The following testimonies were given by civilian villagers in Nyaunglebin District (Karen name Kler Lwe Htoo District), northeast of Rangoon and Pegu along the Sittaung River. Names which have been changed to protect people are given in quotation marks. All other names are real. Some details have been omitted from stories to protect people. 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.
Torture (Stories #1,2,3,5), Water Torture (#2), Torture of elderly woman (#2), Execution (#1,5), Detention (#1,2.3), Shooting at civilians (#1), Rape (#4), Sex with animals (#4), Forced labour (#2,3,4), Porters (#2), Forced labour on SLORC farms (#3), Fees/extortion (#2,3,4), Forced relocation (#2), Fleeing villages (#1,3,4, S).
NAME: "Ma Tway" SEX: F AGE: 29 Burman Buddhist, day labourer
ADDRESS: Kyauk Kyi Township, Nyaunglebin District
FAMILY: Married, 3 children aged 3 to 8
In May 1994, my husband Saw B--- [her husband is Karen] and two of his friends, K--- and H---, went to drink alcohol at T---'s house in K--- village. I went to tell my husband not to drink, and while I was there 18 soldiers from #264 Light Infantry Battalion arrived led by Captain Hla Win and a sergeant. They arrested my husband and his friend K---, but H--- was not arrested. I knew that H--- must have told SLORC that the 2 men had contact with rebels. The soldiers tied up my husband and K--- with rope, beat them with their guns and kicked them with their big boots. They said, "We know you have contact with insurgents." They tortured them for a long time and interrogated them. I saw that the men were suffering a great deal, so I told the soldiers, "Please release them, and I’ll give you money". I couldn't bear it any longer. But the soldiers wouldn't accept, and they took the men away. After that I went back home and waited for news. After 3 days, my husband escaped at night with his hands still tied up with rope, because he couldn't bear their torture anymore. When he escaped, the soldiers saw him and shot at him twice with a gun, then once with a big fire gun [probably an M79 grenade launcher or a rocket-propelled grenade], but my husband wasn't wounded. His friend K--- didn't dare escape, so he was still detained. Now I’ve heard that he was released. After that, we left our village to come here because we are afraid of SLORC.
Then in October, I went back to my village because my mother was sick and she called for me. When I was there, one morning I saw the soldiers arrest and torture 3 villagers beside my father-in-law's rice field. I watched them secretly from about 30 feet away. I clearly saw the soldiers tying them up with a rope then poking them with a knife to torture them. They covered their heads with bags, punched them and hit them with their guns. At about noon the soldiers left, taking the 3 villagers with them. Two days later, my brother-in-law told me that they had been killed. Their names were U Gaun Gyi and Ngat Yoe from Shwe Taung village, and the third man was from Pe Taung village. Incidents like these are always happening in our village, but nobody dares to tell about them.
The following testimony was given by a man from Kwin Seit village, alongside the Sittaung River in Nyaunglebin District:
One day in July1994 when my uncle was beside the Sittaung River doing sentry duty for SLORC, some people from the jungle crossed the river [SLORC forces villagers to stand sentry along roads, rivers, etc. on a constant basis to watch for "insurgents"]. SLORC heard about it, so they came and asked my uncle about it but he didn't know anything. That's why the commander, Thura Sein Win, hit him with a G3 rifle butt and asked him, "Do you have contact with revolutionaries? Why didn't you tell us about the people crossing the river?" They took him to their camp, beat him again, covered his head with a plastic bag and poured water on it. After that, he was tied up underneath a dripping water bag. At first he didn't feel any pain, but later he said the pain was as though he was being hit with a hammer. He couldn't bear it any more. He had no way to resist this kind of torture. They used that torture on him for 3 days. My aunt went to give him some food, and she saw it.
At the same time, SLORC also arrested 18 other people and accused them of having contact with revolutionaries. They put them all in jail, and they haven't been released until now. They also forced Kwin Seit village to relocate to the west side of the Sittaung River. [Note: to date, we have not been able to obtain up-to-date information on whether they are still being held.]
Another man from the village gave the following testimony:
One day in July 1994, Major Thura Sein Win from #57 Infantry Battalion came into the village and arrested 19 villagers, including my 2 brothers and my aunt. [He provided the following list:]
U Than Tin
[Two names are missing. All of those listed, are ethnic Burman Buddhists.]
