MYAWADDY-KAWKAREIK AREA REPORTS

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MYAWADDY-KAWKAREIK AREA REPORTS

Published date:
Sunday, January 15, 1995

This report expresses the testimonies from civilian villagers in the area between Myawaddy and Kawkareik Townships in Karen State. A new cross-border bridge between Myawaddy and Mae Sot, to be part of the "Asia Highway", is now being built as a joint venture between the Thai Government and SLORC. It is called the "Thai-Myanmar Friendship Bridge". On the Burma side of the border, the bridge seems to be an underlying cause of a SLORC clampdown in the area, including forced relocation, torture and increased harassment of villagers, due to SLORC's paranoia that the bridge will be sabotaged. 

The following testimonies and information have been gathered by our human rights monitors from civilian villagers in the area between Myawaddy, opposite the Thai border town of Mae Sot, and Kawkareik, about 40 km. to the west in Karen State. Some of the people interviewed are now in refugee camps in Thailand. The Myawaddy-Kawkareik road, though not much more than a dirt track in many places, is a key SLORC transport route between Moulmein and the Thai border. A new cross-border bridge between Myawaddy and Mae Sot, to be part of the "Asia Highway", is now being built as a joint venture between the Thai Government and SLORC. It is called the "Thai-Myanmar Friendship Bridge". On the Thai side of the border, it has already caused the destruction of a market (with little or no compensation) and threats to forcibly move Huay Kalok Karen refugee camp, home to over 5,000 refugees. On the Burma side of the border, the bridge seems to be an underlying cause of a SLORC clampdown in the area, including forced relocation, torture and increased harassment of villagers, due to SLORC's paranoia that the bridge will be sabotaged. As a villager points out in this report, the bridge is also being used as an excuse for SLORC troops to extort several hundred thousand Kyat out of every village in the area, supposedly for bridge construction - despite the fact that the Thai Government has already agreed to pay the entire cost of the bridge itself, an estimated US$3.2 million.

Some villagers refer to ‘Article 144' and martial law being applied in villages which are being forced to relocate. Article 144 is a curfew order, and when applied in conjunction with Martial Law it means curfew violators can be shot on sight, arrested, etc. at the discretion of the local military officer(s). Many villages have both Karen and Burmese names: in this report, the Burmese call Noh Po village 'Outer Kwin Kalay', and they call Tee Muh Hta village ‘Inner Kwin Kalay'. Names which have been changed to protect people, including all names of interviewees, are shown in quotation marks. All other names are real. Some details have been omitted from stories to protect people. In the testimonies, SLORC soldiers sometimes mention 'Ringworm’ and ‘Kaw Thoo Lei' - they use both terms to mean Karen soldiers. 'KNU' is short for Karen National Union, the Karen government. All numeric dates are written in dd-mm-yy format. Please feel free to use this report in any way which may help the peoples of Burma, but do not forward it to any SLORC representatives.

TOPIC SUMMARY

Torture (Stories #1,3,5,6,7,8,9,10,12,13), Torture of elderly (#1,13), Torture for 'being Karen' (#3,15), Abuse of women (#1), Detention (#1,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,12,13), ‘Dark cell' detention (#1,4), Execution (#15), Threats/coercion (#1,2), Forced relocation (#1,2,3,14,15), Shelling villages (#2,3,14), Destruction of religious buildings/schools (#3), Curfew order (#2,14), Myawaddy bridge (#2,3), Forced labour (#1,3,11), Looting (#3), Extortion (#3,15), Abuse of monk (#14), 'Compensation' to Army (#3,15), Deserters (#10,11), Fleeing villages (#2,3,4,5,12,13), Post-abuse medical/psychological trauma (#1,3,4,6,7,8,9,10,12,13).

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#1

NAME: "Daw Hla"                 SEX: F            AGE: 56         Karen farmer, village headwoman
ADDRESS: xxxx village, Kawkareik Township
FAMILY: Married, 5 or 6 children

On September 8th, I went to Myawaddy together with "Daw Thein", who is headwoman of my yyyy village. We went to vouch for villagers who went shopping there, M---, age 30, and her daughter D---, who is 11. They are shopkeepers in the village, and they bought batteries in Myawaddy to sell in the shop. They were accused of buying batteries for insurgents, so they were arrested. After meeting with the 2 women in the lockup, I was going to go back to my village but "Daw Thein" and I were put on a truck and sent to the Strategic Commander. When we got there he said, "Why didn't you move to the new site yet?" [the village had been ordered to relocate] I said that there were many children and old people in our village and that they cannot move easily. Then they took me to another commander named Captain N---. When I met him, he said that he would have to kill me. I didn’t care about his threats - I just said "You can kill me then!." He asked me many questions and accused our village of supporting insurgents. After that, they put us on a truck and sent us to the lockup. When they ordered us into the cell, I finally had to accept it, but "Daw Thein" absolutely refused and cried loudly, so they pushed her inside. She didn't stop crying, so one Sergeant threatened her by pointing his gun at her.

