News, Personal Accounts, Report & Analysis on Human Rights Situation in Mon Territory and Other Areas Southern Part of Burma
The Mon Forum
Issue No. 6/2002,
The Publication of Human Rights Foundation of Monland (BURMA)
(1) Rape case in Kya-inn-seikyi Township, Karen State
(2) Forced labour along Kanbauk-Myaingkalay gas pipeline,
Forced labour, extortion, looting and other abuses in Kawkareik Township
Some Acronyms in This Issue
SPDC: State Peace and Development Council,
SLORC: State Law and Order Restoration Council,
MOMC: Military Operation Management Command,
IB: Infantry Battalion (of Burmese Army),
LIB: Light Infantry Battalion (of Burmese Army),
USDA: Union Solidarity and Development Association (of SPDC)
KNLA: Karen National Liberation Army,
Rape case in Kya-inn-seikyi Township, Karen State (June 2002)
On June 7, when the troops of IB No. 34 went into a Karen village in Kya-inn-seikyi Township, the second commander raped a married Karen woman at night about 10 o'clock.
About 60 troops (a company) of IB No. 34 went into this Karen village, Phar-pya, during their military operation against KNLA troops in the area and the second commander of troop company, Captain Aung Myint raped a 27 years old Karen woman, Naw Win Yee.
The troops arrived into the village in the evening time and the commander took a rest in her house with his some soldiers while Naw Win Yee's husband, Saw Khin Aye, was still in the house. The livelihood of Saw Khin Aye is fisherman and he always leave to find fishes in a stream near the village at night time.
About 8 o'clock, when the dark came and after taking dinner, her husband left to the stream to find fishes as his daily work. However he never suspect to the Burmese soldiers they would rape his wife.
At night time about 10 o'clock, the commander who slept inouter space of the house and went into inner room, where Naw Win Yee was sleeping with her one-year-old baby. He grabbed and closed her mouth and threatened she must be killed if she shout. Then the commander raped the woman while his soldiers were taking security in house's compound.
After rape, he left from her room. But the woman fled to the neighbouring houses without taking her baby because he was too afraid and could not manage herself. While she was in her neighbouring house, her baby cried loudly. But she did not dare to return her house and take the baby. Then a group of elder women went to her house and took her baby and gave her to feed milk.
On the next day, the villagers also went to village chairman and told him about the incident happened in the night. Although the villagers urged him to tell about the case to army commander of the troop company, but he was also afraid of mistreatment of Burmese commanders and did not inform to the commander and kept quiet.
The sexual violations against the ethnic women in the rural area by the members of Burmese Army have often occurred while they operated the military activities against the rebel armed forces. As the women in the ethnic rural areas are always suspected as rebel-supporters, they always suffered from rape. Or, the rape against women in rural area is also becoming as normal habit of those members of Burmese Army and whenever they have chance, they tried to rape women.
Forced labour along Kanbauk-Myaingkalay gas pipeline
(June 2002, Ye Township, Mon State)
One June 11, 2002, the commander of LIB No. 586, Col. Ngwe Soe, forced die villagers in the southern part of Ye Township to clear die tall grasses and small trees along one part of Kanbauk-Myaingkalay gas pipeline.
On that day, LIB No. 586 commander conscripted about 200 villagers from three Mon villages: Palaing-kee, Sin-pyan and Tharyar-gone villages to work in the clearing the grasses and trees along die gas pipeline.
The soldiers forced us to work many hours, said by a woman from Palaing-kee village, who involved in working for the commander. He forced the villagers from 8:00 a.m to 10:00 p.m continuously by giving them about half an hour each to take lunch and dinner.
The reason was the commander needed to complete all work duties only one day because a high rank commander from Southeast Command in Moulmein, thecapital of Mon State would come on die next day. That high rank commander came to the northern part of Township with a main purpose to check the security of the gas pipeline.
As the LIB No. 586's commander had only one-day time, he forced the local villagers many hours to work without payment. They totally had to work in clearing the bushes and small trees for 14 hours. They had to clear about 20 feet width in each side of pipeline and clear along 4 miles long pipeline.
According to the instruction by the authorities, the village headmen told the villagers that each house had to send one of their family member. If one family or one house failed to go and work, that family must pay 1,000 Kyat as fine. As most fami-
lies in these three villages were poor, most of them went to work sites to avoid paying fine.
