[Note: Some details have been omitted or replaced by ‘xxxx’ for Internet distribution.]
This report contains interviews conducted between December 1995 and February 1996 with villagers from the area south of Kawkareik in Karen State. When most of the interviews were conducted, the military situation in the area was relatively quiet; however, by February 1996 many people were beginning to flee the area due to rumours of an impending SLORC offensive. Much of the area lies along SLORC's path should they decide to launch a major offensive against the new Karen National Union headquarters areas of Ta Law Thaw and Lay Po Hta. At the time of printing of this report, a new KNU delegation is heading to Moulmein to attempt to reopen ceasefire negotiations; however, hopes are low and there are reports that SLORC is pushing a road towards the offensive area and massing troops. If an offensive begins, the situation for all the villagers in this report will grow much worse. In fear of an offensive, hundreds of people have already fled to refugee camps in Thailand. In at least one camp, the fear of a mass influx caused Thai authorities to prohibit any new houses from being built, causing 400 new arrivals to be jammed into the small huts of people already there.
The final 4 interviews in this report are with new arrivals in Thailand, but all the other interviews were conducted with people in many different villages inside Burma. For security reasons, some details have been omitted or blanked out, and all names of those interviewed have been changed. False names are indicated by enclosing them in quotes.
Executions (Stories #3,4,9-12), torture (#4, 9-11), detention (#3,4,6,8,9-11), shootings (#1,13), beatings (#4,6,9,14,15), abuse of women (#4,13), looting (#1,2,4,9,13, 14), cash extortion (#1,2,6-9,11,13), food extortion (#1,2,4-6,9,13), land confiscation (#1), conditions for traders (#7,8), commandeered boats (#7,8), commodity prices (#7,8), DKBA (#2, 4,9,16), People's Militia (#7,8), people fleeing villages (#1,6,8), new refugees in Thailand (#14-17). FORCED LABOUR: Army camps (#1,2,4,5,7-10,13,14,16), porters (#2,4,6,7,9,13,17), guides/messengers (#1,4,6), roads (#8,17), farming (#1,2), logging (#1,6,9,15).
NAME: "Maung Sein" SEX: M AGE: 37 Pwo Karen Buddhist farmer
FAMILY: Married, 5 children aged 5-15
ADDRESS: xxxx village, Kawkareik Township
My village is south of Kawkareik, near the Han Thayaw River. It has over 30 houses. It is quite close to here. It is also close to SLORC Battalion #330. Their camp has 50 soldiers. They order us to cut wood and bamboo, and if there is also other work to do we are ordered to do it. Each day two of us have to go for sentry duty. If we fail to go, we have to give 100 Kyats each as compensation. We go in the mornings and come back in the evenings. When they tell us to go find liquor for them we have to go. Sometimes they order us to go and send letters to distant places and we have to obey. We have to eat our own food - their rice supplies are exclusively for them. They also ordered us to find good timber and then made us pull those logs. They sell this timber in Kawkareik and do business. We do not receive anything at all. It's sheer bullying. We are forced to do it despite our resentment. They don't even provide our food, we have to take our own food to eat.
As for me, I do the work. I have to go twice in a month. People who don't go have to pay 100 Kyats each day - for 3 days that means 300 Kyats. Villagers close to SLORC have to go to them to do their errands, while villagers in remote areas have to carry their loads. Soldiers watch us while we work. While I laboured hard drawing the heavy logs, the soldiers shouted at me and abused me like anything. Imagine, harsh words thrown at you while you are bending under the weight of heavy logs. Women have to go too, over ten at a time - that's including unmarried young ladies. Today our village had to provide 20 workers. Tomorrow another village will have to provide 20 workers. The next day another village will have to give 20 people to work for them. Such is the rotation. Two people have to guard their barracks for them, and 20 people are given hard labour assignments whenever they need us. There's no distinction between the young and the old - those old folks who can't go have to give 100 Kyats per day.
They demand our chicken and ducks and we are forced to give them, for sure. That happens two or three times a month. And they demand rice, certainly. Their rice supplies are very poor quality. So they take our good rice and give us back their poor quality rice to eat. They do that to every village which is within their reach. They come in the evenings and steal all the fowl from the villagers. When they come, sometimes we flee but sometimes we don't. When they open fire on people they usually miss, because people run very fast to save their lives. Last year they shot into our village at random and hurt some people.
This year in August they took some of our farmland, they took by force some cattle and buffalos from the villagers and ordered us to till the ground for them. That land yields 200 baskets of paddy. It belongs to Maung XXXX. Then when these soldiers had to transfer to another area, they sold the crops back to the villagers and forced them to buy it. That earned them 3,000 Kyats from each village, 9,000 Kyats altogether from 3 villages. [The crop was still in the field, not yet ready for harvest when the soldiers left.] When a new group of soldiers arrived they repeated the same thing. The villagers had to go together, one person from each house, and take their own tools, for 4 days each month. For those who didn't go, the soldiers seized their cattle and buffalos and never returned them. So people have to go despite all the inconvenience. Now the harvest is finished. The villagers were forced to reap and winnow the crop, and then the soldiers took it away with them to the city and sold it to the merchants. It happens over and over again. The soldiers who do this are from Battalion #230.
This year it's just the same as last year. Those who can endure, they endure, and those who cannot leave the area right away. Now more people are leaving and fewer are staying on. More and more people have lost their ability to endure it any longer. There were over 100 households in my village, now only 30 remain. Some move to places far away from the military camps, some fled into the jungles, and some fled to Thailand. As for me, well! I will watch what my neighbours do, and if they move I will move.
NAME: "Pi Yeh Paw" SEX: F AGE: 67 Karen Buddhist farmer
FAMILY: Married, 5 children aged 23-45
ADDRESS: xxxx village, Kya In Township
Our village is close to here. We pay them [SLORC] their dues, but still when they come they take our chickens and other birds. They take even the small chickens, and the eggs under the brooding hens. We can't stop them, so we have to endure it. They don't listen to our objections. But when I chased them with a stick, that made a difference! They never come to stay, just to steal. They came and took over 10 viss [16 kg.] of chickens, and after eating them all they came back again in search of more chicken curry. If we don't do what they want they will harm us. What sort of people are they? They come very often, the last time was just a day or two ago. Just wait and you'll see, they'll be back again in 3 or 4 days. They come in a group of forty. They are number 310 [battalion]. #310 has been coming for the last 2 months [before that it was #231]. All the SLORC groups are looters. They even take our clothes if they are not too old.
Our village has 200 or 300 houses, I think. So they cannot go into every house. They roam along the streets of big villages and grab whatever they see along the way. They take everything they see. Porters always have to accompany them. They have to carry the chickens - Burmese soldiers would never carry anything themselves, you need not ask about that. The porters also have to carry melons and pumpkins. The Burmese soldiers pick our pumpkins and things to cook with the chickens they steal from us. My son had to go as a porter, and when he couldn't go I had to pay porter money, 150 Kyat per day, 300 Kyat for 2 days. People have to go in groups of five, every two days [on rotating basis]. That's not easy. Do you think that's easy, brother? If we don't go they molest the villagers. I've had to carry their loads myself.
