The DKBO and the fall of Manerplaw
Since 1992 we have received reports from villages, particularly in Thaton and Pa’an Districts, that local SLORC commanders and Intelligence units were actively spreading propaganda that the Karen National Union is anti-Buddhist, that the Karen Revolution is a Christian revolution and that Karen leaders had told their Christian supporters that as soon as the revolution succeeded they would kill all the Buddhists. Villagers were told that SLORC troops didn’t really want to burn and loot their villages and execute people, but that they had to because the KNU was around, so it was all the KNU’s fault. They were told not to cooperate with the KNU and to pressure the KNU into a ceasefire. Despite the villagers’ fear and hatred of SLORC, over time this propaganda gradually began to have an effect for several reasons. Two main factors were the villagers’ complete lack of education, and the truth to the accusation that Christians were promoted over Buddhists in the KNU. But perhaps most significant was the fact that the KNU had never tried to politically educate the villagers or get them politically involved in the revolution, so they didn’t even properly understand what the KNU was fighting for; instead, they only knew they had to give rice to KNU forces, their sons to the KNU Army, and see their villages burned as SLORC retaliation for KNU military operations. They were fed up. Then in 1993 some monks began offering them an alternative: refuse to help the KNU, come and stay at "refuges" around monasteries, all your food and other needs will be provided and, best of all, SLORC won’t bother you. People began moving to these "refuges", where they received food and other needs from the monks - who were in turn receiving it all from SLORC. The villagers didn’t know where the food was coming from, so they began believing monks such as U Thuzana must have "magic powers". Thuzana and the other leaders sent their strongest supporters back into the villages to bring the others, and when most people didn’t want to leave their homes the movement began threatening them. From that point on, the movement used fear and threats more often than persuasion to get recruits.
In late 1994 things became more serious, as monks and villagers were ordered by Thuzana to disarm KNU soldiers in the villages. The movement became armed. In December, it occupied Thu Mwe Hta monastery at the junction of the Salween and Moei rivers. In 1993-94, a huge new monastery hall was built there, and it was later discovered that a large arms cache had been placed under it - indicating the apparent amount of pre-planning which had gone into this sequence of events. At Thu Mwe Hta the group cut off a main KNU supply line and called all KNU Buddhist soldiers and villagers to come and join them. Many KNU soldiers walked away from hilltop positions which they had been defending, underfed and undersupplied, for years. SLORC walked into the positions, including Min Yaw Kee ridge, from which they could easily mount an assault on Manerplaw.
The movement became violent. Some KNU soldiers and villagers who wouldn’t join them were killed in several villages. The KNU sent negotiating teams, including Buddhist monks, to Thu Mwe Hta but they were arrested and held hostage. Their release was negotiated, and on Dec. 15th an agreement was struck between the KNU and the new group. Its leaders had already retreated on Dec. 12 to Myaing Gyi Ngu (Karen name Khaw Taw), near Ka Ma Maung, where they set up headquarters at a monastery with a great deal of weapons stored around it. These leaders tore up the Thu Mwe Hta agreement and the group at Thu Mwe Hta once again put the river under siege. On Dec. 21 the leaders declared the formation of the "Democratic Kayin Buddhist Organization" (DKBO) and the "Democratic Kayin Buddhist Army" (DKBA), and demanded that the KNU hand over Manerplaw. Negotiations at Thu Mwe Hta broke down. SLORC’s Southeastern Regional Commander Maj. Gen. Maung Hla promptly visited Myaing Gyi Ngu and promised the DKBA all required weapons and uniforms. SLORC immediately began providing the DKBA with uniforms, a badge, food and other supplies - and apparently even wrote several of the DKBA’s political statements, in the opinion of experienced Burmese dissidents who read them. The KNU set a deadline of midnight Dec. 31st for the "mutineers" to "return to the fold". The deadline passed, and a couple of days later the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) began attacking Thu Mwe Hta, which fell within a few days (shortly after the KNLA scored a direct hit on the ammunition cache under the monastery hall). The Thu Mwe Hta group withdrew to the Sleeping Dog Mountain area.
The SLORC then took over complete control for the offensive. DKBA members were divided up, a small handful assigned to each SLORC unit as guides, and the offensive began on January 20. By January 23 the SLORC established a foothold on the Manerplaw side of the Salween. Using the DKBA guides to indicate all the back pathways and KNLA positions, they advanced quickly. The KNLA decided to limit its defence to delaying actions, and torched most of Manerplaw before withdrawing. The SLORC arrived in Manerplaw on January 27th, and raised the yellow DKBA flag. However, on the hill below Manerplaw’s monastery there was a more realistic sign: SLORC soldiers made huge white letters on the ground, visible from the air, reading in Burmese "eA[ (661) cr& (10)" ["Strategic Command 661 - Light Infantry Battalion 10"; a Battalion in SLORC’s #66 Light Infantry Division]. Observers on the Thai side of the river got photos of the lettering, which a few hours later had suddenly been rubbed out and replaced with the English lettering "DKBA".
The Broader Offensive
While much attention was focussed on the SLORC’s capture of Manerplaw itself, the offensive against the surrounding areas has been largely ignored. This offensive has continued since the fall of Manerplaw, as the SLORC works toward securing the entire Salween and Moei River sections of the Thai border. The KNU and pro-democracy groups were forced to abandon their Manerplaw headquarters, but in the process of the Manerplaw/Salween offensive it is the tens of thousands of villagers who have suffered the most. At least 100 Karen villages have been destroyed or no longer exist. The following is just a partial list:
Manerplaw (*), Tee Thay Kee, Tee Taw Kloh, Klaw Deh (*), Kler Thay Lu (t), Tee Thay Kee (t), Mae Po Hta (t), Mu Yu Hta (t), Baw Shaw Lu (t), Pa Hee Lu (t), Pway Baw Lu (t), Htoo Wah Lu (t), Ka Paw Lu (t), Lo Kwa Lu (*), Ga Ma, Ya Deh Ni, Naw Deh (*), Lah Hee Lu, Thu Mwe Hta, Mae Let Hta, Gawa Yeh, Meh Leh Kee, Oo Ghay Thu, Meh Bpa, Min Yaw Kee, Meh Pru, dozens of small villages in Meh Pru area, Meh Kong Kay, Meh Paw Muh Hta, Pu Mya Lu (t), Thay Law Hta (t), Mae Paw Muh Hta (t), many villages in Dawn Gwin (*) and Meh Paw Muh Hta areas, Bwa Der, Maw Leh Meh Hta, Meh Ku Hta, Meh Nyo Hta, Nya Ku Pu, Wah Ku Der, Ee Thu Ku, Ko Ra Hta, Baw Bo Kyu, Klaw Hta, Ko Lar Hta, Htoo Ka Toe, Htay Day, Htoo Bway Kay, Htay Kler Toe, Saw Bway Der, Moi Yeh Hta, Du Ho Reh, Kyauk Nyat, Thee Muh Hta, Ka Dteh Hta (*), Weh Gyi, Weh Gyi (t), Oo Thu Hta, Ka Htee Hta (t), Bon Ya Hta (t), Oo Da Hta (t), Oo Kweh Hta (t), Yaung Nai Oo (t), ... and many others not named here.
Those denoted by (t) were displaced Karen villages or refugee camps on the Thai side of the border. Only a few of the villages mentioned (denoted by *) were primarily Karen military garrisons or positions, and these were abandoned and in some cases burned by withdrawing Karen troops before SLORC forces could arrive. Many of the other civilian-only villages were burned and destroyed by advancing SLORC troops or forced to flee before SLORC could arrive. Those who remained in their villages suddenly found themselves with no Karen Army in the area to protect them. In these cases, many fled as soon as SLORC appeared near the village, or after SLORC had shelled or shot up the village upon entering it. Villages in the Kyauk Nyat area of the upper Salween River found that after their area was occupied, the DKBA began posting notices in some villages stating that all villagers must join DKBO or their villages would be burned. When this happened, Christians were the first to flee, followed by Buddhists.
There are also reports that many villages west of the Salween River are being forcibly relocated south and west to areas further inside Karen State in the area of Myaing Gyi Ngu, headquarters of the DKBO. It appears that the SLORC and the DKBA may be trying to clear all civilians out of the region within 10 km. or more of the Thai border, effectively establishing this swath of territory as a military-only zone. This would support the opinion of some analysts who feel the SLORC is trying to implement a "Fifth Cut": in addition to the "Four Cuts" program to cut off the opposition from civilian support, SLORC now seems to be doing everything it can to cut off the escape route of refugees to Thailand. Over the past year or two, SLORC seems to have realized that the flight of refugees is a weak point in its complete control over the country; there has been a great increase in SLORC’s verbal attacks on refugees in the media and in SLORC pressure on neighbouring countries to return the refugees. In recorded conversations last year, some senior SLORC Intelligence officers discussed how in the Irrawaddy Delta they have no problem with forced labour projects because the people can’t escape, but in areas closer to the borders such as Arakan State and the Ye-Tavoy railway, people flee to neighbouring countries, causing problems for the projects and international bad publicity for SLORC [see "SLORC Officers Talk about Forced Labour and Refugees", 25/9/94]. SLORC may feel that if it can eliminate the embarrassing existence of refugees, it will be one large step closer to absolute power within Burma and general acceptance abroad. This would help to explain the SLORC’s use of the DKBA to attack refugee camps in Thailand [see the section in this report on border incursions]. While most people agree that it would be virtually impossible for SLORC to completely block escape across its long and forested border with Thailand, it could certainly decrease the flow of refugees to a trickle if it can establish a wide "free-fire" military-only zone adjacent to the border, and if Thailand is willing to cooperate by immediately handing back any refugees it captures (as it is already doing along the Shan State border), then this "Fifth Cut" could be very effective. Fewer people would even try to escape if they knew they had little chance of succeeding. Already, new refugees have reported that there are 700 Karen families from the Kyauk Nyat area who want to flee to Thailand but are trapped between 2 main SLORC lines extending north-south along the Salween River and east-west from Kyauk Nyat to Papun.
Of those who have fled the current offensive, over 10,000 have arrived in Thailand, many are hiding in the mountains and forests of their home areas, many have fled to the homes of relatives or friends in villages or towns further inside Burma, and some have gone, whether by force, threats, fear, or willingly, to DKBA camps. In these DKBA locations, they are reportedly being provided with food for the time being by SLORC. One particular location near Myaing Gyi Ngu has been set up by SLORC as a "model village", and is now regularly featured in their media as a propaganda exercise. SLORC Television and print media have shown SLORC Generals and SLORC "Non-Governmental Organizations" (such as the "Maternal and Child Health and Welfare Organization" headed by Intelligence Chief Khin Nyunt’s wife) visiting the "model village" to give gifts to dazed-looking Karen villagers who have "fled the yoke of KNU rule". SLORC’s Burmese-language radio reported that SLORC had invited foreign NGO’s to come in and give aid to these "refugees", but as yet there have been no reports of any takers. It appears likely that SLORC will maintain one or two such places as they are for show, while most villagers who go to the DKBA will be kept in other villages - where they will be treated well for a few months, then put to use as porters and labourers for the SLORC military. The testimony of "Saw Htoo Thaw" in this report gives an insight into life in the "model village", including forced labour and forced conscription as porters and soldiers.
As soon as Manerplaw itself had fallen, the SLORC worked quickly to secure its grip on the Moei River near Manerplaw. Thousands of porters had already been rounded up for the Manerplaw offensive from towns and villages stretching from Mudon and Moulmein in the south to Thaton in the north. SLORC’s tactics in rounding up these porters, such as surrounding video cinemas and capturing all the men or abducting people from their homes in the middle of the night, were reminiscent of their tactics in 1992, when they rounded up an estimated 20,000 civilians for their last major Manerplaw offensive [for details on Manerplaw porters, see "Porters: Manerplaw & Kawmoora Areas", KHRG #95-07, 25/2/95]. Immediately after the capture of Manerplaw, SLORC began setting up small camps every kilometre or so along the river to the south of Manerplaw. Many porters were brought in from the hills surrounding Meh Tha Waw, the SLORC supply base to the south, to carry supplies to these camps. Many of these porters were "say muh wah" - Karen girls, almost all teenagers, from remote hill villages who wear the traditional white dress before marriage. Witnesses on the Thai bank of the Moei River saw 100 or more of these girls being held under guard in fenced enclosures along the Moei riverbank every evening. The fences were still visible in photos taken weeks later, each of their sharpened bamboo stakes with an empty milk-tin hanging on top so the girls couldn’t get over the fence at night without making alot of noise. None of them are known to have escaped.
At the same time, SLORC completed a dirt road connecting Meh Tha Waw to Manerplaw within 2 weeks. When this was done the "say muh wah" porters were sent back and SLORC trucks began moving supplies, though some men and women porters were still visible with SLORC troops along the road. According to observers on the Thai riverbank, it appeared that DKBA soldiers carried their own loads, while SLORC porters carried only their guns and were always accompanied by porters carrying heavy loads. By February 10, the SLORC trucks were going up and down the road all day - empty on their way to Manerplaw and full of soldiers, equipment and pillaged goods on the way back to Meh Tha Waw. SLORC was clearly not anticipating any KNLA attack to retake Manerplaw and was shifting most of its troops to increase its offensives to the south - in KNLA 7th Brigade area, and at Kawmoora.
At the same time new Battalions were being sent through Papun for an offensive further north to secure the entire area west of the Salween River. SLORC troops pushed up the Salween river from Thu Mwe Hta (at the Moei river junction) and Dawn Gwin areas, and down the Salween from Saw Hta, in the far north just below the Kayah State border. As combined SLORC and DKBA units appeared up and down the Salween riverbank, refugee camps and Thai Karen villages across the river began to flee. Even the bustling Thai trading village of Mae Sam Lap fled up a stream 2-3 km. into Thailand after SLORC and DKBA crossed the river into Mae Sam Lap several times. Thai traders could be seen selling their wares from bamboo shelters by the stream, looking like refugees, while the Thai Army had to occupy Mae Sam Lap to protect the border. SLORC troops coming through Papun also formed another line west-east from Papun to the Salween River at Kyauk Nyat, and performed sweeping operations south of this line to drive out any KNU forces while driving villagers into fleeing at the same time - as soon as they fled, the DKBA was ready and waiting to take them to Myaing Gyi Ngu.