We bad to stay in the lockup for 3 days. On the 4th day, we were taken out and separated from each other. I was blindfolded and then taken to the dark room. On the way, they pushed me and I fell down and hurt my ankle - even now, it still hurts. When I got into the dark room, they removed the cloth from my face. The darkroom was about 10 feet square, with one chair and one table inside. I had to urinate and defecate inside the room, so it stank. There was no clean air and no light, so I couldn't tell day from night. I only saw the light when they brought some food wrapped in a leaf. I had to eat my food in the dark. I just slept on the floor, there was no mat and no blanket. Two weeks later they took me out again with a blindfold, and I was interrogated by 2 women. During the first interrogation, they rolled my hair around the barrel of a G3 gun [assault rifle] and pulled it so that it ripped out some of my hair. After the interrogation they put me back inside the dark room. Altogether I was in the dark room for one month and one day. After such a long time in the dark, I became very depressed, weak and anxious.

On October 13th, I was taken out blindfolded. I was so weak that I couldn't walk - they had to support me. After walking some distance, I was put on a truck. When it started moving I felt dizzy, so they had to support me. I’m not sure how far the truck went. Suddenly I noticed that it had stopped, and they removed the blindfold from my face. After so long in the dark, suddenly I saw light. I couldn't see anything at first, but after a while I could see my friend "Daw Thein" near me. When we saw each other, we felt sad and we felt happy, and we embraced each other. We looked out of the truck together and we realized we were at T--- village. We could see the villagers. Then Captain N--- said to the villagers, "We looked after 'Daw Hla' and 'Daw Thein' very well and we didn't treat them badly". Then he turned to me and said, "Isn't that so?" in front of the villagers. I couldn't say no in front of him, so I said, "Yes." That's the only thing I could say. Then the Captain forced me to sign a bond consisting of 5 parts [see following translation of the bond]. I had to sign it, otherwise he wouldn't release me. After I was released, all the villagers were delighted. I took some medical treatment in our village because I couldn't walk well. Even now, I can't walk well. I always feel dizziness and my eyes still suffer because I was so long in the dark. I always feel tense and I have nightmares. Sometimes I feel like I’m mad.

[Another villager added: By the time they were freed we all thought they must be dead. "Daw Thein" is 30, and has 5 children. "Daw Hla" is about 60 and has a husband and 5 or 6 children. After they put "Daw Hla" in jail, the Burmese went up to her village and saw her daughter there so they poked her with a knife and said, "Where's your mother gone?" They already knew her mother was in jail. They poked her slowly several times with the knife. Her daughter said "My mother's gone to jail. You arrested her, You know it all already", and then the soldiers didn't say any more and let her daughter go. They just use their brains to think up ways to make trouble for people.]

Translation of the typed bond she was forced to sign
(Copy of the original attached to the end of this report - available on request)

BOND AND GUARANTEE TO SIGN

1) I, "Daw Hla" (xxxx village), headwoman and I, "Daw Thein" (yyyy village) headwoman, we two agree and guarantee to comply with the following points in the presence of the village headman [headman of the village where they were released]:

a) Villagers from xxxx village will combine and stay with the villagers of yyyy village. We will take responsibility that they will not remain or return to stay in xxxx village.
b) Regional departments such as Township LORC / Village LORC, etc. will take responsibility proportionately to send labourers / carts etc. according to the numbers, places and times specified.
c) We will inform the nearby troops / post and #3 Strategic Group (base) of news about Karen terrorist insurgents every day without fail.
d) Around yyyy village, we will take responsibility for any artillery shelling or landmines laid against N--- area troops by Karen terrorist insurgents.
e) We will take responsibility to always clear the bush on the left and right sides of the car road within the area specified for yyyy village.

2) We guarantee and sign to verify that we know that if we do not comply, violent action will be taken.

Signature:    [Sd.]                                     Signature:    [Sd.]
Name:  "Daw Thein"                           Name:         "Daw Hla"
                  Chairperson                                             Chairperson
                  xxxx village                                             yyyy village
Date:               -10-94                              Date:                 -10-94

                Stamp:
   No.3 Strategic Group (base)                     Place:     zzzz village
           (zzzz village)                                  Date:           -10-94
Military Supervisory Department

[Notes: As the village headwoman is called the Village LORC chairperson, item ‘b)’ basically means that the villagers must send labourers, carts, etc. exactly as ordered by the army. Item 'd)' means the village will be attacked or villagers will be executed if Karen troops attack SLORC. Item 'e)' forces them to keep clear a ‘killing ground’ along the road to protect SLORC troops from ambush.]

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#2

One of our human rights monitors wrote the following report from the Myawaddy-Kawkareik area:

With regard to human rights abuses in Kawkareik Township, at Noh Po, Meh Kaneh and Tee Muh Hta villages: On 10 September 1994, a column comprised of troops from SLORC Battalions #355, 356 and 357 commanded by Captain Myint Yi shelled Noh Po village with a big gun, firing 4 shells. One shell hit Saw Yit's house. The commander of #3 Strategic Command, Second Lt. Col. Than Zaw, gave the command to destroy Noh Po village. He commanded that if there was any fighting around Noh Po village, the village must be totally destroyed by burning it down and killing any villagers who remain. No fighting has occurred since then, but most of the villagers have fled. The SLORC then issued an order imposing martial law and Article 144 on Noh Po and Tee Muh Hta villages. Villagers were informed to leave Noh Po between 15 September and 7 November, and after that anyone seen would be shot dead. They were ordered to move to Tee Muh Hta, but instead they have fled into the hills, deserting the village and their homes.