We also have to give pork to Battalion 310, and we also have to go work for them where their Column is based. People from M-- and T-- villages have to go very often. They have to plant paddy, plough the land and dig the soil for them.
Naw B--'s mother had to give them 2 of her son's [handwoven] shirts. Very good shirts - one shirt costs 1500 Kyats. These Burmans are so cunning - they begin by asking for just one betelnut, then they end by taking away sackfuls. I said to them "You take our things to go and sell them, don't you?" They admitted it and said they did. We don't dare to hang our sarongs out to dry at night - if it's not too old and worn, they'll steal it. They are gamblers, and when they lose at gambling they just take a hintha duck and sell it for 200 Kyat. I have no love for them. We have to bear so much bullying, so certainly we feel bitter.
I have not yet met any Ko Per Baw ['Yellow Headbands', meaning DKBA - the self-named 'Democratic Karen Buddhist Army' formed in December 1994 which is allied with SLORC, completely supplied and partly controlled by SLORC]. I only heard about them. They say something and they do something else. Their leaders say that they don't eat meat, but their soldiers eat meat and steal sarongs from the villagers. I heard that when they arrived in Raw Keh and Pah Kya they stole chickens and clothing. We do not want to see such things. People said they'd come, but they never came. It is good that they don't appear. It is best that we don't encounter them, don't you think so?
NAME: "Naw Say Wah" SEX: F AGE: 22 Pwo Karen Buddhist farmer
FAMILY: Married, 2 baby daughters aged 3 months and 3 years
ADDRESS: xxxx village, Kya In Township
["Naw Say Wah"'s husband Saw XXXX, age 37, was killed by SLORC on 17 or 18 December 1995 - see interview with "Pi Beh Wah" in this report.]
My husband went to XXXX village to do farm work with other people there. It was within the last 10 days. They arrested him at XXXX village. He was going to get some cattle vaccinated when a column of Burmese soldiers arrived and arrested him. They were #XXX Battalion. They took him to XXXX military camp, about 3 miles away. He was there for 4 days. I went to the camp along with the village headwoman. The officer asked me, "Don't you love your husband? What does he do for his living?" I said he is a farmer. We asked to see him but they wouldn't allow it. I had to come back home. They said that after 1 or 2 days he would be released for sure. But after two days I heard news that he was killed, and they told me to make offerings to the monks. Now I am living with my mother. I am so desperate because of my two children. The elder one is 3, and the younger is only 3 months old.
NAME: "Pi Beh Wah" SEX: F AGE: 61 Karen Buddhist farmer
FAMILY: Married, 2 children aged 12 and 43
ADDRESS: xxxx village, Kawkareik Township
The headman of that other village told us that "Naw Say Wah"'s husband [Saw XXXX] had been arrested. He wanted her [his wife] to come to him. Her husband lives in our village but was working in that village. His name was not registered in that village, so the SLORC came there and asked about him. As soon as they caught him, they asked him about his work and he said he was a farmer. They beat him as soon as they arrested him. They said "You tried to run away because you are a Ringworm!" [derogatory SLORC name for Karen soldiers]. He told them he ran away because he was afraid of them. Then the Burmese soldiers took turns hitting him, some of them with their rifle butts. They tied him with a rope, they pulled off his shirt and sarong, covered his face with his own sarong and kept beating him. Then they took him away to XXXX military camp. When villagers from xxxx went and asked about him, the Burmese soldiers asked them what he does for his living. They told the soldiers that he's only a farmer. They told them again and again. The soldiers kept asking, "Has he got a gun?" and the villagers told them he doesn't. The officer told them, "The prisoner says he has a revolver". The villagers answered, "He said that from fear of you, because you used harsh interrogation on him". The officer said, "The village heads wouldn't dare sign vouching that he has no weapons". Then the xxxx headman spoke for him, and said "He was just an ordinary farmer when he lived in my village. I'll sign for him." The officer threatened him, saying "If that's the case, you'll have to sign now. But if one day the truth comes out, you won't only be imprisoned, you'll be given the death penalty." The village headman said he would sign even if they killed him, because he would stand on the side of truth. As he signed his name, he asked the officer to let the young man go back with him. The officer said the man would have to be detained one or two more days while they did more interrogation, and only then he could be released.
A day or two later, the headman heard that it was very hard for the young man, that they were continuing to beat him without resting and that Saw XXXX was crying because the beatings were so bad. So he was going to go to the camp again, but that morning the Burmese soldiers came to the village. They started asking questions about whether there were insurgents there. They started making trouble, arresting people here and there at random, including women and children. The headman had to vouch for all of them. He said, "Please set all my people free, set free everyone you've accused of being rebels. If any of them have been rebel soldiers once, that was because they were afraid of the rebels. Now they are doing nothing against you. You're asking about the past, like speaking to the dead. How can the dead come out of their graves? It is the present which matters." Then the soldiers let everyone in the village go, but they demanded food and chickens. The villagers were afraid and had to give it to them, and when they got the rice and chickens they went to leave. The headman asked again, "Major, sir! Please tell me whether you have killed the young man or whether he lives. If he is dead we have to make offerings to the monks and prepare a funeral according to our Karen custom. His wife is in deep trouble, and she has no relatives here. Tell us if she should go back to her village." The Burmese Major answered, "Then send his wife back. You can call the monks, and his wife can go back." He wouldn't say that he had killed Saw XXXX. We asked the people in XXXX [the village surrounding the Army camp] and they said yes, they saw him and his head was beaten to a pulp, his eyes were destroyed and he had turned blue all over so maybe his bones were broken. He was bound by a rope. The soldiers finished him with a knife. Then they dug a hole and buried him there.
This is how they are. They ask us for pigs and chickens, and if we cannot give them then they threaten to bombard us with big guns. We have to go whenever they summon us, day or night [village elders are constantly summoned to the camp to receive orders]. We cannot disobey them, or they will fine us or when we go to Kawkareik they will arrest us. They are harassing us to death. Not only our village, but other villages as well. [She began pointing to people around the room.] Look at those people, they were tortured by the soldiers but they were lucky enough to survive. As for his daughter, they molested her, raped her and then murdered her. She was only 20 years of age then, and had 2 children. They are so cruel. What can we do? If I were a witch, I would be able to kill and eat them. That's all I want to say.
The officer responsible for killing Saw XXXX is XXXX. He is Company Commander of Company X, Battalion XXX at XXXX camp. He did not do the killing himself, his men did it. The porters from our village told me about it.
As an elder I have to provide them porters and labour force. We have to send our villagers to help repair their camp buildings at Kawkareik, carrying our own food and things with us. We have to finish the work in the time they set - if 5 days, we have to finish in 5 days. If they ask 100 people, we have to send 100 people. They also demand that the villagers give them wood and bamboo. We can never expect anything from them. On the contrary, when the villagers are reluctant to go I have to plead with them to go, because I'm afraid if the soldiers come the village will be destroyed. I have to say, "My son, please go - we cannot overcome them yet, so please go and work without pay for them." They don't even give you water to drink while you work for them. We cannot even borrow the pails from them when we want to draw water. Once I complained to the officer - I told him "We are working now for your welfare and the welfare of your military families, it is not for us to come and put up with this. Why are we even denied water?" Only then did they give us water. I tell them, "If you don't like it, I will report it to higher authorities". I think they are a bit afraid of such confrontations. The soldiers are a bit afraid of our village because of this. As for the village on the other bank of the river, they are given hell and never have time to rest.