Even before the main Manerplaw offensive began, refugees were already fleeing into Thailand. For example, Sho Kloh Karen refugee camp (110 km. north of Mae Sot) reported the arrival of 75 new families in December and January, primarily from Hlaing Bwe area in Pa’an District. The families were a mixture of Buddhists and Christians, and they said that people were fleeing primarily because of SLORC troops sweeping villages for porters, though some villagers (Buddhist and Christian) were also fleeing because they were afraid of the growing DKBA-KNU conflict. One woman commented that more families wanted to come, but that it was difficult because SLORC was deliberately blocking the way.
Particularly since the fall of Manerplaw, the refugee situation has become increasingly confusing, but it can be broken down into 3 main aspects: new refugees arriving, the movement of existing refugees, and the return of some refugees to Burma. Since the beginning of the year, there are an estimated ten to twelve thousand new Karen refugees from north of Kawmoora area who have arrived in Thailand. The majority of these are from villages from the Manerplaw area northward all the way to the Kayah State border. Many of them have fled before SLORC has arrived in their village because they dread being taken as porters and life in general under SLORC domination; others tried to stay in their village only to see it terrorized or destroyed when SLORC arrived, so they fled; while others have fled because they fear religious persecution or forced relocation by the DKBA. Another sizable minority of the new refugees have fled from non-fighting SLORC-controlled areas because SLORC troops are sweeping all such areas for porters. According to official figures, at the end of November 1994 there were 14 Karen refugee camps along this part of the border with a total registered population of 50,356. By the end of February 1995, 6 of these camps had fled to new locations further inside Thailand. Eight new camps had been formed, some filled entirely with new refugees, some with existing refugees who had moved, and some with a combination of the two. The total registered population of the present 16 camps was 61,257, an increase of 10,901. That number does not include hundreds of new refugees who did not register, and the numbers have continued to rise since then. This increase in the total has also occurred despite the return to Burma of about 1,500 refugees. It is also important to remember that the number who make it to Thailand are only the tip of the iceberg; many more have fled into the forests or to the homes of relatives, while new refugees estimate that at least 700 families are trapped west of the Salween south of Kyauk Nyat, unable to cross to Thailand because of the SLORC presence along the Salween River.
As new refugees keep arriving, existing refugee camps are also on the move further into Thailand. All Karen refugee camps are unofficial, recognized neither by the Thai Government nor the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). They exist subject to agreements between Karen refugee leaders, local Thai villagers and officials, and the Thai Ministry of the Interior. As such, they are not "closed camps" and have little or no security. They are all located within a few kilometres of the Burma border; some of them are located right on the banks of the border rivers, in places where the KNU controlled the opposite bank. Now that SLORC is taking the Burma side of the border, they no longer feel safe. SLORC troops have never shown respect for international borders, and since the end of January armed and unarmed SLORC/DKBA units have been crossing the border almost every day. Some of the camps have moved for fear that their camps will be attacked, while others have moved only after SLORC/DKBA troops have shelled or entered their camps. The situation is much worse than ever before, because the SLORC can now send troops across the border and then respond to any Thai Government protest by saying it was the DKBA, which the SLORC claims it does not control in any way. Witnesses have confirmed that SLORC troops are involved in most of the border incursions. The Thai Army has almost no presence along this section of the border because it was never necessary while the Karen controlled the other side. Now, however, the SLORC and DKBA are taking advantage of the absence of Thai forces to cross the border with arms and with impunity, and to carry their campaign to control the villagers into the refugee camps. Using threats, coercion and violence, they are trying to frighten the refugees into returning to Burma. In some cases it is working, as evidenced by the steady trickle of refugees who have fled the camps to return, usually crossing the border at Meh Tha Waw. There they are met by SLORC trucks and taken away either to DKBA areas or villages where SLORC chooses to keep them. SLORC has claimed that over 9,000 refugees have already returned, but the real total is more like 1,500-2,000, primarily from two of the largest camps, Baw Noh and Sho Kloh.
Ever since the DKBO was first formed it tried to coerce Buddhist refugees into returning, seeing the refugee camps as a source of support for the KNU and wanting the refugees as DKBA recruits. At first, their tactic was gentle suggestion combined with promises of an untroubled life at the Myaing Gyi Ngu "refuge", as was promised to other villagers. Of course, only Buddhist refugees were invited. The refugees already felt insecure because of indications that Thailand and the UNHCR may have been preparing a forced repatriation program for Karen refugees, so gradually about 350 people from Baw Noh camp made their way across the border. However, after the fall of Manerplaw the DKBA was not satisfied with those numbers, and in unison with SLORC their tactics changed to threats and attacks on the camps in an effort to terrorize the refugees back to Burma. In February the DKBO widely distributed a letter stating that "In order to dismantle the refugee camps, we have various plans. Therefore all nationalities must leave the refugee camps and return to Myaing Gyi Ngu. If you do not comply with this document, you will be considered as anti-Buddhists and KNU and we are going to uproot you." While this has worked to a certain extent, driving more people to return even as others were fleeing DKBA and SLORC areas for their lives, it has also backfired. At least some refugees who were planning to return changed their minds after their camps were attacked, while many Buddhists who were adopting a "wait and see" attitude became determined to stay in Thailand at all costs. Now that Thailand has provided some limited security in the camps, many refugees feel they are safer with the Thais than taking their chances with the DKBA. Most Christian refugees in particular feel that to return to Burma now would be suicide.
|Camp Abandoned||Population (11/94)||Moved To||Remarks|
Bon Ya Hta
Mae Paw Muh Hta
|Meh Ya Hta
Meh Sa Ger
Huay Heng, Mae Ma La Luang
Sho Kloh, other, Thai towns, etc.
|Moved to location several kilometres inside Thailand
Moved to site 15 min. walk inside Thailand
Moved 3 times due to attacks; now 3 hours walk inside Thailand, but was attacked there as well
Moved 3 times due to attacks
Camp was on Burma side of Moei River, has now fled to Thai side
Baw Noh 9,374 Sho Kloh, other, Thai towns, etc. (*)
(*) - Baw Noh population figure is for 2/95. All but about 2,000 of these fled the camp in March/95 due to escalating armed attacks on the camp, but many have now returned again.
Of the camps listed above, the first four were along the Salween riverbank. Mae Po Hta was on the Moei riverbank, and Kler Thay Lu was about 1 km. from the Moei River inside Thailand. Klay Muh Hta was a refugee camp set up on the Burma side of the border due to a Thai decree that no more Karen refugees would be allowed. Baw Noh is less than 1 km. inside Thailand, but is east of a main Thai road and in an area populated by Thai citizens.
|Meh Ya Hta
U Da Hta
Meh Sa Ger
Mae Khong Ka
Mae Ma La Luang
Klay Muh Hta (new)
|East of upper Salween
East of upper Salween
East of upper Salween
East of upper Salween
3 hrs. east of Mae Sam Lap
2 hrs. east of lower Salween
3 hrs. east of Manerplaw
Moei river near Mae Salit
New & relocated refugees
New & relocated refugees
Incursions into Thailand by groups of SLORC and DKBA soldiers have grown increasingly common and serious since the fall of Manerplaw. Initially many of these groups crossed without arms, but now they are almost always heavily armed - with assault rifles and on many occasions with M79 grenade launchers or even RPG’s (rocket-propelled grenades). The initial incursions were primarily for the purpose of looting by SLORC troops. Then the campaign of terror against the refugee camps began. The SLORC has long wanted to wipe out these camps, which are an international embarrassment to them and which provide civilians with a way to escape from SLORC control, while also providing a means for information on the true political and human rights situation to reach the outside world. But destroying these camps was impossible until the DKBA came along. Now the SLORC can use the Karen DKBA to infiltrate the camps, and can send its own troops into Thailand under the cover of the DKBA. A major campaign to destroy the camps began, first by gently persuading refugees to return, then starting in February by changing tactics to use threats, fear and violence. The following is a translation of a letter in Burmese received in several refugee camps in February:
Stamp: Hlaing Bwe Township, Myaing Gyi Ngu Old Tow
Subject: All Buddhist people from the refugee camps are to leave and go back to Myaing Gyi Ngu
We will take care and responsibility for the family needs of all Buddhists who return from the refugee camps. You will be accepted as the families of Myaing Gyi Ngu. Already many families from the refugee camps are joining us every day. We have learned from people who have returned that the KNU is harassing and frightening the Buddhist community in the refugee camps.
To continue living in the refugee camps means to prolong the existence of the KNU and its harassment of the Buddhist community, and is a hindrance to a peaceful resolution. In order to dismantle the refugee camps, we have various plans. Therefore all nationalities must leave the refugee camps and return to Myaing Gyi Ngu. If you do not comply with this document, you will be considered as anti-Buddhists and KNU and we are going to uproot you.
Families who return will be received at Myawaddy and will be sent to Myaing Gyi Ngu free of charge. Soe Thit Sa Ti (Kyaw Win)
DKBA (Special Forces)
The SLORC and DKBA troops have learned that they can move into Thailand at any time without being attacked. At present, the number and intensity of attacks against the camps is increasing, and at the same time cross-border robbery attacks are happening every night all along the Thai border from Mae Sot to Mae Sariang. Rather than limit these robberies to impoverished refugees, the soldiers are increasingly beginning to rob Thai citizens at gunpoint in areas such as Meh Dan and Meh Tha Waw.
Making the situation worse, most of the new refugee camps are in remote areas which will be completely cut off from outside access by road or river (now that SLORC controls the rivers) in rainy season from June to October. It is feared that the SLORC and DKBA could use this time period to do to the refugees whatever they wish, with little possibility of outside interference.
The following section of the report details some of the significant border incursion incidents since January. This is by no means a complete list. KHRG has confirmed these incidents except where noted, and more information on some of them can be found in the Interview section of this report.
Several days before SLORC occupied Manerplaw itself, much of the civilian population of the Manerplaw area had already sought refuge in Pway Baw Lu, a village 3 km.inside Thailand. Even so, as soon as SLORC took a hill from which they could see Pway Baw Lu, most families began fleeing further into Thailand, fearing a ground attack or artillery barrage. The day that Burmese troops arrived in Manerplaw, they immediately began a mortar barrage against Thai territory on the other side of the Moei River as a form of "pursuit" of the Karen soldiers who had withdrawn to Thailand and disarmed themselves. Thai soldiers from Task Force 35 had already been flown in to take up positions to secure their border, but this did not affect the SLORC’s actions. As the concentration of Thai troops increased, many of the refugees trickled back into Pway Baw Lu, but the atmosphere was very tense. Most refugees felt that if a heavy SLORC force crossed the river, the Thai troops would simply withdraw to avoid a fight. SLORC and DKBA units began crossing the Moei River to loot abandoned villages on the Thai side such as Htoo Wah Lu, Ka Paw Lu and Mae Po Hta. There were reliable reports that they opened fire on a refugee trying to recover some belongings in Ka Paw Lu, and that they had come across to have lunch with Thai troops in Htoo Wah Lu. Then there was a false rumour that they were about to launch a ground attack on Pway Baw Lu, and the village was completely evacuated further into Thailand. The refugees camped along dusty roads near the Thai Karen village of Meh Taw La and eventually established a camp 3 hours’ walk into Thailand at Mae Ma La Luang (also called Mae Ra Mu Kloh). The continued strong presence of Thai military and Border Patrol Police between the camp and Manerplaw has thus far prevented any attacks on the camp.
Mae Paw Muh Hta / Huay Heng
[see also Interviews section]
Mae Paw Muh Hta camp, population 2,624 (11/94), was on the bank of the Salween River less than 10 km. south of Mae Sam Lap. SLORC occupied the opposite bank of the Salween, then on February 4th the refugee camp was shelled. At least 3 shells landed in the camp, followed by about 10 minutes of machine gun fire. The refugees fled the camp in a panic together with Thai Border Patrol Police who had been stationed there. The same day, SLORC troops crossed the Salween a few kilometres further downriver and looted a shop in the Karen village of Pu Mya Lu (displaced Karen from Burma who farmed the Burma side of the river, but not a refugee camp) so the villagers evacuated there as well.
The Pu Mya Lu villagers fled to Mae Ma La Luang camp, while the refugees from Mae Paw Muh Hta fled inland an hour’s walk to Meh Po Kee. This was a temporary location and it was decided that it was unsafe, so on February 22 aid organizations sent 5 small cargo trucks to help the refugees and their belongings to move a 30-minute drive southeast to a permanent site at Huay Heng, further inside Thailand. The move continued throughout Feb. 22-23. At 5-5:30 p.m. on Feb. 23 in daylight, when most people had already been moved, one of the trucks left Meh Po Kee with 4-6 families and some belongings. A few minutes along the road, it was forced to stop by a group of uniformed and heavily armed soldiers, who appeared out of the forest and immediately opened fire on the truck with AK47 rifle fire and one M79 grenade. The Thai driver and two women on the truck were killed and 11 others wounded, including one 5-year old boy who had to have surgery in the field before being referred to Mae Sariang hospital, but survived. For full details of the shooting, see the Interviews section of this report. The following were casualties of the shooting:
Naw Mu Heh
Killed by multiple bullet wounds
Killed by gunshot in the back, large exit wound in the belly
The rest of the refugees fled that evening to Huay Heng on foot, where the atmosphere became one of extreme fear. Saw Maw Si, an educated and soft-spoken medic in his mid-forties who served as camp leader, had been targeted for execution by the DKBA in December, when he had to live in hiding in the forest for a week. After this, the attack on Mae Paw Muh Hta and the shooting of the truck, he was close to a nervous breakdown and was no longer able to function as camp leader. Without guidance, many of the refugees fled to Mae Ma La Luang on foot or by small truck, while others feel it is still safe enough to remain in Huay Heng.