They were all arrested, tortured and then put in jail. They were accused of contacting revolutionaries. The soldiers tied the legs of my 2 brothers with rope and hung them upside down. Then they beat them and interrogated them. When they didn't get any answers they poked their faces with knives. They covered my aunt's head with a plastic bag and poured water on it. After awhile, she fell down and lost consciousness. Then they took off the bag and she regained consciousness. They asked her, "Have you contacted the revolutionaries?", so she replied, "I am an old woman and I don't go anywhere, so I don't know anything." For three days they carried out their interrogations and torture in the daytime and put everyone in jail at night. They tortured each person separately, then put them in jail because they didn't provide any information. Now they still haven't been released.
The other villagers who weren't arrested were ordered to move to the west side of the Sittaung River [to anywhere they wanted, as long as it is on the west side - SLORC considers opposition forces to be confined to areas east of the river]. They only gave us a short time to move, and then they came to check that everyone was gone. They said it was because our village had contact with rebels. We always face many problems with SLORC. We are forced to work for them, and if we can't go for 10 days, we have to pay them 1,000 Kyat. When we're at their camp, we have to do hard labour for them. We hire others to go for us if we can for 1,000 Kyat, but I had to go myself once. They made me carry 10 big tins of rice, and sometimes their bags [at various times]. We had to take our own food with us. I saw other porters from other villages too. When some of the old men couldn't carry anymore, the soldiers beat them up, kicked them with their big boots and insulted them. I saw this happen 3 times, just 10 feet away from me. When we got fever or other sickness, they didn't give us any medicine. Finally, anybody who couldn't carry anymore was just left behind in the jungle. If they can't make it home by themselves, they die.
NAME: "Naw Eh Wah" SEX: F Karen Christian farmer
ADDRESS: Shwegyin Township, Nyaunglebin District
FAMILY: Married, children
On July 8, 1994 the SLORC came into my house and tried to eat my rice, then they asked me "When will Uncle [your husband] comeback?" I told them, "Uncle will never come back to us. We just live and work together as a family by ourselves." Then they asked "Where is your son?", so I told them "He is working in our field. He hasn't come back yet." The soldier said "I want to see him". Just then one of my sons arrived back from school. He's in 6th standard. The soldier said, "Little boy, finish your dinner quickly and we'll go find your brother." Then they went together. When they got to the farm, the soldier waited nearby while my son went to call his brother Saw T---. Then he brought his brother back, and the soldier saw him. [At this point "Naw Eh Wah" started crying, and continued crying while she went on] The soldier took him to a tree, and told him to stand against the tree and bend upside down. Saw T--- described it to me later. The soldier tied his hands behind his back while he was upside down. Then he punched him in the face until both his cheeks swelled up. Then he asked him, "Who is your father?" My son said "My father is M---". The soldier said "If your father is M---, then he must have left a walkie-talkie with you." My son said "My father didn't leave any walkie-talkie with me. My father never comes back to us. We just work together with our mother." But the soldier didn't believe him and started punching him again. Hundreds of punches, and he kicked him twice, burned him with a cheroot [Burmese cigar], and poked him in the chest with a bayonet. He has 15 scars from that. Then he told him to stand up straight. As he stood up he tried to put his hands over his head to get them in front of him, and the soldier said, "We’ll have to tie you up all over, then." He tied him up, brought him back and put him under Teacher E---'s mother's house, but I didn't know. He put something around my son's head so nobody could see who it was.
The soldiers came and said they would arrest my son, so I felt terrible. The soldier said "Mother, did all the seeds you've planted grow or not?" [referring to her children] I just laughed and didn't say anything. He said the same thing to my daughter-in-law. Later when it was dusk and you could just barely see where you were going, I said to my other sons, "Read your books and prepare for tomorrow, or you won't do well at school." But my son said "I can't read now, because they've arrested my brother and beat him until his face swelled up, and just now they took him to the monastery. I’m too afraid to read a book." I asked him, "Are you sure they took him away?" He said yes, so I decided to go there. It was already dark, so I wasn't afraid to go out. I just put a sarong around my shoulders like men do, and I went to the village chairman and asked him to go with me, but he wouldn't. He told me to go to the village secretary instead. So I went and waited for the secretary. He came and said, "Don't worry about your son. They'll release him, but first they'll ask him some questions." I said, "If they interrogate him, they'll kill him afterwards", but he told me not to worry so I came back home. That night I couldn't sleep all night. I have cattle to take care of, but in the morning I just let them go off on their own. At about 10 a.m. one of the villagers came and said, "The officer wants to see you". The officer's name is Aung Toe Lay, he is a Lieutenant. I went to the Chairman's house again and asked him to go with me but he wouldn't, so I went to the secretary's house, and they were keeping my son there. I came up into the house and saw my son's back. Then when I saw his face, I started to cry and I had to look away. Aung Toe Lay said, "Mother, you look at your son and feel bad?" So I said, "Son, how could a mother feel good about this?" My son's face was all swollen up and it must have hurt very badly.