They demanded our village give them 20 viss [32 kg.] of betelnuts, and 11 baskets of rice during last month. As for my village, when they demand 5 baskets I give them only 6 pyis [1 basket = 16 pyi]. They demanded 2,000 betelnuts. What do they want with betelnuts at this time of peace negotiations? I rebuked them telling them they should not lower the dignity of the Tatmadaw [Burmese Army] like this. We have to be tactful and diplomatic like that when we cannot meet their demands. When I said that, we were exempted from giving it. If the young man who was killed had been from my village, the tragedy wouldn't have happened. But the village heads of those other villages were too afraid. They had been beaten so very often. Sure the other village headwomen are beaten. They have to go whenever they're summoned, even at midnight, and they can only come home at 4 a.m. Who knows what the soldiers would do to those headwomen at such hours of the night? People from my village don't have to suffer like that. If they call us, we won't go. I'm only a village head, I'm not a guide. I know how to deal with both the government and the rebels when necessary. If they ask me to serve as their guide at night, I refuse them. This is not my duty. The younger village headwomen ask me to go along with them, they say they need my presence. How do their husbands feel seeing them going off with Burmese soldiers in the middle of the night? I told the Burmese Major frankly, "Suppose your wife or daughter were called by a Karen rebel under similar circumstances, even for only one night, even if that Karen rebel actually did nothing to the women, how would you feel then?" And I was exempted. But the other women village heads have to go. Those women have to fan them while they're eating, they even have to wipe their mouths after their meals - these things have been witnessed by people. As for me, the soldiers won't even allow me to get close to them - maybe because I stink like anything, and those other women are pretty.
They send us written orders for things, and they even write what they'll do to the village head if the village fails to comply. Such-and-such amount at so-and-so time, they write it all. Sometimes they are so irritating we use them for toilet paper. Now things are getting worse. Before, we only had to fear the SLORC, and the Karen rebels, but now we are also in fear of the Yellow Headbands [DKBA]. When I asked the SLORC Major whether they provide the rice for the Yellow Headbands, he said they do provide the rice for them and he complained that the Yellow Headbands eat 3 times every day [Karen generally only eat 2 meals a day]. "If that's so then why did you call them?", I said. "You yourself called them here, so if you can't feed them just send them away. We don't have any rice to give them." There used to be just two sides in this war, now we're up to three already.
I'm certain it would be best if there were no SLORC. They are so oppressive. Even when the villagers tell them truthfully that they're not rebels and sign statements, they still mistreat them. They don't follow the law they've laid down. They tell us to report to the officer about any misconduct by a soldier, but if we do that the soldiers will shoot us dead! Everything is in their hands and they can fabricate anything they want. It is so unpleasant, I can't even express it in words. Now it is our lot to fear 3 sides - one kind of fear for SLORC, another kind for KNU and still another for the Yellow Headbands. Village headwomen are often murdered, and no one even knows who did the crime, SLORC, KNU, or the Yellow Headbands. So I'm overcome with disgust, I want to resign as village head. It would be alright if they listen to us, but they never listen to what we say. It's such an insult when SLORC says they'll slap my face, even though I'm the age of their mothers. They've never dared actually do it. They only threatened to shoot me one time, and that time it only ended up with them beating me. It's because when they said they'd shoot me I told them sarcastically, "Do it then, since the SLORC issues you ammunition to shoot us". They drew their knives to intimidate me, they said "You old woman!", and one of them hit me with both hands on my shoulders. He shouted, "If you were not the age of my mother, your cheeks would surely have burst!" They scolded me so much that it hurt my teeth [a common figure of speech]. I don't want to speak about them anymore.
I'm getting old now and tired of running here and running there. In awhile the SLORC will come and shoot, then the rebels will shoot - it's not easy being in between the two forces and trying to appease them. Better to leave them alone and let them shoot their guts out. With time I began to be bold to both sides, so they think this old lady is very brave. I am already 61 years old and I am not bothered so much if I should die. Of course, I would like to die a good death. Even when trying to do good, if one receives evil in return that's nothing but kamma, merits and demerits of one's past existence. When one's old like me there's scarcely any wind left to speak, one gets her hands and feet knocking together. We can't even afford to buy one tin of condensed milk - what a situation! It used to be that when we had to take 30 viss of chickens to them, then sometimes they used to give us one tin of condensed milk. When even one needle comes out from them, one big axe has to go out from us. There's no use in speaking about SLORC, and I have exhausted all my words. There is just one thing I want most, and that is to see peace and justice before I die.
NAME: "Saw Day Htoo" SEX: M AGE: 31 Karen Buddhist farmer
FAMILY: Married, 3 children aged 2-8
ADDRESS: xxxx village, Kya In Twp
["Saw Day Htoo" is a village elder who is often summoned to go to the SLORC camp.]
I have to go to their camp sometimes once a month, sometimes three times a month. I have to do their errands. All of us have to go to weed the grass and roof their huts. About 10, 20, 30 villagers at a time, or as many as they demand. Only men go, from about 17 or 18 years old up to age 30 or 40. Sometimes we have to go only for one day if it is at xxxx village, but if we have to go to Kawkareik it is for 3 days and 3 nights. I have never asked them their Battalion number. Their commander is Bo XXXX. We also have to give them pork, 15 viss [24 kg.] whenever they want it. They send their orders through the Secretary or Chairman of the village.
They have demanded a list of all the people and numbers of cattle, carts etc. in the village. I cannot guess why, I really have no idea. [The list is most likely to determine quotas for forced labour, confiscation of bullock carts, extortion of money and livestock and crop confiscation.] I haven't given them the list. I don't dare do it. They have insisted, but I told them I haven't made the list yet. The officer scolded me for taking so long and said other villages had done it already. I told him I'm staying in a remote place so I have no time to make out the list.
If they come, it won't be easy. They say we must not run away when we see them coming. Those who are blacklisted as rebels [even if they're not] already left the village because they're afraid. Also, over 10 households of people from xxxx village came to stay in our village because they could no longer endure the atrocities done to them by SLORC [there is a SLORC camp at that village]. Even their own Burman people cannot bear their oppression and many of them have fled the country. SLORC says they help the people, but we can't trust them. They eat our rice, drink our water, force us to work for them, and yet they still do not hesitate to beat us, even old people. They call us "dogs", so people feel grossly insulted. We are afraid. They usually arrest the elders, that's why I am afraid. If we do not do their bidding they say they'll burn our houses and confiscate our rice. They say they'll make havoc in our village, and we're afraid this might happen to us. They called villagers from Ker Paw Hta and Kya Ker Wah villages, and when the villagers didn't go they marched on those villages and burned all the houses. That is why we're afraid.
