13. Internally Displaced People and Forced Relocation
Internal displacement and forced relocation was rampant throughout Burma in 2003. In nearly every state and division of the country people were forced from their homes, causing the number of internally displaced people (IDPs) to grow further this year. Out of Burma’s total population of 50 million, most sources estimate that Burma has well over one million IDPs (source: “Burma Background,” Refugees International, 2004). Conservative estimates indicate that as of December 2003, a total of 2,536 villages had been destroyed or relocated along Burma’s border with Thailand, resulting in an IDP population of at least 632,978 in this area alone. (Source: Six Month Report, BBC, July-December 2003)
Without question, hundreds of thousands of villagers in Burma have experienced forced eviction according to the United Nation’s definition of the term. According to the UN, forced eviction is the “permanent or temporary removal against their will of individuals, families and/or communities from the homes and/or land which they occupy, without the provision of, and access to appropriate forms of legal or other protections.” (Source: The right to adequate housing (Art. 11.1): forced evictions, CESCR General Comment 7, paragraph 3, Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights, 1997)
In the United Nation’s resolution regarding Forced Evictions, the UN states that “the practice of forced eviction constitutes a gross violation of human rights, in particular the right to adequate housing,” (source: paragraphs 1 and 3, UN Human Rights Commission Resolution 1993/77: Forced Evictions). Thus, it is clear that the fundamental human rights of Burma’s IDPs have been violated. The UN reiterated in 2002 that “the requisite imperative of housing for personal security, privacy, health, safety, protection from the elements and many other attributes of a shared humanity, has led the international community to recognize adequate housing as a basic and fundamental human right,” (source: Report No. 1, Housing Rights Legislation, Review of international and national legal instruments, UN Housing Rights Program, UN-HABITAT and OHCHR, 2002). This right, which Burma’s military government has violated for decades, is enshrined in Article 25 (1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
For over half a century the most significant population displacement has occurred in Burma’s outlying ethnic minority areas, where the military government has been at war with a number of armed opposition groups. Ethnic minorities such as the Rohingya of Arakan State, the Shan, Karen, Kachin and Karenni, in addition to smaller ethnic groups living in the same areas, have suffered disproportionately. Notable in 2003, was the large-scale forced relocation in Southern Karenni State due to heavy fighting in the area in December. To clear this area of civilians the SPDC began a three-month program to relocate every villager in Southern Karenni State to government-controlled relocation sites. Once IDPs have left their original communities they are often much more vulnerable to further human rights abuses such as forced labor, arbitrary detention and deprivation of livelihood.
13.2 Causes and Situations of Displacement in Burma
The major causes of forced relocation and internal displacement in Burma are the following:
1. Conflict Induced Displacement and the "Four Cuts" Campaign
2. Development Induced Displacement
3. Displacement Resulting from Resource Scarcity
1. Conflict Induced Displacement and the "Four Cuts" Campaign
In the volatile border regions, where armed opposition groups engage in battles with the SPDC, villagers nearby are put in danger of being hurt or killed as a result of the fighting. This danger may force villagers to flee either temporarily or permanently to a safer region. In addition, the SPDC will often force villages to supply food, porters and other items to support soldiers, leaving the villagers with nothing left to support themselves. This is another conflict-related source of IDP flows.
However, the SPDC’s "Four Cuts" Campaign has caused far larger numbers of IDPs. In 1974 the SPDC began to secure combat zones by first preventing civilian support of insurgents. The military government has been determined to completely cut off 4 main types of supplies to the resistance groups: 1) food 2) funds 3) recruits, and 4) information. In an attempt to reach this goal, the Burmese Army has enacted large scale forced relocation.
In some border areas, which the regime has labeled brown areas, systematic forced relocation programs have been carried out. In other areas, which were classified as black areas or “free-fire” areas, all villages were destroyed, fields and paddy barns were burnt, and anyone found in the area was shot on site. These campaigns against civilians were intensified after the 1988 pro-democracy uprising. In 1996-1997, the military regime launched further intensive initiatives to forcibly move or wipe out all rural villages in areas not directly under their control. Currently, under the "Four Cuts" Campaign, villagers suspected of having contact with the resistance are detained, tortured, and executed; Burmese government troops systematically extort and pillage villagers’ crops, food supplies, livestock, cash and valuables. Any village suspected of supporting opposition forces is forced to relocate. The evicted villagers are usually told that they will not be permitted to go home until the opposition groups have capitulated. Relocated persons are not compensated for the loss of their homes nor are they given enough time to collect all of their belongings. Villagers must leave behind their elderly and sick relatives, as well as their livestock. Once an area is cleared of villagers it is designated a "free-fire" or black area. Houses, villages, and crops left behind are often pillaged and then dismantled and/or scorched to prevent the return of villagers. In some cases landmines are laid on the roads leading into villages, or in abandoned fields and homes.
2. Development Induced Displacement
Since the 1990s, there has been a growing trend of the military displacing civilians from their houses and land
which is then used by the army for the construction of military bases, government income-generating projects or to grow food for troops. One large scale income generation project that displaced villagers in Shan State during 2003 is the planned Ta Sang dam on the Salween River. In preparation for dam construction over 300,000 Shan and other ethnic people were forced to relocate (source: Salween Watch, 2004). Government road and railroad projects have been other sources of development induced displacement. One such displacement occurred in September 2003 when 1,400 households in two wards in the Mon state capital of Moulmein were forced to leave their homes to make way for a new railroad project in the city. (Source: "Over 1,400 Families Relocated For New Railway Station," Kao Wao, IMNA, 24 September 2003)
3. Displacement Resulting from Resource
In some areas of Burma the SPDC makes excessive demands of unpaid labor and taxes on villages, further impoverishing communities that do not have many resources to begin with. Because of these demands some villagers have no choice but to leave their homes in search of locations where they will not be as heavily taxed and where they can find enough food for themselves and their families. In 2003, some residents of Murng Haang village in Shan State lost almost all of the land on which they had depended for their livelihood. In cases such as this villagers must relocate in order to survive. (SHRF, 2003) (See the Deprivation of Livelihood for more information.)
Most often, IDPs resettle to an area that falls into one of four groups:
1. A state-controlled relocation site or satellite town
2. An area under full SPDC control
3. An area or camp controlled by an armed opposition group
The jungle, fields, or other remote, usually "free fire" or
black areas of Burma
1. Displacement into State-Controlled Relocation Sites and Satellite Towns
Forcibly relocated villagers are generally required by the SPDC to move to an area designated by the government as a "relocation site." Relocation sites are most often located in villages or towns near army bases, near car roads where there are no other villages, or in barren areas without resources or transportation. In cases of urban resettlement or "beautification" projects, the townspeople are moved to outlying areas of the city called "satellite towns."
These new towns are usually located a few miles outside a city where there are very few facilities. The populations of satellite towns are composed of those forced to relocate from the nearby city by the military government. In the last six years, the junta has forcibly resettled tens of thousands of impoverished people from city centers into these distant slums. Clean water is scarce and sanitation is poor in these areas. In addition, the relocated people face great travel difficulties, as public transportation into the cities is either nonexistent, or extremely poor and unreliable. Employment in the new satellite towns is scarce. Most often there are inadequately equipped schools in these towns providing some education for children, but healthcare is a serious problem since the few clinics that exist in town are woefully understaffed and under supplied. City hospitals, also understaffed and under supplied, are difficult to get to.
The Relocation Sites
“The fact that 42% of IDPs in eastern Burma choose to live on the run and in hiding rather than move to government-run relocation sites adds credence to the fact that many relocation sites resemble concentration camps.”
(Source: “Burma’s Internally Displaced: No Options for a Safe Haven," Refugees International, 10 October 2002)
Although “the practice of setting up new towns has become somewhat less common in recent years,” more than 350,000 IDPs are currently living in government relocation sites (source: Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - 2003, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, Labor, U.S. Department of State, 25 February 2004). In most "relocation sites" little preparation or organization is done to receive the displaced people. The SPDC is unconcerned whether or not water, food, cultivatable land, employment or services are available in the new areas. The burden of sheltering and caring for the displaced at relocation sites generally falls on the local community. This results in further depletion of the resources available to the original population. No humanitarian assistance comes from the government, although at some sites there is very limited assistance from church organizations. In some cases, rice has been distributed to the IDPs during the initial relocation period, but these rations are insufficient and the distribution period is short. One refugee who came from the relocation site at Mawchi in Karenni State stated that rice intended for the relocated people was diverted and sold by local township authorities.
Generally, the SPDC troops force one person from each family in the relocation sites to work on a daily or weekly basis. This forced labor includes clearing bushes and trees from the roadsides both inside and outside the relocation sites, cleaning military buildings, cultivating land for the military bases, hauling water for the troops, building fences around the military camps, digging bunkers, road construction, portering for the military and other general servant work. The villagers are also forced to work in the infrastructure projects in the area. Moreover, they are made to pay various fees for development projects, military funds and food for visiting troops.
Services at the relocation villages vary from site to site, as each site is under the responsibility of relevant state or township committees. However, in general there are no arrangements made to provide services for the relocated people. Access to water varies. In some sites streams and lakes are available water sources in addition to wells. Yet in some sites, such as the Shadaw relocation site in Karenni State, the lack of drinkable water has resulted in several problems, including sickness and deaths caused by chemicals that were added to the water in an attempt to clean it. Sanitary facilities are usually nonexistent for IDPs and they are either required to build their own latrines, or use outer areas of the sites for these purposes. Among other things, the poor water and sanitation at the sites, as well as rampant malnutrition due to regime confiscation of food stores, has resulted in increased levels of sickness and mortality. Health care facilities are either missing altogether or they are seriously under-equipped and under-supplied. There is no access to electricity in most sites, and in some, such as Shadaw relocation site in Karenni State, flashlights are banned and the sale of dry cell batteries is not permitted in the site. Among other effects, this lack of provisions for light at night increases the vulnerability of women. Education facilities are also insufficient or nonexistent. In most cases, IDPs establish makeshift schools themselves. If there are pre-existing schools, school buildings, teaching materials and teachers are never sufficient, and families often do not send their children to school as they cannot afford the school costs, or they require their children to help in the family’s attempts for survival. (See chapter on health and education for more information.)
At all relocation sites in Burma, access to farmland and employment is a serious problem for the relocated villagers. In some sites, IDPs are able to access farmland around the relocation site, yet this allocated land is usually insufficient for basic survival or unsuitable for farming. In other sites, access to surrounding land is denied, especially when villagers are relocated to sites where local residents are already farming the land, either for themselves or for the military. New refugee arrivals at the Thai border in 1999 reported that they had been able to find daily labor at local farms near the relocation sites, earning between 40 and 120 kyat per day. In some cases, villagers are permitted to return to their former farms and plantations, yet due to the restrictions imposed on their movement out of the relocation sites and the dangers these villagers face while traveling, most are unable to make a living in this way.
Villagers in relocation sites live in constant fear of the violence and demands of the government forces, both inside and outside the relocation sites. Villagers are not permitted to leave the sites without passes, which they must purchase from either SPDC soldiers or local authorities. The passes are usually only valid for 1 day, from dawn to dusk, although in rare cases week passes have been granted (see chapter on Freedom of Movement). This leaves the villagers little time to travel to their places of work, complete their work, and then return. In addition, security for the villagers outside of the relocation sites is notoriously bad. Villagers seen outside the camps are vulnerable to capture, arrest, torture, and killing, even if they hold valid passes, as they are accused by SPDC troops of leaving the camps to support rebel forces. Women are especially vulnerable, and many cases of rape have been reported by women who have gone outside the camp to forage for vegetables or get water (for more information see the chapter on The Rights of Women). The local authorities do nothing when villagers report cases of abuse.