On 7 October 1994 the people of Meh Kaneh village were also ordered to leave their village and go to stay along the motor road. However, the villagers have given the Strategic Commander 120,000 Kyat and requested him to allow them to stay. It appears that the SLORC may be determined to destroy these villages in order to protect the "Thai-Myanmar Friendship Bridge" linking Myawaddy to Mae Sot, now under construction, from any possibility of sabotage.

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#3

1) NAME: "U Than Mya" SEX: M AGE: 42 Karen Buddhist farmer
ADDRESS: Meh Kaneh village, Kawkareik Township - now a refugee in Thailand
FAMILY: Married, 3 children aged 9 months, 9 and 12 years.

2) NAME: "Saw Lah Mu" SEX: M AGE: 29 Karen Christian farmer
ADDRESS: Meh Kaneh village, Kawkareik Township - now a refugee in Thailand
FAMILY: Married, 2 children aged 9 months and 5 years

3) NAME: "Saw Ko Thay" SEX: M AGE: 55 Karen Christian farmer
ADDRESS: Meh Kaneh village, Kawkareik Township - now a refugee in Thailand
FAMILY: Married, 6 children aged 4 to 20

4) NAME: "Maung Thein" SEX: M AGE: 30 Karen Christian farmer
ADDRESS: Meh Kaneh village, Kawkareik Township - now a refugee in Thailand
FAMILY: Married, 1 child aged 2

U Than Mya: I was a headman for many years, but I was only the SLORC headman [the SLORC chooses a person to be "village chairman", usually against his or her will and often different than the real village head - the SLORC village head is held responsible for delivering porters, money, etc. and is usually tortured for any failure to deliver]. Even though I was the SLORC headman, they never believed me very much. They tortured me, and I ran away a month ago [in late Novembe/94]. First I was arrested by SLORC and tortured, and then when I ran away I was arrested again by Thai police. Then the refugee camp people came and freed me and took me to the camp.

On September 27th the Burmese soldiers came to Meh Kaneh. It was Myint Yi, the company commander from 357 Battalion. Now he's been moved to Thay Baw Boe at the Thai border. They asked questions but they didn't believe me, so they accused me of being dishonest and of behaving as a Karen, and they said I had contact with rebels and accused me of killing children. They captured me and tied me with a rope around my ankles, and they hung me upside down from a log. After half an hour, their rope broke and I fell to the ground. I still have pain from that, and I can't turn my head. Then they tied me again, tied my hands as well, and hung me upside down from the log again. They tied me up at 6 in the evening, and hung me there until 6 in the morning. I couldn't sleep at all the whole night because of the pain from the rope. The soldiers beat me in the shins with a gun barrel and punched me. I didn't pass out, but I still have aching pain in my chest and shoulders. They also arrested 7 other Meh Kaneh villagers at the same time as me, 8 of us altogether, and beat them all the same as me, and they captured 35 women and children and forced them to stay under the houses [Karen houses are raised above the ground]. They arrested Na Tway, "Pa Ngeh", "Saw Nyo", Saw Tha Wah, Teacher Aye Thaung, and 2 others [see stories #4 & #5]. These seven men were tied to trees standing up, one man to each tree. The soldiers punched and beat them.

They didn't ask questions, they just said, "You’re Kaw Thoo Lei [Karen soldiers]". We said, "We’re not", and then they beat us. They said, "When our enemies come do you hide them in your village?" We said, "No, we don't do that", and they beat us. While they held us they also arrested one woman from the village. They stole her necklace and her money, and they took her food and everything she had in her house. She sells things in the market, so she had some money and gold. They kept her tied up to a tree for about an hour, then they told her to go and buy them some wine. Her name is Naw W---, she's about 45 and she has about 8 children. Then in the morning they released us all except one man. They suspected him, so they took him and put him in jail for 10 days. They put him in a dark room of concrete and said if he ran away they'd kill him. They just gave him a little bit of food to last the whole day, and if it ran out there was no way he could ask for more. After 10 days some people went and secretly freed him, and he ran away. Now he's here with us as a refugee. His name is "Pa Ngeh" [see story #4]. He's 35, and he has 1 child. He wasn't a Karen soldier, they just arrested him by mistake. Ever since 2 of their men died in August they have been capturing and torturing people, making trouble for the village heads and others.

After we were released I stayed in the village, but then the soldiers started sending me letters every day, 2 or 3 letters every day, again and again, from the Township LORC office. I didn't dare go to see them, so I didn't dare stay in the village anymore. But not only that - I also came here because they forced us to give money: 300, 500, 1000, 2000 Kyat, until we couldn't give it anymore and we fled. Everyone had to pay. They forced us to pay 3 times a month, some households 500 each time, some households 1,500. You have to give it, or you can't stay there. The Burmese beg by force. They also force us to send other things, like bullock carts to carry their things. We have to go with our carts by turns, twice a month. If we can't go we have to pay 1,000 or 1,500 Kyat. We also have to pay for porter fees [just a name given for cash extorted from villagers], 1,500 Kyat. And we have to make roads, and collect gravel to make the roads. The main roads. Everything is for the Burmese. We have to work on the roads 10 days every month, sometimes 15 days, and they don't give us a single pya! [1 Kyat = 100pya] We have to pay them instead. We have to give it. We have to buy our own food, and moreover we have to give them money. They force us to work very hard, and then whatever the cost of everything we've eaten, we have to pay it to the SLORC officer at the camp. We have to sleep along the road. It's the Myawaddy - Kawkareik car road, around Ah Bo Der and Aleh Bo Der. They never finish constructing that road, because of the rains and because people often destroy [sabotage] it.