NAME: "U Maung Shwe" SEX: M AGE: 40+ Karen/Shan Buddhist farmer
FAMILY: Married, 4 children
ADDRESS: xxxx village, Kawkareik Township
[There is a SLORC Army camp located right in "U Maung Shwe"'s village.]
There are 210 houses in the village. There are Burmans, Mons, and Shans - three groups. There are a few more Mon people than the others. The SLORC camp is in the middle of the village, near the monastery. They've had their camp there for about 7 years. It is Infantry Battalion XXX. Now there is only one Company at the camp, about 100 soldiers. The highest ranking officer is XXXX. In the camp they have barracks and a food supply storehouse, but most of the soldiers live outside the camp. Some of them stay in the monastery and some in the village. They stay in the houses of the villagers. They use the firewood that has been stacked by the house owner to cook.
We have to do work for them. During rainy season they brought in logs and we had to cut them into planks with saws. I don't know where they got those logs. [Information from other villages confirms that they force villagers further up the XXXX river to cut the logs and float them down the river. His village is on the river.] We have to pull the logs up the riverbank and cut them, then pull the planks down and load them onto boats. We have to take turns doing that work for one day. Your turn comes around every 3 or 4 days, sometimes once a week. We have to provide up to 30 people each day. If husbands are not home then the women have to give money. It is 150 Kyats per day. If people are sick, they have to explain the situation and then when they are well again they have to make up the work they missed. As for porters, they have to go for 6 days at a time. If you can't go it is 150 Kyats per day, so 900 Kyats for 6 days. Women can do the work, but children are too small to be able to do it. Women have to do a variety of work for them, such as carrying sacks of rice, or carrying their things when they move from one place to another. Also, one or two villagers have to be on standby as messengers. Sometimes they have to go and buy food for the soldiers, sometimes they have to go and fetch video cassettes.
For the camp and the troops we have to give 15 viss [24 kg.] of various kinds of meat, as well as chickens that we have to buy for them. We don't have to give them oil or salt, but they sometimes take these things from our kitchens. How can we refuse them? We are afraid. Sometimes the soldiers arrest or beat the villagers. This year there have been some beatings because people arrived late for forced labour. Now that the soldiers have been in our village a long time they have become more familiar to us, though we are still not free from fear.
Only the village elders are allowed to go in and come out of their camp. The people they arrest from other villages [and bring to their camp] are not allowed to see anyone. The last time they went to XXXX village they arrested some people, kept them inside a school and then took them away by boat. They bring the people secretly, sometimes after dark.
We had 300 houses before but now only 200 houses are left. The others have gone, some to Thailand. There are Mons, Shans, and Burmans as well who have left. The situation now is not good. Some people are well off but many are poor. There is no stability. It is only because we can't avoid it that we do work for the soldiers. They rule us with absolute power. What they demand and what they say, nobody is willing to do or hear these things. But we want to stay undisturbed. What can we do, when they are using the power of force against us? Those who remain in the village do so because they have their property there, and those who are poor, they stay because they have no money to leave. If they had money many people would not hesitate to leave the village. This is the situation of our village.
NAME: "Pa Boe" SEX: M AGE: XX Pwo Karen Buddhist trader
ADDRESS: xxxx village, Kya In Township
["Pa Boe" is one of many traders who go with trading boats on the Han Thayaw River.]
Kya In is on the Han Thayaw River. It has 300 houses. I have lived in the area since I was born. I have a house there. I stay with my father. The SLORC troops stay at Kya In. They are Battalion 310. It's not their Battalion Headquarters, it's a Company camp. There is no Company Commander there, only a Sergeant. I don't know his name because I haven't been in their camp. There are only 12 soldiers there, together with 4 People's Militia. Sometimes the People's Militia stay in the camp, sometimes in the village. They are Kya In villagers. They are forced to join the militia, of course. It is a must to become a People's Militia man. They have to stay in for six months, then they are changed. The Army doesn't pay them - the villagers have to give them their pay. The villagers have to give them money, and with that money they buy rice. Each militia man gets 450 Kyat per month [US$3.75 at market rate, only enough for about 10 kg. of rice; a SLORC Army private gets 750 Kyat per month]. They stay with the soldiers in the camp, but their duty is to watch the coming and going of the boats. They have no other duty. The village elders wanted to abolish the People's Militia - they said it is not necessary, and they grumbled because we have to give money. But it wasn't abolished, so villagers still have to join.
We also have to work on gardens and fencing for the soldiers, and we have to dig their trenches. We don't always have to do this kind of work - only when their superiors are coming and they need to clean up the place. Sometimes we have to go once in a month, sometimes twice, for one day or half a day each time. One person from each house has to go. If no one from the house can go, we have to report to the headman and he pleads for us to be exempted. Whenever there are columns going to the frontline we have to go as porters. They are always going to attack - even now, there are some such soldiers [a column heading for an offensive] in our village. We have to pay porter fees, sometimes 300 Kyats or as much as 500 Kyats. It depends on the person and the length of porter duty. Sometimes we have to go as porters for 2, 3, or 4 days - there are no set time periods. I have to go 6 or 7 times a year. Sometimes we have to take our own food, sometimes they feed us. We have to carry rice, food supplies, shells and ammunition, from Kya In to An Kong. Sometimes they use our boats to carry the things in rainy season, because it is difficult then to transport things on people's backs.
There are 4 boats in our village [motorized wooden trading boats about 20 feet long, owned by traders]. At their camp they make our boats stand by for duties. Each turn is 7 days. One boat has to serve them for 7 days while another boat has to be on standby. [Therefore, boat owners only have use of their own boat one week out of every two.] I only make this trip up the river once a month. The boat is not mine, it's someone else's. We bring things like chillies, onions, cooking oil, candles and soap. On the way back, when it's betelnut season we take betelnut, and when it's pepper season we take pepper. Before we can start a trip from the village we have to ask permission. There are also checkpoints along the way. We have to face them and give them money - 500 Kyats, or sometimes 700 Kyats [per trip]. We don't always see them at each checkpoint - they are only there at certain times. But when we see them face to face, they make their demands. Then we have to give them 40, 50, up to 100 Kyats, whatever they ask. There are checkpoints near Mudon and An Kong where we almost always see them.
In rainy season, one basket of rice cost 1,000 Kyats - now it is down to 600 Kyats, so we are a little better off [the price is down in Kya In because it is harvest time, but 600 Kyats is still about double the price of rice a year ago. Prices of 1,000 Kyats would lead to starvation among much of the population]. We do not want to give the soldiers all the things they demand. But as for us, we just have to live with our problems and hardships. What we need most is forebearance.
[The following note was written by 2 Mon traders from XXXX village, on the Gyaing river not far east of Moulmein, in Mon State. They earn their living by carrying goods between the coast and the interior in small riverboats.]
XXXX village has 1,000 houses. Money for 'occasional porters' is 50 Kyats for each household. For the People's Militia, we have to give 30 Kyats per month regularly. We have to do 'volunteer work' from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m., and we receive no payment for that work. For each house, we have to dig a trench 2 ft. x 4 ft. x 3 ft. We cannot stay at our homes most of the time because of their work. We have to be on standby to move them with our boats [all boat owners are forced to rotate being on call to go with their boat whenever SLORC troops want a boat for any reason]. We have to pay 100 Kyats if we are unable to work on the road construction in Kauk Bane township.