About one company of LIB No. 586 (about 50-60 troops) were guarding the villagers in many places of gas pipeline during they were working in
Forced labour, Extortion, Looting and Other Abuses in Kawkareik Township
I. Background of Kawkareik Township
Kawkareik Township situates in the middle part of Karen State and is a large township, which covers many thousands acres of forest. The inhabitants in this township are mainly Mon and Karen people. The majority of the Mon people are the inhabitant staying along Gyaing river, which situates in the western part of Township. The Mon people stay in both sides of the river in many villages and the main occupations are paddy cultivation farmers and fishermen.
Most Karen people stay in eastern part of Township area in the thick forestry area. The main occupations of the Karen people are the paddy cultivation in high lands, hunting, fishing and gathering of forest products. As the eastern part of the township area is fallen into conflict area, many Karen villagers in that area have displaced for many years and have been too unstable.
In the southern part of Township area, the situation is stable, the SPDC authorities and members could have more access to Mon villages and therefore the Mon villagers have been constantly forced to work for the authorities and army, pay various type of taxation, suffer from the looting and extortion.
Before NMSP-SLORC/SPDC ceasefire, the western part of Township was in the conflict area, where the NMSP and MNLA troops operated the military activities against the Burmese Army. After ceasefire, SLORC agreed to allow NMSP and MNLA troops to take one place in western part of Township as their permanent ceasefire zone.
However, under the SPDC's border area development program, Township always came into this area and instructed the villagers to build the road, create a nice village model, to grow dry season paddy crops, to clear roads and take security of the village and other development works. Although many Mon villagers in the area respected to the NMSP authorities for judicial power and courts, but they have less administrative power in the area.
The villagers in the area have been not only suffered from the development program of Township PDC authorities, they have been constantly suffered from the extortion and looting made by the authorities and the army.
Forcing the farmers to sell their paddy crops to the SPDC set paddy-buying centers is the yearly and common abuses committed by the local authorities. Some farmers also have to abandon their lands after they could not produce enough crops to both feed their families and sell to SPDC's paddy-buying center.
II. Conscription of Forced Labour and Fund for development
After NMSP agreed for the ceasefire with SLORC, the concerned Township authorities have regularly come into Mon villages along Gyaing river and planned to create some input of border area development activities in the villages. As the regime did not provide any development fund or sometimes, provided insufficient fund, the authorities have forced the local villagers to contribute their labour in the most construction works.
In recent time, the civilians from these villages had good business by trading with Thailand and some families have engaged in the business and could raise income in good condition and properly. The Township authorities knew this situation and tried to get fund from the civilians to provide for these development activities. However, when the civilians completed the development projects, the authorities just take the name that they have led for these activities due to the direction by SPDC leaders.
As an instance,
"In March, when the Township authorities led by Township PDC General Secretary, U Aung Lin, planned to build a water canal and a road in Kaw-bein village tract, they have forced the local villagers to contribute labour in these construction works.
"On March 11, the Township authorities ordered to dig a water canal from Paya-gyi village to Kaw-htit village, which is a half-mile long and ordered the villagers from these two villages to contribute their labour in digging the earth. According to the order, each house from villages needed to dig about 1 kyin of earth (one kyin of earth is about 100 cubic feet in volume and the measurement is 1 Ofeet square and Ifeet depth).
"The villagers from both villages had to come and dig the canal. Some family could complete within one day if two men came and worked. Many families needed to complete their pieces of work two days or three days.
"Later the authorities also planned to build a rock laying road from Kaw-bein to Paya-gyi village, which is also a half-mile long and they forced the villagers from three main villages, namely, Kaw-bein, Min-ywa and Paya-gyi to contribute their labour in finding stones, crashed stones into small pieces, and lay stones on the embankment.
"Accordingly to the order, the authorities forced the villagers on a rotation basis to contribute their labour in the construction. Each two wards from one village had to go ana contribute their labour. There were about 50-70 villagers working in the construction and the authorities instructed one villager from each house of the two wards in the villages.
"During the villagers were forced many women and children under 18 years old had involved in the construction, but the authorities never instructed to not take women and children. According to a villager, about 50% of the total villagers in the work-sites are women and children.
