MASS FORCED RELOCATIONS IN SHAN AND KARENNI (KAYAH) STATES
SLORC is currently using mass forced relocation campaigns as a method to try to eliminate all civilian support for opposition forces. In December 1995 and January 1996, about 100 Karen villages comprising all the hill villages in eastern Papun District were ordered to move to military sites in order to cut off any civilian support for Karen forces by completely removing the rural civilian population of the whole area. SLORC now seems to have ceased this operation, possibly because the Karen National Union is engaged in ceasefire talks. However, starting in March 1996 it began an even larger forced relocation campaign in central and southern Shan State. The area covered is from the Salween River westward for 120 km. to Lai Kha and Mong Kung, and from Lang Ker and Mong Nai in the south (about 60 km. north of the Thai border) northward to the area west of the ruby mines at Mong Hsu - a total area of 120 km. east-west and 180 km. north-south. In this area, between March and June almost every village away from towns and major roads has been forced to move. Estimates are that at least 400-500 villages are included, a total of 60,000-80,000 people. Information gathered by both the Shan Human Rights Foundation and KHRG already includes the names of 320 villages, as well as 22 other village tracts (averaging 5-15 villages per tract) for which lists of village names are not yet available.
The villages already known to be included are in the following townships:
|# of Villages Relocate||# of Families Relocated|
Many of the households are extended families. At an average of 5 people per household, this already means over 80,000 people.
The relocations follow a standard pattern: SLORC troops come to the village and order all villagers to leave within 5 days, after which they will be shot on sight. If any objections are raised, village elders are beaten and some houses are burned as an example. Some people have had their houses set alight while they were still inside, and some elderly people who refused to move have been burned to death inside their houses. Others have been shot for returning to their villages after the deadline to retrieve belongings or food.
In some cases the soldiers order them to move to specific sites along car roads or around big villages, but in many cases they are just ordered to move to a town or a patch of scrub on the outskirts. Some troops even tell villagers to go to Thailand if they want, as long as their villages are cleared. Nothing is prepared at the relocation places. Most people cannot take all their belongings, and large herds of livestock have been left behind to be killed by SLORC troops. People from the area say that the whole area is in chaos, that thousands of people who used to have farms and livestock are living in shelters along the roads begging for food, and that in the towns every house has at least 5 families living in it now. In areas like Chiang Tong 50 villages have been forced to move into 3, and villages which used to have 60 families now have 7,000 people. Some of the relocated people are now being used as forced labour on projects like the Nam Sang - Kun Hing road and the Lai Kha - Mong Kung railway.
It appears that at least 15,000 people have fled to Thailand, where they disappear as labour in the Thai lychee orchards or to building sites and sweatshops in Chiang Mai or Bangkok, because there is no refugee camp for Shan people. People along the main entry routes confirm that 200-500 people per day have been crossing at each of the 4 or 5 main crossing points. Numbers have decreased through May and June, because the roads on the Burma side of the border have washed out and because many people do not have the 4,500 Kyat it costs for the car fare from Nam Sang to the border.
SLORC is using these relocations to try to put pressure on some of the many groups of Khun Sa’s MTA which did not surrender, such as Yord Serk’s SURA, and cut them off from any possibility of obtaining food or support from civilians. However, the relocations also target groups which have had ceasefires with SLORC for several years, such as the Shan State Army in the area west of Mong Hsu and the Pa’O National Army south of Nam Sang, and Garn Yod’s SSNA (which broke away from the MTA last year and made a ceasefire with SLORC), because SLORC is apparently afraid that the MTA-remnant groups will contact the ceasefire groups and convince them to fight.
Most of the villagers who have been forced to move are rice farmers who don’t really care which group is which, they just know they must give food or money to whoever points a gun at them. SLORC now tells them that they will only be allowed to go home when every Shan soldier has surrendered. The SLORC troops seem to think this will happen within a few months, but the villagers know better and they have no idea what will become of their future.
Similar relocations have been occurring in Karenni (Kayah) State as SLORC attempts to remove the civilian population in order to put pressure on the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP, with whom SLORC made a ceasefire in 1995 and then broke it with fresh attacks). To this end, a few months ago extensive forced relocations were conducted east of the Salween River. This campaign was intensified on June 2, when 96 villages west of the Salween River were delivered an order telling them that they had one week to move after which time they would be considered as rebels (i.e. shot on sight). Estimated population of the villages is 20,000-30,000. SLORC said all the villages would be destroyed after one week. Most of the villagers have been ordered to move to Shadaw, and the rest to Ywa Thit. Many have already fled to other places, including Thailand.
Up until 1993 SLORC often did mass forced relocations, but since that time these had reduced, with most forced relocations being local and strategic. These mass forced relocations reflect a shift in SLORC policy, in line with their increasingly hardline rhetoric, back toward mass military operations and ‘crushing’ the civilian population on a large scale.
For information on the Papun relocations, see "Forced Relocation in Papun District" (KHRG #96-11, 4/3/96). Detailed reports on the Shan and Karenni relocation campaigns will be published shortly.