At Kyone Doh and Kya In gates, if we don't pay as much as they want they tie us up, they delay our journey, they abuse us, and only after 3 or 4 hours are we allowed to pass through the gate. There are too many gates where they collect money, so we find it hard to make our living. There's nothing left for us to spend. These are what we have to pay:
PP = per person, PB = per boat
|Kayah gate PP 20 Kyats PB 40 Kyats
Than Leh gate PP 15 PB 30
Kauk Yoh PP 30 PB 60
Kayit PP 100 PB 200
Gyaing PP 125 PB 250
Yay Gin PP 300 PB 600
Kyone Doh PP 200 PB 400
Kyone Doh Paddy Sales Centre PP 100 PB 200
Kyone Doh wharf charges PP 30 PB 30
Kyone Doh upper gate PP 400 PB 800
|Kan Ni PP 20 PB 40
Mi Galon PP 30 PB 60
Kammayeik South PP 40 PB 80
Kammayeik North PP 40 PB 80
Kya In southern gate PP 200 PB 400
Kya In northern troop station PP 100 PB 200
Kya In people's militia PP 100 PB 200
An Kong camp PP 30 PB 60
Ku Tone PP 200 PB 400
As the days of the year go by, the prices of commodities become higher and higher. Today 1 pyi [about 2 kg.] of rice costs 65 Kyats. Last year it was 40 Kyats per pyi. This year one viss of cooking oil costs 240 Kyats. Last year it was 200 Kyats.
We are never free from anxiety when we are in our village. There are so many people who go to find work in Thailand - maybe over 500 just from our village already. For now, we merchants take assorted goods like prawn paste and fish paste to XXXX [on the upper Han Thayaw river]. When we go back we carry betelnut, coconuts, citrus fruits, bananas and a variety of other fruits.
NAME: "Maung Kyaw" SEX: M AGE: 30 Karen Buddhist farmer
FAMILY: Married, no children
ADDRESS: xxxx village, Kya In Township
They killed a man from our village. His name was Pa Khaw [this happened in April 1995 - see also following interviews]. People were driving buffalos. He was poor and so he was hired. On the way back he visited one of his friends near the Mah Lay river. The Burmese came up from Mudon and saw them. If they had run away they could have escaped, but they thought the soldiers wouldn't mind them coming to visit their friends. But the Burmese soldiers came up to the house and seized them. They took Pa Khaw, who is not a Karen soldier. He is a simple villager. He never joined the revolution. The soldiers threatened him in many ways, and accused him of being a soldier. They asked many things. They poured water into his nostrils, tied up his feet and hung him by his hands. He was in great agony and it seems he wanted to die. He had to suffer so much, and at last after so much torture they killed him on the bank of the Meh Nya Hta river. He was shot and thrown into the river. It was too late. He was just a simple and regular man, a good man. I have friends at Meh Nya Hta, and they witnessed the shooting.
He was arrested with the other four. They arrested five people altogether. They were kept at a military camp. The camp commander is XXXX, he is a Sergeant. At that time the Column Commander was XXXX. They are from #XXX Battalion. The Battalion Commander is XXXX. XXXX asked for a goat as ransom. He also asked for 5 bottles of honey. It was not the season for honey, but somehow we managed to find some. He said he would free the prisoners. They arrested five, killed one and released four. Those four were very pale after being so long in the holes. It took many days for their wounds to heal. "Pa Noh" [see interview in this report] had one of his ribs broken, and he also told me that soldiers used bayonets to hurt him. They burnt his chin with fire. It is hell for you if the Burmese soldiers catch you. You have to be very clever and talk to them amiably. You have to pit your wits against their cunning.
The Burmans still come here sometimes. They summon us to go and do labour for them, and if we don't show up they come to us and speak softly. They try to trick us. If what they want is chickens, then when the owners aren't there they steal their chickens. They also steal good clothing on sight if they like it. They are just like great robbers. Two or three of them visit me in the daytime, then at night they come steal my livestock and belongings. Do you think they stop molesting us even after we meet their demands? No, not at all. They take everything. They come up and talk to us in the house, then they steal the chickens from under that very house. They point their guns at us and threaten us, and we can't do anything. They don't even carry their loot, they take porters to carry it for them. The porters are forced to carry loads beyond human strength. Do you think they would give some of the extra chickens to the porters? No, they would never do that. The porters have to take their own food supply with them. The porters have only rice and salt to eat. The soldiers have nice curries, but they never share it with the porters. We have to hire porters for them and also provide rice, salt and fishpaste for the porters. We have to give 3,000 Kyats per month as porter money. We have to give them pork to eat, 15 viss [24 kg.] each month. But to get that we have to kill a pig, and the pig might weigh over 25 viss, maybe 30 viss. So it really costs us more than that. We have to go around the village collecting money [to pay the owner of the pig], sometimes 35 Kyats per house, sometimes 45 for a bigger pig. Some villagers are poor and don't have enough to eat, so we allow them to put in only 15 Kyats. Other villages are worse off than ours. We are better off, but even though we pay them their tribute regularly they still don't leave us alone. Even though we are a long way from them we have to go ourselves to serve them once a year, digging the earth, cutting bushes in the hot sun and cutting down hardwood trees like 'tala or', and we can never complain. This year it is not yet time - later in dry season we'll have to go. Last year we had to go twice. Once we had to fence their compound, and the other time we had to cut and sweep the area and dig the earth. We had to dig up stone slabs with pickaxes and lift them with spades. There are 100 houses in the village. As many as 30 people have to go, for three days at a time. They make us sleep in tumbledown shacks, with mosquitos biting all night, and we have to carry water from far away. Ah! It's very very unpleasant.
There are very few who live in their sight who escape their atrocities. Just a month or two ago we went to celebrate Thadin Kyo festival [Oct/95]. More than 30 of us went. When the Burmese soldiers saw us they said our crowd was too big. I told them we need many people to carry things - there were 20 or 30 viss of onions to carry, 20 viss of jaggery, over 20 viss of sugar, 2 tins of fuel, ... How can one or two people carry that? But we had to sit in front of them, and they searched everything, ourselves and our belongings. The camp commander himself led the search. I asked him to give me a paper to allow me to go and buy food for the festival. He said he would and started asking me questions. I answered his questions one by one. As I was speaking, he slapped my face. Why did he insult me like this? He slapped my face twice. I was angry about that. Then he sent me away without any paper. So all 30 of us could do nothing. We had to go on without papers. Then at Hlaing Wa bridge in Kawkareik they gave us more troubles. I hate them. Slapping and beating are just the usual insults we have to suffer.
When they come to our village they always ask "Hey! Are there any Karen rebels here? How many families have connections with them?" They never accept "No" for an answer. They force us to answer "Yes" to their questions, then they beat us. If you can speak Burmese you will be better off, but even then they will hit you at least once or twice. There are very few instances when we are not beaten. Lately they don't come, because whenever we hear news that they will come we go and give them pork beforehand. Once they have pork they don't bother to come. If we didn't give it, sure they'd come. Because of this, we always live in fear! Everyone is afraid of them. That is why we have to oblige them. They tell us that they will come and punish us if we don't pay. From here to their place is 6 miles, about 2 hours. Before it was #XXX Battalion, now it is #XXX Battalion. Their stay is never permanent.