"Again in March, the Township authorities also planned to build a rock laying road from Kaw-bein to Kanni village, which is about 3.5 miles long. The authorities also ordered the villagers from Kaw-bein, Kaw-pauk, Min-ywa, Kanni, Thayet-taw, Kaw-kyiak and other villages nearby to contribute their labour.
"In March and April, the villagers from these villages at least 100-200 villagers were forced to go and work in the construction. They especially need to collect stones, crush them into small pieces and lay on the road. The authorities also instructed the village headmen that Kaw-bein village had to take responsibility to build 800 feet of road, Kaw-pauk village had to take responsibility to build 400 feet of road, Min-ywa village had to take responsibility to build 400 feet of road respectively and other villages, needed to take responsibility to build the remaining part of road."
In Township, the authorities also found which villages are in better business conditions and just force the village headmen and the villagers to build good roads in the villages without any support from the authorities. This is also known as "self-help program" and SPDC has implemented in various towns and villages in many parts of Burma. In some road construction, the Township authorities sometimes directly involved in collecting fund from the civilians, but in most time, they ordered the village headmen or town ward leaders to collect fund from the civilians. Then, the headmen also had to pay to the authorities to buy construction materials such as cement, sands, stones and others.
In most cases, the Township authorities controlled all money collected from the villagers and the village headmen needed to request materials from them again. By looking some villages, which are economically better than other villages, the authorities instructed to create "model village", by constructing concrete roads, building new village market, building new schools, digging village wells and others.
Whenever the authorities tried to create a model village under the name of self-help program, the authorities do not provide any fund for that village. The villagers who stay close to the construction site have to pay more, the whole villagers need to pay. The amounts of payment from each family always depend on the decisions made by village authorities.
When Township and village authorities involved in corruption to get money from the civilians, they have to contribute more payment. As SPDC does not have a system of accountability for the fund they spent, die civilians would not know how amounts of their money are used in the construction and how much disappeared.
The Kawkareik Township authorities also implemented self-help program of creating "model village" in Township and forced the villagers from other poor villages to do the same.
As an instance,
“As a self-help program, the Township authorities also ordered Kaw-bein village headmen to build concrete roads in the whole village. In this village, there are one main road and many other small roads. This was a plan of the authorities to create 'Kaw-bein' village as a 'model village' in the area.
"On February 10, the Chairman of Kawkareik Township, Col. Ko Ko Gyi, arrived to this village and ordered the headmen to build a piece of model concrete road near the market, which they have to expense about 30, 000 Kyat to buy cement and other materials. As the cost was small amount, it was not so difficult for the headmen to collect money.
"Later on March 14, the Township authorities came to die village again and hold a meeting with die village headmen. In that meeting, he ordered to construct all roads in the village to have concrete roads. The headmen faced a very difficult situation to collect money from the villagers. However, Township Chairman, Col. Ko Ko Kyi ordered they must complete all construction works not later than March 24.
"The headmen had only ten days deadline to complete the construction of the roads with concrete layer. The cost for the construction was about 2. 5 million Kyat and they suddenly managed to collect fund from die civilians to complete road construction.
"The household families who stay along the main road also have to pay up to 30, 000 Kyat and the families who stay in small roads had to pay less amount of money. On March 24, while the roads were nearly completed, the Township Chairman came and hold the opening ceremony of the concrete roads in that village."
In most cases of development project, the SPDC from Rangoon already instructed to their local State, District and Township authorities to implement various types of project as they liked and to collect fund by cooperating with the local village leaders. "Self-self development projects", such as building roads in the village and from one village to another; creating the model villages; the construction of hospital, clinics and schools; and equipping the telephone communication exchanges are always considered as SPDC set community development program, but the civilians in the area concerned have to provide fund.
In their propaganda media, SPDC proudly says how many roads their authorities have constructed, how many bridges have been built, how many schools and hospitals have been built and operated, etc. However, they have less mentioned how many millions Kyat of fund they have collected from the civilians. When they mentioned, it is always the amount of fund they have collected from the civilians too small. Actually, diey have collected a lot of fund from the people in the most development projects.