2. Displacement into Areas under Full SPDC Control
Many villagers suffering from abuse under the SPDC's “Four-Cuts” Campaign, or who have been ordered to move, but haven’t been given a specific relocation site, have chosen to resettle in areas under full SPDC control. Many feel these areas are safer and more stable than the conflict areas. However, employment is often difficult to obtain in these areas as most of the displaced villagers are farmers and available farmland is usually scarce. In larger towns or cities farmers are often forced to work as day laborers in low paying jobs.
The displaced families’ struggle to survive is compounded by the fact that they had no choice but to leave behind many of their belongings when they left their home. Although villagers sometimes move near other family members who have been living in areas under full SPDC control for some time, their relatives are often unable to provide the extra support needed, as they are suffering themselves.
In addition, the IDPs living in areas under SPDC control are subject to the same abuses as the other villagers around them. These include the demands for forced labor, fees, and restrictions that are commonplace across Burma. Yet because the abuses committed are sometimes less then in areas under the Four-Cuts Campaign, many villagers choose to face the risk of moving to areas under full SPDC control.
3) Displacement into Areas and Camps Controlled by Armed Opposition Groups
Villagers who have been forced to flee their homes and villages for any of the above mentioned reasons, are sometimes able to seek shelter in areas controlled by armed opposition groups, where they feel they have some protection from SPDC abuses. Several of the armed opposition groups operate camps and resettlement sites in their areas of activity. However, in these camps and sites, supplies and services are very limited, and often temporary. Access to food, education and health varies from site to site, as does the level of security. Almost all such places lack employment opportunities. Therefore, the IDPs have to live off of whatever the opposition groups can provide for them. These areas have become increasingly fewer as the SPDC has stepped up military operations and vastly decreased the amount of territory controlled by ethnic opposition forces.
4. Displacement into Jungles, Fields, and Other Remote, Usually “Free Fire” Areas
There are over 268,000 IDPs hiding in the border conflict areas of Burma. These IDPs constitute the group with the least access to basic survival needs. These villagers have fled into hiding, despite the risks, because of various factors. These IDPs include:
1. Those who have fled SPDC troops in advance of their arrival;
2. Those who could no longer stand the abuses they suffered in their villages;
3. Those who were ordered to move from their village to a relocation site or other place, and who chose not to do so; and
4. Those who have fled from relocation sites due to unlivable conditions.
These IDPs are regarded as enemies by SPDC troops, as the areas where most villagers hide are located in black or "free-fire" zones. If seen by the military these IDPs are captured, tortured or shot on sight. Their shelters, rice plantations and belongings are looted or destroyed when discovered. Under the guise of ridding areas of opposition forces, the SPDC has launched several "search and destroy" operations, in which soldiers root out and destroy everything they see in a given area, including people. Government troops often plant landmines on paths that they suspect the IDP villagers use, and they practice a "scorched earth" policy of looting, destroying and burning any signs of habitation or food supply. Troops have even been known to cut down fruit trees growing naturally in the forest in these operations in an attempt to make it impossible for anyone to survive in the forests or jungles.
Villagers often hide in areas near their old villages and risk working in their land and harvesting their crops in secret. This work is extremely dangerous, and if crops are discovered by soldiers, they are burned or destroyed. If the villagers are unsuccessful in harvesting rice, they forage for other sources of food in the forests. Villagers in hiding, for the most part, are unable to travel outside of their area of hiding to purchase other necessities, and must make do with what they can find around them.
Health is a major concern for people in hiding. Life in the tropics without shelter or adequate food leads to high sickness and mortality rates from malnutrition, diarrhea, malaria, minor injuries and other easily preventable illnesses. With a complete absence of health care facilities, people mainly rely on herbs and traditional medicine. Although there are some backpack healthcare teams which reach some IDPs in hiding, the medicine and care they are able to provide is insufficient for the numbers of IDPs in need.
IDPs hiding in the jungle are sometimes able to operate temporary makeshift schools with volunteer teachers. These schools lack any supplies, and they are forced to shift from place to place depending on SPDC troop movements. With the increase in SPDC military activity in recent years, and the common occurrence of "search and destroy" operations, the number of these schools has been greatly reduced. “Fear, constant movement and the daily struggle just to survive make education a very low priority for most IDPs.” (Source: IDPs in Burma, Burma Issues, 2003)
Thai Policy Towards IDPs in Burma
“We are unwelcome guests in…Thailand.”
The IDP population in Eastern Burma grows as more villagers are forcibly relocated and choose to stay in Burma, fearing rejection or mistreatment if they seek refuge in Thailand. As a non-signatory to the 1951 International Convention on Refugees and its 1967 protocol, Thailand argues that it is under no legal compulsion to provide asylum for any refugees. The Burmese Border Consortium reports, “Current [Thai] policy is not to allow any new refugees and, if this policy continues, it may become increasingly difficult for new refugees to enter the country. Nevertheless there remain hundreds of thousands of Internally Displaced Persons as potential refugees.” (Source: BBC Six-Month Report, BBC, July-December 2003)
The Provincial Admission Boards (PABs), which determine whether or not a refugee can officially stay in one of the nine Thai border refugee camps, ceased to function as of late 2001. When the PABs were functioning, only those people determined to be fleeing from fighting were allowed to remain in the camps and it has been reported that only a fraction of the monthly arrivals to the camps fit this specific criteria. Since 2001, the Thai government has maintained the attitude that there are no new arrivals and officially, has not allowed for increases in the camp populations. Moreover, the Thai government has based its policy on preventing any conditions that would serve as a pull factor encouraging more refugees to enter the country and severely limits the role of the UNHCR. As a result, those who do make their way into the camps face difficulties in procuring food and other aid if they stay unregistered. Many also fear deportation if they are discovered as unregistered in the camps. According to Refugees International, the IDP populations inside Burma are aware of the obstacles that they may face in attempting to obtain access to the camps as news has traveled back across the border (source: Refugees International, 2002). Refugees from Shan State face even greater obstacles as the Thai government considers all Shan to be economic migrants and does not allow for the establishment of a camp or for the provision of humanitarian assistance. The Shan Human Rights Foundation estimates that since 1997 over 300,000 people in Shan State have been forcibly relocated. Of this group, about half have sought refuge in Thailand, while the remaining 150,000 Shan IDPs are enduring harsh conditions inside Burma. All refugees residing outside of the camps in Thailand are viewed as illegal immigrants and vulnerable to arrest and deportation by the Thai authorities.
Refugees International reports that, "This confusion about who actually qualifies to be called a refugee is compounded by the refuge-seekers themselves. Rather than describe themselves by their starting point — i.e. the reason they fled Burma — many people look to their present situation, i.e. their status as illegal workers…Forced labor and forced relocation are human rights abuses, they are not "economic reasons," and those people fleeing such violations are escaping first and foremost from persecution," (source: Development of Democracy in Burma, Testimony to U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs by Refugees International, 18 June 2003). In addition, Refugees International notes that the Thai army and border police have effectively sealed off the border from IDPs seeking refuge.
13.2 Situation in Arakan State
Since the early 1990’s the Muslim ethnic minority in Northern Arakan State (also known as the Rohingya) has been subject to large scale internal displacement. This continued to be the case throughout 2003. The Rohingya population of Arakan State currently stands between 700,000 and 1½ million, making up as much as 50% of Arakan State’s total population and up to 80% in Northern areas of the state. Some Muslims in Arakan State do not identify as Rohingya but as Arakanese Muslims.
Most forced relocation in Arakan State is connected to SPDC efforts to:
· Install military and police camps
· Confine the Rohingya population to Northern Arakan State
· Settle Buddhist people throughout Arakan state in "model villages"
· Bring the small ethnic minorities (notably the Mro) from their original, remote mountain locations to the plains.
· Establish farmland to support SPDC security personnel and new settlers
Within Arakan State there is significant displacement due to the government’s continuing discrimination and repression of the Rohingya minority. The SPDC’s abuses against Rohingya, including denial of citizenship, forced labor, and arbitrary confiscation of property, continue to prompt new IDP flows and limit the reintegration of those who have returned from refugee camps in Bangladesh.
Due to forced relocation to the far North, Muslim villages outside this area are reportedly becoming rare. Most of the Rohingya who lived in the Kyauktaw, Mrauk-U or Minbya districts have been forcibly displaced to the north over the past few years. These forced relocations, which go hand in hand with serious human rights violations, have been denounced by the UN Special Rapporteur on Burma, notably in February 1993 and January 1995. According to villagers still living in Rathidaung, out of the 53 Muslim villages existing in the district before 1995, only 2 remained in 1999.
Land confiscation for commercial purposes by the SPDC Border Security Force has become common, causing villagers to seek new homes. Land has been taken in order to begin shrimp farms and rice fields to support SPDC security personnel. Those whom the land is taken from do not receive any compensation for their loss, and are sometimes forced to work on the same fields that were confiscated from them. (For more information about discrimination and displacement of the Rohingya see chapters on Freedom of Belief and Religion, and Refugees.)
Model Villages in Arakan State
The SPDC has been setting up model villages since the early 1950s with the intent to dilute the ethic minority cultures by exposing them to mainstream Burman ways. The establishment of these villages has resulted in the displacement of thousands of Rohingya people to less fertile lands, usually without adequate time to prepare or any compensation.
The model villages are usually composed of poor Buddhists from Arakan State who support the military regime. Sometimes poor Burman villagers from central Burma are brought to populate model villages along with “retired civil servants; former prisoners; former insurgents and ethnic minorities such as the Kamein, Daingnet, Mro and Thet, who live in the highlands near the border with Bangladesh and Chin State,” (source: The Rohingya Minority: Fundamental Rights Denied, Amnesty International, May 2004). In some cases readymade houses, farmlands, bullocks and carts are provided to new settlers in model villages, along with free rations for more than one year and free labor from Muslim forced laborers. However, the Free Burma Rangers, a Thailand based humanitarian assistance NGO, reported in 2003 that due to recent media attention to forced labor in Arakan State, the SPDC has now reduced their use of forced labor to accommodate the “model villagers.” The Free Burma Rangers report that these new settlers have been responsible for various crimes against Muslim villagers including picking fights and stealing livestock.
With regime supporters in nearby villages, the SPDC hopes the minorities will adopt more pro-regime views and abide by government regulations more closely. The model villages also serve as reliable sources of information for the SPDC about the situation in Burma’s ethnic Rohingya areas.
Prior to 1992, a number of
model villages were established in Maungdaw and Buthidaung Townships of Arakan
State. Following the formation of the Nasaka (an SPDC Border Security
Force) in 1992, the construction of model villages became more rapid. “In
practice the Nasaka is responsible for implementing the model village
program in Rakhine State. However, officially the program is under the
supervision of the Ministry for Development of Border Areas and National Races.”
(Source: The Rohingya Minority: Fundamental Rights Denied, Amnesty
International, May 2004)
“A model village is usually built to house about 100 families. Each family reportedly receives one to four acres of land, a pair of oxen and a house. The large majority of these model villages have been built on land that was confiscated from the Rohingya population. Houses and other facilities such as schools and health centers in the model villages are often built by forced labor by the Rohingya population. The majority of people in model villages do not cultivate the land allocated to them, and instead rent it out to Rohingya farmers, in some cases the same people from whom the land was originally confiscated. Although according to an official decree of 1997 the renting of land by inhabitants of model villages is no longer allowed, the practice continues.” (Source: The Rohingya Minority: Fundamental Rights Denied, Amnesty International, May 2004)
It was reported in 2003, there were already 26 model villagers in Northern Arakan Sate containing approximately 100 houses in each one (source: Conflict, Discrimination and Humanitarian Challenges in Northern Arakan State, Forum Asia, October 2003). Many model villages continue to be built in Arakan State’s Northern Muslim areas forcibly displacing increasingly more Rohingya villagers.