Saw Lah Mu: The SLORC also forced every village to give 300,000 to 400,000 Kyat for the new bridge at Myawaddy [the Thai-SLORC "Friendship Bridge"]. I don't know what the money's for, they didn't say. They just said every village has to give them the money. It is a must. You must give it without fail. If you can't give the money then they will bully and abuse you very gravely and seriously. If the village can't give that money, then that village can't continue in peace. They'll come to the village to beat and crush people. We must give it. Our village already paid it, and now they are still forcing people to give more money.

We're very poor and we have to work hand to mouth, so we can't always give the money. If we can't pay then the soldiers go to the village head and demand forced labour instead, for example as porters. They pressure the villagers in various ways so that the villagers can't avoid getting the money somehow and giving it to them. In this way they squeeze money out of everyone. Whatever they want to do, we have to do it for them. Then when they come, they eat all our pigs, chickens, etc. Sometimes they disgrace the women in the village. Three or four months ago they built a school, and they forced the villagers to give 100,000 Kyat for this school. If we couldn't give it - we just had to give it. If you had a chicken or a pig, you had to sell it to get that money. We had to try hard. Even though we gave them as much money as we could, the SLORC wasn't satisfied with us. They said we are "Ringworm" [derogatory SLORC name for Karen opposition] and they bullied us when they came again. They frightened us and said, "You can't stay here anymore, you have to leave the village." They ordered us to move to the road, between Thingan Nyi Naung and Myawaddy. We didn't want to leave so we tried to find a way to stay. The village head tried to collect money from the villagers, 5,000 Kyat from the poorest families and 50,000 Kyat from the richer families. Then all this money was given to SLORC so we wouldn't have to move. But then after they finished eating up that money, they came back again and said "You'll have to move". So the villagers have to pay them again, and then when they've spent that they'll come back and say "You have to move", and so on.

The villagers have to take responsibility for the car road between Thingan Nyi Naung and Myawaddy, and if the road is destroyed or sabotaged then we're responsible to reconstruct it. It's a must; we have to whether we can or not. This road has been destroyed many times, and we've had to give compensation many times, at least 3 times a year. They collect money from the families according to how much the family owns, 50, 100, or 150 Kyat per household. Whenever a SLORC soldier is killed, the villagers have to pay the army compensation money for his life. They also make us go and build barracks for their soldiers, and when we're building the barracks we have to stay there and sleep there, and they abuse us. This goes on the whole year at Hla Ngwe, below Thingan Nyi Naung. It's their Battalion camp. The Battalion commander and operations commanders stay there. We have to level the ground to build buildings, villagers from Meh Kaneh, May Po, and Tee Muh Hta. We have to work the whole day without getting any food, we have to pull up tree stumps, and sometimes they kick us. They have some tractors and machines but they don't use them there, they only use human labour. The villagers get tired and try to rest, but the soldiers say "Keep working, don't rest", and kick them.

In September they sent a letter ordering Noh Po village to move. After they sent it the villagers didn't move, so they fired at the village with a big gun. Then they sent a letter ordering us to move too.

Saw Ko Thay: The order didn't say what day or what month we had to move, it just said "You must move. If you don't move, we won't let you stay." After we didn't move they sent another order saying "If you don't 'move, you must tear down 3 buildings: your church, your [Buddhist] temple and your school." The village elders went to see them to discuss it, but the officers said, "We don't want to hear any gunshots. If we don't hear any gunshots near the road or around Meh Kaneh village, then you can stay. If we hear a single gunshot, you must move." Since then there have been no gunshots, not a sound.

Saw Lah Mu: They ordered Meh Kaneh to move to one of two places, either the main road or Tee Muh Hta. SLORC has a garrison at Tee Muh Hta. They've already arranged a place for us to move to - they forced the Tee Muh Hta villagers to clear it, but none of the villagers have moved there yet. Noh Po village was also ordered to move to Tee Muh Hta. The SLORC always sends the same orders to all 3 villages, Meh Kaneh, Noh Po and Tee Muh Hta, whether it's forcing us to move or demanding money or labour. In Noh Po and Tee Muh Hta they always demand money from the villagers. The Noh Po villagers have to run away many more times than us. The Burmese soldiers went and fired the big guns [probably mortars] at their village. SLORC has ordered the village to relocate. They ordered the villagers to tear down their church, their monastery and their school, and said if the villagers didn't do it then the soldiers would come and tear the buildings down themselves, arrest all the villagers and put them in jail. SLORC did the same to Noh Po Tee Hta village. That's why they can't bear it and they run away. The Noh Po villagers have gone up into the mountains or into the forest. They have nothing, they've just run away with none of their things. Some people with a lot of land still stay there, but they stay very quietly and if they hear that the Burmese are coming they run away again. Now there are only about 20 families in Noh Po. There used to be more than 200 households. All of them have run to the forest, or some have gone to Tee Muh Hta like they were ordered. The monks in their monastery have already fled. The SLORC also arrested Tee Muh Hta villagers, punched them, beat them and, tortured them until their bones broke, covered their faces and then forced them to go along with the soldiers to all the villages. Some of the Tee Muh Hta villagers have run away into the forest and some are still there.