III. Forced purchase of paddy
Like many other townships in Karen State, Kawkareik Township authorities set up many paddy-buying centers in the Township area and forced the local farmers to sell their paddy at low price, which is 2.5 times lower than in the market price. In this township area, most of paddy cultivated lands are in die southern part of Township and majority of the Mon people are the farmers. So that the authorities have forced the Mon farmers along Gyaing river to sell their paddy at low price.
In this Township area, the authorities planned to buy about 180, 000 baskets of paddy at low price from the local farmers. Township's Myanma Agricultural Produce Trading (MAPT) department set up at least one paddy-buying center in every village tract and forced the farmers from the villages nearby to sell their paddy. They planned to buy 10 baskets of paddy from one acre of land, which owned by farmers.
As an instance,
"In Kaw-bein village tract, the authorities set up a paddy-buying center and tried to buy 35, 000 baskets of paddy from the farmers in the villages nearby. They ordered the farmers to sell their paddy with rate of 10 baskets per acre. Many farmers could not afford to sell this amount of paddy and at the end of February, the authorities could receive only 27, 000 baskets and again forced the farmers to sell the set amount of paddy quickly to the paddy-buying center. The Township PDC Chairman, Col. Ko Ko Gyi also warned the local farmers that if they failed to sell the paddy, they must face punishment. The authorities bought with low price and paid just 350 Kyat per basket while one basket is about 1, 000 Kyat."
After deadline to complete selling the paddy to their paddy- buying center, if the farmers refused to sell the remaining paddy set by the authorities, the authorities also forced the farmers widi written order or with verbal order. Sometimes, the authorities went to farmers' houses with militiamen and forced them to promise they must sell their paddy to the paddy-buying center.
As an instance,
"At night time of March 16, Township PDC General Secretary, U Aung Lin and 4 policemen entered into Kaw-bein village and arrested 17 farmers and forced them to completely sold the remaining paddy to the village paddy- buying center set by the authorities.
"The reason of the arrest was these fanners failed to sell paddy and gave wrong the number of acres in their lands. After arrest, the authorities forced them to sell another 20 baskets of paddy from each farmer."
On the other hand, the authorities in this township area do not have the exact registration of land space, which could use for the paddy cultivation and normally, they have made the estimation of the lands. In most case, as the villages' poor farmers could not afford to grow paddy in all lands because of die rocketed price of fertilizers and labour cost. However, the authorities ask the full set amount of paddy to sell to them and do not accept the complaints from the farmers.
As an instance,
"In February, 2002, the manager of 'Karit-kyauk-tan' paddy-buying center, U Kyaw Oo, came to Kawkha-taw village and ordered to village headmen that that village must sell paddy for 1200 acres of land with rate of 5 baskets per acres. The village headmen were surprised when they received die order and complained to the managers that their village had only 600 acres of land and did not know why the amount of lands has increased. The managers refused and said he got the order from the higher authorities like this and the village headmen and the farmers anyhow needed to sell 6000 baskets of paddy. It also made the farmers to sell 10 baskets per acre to the paddy-buying center at low price. The farmers are very disappointed because the quality of their lands is not good and they could produce only 20-25 baskets from one acre of land. After they sold to the center with 10 basket per acre, they remained a very less amount of crop with diem. If they did not complete selling the paddy, they could not get permission from the authorities to husk their paddy."
In purchasing paddy from the farmers, the authorities have found various types of pressure to put against the farmers. In February, while the authorities required to get the set amount of paddy from the farmers, they also closed down all paddy-husking mills until the farmers completed selling their paddy. They took all main equipment of these mills, such as belts and rollers, and put in their Township office. When the farmers in one village completed selling their paddy, then they gave back the equipment of the paddy-husking mills in that village and let them operate the mills again.
In this township area, unlikely to Mon State, the authorities did not buy many baskets of paddy because the quality of paddy is not good and could not export to foreign countries. They bought only 180, 000 baskets (which is 8 times less than Mudon Township of Mon State), and this amount of paddy could support only to their government servants, police force and armed force of Burmese Army.
IV. Dry-season paddy crop cultivation and the suffering of civilians
In a SPDC's program, to produce more paddy crops in the lower part of Burma, the Mon and Karen State authorities also instructed their army battalions, local Township authorities, police force and farmers to grow more paddy even in dry season after they completed paddy cultivation in rainy season.