Ka Htee Hta
[see also Interviews section]
Ka Htee Hta refugee camp, population 2,891 (11/94), was located on the bank of the Salween River about 1 hour’s walk north of Mae Sam Lap. On February 7, SLORC was shelling Oo Thu Hta, on the Burma side of the river opposite Ka Htee Hta. They entered Oo Thu Hta in the late afternoon. At that point most of the villagers were already fleeing Ka Htee Hta to Meh Wih Kloh, 5 km. further inside Thailand. By February 10 everyone had left main Ka Htee Hta camp, and only about 50 families were left in Section 1 (Meh Wih Der). That afternoon a group of about 15 SLORC and 3 DKBA crossed the river, all armed. The DKBA went up the hill and spoke to the refugees telling them to go to Khaw Taw (Myaing Gyi Ngu) but not making threats. 15 families went with them. From Feb. 10th to 12th, armed SLORC troops then came across the river and looted Ka Htee Hta, taking all the livestock and belongings they could find, 400 fifty-kg. sacks of rice from the storehouse and 100 sacks which had already been distributed to the houses. The refugees had planned to return for these, but became too afraid once SLORC had occupied the other side of the river. Soldiers, porters and conscripted refugees had to carry the rice to 3 stolen cattle boats which SLORC used to transport it to Oo Thu Hta. After this period, the remaining families in Section 1 also fled the camp to Meh Wih Kloh. On Feb. 12, three armed DKBA men went to Meh Wih Kloh and forced 5 more families to go back with them at gunpoint, threatening to shoot any who refused. They told the rest of the refugees they better return to Burma or the SLORC would shell their camp. The refugees panicked and fled to Meh Paw Kloh, another hour’s walk into Thailand. They later learned from a monk who was still staying in Ka Htee Hta that SLORC had shot dead 2 men who had returned on the 10th - Win Oo, age 28, and Than Myint, age 20 - and 3 of the men who had returned on the 12th - Meh Ka La, age 26; Maw Bee, age 38; and Pa Da Kee, age 32. On February 18, the same monk came and told the refugees that 30 Burmese soldiers were preparing to attack Meh Paw Kloh at night if the refugees didn’t return right away. The refugees fled again, this time to Mae Khong Ka, near a Thai Karen village 3 hours’ walk from the Salween River. The Burmese never came to Mae Paw Kloh. On February 21, it was reported that a young woman who had crossed back to Burma on the 10th was sent back across the river at Mae Sam Lap for treatment after being raped by 20 SLORC soldiers. Her name is Ma Nyay, age 18, and her uncle claims DKBA men brought her across the river and asked Thai forces to send her for treatment, and that she was later hospitalized in Chiang Mai. We have not obtained confirmation of this report. For details on the incidents to this point, see the Interviews section.
At 2 a.m. on March 10, armed DKBA soldiers came to Mae Khong Ka and abducted the camp leader, Saw Ghay Ploh, age late 40’s, Christian, and the camp security leader Aung Lay, a Buddhist. In the process, Aung Lay was beaten up and suffered one broken rib as the DKBA men disarmed him. They were taken back to Burma with their families, totalling 9 people. They have reportedly been taken to Khaw Taw and not too badly treated along the way because Ghay Ploh knew the DKBA soldiers involved. Two days later, 54 more families left the camp for Burma, either with the idea of following the camp leaders or out of fear of more attacks.
U Da Hta
At U Taw Hta near U Da Hta on February 8, SLORC and DKBA reportedly crossed the Salween River, looted rice, pigs and buffalos and burned 5 houses.
Ber Lu Ko
[See also interview section]
Ber Lu Ko is a Thai Karen village just north of Meh Tha Waw, but when several refugee camps had to be evacuated 27 refugee families came to stay there from Kler Thay Lu and Mae Po Hta camps. On March 2, six armed DKBA men entered the village at about 9 p.m. while an estimated 20-30 DKBA or SLORC waited around the village perimeter. The DKBA sought out Pu Kyaw Li (or "Jolly"), who had been a former KNU official and camp leader of Kler Thay Lu. He is in his late 60’s and is Christian Seventh-Day Adventist, a religion particularly hated by the DKBA because it is Gen. Bo Mya’s religion. When they found him, they beat him with a torchlight and kicked him, tied him up and took him away. They also left a letter saying that everyone must leave the camp by March 5 or it would be burned down. They took Pu Kyaw Li across the river to Burma. His daughter and his bodyguard followed him the next day, and when his bodyguard returned he reported that Kyaw Li was being held at Meh Baw Plaw and was still alive. The March 5 deadline passed with no action being taken against Ber Lu Ko camp. No further word has been received regarding Kyaw Li, and there is strong fear that he may be executed because of his religion. Refugee officials have now received unconfirmed information that he has been killed.
Baw Noh (aka Meh Tha Waw) Camp
Baw Noh camp just south of Meh Tha Waw, population 9,374 (2/95), has increased in population by about 3,000 because it has been a refuge for people fleeing camps such as Kler Thay Lu and Mae Po Hta. However, it has from the beginning been a prime target of the DKBA and SLORC, apparently because of its large population, its proximity and accessibility from the SLORC border post of Meh Tha Waw, and its mixed Buddhist/Christian/Muslim population. Even before the fall of Manerplaw and shortly thereafter, a total of about 350 refugees from Baw Noh were persuaded or coerced into returning to Burma by DKBA supporters who infiltrated the camp. DKBO leaflets were distributed encouraging people to go back. However, in February their tactics had changed to armed incursion and fear, in Baw Noh as well as elsewhere.
On February 28 at 1:15 a.m., about 30 armed SLORC and DKBA came to the camp. Nine of them entered the front section of the camp while the others stayed in the surrounding small hills. The nine came to the main gate and found people there sleeping. Other witnesses later said 4 of the men were Karen in DKBA uniform and 5 were Burmese in SLORC uniform. They captured San Htun Kai, age 57-58, Buddhist, married with 3 children, who had formerly been a low-level KNU official in Burma. As they were capturing him, two people walked into the camp from the direction of the main road. They were Thai Karen traders, Thai citizens who sell goods in the camp while their families live in Meh Tha Waw village. When they saw a group of people at the gate, they shone a torchlight at them, and 2 of the soldiers opened fire. Both men were wounded in the legs. Ah La, age 21, married with no children, was hit by one bullet in the ankle, and Pa Dee Thu, age 35, married with 4 children, was hit by several bullets: one in the lower leg, one just above the knee, and one hit his hip from the rear and exited from the front beside his groin. The armed men then left, abducting San Htun Kai to Burma and leaving the 2 wounded men laying there on the ground. Ah La was later sent to Meh Dan hospital, while Pa Dee Thu had to be referred to Mae Sot Hospital. No news has been heard of San Htun Kai, though it is believed they were planning to force him to join the DKBA.
According to camp officials, "They left behind a letter that said, ‘Buddhists must all come back between now and March 5. If you stay you’ll be considered bodyguards of Christians and under their command. On March 5 we’ll come and burn the whole camp. All the Christians will be buried here." This letter had already been forwarded to KNU officials and was not obtainable. Then on March 2 an armed group robbed a shop in Klu Me Nee Hta, between Baw Noh and Meh Tha Waw. The same night at about 9 p.m. 3 people, 2 armed and one with a radio, were seen carrying away some monks’ things (presumably stolen from the monastery) out of the camp, and the next morning a red sign with black letters was found posted in Baw Noh saying (according to camp officials) "After 6-7 p.m. you can’t cross the river. If anyone crosses the river we’ll kill them. If we come to the camp don’t shoot us. If you do, we’ll burn the whole camp. If you shoot, you’ll see what happens.", signed by "Soe Thein, Soldier of Religion". Some of the former sawmill buildings across the Moei River from Baw Noh had already been burned after the February 28 attack. Less than a kilometre east of the river is the north-south Mae Sariang-Mae Sot road with a Thai police post, and the camp starts on the east side of this road, stretching east about 1 km. where the camp ends and open ricefields begin. Between February 28 and March 5, the front part of the camp (nearest the road) had largely cleared out. Many people were staying in their houses by day but leaving at sundown to sleep in the bush and the ricefields to the east of the camp. Some had sent their families to stay in nearby Thai Karen villages. People in the back end of the camp had many of their belongings packed. Everyone was waiting to see what would happen, afraid but also somewhat defiant. Every day small trucks carried people moving south to Sho Kloh camp, as well as those going to Meh Tha Waw to return to Burma. Thai authorities kept promising to send security forces and everyone was hoping for this, but they were slow to arrive. People were doubtful of the DKBA’s threats but unsure what to believe. About noon on March 4 a large number of SLORC troops appeared on the Burma bank of the Moei River directly opposite Baw Noh, and the fear increased. Finally, a few Thai soldiers arrived on March 5, but not nearly enough to defend the camp. However, the threatened attack didn’t happen. As with most of the DKBA’s threats, its purpose was only to intimidate people into fleeing the camps.
On March 15 at about 5:30 a.m., a heavily armed group of about 20 Karen and Burmese soldiers entered Section 2 of the camp, coming out of the forested hills and across the ricefields. It appears that they may have already been camped in Thailand for one or more days, as they had passed through a Thai Karen village and told the villagers not to say anything. The men approached the camp leader’s house, which faced onto the ricefields. The camp leader and his family were staying in another house, but there were some camp security (refugees on security duty) outside the house. The soldiers shot and killed a camp security man who was sleeping on the ground outside the house, then opened fire on the house. Two other security refugees were wounded, one in the back and one in the hand. The soldiers fired an M79 grenade which hit the house to the left of the camp leader’s, totally destroying the front wall. Fortunately the house was empty. Then they entered the camp leader’s house, shot it up, took the Bible and tore it in pieces as they ran away. They ran up a hill behind the house shooting, and hit a woman and child in one of the houses, wounding her in the arm and the hip and the child in the neck. People in the houses on the hill fled their houses and ran away from the men and down into the ricefields. The soldiers arrived at the pastor’s house and opened fire on it, but the pastor and his family had already run. Then the soldiers ran in the same direction as the refugees, but more camp security and some Thai soldiers arrived and fired on them, killing one DKBA soldier and wounding 2 or 3 other Karen and Burmese soldiers. They captured an M1 carbine rifle from the dead man. Camp security witnesses said the men were definitely a mixture of DKBA and SLORC, armed with AK47 and M79. Some carried 2 weapons. The soldiers then fled into the hills. According to later reliable reports, they made their way 10 km. to the north through the hills and crossed the Moei River into Burma just south of Meh Tha Waw. At 3 p.m. that afternoon there was further panic in the camp because a rumour said that the DKBA and SLORC were coming back to retrieve the dead body of their comrade, but this never happened. One of the 4 wounded refugees died that afternoon, although we have been unable to clearly establish which person.
After this attack, all but about 2,000 of the refugees fled Baw Noh, most of them going 20 km. south to Sho Kloh camp, scattering to Thai Karen villages or the hills and forests, or camping in the ricefield immediately surrounding the nearby Thai Army position. Col. Direk Yaemngamreap, commander of Thai Army Task Force 34, went to the camp to promise more security and encourage the refugees to stay. An order has now been issued asking all Baw Noh refugees at Sho Kloh to return. Many have already done so, especially among the Muslim community. Some say they couldn’t stand the cramped conditions where they were all kept in 2 open warehouses in Sho Kloh, so they have returned to stay whatever may happen. The camp leader now lives in hiding and doesn’t dare return, so a new camp leader has been appointed in Baw Noh - the 5th camp leader in 3 months. According to Thai authorities, since the beginning a total of about 1,000 Baw Noh refugees have registered with them at Meh Tha Waw and returned to Burma. Another letter has now been received at Baw Noh, threatening to burn the entire camp on March 27 or 28.
Gray Hta (aka Tala Thaw, Mae Salit) camp
[see also Interviews section]
Gray Hta, population 3,573 (2/95), initially seemed to be quieter and safer than the other camps. It is 119 km. north of Mae Sot, between Sho Kloh and Baw Noh, about 30 minutes walk into Thailand from the Moei River. However, now it has been the subject of threats and reported infiltration by DKBA posing as refugees. On March 9 at 1:30 a.m. armed soldiers came to a hut alongside the Moei River near Gray Hta, the home of a refugee family that farms on the Burma side of the river but sleeps in Thailand for safety. The elderly couple and 2 of their sons were there. Three men stayed under the hut while 3 others, armed with an AK47 and two knives, entered. They threw away the family’s Bible and went through the house, stealing jewellery and the family’s entire savings of 10,140 Baht. When Saw Htoo Htoo, 61, swore to God that this was all they had, the man said "There is no God any longer" and shot him twice, killing him. He then shot his son Tamla Htoo twice and killed him. The younger son had already escaped out the back of the house when the men arrived. They then left without harming the boys’ mother.
In the week of March 20, another house was looted at one end of Gray Hta camp. Two or three men came in the night with guns and a grenade but they didn’t shoot. They robbed 7,000 Baht and a radio / cassette recorder.
Sho Kloh camp, population 8,523 (2/95), is 110 km. north of Mae Sot, a short walk from the Moei River. There have been no serious reported attacks there as yet, but the DKBA has sent a great deal of leaflets and propaganda to the camp’s monastery with orders to the monks to distribute it, primarily anti-KNU propaganda. Letters threatening to destroy the camp if everyone does not return have also been sent. There have been numerous unconfirmed reports of DKBA men being caught in the camp and other small incidents.Beh Klaw (aka Mae La)
Beh Klaw camp, population 6,907 (2/95), is 60 km. north of Mae Sot, and the back end of the camp is about 1 hour’s walk from a major SLORC base at Maw Pa Thu. The night of February 9, seven armed men entered this back section of the camp at about 9 p.m. and went to the house of Pado Mahn Yin Sein, age 55, formerly KNU governor of Pa’an District. They abducted him, his nephew Saw Sim Bo, Sia Jed, a former KNU judge, and Aung Maung Aye, who is Mahn Yin Sein’s son-in-law and second vice-governor of Pa’an District. They took the men tied up and at gunpoint to Mahn Yin Sein’s pickup truck, parked in a shelter near the house, and forced Aung Maung Aye to drive them southward along the main road toward the Moei River opposite Maw Pa Thu. They told Aung Maung Aye that if Thai police stopped the car, they would shoot them. Unused AK47 cartridges were later found in the car shelter, and the soldiers also had an M79 grenade launcher. Aung Maung Aye, a Christian, tried to stop the kidnapping by driving the car off the road into a tree. He then managed to escape with a wounded leg, and was later admitted to hospital. However, the kidnappers escaped with Mahn Yin Sein and the others on foot. There has been no further news of those abducted; however, Mahn Yin Sein was a well-known and liked senior KNU official in Pa’an District, and more significantly a Buddhist, so most observers believe the DKBO will try to force him to join its leadership, possibly by threatening to harm his family still in the refugee camp if he refuses. Another motive for the kidnapping is apparently to remove any Buddhists in senior KNU positions, as such people are an embarrassment to the DKBO’s claim that all Buddhists are on their side. SLORC has already printed stories in its media pointing to Mahn Yin Sein’s "coming over" as a sign that no Buddhists support the KNU. However, nothing specific has been heard of him since, causing some people to now believe that he has been killed for refusing to cooperate with the DKBA.
