In late 1994, KHRG helped to provide equipment and training to a few Chin individuals who are interested in documenting the human rights situation in Chin State. Since then, we have begun receiving reports and photographs from the area. This report contains the first installment of this information. While the Karen Human Rights Group focuses its activities primarily on Karen areas, we are always eager to document the situation of all peoples and areas of Burma whenever firsthand information is available. We hope we can continue to help the Chin people to disseminate information on their homeland, which is largely ignored by the outside world.
Chin State is in northwestern Burma, adjacent to southern Bangladesh and India's Mizoram and Manipur states. It is mostly semi-mountainous remote hill country, and is home to the Zo people, also known as Chin, who also inhabit much of the adjacent part of India. The small but active Chin National Front is involved in armed struggle against SLORC, but there is very little fighting there compared to many other parts of Burma. In spite of this, the SLORC behaves much the same in Chin State as it does in the country's war zones, as is shown by the sample of incidents listed in this report.
Names have been changed and some details omitted where necessary in this report to protect the people involved. Names which have been changed are indicated by enclosing them in quotation marks. 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), Forced Labour (#1,3), Threatening massacres (#1,2), People fleeing to become refugees (#1,2,3), Unlawful conviction & sentencing (#3), Jail conditions (#3), Death in custody (#3), Interrogation drugs & torture (#3), State stealing of ethnic children (#4), Burmanization & religious persecution (#4).
NAME: "U Mya Aung" SEX: M AGE: 28
ADDRESS: Longkadoo village, Plat Wa township, Chin State
DISCRIPTION: Chin Buddhist farmer
Two days before we came here, Company 1 of SLORC Battalion #376 called us to Doh Chaung Wa village. They called 12 villagers to go, but only 3 people could go because the villagers were very busy in their fields. So only 3 of us went. The other two were Maung Sein from Ohn Thee Wa village and Tin Soe from Paut Htoo Wa village. Then the soldiers said, "We called for 12 villagers. Why didn't you comply with our order?" So they started beating us. Then they forced the 3 of us to saw wood to build their fence, but we didn't know how to saw it. Then the soldiers accused us of being against them, so they tied up two of us with our hands behind our backs and punched and kicked all of us several times. They beat me worse than the other two. At the time, we were so scared that we tried to bribe them to release us with 1,000 Kyat. After they got the 1,000 Kyat they released us.
When I got back to my village the situation got worse, because the wife, daughter and niece of the Plat Wa police inspector, U Law Her, came to our village and stayed at the village headman's house, then they disappeared. These women said they came to trade. We don't know where they went after they stayed in our village. Maybe the rebels kidnapped them. Because of this, our village headman U Ram Doh was arrested by Captain Htun Way from Battalion #376, Company 1. They took him to Pone Yaung Wa army camp, and after they got there they asked him questions: "Where are the three women?" The village head told them he didn't know anything about it, and they tied his hands and his legs and sank him in water again and again, so many times. After he couldn't say anything anymore, the soldiers punched him, kicked him and beat him with rifle butts so many times. We heard that they broke his nose and that he was bleeding all over his body and his face. Now we don't know if he's dead or alive.
The day after arresting our headman, the SLORC Army sent a message with a man to our village telling us to send these 3 women back to Plat Wa town as soon as possible or else they will kill all of our villagers [this messenger (a conscripted villager) also described the torture of the headman to them]. We didn't know anything about these 3 women so we couldn't do anything. At 9 p.m. on the night of 28 December 1994, the villagers decided that we would all have to flee from our village. Some went to India, some went to Cha Krau and we came here to Kessephai together with 20 families, 123 of us altogether. We reached Kessephai [in Rarjamati province, Bangladesh] the next morning, on 29 December. Most of the people in our group are old people and children. After we reached here, we had problems to live. We stayed at the village head's house and another house, and they collect rice from the other villagers to feed us. They will finish collecting it in 1 or 2 days. We don't know how we will survive. All of our belongings, buffalos, cattle, rice, and other crops, we had to leave behind at our village. We couldn't carry anything with us. We heard that the soldiers came to our village the next day and took everything. This village where we are staying now is still very close to the Burma border, so we still have to worry for our safety and we had to plead to The Hi Ni village militia to help protect us from Burmese soldiers. Some of our people are sick [it is a cold winter in the Chin Hills] and there is no medicine. We don't know how we will survive.