Forced Relocation in Arakan State - partial list of incidents for 2003
More Burmese families arrive in western Burma for rehabilitation
In January 2003, 37 families were brought from Rangoon to live in ‘model’ villages in Rathedaung Township as well as Thazin-myaing and Padauk-myaing in Buthidaung Township. The villagers were sent to the new location in order to be ‘rehabilitated.’ Local Nasaka security forces and SPDC officials provided rice, food and cattle to the new arrivals after confiscating these items from the nearby villages. (Source: “More Burmese Families Arrive at Western Burma for Rehabilitation,” Narinjara, 17 January 2003)
Arakanese village set ablaze by the army
In November 2003, Sinn Rwa, an Arakanese village in Buthidaung Township, 80 miles north of Sittwe, (the capital of Arakan state) was destroyed by the local troops from LIB 263. The Sinn Rwa village was located near the base of LIB 263 and the villagers were mostly dependent upon work provided by the LIB 263. A villager from a nearby village said he could not confirm whether the burning had anything to do with a captain from the Battalion being murdered a week before the village was destroyed. The location of LIB 263 is nearby the Buthidaung - Maung Daw motor road. (Source: “Village Set Ablaze by the Army,” Narinjara, 4 December 2003)
Sixty houses relocated for bridge construction
On 7 November 2003, the Chairman of Tamu District Peace and Development Council ordered 60 houses in Tamu, on the bank of Indo-Burma border, to relocate within 50 days so a bridge could be built across the stream. People were asked to pay between 3,000 and 10,000 kyat for a new plot to rebuild their homes. “Three officials came to demand money for new plots for our houses. Authorities charged 10,000 kyat for houses with house numbers and 3,000 kyat for those without house numbers. For a good location, you must pay 10,000 kyat extra,” a youth from Hna-hmwar-sone quarter said.
Fifty-eight households who were living in Hna-hmwar-sone quarter No.1 at the time, situated between Tamu and Nant-Phar-Lon market were ordered to relocate south of Maj. Maung Maung Aye’s (Chairman of Tamu District Peace and Development Council) location. Though peoples in this area had owned their homes for generations, the authorities ordered them to evacuate. “Some of these households depend on their domestic gardens for food. These people suffer most. They have no choice because it is an order from government to relocate within 50 days from the 7th of this month. If we don’t move, they may use force to relocate us,” a local person from Tamu said.
Nant-Phar-Lon market in Tamu becomes an important location for Indo-Burma trade since the opening of official border trade between 2 countries. Unlike the old bridge, the new bridge will be constructed well inside Burma and people do not need to cross India in order to reach Nant-Phar-Lon market from Tamu. (Source: “Sixty Houses Relocated for Bridge Construction,” Network Media Group, 11 November 2003)
Residents of Taungbru left relocated for new battalion and jail project
On 15 November 2003, residents of Taungbru (Day Banna) village, Maungdaw Township, were forcibly relocated to allow for the authorities to build a new army battalion and jail project. The village contained over 53 houses and a Muslim graveyard, all of which was destroyed. The authorities provided land near a mountain in Taungbru village for those who were displaced but did not provide any compensation. One villager indicated, “Whenever the SPDC wishes to establish a new army battalion or other projects in Arakan State, they always target Muslim villages, mosques and graveyards to destroy though there are available places for the establishment of army battalions." A local villager added, “Some of these households have to depend on their domestic gardens in this area. These people suffer most. But they don’t have any choice because of authorities said it is an order from government to relocate.” (Source: “Residents of Taungbru Left Relocated for New Battalion and Jail Project,” Kaladan, 15 November 2003)
Army demolishes village for recreation park
On 29 November 2003, a village headman reported that the Burma Army demolished 100 houses in Kya Mathouk village near LIB 20. The houses, mostly located near the eastern side of the Sittwe-Kyauk Tan motor road, were destroyed in order to construct a soldier recreation area, Nadarwan Garden Park. The army was also reported to have confiscated paddy fields, gardens and forest areas from the villagers. All was confiscated without compensation and villagers were reportedly trying to establish new homes on unused land near their desserted village. One employee of the Township Council, U Hla Soe Aung was also reported to be a victim of the forced relocation, as his was house destroyed. The village had reportedly existed in that location for 100 years before it was demolished. (Source: “Army Demolishes Village for Recreation Park,” Narinjara, 16 December 2003)
SPDC army burnt 26 houses in northern Arakan State
On 11 December 2003, local women and students foiled an attempt by the SPDC army to destroy Myo Ma Kayan Dan (Shikdar Para) village of Maungdaw Town in Arakan State. On 12 December 2003, regarding this matter, District Peace and Development Council (DPDC) Chairman called a meeting with some villagers to request that the meeting attendants ask the villagers to vacate their houses. The next day, they did as requested, but the villagers didn’t comply. Lt. Col. Soe Htwe, DPDC Chairman of Maungdaw District collected 20,000 kyat per head from the meeting attendants to compensate the villagers for their homes. The authority also promised to provide an alternative site for the uprooted villagers.
On 27 December 2003, the TPDC Chairman, Captain Hla Pho, accompanied by Military Police and Border Security Force went to the village at 10:00 am and started destroying the houses. There were about 200 armed men in total. The Tactical Operation Commander (TOC) No.1 headquarters from Buthidaung Township supervised the operation.
The armed groups blocked the Maungdaw-Buthidaung road and Maungdaw-Alay Sankyaw road until 3:00 pm and destroyed all 26 houses. Some village youths resisted, while the military groups attacked and destroyed the houses. But, later on, the youths stopped resisting, were arrested by the Nasaka and were carried away. The fate of the 2 youths was still unknown at the time of the report.
About 6 months prior to the incident, on 14 June 2003, the TPDC Chairman ordered the evacuation of these 26 houses. Families of the following individuals were ordered to evacuate:
(1) Haji Yunus,
(2) Abdul Matalab,
(3) Mohamed Dullah,
(5) Mohamed Jalil,
(6) Nazo Mullah,
(7) Abul Foras,
(8) Abul Kalam,
(9) Zibu Rahman,
(11) Hala Boda,
(12) Ayub Ali,
(13) Mono Meah,
(14) Mohamed Alam,
(15) Hakim Ali,
(17) Abu Tahir,
(18) Mohamed Ayub,
(19) Mohamed Kha Sim,
(21) Ali Akbar,
(22) Kha Lu,
(23) Say Tu,
(24) Ms. Nasima Khatun,
(25) Ms. Mazuma, and
(26) Ms. Shuna Bi Bi
(Source: “26 Dwelling Houses Destroyed by SPDC Authorities in Northern Arakan,” Kaladan, 30 December 2003)
13.3 Situation in Chin State
Estimates by the Chin National Front (CNF), a pan Chin nationalist movement, indicate that forced displacement is a significant problem in Chin State with a total of up to 50,000 people displaced from their homes. According to the Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO) tens of thousands of IDPs have fled from Chin State into neighboring Mizoram State, India. IDPs left Chin State where “documented reports indicate persistent human rights violations including forced labor, rape, arbitrary arrests, executions and religious persecutions.” The IDPs were hoping to find safer living conditions in hiding, in India. (Source: “Chin Refugees Being Evicted En Mass in Northeastern India,” CHRO, 6 March 2002)
However, it was reported that the “Chin who seek protection have not found safety in India. They are subject to deportation and intimidation by local authorities and activist groups such as the Young Mizo Association (YMA), which recently destroyed the hotel of a man of Burmese origin accused of raping a nine-year-old Indian [Mizo] girl. Following this incident in mid-July, the YMA took to the streets to vent their xenophobic views. Its members destroyed homes and belongings and threatened Burmese with harm if they did not leave their towns by a given deadline, the latest of which was August 20th . Since then, close to five thousand Chin have been forced to leave. Reports by local human rights groups state that the police supplied trucks to move refugees back to the border. They also stationed police at the border to prevent anyone who had returned to re-enter India,” (source: Forced Back: Burmese Chin Refugees in India in Danger, Refugees International, 5 September 2003). Forced evictions of Chin people from Mizoram State began in August 2001, causing at least 100 families to return to Chin State to live as IDPs by the end of 2002 (source: CHRO, 2002). In 2003, as many as 6,000 refugees returned to Chin State as a result of worsening security and forced deportation from India, causing a significant rise in the number of IDPs within the state (source: CHRO, 2003). (See The Situation of Refugees for more information.)
Forced Relocation in Chin State - Partial List of Incidents for 2003
More people returning to Chin State
On 2 September 2003, it was reported that as many as 6000 refugees reentered Burma from Mizoram State in Northeast India. Most of the returnees were compelled to go back to Burma due to the evictions in Aizawl and other areas. The Young Mizo Association (YMA), a powerful local youth body, gave the Chin a deadline to leave Mizoram State, India and is threatening the Chin population still remaining. People are really afraid of such threats because the Chin have seen the YMA mobs destroy property and manhandle people. Many of those who returned to Chin State were escorted to the border by Indian police. The Mizoram Superintendent of Police makes regular updates on the number of those who have crossed the border into Burma. Once they have crossed into Burma those who have no identity cards have reportedly been given a compulsory three month jail sentence, while Burmese authorities conduct a background check on each individual. (Source: CHRO, 2003)
13.4 Situation in Karen State
Note: Dooplaya, Pa-an, Papun, Nyaunglebin and Toungoo Districts, as reported below, are all areas demarcated by the KNU as Karen territory. Dooplaya District falls mostly in SPDC demarcated Karen State and partially in SPDC demarcated Mon State. Dooplaya District is under the patrol of the 6th Brigade of the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA). Papun and Pa-an Districts fall entirely in SPDC demarcated Karen State. Papun District is under the patrol of the 5th Brigade of the KNLA and Pa-an is under the patrol of the 7th Brigade of the KNLA. Toungoo falls partially in SPDC demarcated Pegu Division and partially in SPDC demarcated Karen State. Toungoo is under the patrol of the 2nd Brigade of the KNLA. Nyaunglebin falls in SPDC demarcated Pegu Division and is under the patrol of the 3rd Brigade of the KNLA. The SPDC does not recognize these as official districts. Instead, the SPDC considers there to be 3 districts (North to South: Kawkareik, Pa-an and Myawaddy) and 7 townships (North to South: Than Daung, Papun, Hlaing Bwe, Pa’an, Kawkareik, Myawaddy, and Kya In Seik Gyi) within SPDC demarcated Karen State. These townships do not correspond with the KNU demarcated districts and townships, even for those which share the same name.
In 2003 Karen State continued to have one of Burma’s gravest IDP situations. According to the Burmese Border Consortium there were 196,234 IDPs in Karen State in December 2003. half of which are living in government controlled relocation sites while the other half has stayed in hiding. Conflict-induced displacement was rampant in Karen State during 2003. In January, the SPDC’s dry season offensive against the Karen National Union (KNU) forced hundreds of Karen villagers to flee to escape fighting, forced portering and forced labor. SPDC troops were reported to have hunted down many of these IDPs and destroyed their hiding places in the jungle. (Source: Department of Information, KNU, 2003)
Below are the estimated IDP population in 4 of Karen State’s 6 Districts. This information is complied from 2003 reports released by the Free Burma Rangers (FBR), Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG) and Burmese Border Consortium (BBC).