Meh Kaneh had 170 households. About 30 families have already fled, and 130 or 140 are still there. 12 or 15 families came to the Thai border, some went into Burma [the plains to the west], and some fled into the forest and the hills, and some didn't flee because they couldn't The villagers who are too poor to keep paying money to SLORC have left.

U Than Mya: Some people can stay because they own a lot of cattle, buffalos, or coconut plantations so they can pay SLORC what they ask. People like that are not willing to leave their farms and animals behind, so they try to pay what SLORC asks. But most people have nothing, no cattle or big farms or coconuts, so they have to flee.

Saw Ko Thay: Those who have gone to the forest have to make their fields around their hut. They have to cut the forest to make a farm. Those who have gone to Tee Muh Hta as they were ordered, they have to build their huts on the ground and then work for SLORC as they're ordered. They have to carry water for the soldiers. They can't do anything, they don't even have food to eat. They have to take care of each other. That's why nobody wants to stay there. The villagers from Noh Po go back to their village sometimes to get food - it's only one hour's walk from Tee Muh Hta. Then if the SLORC sees them there, they call them, arrest them, beat them and torture them. If the soldiers on patrol see villagers who have gone outside the area where they're supposed to stay, they torture them. They also shoot at them sometimes, but not to kill. They tortured Pa Oo for that. He's 28, and now he's here as a refugee. [Pa Oo was on his way to his field with other villagers when he was met by soldiers, interrogated, tied up and beaten, then left behind. Other villagers found him there at 10 p.m. under the full moon on Oct. 19/94, took him to his village and then to Thailand for treatment.]

Maung Thein: We don't dare go back to stay in the village, because if they hear any gunshot near the road or the village they'll arrest all the villagers, even though we don't know anything about the gunshots. We can't promise them there won't be gunshots, because the Burmese are our enemies and our people are fighting for freedom, so if Karen people have to shoot at them then they will. We can't promise that they won't.

Saw Ko Thay: In Meh Kaneh, if SLORC orders them to move all of a sudden then people might not be able toescape, sothey're fleeing now, before it happens. Idon't know about the others, but as for me, I’ll never go back as long as the Karen and Burmese fighting isn't over. It's a long way back to our village, and we have to be afraid of the SLORC soldiers along the way. They torture us, they force us to work for them, we're afraid of everything they do. They demand 300, 500, 300 Kyat, again and again and again until we don't even have money to buy food. If we have, a cow, a chicken, a pig, we have to sell it just to give money to SLORC. It will never get better. The future will probably be even worse than now.

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#4

NAME: "Pa Ngeh"                     SEX: M            AGE: 37         Karen farmer
ADDRESS: Meh Kaneh village, Kawkareik Township - now a refugee in Thailand
FAMILY: Married, 1 child

On 27/9/94at about 2 p.m., soldiers came into the village and arrested 9 villagers, including me. Theytiedour wrists behind our backs and tied us to trees. I was interrogated by the soldiers through the night, and they beat me up 3 or 4 times during the interrogation. The next morning, they untied me, pointed their guns at me and took me away. When we got to the car road, we took a truck to Thingan Nyi Naung, where No. 3 military post of 357 Battalion is located. When we got there, they tied my hands behind my back again and blindfolded me with a piece of cloth. They took me to a dark room, then they untied my hands and took the cloth from my eyes. I couldn't see anything in that room. There was no hole for light or air. I felt like I was suffocating, and I could only breathe through the narrow cracks around the door. The room was 8 feet square and had only one door. I was kept in that room for 10 days, and I only got one bottle of water during that time. I got 2 meals a day, at 11 a.m. and 6:30 p.m., just a little bit of rice on a leaf and some clear bean soup. I never saw light except when they opened the door to bring the rice. They brought it, and then they closed the door again.

I had to sleep on the floor. I had no mat and no blanket. I had to sleep, eat and defecate on the same floor. There was always a horrible smell in that room, and I always felt like I was suffocating - there was no air. I couldn't tell day from night. When they took me out for interrogation, I was blindfolded. They interrogated me many times. While I was in the dark room, I heard the cries of a woman. After 10 days, I was taken outside again and they threatened to kill me. They took me outside their post and untied the rope from my hands, and then they allowed me to run away. That's how I escaped.

It was very hard for me to get back to my village because my foot was in pain. Even though I got back to the village I couldn't sleep well - I always wanted to hide. Since then, I always feel frightened and I always feel tense and unhealthy. Every evening when the darkness is coming down I feel anxious.