Similarly to many other townships in Mon State and Karen State, Kawkareik Township authorities also encouraged the local farmers to grow dry season paddy crop after their harvest in December. If they grew dry season paddy crop, it will take another four months, from January to April, to get second harvest. However, as the farmers could not get water to bring into their farms, most of them refused to grow dry season paddy crops.
When the farmers did not involve in growing dry season paddy crop, the Township authorities, two military battalions, LIB No. 545 and No. 546, and local police force, themselves grow paddy Actually, the authorities themselves would not like to involve in this cultivation but they have to do reporting to Karen State PDC authorities.
Kawkareik Township authorities took some lands from farmers in various areas and they have cultivated dry season paddy crop. However, to get all resources, they always ask fund and materials from the villagers in Township.
As an instance,
"In February, 2002, when Kawkareik Township PDC authorities cultivate dry season paddy crop for a show to the farmers and for reporting to higher authorities, they collected fund from all village tracts for expenses to buy gasoline.
For the cultivation of dry season paddy, they need to bring water from river by pump-engine generators and those machines require a lot of gasoline for energy. The authorities planned to grow only 10 acres of dry season paddy crops by bringing water from river, but they have asked 25 gallons of gasoline from each village tract.
In this township, there are about 35 village tract and ask fund from all village tracts. They also instructed to all village headmen that they would not take gasoline, but to pay them money which is equal to the cost of 25 gallons of gasoline. One gallon of gasoline is about 800 Kyat and every village tract has to pay 20000 Kyat to authorities. The deadline for the payment is February 15.
From 35 village tracts in the whole Township, the authorities could get 700, 000 Kyat and they do not need to spend it all, said a local villager. She also added that this amount of money collected is just for buying gasoline said by the authorities and later they might collect more money for many purposes, such as, planting small plants, reaping the grains and transport of crops."
As Kawkareik township authorities have many farms, they took fund from the civilians in the area concerned where they have farms. Not only fund extortion, they also forced the villagers to buy other necessities that need to use in the farm. Normally, the authorities required water-pumping generators, ploughing and planting equipments and tools in the harvest season. They always ask these materials from the local villagers to pay cash or to buy for them.
As an instance,
"Kawkareik Township authorities also have about 20 acres of paddy farm in Kyone-doe village and planned for the cultivation of dry season paddy crop in January 2002. For that farm, they do not have water-pumping generator and have found difficulties to bring water from the river to their farm. So, the authorities ask the villagers from Kyone-doe village tract to provide them a water-pumping generator. Suddenly, the villagers from Kaw-kator, Kaw-por, Kyone-doe and Daw-pyar village collected fund and bought a water-pumping generator and provided to authorities' farm."
Like the authorities, the army in the area also grew dry season paddy crop and they have involved not only collect fund from the civilians, they also forced the villagers to contribute their labour. The villagers did not get any payment while they are forced in the authorities' or army's farms.
As an instance,
"In the authorities' farms in Kyone-doe village, the authorities requested 10 women every day from Kaw-kator, Kaw-por, Kyone-doe and Daw-pyar village on a rotation basis from January 23 until the first week of February to uproot small grasses, which grown among the paddy plants. The headmen from these villages have to manage to send ten villagers to perform their duties for the authorities without any payment."
In some place, Township authorities also ordered village headmen to cultivate on behalf of them. The village headmen similarly forced the villagers or farmers to provide fund for all expenses in the cultivation.
As an instance,
"With an order instructed by Township authorities, Kanni village tract chairman, Nai Kyaw Myint, planned to grow dry season crop in 25 acres of land just outside of their village. In this village, he forced all farmers in the village to grow paddy at least in one acre of land in their farms. Many of them refused and he said to pay him and he would grow on behalf of farmers. So about 25 farmers paid him and he planned to grow paddy in 25 acres of lands, which are owned by other farmers in village. He also asked 25 farmers to pay 6, 000 Kyat from each."
When the authorities have new policy to implement a new project, the civilians have been constantly suffered from the paying fund or tax and contributing their unpaid labour. In these circumstances of implementing development projects and self-help program, the poor families in the villages have been suffered more by paying their money which they hardly find to feed their families and they also lost their working time by working for the authorities and army's construction sites and paddy farms.
