village near Thailand border
In the morning of November 27, 2001, about 120 troops from Burmese Army's IB No. 62 led by Lt. Col. Wai Tun burnt down 32 houses in a Karen village called Htee-wan-doe, which situates about 5 kilometers from Thailand border of Sangkhlaburi District and about 800 villagers fled into nearest Mon village, Halockhani and displaced, according escaped villagers.
The troops of Burmese Army from IB No. 62 came into this village with accusation it was rebel base, and has taken base there since November 25, to find out the KNLA troops and a recent Mon splinter troops led by Col. Pan Nyunt in and around the village. After they could not find any rebel soldiers, the commander ordered his men to burn down this village according to villagers.
Some 500 villagers who feared the arrest and torture by the Burmese soldiers already fled into Halockhani Mon village before the Burmese army arrived into village. After the Burmese arm)' burnt down their village, all 300 remaining villagers (fled to Halockhani, a
Mon refugee resettlement site, to seek haven under New Mon State Party (NMSP) protection. The IB No. 62 commander also said they would come back to the village again to check the rebel troops' activities. Thus, over 800 villagers who feared for further abuses moved into Halockhani resettlement site and now they are displacing under make-shift shelters.
During the troops were in the village, they stole villagers' belongings and took livestock, such as
pigs, chicken and ducks, according to villagers. Now, while they are displacing, a Mon relief organization, Mon Relief and Development Committee, provides them with food supplies, which are donated by many humanitarian NGOs.
fleeing, these over 800 displaced people tried to seek haven in
Halockhani resettlement site is just right on border of Thailand and Burma, but situates in Burma and resettled the Mon refugees who were spontaneously repatriated during NMSP-SPDC ceasefire. Htee-wah-doe village was established with displaced villagers, who fled from mostly Kya Inn Seikyi Township of Karen State after 1997 dry season offensives launched by Burmese Army.
The current situation in Three Pagoda Pass area inside Burma become very for both Mon and Karen displaced persons after a Mon splinter group split and launched their military activities in area nearby. When the Burmese Army plan to launch offensives against these rebel armies, many villagers arrested as porters, some villagers are accused as rebel-supporters and tortured, and at the end, many displaced villagers for some years are again displaced and no safe shelters for them at all.
Even the NMSP, which agrees ceasefire with ceasefire with SPDC also concerns for the safety of Mon people in resettlement site, because Burmese Army could have more chance to operate its military offensives close to ceasefire zone, in which provides safety for Mon returned refugees and displaced persons came from many parts of Mon areas.
Suspected villagers are still in detention after a train bomb blast
About 5 villagers who worked in rubber plantations near railway northern part of Ye Township, Mon State, are still in detention after a bomb blast exploded to a train on 2nd October, according to a village from Taung-bon, a village that close to incident.
that time, train run from
According to villagers, some villagers' legs were rolled with round iron bars, covered their heads with plastic heads and poured water and other types of torturing during army was interrogating them.
As most villagers were innocent, the army did not receive any news and information from them and requested 5000 Kyat ransom from each person and released 15 villagers. But another 5 villagers are still remaining in detention for interrogation to have more information. These 5 villagers are (1) Nai Kalay-ngal; (2) Nai Bvar; (3) Nai Thar Ma Sal; (4) Nai Ngar Pae; and (5) Nai Than Kyi and they are still cruelly tortured by soldiers during interrogation, added by that villager.
The Burmese Army's Military Operation Command (MOC) No. 19 have deployed many military battalions in eastern and northern parts of Ye Township since early this year. However, the rebel army still operate some activities and these battalions still could not provide protection for railway and motor road.
SPDC's order restriction against farmers
People who have fruit and rubber plantations and farms in east part of Moulmein-Tavoy motor road in Ye Township, Mon State, are ordered to not go their workplaces for security reason, a plantation owner said.
orders are ordered by SPDC battalions, LIB No.586, No. 587, No. 588, IB No.
106, LIB No. 591 and Ye township PDC authorities on
soldiers caught someone who stays in plantations and farms they must shoot to death, the plantation owner added.
Before they issued this order, on November 9, SPDC troop from battalion No.588 shot a Mon boy, Mehm Kyaw Moe, 17 years old, from Tamort-kanin village, in his parent owned plantation near Bay-klao village and he got a severe wound. Thus he has to receive a treatment at home for several days, the source said.
