FORCED RELOCATION IN THATON DISTRICT

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FORCED RELOCATION IN THATON DISTRICT

Published date:
Saturday, January 9, 1993

This ominous announcement makes it clear that the SLORC actually plans to forcibly relocate the majority of villagers throughout ethnic regions nationwide into what the villagers themselves call "concentration camps". This policy is right now being put into full swing in Karen State. On January 1, 1993, an initial group of 35 refugees from Thaton District arrived in the Manerplaw area after 3 days’ walk, having fled this very SLORC program. Their version of the situation differs markedly from the SLORC's. They tell of over 50 villages, comprising over 10,000 civilians, being ordered to move into fenced enclosures at SLORC Army camps under threat of being shot if they remain in their villages. They tell of armed guards, beatings, misery, and imminent starvation.

In an official statement published by The Nation newspaper (Bangkok) on January 4, 1993, the SLORC announced the following about its "Border Areas Development" program:

"Primarily, Myanmar's aim is to establish key villages where the infrastructure - roads, power and water supply, housing, etc., will be developed. In so doing, local people from the surrounding less-developed areas will voluntarily move to such key villages where living conditions would be appreciably better. In the initial period, certain basic needs of these villages such as food, clothing and shelter will be provided by the Government. In addition, land development and cultivation of cash crops will be introduced."

This ominous announcement makes it clear that the SLORC actually plans to forcibly relocate the majority of villagers throughout ethnic regions nationwide into what the villagers themselves call "concentration camps". This policy is right now being put into full swing in Karen State. On January 1, 1993, an initial group of 35 refugees from Thaton District arrived in the Manerplaw area after 3 days’ walk, having fled this very SLORC program. Their version of the situation differs markedly from the SLORC's. They tell of over 50 villages, comprising over 10,000 civilians, being ordered to move into fenced enclosures at SLORC Army camps under threat of being shot if they remain in their villages. They tell of armed guards, beatings, misery, and imminent starvation.

These refugees say they are only the first of thousands who will be trying to escape to the Thai border or dispersing to other areas inside Burma. They say that not a single villager wants to move to the camps, but the SLORC Army is already actively trying to seal off escape routes to the border. They could immediately think of over 40 villages (see enclosed list) in Bilin and Pa'an Townships of Thaton District alone which have been forced to move in the past month. They added that other areas they passed through, such as Papun Township, are also suffering wholesale forced relocation right now

The total number of people throughout the northern half of Karen State who are at this moment being forced to move into camps by the SLORC is not yet clear; it is certainly in the tens of thousands, possibly as high as 100,000. What is clear is that simultaneously with the start of their "National Convention", the SLORC has begun a huge campaign to effectively imprison the entire civilian population of northern Karen State. By so doing, they hope to exert complete control over the civilian population while preventing them from supporting the ethnic and democratic opposition in any way. The population in the camps will also provide the troops a large, convenient pool of slave labour for munitions portering and SLORC "development projects", while also acting as a human shield protecting the SLORC Army camps from attack. Most significantly, the sheer size of the operation, and the large geographical area covered, make it clear that this is the initial step toward declaring all of northern Karen State a "free fire" zone and launching a massive, no-holds-barred scorched earth offensive against all Karen bases along the border.

The following account of the situation around his village was given by one of the first refugees to arrive (his name has been changed to protect his relatives):

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Name: Saw Ler Wah

Sex: M

Age: 42

Address: Tee Pa Doh Kee Village, Bilin Township

Nationality: Karen

Family: Married with 3 young children

We left our homes 17 days ago and walked all the way here because the SLORC ordered us to move into a camp. They sent a letter to our village headman on December 8th, and it said everybody had to leave our village and move to their camp by the last day of December or we would be shot dead along with all of our animals. The headman kept the letter and he didn’t come with us, but I saw the letter myself, and it said "move or you will be shot" - I'm sure of it

At first they said we had to go to Tee Pa Doh Hta, but when people started arriving there the SLORC ordered them to move on another mile to Kya Thaun Zeit, where the Army has their Byu Ha (Strategic Headquarters) . At Kya Thaun Zeit the soldiers had already forced all the villagers in the area to bring bamboo and build a big fence, and the families from Tee Pa Doh Kee were forced to build their new huts inside that fence.

We didn't want to go there because we knew it would be very hard for us at Kya Thaun Zeit. The SLORC would always make us work for them, they would always interrogate us, and we know they'll always use the people in the camp as porters. The soldiers have already made it like a prison camp. They don't provide anything for the villagers, and they guard the fence to keep the people in. If you want to go back to work your farm, you have to ask permission from the guards. They make you show them all the food you're taking with you, and you must be back in the camp by sunset. They some times tell the villagers "If you come back late, we'll shoot you dead". I heard that two men - an uncle and his nephew - were already punished for coming back late once. The soldiers tied them up and beat them, and then took them away ordering them to "show us where the rebels are".