Now they are telling us to give them a list showing the number of villagers and ox-carts in the village, and the numbers of cattle and buffalos. They said they are collecting this list so they can distribute medicine among us. As for me, I don't believe they would ever give us medicine. Just think! When we go work for them they never even offer us a small piece of meat to eat, we have to take our own food. They would never be generous to us. [The list is most likely to determine forced labour quotas, availability of ox-carts to be commandeered, and relative wealth of the village for extortion purposes.] They want this list, and once they have it they will use it to exploit us. So we are reluctant to give them the list, and we haven't done it yet. They have sent papers ordering it once or twice already.
I almost can't express what I think about SLORC. How do you feel about them, after hearing what they do to us? We hate them and we are bitter, but we have no choice but to do their bidding. We don't do it with goodwill. If you try to talk to them you will surely suffer.
I saw the Ko Per Baw [DKBA]. They haven't been here, but they came to Aw Paw village. They want to organize us, they told us to go back with them and stay with them. But we can't go with them. They said if the Burmese mistreat people they'll shoot them with their guns. They said they'll keep their weapons, and that's why they have no agreement with SLORC. We can't easily trust them, and we are afraid. We don't know them or their place very much. Their battalion commander is Pa Nwee, he's tattooed his name on his chest. He came during August-September. They said if the KNU comes back to them that they will not be harmed, they won't hurt them. Maybe they are making propaganda. I don't know much about this thing. Their leader is the Myaing Gyi Ngu monk and they go their own way. [DKBA has tried to make inroads into this area by playing on the villagers' lack of knowledge of what is happening further north. So far they have had very little success. Pa Nwee is from Bee T'Ka area, and at one time was thought to have been executed by SLORC - see "SLORC / DKBA Activities in Kawkareik Township" (KHRG #95-23, 10 July 1995), and KHRG Commentary #95-C4, 4 Aug. 1995.]
NAME: "Pa Noh" SEX: M AGE: 45 Karen Buddhist farmer
FAMILY: Married, 6 children aged 1-19
ADDRESS: xxxx village, Kya In Township
I was arrested during the last Thingyan Festival [water festival, mid-April 1995]. The whole Burmese company came - over 100 soldiers. I heard them call themselves "commandos". They arrested me at XXXX, nearly four hours' walk from here. They have a base there. They accused me of being an Intelligence officer, but I was only herding other people's buffalos. After they arrested me they covered my face with a piece of cloth. One soldier held me down and poured water into my nose. They accused me of being a spy and said I was lying. I think it was because there was a group of us - there were 17 buffalos, so we needed a crowd to drive them. They caught 5 of us together, but later they kept us in two groups. They just kept saying "You are secret agents of the insurgents". They didn't say anything else. We told them we were just herding buffalos. But they doubted what I said, so one of them cut deeply into part of my neck - now it has healed. They cut me here and there with bayonets on the neck and face. They made me lie down on my stomach and dripped hot wax on my back. They lit a bunch of candles and fixed them standing up in a row all along a stick, and this was the instrument they used to torture me [by dripping a drop of wax and then sticking a candle on it, the soldiers affixed a row of lighted candles along a stick, making an impromptu candelabra. By holding up this stick and tipping it, a whole row of drops of hot wax would fall on his back]. It was too painful to bear. I tried to struggle but it was all in vain. They held me down.
It was done by soldiers - NCO's with two or three stripes [Corporals and Sergeants]. I don't know their names - we never even saw their faces! Each of us was tortured like that for one hour at a time. They did that three times every night to us, at 8 p.m. Later they kept us in a hole 18 feet deep. Our eyes could not see, because they kept them covered with blindfolds. Every day they came to inspect us at 4 p.m. They dropped stones that struck our backs and heads, making us bleed. They did this to all of us - there were many holes. They put two of us in each hole. The other pair was in a hole quite far from us. I suppose they were treated the same. One of us [out of the five] was killed. They accused him also of being a spy. He could not speak Burmese. They accused him of being a soldier of the Rebel army, and of hiding his weapons in the water. They ordered him to go and retrieve his weapons from the stream, and when nothing was found the poor man was killed. He was killed in the water. I didn't see it because I was in the hole with a blindfold over my eyes. Nobody saw it, they just saw his body floating in the water. His name was Pa Khaw. He was over 30 and came from Thaton [but settled in Kya In township]. He was still young. He has a wife and a child just 3 or 4 years old. As her husband is now dead, I think she will have nothing more to eat.
The other 4 arrested were T--, A--, P--, and I. P-- is maybe 45 years old from L-- village, A- is about 20, I don't know his village, and T-- is my nephew. He is 35. They kept us there for 1 month and 18 days. The torture lasted for the first 10 days of our detention. That 10 days of torture did so much to our faces and backs that it was horrible to look upon. Our faces and backs were all bruised and blue, and our skulls were cracked. After that time, they put us down in the holes. Then they kept throwing stones down on us in the holes. At least 2 stones were dropped on us each day, on our heads and backs, making us bleed. Our eyes could not see, because they kept them covered with blindfolds. The blindfolds were taken off only when we were finally released.
These holes are in their military camp. In the holes they gave us rice with dal curry, sometimes once a day, sometimes twice. We had to release our bowels in the pit, in a pail. Each day they lowered a rope, and we tied the pail to the end so they could draw it up to dispose of it. The pits were 18 feet deep, 6 feet across at the bottom and only 3 feet across at the top, shaped like a 'tee luh tha' fruit [wider at the bottom, narrowing at the mouth]. Two of us had to stay in each pit. At night they closed the pit with mats and we could hardly breathe. We asked them to open it up a little bit, but when it rained they covered the top so tightly that I nearly died of suffocation. If they hadn't opened it up in time, we would all have died then.
We never heard them say anything about releasing us. My wife tried her best to get me out. Then there was a plea made by a monk, and the village headman also pleaded for our release while we were still in the deep pits. But the soldiers wouldn't allow anyone to see us. Then they dropped a rope for us and pulled us up from the holes. Only after I reached the surface the Major told me that I could go. My wife was there with the village headman. I don't know why they released us - I think it was because the people pleading for us told them that we are Karen farmers who had lent them our buffalos and so on. I think that's why the Battalion Commander finally ordered our release. After all, we were never soldiers like they had accused us of being. They didn't release us at the same time. They freed my nephew one day before me. We were released one at a time. I was released second, after T--. They sent me back on an ox-cart. I could walk, but I was so weak I could hardly step forward. You could see bruises all over my limbs. What could I do? They covered our eyes for so long, for the whole month. As soon as they uncovered my eyes on my release I could hardly see, my eyesight was blurred. That was about 7 p.m. and it was already dark. The next day it was better. For my wounds to heal, this one here [bayonet-wound on his left chest] took a whole month.