Again, on November 15, a column of troops from SPDC battalion IB No. 104 from Tavoy district, which operated military patrol in southern pan of Ye Township interrogated and beat a young Mon high school student, Mehm Soe Lin Aung, 19 years old, when he went back home from his parent plantation. In the same day, that military column beat and interrogated 11 persons included that young student, the source from Han-Kan village said.
No crop alongside the gas pipeline, ordered by SPDC
In the first week of November, local SPDC authorities in Mudon Township, Mon State, ordered paddy cultivating farmers in all villages in Township to not grow any paddy or other crop plants in 50 feet width both sides of Kanbauk-Myaingkalay Gas Pipeline that pass through for its security, a farmer family said.
One of SPDC authorities said in their orders, "if there are growing something, it eases for hiding to plant bombs and (die rebels) can move by covering the plants in there. If we see someone grow something there, we will make arrest" that family added. Therefore, some farmers, whose farms are crossed by gas pipeline, will lose some lands to grow paddy or other crops in the coining year's rainy season (June 2002). In the previous rainy season while the pipeline is under construction, the farmers were not forced by this order.
It was a SPDC local authority attempt, to protect the gas pipeline from demolishing by revolutionary armed groups, that family added. They ordered it every where in Mon State, where the gas pipeline crossed area, according to another sources. The pipeline is passing Ye, Thanbyuzayat, Mudon and
This pipeline was built before the end of 2000 and confiscated a lot of civilians' lands along the route. Some villagers were also ordered to relocate from their houses within three days when SPDC construction authorities found the route and laid pipeline. The civilians who lost lands and properties had no rights to complain for their loss to the regime.
of anti-Muslim sentiment and oppression against Buddhist monks in Pegu Division
I. Background of clash in
When September 11 attack in World Trade Center (WTC) and
As the regime feared from Buddhist monks led anti-Muslim riots, that could lead to anti-regime and separated in the whole country, regime authorities and its military intelligence units in the respective area have attempted to stop the potential clashes in various ways, by restricting Buddhist monks' religious activities and movement, by blocking Buddhist monasteries, arrest of some suspected Buddhist monks and then imprisonment of some monks.
During the whole month of October, after the Buddhist community heard news in country about Muslim communities' dissatisfaction on US strike against Afghanistan and from foreign news about anti-US demonstrations in many countries around the world, the Buddhist communities more sentiment for anti-Muslim in Burma. On the other hand, they also heard rumour that some Muslim leaders planned for anti-US demonstrations. Really, except little number of Muslim leaders and their supporters planned for demonstration according to source from Rangoon and Pegu Division, but Muslim population disagreed with that decision. However the tension between Buddhist and Muslim communities had escalated and Buddhist communities' anti-Muslim sentiment increased.
In second week of October, there was a small clash between civilians in Prome (pyi) town and Muslim in the same area, which brought Buddhist monks to have dissatisfaction on Muslim community Pegu Division.
The incident was,
On October 8, 2001, a married Muslim man brought a 19 yean old girl from Buddhist community to a mosque in town in his Muslim block for another marriage. After that, the parents of girl and some elderly people in town went and discussed with Muslim leaders in mosque to get their daughter back. Community leaders and the parents of girl complained that she had only 19 years and her age did not reach to get marriage according to Buddhist traditions and she must be still under care of parents. Normally, they complained that Burmese woman gets marriage only after 20 years old.
After arguments, mosque leaders did not transfer the girl back to her parents and they have to return to their home without their daughter They also complained that as the man and girl agreed to marry, they would not give the girl back. But the brothers of girl angered to Muslim community and rushed into mosque to try to get their sister back. Muslim men came out and also beat them. A fighting happened for a while and a man from Buddhist community was beaten with a rounded iron bar to death. Then, the brothers of young girl had to retreat back to their homes, but this news also separated out."
On the next day, in afternoon time, a group of Buddhist monks and civilians destroyed Muslim community by creating a clash and some 40 people got injuries. Army and police force came to incident places and stopped the fighting.
After incident, the authorities also accused Buddhist monks as trouble-makers and had main responsibility for incidents. They also cut off all phone lines of all monasteries in town to stop the communication among monks. They also announced a curfew and prevent anti-Muslim clash. However, the news about this clash separated to another towns including Pegu, the capital of Pegu Division.
Since then, the regime authorities have worried for more clashes in other big cities where many monk students were studying Buddhist scripture or Pali or Buddhist teaching. Then, the authorities secretly ordered to closely watch the activities of Buddhist monks and their supporters.