After the February 28 attack at Baw Noh camp, the attackers left behind a letter signed by Soe Thein containing a personal death threat against Aung Maung Aye. Witnesses report that the letter said "I will kill you personally and even if I do not succeed, one of my 3 sons will kill you." Soe Thein was apparently involved in the kidnapping, and may have suffered some injury when Aung Maung Aye crashed the truck. The SLORC media named "Lt. Maung Soe" (which could be short for Soe Thein) as the junior DKBA officer who led the Mahn Yin Sein kidnapping.
After the kidnapping, families stopped sleeping in the outlying section of the camp near Mahn Yin Sein’s house and the car shelter and moved their belongings to houses in other parts of the camp. At 4 a.m. on the morning of Feb. 28, people saw the light of a fire from that part of the camp but didn’t dare go to investigate. At daybreak they found the house of U Pa Dwa, age 40, married with 4 children, completely burned to the ground. The family had already abandoned the house, but after it was burned U Pa Dwa was so afraid that he was being targetted that he reportedly took his family back to Burma.
On March 2 at night, some DKBA members reportedly entered the camp to force some of their relatives to go back to Burma. However, the women refused to set off with the children in the middle of the night, and when other refugees arrived on the scene the men fled. Since then there have been several reported incidents of families being robbed at night in outlying sections of the camp, and automatic rifle fire has been heard throughout the camp on at least 2 occasions. There is a report that one refugee was injured in one of these incidents; however, camp authorities are trying to prevent general panic by withholding information on such incidents.
Huay Bone (aka Don Pa Kiang)
Huay Bone camp, population 2,919 (2/95), is 19 km. north of Mae Sot near the Moei River. It has also been the subject of threats, and at some time in March there are reliable reports that 2 men were arrested in the camp by camp security and found to be carrying one or more hand grenades.
Huay Kalok (aka Wan Kha)
Huay Kalok camp, population 4,448 (2/95), is only 5 km. north of Mae Sot, and is 3 km. from the Moei River and the former KNU stronghold of Kawmoora. During the final assault on Kawmoora on Feb. 20, SLORC fired several artillery shells 3 km. into Thailand at a Thai Army artillery position just outside the camp. No one was hurt. The day after SLORC occupied Kawmoora on Feb. 21, Burmese soldiers in civilian clothes started coming into Huay Kalok camp every day after about 11 a.m. At first they only came to the market on the outskirts of the camp, but then they started wandering around the camp, looking around the clinic, the school and other parts of the camp, in some cases even asking people questions in Burmese. Refugees recognized them without a doubt as Burmese soldiers, and sometimes they were accompanied by Thai Border Patrol Police. Camp officials and religious leaders began sleeping in different houses every night, general panic began to spread through the camp, some families began fleeing to other refugee camps and talks began with Thai authorities about moving the camp. Then after about 10 days, the incursions suddenly stopped. Presumably Thai authorities had given the Burmese a strict warning. However, there is still alot of fear and uncertainty in the camp. By March 27, some Thai citizens had erected makeshift drinking stalls on the Thai bank of the river opposite Kawmoora, less than 3 km. from Huay Kalok. Burmese soldiers have been coming across to these stalls every day to get drunk, in uniform but with their epaulets undone and hanging over their shoulder badges. At least some of the soldiers are from 44 Division, #3 Light Infantry Battalion.
There have been reports of attacks of various kinds at every Karen refugee camp north of Mae Sot; for example, it has been reported that in March there has been at least one attack involving a shooting at Kler Ko camp 93 km. north of Mae Sot, and a refugee shot dead at Noh Bo along the Moei River. We have been too short of resources to check all of these reports. At this point, every camp north of Mae Sot has been issued written and verbal threats by the DKBA telling them to return to Burma or their camps will be destroyed, and there is a great deal of tension and fear in every camp. Camp leaders, Christian preachers, school headmasters, medics and former KNU officials are considered to be at greatest risk. Thai armed units have been posted in almost every camp, but they have so far been ineffective in preventing attacks and the refugees have very little faith in them. Now that SLORC is carrying out its major offensive in KNLA 6th Brigade area 50-100 km. south of Mae Sot, there have also been threats against Maw Ker camp, population 5,318 as of 2/95 and quickly growing, which is about 50 km. south of Mae Sot and close to 6th Brigade area. This is despite the fact that the DKBO/DKBA do not as yet really exist in 6th Brigade, which suggests that the policy of destroying the refugee camps may well be more attributable to SLORC than to the DKBO.
Attacks on Thai targets
As the offensive to capture the Salween River continued after the fall of Manerplaw, SLORC troops appeared and camped on the Salween riverbank opposite the bustling Thai trading village of Mae Sam Lap. They began coming across the river to sell furniture and other items they’d looted from Karen villages throughout the area, and to buy things in the shops. There have also been several unconfirmed reports that they also looted items in some Mae Sam Lap shops, after the occupants had fled in fear of these border incursions. Some moved to Mae Sariang, but most of the inhabitants fled 2-3 km. up a valley into Thailand with most of their belongings, living as refugees despite the fact that many of them are Thai citizens. The Thai Army moved in to the village itself on the riverside. Now most of the Thai inhabitants have returned to the village itself. Meanwhile, SLORC and DKBA commandeered and stole all the longtail boats along the river which they could get. Most of these boats are owned by Thai traders. In some cases, they also captured and kidnapped the Karen boat drivers. In one case, they even stole a boat which was being used by the Thai Army, after the soldiers had left it unattended along the riverside. SLORC now controls the river despite the fact that it is international water, and no one, not even Thai soldiers, dare to go along the river by boat. The only exception to this to date has been a stretch of the Salween near Weh Gyi, because at last word the SLORC had not yet arrived on the opposite bank. A short distance north of Mae Sam Lap on February 8 or 9, SLORC or DKBA fired a rocket-propelled grenade at a boat on the Salween River. Five people were killed, including Burmese ABSDF students and a civilian villager.
Along the main Mae Sot - Mae Sariang road (which runs parallel to the border 230 km. north-south) armed soldiers, apparently DKBA and/or SLORC, opened fire on a small pickup truck just north of Meh Tha Waw on March 7. The truck was Thai-owned (by a Thai logging interest) and all the passengers were Thai. Two Thais were wounded and evacuated to Mae Sot, and the truck was completely shot up. It may have been mistaken for a truckload of refugees, or it may have been strictly a Thai business-related shooting (a common occurrence). On March 14 at night, a group of SLORC and/or DKBA crossed the Salween River north of Mae Sam Lap near a Thai Ranger (special army) position. They reportedly signalled to the Thai soldiers by whistling, then when the Thais came out the attackers opened fire on them, killing Saeng Chaiya, age 37, on the spot and wounding Uthai Rokprai, age 38, in the left arm and shoulder. The soldiers then disappeared, though Thai officials later claimed they had found a letter left behind, threatening to begin planting bombs in Mae Sariang if a ransom of one million Baht was not paid. This stretch of the Salween River has been extremely tense since before the shooting, with Thai Rangers dug into bunkers looking across at their Burmese counterparts. The Thais have been authorized to open fire on anything that crosses the river, and Thai forces posted all along the border now refer to this part of the Salween as the "front line".
The number of cross-border incursions for purposes of robbery has greatly increased, and more and more Thais are now being victimized, particularly in the Meh Dan (Tha Song Yang) and Meh Tha Waw areas near the Moei River. In one example, the Thai Foreign Ministry recently handed an official protest to SLORC mentioning an attack at 12:30 a.m. on March 2, when "five Burmese military personnel with heavy machine guns raided a house owned by Prachuab Saenjai in Mae Ta Waw Village of Tha Song Yang District, Tak. The men shot and wounded Prachuab before making off with valuables and cash worth more than 20,000 Baht." (quote from The Bangkok Post, 24/3/95). However, the Thai approach to most such incidents occurring now seems to be to keep them quiet to prevent a public outcry or panic among Thai citizens.
The Thai Response
Many people are shocked that Thailand has not sent significantly more troops to protect its border against incursions. However, there are several reasons for this. One of them is the disdain the SLORC has always shown for Thai forces and Thai sovereignty, often trying to "order" Thais to withdraw from their own frontier when it suits SLORC’s purposes, then shelling around their positions if they fail to obey (most recently on February 20th at Kawmoora). Furthermore, SLORC has never hesitated to invade and occupy Thai territory and burn Thai villages whenever it suits their purpose. As a result, the Thais do not want to get into a fight that could provoke SLORC into a border war. SLORC’s Army is 5 to 6 times the size of Thailand’s, and although poorly equipped it is battle-hardened.
Another key factor is Thai economic interests and the "constructive engagement" policy. Thai political and army leaders in Bangkok have significant business interests in Burma and do not want to risk these, even in the interest of Thai pride and sovereignty. They do not particularly care if refugees or Thai soldiers and villagers are killed, as long as they can keep the facts quiet, deny any problems along the border and maintain their close business relationships with SLORC. However, the Thai soldiers and villagers who have to look across the border at the Burmese feel very differently. Not only do they know much better than officials in Bangkok what is going on, but dealing firsthand with Karen refugees has made many of them very sympathetic to the refugees’ plight. Many of the border officials and military officers also have longstanding personal and business relationships with KNU and refugee leaders. As a result, there is a great difference between what is said in Bangkok and what is done at the border. This has always been the case, and it cannot be overemphasized. It is not unusual to see local Thai Army commanders condemning SLORC for attacking refugee camps, promising increased security for refugees and stating that the situation is not yet right for repatriation, while at the same time the Bangkok newspapers report, "Wimol Wongwanich, the Thai Army Commander-in-Chief, said last week that the Burmese Army should crush all KNU forces so that the Thai border populace can live in peace. He added that all refugees should return to Burma to help reconstruct the country and lift the burden that Thailand has been facing in putting up with them." [The Nation, 3/3/95] However, in the current situation even the Thai Foreign Ministry has submitted several formal protests to SLORC recently regarding border incursions. Generally, though, the Bangkok line continues to be one of support for SLORC and hope that things quieten down quickly so business can continue, while Thai forces at the border have been genuinely sympathetic to the problems being faced by the refugees. Whether this will last is another question. For example, when SLORC overran Three Pagodas Pass in 1989 the local Thai forces were very sympathetic to the Mon and Karen refugees there and didn’t trust the SLORC; but now that solid business relationships have been established and alot of money is being made, those same forces are among the worst abusers of refugees.
When SLORC first captured Manerplaw, the Thai Army was quick to send in troops to watch its border, though their numbers were nowhere near sufficient to repel a serious incursion and many refugees felt they would balk if confronted with any SLORC troops. When incursions in the refugee camps began, the Thais were extremely slow to provide any security, finally sending in a few men only when it appeared that entire camps might panic and scatter if no security was provided. At the beginning of March, Thai leaders in Bangkok were assuring foreign governments and the media that heavy security had already been dispatched to the camps when in fact none had been sent. Task Force 35 in Mae Sariang claimed that 6 Battalions had been dispatched to protect refugee camps, but they were not to be seen anywhere near refugee camps. Finally on March 5, small pockets of troops began appearing in various key camps, though their numbers were clearly insufficient and they were often posted in inappropriate places - such as at Beh Klaw camp, where they were posted along the main road 500 m. from the front of the camp, while all armed intrusions had come in through the back of the camp, along the footpath directly from Maw Pa Thu. As attacks have continued to worsen, the number of Thai troops has increased, and in many camps they are now patrolling the camp and the surrounding hills by night, providing a limited amount of effective security. They are also cooperating with camp security teams in many camps. As a result, it is now much more risky for armed SLORC / DKBA units to penetrate the camps, but it is still not particularly difficult for them to do so.
SLORC / DKBA Relations
The SLORC claims that it was the KNU which deliberately caused a "rift between Karen Buddhists and Christians", that it was the DKBA alone which captured Manerplaw and Kawmoora, and that SLORC has no control over the DKBA beyond giving it "logistical support". All evidence points to the contrary: that SLORC worked to incite a "rift", then provided all the material needs so that the DKBO could be formed before it was even formed. SLORC then provided the badge, the uniforms, the food, the ammunition, and may have even written the DKBO’s initial political statements (which are all written in Burmese, and some of them produced on computers; Statement 2/94 even stated that one of the DKBO’s 3 objectives was "to prevent the disintegration of the Union", a common SLORC phrase which is not an objective of most Karen). Even the word "Kayin" in the DKBO’s name is the name given to Karen by the Burmese, and is resented by many Karen. After using small numbers of DKBA men in its offensives against Manerplaw and Kawmoora, SLORC erected DKBA and SLORC flags in the captured bases, but it is SLORC who is clearly in command there. Along the Salween River north of Mae Sam Lap, an interesting letter dated Feb. 9th was sent across the river to dissident Burmese students who have been displaced into Thailand; headed "To the young students who have gone the wrong way and are in trouble", excerpts of the letter read as follows:
"The writer of this letter is Major Zaw Htat from the Burma Army. I your brother was a Chemistry student and got a Major at MASU University [Mandalay]. So because I am an ex-student, I have sympathy towards you and wrote this letter. ... Now the Burma Army has taken Manerplaw and KNU posts along the Salween River, and DKBO is with us. If you have doubt in DKBO, contact your brother [me] first, and we invite you to come and live peacefully in your motherland. To get this opportunity is very difficult, so don’t lose this opportunity to return to the Burma Army and reunite with the rest of your family. We invite you with love. I can guarantee that nothing bad will be done to you. ... I guarantee that DKBO won’t do anything to you. Your brothers are in control and you don’t have to worry. ...".
In every major border incursion other than simple robberies, witnesses have reported the presence of SLORC soldiers along with the DKBA, probably to ensure that "control" is maintained.