Now I would never dare to go and see the Burmese again. How can I be happy over my plight? I'm so sad and bitter. I'm not a fighting man. But all I can say is that those people are not real soldiers. When I was there they even ordered me to dig a hole, I don't know why. My Burmese language is so weak that at first I didn't even know what they meant. They forced me to dig that hole with a piece of bamboo. Imagine that! It was not even mature or properly dried. Just imagine using a piece of bamboo as a spade or a pick-axe! So I had to work all day, my hands got blistered all over and hurt so much, and I could only make a shallow hole because you can't dig well with bamboo. I had to scoop out the earth after breaking it up with the bamboo. P-- was forced to do it with me. I had to do it blindfolded. They kept my eyes bound and wouldn't even let me see while I was digging. They also bound my neck and my waist, very tightly, so I couldn't move properly. What purpose was that hole for? It was just torture, that's all. Those people are not soldiers.
NAME: "Saw Ler Wah" SEX: M AGE: 44 Karen Buddhist farmer
FAMILY: Married, 2 children aged 3 and 14
ADDRESS: xxxx village, Kya In Township
The Burmese detained me when I went to drive buffalos at XXXX village. It is near their military camp. The Burmese came from their camp to the village and surrounded us. I don't know their Battalion, but their officer is XXXX. He's a Captain. There were many of them, I guess about 100. They arrested us and took us to their camp. We couldn't understand why. They asked us whether we were soldiers or not. We told them we're not, we're just ordinary farmers. There wasn't a soldier among us. They secured our feet in wooden stocks and abused us. They gave us only a very small amount of rice with beans. They tortured us while our feet were bound. They poured water into our nostrils. They accused us of having guns with us when we were driving the buffalos, but we never had guns. They tortured us for quite a long time. We reached their camp in the evening and they started interrogating and torturing us, then a day later they tortured us again. Just imagine! They poured water into our nostrils, they secured our feet with cords. They always asked whether there are any Kaw Thoo Lei soldiers. We told them there are not, but they were bent on accusing us of lying. Then they'd beat us and torture us again. They hit my mouth and broke one of my teeth, and it bled badly. They arrested five of us - one died, and four were left. Later, the four of us were put in the pits in pairs. I was put in the pit with A-, he's about 20. The one who was killed was Pa Khaw. When he was killed we were in the pits and saw nothing. We only found out when we came back. The other two were "Pa Noh" [see interview in this report] and T--.
They made us stay in the holes for one month, we just had to stay there and they gave us food, just rice with one or two spoonfuls of beans twice a day - it didn't do anything to our hunger. We were blindfolded, and tied with ropes behind our backs. The holes were hot, and very deep. They were only this wide [he indicated 5-6 feet]. At the bottom there was just bare earth. To go to the toilet we just had to use a place at the bottom of the hole. It smelled awful. There were many holes like that in the camp, but at that time they were only holding the four of us. They told us we had to wait until someone came and paid for us. People came, but they didn't release us. We waited and waited, but only after a month were we released. When people from our village came, they wouldn't allow them to see us. Only on the third time they came we saw them. Then the soldiers told us "You can go. Climb up!" They kept us blindfolded and went with us. I was pale and thin. After that it took quite a long time for my vision to get better, nearly a month. My other wounds only healed after I got some injections. I still have some pain now. I have trouble working, because it's painful to exert myself.
The villagers had to give 35,000 Kyats for each of us before we were freed. My family had to pay too. We had to sell things to give them the money, because they wouldn't let us go if we didn't give them the money. Because of that and the medicine costs, I had to sell all my cattle. I'll never go back to my village. We are staying here [another village]. As soon as I hear the Burmese are coming, I'll run away. Some people from my village have already fled to Thailand. We have to be afraid of them, we have to flee. I can never go back there.
NAME: "Naw Lah K'Paw" SEX: F AGE: 40 Karen Buddhist farmer
FAMILY: Married, 2 children, 1 died of disease, 1 surviving child aged 4
ADDRESS: xxxx village, Kawkareik Township
["Naw Lah K'Paw"'s husband Pa Khaw was killed by SLORC in April 1995 - see related interviews in this report.] I cannot remember what month it was, whether it was Da Zow Mon or Thadin Kyo. While he was herding buffalos, he was killed. I have no idea why. The owner of the buffalos brought the news. I did not know where to go, I dared not go. [A friend remarked: "She asked us to go and help, but when we arrived there we could not do anything, he was already killed."] Now we just stay here like this. I am tilling the land together with my brother.
NAME: "Pi Eh Wah" SEX: F AGE: 56 Karen Buddhist farmer
FAMILY: Married, 7 children aged 21-37, 6 surviving
ADDRESS: xxxx village, Kawkareik Township
["Pi Eh Wah" told the story of how SLORC soldiers shot and killed her daughter XXXX in "Field Reports: 6th Brigade Area", KHRG #95-20, 31/5/95. After failing to arrest "Pi Eh Wah"'s husband, they approached their house at midnight, called them out and then immediately opened fire, killing XXXX and seriously wounding "Pi Eh Wah" and her daughter "Naw Paw Htoo". "Pi Eh Wah" was shot through the chest, and "Naw Paw Htoo" was hit in the leg and the belly. The two women had to spend a month in hospital, but first they had to get an admission letter from the SLORC commander responsible from the shooting, who wrote that they had been shot by Karen soldiers. The shooting was in Dec/94, and they were released from hospital in Feb/95. This interview follows up their story since returning home.]
This is my daughter, "Naw Paw Htoo". She's 37, she has a husband and 2 children 16 years old and 3 years old. Now we no longer dare stay in our village. So when we got home we went to stay at xxxx village. Now we stay at yyyy village. SLORC wanted to arrest me, but they failed. ["Naw Paw Htoo" added: "My mother didn't dare go home, but I went back to my house. The SLORC tried to catch me but they couldn't, so they burned my house."] Now I still hear news from our home village. People there say the Burmese are doing everything they like and committing atrocities. The village has to send pork to them every 5 days. Sometimes 10 viss [16 kg.], sometimes 15, 17, or 20 viss, even 25 or 26 viss, whatever the soldiers demand. They have to comply. In that village we have to do so many kinds of things, hard labour in many forms. We have to work at their camps and build their barracks. We have to cut down bamboo trees. Our village has 90 houses. Sometimes the whole village has to go, sometimes 10 or 15 villagers.
Now in our new village, we do not have to give anything because we are just visitors in this village. The other villagers have to send things though. I don't know exactly what because I haven't asked them about it. As for my own village, it's once a week, sometimes even more than that. We even had to send them our rice. The SLORC soldiers very often came to our old village, also to our new village. Ever since they shot us, every time we see them we are very afraid. They stay by themselves and cook their own food, but they catch our chickens to eat and pick our fruit and vegetables. They take things by force. If we say anything to them they shout and abuse us. Usually we have to pay porter fees to them, but they also demand porters for 3 days. We have to give 150 Kyats if we fail to go. If people have no money, they go.
Battalions XXX, XXX, and XXX are all in this area now. The closest group are about XX miles from here. Now we do not know what the future holds, we have no place, no house and no land. We don't know what to think, we just carry on day by day.