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#5

NAME: "Saw Nyo" SEX: M AGE: 33 Karen Buddhist farmer
ADDRESS: Meh Kaneh village, Kawkareik Township - now living in hiding in the forest

I was at the monastery when Captain Myint Yi and his troops came into the village. Suddenly I heard gunshots, so I ran down from the monastery. Before I came into the village, I saw some villagers running here and there to escape the gunshots. As soon as I got into the village, I was captured and tied with rope.. Soldiers interrogated me about whether I had contact with insurgents, and I told them I didn't know anything. That’s why I was punched in the face 5 times by Lieutenant San Myint. He punched my right cheek twice and my left cheek 3 times. After that I was tied to a tree with my hands behind my back, and they left me in that position all night. The next morning, they untied me and took me along to their camp at Deh Oo. On the way, I was forced to carry one of their military backpacks. then I was released. Now I don't dare sleep in the village anymore. I'm always hiding.

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#6

NAME: "Hla Kyaw"                     SEX: M            AGE: 48         Karen Buddhist farmer
ADDRESS: xxxx village, Kawkareik Township

On September 12, M--- and I went to our farms at 7 a.m. Later while we were clearing the ground at the farm, soldiers from Light Infantry Battalion 357 led by Captain Myint Yi suddenly appeared and surrounded us. They tied us up. I pleaded with them not to tie both my hands because one of my forearms is disabled, but they didn't care. I was taken away with my hands tied behind my back. On the way I saw 4 other people who were also tied up. The Captain said, "Don't worry. We'll just take you to our Colonel and then you'll be released." When we got to the Colonel [probably the commander of #3 Strategic Command, Second Lt. Col. Than Zaw], who was in the jungle about 1 mile from my village, he started interrogating me. He told me that I had to answer all his questions, and he made many kinds of threats. I said I'd tell him whatever I knew. He asked, "Do you know who planted the mine before we passed along the road?". I said I didn't know, but the Colonel didn't believe me so he kicked me in the ribs with his big boots. It hurt very much, but he wouldn't stop kicking me. Finally I lost consciousness for about 20 minutes. When I woke up, I could feel that one of my ribs was broken. The Colonel said, "Why don't you know about it?", and he kicked me again so I fell unconscious again. When I came around again, the Colonel repeated the same question: "Why don't you know? You must know about it." Finally I was in such pain and I was so frightened that I told him, "Yes, I know." Then the Colonel asked "Where is your home?" I replied, "My home is not here. I only come here sometimes." But the Colonel didn't believe me, so he hit my head with his rifle butt. I felt dizzy. He said, "You keep trying to lie!", and he kicked me in the chin with his big boots. Later, a Captain interrupted him. For all their long interrogation, they never found out anything. Then they took me back towards the village. Before we got there, they tied me up to a tree. They took my sarong and blindfolded me with it and they said "Don't look! Don't shout! After we’ve gone from here, if you can untie yourself you will be released." The Captain ordered the soldiers to prepare their guns to kill me. I was very frightened, and I felt that dying was the only way out for me. But then they left me there and continued on their way to Thingan Nyi Naung village.

Later I was lucky, because some villagers came by on their way back from the SLORC soldiers. The soldiers had taken them as guides. The villagers untied me and freed me. I tried to stand up, but I couldn't. The villagers had to support me to get me back to the village. Right up till now I’m still suffering from my broken rib, and I'm still on medical treatment. I cannot work at present. Whenever I hear that the SLORC troops are coming to our village, I always go to hide.

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#7

NAME: "Saw K'Paw Wah"                     SEX: M            AGE: 40       Karen farmer
ADDRESS: xxxxvillage, Kawkareik Township

On September 12 at 6:30 a.m., I went to the forest to tend my buffalos and suddenly met Captain Myint Yi and his troops. They captured me, tied me up with rope and took me to a place about 1 mile away from my village. When I got there, they tied me to a tree and interrogated me. They asked, "Are there any insurgents around, and how often do they come here?" I replied, "Yes, they come here, but there are none here now. I don't know where they are now." But they didn't accept my answer, and started kicking and punching me continuously. They kicked me with their big boots about 30 times. I fell unconscious for about 10 minutes. Finally I couldn't bear the pain anymore, and I said I would show them the house of a revolutionary in our village. Then they stopped the torture, but they kept me tied up for 3 days. They dragged me to the village with a rope around my neck to show them the house of the revolutionary. Then they took me to a place near Thingan Nyi Naung and I was released. Even now, my whole body still aches. When I hear that SLORC troops are coming, I’m really afraid and I go into hiding. I don't sleep well in my house anymore.

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#8

NAME: "Saw Tha Kler"                 SEX: M            AGE: 21         Karen farmer
ADDRESS: xxxx village, Kawkareik Township

On September 28, I and my brother "Ler Htoo", who is 23 [see story #9], went to the forest about 1 mile east of our village to check our elephants. When we went up a hill in the forest, we suddenly ran into Captain Myint Yi from #357 Battalion. As soon as he saw us, he started to ask us many questions. After 2 or 3 questions, he started to hit and kick us. He punched me in the face and kicked me with his big boots. He accused us of coming to hide and spy on the troops, and he accused us of being KNU informers and said we brought guns and walkie-talkies for them. Then they tied up our hands behind our backs and tied us to trees, and left us there for the whole night without any food or water. Various officers came to us, interrogated us many times and punched us. We finally lost consciousness, but they poured water on our heads and we came round again. Our faces were very swollen and our whole bodies were in a lot of pain, so we couldn't sleep that night.