The DKBA is now essentially operating as a SLORC militia. The logic of the DKBA in supporting these SLORC actions is impossible to completely understand, especially as most of the rank and file of the DKBA have lost family members and possibly home villages to SLORC. However, in December one DKBA teenage soldier answered a foreigner’s question with words to the effect of, "First we’ve got to get the KNU, and then we’ll get SLORC." This is supported by the testimony of "Saw Kaw Mu Heh" in this report: "A monk named Pa Ni Sa said he will disarm all KNU soldiers and disband the KNU organization, then after that he will go against SLORC and take all their weapons too." Of course, this is an absurd belief, but many DKBA members seem to believe it, or at least that if they work with SLORC then SLORC will leave Karen State alone. There are some refugees who have had contact with U Thuzana in former times who believe that Thuzana is being held incommunicado by SLORC and does not agree with what is being done. While his picture has appeared daily in The New Light of Myanmar newspaper, he has been conspicuously absent from SLORC television and radio.
There are signs that there are cracks in the relationship between DKBO and SLORC, especially as revealed in the testimony of "Saw Htoo Thaw" that there have been regular shootouts between DKBA and SLORC troops in the Myaing Gyi Ngu area. However, it is probably more likely that rank and file soldiers will run away from DKBA than that the SLORC alliance with the DKBO leadership will break down.
Chronology of Recorded Events
Final offensive on Manerplaw begins from Min Yaw Kee ridge
DKBA attacks and loots Mae Paw Muh Hta refugee camp, refugees flee but return
SLORC overruns Manerplaw
SLORC border incursions near Manerplaw for looting
Mae Paw Muh Hta refugee camp shelled and machine-gunned from Burma, refugees flee to Meh Po Kee
Shop in Pu Mya Lu village, Thailand, looted by SLORC who crossed Salween, Karen villagers flee to refugee camp
SLORC and DKBA cross Salween border, loot U Taw Hta village
SLORC / DKBA steal boats on Salween River including Thai Army’s boat
DKBA fires RPG grenade at ABSDF boat on Salween River, 5 killed including civilians
Mahn Yin Sein & 4 others kidnapped from Beh Klaw refugee camp by DKBA at gunpoint
SLORC & DKBA cross border at Ka Htee Hta, take 15 refugee families back to Burma
SLORC loots Ka Htee Hta, forces porters and refugees to carry rice, 500 sacks of rice and all livestock stolen
DKBA goes 5 km. into Thailand, takes 5 Ka Htee Hta families back at gunpoint, threatens that SLORC will shell camp; refugees flee further into Thailand
SLORC kills 2 Ka Htee Hta refugees repatriated on 10/2, reason unknown
SLORC kills 3 Ka Htee Hta refugees repatriated on 12/2, reason unknown
SLORC threatens to attack Ka Htee Hta refugees at Meh Paw Kloh; refugees flee further into Thailand
SLORC overruns Kawmoora after gas attack
DKBA reportedly returns 18-year-old Karen refugee to Thailand for treatment after she had been raped by 20 SLORC soldiers (not confirmed)
SLORC soldiers wandering Huay Kalok camp every day in civilian clothes
DKBA shoots truck moving refugees near Huay Heng, Thailand - 3 killed, 11 wounded
1 house in Beh Klaw burned to the ground, no one hurt
30 SLORC & DKBA soldiers enter Baw Noh, abduct San Htun Kai, shoot & seriously wound two Thai Karen traders
Letters left at Baw Noh threatening to burn whole camp on March 5, and death threat against Mahn Yin Sein’s son-in-law who escaped Feb. 9th kidnapping at Beh Klaw
DKBA & SLORC beat and abduct Pu Kyaw Li, 68, from Ber Lu Ko camp, threaten to burn down Ber Lu Ko if refugees don’t return to Burma by March 5
DKBA robs Thai shop near Baw Noh and Baw Noh monastery, leave letter imposing curfew on the river and threatening to burn down camp if they’re shot at in Thailand
DKBA comes to get relatives in Beh Klaw, relatives refuse to go and DKBA flees
DKBA robs house of Thai in Meh Tha Waw village, steals 20,000 Baht
Small groups of Thai forces begin arriving in refugee camps, March 5 deadline passes without major incident
Thai truck shot up on main road north of Meh Tha Waw, 2 Thais hospitalized, locals say it was DKBA or SLORC but unconfirmed
DKBA attacks refugee house outside Gray Hta camp, loots money & jewellery, shoots and kills refugee father and son
Ka Htee Hta camp leader Saw Ghay Ploh, camp security leader Aung Lay and their families abducted by DKBA / SLORC
54 Ka Htee Hta refugee families return to Burma
DKBA / SLORC cross Salween north of Mae Sam Lap, shoot and kill Thai Army Ranger and seriously wound another; Thai forces given further green light to shoot any SLORC or DKBA forces who cross the border with arms
20 SLORC & DKBA attack Baw Noh, kill 2 refugees, wound 3 more, fire M79 at camp leader’s house, shoot up pastor’s house. 1 DKBA killed in shootout, 2-3 DKBA and SLORC wounded but escape
Panic in Baw Noh, all but 2,000 refugees flee to other camps & into the hills
Thai security beefed up in most camps
DKBA with guns and grenades rob house in Gray Hta camp of 7,000 Baht
New DKBA deadline for burning Baw Noh camp
Names which have been changed to protect people are enclosed in quotation marks. All other names are real. Some details such as village names have been omitted to protect people.
SLORC & DKBA in the villages
NAME: "Saw Kwa Lah" SEX: M AGE: 62
FAMILY: Married, 2 children aged 24 and 30
ADDRESS: Bwa Der village, Bu Tho township, Papun District
DISCRIPTION: Karen Christian farmer
["Saw Kwa Lah"‘s village was in a KNU-controlled area which has now been taken by SLORC. He is now a refugee in Thailand.]
I lived in Bwa Der for 17 years. I first came there because of the activities of the Burmese. Now I’ve come here because the Yellow Headbands [DKBA] shot and killed a man. They couldn’t stand the sight of the Baptists. There were 30 or 40 Christian families in Bwa Der. We had to evacuate in 1992 because SLORC came and fought, but in 1993 we could go back. In 1993 people had built a new pagoda at Lay Kay Ko. When they dedicated it many people went. It was the same month that they wanted to build a pagoda somewhere around Meh Leh Kee and Walter forbade them [at that time, some villagers and monks from inside Burma insisted on building pagodas at some key KNLA ridgetop positions. KNLA Maj. Walter wouldn’t allow it because the pagodas would be used by SLORC soldiers atop Sleeping Dog Mountain to sight their mortars on the KNLA positions. Many people believe the instigation to build these pagodas originally came from SLORC. After permission was refused, SLORC pointed to the incident as religious persecution, and spread news in the villages that Walter had "killed monks and destroyed pagodas".] At the dedication, monks said to the Buddhists and Animists, "The war has been going on for many years. Do you want to carry brick and sand for a pagoda, or do you want to keep carrying the revolution’s load of ammunition and go to war? If you carry the pagoda’s load there will be peace. If you carry the revolution’s load, war will go on." So in 1993 they stopped helping the revolution because of what the monk told them. Then in 1994 the KNU tried to explain and organize them, but they refused to listen. People said the war was caused by the Christians. In the end it entangled the Baptists, and we were all unhappy.
People went around organizing in each village, and villagers went and stayed at the pagoda. If they went and stayed at the pagoda they didn’t have to do anything, no work. Whole families from different villages went and stayed near the pagoda, at Da Ko Law Kloh. The pagoda has a monastery. There are 40 monks. The monks said that if the young people put on the yellow robe and become novices, they won’t have to join the KNU army or be soldiers. So the young people and even some of the soldiers became monks.
The village headman and the village Buddhist leader said the Christians must go also. They said if we didn’t go, we’d be killed or harmed. They went round and threatened the people, so Christians as well as non-Christians got scared and went. If they don’t go and they don’t become vegetarians, they’ll be killed. That’s what the leaders said: "Someone will kill you." They frightened the villagers, so people didn’t know what to do. They are just mountain people, Christian and non-Christian, so some of them moved. I stayed in the village.
This monk [apparently U Thuzana, now DKBO chairman] wanted everyone in our area to be vegetarians. They started forcing people to be vegetarians, so the other monks didn’t agree with them. They kept trying to organize all the villagers in the mountains. They started becoming more and more violent. They threatened us all: "It won’t be easy for you if you don’t go. We’ll cut your throat, we’ll mash you like chillies". The people are hill people, so they don’t understand anything. This started in September or October 1994, then it got bad in November. It got worse and worse. They said, "Christianity is white man’s religion. We must drive them away. White man’s religion is not good."
The big trouble exploded in December. They organized people by force. They threatened people, so people followed them without knowing anything. They confiscated KNU soldiers’ weapons. Alot of people came through and were going to Thu Mwe Hta and Myaing Gyi Ngu [the 2 DKBA bases at the time], hundreds of people. They had no understanding, they were just told to go so they went. Later they started killing people. At first they were threatening the Christians with words, not guns, then in December they confiscated KNU guns, and their villagers [converts] took up arms and went to villages. Everyone was scared. They shot people, so we didn’t know what to think. Would they harm us? We were nervous. When monks start to carry guns - what can we do? In my village one man was killed, but they also killed others at Thu Mwe Hta. After they killed Bo Kyaw Aye and Ner Ghaw [captured Karen soldiers] at Thu Mwe Hta, they became very rough. The man in my village was a soldier in civilian clothes, just staying in the village. He was a Christian. First they confiscated the guns in the village - some villagers had shotguns that they had bought [for hunting]. Then they went to the upper village, called Maw Leh Meh Hta. The village man was standing and chatting close to his house after breakfast, and they recognized him so they shot him. He was Pah Day’s son, his name was Saw Lweh Mu. He was 18 years old. I heard they also killed one man in Meh Ku Hta and one in Meh Nyo Hta, on the other side of the mountain. They also threatened the people there and shot at their houses, so they were afraid and they couldn’t stay.
They stole things from the shops whose owners were Christians, and didn’t pay for them. They stayed near the village. Then later when we evacuated a short distance away, they came into the village, took away our things and ate up everything. They rummaged around and tore up our books and Bibles. The pictures of Christ they poked through the eyes. They also threatened the Animists with guns. Some followed them, but some didn’t understand so they just stayed in the village. They forced them to follow and said, "If you don’t follow, we will kill you." They shot their guns. Every day the situation got worse, and people began to flee. The Christians ran away. I left in the first week of January, because I heard the Burmese were coming. I heard the SLORC were in Paw Hta, quite nearby. I fled to Mae Paw Muh Hta [refugee camp on the Thai side of the Salween river]. I brought my family, because I’m worried for them. We managed to bring cooking pots, rice and blankets. Each person of the family carried whatever they could. Many things were left behind.
Then on January 26th we had to leave Mae Paw Muh Hta because the DKBA came into the camp and started to shoot, to torture and force the people to go back with them as they pleased. They shot with their guns, even though our refugee camp is on the Thai side. They came and took bags of rice and threatened people with their guns, so the people ran in all directions and they could take the rice. They fired their guns in the air. When people went back to get their rice, they shot at them. Then we came step by step to Tee Law Thi Kloh, and we lost contact with the news.
Every man who joins to follow DKBA gets a gun, all the men who are strong. I heard they give 600 Kyats a month. People who join DKBA but don’t want to carry a gun have to sign a paper promising that they will not do anything against DKBA, and they have to carry this paper with them all the time. Some people joined them, soldiers and villagers, and then didn’t agree with their rules and wanted to get out. But they’re afraid of them and their rules, so they are in despair. DKBA promised that families who follow them will receive rice and other help from SLORC. Many people who followed them had to go to Papun, and they were given rice there at the SLORC military camp. They receive it for free. It is the camp of Battalions 19 and 35. DKBA gets guns and uniforms from SLORC. I hear they have a yellow, white and blue badge on one shoulder, and a SLORC badge on the other. When they were in my village they didn’t have uniforms yet. Some wore yellow headbands around their head, and others tied them around their guns. I saw their monks carrying guns in the village. They carried AK’s, M16’s, the guns that the soldiers confiscated.
NAME: "Saw Kaw Mu Heh" SEX: M AGE: 26
FAMILY: Married, 1 child aged 4 months
ADDRESS: Meh Bpa village, Bu Tho township, Papun District
DISCRIPTION: Karen Christian farmer
["Saw Kaw Mu Heh"‘s village was in a KNU-controlled area which has now been taken by SLORC. He is now a refugee in Thailand.]
That group that joined with SLORC [the DKBA], they came into our village. They distributed leaflets to the villagers. The leaflets said the Christians oppress the Buddhists, so the young Buddhists are revolting against the Christians. A monk named Pa Ni Sa said he will disarm all KNU soldiers and disband the KNU organization, then after that he will go against SLORC and take all their weapons too. They said the leaders from Headquarters [Manerplaw] killed many hundreds of Buddhists, so in our village they were going to kill all the Christians. They said that the people in our village should only be Buddhists. Kyaw Kaw said that. He used to be a villager. He said the leaders from Manerplaw had killed 10 monks. Kyaw Kaw and other people who were vegetarians said people who eat meat have to stop eating meat or else they’ll be killed. This happened when the fighting started [in Dec. 1994, when the DKBA started fighting the KNU]. Kyaw Kaw passed through the village, going house to house to tell these things to all the Buddhists. To the Christians he didn’t tell anything, but when he found us he quarrelled and abused us. There are only 2 or 3 Christian families in our village. We have a [Buddhist] monastery there, but we didn’t have any monks. After Kyaw Kaw threatened us, some of the Buddhists threatened us. Not only with words - they also stole our things, like clothing and boxes. They came when we were at home. When the villagers came to take my things, they pointed their guns at me. Some were soldiers, and some were villagers who joined DKBA. They wore Burmese soldiers’ uniforms and Burmese soldiers’ boots, and their insignia was also Burmese. They had Burmese insignia on one arm and DKBA insignia on the other arm. They had AK [AK47], AR [a shortened version of an M16], and RPG’s [shoulder-launched rocket-propelled grenades]. About 20 of them came to my house, in the daytime. It was near the end of last month, the 27th or 28th of January, just after Manerplaw fell. I arrived at Pu Mya Lu [on the Thai side of the Salween] on the 30th. One Christian family became Buddhist, and they didn’t do anything to them. The other Christians escaped. Pu Law Eh’s family came with me. In other villages like Paw Mu Der, I know for sure that some Christian families there had to become Buddhists too.