V. Arbitrary Arrest, Looting and Extortion
The looting of civilians' belongings from the civilians in the rural areas is becoming a practice of the authorities and members of the Burmese Army for many years. In the frontline or battlefields, the looting of civilians' belongings is the common human rights violations committed by die troops of Burmese Army for many years, and it has remained as a main business for the soldiers.
Considerably, as the members of Burmese Army has less salaries and have no opportunity to involve in the corruption and control of fund in their regiments or in the respective areas' development fund and so they could not earn extra illegal money. Therefore, the looting in the rural areas only one and main opportunity for them to have more income to feed their families.
While the low ranks soldiers are involving in looting in rural areas, where there is 'no rule of laws' applied, however, the Township PDC authorities and army commanders have constantly involved in looting the civilians' belongings, extorted money from them and used many ways to get money.
'Rule of laws' is mainly broken by the authorities and army commanders in most parts of Township area. To have small business activity, also the local people and traders although paid official fund to the authorities and the local commanders, sometimes, they do not care and loot the belongings or properties or trading materials of those people.
As an instance,
"And, he also ordered the police and village militia force in the area to arrest all timber traders, timber mill owners and wooden lumber carrying boats. On the next day, the authorities arrested 8 timber traders from Kaw-pauk, Kaw-bein, Kaw-make, Phaya-gyi-gone and Min-yar and confiscated all their timber mills and lumbers in their mills' compounds. These villages are in Kaw-bein village tract.
"The arrested traders and mill owners from Kaw-pauk villagers are: (12) Nai Zu, (2) Nai Pyuu; from Kaw-bein village are: (3) Nai Kween, (4) Nai Than Tun; from Kaw-make village is (5) Nai Khin Maung Zin; from Phaya-gyip-gone village are: (6) Nai Maung Win, (7) Nai Aung Htoo; and from Min-ywa village is (8) Nai Hamae.
"According to the villagers and families of those arrested people, the traders and timber mill owners already paid tax to the authorities to receive permission for the works. So that the confiscation of these mills and lumbers were unlawful. They have worked for many years and paid tax to authorities from the forestry department under the control of General Administration Department every year.
"Besides the confiscation and looting of their belongings, the authorities also accused that they were involving in cutting trees illegally and imprisoned them. Although all of them spoke and showed the evidence of work permits from the forestry department, Township court rejected them and put to trials.
"In the Township court, the judges, who were under the instruction of the authorities, sentenced eight men with different imprisonment terms. Judges detained Nai Zuu and Nai Byuu with 1 year and 9 months imprisonment term, They detained Nai Khin Maung Zin, Nai Maung Win, Nai Aung Htoo and Nai Hamae with 6 months imprisonment term. They took just fines from Nai Gween and Nai Than Tun with payment."
This evidence is the huge confiscation of civilians' belongings in recent time. Confiscation and looting from civilians individually always occur in many villages every month. When a farmer have no paddy to sell to paddy-buying center or when a villager has no cash to pay various types of tax, the authorities went into their houses with village militia force and confiscated or looted their belongings.
Sometimes, when the villagers did small mistakes, the authorities or army also extorted money from the civilians.
As an instance,
Similarly to village and Township authorities, the members of Burmese Army from the battalion nearby also extorted money from the villagers by the way they could. Sometimes, by showing the security reason, the army also forced the villagers to pay 'security fee' and this has remained as a common abuse by the soldiers. In the western part of Township, as there was less fighting with rebel armies, the soldiers of Burmese Army also have less chance to loot in the villages as they like.
However, the army battalion in this area normally involve in extortion of civilians' money when there are special occasion to celebrate and other cases.
As an instance,
"On December 22, 2001, when the troops from LIB No. 547 led by Col. Myo Min detained a villager with accusation of his involvement in a robbery, he could escape and also took a gun from the army base. The commander found complicated and he could not report to the higher commander for his carelessness. He needed to replace the arm quickly and pretended there was nothing happening. To solve this problem, he asked the village headmen from Do-Ian village, to provide him with 200, 000 Kyat. Then he bought another gun from his contact for the replacement of the stolen gun."
