An Indepedent Report by the Karen Human Rights Group
Manerplaw, October 31, 1992
The following report from Ler Doh Township, Kler Lu Htoo (Nyaunglebin) Province, was given by a Karen Baptist pastor who has witnessed firsthand the conditions at Bo Ka Hta relocation camp:
"Not long before the rains began, I think in June, SLORC troops from #57 Burma Regiment came to 5 villages in Ler Doh Township: Ma Pi Po, Ma Pi Doh, Hin Tha Weh, Kyone Gyi, and Shwe Di villages. They forced all the villagers, well over 1,000 people altogether, to move to their camp at Bo Ka Hta. The soldiers have built their camp in the middle, surrounded by all the villagers’ houses so the Karen Army can’t attack. The villagers are also under strict orders to report any evidence they see of Karen soldiers or else face severe punishment.
There was already a village of several hundred people at Bo Ka Hta, so there is no land available for the new people to grow any crops, and the SLORC provides nothing for them. When the villagers were forced to move to Bo Ka Hta, the troops took all of the food supplies that were in their villages. Now, the villagers only get a bit of their food rationed back out to them once every 3 days. Their villages are only a few hours’ walk away, but they can only return if they get a special 3-day pass from the SLORC troops. Most families get these passes when they can, but only 4 or 5 families have used this opportunity to escape - the troops say anyone who escapes is the enemy, so any family that escapes couldn’t dare come back, and has to flee the whole area without any food to take with them.
In the camp, the soldiers often beat the villagers with bamboo sticks if they suspect them of knowing anything about the Karen Army, or even just because of simple misunderstandings. The villagers are forced to dig bunkers, build fences and do other work for the troops. They are often beaten for working too slowly or any other reason. Many villagers are also taken as porters. Every time a company of troops goes as reinforcements to attack the Karen at Tee Moo Khee, they take 40 villagers from the camp as porters for 2 months. The porters have to carry heavy loads, they are often beaten, and some of them die. Both women and men are taken from Bo Ka Hta, and some of the women porters escape and return to their home villages, but there is no more food around there so in the end they have to go back to Bo Ka Hta. Twenty or more of the people at Bo Ka Hta have already died as porters, and now the troops are taking more porters than ever because they are increasing their attacks on the Karen around Tee Moo Khee.
Another 20 or 30 people have died at the camp of disease, mainly malaria and stomach diseases, because they are weak and there’s no medicine. The SLORC has also arrested some, like Thra Ler Mo, the pastor from Ma Pi Po village. They took him away to Toungoo Prison. Thra Ler Moo was pastor to a lot of people in the area. Not long before the relocation, he had gone to the revolutionary Area to visit some of his former parishioners who now live there. Before he came home, they gave him a small electric piano they’d bought in Thailand for his church. When the troops at Bo Ka Hta saw this piano in July, they accused Thra Ler Mo of having contact with rebels, took the piano and took him away to Toungoo Prison, where he still is now. His wife has 5 children to take care of and some of them are small, so she hasn’t been able to go all the way to Toungoo to visit him. A few others have been able to go and see him, though. They say he appears to be well, but nobody knows how long the SLORC will keep him in prison.
All of the villagers are still staying in Bo Ka Hta with the SLORC Army, and things are only getting harder for them as more and more of them are being taken as porters for the SLORC’s new attacks on the Karen Army. I’ve heard that other villages in Ler Doh Township have also been forced into camps, but I haven’t been to those areas so I don’t know any details."