II. SPDC attempts to close news and Muslim leaders' plans for demonstrations
September 2001, after attack in US, some business people copied the news about
the attack in videotapes and sold them without permission from regime in many
cities in Burma. Normally, all
videotapes will be censored and can be released only with permission of SPDC'
censorship board. As
the news separated out over the world and the people in
After watching videotape of September 11 attack, there was a growth of sympathy to victims in US among majority monks and Buddhist communities and they started hating Muslim terrorists. In this situation, the regime concerned about the possible clash among the Buddhist and Muslim communities, if Muslim people rose up for demonstration opposing US strikes against terrorists in Afghanistan.
With this concern, the regime authorities tried to block the separation of news among the people and declared that these videotapes about September 11 attack and related information were illegal. They also added that the people who sold that videotape and showed in theaters must be punished accordingly to State security laws. The authorities also searched in videotape selling and rental shops in towns and if they met the tapes, those shops must be totally shut down and the owners must be imprisoned.
As an instance,
As an another instance,
October 13,YeTownship and MI Unit No. 5 ordered to all video
rental shops to not copy about news from US and
In their operation, the regime authorities first searched all illegal tapes in Rangoon because they concerned the riot could occur in Rangoon. At the same time, they also closely watched the monks from well-known monasteries, which actively in many political movement like 1988 pro-democracy uprising.
Again, the Buddhist communities have not satisfied about severe actions of SPDC authorities. Although SPDC authorities tried to block access to real information inside the country, the people tried to set news from foreign broadcasting radio services.
When they heard there were demonstrations against US strike in many countries, the Buddhist community tried to watch the activities Muslim community in Burma.
the same time, in Pegu, some Muslim extremist leaders tried to organize Muslim
community for demonstration against US strike.
On the next day, the Muslim people who knew the planned demonstration brought their children and women from Kyauk-phu-gone ward and moved to another safe place. They worried if there was a demonstration, the authorities and army would oppress them by means of forces and Buddhist community could create a clash. Many Muslim people in that ward would not like to join in demonstration and moved to another places.
After the township authorities and police knew about the plan of Muslim leaders and they went to ward's mosque and threatened to Muslim leaders to withdraw their plans. So, the leaders withdrew their plan. At the same time, Buddhist monks and community in city also watched the development in Muslim community, and if the demonstration was really initiated by Muslims, there would be a big clash.
However, the news of clash on October 8 in Prome also separated to Pegu and other towns in Pegu Division. This was also a main reason Buddhist monks and community angered to Muslim people. Thus the clash between Buddhist and Muslim communities occurred and started from a minor problem.
III. Chronology of clash and oppression against Buddhist monks in Pegu town
From October 12 to 20, the authorities have handled difficult situation when the clashes between Buddhist monks and Muslim people occurred. As Buddhist monks group was majority, the authorities faced difficult situation to keep them. At the end, the authorities arrested some monks with less evidence and ordered monks to leave from city. The chronology of the incident is as below:
October 12, 2001
A group of Buddhist monks and some civilians went to a Muslim market and destroyed a drug store, which sold amphetamine to young community people. The shop was just in front of ward mosque. Monks accused that township authorities and police have not cared for the selling amphetamine that could create more number of drug addicts in community. Drug store was destroyed and then the group of monks and civilians left.
October 13, 2001
The SPDC authorities, army, police force and USDA force went and surrounded suspected monasteries from which they thought some monks involved. During their operation, the authorities arrested about 25 monks who came out from the monasteries with accusation, they would make trouble in city again. Then they sent all arrested monks to Pegu prison.
October 14, 2001
The authorities ordered all monks to not come out from their monasteries for attaining donation of alms, mainly foods. Normally, in Buddhist traditions, the monks have to go and take alms from civilians in early morning or before noon time. As the authorities worried the monks would take chance for demonstration or create clash against Muslim community during they were taking alms and so they stopped the monks. In that day, the higher authorities ordered to block all monasteries and did not allow any monks to come out from monasteries.
Pegu city, there are many main monasteries, which operate for study of Buddhist
teaching and scriptures in there. As many young Buddhist monks from different parts of the country
gathered in this city and the regime worried the demonstration against Muslims
could separate to all parts of
For some monasteries, the civilians in town had to send alms especially rice and curries to there. The authorities also stopped civilians to not send any foods for monks. Therefore about 550 monks over 10 monasteries surrounding well-known "Shwe-maw-daw" pagoda in the center of city faced starvation. Although town civilians in town sympathized monks who were blocked and starved but they could not help.