During one month period, the villagers had to provide tax or fund to the authorities and army many times. One village from Kanni said, each family had to keep 1500-3000 Kyat every month to pay them. As a day-labourer could raise only 500 Kyat per day, the villagers found difficulties to pay all amounts of tax. However, if they could not pay tax or fund or extorted money, they could face punishment to be porters for several days in the military operations or labourers to work in the army base for several days. Thus, most villagers tried to pay demanded money by borrowing from each other because they would like to avoid the terrible situation of forced labour by army or the authorities.
VI. Abuses committed by DKBA
DKBA (Democratic Karen Buddhist Army) was formed after many Karen soldiers split from KNU and surrendered to SLORC/SPDC and the Burmese Army in 1994. Under the command of the Burmese Army's military command concerned, the DKBA have fought against KNU since they split from it.
In return, SLORC/SPDC also offered DKBA and its troops some areas mostly in Karen State for self-administration and tax collection from the civilians. They also have to take responsibility to defend their own area.
In Kawkareik Township, SPDC also offers DKBA's Light Infantry Battalion No. 906 to take base in Thadar-oo village to administrate some Karen villages nearby and collect tax from both Mon and Karen villages nearby. DKBA is the most powerful in the area and they operate their operation in the area and collect various types of tax from the civilians like SPDC authorities and Burmese Army.
This organization involved in many illegal activities such as drug trade, human trafficking, robbery and others to get fund for their own organizations, especially to pay salaries to their soldiers or to feed their families.
As an instance,
"On January 13, 2002, about 20 troops of DKBA without uniform went into Kanni village at mid-night time and robbed the civilians' belongings including a lot of gold-ware in the village. In this robbery, they received about 100, 000 Kyat and about 0.1 kilogram of gold-ware from the villagers.
"As many people knew that robbery was done by DKBA, nobody spoke out because they were afraid of being punished or killed. DKBA soldiers also arrested a woman, Mi Ma Nyunt (about 35 years old) from Kanni village because she spoke out about the robbery. They brought her to their base and tortured her for almost the whole night in detention, said by the villagers".
In the DKBA control area, they also allowed illegal gambling of playing card game in some villages for several days in Township and collected fund or tax from the gambling. Although Buddhist monks and local community elders do not want these gambling, but no one could argue for the illegal activities of the Burmese Army. These gambling also created social problems in the communities, but the elders could not stop DKBA.
As an instance,
"From the last week of December 2001 to second week of January 2002, DKBA's LIB No. 906 opened gambling, especially playing card games, for 14 days in Thadar-oo village near their base and organized the villagers nearby to come and involved in illegal gambling. From that gambling, DKBA collected fund or tax. In long days gambling, many villagers who involved lost their money and some villagers also sold their belongings at low price and the problems occurred in their families. However, DKBA received a lot of tax from the gambling.
"In Mon tradition, the community elders and Buddhist monks oppose die gambling, but they have no power to stop DKBA commanders, as it received full authority from SPDC. DKBA, itself, has not respected the people and has just struggled to get more fund for their own army."
As DKBA is an army, it has to take responsibility for paying salaries to their soldiers and feed the soldiers' families. Therefore, its troops have found various ways to receive fund for the civilians.
Sometimes, DKBA also cooperated with local authorities and tried to extort illegal money from the civilians.
As an instance,
"In the second week of May, when a farmer Nai Chit Maung in Kanni village, bought a space of paddy-growing farm from village chairman, Nai Kyaw Myint, they agreed each other for the price of 1.2 million Kyat worth. When DKBA commander in the area, Maj. Maung Ngwe, heard about this selling of the land and then he went to village chairman house and asked to pay the tax. But the chairman refused and he advised the commander that he could collect tax from the farmer who bought the land. Then, they went to farmer's house in early morning on May 15 and asked the farmer, Nai Chit Maung, to pay him 200, 000 Kyat as tax for buying land. The farmer was too surprised and he never heard such type of tax in his life. However, the commander and his soldiers came with gun and said to the farmer that if he did not give tax, he would not be allowed to go to his farm. Because of this threat, the farmer had to pay 200, 000 Kyat to DKBA commander."
Like die authorities and members of Burmese Army, the DKBA local battalions also involved in conscription of forced labour from the civilians in Township especially to build the roads. Under the program of border area development program, DKBA also took some contracts from SPDC to build the roads in this township and took money from the regime. But when they really built the road in die rural area, which they contracted and received money from SPDC, but they have normally forced the villagers nearby to contribute their labour without payment.