Aung Toe Lay said, "Mother, I was wrong because some people told me bad things about your family. But now I know I've made a mistake, so don't hold it against me." I said, "No, I won't hold a grudge. But release my son." He looked at my son and said, "Saw T---, now I'm going to release you, so go back and help your mother in the farm again. Don't have a Ringworm [rebel] heart. If you do then that's very wrong." Then he looked at me and asked again, "Mother, when will Father come back?" I said, "Father will never come back home." So he said, "If it’s like that then you can go now." We went back home, and my son told me "Mother, I want to have a Thanksgiving service." So we killed our one goat, cooked it and had a Thanksgiving. Then I told my son to go to his wife, who lives in another village.
The soldiers were from #57 Battalion. Aung Toe Lay is Second-in-Command of his Company. He accused my husband of helping Kaw Thoo Lei, but my husband just went out there [Karen-controlled area]to find a job, not to work for Kaw Thoo Lei. Someone must have accused us. It's taken my son until now to get better.
The SLORC also orders us to do sentry duty for them, carry things, build roads, and now we have to cut down trees and bushes to clear a 100 acre farm for them. They're starting to make it now. They give us nothing, we have to work for free. I don't know how long the farm will take to finish, because we've fled now, and as soon as we left we didn't look back. But I don't think it's finished, because those soldiers have left and now #349 Battalion has replaced them. They also order us to send porters, 10 people from each village. They have to go for 10 days, then more people have to go to replace them. They have to carry bullets, pots, blankets and things. They have to take their own food, and if they run out then they have to go without food until they get home. Our village head could only send 6 people each time, so we have to pay 1,000 Kyat for each person who doesn't go. The SLORC also tells people to take rice to their camp, but some people don't have enough rice at home. When people say they don't have enough rice, the soldiers beat and kick them. All of these things have been happening for 3 years now. We left the village, and then I felt better because I had to get out of that village and finally God opened a way for me to get out. My son was treated horribly. I know other people have had to face the same thing, but when I saw my son all swollen up and burned with fire, I felt terrible. Whenever the SLORC comes into the village they always ask who are our husbands and children and then they always make trouble, so we always have to be afraid of them. What can we do? We only want to live peacefully and work freely without being afraid of anybody.
NAME: "Ma Tin Shwe" SEX: F AGE: 44 Burman Buddhist, trader
ADDRESS: Kyauk Kyi Township, Nyaunglebin District
FAMILY: Widow, I son aged 18
I left my village and came here at the beginning of rainy season [June 1994]because the SLORC Army demanded everything they wanted from me, so I didn't have any money left to trade, and I didn't dare stay in my village anymore. I’m awidow and I was living alone in my house, which was really very dangerous for me when the SLORC Army is around. I didn't even have time to earn my living because of all the forced labour. So I decided to come and stay here [in Karen-controlled area]. In this village, the villagers help one another and I can make my living peacefully. I hope that even when I’m dead, the villagers might take care of my grave. I had no chance of these things in my native village.
In my home village, the SLORC Army forced the villagers to do things by giving orders to our village headman. They demanded various things, and they also demanded forced labour. Men from all the villages were forced to collect construction materials such as wood, logs, and bamboo. If anyone didn't go, the penalty was having to go fetching firewood or carrying water for the soldiers. When villagers work for them, if they miss even one day they must do another three days' work as a fine. My village was very small, so we had to go all the time [not enough people to rotate the duty] and we didn't have enough time to do our own work. They forced us to give them chicken, fish and prawns from every house in turns. The chickens had to be big, about 1 viss [1.6 kg.] each, and the fish had to be at least l viss in weight!