The next morning we were taken to Meh Kaneh village with our hands still tied behind our backs. They held us there, then in the evening they released us. It was very hard for us to get back to our village, because our faces were completely swollen up and our whole bodies were aching. After we got home, we had to get medical treatment for a long time, and it cost us a lot of money. Even now, the pain still hasn't all disappeared.

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#9

NAME: "Saw Ler Htoo"                     SEX: M            AGE: 23         Karen farmer
ADDRESS: xxxx village, Kawkareik Township

On September 28 at 8 a.m., my brother "Saw Tha Kler" and I went to a hill near the village to look after our elephants. When we reached the hill, we saw Captain Myint Yi and his troops. Right away he started to ask us many questions, then they separated us and interrogated us again. "You are Karen?", they asked. I said "Yes." So they threatened me and said they will kill all the Karen. They put a gun barrel in my mouth and tied me up with a rope. Then they asked questions continuously, and took turns beating me up. They accused me of being a Karen, then beat me, interrogated me some more and beat me again, and so on. Finally I almost lost consciousness. They kicked my face many times and burned my face with a cheroot [Burmese cigar]. I was tied to the tree with rope around my neck, my chest and, my hands. After kicking me many times, they left me there for the night tied up to the tree.

The next morning I was taken away with my hands tied behind my back to Meh Kaneh village. That afternoon, luckily, my brother and I were released. When I got back home I needed medical treatment for a long time. Sometimes I still don't sleep well at night, and when I hear SLORC troops are coming I run and hide somewhere.

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#10

NAME: "Saw Eh Kaw"                 SEX: M            AGE: 30         Karen farmer
ADDRESS: xxxx village, Kawkareik Township

In the morning on October 4th, I went to a stream at my farm to check my fishing net. While I was there, Light Infantry Battalion #357 troops led by Captain Myint Yi arrived and caught me. While I was in their hands, they beat me 5 times on my head with a mortar shell. Then they took me to lead them to my village. When we got there, they ordered me to assemble all the villagers, and they told all the villagers that they were looking for a person who had just escaped from them [a deserter - see the next testimony]. Everyone said they didn't know anything about it. Finally, the soldiers killed one of the villagers' pigs and went away. This kind of thing always happens around our village. [Note: "Saw Eh Kaw" has a bad cut on his head from the beating.]

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#11

NAME: "Pler Hai"                 SEX: M            AGE: 25         Karen farmer
ADDRESS: xxxx village, Kawkareik Township

At noon on October 4th, Light Infantry Battalion #357 entered our village while I was sleeping, led by Captain Myint Yi. They came into my house, dragged me out and beat me up. They ordered me to go to the village head and bring him back. We were forced to gather all the villagers in front of them. They asked about a deserter who had just escaped from their post, but we told them we knew nothing about it. They couldn't get any information from the villagers, so they killed a pig and left the village, but first they ordered me to deliver a letter to their base nearby. [Note: villagers are often executed if their village is suspected of harbouring a deserter. See other KHRG reports.]

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#12

NAME: "Pa Thay"                 SEX: M            AGE: 30         Karen farmer
ADDRESS: xxxx village, Kawkareik Township

On September 19th in the afternoon, about 3 p.m., I went with "Pa Noe" to the river to pick medicinal herbs. "Pa Noe" [see next testimony] is 60 years old. Along the way, about 4 km. from our village, we met Light Infantry Battalion #356 troops led by Captain Ne Win. They arrested us, separated us, tied us up and interrogated and accused us a lot. They accused us of coming from the [Karen-held] revolution area and said we were sent by a Karen Captain. They said, "You are not villagers. You are spying on us." Captain Ne Win and 4 of his soldiers punched me and kicked me with their big boots. They beat me up with a stick and cut me with a bayonet. I couldn't count how many times they kicked me and hit me. They beat me with a teak branch as thick as my wrist until it broke, and then they replaced it. They broke it and replaced it 10 times. They hit my head most of all. My head was swollen all over, and the left side of my head was cut. My left ear was bleeding. My left temple was bleeding. Both my eyes were bruised red. They beat me so much that I lost consciousness 3 times, and then each time they poured water on me. One time I was unconscious for 20 minutes. They forced me to lie face down while 4 soldiers stepped on me. Each one of them stepped on one leg and one arm, and one soldier pressed my face into the ground. My right elbow was injured. They also covered my face with a plastic sheet and poured water on it. [possibly a nylon sheet - the wearer can breathe until the water is poured then he suffocates]. They carried on and on.

I kept losing consciousness, regaining it, and losing it again. Then they tied my hands behind my back with 3 loops of rope, looped it around my neck and tied it around a tree. I couldn't breathe because of the rope. They took my bag [a Karen cloth shoulder bag], ripped it into pieces and stuffed the pieces in my mouth, then they ordered me to shout. I couldn't shout, so they carried on kicking and beating me. By then I couldn't even feel the beating anymore because I was already so battered.