IDPs in Karen State
# of IDPs in 2003
* FBR, July 2003
** KHRG, 2003
*** Karen Monthly Human Rights Situation Report,
**** BBC 6-month report, July-December 2003
At the end of 2003, the BBC also reported the following about the displacement of villagers in Karen State: “While the military bases of the ethnic opposition forces have been pushed close to the border, it is apparent that the majority of civilians displaced by skirmishes and militarization were located in contested areas around 100 kilometres further inside Burma. The main exception to this trend was the displacement of 4,000 civilians caused by SPDC’s offensive towards the KNLA’s 7th Brigade headquarters north of Myawaddy [in Pa-an District]. Reports from the field also suggest that militarization, or the deployment of troops, artillery and para-military forces, caused more civilian displacement than actual gun-fire during 2003.” (Source: Six-Month Report, BBC, July - December 2003)
“The general situation [in Pa-an District in 2003] was bleak and continuing to deteriorate. The Burmese Army, reinforced by the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA)… continue to force villagers to labor for the army and at least once a year attack the villages in the Dawna area... Interviews with IDPs indicated increased forced labor in road construction, with no food or pay given to the IDPs working on the roads. The Burmese Army and DKBA kill and steal livestock from most of the villages that they visit. At least 700,000 kyat worth of villagers' possessions were stolen or destroyed by the Burmese Army or DKBA troops. Ten farm houses were burned to the ground and many in this area have recently moved into hiding because of the constant persecution by the Burmese Army and DKBA,” (source: FBR, 2003). In Pa-an District “there [was] increasing pressure on IDPs and villagers to have no contact with outsiders and to follow all instructions given by the Burmese Army and their proxy army, the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA).” (Source: FBR, 2003)
In Papun District, it was reported that out of a population of 13,969 people in the northernmost part of the district, 8,489 were IDPs in January 2003 (source: Monthly Human Rights Situation Report: Tenasserim Division, Mergui-Tavoy District Information Department, KNU, January 2003). In addition, KHRG estimates that approximately 5,000 IDPs were hiding in the jungles of Tantabin Township (source: KHRG, 2003).
The Burmese Army had been building roads in Nyaunglebin District during 2003 and had cut off travel by villagers both to their fields and to other villages. The Free Burma Rangers received many reports citing numerous villagers who had been hurt or killed by SPDC land mines, while others were shot at by the SPDC troops. Forced portering, confiscation of personal property and other human rights violations are a common occurrence in the IDP areas of Nyaunglebin District. At present, many children are not able to study because of Burma Army activities and the resulting food shortages. In the 14 villages the FBR team visited, there were only 4 schools operating. (Source: FBR, 2003)
Dooplaya District was reported to have approximately 23,183 IDPs. The villagers in this district, particularly in Kya Aye Township, have reportedly been facing constant military offensives causing them to flee and make shelters in the jungle. According to the Free Burma Rangers, they had insufficient food, were suffering from serious diseases, and lacked sufficient security. Many were reportedly in need of medical attention and some were suffering considerably due to the lack of sufficient medicine, proper food and shelter. (Source: FBR, 2003)
The Burmese regime has not mounted a major military offensive in Toungoo District since 1996, but continuous repression and harassment is forcing increasingly more villagers into mountainous areas. As a result, the KHRG estimates at least 5,000 are now in hiding in these areas. SPDC patrols are reported to hunt them down, trying to force all civilians into army-controlled villages where residents are regularly used as forced labor to maintain military access roads and porter supplies to outlying army camps. In these villages, even food supplies are tightly controlled; rice cannot be bought without the permission of the military, and farmers must hand over all food crops to soldiers, who are reported to eat most of it and hand back only tiny and insufficient rations. Furthermore, new units of the SPDC's notorious Dam Byan Byaut Kya execution squads have been created to penetrate all areas of Toungoo District, and were reportedly moving between villages with lists of civilians to kill. (Source: KHRG, 2003)
Another threat to the security of Karen IDPs is the SPDC Guerrilla Retaliation Units, which are active in Karen State, particularly in Toungoo District. “The Guerrilla Retaliation Units’ sole purpose has been to locate and execute any villager who has had any contact with the KNU, even if that contact was as tenuous as supplying a bowl of rice to, or portering a load for the KNLA a decade ago. Operating in small units of five to ten men and often traveling by night, their ranks are filled with men handpicked from regular battalions who were noted for being particularly brutal…The handful of different Guerrilla Retaliation Units now known to be working in Toungoo District cover the areas in and around Klaw Mi Der village tract in Tantabin Township; in the Bu Sah Kee-Saw Mu Der region, also in Tantabin Township; around the Kler Lah relocation site; and throughout most of the villages to the west of the Day Loh River in Than Daung Township… Previously confined to the plains areas in the western portion of the District, their expansion far into the hills is a disturbing development… The fear which villagers have of the Guerrilla Retaliation Units and their methods is enough for some villagers to flee into the surrounding hills.
The Wei Za Guerrilla Retaliation Unit has swept through many of the villages to the west of the Day Loh River – terrorizing, exploiting, pillaging, and murdering many of the villagers who live there; as a result driving many of them have had to take flight into the jungles. The Wei Za unit is based in Bayinnaung Army Camp, close to Than Daung Gyi. It appears that they have formed as a special unit from within Infantry Battalion (IB) 124, also based in Bayinnaung army camp.” (Source: KHRG, 2003)
Forced Relocation in Karen State - Partial List of Incidents for 2003
In January 2003, the SPDC troops sent a bulldozer to clean out Kyauk Na Gar village which had over 150 houses. Kyaut Na Gar village was situated in Shwekyin Township, Pegu Division, about 30 minutes walk from Shwekyin town. Villagers were forced to leave their homes without compensation and relocate to Kan Pae Aai and Kyaut Law Hta where they had to buy land from the military. People who had relatives in the town moved in with them, while the others slept under trees and bamboo. The displaced villagers included 70 Karen households, about 80 Burman households and a few Shan families. In Kyauk Na Gar villagers cultivated lemon orchards for a living. People also grew coconuts, jack fruit, and mangoes. Burmese Army IB 57 and LIB 350 are responsible in this area. (Source: FBR, 2003)
In July and August, the Kler Lwe Htoo Free Burma Rangers relief team brought supplies, medical care and encouragement to IDPs in Ler Doh Township of Naunglaybin District, Karen State. The team treated over 800 patients, distributed medicine, emergency cash, food, clothing, bibles, hymnals, and educational materials such as cassette players with educational tapes. (Source: FBR, 2003)
On 21 February 2003, a combined SPDC and DKBA force attacked the villagers at Ti Baw Plaw, burning down villagers' field huts and cow fences. This attack disrupted the feeding of the cows and bulls during the difficult rainy season. (Source: FBR, 2003)
On 10 June 2003, Major Shwe Win from BA LIB 703, Column 2 and DKBA officer Pah Daw Bo ordered villagers from Htee-tha-blu-hta and Si-pah-Day Village who are cultivating for their livelihood close to the foot of mountain to leave from their farms and farm-huts within 3 days. They claimed that it was an area occupied by KNLA. All of the villagers were required to leave and if anyone was found they would be shot on the spot. (Source: Department of Information, KNU, 2003)
From 11 June 2003 to 14 June
2003, DKBA troops, led by Pa Daw Boe and the SPDC troops from LIB 702 Column 2,
ordered the villagers of Htee-tha-blu-hta and Si-pah-day villages to stop
working on their paddy fields and leave within 3 days. (KIC, 2003)
On 14 July, SPDC soldiers arrested approximately 130 people, including political activists, who were attempting to flee to Thailand. The arrests occurred along a temporary road between Myawaddy and Vallay Kee in Karen State. (Source: “30 Arrested Near Border,” Irrawaddy, 17 July 2003)
“In a major offensive on 17 October 2003, Myanmar government forces have taken an ethnic Karen stronghold near the border with Thailand, leaving about 1,500 people homeless and in hiding, observers in northern Thailand said Friday. The offensive against the 7th Brigade headquarters of the Karen National Liberation Army began last month in Pa-an district of Karen State, opposite the Thai town of Mae Sot, a Western relief worker said on condition of anonymity.” (Source: Associated Press Worldstream, “Myanmar troops take Karen rebel base, hundreds displaced,” 17 October 2003)
On 9 April 2003, SPDC troop Division 66, LIB 6, led by Commander Aung Kyaw, ordered Pgo Ler villagers to relocate to Bler Per village. He threatened that those who refused would be dealt with seriously by the military. (Source: KORD, 2003)
Beginning on 30 December 2003, troops from the SPDC LIB 568, LIB 512, LIB 18 and IB 3, under military command 2 and 3, LID 55 launched their military operation in Na-yo-hta village tract, Lu-thaw Township. As a result, villagers in the southern part of Na-yo-hta village tract fled into the jungle and were still hiding there at the time of this report. The number of families and persons from each village who fled were:
(1) Keh-kho-mu-doe village, 71 families, 440 persons;
(2) Kho-lay village, 25 families, 180 persons;
(3) Bler-lu village, 17 families, 120 persons;
(4) Ka-leh-lor village, 30 families, 229 persons;
(5) Thay-pa-hti village and Ma-mee village, 35 families, 230 persons;
(6) Lay-wah village, 21 families, 125 persons;
(7) Kler-thoo village, 33 families, 237 persons;
(8) Poe-khee-thoo village, 24 families, 166 persons;
(9) He-po village, 17 families, 83 persons; and
(10) Saw Mu Plaw village tract, 4 families, 23 persons.
The total number of families and villagers who fled was 277 families and 1,833 persons.
Due to the activities of the SPDC troops, villagers in Kaw-lu-doe village tract also had to flee into the jungle. The villages evacuated were Nu-thoo-hta, Nu-thoo-khee-ploywa-mu-do, Thway-doe, Lay-baw-mu, Kya-la-doe, Kler-khee and Htee-ta-kay-hta villages. The total number of fleeing villagers was estimated at more than 1,000 persons. (KNU Headquarters, 21 January 2004)
On 30 December 2003, in Muthraw (Papun) District, Karen State, the Burmese Army LIB 568 attacked the village of Ka Lae Lo, chased the villagers out, looted their homes, burned 2 rice barns and destroyed 2 more. Two villagers were tortured. The attacking battalion was divided into 2 columns, #1 commanded by Thaing Shwey and #2 commanded by Aung Mya Htoo. LIB 568 was assisted by Saw Kyu Kyu and Saw Paw Lu and 10-15 men of the break away Karenni factions - Kayin Solidarity Organization (KSO) and Karenni National Peoples Liberation Front (KNPLF). After attacking Ka Lae Lo, LIB 568 chased the villagers of Lay Wah, Thay Ba Htee and Mar Mee into the jungle. These people along with the villagers of Ka Lae Lo number 557 persons and have fled south deeper into Muthraw district, Karen State, within a day's walk of Naw Yo Hta village. One woman gave birth as the people fled, 1 woman gave birth today on 7 Janurary 2004, and there were 4 more expectant mothers. All of these IDPs were living in hiding high in the mountains with only the food they escaped with. More Karen IDPs were expected to arrive in this area shortly after. (Source: FBR, 2004)
According to the Free Burma Rangers, there are now over 1,000 new Karen and Karenni IDPs who are fleeing attacks by the Burmese Army and undergoing forced relocation. These IDPs are hiding in the jungle in the northern area of Muthraw district, Karen state, northeast of the village of Naw Yo Hta. Many are sick and for all of these IDPs, food is running out. (Source: FBR, 2004)
On 17 December 2003, at 1:20 pm, SPDC troops guarding the bulldozer for road construction, clashed with the KNLA troops at Mu-Day between Klay-Soe-Khee and Kaw-Thay-Doe village, where an SPDC bulldozer was destroyed and a captain, a sergeant, a private and a driver were wounded. As a result, on 18 December 2003, the SPDC troops forcibly relocated Klay-Soe-Khee village. (Source: Department of Information, KNU, 2003)
On 19 December 2003, at 4:45 pm, troops from SPDC IB 92 burned down 2 houses belonging to Saw Maw Ka and Saw Way Traw of Klay-Soe-Khee village. On that day, at 4:00 pm, the SPDC troops operating nearby burned down the village of Maw-Tu-Doe. (Source: KNU, 27 December 2003)
On 22 December 2003, SPDC Tactical Command 551, under LID 55, moved into many areas in Tan-Ta-Bin Township. In Maw-Tu-Doe village the SPDC troops burned down 9 houses, 1 of which belonged to Saw Ka Ma and was worth about 2,500,000 kyat. These troops also burned down Klay Soe Khee village, where the house of Saw Way Traw was worth about 300,000 kyat and the house of Saw Maw Ka was worth about 180,000 kyat. (Source: KNU, 27 December 2003)
On 23 December 2003, The SPDC troops forced Klay-Soe-Khee villagers to relocate within a day and, as a result, villagers’ domestic animals and items left behind were looted and destroyed by the SPDC troops. The SPDC troops did not allow the villagers to come back and take any of them. (Source: KNU, 27 December 2003)
13.5 Situation in Karenni State
The Burmese Border Consortium reported that the total IDP population in Karenni State stood at 56,850 in 2003. Fifty thousand of these IDPs were reportedly in hiding or in temporary settlements, while the remaining 6,850 are living in SPDC-controlled relocation sites. In 2003, this unfortunate situation worsened dramatically. In December, the SPDC began to systematically relocate all villagers in Southern Karenni State to SPDC-designated relocation sites such as Mahntahlay, near Pasaung (on the west bank of the Salween river), greatly increasing the number of Karenni IDPs.