On that day, Township PDC authorities and intelligence force tried to organize a group of their authorities, government servants, USDA members and some civilians to launch a demonstration against the monks. They formed their demonstration group with name as "people force'1 and shout
against monks in night time about in enormous monastery called "Thatana-mun-daing" Pali study monastery, which the authorities suspected many monks from that monastery involved in the recent clash. They accused the monks as forged monks and shout to them as "robber". The soldiers and police shout and kicked some villagers to move in advance when the monks came out to confront them.
After one hour of shouting by authorities, the monks could not tolerate longer and made a clash with pro-regime demonstrators. The monks also shout to demonstrators and SPDC authorities to release 25 monks who were arrested. Among the demonstrators, as many of civilians were supporters to the monks, two policemen and one SPDC ward leader were arrested civilians and brought to monks after clash. One policeman also got serious injury during the clash.
October 15, 2001
About at night time, some military trucks arrived in front of monastery and shout to the monks that the soldiers only had to listen the order and ordered the monks to release two policemen and one ward headman. If they refused, the soldiers also warned that they must have to shoot and occupy the monastery. The soldiers also shot their guns on the air. At the end, to avoid more problems, the monks released these three men.
The injured policeman died about 2 p.m. in afternoon time. He was a Sergeant policeman and his native is Kyauk-ta-dar township, Irrawaddy Division, according to civilians who knew the policeman.
the same day, the authorities called a meeting with all abbots from all main
monasteries. Many abbots did not
attend the meeting and boycotted to the decision made by authorities. The authorities asked the abbots who attend
the meeting to sign their decisions to imprison the monks who attempted to create
unstable situation for the country and to declare Marshall law. The authorities instructed
On this day, one killing of democracy supporter also happened. After declaration of Marshall law, the authorities also recruited the civilians in town to take security in their own ward and instructed if the monks came out from monastery, they must need to inform to authorities or police immediately. If any members of a household would not like to provide labour, that family must have to pay 300 Kyat to authorities. Many poor could not pay only 300 Kyat as fine, many women also involved in taking security because their husbands were away or needed to work hard works in day time.
In taking security, the authorities put civilians in front and police and army were at behind of those civilians. If demonstration was conducted by monks, the authorities planned for face to face fighting between monks and civilians.
It is one type of forced labour declared by a community teacher, U Aung Myat Thu (36 years), who stayed in Sein-tun town ward. He explained in coffee shop in the evening time that the conscription of civilians at night time to stop riot or demonstration was a practice of forced labour and was against Order 1/99 issued by Ministry of Home Affairs. He complained that now it was a lie. He also added that without democracy ruling system and rule of laws, there would be no justice. As he was a respected community teacher, the police and soldiers did not make any comment to him about his complaint.
And, two men with plain clothes whom the civilians believed military intelligence came and said to him that to come with them for a while. They brought him away. About 10 o'clock at night time, one villager informed to civilians who take security that one man died in a dark place. When the civilians went and looked he was U Aung Myat Thu and there were a lot of injuries in his face and he was stabbed to death with knives by killers. The civilians clearly knew who were killers. Authorities and police did not inquire the case and the civilians kept quiet and nobody dared to say about regime.
October 16, 2001
About 8:00 a.m. in the morning, some SPDC higher authorities went to Thatana-mun-daing monastery and ordered to senior monks that all monks must leave to their native homes as quick as possible. There are about 550 monks in that monasteries in surrounding area and the authorities said only 50 novices must be remained in monasteries and other young monks must leave within one day.
So, the monks picked their belongings and left from the monasteries group by group. The soldiers also surrounded the monasteries and let the monks leave the monasteries as quickly as possible. On that day, all monks in monasteries left totally. As the monks came from various parts of Burma, they went to motor car and train stations for travel to their native places. After they left from monasteries, some town resident witnesses saw the military intelligence people with plain clothes also arrested some of them, who were in their blacklist.
There was a funeral ceremony for U Aung Myat Thu in city's cemetery. Many city residents attended to his funeral quietly and no one dared to give any comment about his death. However, as many respected him in community and many residents paid respect in his last trip to cemetery.