They made problems for Buddhists too, those who eat meat. They killed my elder brother. He was Animist. He was killed after we fled our village. My brother became a monk, but they threatened him because he didn’t become a vegetarian. The man who saw it said he was shot dead. His name was Saw Ghay Say. He was over 30. He was not my real brother, he was my wife’s brother. The Buddhist families who didn’t join DKBA fled to Law Say Naw. There were about 20 families. They were planning to run further to Taw Tee Kwee, but I heard they were driven away by DKBA [possibly forcibly relocated to Myaing Gyi Ngu area]. I don’t know what happened to them.
Almost half the villagers became vegetarians. All the men took guns to fight. They disarmed the KNU soldiers who didn’t join the DKBA - that’s how they got the guns. I didn’t see any Burmese soldiers in the village when it all started, but other people said they did. Fighting started behind the village, Karen soldiers against DKBA. All the ones who joined DKBA went to the fighting. I was afraid, so I ran into the forest. I stayed for several days in Way Baw, then I went to Mae Let Hta. My wife was staying in Meh Bpa, then I went back to get her. In Mae Let Hta they tried to catch me and I ran away. They shot at me. I ran with 4 friends. None of us was hit. We went to Ma Mu, then to Wah Der, and then I crossed into Thailand. In Wah Der there was also fighting, so I couldn’t stay there and I crossed over at Mae Paw Muh Hta. We had to sneak across because the SLORC had already occupied part of Meh Paw Muh Hta [Meh Paw Muh Hta village on Burma side of the river, not the refugee camp opposite on Thai side]. Then we went to Meh Po [the Mae Paw Muh Hta refugees moved to Meh Po].
When the truck was shot [en route to Huay Heng] we were leaving Meh Po. We were in the 4th truck, coming along behind the truck that was shot. I didn’t see anything, I only heard the shooting. When we arrived there I saw the dead bodies. They were in the truck, and the driver was dead on the steering wheel. I saw a child on his mother in the back. The other people from the truck were gone already. We went back and we didn’t hear any more shooting.
My first cousin is Buddhist. His name is Taw Kho and he is 20 years old. He joined DKBA. He witnessed the deaths of his 3 companions who joined DKBO. SLORC accused the 3 men and created misunderstandings, then all 3 were killed by their own group. They were shot dead. Taw Kho had to shoot one of them himself. Then one time when they met with SLORC, he was accused of having Christian relatives and they threatened to kill him, so he fled. Taw Kho was just a villager, not a soldier.
The DKBA men get a salary from SLORC. They give 1,000 Kyats per month to single men [note: this is 250 Kyats more than SLORC privates receive], and for married men they give 300 Kyats but also arrange everything for their families. But the villagers receive nothing. My wife’s younger brother had to go as a porter for DKBA, and they didn’t give him any money for that. He had to carry a very heavy load, and he didn’t get enough food. He had to find food in the forest. He was a porter for 10 days. He is Buddhist.
Life at Myaing Gyi Ngu
NAME: "Saw Htoo Thaw" SEX: M AGE: 33
FAMILY: Married, 3 children aged 2-7
ADDRESS: Hlaing Bwe Township, Pa’an District
DISCRIPTION: Karen Christian
"Saw Htoo Thaw" was a refugee in Thailand who returned to Burma in January and was sent to Myaing Gyi Ngu. He escaped and returned to Thailand after 1+ÿ months there, and now lives in hiding in Thailand for fear of DKBA reprisals.
I came to stay in Thailand because of the civil war, maybe 12 years ago. My older brother was living there too. He went back to Burma first, then he came back and called me to go with him. He told me that the situation in Burma is good now, so I followed him. But when I arrived there, it was not good like he had told me so I was afraid to stay there and I came back about 15 days ago [March 10]. This time my brother could not come back.
I was not afraid in the refugee camp in Thailand, but my brother told me it was okay back in Burma so I went. First, I crossed at Meh Tha Waw [the SLORC position across the Moei river where refugees have been told to return to]. At Meh Tha Waw, all the soldiers who checked us were Burmese, except for 3 Karen DKBA. The Burmese soldiers looked and searched in our bags. They took everything, and they asked questions. They asked, "Are you a good person or a bad one? Did you come here to be good or to be bad? Did you come here to demonstrate?" Oh, many many questions. Along the way, each time we reached a place they asked questions, again and again. When we reached Pa’an there was a checkpoint, and when we reached the monk’s place they also asked us questions. They took all our belongings and our blankets. We were left with only the clothes on our bodies. They wouldn’t let us take so much as a sewing needle with us to the monk’s place.
At Meh Tha Waw there were more than 200 of us. Four trucks, and more than 50 in each truck. I was with my wife and children. We had to go on the trucks, for free. The trucks went directly to Pa’an, to the city. We were hoping to live around there and farm, but our plan was not successful. They didn’t help us with anything. We only stayed in Pa’an for one night and then the Burmese sent all of us to Khaw Taw [Myaing Gyi Ngu] by boat [up the Salween River]. At Khaw Taw I saw many things. I can’t remember or tell it all. I saw a lot of soldiers, SLORC and DKBA mixed together. There were only bamboo and car roads, and bamboo and car roads, and they marked a plot for each house. The Burmese soldiers said "It will be like a town". Each plot was about 40 plah [60 feet] across. Some people who arrived there before us had already built houses, but not so many. Some of them came from Thu Mwe Hta [the Salween/Moei river junction]. The people from Thu Mwe Hta and Naw Hta [near SLORC’s southern front against Manerplaw] arrived first. There were about 200 or 300 houses. When we arrived we had to find a place by ourselves. People have to find a place for themselves, and then some quarrel with each other because they don’t have enough space and they start threatening each other with knives. You have to stay in your place for some time until the Burmese come and measure it. Only after that are you allowed to start building a house. We had to live in the bushes. The Burmese only gave building materials to the families of DKBA soldiers. The DKBA soldiers’ families had a chance to build a house, but not the other people. We had to build houses for the soldiers first. We cut bamboos one by one for our house, then after we had cut them the soldiers came and took them, and made us build the soldiers’ houses first. We weren’t allowed to build our own houses. There are many more soldiers’ families than families like ours. People like us, if we have two daughters then one of them has to go help the soldiers, and if we have two sons one of them has to go as well. Because my children are too young, I had to go myself. Only when all the soldiers’ houses are finished you can build your own house.
There was only one stream and we were all using it. People were bathing and washing clothes in it so when we drank it, it tasted of detergent and soap. So we dug a well. To get food we had to walk a very long way to the monastery. The Burmese gave it. It was only rice, salt and sesame paste. One person from each family has to go and get the food for the family. Each family gets 3 big tins of rice for one month [this is only enough rice to feed 3 people]. It was not enough. They only gave it to us once [because he was only there 1+ÿ months]. One day the rice arrived and the next day it was all gone, because many new people had arrived.
Each day they took 30 people from each section to go with the Burmese and be porters for 2 weeks. They didn’t give anything to the porters. It was "voluntary work". If people don’t go they’ll be beaten. They’re not afraid to kill us. They killed many of us. I didn’t have to go because my child was sick, but otherwise I would have had to go. Instead I had to help in the camp. I had to carry weapons and rice. The rice and the weapons came by boat along the Salween River, and we had to carry them to the monastery. We were ordered by the monk, but in the monastery there are also Burmese soldiers. The soldiers are also under the monk’s command. [Note: there has been speculation among the KNU that some of the "monks" may be SLORC officers.]
They took the other porters to 3rd Brigade [Nyaunglebin District, far to the north], Kloh Wah and Wan Kha [Kawmoora]. The porters had to carry weapons. Not rice, because whenever the soldiers arrived anywhere they took their rice from that place [porters had to carry rice at the frontline, but not when they left Khaw Taw]. The people were gone for 15 days as porters. Sometimes the soldiers killed them secretly. When I was coming back to Thailand, I saw 2 dead people along the way. I saw that they had killed these two people, but the soldiers had told us they got sick and died. They didn’t take women as porters, but the women have to build pagodas at Khaw Taw. They have to carry sand and rocks.
Each family also has to give one person to be a soldier, man or woman. They forced us. They said I had to become a soldier. They even registered my name in the book to become a soldier. When I saw that, I was afraid to be a soldier so I fled at night and came back here. When people become soldiers they have to sign a paper, and make a vow with medicine. The monk gives them some medicine to drink, to all the soldiers. A man like me with a family receives 1,000 Kyats a month as a soldier. The boys and girls who go as soldiers get 500 Kyats a month. They must be 15 years old. The girls get training together with the boys. I know that before I came back, they sent some to Meh Bpa [near Manerplaw]. Men and women, mixed together. The women have to cook for them at the frontline. They also sent many women to Wan Kha [Kawmoora] to cook. If they are forced to go, they have to go. If they are forced to cook, they have to cook.
It looks like a refugee camp. There is no school or hospital yet, but they plan to build them. There are people there from everywhere. There are Karen, Burmese and Muslims there. There are people from Pa’an and Rangoon who are living there as traders. Most of the Karen villagers there are Buddhists, but there are also Christians. All the Christians who came there converted to Buddhism except my family. All are the same, it is not dangerous to be Christian there. They forced everyone to be vegetarians. Some people ate meat secretly, but most of them obeyed. When they caught people eating meat they put them in a place like a jail, near the monastery. They bound them in the stocks [mediaeval-style leg stocks]. I saw it myself. They kept them like that for one or two weeks. People who drink alot got 1 or 2 warnings, then if they don’t obey they get the same treatment.
They don’t allow anyone to farm or do anything like that. We didn’t farm, but we had to help the monks in the monastery. The monk always stays in the monastery. Only once, he came out of the monastery for a walk. He had 3 bodyguards in front of him, 3 behind him and 3 on either side, altogether 12 bodyguards. The bodyguards are soldiers. The monk had 2 pistols and a walkie-talkie. There are many, many monks in the monastery but we can’t go and see them because there are 3 rows of guards around it. I only saw the leader of the monks. There are alot of soldiers in Khaw Taw, Burmese and Karen all mixed together. One house for one soldier. The Burmese soldiers sleep nearby but not in Khaw Taw itself. They organize training for the Karen soldiers. In Khaw Taw the monk gives military training, with guns. I don’t know his name.
They always told bad stories about our home areas. They told them in Burmese. I don’t know what they said, because I didn’t care. In the camp, I know there will be a mass uprising between DKBA and SLORC. While I was there, I saw DKBA soldiers fighting among themselves once or twice. DKBA made false accusations against each other. DKBA fought SLORC three times. They shot at each other right in Khaw Taw. Lots of them were wounded, and many died.
I was unhappy living there, and I was afraid to live there. We left at night time, hiding then going, hiding then going further. I went with my family first, then another family followed us after we left Khaw Taw. If they captured us they would kill us right away, so we were hiding and then moving. I gave money to a person who can speak Burmese very well, and 2 of them guided us. I gave them 6,000 Kyats. When we reached a checkpoint, the soldiers asked us "Where are you going?" We said, "We’re going to visit another place". The guide could take one of us through the checkpoint at a time. It took us 3 days on foot. We arrived at the bank of the Moei River. We are happy to be back in Thailand but we are afraid because the spies are looking for us. I am afraid to go into a refugee camp. The 2 guides are still here. They are afraid to go back, because after they came here the Burmese followed to look for them.
Meh Sa Ger refugees
NAME: "Pa Ngeh" SEX: M AGE: 42
FAMILY: Married, 4 children aged 10, 5, 3, and 10 months
ADDRESS: Klaw Hta village, Papun District
DISCRIPTION: Karen Buddhist farmer
["Pa Ngeh"‘s village was in a KNU-controlled area which has now been taken by SLORC. He is now a refugee in Thailand.]
I brought my children here because of the Burmese troops. The Burmese troops captured me in February. I am just a villager, people in my village are mostly swidden farmers. The Burmese troops had to pass through our village on their way to Oo Po Hta. They took villagers with them on the way, then they took a different way back and they let the villagers go at 2 p.m. I went to look for a friend who had run away. On my way back after 2 or 3 days, the Burmese caught me on the way. They took off my shirt and found that I was wearing a military-colour T-shirt underneath. They asked, "Are you a soldier?" I said, "I’m not a soldier." They said, "How can you not be a soldier, when you are wearing military clothes? All of us are soldiers and we wear military clothes. If you are not a soldier, then you are an officer or NCO." After they asked 2 or 3 questions, I answered without thinking and a soldier started kicking me. Then another soldier kicked me, and another came up and punched me 2 or 3 times. All the soldiers came up and beat me as much as they pleased. Another one tied me up because they were worried that I would escape. Then another one came and touched me with a bayonet. He said, "Don’t move. You see this bayonet." I thought they would shoot me, but they didn’t. They asked me many questions. Then they said, "Stand up and move." I went together with them. When we arrived outside my village, one of them said, "Tell me all the secrets about your village." I said, "I don’t know any secrets". Then they told me to close my eyes. They kicked me on my chin and I fell unconscious. For a moment I didn’t know anything. After that, my arms and legs felt very weak. The soldiers told me, "Put on your sandals and we’ll go back to the village." When we got there, they destroyed everything in the village. They came to catch porters. They burned things and killed all the animals. After that they left and went on their way.
I was bleeding because they kicked me on the chin, and my head was also bleeding. The Burmese soldiers hit me like this, like that, like this and like that. They were all SLORC soldiers. There were 31 soldiers who caught and beat me, but there were about 400 other soldiers with them - I’m not sure exactly how many. The commander saw his soldiers beating me and told them, "Don’t beat him like that." If the commander didn’t say that, I would have died for sure. Bo Kyi Aung is their commander, he let me go. Bo Kyi Aung was a Karen soldier, but not long ago he gave his weapon to SLORC and became a SLORC commander. When he did that twenty of his soldiers followed him. Now he has 400 SLORC soldiers under him [SLORC soldiers and about 20 Karen defectors; it seems unlikely that SLORC would give such a command to a recent defector, so it may be in appearance only - so that SLORC can claim the entire battalion is ‘DKBA’]. Bo Kyi Aung and his 20 friends wear soldiers’ uniforms but a little different from SLORC soldiers. They went to the monks and got their yellow badges from them. On his other arm he wears the number "33" [for SLORC #33 Light Infantry Division]. He and his friends wear yellow headband-scarfs. All of Bo Kyi Aung’s second lieutenants try to organize the villagers to follow them. In the village, they don’t hurt the villagers but they take their rice and other things. If they find KNU soldiers, they take their guns if they won’t follow him. None of the villagers I know follow them. Instead they’ve all fled the village. If they capture Buddhists they let them go. If they capture Christians, they kill them. The Christians all ran away when they heard he was coming. Bo Kyi Aung hates Christians very much, but I don’t know why. In the village, Bo Kyi Aung said that Karen women are all like rats, and that when the cats are at home, the rats can’t stay at home.