NAME: "U Myo Thant" SEX: M AGE: 40
ADDRESS: Longkadoo village, Plat Wa township, Chin State
DISCRIPTION: Chin Buddhist farmer
For a long time, we lived comfortably in our village and we had no problem with our farms. But last week, just before we fled here, our headman went to Plat Wa town. When he came back, 3 women followed him. These women are the wives of policemen. They said they were coming to the village to trade. They slept one night in our village and then they disappeared. We don't know where they went. Then Company #1 of SLORC Battalion #376 called our headman to their Pone Yaung Wa camp because the 3 women had disappeared. When our headman arrived at their camp, the SLORC Army asked him where the 3 women were. He told them the women had slept one night in his house, then the next day he didn't see them anymore so he didn't know where they had gone. Then the soldiers tied his hands behind his back and sunk him in water. Then they asked him more questions. The headman told them he didn't know anything about the situation of the 3 women, so they pushed him under the water many times and started beating him. They tied his arms and his legs with a rope, and they punched him and kicked him many times. They hit him with a rifle butt. After the last blow he had a broken rib, his nose had been crushed by the rifle butt and his whole body was swelling up. Then the Army ordered him to send the 3 women to them. "If not", they said, "We are going to kill all the villagers."
The next day, on 28 December 1994, the Army sent a man named Mao Char Mu, 40 years old, from Pone Yaung Wa village to our village to give us this message and to take back our answer [he also described the torture of the headman to them]. They ordered the villagers to send the 3 women immediately to Plat Wa town, and threatened "If not, we are going to kill all the villagers." We didn't know how to solve this problem. There was no choice for us. We were afraid we would be killed that night, so we had to run away. Some of the villagers ran to India and some to Kessephai [in Bangladesh]. My family and 12 other families ran here to Cha Krau [a village in Bangladesh]. We are 97 people altogether. We left Longkadoo village on 28 December at about 8 p.m. We had to walk the whole night, then we arrived here at Cha Krau on 29 December. We had no relatives here, and we had no food, so it is difficult for us to stay here and we have to face many troubles. A man from the village is letting us stay at the primary school. We had to flee immediately from SLORC, so we couldn't carry any food, blankets, or clothing. We had to leave behind our buffalos, our cattle, our pigs and our paddy and flee.
Right now I just get too tired trying to think about how to solve our problems and continue our lives. We don't even know if our headman is dead or not. It is impossible to go back to our village. We don't dare try to survive there anymore. [The 97 people are currently staying in the primary school, a building 16 feet wide by 24 feet long, in Cha Krau village, Rarjamati District, Bangladesh. Many of them have bad colds from a particularly cold winter, and some are also suffering from malaria. They have no access to medical treatment, and no food except what the local villagers can give them.]