Besides road construction, when DKBA constructed their military bases, they also forced the villagers from the villages nearby to contribute unpaid labour.
As an instance,
"In November, DKBA also found a new space of land in Township area between Kanni and Kaw-kyaik village and took about 100 acres of wild land to deploy a new military battalion. Before building the military barracks, DKBA needed to clear the land.
"Thus, on November 11, 2001, the commander of the new battalion, IB No. 6, Lt. Col. Sein Hlaing, ordered the villages from six Mon villages and one Karen village to clear the lands. The Mon villages are: Kanni, Thadar-oo, Kaw-lyan, Kaw-khaik, Kaw-kyaik, Kaw-hale and one Karen village is Ywa-kalay. He ordered that one person from every house in the village must come and work in the battalion compound. About 2000 villagers came and worked only for one day The commander also showed the space of land, which each village had to clear. The villagers had to take their own food and left to work place early morning and could return about 5 o'clock in the evening."
Besides conscription of forced labour and DKBA extorted money from civilians in various ways including monthly security fee from the civilians. Over 10 villages in the area that close to DKBA bases, they had to pay 300-500 Kyat per month depending on their conditions of their houses and what properties they belonged.
Under the rule of SPDC, when there is no rule of law even in the cities where the regime installs police force, set up courts and allow legal processing, various types of human rights violations such as conscription of forced labour and extortion of and tax collection development projects occur. Considerably, the civilians in the rural areas could face more suffering than the civilians in towns or cities from various human rights violations.
Although the authorities in town and cities where they set up their office have limit to travel outside of towns or cities, they tried to get as far as possible to influence their power to local ethnic communities or to exploit from these communities. Like in Kawkareik Township, the authorities could control only in town and a few villages close to their military bases. They have less control to many villages in Township. However, they conscripted forced labour, collected tax and conducted other activities by organizing the village headmen in the meeting. Or, sometimes, they write letters and ordered to those headmen what they need and what the headmen need to do for them.
As the village headmen are afraid of being accused as rebel-supporters if they refused to attend the meeting, most of them attend the meeting. In the meeting the authorities have good chance to order directly to village headmen to provide labour or to pay money. Then, the headmen need to collect fund and demand labour from the civilians. This practice of violations have prolonged and it will continue as long as the military regime is in power.
Political progress, but human rights deteriorated
After the release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, NLD leader and Nobel Peace prize winner, the international community expect the political situation would have improved gradually and the doors for national reconciliation negotiation would be opened.
However, the genuine political negotiation between SPDC and NLD have not taken place and some thousands of political prisoners, who have been imprisoned by the regime with various reasons for their belief and different political opinions, still remain in various jails in Burma. The regime has released them with small number each time and stretched out the time for imprisonment term that has not supported any reconciliation process.
On the other hand, to keep their important role and legitimacy, SPDC and the Burmese Army have also waged war against ethnic rebels and crated border problems with a neighbouring country. They show that the army is still important to keep national sovereignty and national security.
Along with war fought against ethnic rebel armed force like Karen and Shan in its southern and eastern part of the border, this also created a lot of population displacement and number of refugees in border area with Thailand.
Moreover, the ethnic people concerned are also accused as rebel-supporters and human rights violations such as rape, killing, inhumane torture, arbitrary arrest and use of frontline porters are constantly committed by the members of Burmese Army.
All of these SPDC's activities, oppression against pro-democracy activists and innocent ethnic people in conflict areas, are its insincerity for national reconciliation and political development in Burma.
Information on HURFOM and Invitation for Feedback from Readers
Human Rights Foundation of Monland (HURFOM) was founded in 1995, by a group of young Mon people. The main objectives of HURFOM are:
- To monitor human rights situations in Mon territory and other areas southern part of Burma,
- To protect and promote internationally recognized human rights in Burma,
In order to implement these objectives, HURFOM has produced "The Mon Forum" newsletters monthly and sometimes it has been delayed because we wait to confirm some information. We apologize for the delay.
However, we also invite your feedbacks on the information we described in each newsletter and if you know anyone who would like to receive the newsletter, please send name and address to our address or e-mail as below:
HURFOM, P. 0. Box 11,
Ratchburana P. 0. Bangkok 10140,
Human Rights Foundation of Monland