At Kya Thaun Zeit there's a river for water, but I know two-thirds of the villagers don't have enough food to survive (Note: the next rice harvest will not be until October 1993). This is because all last year the SLORC was always making us work for them and go as porters, so we couldn't tend our crops, and the weather -was also bad for growing. So our harvest was not good, and the Army also took much of our food. They often came to our village just to take all the rice they wanted, and to kill our livestock for meat. Whenever their troops came back from the front they also forced every family to cook 2 packets of rice for them every day

Now that everyone has been forced into the camp, I'm sure many of the villagers will starve. The Army will never give them any food. Even now, the soldiers in the camp are eating the villagers' supply of food as if it were their own.

Seventy families from our village went to Kya Thaun Zeit, and there are also 4 other villages there: Lay Kaw Tee, Taw Klaw Hta, Kwa Po Ko, and Chuh Bwa Ko. All the other villages in the area have been ordered to move to other Army camps. Even though it's so terrible in the camps, most of the people went there because they didn't know what else to do. All their sugarcane and rice fields are still there, at our village. The people love their farms and can't bear to leave them. After they ordered us to move, I even saw some farmers crying in their fields as they worked. Nobody wants to leave.

I also want to tell you more about what the SLORC soldiers do in our villages. Any time Karen soldiers shoot at them anywhere, they go to the nearest village, choose some villagers and execute them in front of everyone else. In December 1991 a SLORC patrol was near Tee Pa Doh Kee and they saw 2 farmers from another village in the forest. The 2 men had come to Tee Pa Doh Kee to buy an ox, but when they saw the soldiers and ran away, the soldiers shot at them. They missed, but then as they continued through the forest the next people they saw were 4 young men from Tee Pa Doh Kee

Two days later the soldiers came back to Tee Pa Doh Kee. They grabbed those four men, whose names were Maw Da, Noh Genuh, Thein Myint, and Zaw Nai. All of them were just villagers about 20 years old. Zaw Nai was single, but each of the others was married and each had one small child.

The SLORC troops took the 4 men before all the other villagers, gave them ABSDF [ABSDF: All-Burma Students' Democratic Front, a revolutionary army of Burmese students formed in 1988] shirts, and forced them to put them on. Then they took photos of the 4 of them. The soldiers said to all the villagers, "See, they're not villagers, they're Karen soldiers". Then they shot each man in the back of the head with a G3 rifle and killed him. The soldiers then stole everything from the 4 men's houses, even blankets, cups, everything, and burned down all four houses before leaving the village.

The men who did this were from 83 Battalion, commanded by Major Pyone Cho. The 4.men were shot by ordinary soldiers, by the Major's order

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Preliminary List of Villages Forced to Move in Bilin and Pa'an Townships of Thaton District

This list covers only villages forced to relocate since December 5, 1992. It is only a preliminary list, and is by no means complete. Villages are not listed in any specific order. Lay Kaw Tee and Lay Po Hta villages are actually in Papun District, but very close to the border of Thaton District.



Village
# of Houses
Village
# of Houses
Lay Kaw Tee
Taw Klaw Hta
Wah Tho Klah
Noh Ber Baw
Wah Khay Hta
Lah Kyo Kaw Htee
Lah Kyo Ko
Meh Bo Kee
Tah Meh Kee
Suh Kee
Gho Wah Hta
Kwee Lay
Plaw Hta
Toe Teh Kee
Tee Maw Kee
Tah Oo Kee
Tee Pa Doh Kee
Nya Po Kee
Bpaw Kee
Lo Ke Dter
Tab Oo Nee
Noh Ge Neh
72
60
10
80
30
10
30
30
15
10
30
55
60
20
10
100
70
20
60
30
100
60
Ler Po
Tee Si Baw Kee
Shwe Oh
Nya Lay
Thughaw Pya
Gaw Heh
Tee Ser Kee
Kway Lay
Mah Klu Taw
Meh Theh
Meh Theh Kee
Tee Pa Doh Kee (#2)
Noh Kah Dee
Tee Saw Kee
Tee Chuh
Meh Ga Neh Kee
Tah Thu Kee
Kwa Po Ko
Chuh Bwa Ko
Tee Pa Doh Hta **
Lay Po Hta **
50
10
60
45
30
40
20
15
15
20
20
30
20
40
20
40
30
10
10
500
100

 

** These two villages were ordered to move, but at the time the initial refugees fled, they had sent their monks to Pa’an town to plead with the SLORC not to be relocated. As of late December, the monks had not yet returned, and the villagers had not yet moved.

Total:  43 villages, 2,087 houses, 10,435 people
          (Estimating approximately 5 people/house)

The refugees from Thaton District also said that everyone in all areas they passed through were also being forced to move into camps, and predicted that a large new flow of refugees will begin immediately. In Papun Township alone, another 5,000 to 7,000 villagers are already known to have been ordered to move into camps.