Moreover, much of Southern Karenni State has now been made a free-fire zone. In December 2003, 1,000 new SPDC soldiers from Naunglaybin District, Karen State were reassigned to Southern Karenni State in order to oversee and enforce this large-scale forced relocation. According to many Karenni, the SPDC Army may be taking advantage of the verbal KNU- SPDC ceasefire negotiated in late 2003 to concentrate their forces against the Karenni people. Due to the intense militarization of the area at present, it is very difficult to estimate the size of the IDP population in Karenni State with any certainty, but it is surely in the tens of thousands. The Burmese Army patrols the area frequently, which prevents relief teams from accessing Karenni IDPs.
As of 2003, there were three types of displacement in Karenni State: conflict-induced; development-induced; and displacement arising as a result of resource scarcity. Development-induced displacement in Karenni State during 2003 included forced relocation of villagers to make way for a new road linking a Wolfram mine (near the Karenni-Karen border) to Mawchi. The Burmese Army was clearing out all villagers in the road’s path and has laid mines to keep people from returning. (Source: FBR, 2004)
Conflict-induced displacement exists in Karenni State as a result of the Karenni National Progressive Party’s (KNPP) efforts to secede from Burma. Burma’s military government has strongly resisted KNPP’s succession efforts and, since the 1960s, has used displacement as a tool to secure areas and cut off supplies and information from KNPP forces. This displacement has been accompanied by the confiscation of land and natural resources by the military, greatly impoverishing local communities.
The successive military regimes of Burma have carried out large scale forced relocation programs three times in Karenni State. The first large scale relocation was under the BSPP, occurring predominately in No.2 District of Karenni State, where an estimated 50 villages were burnt down and tens of thousands of villagers became homeless. The second Karenni relocation took place under the SLORC, who forcibly relocated many villages in No.3 District of Karenni State, resulting in the death of about 500 villagers from malaria and diarrhea. Then, in 1996, the military government once again carried out its forced relocation program across the Karenni area. A forced relocation order with a deadline of 7 July 1996 was first given to villagers living between the two major rivers in Karenni State, the Salween and the Pon. According to the order, the villagers were required to vacate in seven days and go to SPDC-designated forced relocation sites. The villagers were warned that seven days after the order, the area would be declared a free-fire zone, and anyone found in the area would be considered a rebel and shot dead on sight.
In 2000, the SPDC permitted many Karenni people who had been living in forced relocation sites since 1996 to return to their own villages. The villagers however, were ordered to report to the nearest SPDC outpost at least once a week. As of 2002, these villagers were not allowed to stay overnight at their farms, and have been required to possess 20 kyat travel passes, allowing them day travel to their farms. Villagers are prohibited from carrying military uniforms or traditional guns used for hunting. The sale of medicine, batteries and rice is restricted, as is travel. Villagers are only allowed to travel between villages twice a week- on Tuesdays and Thursdays. While in transit, National ID cards are checked, and villagers are required to pay 20 kyat at every checkpoint. This situation remained fairly constant throughout much of 2003, until December when the SPDC began its newest large-scale forced relocation campaign in Karenni State. Predicted to last three months by the SPDC, this relocation project aims to force every villager in Southern Karenni State into government controlled relocation sites.
Situation in Karenni State Relocation Sites
Relocation sites have been scattered throughout Karenni State at Shadaw, Ywathit, Mawchi, Pah Saung, Baw La Keh, Kay Lia, Mar Kraw She, Tee Po Kloh and Nwa La Bo. As more villages were relocated, more sites such as Mahntahlay relocation site were created. All are under complete control of the SPDC Army, since they are usually located adjacent to army bases. Although living in the jungle has always been fraught with security problems and food scarcity, some people still remain there. However, many have relented and moved to one of the numerous government relocation sites.
Conditions at the relocation sites are extremely basic, remaining only slightly better than the IDP’s situation in hiding. International relief organizations have no access to the relocation sites in Karenni State. Villagers in relocation sites often lack proper shelters, pure drinking water, food and medicine, which contribute to many deaths. Approximately 1,000 villagers in No.1 District alone have died in both forced relocation sites and IDP hideouts. At each of the large sites, there is evidence of an intention to provide health care to IDPs, either at a health facility inside the site or at a nearby health centre. In practice, however, facilities are woefully under-supplied. At some sites, such as Htee Poh Kloh and Mar Kraw Shay, IDPs reported there were no health facilities at all. The villagers also face SPDC demands for forced labor. A certain number of villagers have to go to the nearest SPDC Army base everyday where they are forced to offer free labor to perform tasks such as digging trenches, making fences, fetching water and collecting firewood. Women and children are also made to do forced labor.
Officially, the villagers are not allowed to go out of the relocation sites to farm. Recently, villagers from some sites have been allowed to farm outside the sites, but they must return at the end of the day. Troops are reportedly lax in securing the relocation site perimeters realizing that villagers have no choice but to forage for food outside the camps. The villagers often flee relocation sites on the pretense of searching for food nearby, when, in fact, they leave for long periods of time to go into hiding in the jungle, usually near their old villages. The continual flight of relocation site residents has been ongoing since the sites were first established and many villagers report that the current population of the relocation sites is much less than what they were initially. (Source: NCGUB & KNAHR, 2002)
Situation of Karenni IDPs in Hiding
A large number of villagers who have been ordered to leave their villages since 1996 remain displaced outside relocation sites. In the first few months following the order to relocate in 1996 there were at least 13,537 IDPs living in hiding. These villagers find their lives are in great danger as they are constantly being hunted by SPDC troops. While in hiding IDPs have no access to education or healthcare. IDPs on the run fall ill frequently due to lack of proper shelter and often die from treatable diseases. The most common illnesses amongst IDPs are malaria, diarrhea and skin infections.
IDPs in hiding are constantly on the move, particularly when SPDC troops approach their hideouts. Villagers have to travel in all kinds of weather, sleep on the ground, eat what they find in the jungle and drink bacteria-ridden water. Most IDPs in hiding are not able to farm, so food is very scarce causing numerous IDPs to die from starvation (source: CSW, November 2000). For a time after they flee, IDPs in hiding often live off rice they are able to take with them, but these food stores do not last long. Many IDPs in hiding cannot build fires at night in some places due to the proximity of the SPDC Army. Because nighttime temperatures are often at or near freezing in their hiding places, a night without fire is a severe hardship (source: FBR, 2004).
Forced Relocation in Karenni State - Partial List of Incidents for 2003
Beginning on 10 December 2003, the Burmese Army forced the villagers of No.2 and No.3 Townships of District 2, Karenni State to relocate along the Mawchi- Toungoo road to porter for the Burmese Army as well as to build a new army camp 1 mile west of Mawchi at Kaw Ku. The Karenni have reported that the Burmese Army is building a new road from Mawchi south east to Htee Lay Kee in No.1 Township of No.2 district to serve the new Wolfram mine there. Also starting the same date, 80 Karenni women and 40 Karenni men were forced to carry supplies for the Burmese Army from Mawchi to the Karen-Karenni border. The Burmese Army has also brought 1,000 new soldiers up from the Kaukkyi area (Naunglebin District, Karen State), to reinforce these operations. The Karenni say the Burmese Army is taking advantage of the Karen unofficial ceasefire to concentrate their forces against the Karenni. (Source: FBR, 2003)
On 13 December 2003, a Karenni man, Saw Day Khwa, was killed and his daughter (age 14) badly wounded, when they stepped on a mine laid by the SPDC to keep relocated villagers away from their original villages. The father and daughter were forcibly removed from their hometown, Lo Ka Lo village, earlier in 2003. The Burmese Army unit that placed this mine was LIB 568, commanded by Thin Shwee Oo. (Source: FBR, 2004)
On 26 December 2003, the 55th Division of the Burmese Army at Mawchi ordered all Karenni villagers north and south of the Mawchi road to relocate to Mahntahlay near Pasaung (on the west bank of the Salween river), or be shot on site. This ordered applied to 50 villages in 3 different townships. The order stated that, "If any fail to come in ten days, they will be considered rebels and will be shot on sight." Before the 10 days were up, 100 troops of the 55th Division, Burmese Army arrived at Pha Ho village to the east of Nat Taung Mountain, and on 29 December, the army chased the villagers out of their homes, shooting at them with machine guns and mortar. However, there were no reported deaths. The largest concentration of IDPs fled to Northern Muthraw district, in neighboring Karen State, where 995 Karenni IDPs and 678 Karen IDPs are in hiding together. Their food and medicine has now run out. The Burmese army has laid land mines around their original villages to prevent the villagers from returning. The area of and surrounding their homes villages is now a free fire zone, so all villagers still in the area have been declared enemies and will now be shot on site. The village headmen were told that within 3 months all Karenni villagers would be cleared out of district 2, and placed in the relocation site. (Source: FBR, 2004)
Of the estimated 1,000 Karenni IDPs who fled to Muthraw District, Karen State, in December 2003, 831 villagers are accounted for. These people were from the following villages in Karenni State:
(1) Phahoe village, 188 persons;
(2) Kawaw Jo village, 45 persons;
(3) Behkee, 27 persons;
(4) Yu Hae daw Ko village, 175 persons;
(5) Ka Ya Kee village, 168 persons;
(6) Kaw Ka Daw Ko village, 65 persons; and
(7) NU Thu Kee, 163 persons.
These 831 Karenni IDPs are still hiding in Northern Muthraw District, Karen State. The Burmese Army patrols and fires on any civilians it sees in this area. (Source: FBR, 2004)
13.6 Situation in Mon State
“Almost all the [Mon] displaced persons are hungry and in serious poverty.”