October 17, 2001
Township Judge U Aye Lwin and group went to Pegu prison and put them in trails secretly. Judge did not have any strong evidence and prosecutors for the monks and accused them they broke laws according to Article No. 295, with accusation that they have an attempt decreasing the significant role of Buddhism. Each monk who was accused with this accusation were sentenced with 3 years and hard labour imprisonment.
As the authorities worried that if they put trials in courts or let the people heard for the case, the regime worried for the possible uprising and therefore, they secretly put trials to monks and imprisoned them.
October 18, 2001
and his staff wrote reports to Col. Tin Hlaing, Minister of Ministry of Home
Affairs, about the development of clashes, punishment against the monks who
involved and other related facts secretly.
On that day's night, the authorities changed its Marshall laws as nobody would be on movement between 8:00 p.m. to 5 a.m.
October 19, 2001
According prison officials, there were about 60 monks including some novices were imprisoned. Some monks who were in the lists of SPDC involving in clash with Muslim people were arrested after they left from monasteries, accordingly to some civilians. Not only from one monastery, but the monks were arrested from many monasteries.
October 20, 2001
That day was Saturday and the authorities recruited all civilians in town, each family had to provide one labourer to clear all bushes in surrounding area of monastery. The authorities instructed that civilians who needed to clear bushes must take their tools and their food. They were also instructed to clear in surrounding area of Military Division No. 77. The civilians are used not only clearing the bushes outside of military bases, they were also forced to create land space for growing vegetables.
In roads inside city, the authorities requested policemen and firemen to clear bushes along the roads and near a well-known Shwe-maw-daw pagoda. As Shwe-maw-daw landmark pagoda, to which many tourists came and visited, the authorities pretended and showed to them only government servants involved in providing voluntary labour for the regime.
Actually, the civilians were forced to work in many hidden places and at night time. The authorities also instructed the civilians that they must take security in their own town ward. The houses which could not provide labour for security must have to pay 300 Kyat per night. Most civilians said the declaration of Order 1/99 that stopping the practices of forced labour was meaningless.
IV. Conditions in other parts of Burma
Before Prome and Pegu clashes, on September 30, 2001, the Buddhist monks from various parts of Burma also held a meeting in Mandalay, the second capital of Burma, where the majority of monk students are learning Buddhism. Just the meeting began, the authorities and army surrounded the meeting place and dispersed them. The authorities regrouped them with different areas and sent them back to their monasteries. The monks from Rangoon who joined the meeting were deported back with trucks secured by army on October 2.
Later, in every well-known monastery in Rangoon, the regime deployed about 6 soldiers at least at the entrance of monastery to closely monitor the activities of monks and restricted their movement. The monks in Rangoon were not allowed to travel to upper Burma. According a monk for Thin-gun-kyun township of Rangoon, the regime ordered bus and train stations in capital to not sell tickets for monks.
Again, on October 16, while the clashes between the monks and SPDC authorities escalated in Pegu and many monks were arrested, the monks in Rangoon tried to hold a meeting in Shwe-da-gon pagoda, the landmark of the capital, but the army and authorities could disperse them. About 60-70 senior monks tried to hold this meeting. But no monk was arrested at the scene.
Normally, the regime also put their monk intelligence among the monk community and could know the plan in advance and could also prepare to stop the activities of the monks.
between Buddhist monks and Muslim community also happened in other areas of
Buddhist monks community did not satisfy to Muslim
community when they thought the Muslims would start demonstration supporting
Osmar bin Ladin and collected fund to support the people in
On the other hand, as the authorities worried the demonstration could be separate out to other parts of Burma, the regime authorities restricted activities of Buddhist monks. Especially, the authorities worried Pali language or Buddhist scripture study monasteries because those places had many monks and could coordinate for a big demonstration against Muslims.
In Mon State, the regime deployed their armed force in all towns and closely monitored the activities of the monks. Sometimes, they also cut off phone cables of all monasteries in towns and tried to block communications among the monks.
As an instance,
"On September 26, the monks and Muslim leaders had arguments relating to Osama bin Ladin involvement in September 11 attack, in Asin village ,Ye township and some small dashes also happened. Then, the authorities and army went to incident places and stopped clashes. Then, township authorities ordered to close down all monasteries in township, winch operate for the teaching of Buddhist scripture, and ordered the monks to leave from monasteries.