"Naw Paw Htoo": The soldiers come and sell us their rice at a cheap price, and they take our rice free of charge. Their rice is not good, it smells bad. But everyone must buy their rice. They dump their bad rice at the headman's house, and he has to sell it for them. Then they take our good rice for nothing, and if they feel too lazy to cook it, we have to cook and pack it for them. They are always behaving like this, so how can we go on living? Sometimes we are afraid and have to flee. When they give "curfew orders" we cannot go out after 6 in the evening. If we do, they beat us. We are not free to work as we like for our living. Nothing is easy nowadays. They charge us taxes for our rice mills and sugar cane mills, and even for video machines. We have to give them 5 baskets of rice for each machine.
NAME: "Saw Simon" SEX: M AGE: 45 Karen Christian teacher
FAMILY: Married, 5 children aged 12-23
ADDRESS: XXXX village, Kawkareik Township INTERVIEWED: 2/2/96
I arrived here [in the refugee camp] yesterday evening. I came because there's trouble around our village. For now we could still stay there, but there will soon be troubles. In the other villages they have troubles - SLORC is forcing villagers to move and arresting people, so some villagers have already fled to be Baw Naw Hta. I know this will happen in every village, so I moved here with my family. We know that SLORC will give trouble to all the villages where they arrive. If they come, they'll burn down all the houses like they did before. Some villages where they are already staying, they order people to join them [probably as People's Militia], they steal chickens and they force people to carry water for them at their camp and cook for them. It's at Ka Dee Kee camp. There are two camps, Ku Doh and Ka Dee Kee, Battalions #62 and #32. The people have to go for a few days. If the village head can replace them after a few days, they can come home. If he can't they have to stay and work a long time. Just two weeks ago one of the village leaders from Ka Dee Kee village was beaten. His villagers ran away from them, so SLORC got angry and came and beat the headman.
There are about 100 houses in my village. Now some of the families have moved here, and some families are moving to other camps. Three or four families already arrived here. People from other villages are also leaving, but some are also staying in their villages. Our village is about 10 miles from their camp, so if the soldiers want to come [on offensive] it will only take them a few hours to walk.
NAME: "Saw Wah Htoo" SEX: M AGE: 36 Karen Christian farmer
FAMILY: Married, 3 children aged 8 months - 6 years
ADDRESS: XXXX village, Kawkareik Township INTERVIEWED: 2/2/96
We arrived yesterday evening [at the refugee camp]. We came because we had troubles. We couldn't work freely. Whenever they need people, they order the headman to send them and the headman is afraid to oppose them. They ordered us to carry logs to the river. We don't know where they're going to use these logs [they are most likely to sell in Kawkareik]. They made us cut down trees and haul them to the river. Some were near the river, some far. If it was far, we could pull them to the river two trips in one day. The logs had a circumference of 4 or 5 feet. We had to nail pieces of bamboo around the log, tie 4 or 5 ropes to it and then 4 or 5 people pulled it from each side. They use men to pull the logs - they use men like elephants. We had to go all the time, by turns. Each turn lasts 5 days. I've had to go 4 times since the rainy season [since October]. We had to work the whole day. We couldn't go home at night, we had to stay there for 5 days before we could go home. We had to sleep under the trees. Some of the people built a little shelter. They gave us rice, fishpaste, chillies and salt, but no curry, and they didn't pay us. Sometimes the place is near the village, sometimes far, depending on where they are cutting down the trees. They take 10 people from each village. Sometimes there were 80 people there, sometimes more than 100. Whenever they ordered anything, we had to do it in order not to be beaten. I wasn't beaten, but others told me that some people were beaten because of being drunk while they were working. Soldiers were guarding us. Sometimes they weren't, so we could run away - but we didn't run away, because if we did they would take serious action against our village headman. The soldiers always came to check if we were working or not.
They have only been doing this since the rainy season. They force people from every village near the [Dawna] mountain range, including my village. It is only SLORC soldiers - there are no DKBA in our place. In December I moved to XXXX village. Now I have come here. It will be better here than in my village.
NAME: "Saw Kya Heh" SEX: M AGE: 35 Karen Buddhist farmer
FAMILY: Married, 4 children aged 2-13
ADDRESS: XXXX village, Kawkareik Township INTERVIEWED: 3/2/96
I arrived [at the refugee camp] last night, because I was afraid of the SLORC soldiers in my village. We were afraid that if the SLORC and KNU soldiers fight each other, we will have big problems. When the KNU and DKBA fought each other, my cousin was killed. That was in August. After that, the SLORC soldiers ordered us to build bunkers for them in the village, between XXXX section and XXXX section of the village. It is a big village, about 300 houses. About 30 or 40 people had to go every day. If there were men in the house, they had to go. I had to go 3 times, for a day each time. After we built the bunkers, SLORC didn't stay but DKBA stayed. DKBA stays in the village, but SLORC is their bodyguard and they stay just outside the village. Whenever SLORC or DKBA come into the village, they order us to do things every time. In November, the SLORC soldiers ordered us to build another big bunker near my house. When people refused to work they ran away to the jungle, but SLORC and DKBA followed them and captured all of them. They had to come back and work. I couldn't bear it anymore and I ran away. Their camp is about 1 1/2 hours' walk from the village. The soldiers are #44 [Division], sometimes #77 [Division]. #111 [Battalion] also stays there. SLORC comes to the village often, but when DKBA comes the SLORC soldiers stay in their camp. Sometimes there are 20 or 30 DKBA in the village, sometimes more than 60. They don't stay together with SLORC. SLORC stay in the hills or around the village. DKBA stays in the middle of the village, in people's houses. I don't know where the DKBA come from because I've never asked them. Nobody joins them from our village. SLORC gives DKBA their food, and DKBA doesn't arrest us but they force us to work. They ask the villagers to join them. They say, "If you come and join us, we won't ask any taxes or fees in your village. If you don't join, just stay quietly in your village and don't work with KNU." I don't dare join them. SLORC comes into the village but they never ask people to join them, they just visit with DKBA. I didn't dare stay in the village so I had to run away. I'll try to stay here and see how the situation will be. If there were no troubles in my village, I would stay there.
NAME: "U Shwe" SEX: M AGE: 48 Karen Buddhist farmer
FAMILY: Married, 10 children aged 3-20
ADDRESS: XXXX village, Kya In Township INTERVIEWED: 3/2/96
We arrived here [the refugee camp] one month ago, because SLORC ordered us to make a road with our bare hands. They don't use machines. We didn't have to go yet, but Ta Ka Kloh and Oo Pee villages have to go. Villages from near my village have to go. I knew that one day soon I would have to go, so I moved here. The road is from Sein Gyi to Ta Ka Kloh and Chaung Wah villages. It is one day walk away from my village. I'm sure it will come through our village. So far only a few people have left my village, but I know that more will leave soon. SLORC comes to our village, not often, but when they come they stay for a long time and give trouble to the villagers. Two years ago, I saw some porters who were abandoned along the path by SLORC near my village, and some of them were wounded. So I took them to my house and gave them food, medicine and clothes.