(Source: “No Land to Farm,” The Mon Forum, HURFOM, 20 September 2003)
In 2003, the scale and intensity of the IDP problem in Mon State paled in comparison to that of neighboring Karen State. However, the number of IDPs in Mon State did continue to rise over the year, predominately due to ethnic conflict. The Mon Relief and Development Committee (MRDC), a Mon relief organization based on the Thai-Burma border, reported in 2003 that there were approximately 40,000 displaced villagers in Mon territory (source: “Population Displacement is Humanitarian Crisis in Burma,” The Mon Forum, HURFOM, May 2003). Five thousand of these IDPs currently reside in SPDC controlled relocation sites, while others are in hiding (source: “Mon Resettlement Site Swells to More Than 5000 IDPs,” Kao Wao, 7 July 2004). The Human Rights Foundation of Monland reported that most IDPs in 2003 came from Ye Township (source: “No Land to Farm,” The Mon Forum, HURFOM, 20 September 2003). The displacement in Ye Township was due to intense SPDC military operations against a splinter group of the ethnic Mon Army based in Southern Ye Township led by veteran Mon Army commanders. Three SPDC Army battalions were dispatched to the area in May and June who forbade all villagers from farming their land or leaving their village for any reason (source: The Mon Forum, HURFOM, July 2003). To avoid being accused of helping the Mon rebel army and undergoing torture, it was reported that “people [from Southern Ye Township] sneak out from their villages separately to avoid the SPDC’s eyes, then try to get to Tavoy Resettlement Site through the thick, dense jungle. These IDPs risk being tortured or shot dead by the BA if found escaping from their villages,” (source: “Mon Resettlement Sites Swells to More Than 5000 IDPs,” Kao Wao, 7 July 2004). Mon IDPs “are in a desperate situation, they flee their villages and many are victims of the conflict. Mon IDPs are forced to porter for the SPDC and they are rounded up to work on slave labor projects. They are suffering from extreme hardship" (source: “Displaced People beyond the Border,” Kao Wao, 11 July 2003).
Mon villagers also experienced development-induced displacement in 2003. The SPDC’s railroad project which aims to make the capital of Mon State the terminus for the Rangoon rail line caused forced relocation in the Moulmein area. The railway station itself will occupy about 200 acres and is to be built at the Myenegone cemetery in Moulmein. Up until the time of this report, the railway line ended at the terminal in Mottama, on the opposite bank of the Salween (Thanlwin) river. After the new road and rail bridge, which was under construction at the time of this report, across the river are opened, passengers will be able to ride all the way to Moulmein by train, without taking a ferry. This project caused thousands of homes in Mon State to be forcibly relocated without any government assistance. (Source: “Over 1,400 Families Relocated For New Railway Station,” Kao Wao News, IMNA 24 September 2003)
The military regime has a history of displacing Mon villagers for development projects. The single most common reason for flight in the early 1990’s was the construction of the railroad between Ye and Tavoy, which covered a distance of 160 kilometers. In late 1993, SLORC began rounding up villagers in Mon State as forced laborers to build the railroad. The use of forced labor on this project continued until at least 1998. Over this period of time, thousands of Mon, Karen, and Tavoyan villagers were forced to work on the railroad for up to two weeks per month without pay. Because villagers were unable to tend to their fields during the months of labor on the project, villagers lost the ability to sustain themselves and had no option but to flee their homes.
“The other major development project that affected the Mon was the gas pipeline that was to be built to carry natural gas from the Gulf of Martaban, across [Mon State] and into Thailand. The original route was to have taken the pipeline through Three Pagodas Pass, though a shorter land route coming out further south at Nat Ei Daung was finally agreed upon. In preparation for the pipeline, which would be vulnerable to attack by ethnic minority forces, Mon and Karen villages were forced to relocate, and in 1995, the SLORC created a new army command position, the Tenasserim Coastal Military Command, whose headquarters were in Tavoy. The increase in Tatmadaw soldiers in the area led to an immediate increase in the forced recruitment of civilians as porters and as laborers to build new army barracks in the region, and this contributed to refugee and IDP outflows from 1994 onwards.” (Source: “The Ethnic Minorities” & “The Mon,” HRW, September 1998)
Some reports indicate that forced relocation decreased after 1995 when the New Mon State Party (NMSP) made a cease-fire agreement with SLORC. However, continuing Mon resistance by the Mon Revolutionary Army (MRA) alongside the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) has ensured that much of Mon State has remained a war zone up until 2003. Several armed groups, including the SPDC Army, have been active in the so-called cease-fire zones of Mon State. Some Mon people argue that this has made the IDP situation in Mon State worse than before the cease-fire deal with the SPDC in 1995. (Source: Kao Wao, 1 November 2002)
In most cases, whenever forced relocation happens in rural Mon State, the commanders who order the villagers to leave their homes do not provide a resettlement site. Instead they tell the villagers that they can resettle anywhere but their former village. Sometimes after Mon villagers have been displaced they try to return to their original villages despite the dangers, to harvest cash crops such as betel-nut or to cultivate paddy in the fields. When the battalion that forced them to relocate is replaced with a more lenient battalion, IDPs are sometimes able to return to their original homes. When more brutal battalions arrive, they flee again. (Source: HURFOM, 2002)
The Mon people become IDPs not only because of armed fighting between the Burmese Army and ethnic armed groups, but also because of human rights violations, land confiscation and unemployment (source: “No Land to Farm,” The Mon Forum, HURFOM, 20 September 2003). Some villages are accused of being rebel bases, and villagers are suspected of being rebel-supporters. As a result, they are often forced to relocate. Even if the village is not forced to move, they suffer more than other villages from torture and killing by the SPDC, so many villagers flee in fear and live as IDPs (source: HURFOM, 2002).
Forced Relocation in Mon State - Partial List of Incidents for 2003
IDPs tortured by SPDC
On 17 March, 2 Mon IDPs from Kalokkani Refugee Camp, Naing Po Peik and Naing Niti were arrested in eastern Mon State by soldiers from LIB 258 led by Colonel Nyo Maing and Captain Minn Naung. The 2 IDPs were accused of having contact with Naing Pann Nyunt, (the leader of an armed Mon splinter group) and beaten with rifle butts and tortured for the whole night. (Source: “Refugees tortured by SPDC,” DVB, 21 March 2003)
Land confiscation in Ye Township for SPDC
In May 2003, the Burmese Army confiscated about 600 acres agriculture lands near a Mon village, Morkanin, in northern Ye Township in order to construct a base for Artillery Regiment No.317. The regiment commanders confiscated more land than they needed for the base. One villager, knowledgeable about the Burmese Army said, “Normally, to deploy a battalion or regiment, it needs only 300 acres of land maximum.” The land was owned by civilians and used as rubber and fruit gardens. “Like the previous confiscation, the army did not pay compensation. Without informing us, they just came and took the land,” said local villagers. The newly deployed AR No.317 is under the command of Artillery Division No.606. The SPDC regime has a plan to deploy about 10 artillery regiments in Mon State and currently they have deployed about 9 regiments already. Many families remained in the villages without land, work or employment. (Source: The Mon Forum, HURFOM, 31 May 2003)
Over 1,400 families relocated for new railway station
In September 2003, residents in 2 wards in the Mon state capital of Moulmein were ordered to abandon their houses for a new railroad project. Over 1,400 houses in Myenegone and Hlaing wards have already been destroyed by order of the SPDC. Photos of houses being destroyed were taken on 21 September by ward authorities. The owners had to pay 1,500 kyat to get a photo taken.
Authorities compensated those whose houses are being relocated, but the price varies from a thousand kyat per square foot for brick houses to 200 kyat for wooden houses and 140 kyat for thatched roof houses. In return, local residents will be granted land available for housing in Phetkhin and NganTe wards of the city. They will have to buy land in these new areas. Prices are not yet known. The new sites will be on lots approximately 80 by 60 feet per household. The authorities will resettle those who can afford to build expensive brick houses along the main road, while those who can only afford wooden or thatch roofed houses, will be given land farther away from the main streets. (Source: “Over 1,400 Families Relocated for New Railway Station,” Kao Wao & IMNA, 24 September 2003)
Beautification project in Moulmein
On 20 September 2003, it was reported that in Moulmein city, the Moulmein City Development Committee decided to check the houses in the city. If the Committee felt that a house was not appropriate for the city, the house owners had to rebuild it. The Committee sent a direction letter to each Ya Ya Ka (Village Peace and Development Council) office to take action on this decision. The letter stated that if a house does not have 2 floors with a roof or with iron sheeting, it must be rebuilt. The people were ordered to rebuild their houses within 6 months. There were some people who were able to rebuild their houses but there were some people who could not because they had no money. Many people believed that the authorities would force people to move out if they could not rebuild their houses in the given time. (Source: HRDU, 2003)
50 families flee to Halockhanee refugee camp
On 30 September 2003, it was reported that over 50 families from Yebyu and southern Ye Township had recently arrived at Halockhanee refugee camp inside Burma, on the Thai border. The villagers were fleeing human rights abuses by the SPDC army. (Source: “Fighting Continues in Southern Ye,” Kao Wao and IMNA, 30 September 2003)
13.7 Situation in Shan State
“Since March 1996, the Burmese military regime has forcibly relocated over 1,400 villages throughout Central Shan State. Over 300,000 people have been ordered to move at gunpoint.”
(Source: “Shan Refugees: Dispelling the Myths,” SWAN, September 2003)
Starting in 1996 the SPDC has engineered forced relocation in Shan State on a scale so massive that many observers conclude that it is intended to permanently change the ethnic composition of the region. In 2003, these campaigns intensified, worsening the plight of the Shan State IDP population, which currently stands at approximately 275,000 according to the Burmese Border Consortium. 200,000 are reportedly in relocation sites, while the remaining 75,000 are in hiding. Since March 2003, the SPDC has tightened security in Shan areas, resulting in closer government monitoring of all travelers. Despite their increasingly restricted movement, the number of people crossing into Thailand from Shan State has risen from an average of 1,000 per month from January to March 2003 to 1,300 people per month after a ban on travel was announced in March. This increase in IDPs fleeing Shan State suggests that conditions for IDPs there have greatly deteriorated.
The Free Burma Rangers conducted a relief mission to southeastern Shan State in March 2003 (for the full report see www.dictatorwatch.org). The relief team documented cases of rape, torture, and forced labor inflicted upon IDPs. Such circumstances have forced IDPs to move two or three times in an attempt to improve their situation (source: Running the Gauntlet: The Impact of Internal Displacement in Southern Shan State, IRC, USAID, Chulalongkorn University, December 2003). However, those who lived as IDPs in Shan State and later fled to Thailand have consistently reported that ongoing village relocations and forced labour in central Shan State was their main reason for fleeing (source: BBC Six-Month Report, BBC, July - December 2003).
Forced relocation in Shan State often takes place in the name of crop substitution and drug eradication programs. In 1996 the SLORC delineated a huge area of Central Shan State, and ordered the forced relocation and destruction of every village in the region. The villagers were forced to move into sites directly under military control. By 1998, over 1,400 villages in 12 townships had been forcibly relocated and destroyed, displacing a population of at least 300,000 people. (Source: Charting the Exodus from Shan State: Patterns of Shan Refugee flow into Northern Chiang Mai Province of Thailand 1997-2002, SHRF, May 2003)
A number of Shan ethnic organizations including the Shan Human Rights Foundation believe the regime’s true motive in forcibly relocating large numbers of Shan State villagers is the “Burmanization” of the multi-ethnic Shan State population. Indicative of this SPDC campaign to suppress and ‘Burmanize’ Shan people was Khin Nyunt’s January 2002 response to the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) investigation into the alleged killing of villagers in Kengtung. Khin Nyunt, who was Secretary One of the SPDC at the time, casually stated to the ILO that "there were only a few villages in the area [of Kaeng Tawng],” when in fact these villages were relocation sites to which 50-60 formerly thriving villages were forced to move in 1996. Khin Nyunt also denied the existence of several victims because their villages "did not exist" (they had been relocated). Khin Nyunt further corrected SHRF’s use of one village’s Shan name, referring to it by a Burmese name instead. This village is in one of the areas where the military regime is now relocating Burmans. In response to Khin Nyunt’s statements, SHRF notes that, "the intent of the SPDC to Burmanize the region, erase the Shan history and identity, and its own crimes in the process, is thus frighteningly apparent." (Source: SHRF Monthly Report, SHRF, March 2002)
Damming the Salween
SPDC plans to build three dams on the Salween River progressed in 2003. It is estimated that the dams will “affect 10 million people representing 13 ethnic groups living along the river," and “thousands of people have already been displaced in preparation for the construction,” (source: BBC Six-Month Report, BBC, July - December 2003). Salween Watch, a Chiang Mai-based environmental organization estimates that over 300,000 Shan and other ethnic people have already been forced to relocate from central Shan State to make way for the Tasang dam (source: Samabuddhi, Kultida, "Salween is Home to New Dam Row," 9 April 2003). The dam projects have already attracted the attention of environmentalists and human rights activists because of expected environmental destruction and large scale forced relocation. Construction of the first dam will begin in 2007 near Tasang in Shan State. The other two dams will be built on the Thai Burma border, in the Mae Sariang District of Mae Hong Son province. The Thai government foresees electricity being distributed by 2012 (source: “PM Backs Damming of Saloon,” The Nation, 14 March 2003).