We really didn't have much time to make our living. They bothered us continuously. We also had to deliver their letters to another camp every day. One villager had to be on messenger duty for a day and a night, every day. If the person couldn't go we had to give the soldiers 80 Kyat to hire someone else [actually the soldiers just keep this money and force someone else]. I’m a widow, so I didn't have to go for this duty, but each time my turn came up I still had to give them 40 Kyat. There's also another type of messenger duty we had to do - it lasts 3 days at a time and you have to pay 500 Kyat if you can't go. Everyone who is on these kinds of duties has to take their own rice to eat, and they have to add their rice to the soldiers' rice when it's time to cook. Then the soldiers only give them half a plateful when it's cooked, and they go hungry. No one dares to complain about this. The worst of all is "long messenger duty". People who go for this don't always return home. The person's family can only feel safe when they see him arrive back safely. Five or six villagers have to go for this duty, and anyone who can't go has to pay, as usual. They have to do work in other people's farms to get the money. The troops who make us do these things the most are from Light Infantry Battalion #60. Their camp commander is Captain Nyi Lwin, and the officers who make us do the most labour are Captain Nyi Lwin, Captain Nyi Soe, Corporal Myint Ohn and others.
As for the village girls, the worst thing for them is seeing the SLORC soldiers having sexual intercourse with cows. One day we had to go for forced labour between Owt Chin Gone and Yan Gyi Aung villages. There were about 60 or 70 of us from several villages, and we saw this happening not far from us so we could see it very clearly. The soldiers were among the cattle, doing this awful thing. The women ran here and there, because they were afraid and they couldn't bear to watch it. We had never seen anything like it before, and we were ashamed. The army officer came to the villagers' houses and said his troops had just recently come back from the frontline at Tee Moo Khee so they wanted to sleep with every woman they saw, and he told us to avoid them if we can.
We, especially the women, don't dare meet the Burmese soldiers, so we run for our lives whenever we see them. All the women have to sleep in one house together for safety on those terrible nights. At Wet La Daw Gyi village, the soldiers found a girl who was harvesting paddy and they tore her clothes, hugged her forcibly and then laid her down on the ground. They did it in the daytime not far from the monastery, and the abbot could see them very clearly. Who can hold them back? Who dares to stop them? I don’t know. There’s also a big bridge at Wet La Daw village, and right there the soldiers grabbed a young girl right in front of us. We saw it all. The victim tried to escape from them until eventually there was no clothing left on her. Her name is Ma Win Htay, she is about 20 and has a baby. They also raped another girl, whose name I don’t know, in the same village - she was about 17. These girls were angry, so they told the village elders about it. But as usual, there was no man who dared to talk back to the Army, so these cases ended without any action being taken. Those soldiers had just recently come back from Tee Moo Khee, led by Lieutenant Tin Nyunt.
NAME: "Saw Ba Aye" SEX: M Karen Farmer
ADDRESS: Ler Doh Township, Nyaunglebin District
FAMILY: Married, children
Saw T--- was my younger brother. He was 25 years old, and he lived in Ler Doh Township. He was a farmer. His village is 2 hours walk from the SLORC camp at Baw Ka Hta, so the SLORC troops come to the village sometimes to make the villagers go and work for them at their camp. They took my brother together with other people in April 1991. They arrived at Baw Ka Hta camp and stayed there for 1 or 2 days, then the soldiers arrested my bother T--- and accused him of being a rebel. They tied him up for 3 or 4 days at the camp and tortured him very seriously. I heard about it, so I went to help him. When I arrived at the camp, I saw that my brother had been tied with his hands behind his back and a lock. I saw them torturing him with my own eyes - it was only 30 feet from me. His face had been covered, then they shoved a G3 rifle barrel in his mouth and shook it around. Then they cut off his lips with a knife, and a lot of blood came pouring out. I asked permission from the sentries on the path to go in and plead for my brother, but they told me "Nobody is allowed to go in there", and I had to go back home. Five days later, they put my brother on an ox-cart and took him to Thu Ka Bee. I heard this news so I followed him. Along the way I met people who were being forced to repair the road, and they said "They already shot your brother dead". Then I was afraid to go and see, because I though they’d arrest me as well. When they arrived in Thu Ka Bee, they led him by a rope to the pond and they shot him there.
After they killed my brother I didn’t dare stay in my house anymore, so now I’m just a wanderer. I go to pan for gold in the rivers sometimes, and in 1993 I grew some rice on a hillside in G---. My wife and children still live in the village, and the SLORC still asks them about me sometimes. Sometimes I try to go back and see them if the situation is good, but I can’t live there anymore.