KAREN FARMERS IN THE IRRAWADDY DELTA: Suffering under the SLORC

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KAREN FARMERS IN THE IRRAWADDY DELTA: Suffering under the SLORC

Published date:
Thursday, August 13, 1992

On August 5, 1992 two Karen boys from Kyone Pyaw Township, Irrawaddy Division, arrived in the Karen Liberated Area after fleeing their village in the Irrawaddy Delta. They described the SLORC 36 Regiment's arbitrary arrests of 20 Karen villagers, violations of villagers' right to earn their livelihoods, forced recruitment, and torture.

An Independent Report by the Karen Human Rights Group
Manerplaw, August 13, 1992

 

On August 5, 1992 two Karen boys from Kyone Pyaw Township, Irrawaddy Division, arrived in the Karen Liberated Area after fleeing their village in the Irrawaddy Delta. They gave the following description of current conditions there for Karen farmers. Their names and the name of their village are withheld to avoid SLORC retaliation against their relatives and fellow villagers.

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- Since late 1991, SLORC troops of 36 Regiment posted in Kyone Pyaw have arrested 20 local Karen villagers, accusing them of being "rebel sympathizers". None of them have been seen again, no news has been heard about them and their fates remain unknown.

- Sergeant Aye Ko of 36 Regiment went around villages confiscating all fishing nets and banned all villagers from fishing. This deprives the villagers of a major part of their livelihood. No reason was given. The villagers later learned that Sergeant Aye Ko went and sold all the confiscated fishing nets for 400 Kyat a piece.

- The same sergeant cut open and destroyed all the fish traps laid down in the rivers by the farmers wherever he could find them, as these are hard to resell and too heavy and bulky to carry away.

- Every village in the region has to provide at least one person every month to become a SLORC soldier in order to replace troops killed in battle elsewhere or to further strengthen the SLORC army. These village conscripts are given very little training and then are sent to the frontline for use in the SLORC’s Human Wave assaults.

- During the whole of last summer [March to May], one person from every house had to go and dig fish ponds for the SLORC for three long months. They were under the command of SLORC soldiers and were never allowed to go home during the period, but had to sleep on the ground by they diggings every night. No food was given or paid for; family members had to bring food to them. Families who could not send anyone had to pay the SLORC to "hire" another person at a rate of 50 Kyat per day, totaling 4,500 Kyat for the whole period. However, this money was not used to hire anyone, as all labour was done by conscripted slaves. Every fish pond is 40 feet [13 meters] wide by 60 feet [19 meters] long. Altogether the villagers were forced to dig 1,000 fishponds.

- Most villagers are farmers. Each farmer has to submit 60 tins of rice to the SLORC for every acre tilled. Average total yield in a good year is 80 thins per acre. The SLORC only pays 45 Kyat per tin, whereas rice is worth 55 Kyat per tin in the black market. Those who cannot provide the quota for any reason have to buy black market rice at 55 Kyat per tin and then sell it to the SLORC at the lower price, often having to sell all their livestock or belongings to make up the difference. Anyone who fails to do this is arrested, tortured and jailed until he agrees and promises to pay the quota.

- In addition, the SLORC also collects rice as tax to "build pagodas" from every farmer regardless of religion. Nothing is paid for this rice. Rice or money is also collected for the "Parent-Teacher Association Fund", or any other excuse the SLORC can think of whenever it wants more rice or money. Many farmers are left without enough rice to feed their own families.

- Most villages around Kyone Pyaw are Karen villages, but all teaching in school is Burmese, and no Karen is taught. As a result, many Karen people there cannot even read or write their own language. The SLORC wants to class them all as Burmese, and is deliberately using the schools to Burmanise the Karen children.