NAME: "Maung Ko" SEX: M AGE: 27
ADDRESS: Ma Tu Pi township, Chin State
DISCRIPTION: Chin Christian, student
I and two of my friends named Thin Lian Klai and Thin Lian Sun went to Mizo Yapet in India to make some money during the school holidays. At the time, I was studying at the high school of Ma Tu Pi township. Along our way between Plat Wa and Phai Chaung, we saw many other people going as well. After we reached Phai Chaung, we met with SLORC Light Infantry Battalion #20 led by Captain Zaw Win. They interrogated us, accused us of being collaborators with rebels and detained us. We denied that we were collaborating with rebels. We tried hard to explain to them that we were just going to trade chickens in Mizo Yapet to get money for school, but they didn't accept this. They started beating and torturing us. After punching and kicking us many times, they covered my head and sank it in water, then they pulled my ribs apart [they reached around him from behind, grabbed the right and left sides of his lower ribcage and tried to wrench them apart]. They also used the "riding a bicycle" torture [a common SLORC torture - the victim is forced to squat in a riding position and pretend he's riding a bicycle or motorcycle, often also being forced to make honking noises, etc., under the torturer's instructions such as "Turn left! Stop! You didn't stop soon enough!" - the victim is then severely beaten], and they also forced us to squat as if we were shitting or pissing for a long time. They forced us to stand for the whole day and said "You have to confess. I am going to beat you up until you confess." They put 3 bags over my head and then they beat my back several times with a rifle butt. Then they beat my legs 100 or 200 times with a cane stick. Finally we had to confess. We said that we were collaborators with rebels.
Then Captain Zaw Win sent us to court charged with 4 criminal offenses under Article 17 (1). We had no opportunity for defence. The Plat Wa court said, "We cannot sentence for political offenses", so they transferred us to Sittwe Township in Arakan State. In that court we had an opportunity to defend ourselves. In court we told them that we were not collaborators with rebels. The judge said to the Army men, "You must show evidence. Unless you can produce any evidence, we cannot convict them of being against the country." So then the SLORC Army sent a man to the court. The judge asked him, "Can you give any evidence against them? If not, we can't convict them under this Article, and we can't detain them. If you can't produce any evidence, we will release them." The Army had no evidence. Then the judge said to us, "I'm sure that you are not rebel collaborators. I could release you now by my authority. But I am so sad. I cannot do that for the time being because the Army ordered me not to release you and to put you in jail. According to the law you are clear of the crime, you are not guilty. But as you know, our country is governed by the Army and we cannot do anything against their orders. Therefore, I will have to go along with this Article. It says you can be detained for 3 to 7 years. I am going to sentence you to 3 years, because this is the shortest possible period of time. I am sure you are not guilty, and they couldn't produce any evidence. But I am daunted by the military authorities."
So the judge sentenced us to 3 years and they sent us to Sittwe jail. They put the 3 of us in a 10-foot by 5-foot dark cell for 6 months. They gave us one pot for a latrine. Nothing else, only bare cement. When the pot got fuller and fuller, we asked them to empty it but they wouldn't. The smell of shit was all over the room. We had to suffer that for 6 months. In the dark room, my friend Lian Sun died of the fever he got from being tortured. We tried to report it to the authorities before he died, but they ignored us. After he died, they took his dead body to the hospital and the doctor said that he died of a heart attack. After 6 months in the dark room, my other friend was released to a normal cell, but he wasn't allowed to meet or talk to any other prisoners. We could talk to each other during the shifts of labour, but the chains on our legs were very strong.
In the jail, an MI [Military Intelligence] man came to us and interrogated us often. Before he interrogated us, he made us spin around 20 times. We slowly got dizzy, and sometimes we vomited [Note: in their weak condition, the effect of this would be much stronger than on a healthy person]. Then they blindfolded us and took us walking for 20 minutes, but we didn't know where we were going. They brought 2 or 3 pills and forced us to swallow them. We couldn't protest. Half an hour after taking these pills, we slowly became very frightened and afraid. They always did this to us before interrogating us. The way the MI interrogates people is really terrible, not only to me but to the other prisoners as well. They put pins under our fingernails. They used nail-clippers to pinch our skin, and they poured very cold water on the front part of our heads. They have several ways of torturing and interrogating. Even though you are not killed, you can never be normal again.
The food in the jail is really bad. They fed us twice a day, half paddy [unmilled rice, which has indigestible husks on it] and half rice. Whenever they could, they put soda in the rice gruel, so that if you leave this rice for one hour, it becomes liquid. If you eat only the rice they give you in jail, you cannot stay alive for long. If you want better rice you have to pay at least 100 Kyat per month to the jail warden. There was so much bribing going on in the jail. Unless you could bribe them, you had to suffer. In these conditions, at least 4 people died every month from starvation in Sittwe jail.