Again, on October 14, when the civilians in Ye town heard about rumour that Muslim leaders tried to collect fund from their people, Township authorities brought army from IB No. 61 into the center of the town and guarded all main monasteries in town."
to these situation, the regime also beefed up security
In this case, the SPDC authorities rather protected the minority Muslim communities, they have oppressed the Buddhist to not rose up for any type of demonstration. Actually, the authorities and army have committed various types of religious discrimination in frontier area against Muslim communities.
The regime had much concern that if the demonstration against Muslim people and terrorists was led by monks, many civilians would follow after monks, the demonstration could be separated. The regime also thought that after demonstrators made ruin to Muslim communities, that big groups of people or demonstrators could move their targets to regime and their corrupted authorities.
Like in the case of Pegu, the corrupted authorities in Township, especially law enforcement authorities, police have allowed for selling of illegal drugs such as amphetamine not only in Muslim shops but also other shops which paid for illegal money to authorities. However the target became Muslim shops. If the demonstration continued for another days, the demonstrators would accuse the authorities for their involvement in corruption and then moved their target to the regime, who governed in Rangoon.
As military idea, they oppressed hardly and severely against the monks first before this demonstration separated into various parts of the country. The regime did oppression rather negotiation. It showed how the authorities had fear for unrest and demonstration that could topple down the regime. When they took actions and punished some monks, they also did not have enough evidence that these monks involved or led in making problems to Muslim communities and business places.
Although the people did not satisfy against the authorities1 actions, nobody dared to speak out because they could face extra-judicial killing and at least imprisonment with punished existing laws, like a teacher who spoke out about the authorities' violations of Order 1/99.
As the regime main concern was the possible nationwide clash and transfer to nationwide demonstration against the regime, they have imprisoned some monks to stop the further strike. On the other hand, the regime also greatly concern for the freedom of access to information and additional freedom of expression against its rule and mismanagement, and possible a pro-democracy- uprising.
Plights of young soldiers in SPDC battalions
Background of defectors during October and November 2001
In September 2001, a Mon splinter group split from NMSP (New Mon State Party) and cooperated with KNLA (Karen National Liberation Army) to fight against the Burmese Army and SPDC. This splinter group moved to Three Pagoda Pass area in early November and tried to collect fund from the civilians in that area. After the Burmese Army knew there were activities of NMSP splinter group, it sent many military battalions including IB No. 62, IB No. 106, LIB No. 538, LIB No. 583 and LIB No. 591, to launch military offensives against Mon splinter group and KNLA troops.
In most situation, when the Burmese Army's military columns of various battalions arrived close to border area, normally, the young soldiers or child soldiers who faced
hardship and terrible conditions in their own military battalions always tried to escape. They surrender to rebel armies or fled into neighbouring countries.
Whenever, the Burmese Army launched military offensives against KNU bases and its military faction, KNLA, along Thailand-Burma border, the soldiers of Burmese Army always tried to escape.
Similarly, in October and November, 2001, when the Burmese Army launched military offensives against Mon splinter group and KNLA in Three Pagoda Pass area, some of army members have fled into Thailand or defected to KNLA.
As an instance,
On October 21,2001, about 5 soldiers from military battalion, LIB No. 538, which based temporarily in Three Pagoda Pass town, escaped from their base and surrendered to KNLA troops The group of defectors was led by Sergeant Than Soe and the reason they fled from the battalion was that they could not tolerate longer in hard conditions of operating military offensives, unfair duties in battalion and corruption of battalion commanders, accordingly the source from Three Pagoda Pass township authorities. They took their guns, grenades and ammunitions along with them.
After defectors' flee, a Burmese Army military column of LIB No. 538 followed to those escapees and try to get their weapons and ammunitions. A fighting happened and LIB No. 538 got back two guns.
The headquarters of LIB No. 538 is in Arakan State, western part of Burma and they had to come from a far place and thus, the soldiers fled when they have opportunity.
Later, before the end of November, to reinforce troops in Three Pagoda Pass area to operate military offensives, another military battalion, IB No. 106, which base is in Ye township, Mon State, came to border area.
From that battalion, another two soldiers escaped from the battalion after they could not tolerate hardships, starvation and mistreatment in their battalion. On November 30, 2001, The Mon Forum's Human Rights reporter enabled to conduct interview with one of them and the excerpt are as below:
Name: Maung Pho Aung
Age/Sex: 19 years/Male
Nationalities/ Religion: Burman/ Buddhist
Education: 8 Standard
Native place: Kyauk-chat village, Mate-hti-lar Township, Mandalay Division
When did you arrive here (to a Mon village in the border area) and how did you escape from your battalion?