Forced Relocation in Shan State - Partial List of Incidents for 2003
A village forced to move in Murng-Pan
In early 2003, villagers of Wan Mai Tin Loi village in Murng-Pan Township, were ordered to move by the SPDC LIB 332. At the end of 2002, SPDC troops from LIB 332, led by Commander Htun Myint, stationed at Loi Waw Ma Hill in Murng-Pan Township, summoned the village leaders of Wan Mai Tin Loi village to a meeting at the military camp. He told then they must relocate their village in early 2003 in order to allow more SPDC troops to be deployed in the area. Since then, the villagers have left the village little by little in different directions and have become internally displaced. Since April 2003, the SPDC troops have started to build a new military stronghold at the relocated village and people in the area are being used for the construction work. (Source: SHRF Monthly Report, SHRF, July 2003)
Land seized for ‘Wa’ settlers in Murng-Ton
In January 2003, on the orders of local SPDC military authorities, members of United Wa State Army (UWSA) ceasefire group seized land from local villagers in Murng Haang village tract, Murng-Ton Township, for a group of Wa settlers who they had relocated from northeastern Shan State. The Wa were resettled at an old village, Nam Hoo, northeast of Murng Haang village. In allotting land for cultivation to the Wa settlers, the UWSA also seized some land, including rice fields, vegetable gardens and woodland, from the local villagers, on the orders of the commander of IB 65 of the SPDC.
When the owners of the confiscated land tried to file a complaint with the SPDC township authorities in Murng-Ton town in order to get back their land, they were told that the local SPDC had given the land to the ‘Wa’ only because they were ordered by their superiors and no one could do anything about it. Some of the villagers who lost almost all of their land on which they had to depend for their livelihood were shocked, but there was nothing they could do, except to walk out of the SPDC township office, crying. (Source: “Land Seized for ‘Wa’ Settlers in Murng-Ton,” SHRF Monthly Report, SHRF, May 2003)
Land and property confiscation in Kun-Hing
In January 2003, the land and property of a villager was confiscated and 15 village leaders were arrested, tortured and detained for 6 days by SPDC troops of IB 246 in Kun-Hing Township. Following a skirmish in Ka Li village in Ka Li village tract, Kun-Hing Township, with an unknown armed group in the evening of 10 January 2003, in which 1 SPDC soldier was killed, SPDC troops from IB 246 suspected Shan soldiers to be the killers and arrested 15 villagers of Ka Li, including the headman, Lung Kaang Nyo (age 51).
Lung Hom, a well-to-do villager of Ka Li who was also to be arrested, was not at home at the time of the SPDC troops’ arrival. So the troops confiscated his property, including a medium-sized tractor, 2 rice mills, 2 small-sized tractors, 27 tons of lumber and a concrete house with a compound.
The 15 villagers were detained in a jail at a military camp and interrogated for 6 days and 5 nights, during which they were beaten and tortured by SPDC troops. Finally money was extorted for their release. The Ka Li village headman had to pay 100,000 kyat and the 14 others had to pay 50,000 kyat to be released. Lung Kaang Nyo, the Ka Li village headman, was so severely beaten during his detention that his eyes were black and painful until several weeks after his release. (SHRF Monthly Report, SHRF, May 2003)
Residents advised to move from Tasarng dam area
In February 2003, villagers were advised to relocate from the Tasarng Dam area. Bangkok-based MDX and Burma's Ministry of Energy signed an agreement on 20 December to build the Tasarng Dam, located between Mongton and Mongpan Townships of Shan State. As excavations by foreign firms on both sides of the projected dam site continue, some Burmese officers counseled a preemptive departure of local residents in the vicinity. One militia leader, told villagers "If you continue to stay, you will be forced to work [to construct the dam] with little or no pay," he said. "And in the end, after the dam is finished, you will still be thrown out of your homes anyway. You should therefore move while you still have time." Rangoon had already forcibly relocated 1,500 villages in the area, but some 20 villages still remain, the largest one being Wan Sala with 57 households. In 3 other villages in the immediate neighborhood of the dam site: Tanghseng, Palao and Hsophsim, they are only about 10 households each. (Source: “Residents advised to move from Tasarng Dam Area,” SHAN, 14 February 2003)
Fifteen thousand Shan have been displaced from homes north of Salween
In March 2003, a relief mission into South Eastern Shan State reported that in areas north of the Salween River, most Shans had been relocated to Mong Pan and Mong Ken Tong (a forced relocation site), leaving behind Lahu, Lisu, and Pa-O villagers who the SPDC forced to produce opium. The team estimated that over 15,000 Shan have been displaced from this area. (Source: “Relief Mission, Mine Victim And Additional Analysis of Burma,” Dictator Watch, 23 June 2003)
Fifty families forced from their homes
In March 2003, villagers on islets of the Parng, a tributary of the Salween, were ordered to move out, leaving some 50 families homeless, according to an aid worker. (Source: “Burmese Refugee on the Rise: Unfortunately Thailand Does Not Recognize Shans as Refugees,” SHAN, 13 May 2003)
UWSA forcibly occupies 42 houses and paddy lands
On 5 March 2003, UWSA 171 forcibly occupied 42 houses and paddy lands (1000 EK) at Nam
Yoom village, Mongton Township. The villagers requested payment for the houses and paddy lands. The UWSA paid only 100,000 baht for all the houses and paddy lands. Within the last year, Khin Nyunt sold the Mongton areas to the UWSA for 2 million US dollars. None of the villagers were satisfied with that, but they could not do anything to the UWSA. Most of the villagers fled to Mongton and Mong Ssat areas because the Wa Army, who had begun living in the village, did not allow them to stay unless they entered the UWSA. Nam Yoom village is near the Thai-Burma border and it is a good place to trade, especially drugs, so the UWSA wanted very much to have that village under their control.
On 30 April 2003, the Burmese Army and Wa Army combined and conducted a military operation in the area. They entered Lahu and Shan villages and killed 7 people, 1 of which was a 5-year-old child. The troops cut the child into 2 parts, and then threw her body away. They also cut her mother's neck, killing her. The villagers became very afraid and ran away. There are a total of 17 families from 1 Lahu village who are now IDPs. The relief team provided medicine and other supplies. (Source: Lahu Free Burma Rangers Relief Mission – Eastern Shan State, FBR, 7 June 2003)
Repeated relocation and land confiscation in Murng-Nai
On 19 March, displaced villagers who were forcibly relocated in 1996 and were permitted to return in 2002, were again forced to move and their property confiscated by SPDC troops at military training school in Kaeng Tawng area in Murng-Nai township.
Villagers of Nam Tum Nur village in Nawng Hee village tract, Murng-Nai Township, were forcibly relocated to Wan Nawng village in Ton Hoong village tract in 1996 by the then SLORC troops. In July 2002, the villagers were told by the SPDC in the area that they could return to their original village. About 20 households returned. Since their original houses were all ruined, they built small bamboo shelters. As their new crops and vegetables grew to eatable sizes, the SPDC troops from the military training school near the village often came and stole them.
On 19 March 2003, the villagers of Nam Tum Nur village were ordered to relocate back to Wan Nawng village relocation site by the training school authorities on the grounds that the village was too close to the school and it would be confiscated for the expansion of the training ground. (Source: SHRF Monthly Report, SHRF, October 2003)
NaKawngMu villagers fled to Mong Hsat, Mongton and Tachilek
On 18 May 2003, the Shan State Army (SSA) shot at the Burmese Army based in Mong Ham, Mongton area. Then, the Burmese Army accused the SSA and villagers of staying together in NaKawngMu village. After the accusation, the Burmese Army shot at NaKawngMu village with a MM-81 mortar. Some houses were destroyed and 2 children (1 girl about 8 years old and 1 boy about 14 years old) were hit by the shots and died. Some other villagers were injured. Some villagers fled to Mong Hsat, Mongton and Tachilek. Now, the UWSA are living in NaKawngMu village. (Source: Lahu Free Burma Rangers Relief Mission – Eastern Shan State, FBR, 7 June 2003)
Arrest, torture, detention, extortion and forced relocation in Murng-Ton
On 20 May 2003, Zin-Ta, the village headman of Paang Keng village in Murng-Ton Township was arrested and the village was forced to relocate by the SPDC troops from IB 225. Following the arrest of the village headman, in the afternoon, a column of about 60-70 SPDC troops from IB 65, led by commander Hla Myint, came to Paang Keng village and asked to meet the headman, and the villagers told them that the headman was taken away by IB 225 5:00 that morning. IB 225 denied having arrested the headman.
Commander Hla Myint accused Paang Keng village of being one of the villages supporting the Shan resistance forces, and ordered the villagers to move away before 23 May 2003. From the afternoon of that day onwards, anyone found in the village would be shot on sight, said the order. (Source: SHRF Monthly Report, SHRF, July 2003)
Two pregnant women shot dead during forced relocation in Murng-Sart
On 25 May 2003, 2 Shan villages in Murng Kok village tract, Murng-Sart township, were fired at and burnt down by SPDC troops from IB221, killing 2 pregnant women in the process. On the day of the incident, 60-70 SPDC troops from IB 221 separated into 2 groups and came to Kho Pen and Ho Murng village. They shouted at the villagers to leave immediately, firing their guns randomly at the houses. 2 pregnant women in Kho Pen village were hit and killed before they could leave their houses.