At dusk, the soldiers pretended to leave. I thought they were gone, so I shouted for some help. When I did that, they ran back and started beating and kicking me again. Then I lost consciousness, and I didn't see them leave. When I regained consciousness, the moon was shining. I think it must have been about 9 p.m. I tried to untie myself, got free and headed back to the village. I could hardly move. I met some people near the village, and they helped me to my house. I arrived home at 10 p.m.

Now my whole body hurts badly, and my whole face is swollen. I don't dare stay in the village anymore, so I have to stay elsewhere. Now it is harvest time, but I don't dare go to gather my paddy. I need medical treatment. I always feel dizzy and I find it difficult just to drink water, not to mention trying to eat rice.

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#13

NAME: "PaNoe"             SEX: M             AGE: 60         Karen farmer
ADDRESS: xxxxvillage, Kawkareik Township

On September 19th I went together with "Pa Thay" to gather medicinal plants. On the way we met troops from Light Infantry Battalion #356 commanded by Captain Ne Win. They arrested us, interrogated us and said to us: "You have been sent by a Karen Army Captain You are spies." They beat me up and kicked me all over my body. They hit my face and pulled my hair, and they beat me in the jaw. They alternated beating me and interrogating me. They forced me to lie on the ground face down, and some soldiers stepped on my back while they pressed my face into the ground. My head was covered by a plastic sheet, then they poured water on it. I felt like I was losing consciousness. They rolled a wooden stick on my shins, and they beat me up with a teak stick weighing about half a kilogram. They broke three teak branches on me during the beatings. They poked me with a knife, then twisted it inside the wound. I can't count how many times they beat me. I lost consciousness once, for about 2 minutes, and they poured water on me. There were 4 soldiers, and one of them was a Captain. When they were satisfied with their beatings, they took me to Pha Chaung. When we were close to Pha Chaung, each of the soldiers kicked me, then they tied me to a tree. They blindfolded me with my sarong, but I could see a little. They left, and after they had gone for a long time, I tried to untie myself. I called to "Pa Thay" 3 or 4 times and I waited, but he didn't reply, so I thought he must have gone back to the village ["Pa Thay" was still being held elsewhere by Capt. Ne Win - see preceding testimony]. I

got loose, stood up and went home. I arrived home at 4 p.m. My whole body was badly hurt. My face and my head were swollen, and I could hardly walk because of my foot. After I arrived home, I couldn’t open my mouth because of the pain. Now my mouth is getting better, but one of my teeth is loose. I don’t dare sleep at home anymore, so I stay in another place. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to harvest my paddy or not.

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#14

NAME: "U Ashin Wontha Sara" SEX: M AGE: ? Karen Buddhist monk
ADDRESS: xxxx village, Kawkareik Township

On September 10th, a column of troops from Battalions 355, 356 and 357 led by Captain Myint Yi came to the village. The villagers were afraid that the soldiers would arrest them, torture and kill them and burn down the village, so they ran away. When the troops arrived in the village they didn't see anyone there so they left. Once they were outside the village, they shelled it. One of the village houses was hit by a mortar shell. Later an order from SLORC was sent to the village saying that all the villagers must move to another village, and that no one would be allowed to stay. It said that between 15/9/94 and 7/11/94, Article 144 of martial law would be applied in the village. But the villagers didn't move to the new place, they fled into the forest to hide. Nobody was left in the village, so I had to move. ["U Ashin Wontha Sara" is abbot of the village monastery. September falls within the period when Buddhist monks’ vows forbid them from leaving their monastery, so the relocation order forced "U Ashin Wontha Sara" to break his vows.] I went to Myawaddy to negotiate with the authorities to allow me to stay longer to carry out my religious obligation, but they wouldn't accept my plea. Finally I had to move to the relocation site on September 15th, where I managed to build a makeshift shelter. I had to interrupt my special religious obligations. This is my failure.

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#15

The following reports were filed by Karen forces operating in the Myawaddy-Kawkareik area:

On 25 November 1994, Warrant Officer Kya Ma Naw of SLORC #97 Battalion ordered Yan Koke village (near Kawkareik) to pay 2,000 Kyat each month for the following 5 months as compensation to the Army for a Burmese soldier who was kill near their village.

Throughout 1994, Naung Keing village has been forced to pay "porter fees" [generic name for extortion money] of 4,000 Kyat per month to the headquarters of SLORC #230 Battalion at Mya Pa Daing, for a total of 48,000 Kyat. On 29 December 1994, an officer from SLORC #230 Battalion ordered Naung Keing village and Tee Po San village to give 20,000 Kyat and 30,000 Kyat respectively, which he claimed was for the construction of a school at Mya Pa Daing. [The money may or may not be for a school; even if it is, the villagers who have paid will probably not be able to afford to send their children there and will be afraid to send their children so close to a SLORC camp, while some may not want to send their children because of the SLORC’s tightly restricted, propaganda-heavy and racist curriculum.]

On 1 December 1994 the village head of Zaw Heh village, U Ba Eh, was arrested by a SLORC patrol led by Captain Kyaw Moe Thu from #230 Battalion. U Ba Eh was subsequently secretly executed. Then on 1 January 1995, Zaw Heh village was forcibly relocated. The Battalion explained the execution and relocation by saying that U Ba Eh was a "robber", and claiming that a Karen soldier who was killed at nearby Po Kya bridge was found to be a native of Zaw Heh village.