I just arrived yesterday. I fled from my military battalion, IB No. 106, about two days ago. When we arrived to a Mon village, Tadein (about 15 kilometers from Three Pagoda Pass town in border with Thailand), I decided to flee from battalion. Our battalion in Tadein area for nearly one week before I left for launching military fighting against Mon and Karen soldiers. My friend and I fled from battalion and hid two days in a high land paddy farm. Then, we met with a Karen farmer and he brought us to this village. He said this village was safe.
Who were your commanders?
Our commander of military operation was Lt. Col. Thant Zin and the column commanders were Maj. Aung Thu and Maj. Myint Naing.
How many days taken to arrive to Tadein area from your battalion? And, what difficulties did you face?
We had to walk in jungle roads for more than 20 days. We did not directly come to this area. We went into Ye township for some days and entered into many Karen and Mon villages to search rebel soldiers. As we had no enough foods, the commanders told us to catch chicken, pigs, ducks and gathered foods, especially rice, from villages. As we have about 150 soldiers we needed a lot of foods. But we could not carry much food.
So we also faced food-shortage problems. The commanders said to eat only small amount of rice in each meal, or we could be starved. For more than one week, we ate boil rice. Because of shortage of foods, many soldiers and porters failed sick and no strength to carry supplies and ammunitions.
How many porters did the battalion had taken during military offensives and what they had to do for soldiers?
The battalions took about 20 villagers from Mon villages in northern part of Ye Township and they had to carry food supplies and ammunitions along with soldiers. It was quite heavy load. Every porter had to carry 30 kilograms weight of rice or motor shells in the back. When we climbed to mountains some porters could not walk up. They were beaten. Nearly all of them were inhumanely beaten and shout by commanders. Although we sympathized, but we could not help each other. Some porters got sick and the commanders said to leave them behind. Two porters had high fever when we matched to here and they were left behind, f don't know what would happen to them.
Why did you escape from the battalion?
We were similarly treated by commanders like porters. When we could not walk fast, we were also beaten or kicked by commanders at behind. Normally, the commanders always crucially shout to us. We did not have enough foods and felt very very tired along the operation. We starved for many days and we had very little foods to eat. I had thought for a long time how to flee. When we arrived to Tadein village, some porters and two of us discussed quietly from battalion. Then when we had chance two of us (soldiers) and three porters fled while we were gathering forest vegetables. As we concerned we could be re-arrested if we fled by group, we separated each other.
When did you enter for army service and why did you decide to be a soldier?
I did not decide to be a soldier. I was taken by force. About one year ago (when he was about 18 years old), after I left from school and no work in my native place, I decided to go to Rangoon to meet with my brother who worked there But unluckily, I was arrested by some "soldier customers" when I arrived to Da-nyin-gone Township (Rangoon Division) and they brought be to No. 1 soldier recruitment battalion.
I don't understand what you said, soldier customers? Can you explain me?
Yes, actually, the commanders of No. 1 soldier recruitment battalion instructed the civilians near their base that if they met some strangers in township, they could arrest and bring to them, especially young boys like me who came from rural area. Such these people are called as "soldier customers" for recruitment battalion by civilians in Rangoon. One soldier customer said he was a police and confiscated my ID card. Then he brought me to battalion base, When I arrived there, I knew he was not police. The commanders paid that man 10,000 Kyat and one sack of rice (about 65 kilograms} as prize. Then I knew I was recruited as a new soldier. There were many young boys like me recruited through soldier customers.
Did they send you to military school? Can you tell me other experience?
Yes, I stayed in Rangoon only about one week. I was brought to Moulmein, the capital of Mon State, to No. 9 basic military training school. There were about 250 new soldiers in school and trainers trained us for four months. They trained us both days and nights. There were many hardships. We were not allowed to eat sufficient food and allowed to take shower once a week. After four months training, they brought us to IB No. 106.
You said young soldiers. How old they are and how many of them in the battalion?
There were many soldiers younger than me. Some of them were only 12 and 13 years old. I thought over 50 soldiers in our battalion were quite young. Most soldiers are disappointed like me. They would like to resign, but the contract is 10 years at least. So if they have chance they will flee like me,
Do you want to go back to your home?
I wish to go back, but I worry l would be arrested again.