Some of the Buddhist families joined them, but some didn’t join because they are afraid of the Burmese Army. Most people say that the power is in SLORC’s hands and they are leading the DKBA on a rope. Even the families who joined DKBA did it because they are afraid of SLORC. They organize villagers to join with gentle speeches, but if the villagers don’t want to join then they order them to join. If the people don’t join them, they threaten to burn their houses and take their things. So the families who don’t join them have to run away. Now there are troubles between the Christians and Buddhists because of the Burmese. They are spreading rumours and gossip to turn the people against each other. They put up notices on the trees, on the roadsides, at forks in the road and where people stop to take a rest - written orders from SLORC. They say, "If you see us, don’t flee from us. Just stay at home." They say things against the KNU, and that if villagers find out someone is cooperating with KNU, then that person will get in trouble. Families who join DKBA get things, but not enough. They only give salt and rice, but not enough. They don’t give blankets or things like that.
NAME: "Pu Eh Phe Su" SEX: M AGE: 53
FAMILY: Married, 4 children aged 9-26
ADDRESS: Ko Lar Hta village, Papun District
DISCRIPTION: Karen Christian farmer
["Pu Eh Phe Su"‘s village was in a KNU-controlled area which has now been taken by SLORC. He is now a refugee in Thailand.]
They fired guns in our village and we couldn’t stay anymore. One time before, they came and fired their guns and then left, so we could stay. But the last time, they shot alot more and we couldn’t stay. The first time was at the beginning of last month [February]. The second time was only 2 weeks later. The second time there were about 400 soldiers. I think they came to catch people, but they couldn’t catch anyone.
They used to fire their guns, arrest people and beat them if they couldn’t answer questions. Two or three years ago [during their last major offensive into the area], they shot 2 people dead from our village. This time one person was killed at Klaw Hta. They shot him dead. He was a villager. He was over 70 years old, so he couldn’t run. When the villagers were fleeing the village, he met them in the forest and they shot him. His name was Pu Hlu Poh. They shot him, hit his stomach and his intestines came out. Pa Kyaw saw it.
This time when they came to our village they fired their guns around. They didn’t have time to say anything and we didn’t have time to hear their voices, because we ran before they arrived. We hid on the other side of the village. A shell landed very close to my house. Nobody was hurt. They caught some porters, and they had to go and carry. None of our villagers joined DKBA. Everyone just fled the village. We couldn’t carry anything when we ran, so we were in deep trouble along the way. I think we’re safe here [in Thailand], but I’m not sure exactly.
Most of the people in our village were Buddhists, but there were many Christians also. There used to be so many houses, but by the time we fled there were only 7 households left, 4 Buddhist families and 3 Christian families. Everybody ran away.
Ka Htee Hta refugee camp
NAME: "Saw Klo Wah" SEX: M AGE: 29
ADDRESS: Bu Tho township, Papun District - refugee in Ka Htee Hta camp for 5 years.
DISCRIPTION: Karen Christian
["Saw Klo Wah" was left behind in Ka Htee Hta by the camp leader to monitor events after most of the refugees left.]
On 7/2/95, SLORC and some DKBA soldiers arrived in Oo Thu Hta [on the Burma side of the Salween River, opposite Ka Htee Hta]. On 10/2/95 some of them crossed to our Ka Htee Hta camp at 4:45 p.m. 17 of them crossed in boats, and 3 came from the mountain [these 3 must have crossed elsewhere to approach the camp from behind]. Three of them were Karen, and the other 17 were Burmese. They were all wearing Burmese Army uniforms and carried weapons. Three of them came up the hill to the Meh Wih Der section [most of the refugees had already fled the camp, but about 50 families were still staying in this outlying section of the camp]. They were Karen, and they had weapons. Two of them had G2 rifles [Burmese Army assault rifles] and the other had an M16. All of them were wearing Burmese Army uniforms, but I didn’t see the number on their badges. They weren’t far away, but I didn’t see the number, because I was afraid and I ran. They called, "Don’t run away", but I was afraid and I ran. After 15 minutes, many villagers from the refugee camp went to talk with them. More than 20 people went to talk, and they spoke together peacefully. They told the villagers to come and follow them to Oo Thu Hta and Thu Mwe Hta, and said there wouldn’t be any problem. I didn’t go to meet with them, but I sent people to go and listen and then come back and tell me. On that day, 10/2/95, 15 families followed them. They ordered those families to stay in Khaw Taw, in Ka Ma Maung area. They promised them everything. They said that there would be no problem to stay there, and that no one would be allowed to stay here [Thailand]. They said that to stay here was very bad. They said, "Burmese leaders and soldiers have prepared a place for you on the Burma side where everything is easy." SLORC was lying to them. Some people believed them, and some people didn’t understand. They didn’t know about SLORC lies, so they followed them. They weren’t afraid because the 3 soldiers were Karen. About 30 to 50 families didn’t go with them. They left that evening to move to Meh Wih Kloh and Meh Paw Kloh [further inside Thailand, where the other refugees had already moved for safety]. It’s 5 kilometres from Ka Htee Hta. Then Ka Htee Hta was empty.
That first time they didn’t point their guns at people, they just organized them together. But later, the second, third and fourth times were very bad. Those times they ordered people to follow them, and if some people didn’t follow then they pointed their guns at them. That was after February 10th. After that the camp leader sent me here. Then he got information every day from the monk who was still staying at Meh Wih Der [after the 10th, the monk and his helpers were the only ones who dared stay there. SLORC and the DKBA used him to pass messages to the camp leaders, while he provided the camp leaders with information on SLORC and DKBA activities].
NAME: Saw Ghay Ploh SEX: M AGE: 45+
FAMILY: Married, several children
ADDRESS: Ka Htee Hta refugee camp for about 10 years.
DISCRIPTION: Karen Christian
[Saw Ghay Ploh was camp leader of Ka Htee Hta refugee camp. He was abducted and taken across the border with his family by SLORC / DKBA less than a week after this interview was conducted.]
Between 6/2/95 and 10/2/95, everyone left Ka Htee Hta camp to go to Meh Wih Kloh [5 km. inside Thailand] because it wasn’t safe anymore, except about 50 families in Section 1 [Meh Wih Der section]. On 7/2/95, the SLORC was shelling Oo Thu Hta [across the Salween River from Ka Htee Hta] the whole day. They first entered Oo Thu Hta at 4 p.m. On February 8th, SLORC went to Thaw Let Hta [Mae Sam Lap, a Thai side trading village a few kilometres downriver] by boat to get more diesel. On February 9th, the Thai Army left a boat with us because they couldn’t get back to Thaw Let Hta [the Thais were heading back downriver from further north, but had to go overland the last stretch because of the risk of SLORC attack on boats on the river]. That day SLORC and DKBA stole that boat. We couldn’t do anything to get it back. Then on February 10th the DKBA and SLORC entered section 1 of our camp. They were wearing Army uniforms. They were from SLORC Battalion #5. The 4 DKBA were Pa Pyaw, Pa Doh Deh, Swee Swee and Lway Say. I know all 4 of them, because they used to stay in the camp. They had uniforms with DKBA badges, a yellow Buddhist symbol with no number - but the shirts are Burmese Army shirts. Pa Doh Deh had a G2 [Burmese Army assault rifle] and the others had M16’s. They came to take the villagers back. 15 families went back. I think they went because they were afraid. Most families didn’t go.
Then from February 10th to 12th, the Burmese came into the camp and took all the village belongings and animals, including chickens, pigs, and rice from the storehouse. Three boatloads of soldiers came across the river. They took 400 sacks [100 kg. each] from the storehouse, and 100 sacks that had already been distributed from the houses. [When the refugees first evacuated the camp they planned to go back for these things, but once SLORC began crossing the river they didn’t dare.] They brought porters to carry the sacks. The porters were Karen and Burmese. They took them across to Oo Thu Hta. They had 3 big cattle boats - they took Bo Kyaw San’s boat. It took them 3 days. The Burmese soldiers were carrying the sacks too. The monks shouted at them not to take the rice, and they just shouted back. They also took 300 blankets from the storehouse that were to be distributed in the camp. The monks asked some people to go and carry some of the rice to us so we’d have something to eat [these people went to take some rice out of the storehouse to carry it to the refugees at Meh Wih Klo. For some reason the Burmese didn’t stop them doing this.]
On February 12th they killed 2 of the Buddhist refugees who went back on February 10th. We know because the monk and the people who carried the rice told us. The men they killed were Win Oo and Than Myint. Win Oo was 28 years old, married with 3 children. Than Myint was 20 years old and single - he was a Burmese student with ABSDF [All-Burma Students’ Democratic Front]. I think maybe they killed them because they wanted Win Oo’s wife, but I don’t know. He hadn’t done anything. They were from Ka Htee Hta, Section 5. Win Oo and Than Myint went across with the 15 families on February 10th. Then on February 12th they were staying in Oo Thu Hta, and the Burmese killed them by the riverside. The monk went across to visit Oo Thu Hta to see if he could get any of our things back. He saw the bodies of Win Oo and Than Myint. They were shot to death, and their bodies were floating in the Salween River.
On February 12th, they took 5 more families, so altogether they took 20 families, 113 people. Three DKBA came to Meh Wih Kloh, 5 kilometres from the river. They came with guns to take people. This time they didn’t ask, they said they would shoot the people if they didn’t come. They took 5 families with them. They said the Burmese would shell the place, so after they left everyone was afraid and cried and we ran away again. Everyone left that night and took their children with them because they were afraid of the DKBA. Everyone went to Meh Paw Kloh [another hour’s walk further into Thailand].
We found out that on February 15th, the Burmese killed 3 of the men who the DKBA took with them on February 12th. Their names were Meh Ka La, age 26, married with 2 children; Maw Bee, age 38, married with 5 children; and Pa Da Kee, age 32, married with 2 children. The monk heard the gunshots across the river, and then he found out from the DKBA.
On February 18th the monk came to Meh Paw Kloh from Meh Wih Der and talked to us. He said, "The Burmese told me that at the end of this month they will take the Meh Paw Kloh area [the new refugee camp, over 5 km. inside Thailand]. They will shell this place and force you to go back to Burma." He said the Burmese came to his place at night with their weapons and gave an order for all of us to return by the end of the month or they would shell and attack us. I came and met the Thai Amphur [government administrative district chief] of Mae Sariang here at Mae Khong Kha and he said "Don’t run to here". I told him we needed to come here because we are afraid. So we just came here, and now the Amphur says it’s okay. That’s funny. Now we are here, but there are still 50 families to come from Meh Paw Kloh. They will come here tomorrow. So far [as of March 2] the Burmese haven’t come to Meh Paw Kloh. When the monk comes again we will get more news. Now he stays in Meh Wih Der. He is very charismatic, so he acts as messenger both for us and the Burmese.
Maung Than Myint also told me something. His niece Ma Nyay went with the DKBA on February 12th. She is 18 years old. Maung Than Myint was staying at Thaw Let Hta [Mae Sam Lap], and he says on February 21st the DKBA brought his niece across the river and told him what happened to her. The DKBA said she had been raped by 20 Burmese soldiers, all on the same night. He said the DKBA was very angry. They brought her across and asked the Thais to send her to Mae Sariang hospital, but he says now she is in hospital in Chiang Mai. I’m not sure. [Note: KHRG has not been able to confirm this story as yet.]
NAME: "Saw Tha Htoo" SEX: M AGE: 28
ADDRESS: Ka Htee Hta refugee camp
DISCRIPTION: Karen Buddhist
On the 10th and 11th of February I was at Meh Wih Der. I had to take care of the rice in the storehouse, but the Burmese soldiers wouldn’t listen to me. They took the rice, and they made me carry it also. They took the rice to the river. Then I started taking rice out of the storehouse so we could keep it. I took the rice to the monastery. The soldiers were all Burmese except for 1 Karen from Yan Gyi Aung [another witness gave his name as Maung Lay]. He was in DKBA uniform. There were 8 or 9 Burmese with him at the storehouse, but there were many more Burmese waiting at the riverside. They were wearing uniforms. The Burmese at the storehouse weren’t carrying weapons, they were carrying rice. But the ones by the riverside had guns to protect them. Five or six refugees had to help them. The others were afraid and ran away. While we were carrying the Burmese asked us to go back to Burma. They said if we went back they wouldn’t do anything to us, and they asked us to take them back across the river by boat. When they were searching the houses and got angry, they started bayonetting the floors. On the 11th and 12th, although we were few in number they were many, and they emptied the storehouse. They came with many people. There were about 20 Burmese, and 6 or 7 of them came to the monastery with guns. Some DKBA came but stayed down at the riverside. On the 12th the monks told us not to go to the storehouse. Only a few people were still in Meh Wih Der - most were afraid to stay there anymore. After the 12th, nobody stayed there anymore.
Ber Lu Ko kidnapping
NAME: "Saw Kaw Muh" SEX: M AGE: 38 Karen Christian
ADDRESS: Ber Lu Ko refugee camp
DISCRIPTION: Karen Christian
[When the SLORC took the area south of Manerplaw, refugees from Kler Thay Lu and Mae Po Hta camps along the Moei river had to flee further inside Thailand. Most went to Baw Noh and other camps, but 200 or more fled to the Thai Karen village of Ber Lu Ko, where they set up an impromptu refugee camp. Saw Kyaw Li, or "Uncle Jolly", was staying there. He was formerly camp leader at Kler Thay Lu, but at Ber Lu Ko he was only in charge of transport and communication.]
Uncle Kyaw Li was kidnapped on March 2nd. They came at about 7:30 in the evening. Altogether there were 30 of them, and 6 came into the village to catch Kyaw Li. I saw six, then I ran from the house. They were Karen, wearing uniforms but without badges. They had guns, M16 and AK47. They came in 2 groups, one from the east to Uncle Kyaw Li’s house and the other from the west, to Ko Lay’s house. Uncle Kyaw Li was visiting his niece. He met the DKBA here, in front of my house, after he left his niece’s house. They caught him and beat him. They kicked him and beat him with a torchlight. Uncle Kyaw Li is 70 years old, maybe 80. He is not too unhealthy, but he has high blood pressure. I think they said to him, "We asked you to come back with us and you didn’t come back. If you stay here you have alot of power, so we’ve come to get you." Then they tied his hands and took him to Meh Tha Waw. They left at 10 p.m. All the other soldiers came from around the village and they went to the car road. We knew there were about 30 because we saw them sitting and smoking outside the village, and later we saw their footprints.