The troops burnt all 20 houses in Kho Pen village and 29 houses in Ho Murng village. Then they picked 17 female villagers, accused them of being related to Shan soldiers and detained them at the military camp at Murng Kok village. Two of the women were only 15 and 16 years old. Each of these women was raped by several soldiers every night from 25 to 28 May 2003. Reportedly, the SPDC troops burnt the villages because of the bomb blast between the 2 villages on 21 May 2003, which had wounded 2-3 SPDC troops. The SPDC troops accused the villagers of siding with the Shan soldiers and of deliberately rigging the bomb to harm them. (Source: SHRF Monthly Report, SHRF, July 2003)
Four hundred IDPs relocate near Shan rebel stronghold
During October 2003, more than 400 Shan IDPs opposite Chiangmai were authorized by Thai authorities to relocate near another Shan rebel stronghold according to a local social worker who just returned from a Shan border base. The relief worker said all 84 people, including children, taking refuge near Loimon base, opposite the village of Laktaeng in Wianghaeng district, and another 174 near Loikham base, opposite the village of Kaenoi in Chiangdao district, would join the 182 people who are already at Loilam, another Shan State Army base opposite Wianghaeng district. The base is under the command of Maj Khieofah. "The good news is that we will be allowed to deliver relief assistance to this new IDP camp which is 3 km inside Shan State, after all have been transferred there," she added. (Source: “IDPs allowed to Regroup,” SHAN, 11 October 2003)
13.8 Situation in Tenasserim Division
As in previous years, residents of Tenasserim Division experienced rampant forced relocation in 2003. The Burmese Border Consortium reported that there are approximately 64,894 IDPs currently in Tenasserim Division, 58,000 of which are now living in 1 of 39 government-controlled relocation sites. 6,596 IDPs are reportedly living in hiding. As of December 2003, 139 villages have been destroyed by the SPDC in Tenasserim Division. (Source: Six-Month Report, BBC, July-December 2003)
The causes of internal
displacement in Tenasserim Division this year included the SPDC’s continuing "Four
Cuts" Campaign. Throughout the year the Burma Army swept the Thai-Burma
border area in Tenasserim Division in an attempt to locate and uproot villagers
that may be supporting ethnic rebel armies with information or supplies. In one
instance, villagers from the Ye Phyu area in Tenasserim Division fled to Cheoh
Dide village during the early rainy season, after their farms were confiscated
by the Burmese Army. (Source: Displaced Beyond the Border, Kao Wao, 11
Also contributing to the IDP population in Tenasserim Division is small scale, armed fighting that has occurred in Yebyu Township (the Northern-most township in Tenasserim Division) since 1998, when former Mon soldiers from the Mon National Liberation Army (MNLA), resumed fighting against the military government to protest the constant use of forced labor in the area (source: HURFOM, 2003). In addition, numerous other villagers were made homeless as a result of the construction of new SPDC military bases. The presence of villagers currently living in an area is not factored into the SPDC’s decision of where to build new army bases. Therefore IDP flows in Tenasserim Division often stem from such military construction projects.
Forced Relocation in Tenasserim Division - Partial List of Incidents for 2003
Burmese troops inform refugees in Thailand they can come home to Burma
In January 2003, Burmese troops from No.1 Strategic Command, based in Kamoethway area, in the east of Tavoy, informed villagers in Thailand that they can come back to Burma beginning January 2003 and live in 3 villages which were destroyed by Burmese troops: Thukat, Kochaung or Kaymoechon village. Any family wishing to return can live in any of those villages, but they must inform the Burmese troops responsible for those areas. It is not known why the Burmese troops are allowing villagers in Thailand to go back to these 3 designated villages while the villagers who are in forced relocation sites inside Burma cannot.
Those 3 villages are located on the Burmese transportation route to Thai border. Some analysts say if there are no villagers there, it will be difficult for the Burmese troops to secure their new road to the Thai border and the new artillery battalion, which are under construction. If there are villages in the area when the KNLA attacks the new road, the SPDC can allege villagers collaborated with the KNLA. Therefore, the villagers would then try to stop future KNLA attacks. (Source: Monthly Human Rights Situation Report: Tenasserim Division, Mergui-Tavoy District Information Department, KNU, January 2003)
Eleven Tavoyan families were forced back to resettle in a deserted Karen village
On 8 January 2003, Thai authorities, cooperating with Burmese troops from IB 108, forcibly resettled 11 Tavoyan families from Ban Bongti, Kanchanaburi Province, Thailand to Kawsawwah village, Tenasserim Division (see map below). Kawsawwah was a Karen village deserted after a Burmese Army offensive. In early 2003, Burmese troops also forcibly relocated 20 Burmese families from Taung Thone Lon village and to Kawsawwah. The resettled villagers lack security, because the SPDC has designated the area a free fire zone. Local Thai authorities were reportedly planning to send back more villagers to Kasawwah, increasing the number of IDPs in Tenasseriom Division. (Source: Monthly Human Rights Situation Report: Tenasserim Division, Mergui-Tavoy District Information Department, KNU, January 2003)
On 1 March 2003, Burmese troops from LIB 265 burnt down 3 houses and 2 huts at a villagers' hiding site in the jungle, in Tenasserim Township, Mergui District. While on their operation to search and kill IDPs in the jungle a troop from LIB 265 was attacked by Karen soldiers. After the attack, the Burmese soldiers discovered a villagers' hiding site and burnt down the 3 houses and 2 huts. (Source: Monthly Human Rights Situation Report: Tenasserim Division, Mergui-Tavoy District Information Department, KNU, March 2003)
On 10 March 2003, LIB 17 ordered 49 households, totaling about 300 people, from Met Wah village, Mergui District, to move to the road beside their village within 5 days. Burmese troops gave them 30 x 30 feet per family to stay in relocation site. (Source: Monthly Human Rights Situation Report: Tenasserim Division, Mergui-Tavoy District Information Department, KNU, March 2003)
Villagers fled due to “the 50,000,000 kyat road” construction
In May 2003, it was reported that Karen villagers relocated to consolidated villages near the “50,000,000 kyat road” continued to flee to the jungle and remain as IDPs. The road project commenced over 5 years ago and the Burmese military authorities collected approximately 50,000,000 kyat (US$ 50,000) from Karen villagers in Township X, Tavoy District throughout the construction, which is the source of its name. The Karen villages in Township X have been viewed as a conquered area due to the history of ethnic insurgence. In accordance with the "4-Cuts" Campaign, the military has relocated these villagers into consolidated villages. While the ethnic resistance in the area has declined over the years, the Burma Army has continued to perpetrate human rights abuses. Some local human rights groups have reported that human rights abuses in the area have actually increased. Unable to endure the ongoing human rights abuses, some villagers have reportedly fled from the consolidated villagers. Those that do are reportedly pursued by the Burma Army troops, who are believed to shoot without warning as many believe the SPDC does not want the Karen villagers to share information about the perpetration of human rights with the outside world. Many of these villagers live as IDPs in the jungle and attempt to survive without access to humanitarian aid. The choice of villagers to live as IDPs in the jungle over living in a consolidated village is testament to the unlivable conditions in the latter. (Source: “Forced to Facilitate Their Own Oppression,” Dictator Watch, 21 May 2003)
On 3 September 2003, the SPDC army defense headquarters ordered the Coastal Region Military Regional Commander (CRMC) to search for a site to set up the headquarters of a tank and cavalry battalion. The order specified not to worry about whether the place was owned by anyone, if there was a village there or not. Currently the Burmese armies have a plan to set up 1 'tank and cavalry battalion' in each military division, which will include 5 companies per battalion. (Source: Monthly Human Rights Situation Report: Tenasserim Division, Mergui-Tavoy District Information Department, KNU, September 2003)
On 18 September 2003, Coastal Region Military Commander Brigadier Gen. Ohn Myint ordered all the military units under his command, LID 8/20/13 and No. 1/2/3 Strategy Command, to sweep IDP hiding sites along the border. The troops were ordered to destroy all paddy fields and capture any IDPs they found. (Source: Monthly Human Rights Situation Report: Tenasserim Division, Mergui-Tavoy District Information Department, KNU, September 2003)
On 26 September 2003, Coastal Region Military Command (CRMC) No.3 Strategic Commander Col. Kyaw Zwa decided to set up his frontline HQ at Kameik village 6 miles in the north of Myitta village, 35 miles in the east of Tavoy. To do this he forced all the Kameik villagers to move to the edge of Klerhpu village. According to 1 of the Klerhpu villagers, the Commander did not allow the people to take housing materials with them. The people had to collect bamboo from the nearby forest and build their new houses at the new site. (Source: Monthly Human Rights Situation Report: Tenasserim Division, Mergui-Tavoy District Information Department, KNU, October 2003)
On 12 October 2003, 30 men from SPDC's LIB 432, led by Maj. Htun Htun burnt down 2 houses belonging to 2 IDPs, Naw Na Moo and Saw Klishaw. These houses were located in Manorone, a relocated village about 35 miles southeast of Mergui town. When the soldiers left the village they brought Naw Aye Myint and her 2 children and Hpati Htun Thein with them and tied them up in Htee Nya Ou village monastery compound. (Source: Monthly Human Rights Situation Report: Tenasserim Division, Mergui-Tavoy District Information Department, KNU, October 2003)
13.9 Situation in Kachin State
It is certain that the Kachin people have undergone a significant amount of displacement during 2003. Yet, due to the lack of access to information from the area, the scale of the IDP problem in the area of Kachin State remains uncertain. Armed Kachin groups, such as the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) and the Kachin Democratic Army (KDA), actively fought for independence from Burma from the 1960s to the 1990s. Because these groups launched attacks against the Burmese Army for such an extended period of time, thousands of villagers were displaced. It is estimated that up to 100,000 villagers were forcibly relocated by the SPDC between 1960 and 1999 to facilitate the Burmese government’s counter-insurgency operations. (Source: "Kachin State," BERG, September 2000)
Although cease-fire arrangements were negotiated between the military regime and the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) and the Kachin Democratic Army (KDA), land confiscation and forced displacement continue. Cease-fires have enabled ethnic minority armies to keep their arms and territory, while also becoming rich through the mining of natural resources. (Source: "Kachin State," BERG, September 2000)
Moreover, the poverty now afflicting the Kachin as a result of the intense fighting between the SPDC and the Kachin armed ethnic groups from 1960 to the 1990s is undoubtedly severe and has led to significant rural displacement. All armies fighting in Kachin State have drawn on resources owned by villagers in the area. There have been reports of the SPDC confiscating land to grow crops for government troops. Without enough resources at home, many Kachin have been forced to move and work in the mining industry or in the service sector in urban areas of Kachin State in order to survive. (Source: "Kachin State," BERG, September 2000)
Interview with SPDC Official Ordered to Forcibly Relocate Residents of a Village in Mon State
Interview Date: 8 April 2003
Name: U Maung Oo (not real name)
Occupation: Police Officer
Address in Burma: Mon State
The cities and villages in Mon State are affected by the SPDC. The people who live around Thabyuzaya, Kyet Mayaw, and Paloo Kyoe feel really bad because of the SPDC's activities. Some people cannot produce the required amount of rice for the government at the end of the year. The SPDC confiscates their rice fields and livestock, so many people move to the border because cannot make their living anymore. Some people have to sell their valuable belongings to pay money instead of giving rice. Many farmers cannot pay the rice because of bad weather ruining their farms. If this happens the SPDC will come and confiscate their rice farms.
I will tell my personal experience. The military commander ordered me to relocate to XXXXX XXXX village, Mon State by 31 March 2003. I know the villagers really felt troubled. The police and soldiers went to every house in the village and threatened the villagers and ordered them to move. At first we did not know why we had to relocate them. Finally, I found out from the police that a western country was going to help the SPDC build a nuclear power plant in that area. I know that the military also planned to build to a military camp in that area and force the villagers to build it. (Source: HRDU, 2003)
Interview with a 27-Year-Old Rohingya Man from Central Maungdaw in Early 2004
“The eviction process started about two years ago. First they evicted 40 houses in [a village] near Maungdaw. Eighteen families protested and refused to dismantle their houses. They were arrested and sent to Buthidaung jail. They are still there. They detained mostly the head of the family but they also jailed some women, even one pregnant woman. She gave birth inside the jail. Eighteen people are still in jail about this case. After that, they evicted 15 houses in [another village], also near Maungdaw. Then they evicted 60 houses in my village. My house was among them. This happened one year ago . I did not receive any written order from the Nasaka, but the Nasaka called our Chairman and provided him with a list of houses with the name of each family head. The Chairman summoned all the people mentioned in the list. He ordered us to vacate the land and explained, ‘The land where your houses stand is registered as paddy land. So, you must leave.’ Nobody dared to protest after what happened in the other villages. I was given five days time to leave my house and dismantle it. We were not given any other place to go.” (Source: The Rohingya Minority: Fundamental Rights Denied, Amnesty International, May 2004)
(Map source: Six Month Report, BBC, July-December 2003)
Table of Contents Facts on Human Rights Violations in Burma 2003