By the blessing of God, I was released from jail on 27 November 1994. I planned to go and stay very happily with my family. But that was impossible, because the authorities gave me a card. The card means "This person can be arrested at any time." It said I had to report to the police station every two weeks, and they could arrest me anytime, so I had no freedom. I don't want to be arrested again. I am so afraid of that. So I just stayed with my family for one day, and then I fled and came here. ["Maung Ko" (from Ma Tu Pi township) and Thin Lian Klai (from Tan Ta Lan township) were both released after serving their full sentences. Both have now fled to Bangladesh. Thin Lian Sun, from Chaung Do village, Klay Township, died in the first 6 months in prison.]
On 30 May 1994 copies of the following letter from the Tan Ta Lan Township LORC were distributed in both Burmese and Chin languages throughout Tan Ta Lan town and to all villages in Tan Ta Lan Township:
Township Law & Order Restoration Council
Tan Ta Lan Township
Letter No. 01/3-1/TLORC (Tan Ta Lan)
Date: 1994 May 30
Quarter / Village Law & Order Restoration Council Groups
_________________ town / village
Subject: Announcing the provision of higher education to children
1) Regarding the above subject, with the purpose of giving higher education to the children for the development of areas in the state, those below the age of 14 years are to be provided with food and clothing, provided education, and trained to be refined individuals without any racial or religious discrimination.
2) Therefore, nationals should send their children either to Rangoon or to Tan Ta Lan town in order that they may be educated. Bearing in mind the well-being of their children, they should announce the giving of higher education to the villages.
(1) The State will provide lodging, board, clothes and all other necessities for the children who enroll for higher education.
(2) These children should bring with them all their particulars: date of birth, names of parents, National Registration Card number, name of village, and religion.
(3) These children should be sent to Tan Ta Lan town before the end of July 1994.
(4) They will be allowed to worship and practice their own religion.
Attached is a copy of a translation in Chin language
(Chin Za Bone, Secretary)
Some of the Christian Chin in the township believed the announcement, and at least 9 children were entrusted into the care of SLORC. They were taken first to Tan Ta Lan town, then to Rangoon. Since the end of July 1994 there has been no communication whatsoever from or about them. They have been completely cut off from their parents. When the parents investigated, they learned that all of the children were living at K'Ba Aye Buddhist monastery in Rangoon. This was communicated to the Chin Christian community in Rangoon. In the first week of December 1994, they went to the abbot of the monastery and asked permission to see these children, but permission was refused.
In the third week of December 1994, Dr. Hmuh Thang, Member of Parliament (1990 election) for Tan Ta Lan township and another individual went down to Rangoon to attend the SLORC's national convention and learned about the Chin children. They went to the authorities and asked permission to see the children, and the two of them were granted permission. When they met the children at K'Ba Aye monastery, they found that the boys had had their heads shaved in order to become novice Buddhist monks, while the girls had been pressured repeatedly to have their heads shaved to become Buddhist nuns, but so far the girls had refused. All of the children cried and begged to be taken home when the 2 representatives met them. However, the children are still being held at the monastery. [Note: Not only is the SLORC using the promise of education to steal Chin children, Burmanize them and coerce or force them to become Buddhists, but there is also a further danger that as soon as the boys reach age 14 or 15 they are very likely to be conscripted into the Burma Army. SLORC has used similar tricks in the past in areas such as the Irrawaddy Delta, where it has invited young Karen boys to sporting tournaments only to kidnap them and force them into the Army. The Tatmadaw has a history of grabbing orphans and other small boys and housing them at Army camps, indoctrinating them and using them as errand boys until they are big enough to be soldiers. As Cambodian civilians learned from the Khmer Rouge, such kidnapped and brainwashed children can make the most terrifying of teenage soldiers.]