They left a letter in the village. It said, "Everyone must go back. You will get trouble if you stay here." It said we all had to go back by March 5th, 2 days from now. I didn’t see the letter - the camp leader got it, and he burned it. I don’t think people will go. Buddhists won’t go, and Christians won’t go. They make problems for everyone. If they were just Buddhist soldiers we would go, but they have joined with the Burmese. If they come again we’ll go to another place. There are 27 households of new refugees here.
Now Uncle Kyaw Li is being held at Meh Baw Plaw. His bodyguard went after him with his daughter, and he came back this morning and told us. He is not dead. I don’t know if they will kill him. I don’t know what DKBA’s ideas are, joining with the Burmese. They are both the same. Kyaw Li is Christian SDA [Seventh-Day Adventist, which is particularly hated by the DKBA because it is Gen. Bo Mya’s religion]. His wife already died. He has 4 children. At Kler Thay Lu he was camp leader. Now his daughter is with him. She is also Christian.
We don’t know about the DKBA’s relations with the Rangoon government or why they’ve joined with them, but we know that they hate the Christians and if we go back we’ll surely have trouble. If we thought the situation were safe and okay, we would go back.
Gray Hta killings
NAME: "Naw Paw Nwee" SEX: F AGE: 49
FAMILY: Married, 6 children aged 13-27
ADDRESS: Hlaing Bwe township, Pa’an District - now a refugee in Thailand
DISCRIPTION: Karen Christian
["Naw Paw Nwee"‘s family lives just outside Gray Hta refugee camp in Thailand.]
I have been living on the Thai side for 18 years. [The other night, on March 9] we were in our field hut. They came at 1:30 a.m. We were sleeping. They pointed a gun at us and said, "Don’t move". When they entered the hut there was a cross, a Bible and a hymn-book on the table, and they threw them away. Three men entered the hut, and the other three stayed outside. Only one man had a gun - the other two had no guns, they had knives. I don’t know about the others outside. People told me the gun was an AK47 [the Thai soldiers told her the next day after finding the cartridge cases]. Only one man wore an army uniform - the others wore black T-shirts and black pants, but the one with the gun wore shorts. They had cloth over their faces, with holes for the eyes. I think they were Karen. They spoke Karen and Burmese, each spoke a different language. They pointed their gun at all of us: myself, my husband and my son. They said "Just don’t move and keep your mouths shut". Then they asked for money. While one of the men pointed the gun, the other two went to look around in the other rooms. When they came back, the one who had the gun went into the rooms and looked again. Those men took all the new clothes from our house. They took my 2 necklaces, my ring, one pair of earrings and 10,140 Baht [about US$406 at the time of printing, their life savings - note that poor people in Burma use jewellery as a form of savings, because banks are inaccessible and unreliable]. My husband gave them the money and said, "We only have that money, I swear to God." Then the man said, "The situation is not like before. There is no God any longer." He said it in Karen. Then he shot my husband in the mouth and in the shoulder. He shot my son in the jaw, and again in the chest. The bullet came out through his back. He shot them two times each. After that they just left. After a few minutes I heard the sound of a car on the road.
My other son ran away when they entered the house. He was sleeping in the kitchen. He is only 12 years old. When he ran away he saw the men who were outside the house. They had torchlights. They were shining them on the house, and telling the others in Burmese not to fire their guns. My husband’s name was Saw Htoo Htoo. He was 61 years old. My son was Tamla Htoo. He was 27. He has a wife and 4 children. The eldest is 7 years old, the youngest is 4 months. Before, we planted tobacco, and my son sold the tobacco. That was all the money we had saved. My son was a good boy. He never asked for clothes. He never made any trouble for his parents. He was helping his father because our younger sons are still in school. [The family farmed tobacco and vegetables on the Burma side of the river, but stayed in a hut on the Thai side of the river for safety. This is where the attack took place.]
Meh Po / Huay Heng truck shooting
NAME: Pu Taw Ploh SEX: M AGE: 60
FAMILY: Wife now dead, 5 children aged 6 to 28, and grandchildren
ADDRESS: From Mae Let Hta area, Papun District; later a refugee in Mae Paw Muh Hta, Thailand
DISCRIPTION: Karen Christian
[Pu Taw Ploh’s wife Naw Peh, age 60, was killed in the shooting.]
We have been in Thailand for 1 year. We came through Mae Let Hta and stayed in Mae Paw Muh Hta, then to Kaw Mu Der, Meh Po and Htee Loh Tee Klo [after they had to flee Mae Paw Muh Hta because the SLORC was across the river]. When we lived in our own place, nothing happened to us. Now when we moved to Thailand, the Burmese troops shot us. There were 6 families on the truck, 5 Christian and one Buddhist. Many brought their things with them. Our things were put in another truck which went earlier. I was at the back of the truck, but my family was in the middle, all our children were in the middle. I saw 3 men come wearing military uniforms, all of them. They were around a curve in the road, on the bank alongside the road, on the driver’s side. It was higher than the truck, so they could see us on the back. All of them had guns - one AK47, one carbine and one mortar [M79 grenade launcher]. They said nothing. When they saw us, they stopped our truck and started shooting at once. I saw the man on the hillside raising his hand to stop the truck, then the truck stopped, and when it stopped they came running down shooting. I couldn’t do anything, just run away. If we didn’t run away, we would all be killed. They came running down, and they were shooting while they ran. I was the first to jump out. When I jumped out of the truck, I didn’t care how I fell, I wasn’t afraid of being hurt by the fall, I was just afraid of their shooting. They were shooting dat dat dat dat dat, then automatic fire. My wife was afraid and tried to jump out of the truck. When she was about to jump, the bullet hit her. She was shot in the back. The bullet came out her front, together with all her internal organs. Her name is Naw Peh. After we jumped down, they fired their M79. The glass of the windshield was smashed. It hit in front of the truck, and most people were hit by the shrapnel. Four of our children were hit. Five in our family, 4 were wounded and my wife died. All of my children were wounded by shell splinters. One of my nieces, my wife and the driver were hit by bullets. My niece was hit right where she was as soon as the shooting started, she was the first one hit. The bullet hit her forehead, and split her head apart. The others were wounded by splinters. Each of them was seriously wounded. One was hit in the temple, my grandson Kya Ma Lay. As soon as we jumped down, we went down a steep bank into the gully. When the soldiers came down to the road we were already in the gully. We ran away any way we could, we went towards Kaw Thu Mwe village and slept there that night. I was carrying my grandson on my back. There is a medic there who can treat small wounds, but not big ones. Then they sent my grandson to Mu Yu [Mae Sariang] hospital [before sending him, foreign NGO staff who arrived had to do a transfusion and splenectomy in the field to save the little 5 year old boy’s life, because he had also been hit badly in the abdomen]. The others were not so serious. They stay in other people’s houses [in Mae Ra Mu Klo camp] and go to the clinic every day to get dressings.
An elephant driver was hurt too. When he saw the attack he jumped off his elephant and ran, and he was hit by a splinter in his back. Ours was the only truck that got shot. There were 5 trucks, we were the second and there were 3 more behind us. The people behind saw, and they stopped their trucks and ran away [they went and notified the camp leader, who went to the scene together with Thai soldiers the next morning]. I didn’t go the next morning. I was aching all over. My son-in-law went to see at about 9 a.m. The men had searched my niece’s bag, took her earrings and 80 Baht [Thai currency] and tore up her bag. My wife also had money in her bag, but it was still there. She used her bag to cover her wound. She was laying face down and stuffed it against her wound. They [the authorities] took pictures of her, then her body was brought back and we buried her.
The men didn’t shout anything, just raised their hand to stop the truck and shot. Their clothes were dark green, like usual, like SLORC uniforms. They looked like they could have been Burmese, but not for sure. Maybe DKBA, but they looked like SLORC because they were wearing SLORC uniforms. They didn’t talk so I couldn’t tell. Two of them had nothing on their heads, and the other had a cap. [DKBA men often wear yellow headbands.]
NAME: Naw Krit Heh SEX: F AGE: 27
FAMILY: Married, 1 child aged 3, now 5 months pregnant
ADDRESS: From Mae Mweh Hta area, later a refugee in Mae Paw Muh Hta, Thailand
DISCRIPTION: Karen Christian
I came to Thailand one year ago, first to Pway Baw Lu and then to Mae Paw Muh Hta, section 4. We left Mae Paw Muh Hta, and last Thursday we were being moved here. We were on the truck with our belongings. I was with my husband and child, and also my parents. I was in the back, just behind the cab. I saw soldiers. Burmese. Three of them, with guns. They had military uniforms. The colour was green, Burmese green. They were Burmese Army uniforms, but I didn’t see the badge. [Note: the cut and colour of Burmese Army uniforms are noticeably different from KNLA and other opposition uniforms.] They looked like Burmese soldiers. They said "Stop", in Karen. Two of them were beside the road and one was in front of us. The two beside the road stopped the truck. After we stopped, they started shooting at us. The one in front of the truck shot first. I couldn’t count the shots. They shot constantly, and while they were shooting we tried to run away. They shot their mortar [M79 grenade] at the truck. When it exploded, I was hurt by a splinter and I jumped out and ran. My child was in my arms, and my husband ran in front of me. They kept shooting. I didn’t follow my husband, I ran another direction. I ran down the slope and then crossed the field. My child was wounded just a little. When the mortar exploded, a splinter hit the truck mirror and a piece of glass hit him [his name is Nay Hta Ghay, age 3]. We ran to Tee Law Hta. Then the next day, people took us by car to the clinic [at Mae Ra Mu Klo camp. Naw Krit Heh had a wound behind her left ear and 3 small superficial wounds on her back]. My husband was also wounded. My mother Naw Peh died in the truck. We were sitting down together in the truck. When she stood up to run, the Burmese shot at her. When the mortar exploded, I looked for a second at my mother and then I ran away. May Paw was my sister-in-law. I saw when she was shot. She was shot in the head and she died immediately. They were both shot by AK47 bullets.
They shot us at Thay Wah Der, just a few minutes from our old camp [Meh Po Kee]. We left everything in the truck. I didn’t dare go back to get them. People who went back saw my belongings and said they were all covered with blood.
NAME: Saw Kwa SEX: M AGE: 49
FAMILY: Married, 4 children aged 8-24
ADDRESS: From K’Thay Kee village, later a refugee in Mae Paw Muh Hta, Thailand
DISCRIPTION: Karen Christian
We used to grow hill rice and paddy rice, and I’m also a carpenter. We came to Thailand 3 years ago, first to Thu Moei Hta camp [forcibly repatriated by the Thai Army in mid-1992], then to Mae Paw Muh Hta. I was in the truck. I was in the cab, wedged between the driver and the "spare man" [both Thais]. There were 3 of us in the cab. I’m not sure how many people were in the back, maybe 13 or 14. Also some belongings, and 6 goats and 2 pigs. The people were from 4 families, but only some members of each family. I was the only one from my family, except my one sibling. The men blocked the way, stopped the truck and pointed their guns. I didn’t hear whether they shouted or not. They just pointed their guns and then the guns fired. We didn’t hear anything, we didn’t have time to listen. As soon as they pointed their guns we just ran. I didn’t have a chance to look. But listening to the gunfire and looking later at the place, I think there were about 20 of them. I only saw one myself. He came out of the jungle, a small gully around a bend in the road. He was at the right side of the road, the driver’s side. He stopped the car and then he shot the driver. Then the other guns followed. I saw him and then I couldn’t see anymore, but I heard 6 or 7 guns. There was an uphill slope on the road, and they shot down the hill at us. When I was running, a bullet just grazed my back. I think the driver was hit instantly, but I didn’t have time to look. He died. Then the M79 exploded and injured the children.
It was 5 o’clock in the evening and we were between the hills, so I didn’t see him very clearly. It looked like he had a soldier uniform. The others were up the slope. They fired at the car, and they fired at those who were running. As soon as I was out of the truck I went down the gully and followed the stream. The [Thai] "spare man" caught up with us, and the others came up one by one. Small children were running by themselves until others saw them and helped them. Eleven or twelve people were wounded by the M79. I had a bag on the truck, one or two machetes and a bag of rice. I was so scared I never went back. Nobody asked about their belongings. The next morning people found them, and one of the small goats was playing with the child who had been left behind [Naw May Paw’s child, about 4 years old, who stayed alone beside his mother’s body all night.]
These men were not robbers. The yellow headbands ["Ko Per Baw", the common name people have adopted for the DKBA] rebelled against the Christians, and now they have joined the Burmese. The two groups have become one. We are refugees and we are in a KNU area, so they attacked us.
NAME: Naw Shay Roh SEX: F AGE: 42
DISCRIPTION: Karen Christian
I was standing in the back of the truck holding on to the side. I saw two men shooting, but I didn’t see the man who stopped the car. I saw them standing and crouching and shooting their guns down. I had no time to look - when they shot, I ran. All 5 of my children were on the truck. My youngest is 5 years old. As soon as I jumped down, I heard an explosion. I grabbed my youngest child and ran. I fell down into the gully. I didn’t even know I was wounded until I got to the stream and I saw the blood running down from my knee. The others were the same too.
NAME: Naw Meh Ta Ker SEX: F AGE: 17
DISCRIPTION: Karen Christian
When they started shooting, I was so afraid I went like this [she hid her head in her arms] and I didn’t see anything. I didn’t dare look up. Then I looked. I didn’t see the one who stopped the truck, but I saw the ones on the hillside. They were wearing Army green, like Tatmadaw [Burmese Army]. They shouted "Whay!" [this could be either a Karen or Burmese shout]. The young woman died near me,and the old woman too. Naw May Paw was laying like this by her bundle, and her child was sitting there. I was afraid, I saw people die, I saw Naw May Paw’s brain coming out and I saw blood so I slid down out of the truck and ran. [According to other witnesses the child, about 4 years old, was left behind and stayed by his dead mother all night long, until he was found along with the bodies the next morning.]