Since its inception in December 1994, the ‘Democratic Karen Buddhist Army’ (DKBA) has vowed to destroy all Karen refugee camps and force Karen refugees back to Burma. Since early 1995, the DKBA has been conducting cross-border raids into Thailand to attack and burn Karen refugee camps, kidnap or kill Karen leaders and refugee camp leaders, and loot both refugee camps and Thai villages. The DKBA allied itself with SLORC as soon as it was formed, and SLORC has been supporting them in the aim of terrorising refugees into returning to Burma. Furthermore, as SLORC forces have captured more and more of the territory directly adjacent to the Thai border, SLORC troops have also been conducting their own cross-border looting raids and attacks, as well as participating (particularly in early- to mid-1995) in the DKBA’s attacks. The purpose of this report is not to provide a comprehensive list of DKBA and SLORC attacks and incursions into Thailand; as the information in the report shows, these are so regular and widespread that it would be difficult or impossible to do so. Instead, this report presents a sample of the kind of attacks and incursions which have been happening in order to give the reader an overview of the situation in which Karen refugees are now living, and the reason why they go to bed in fear most nights.
DKBA’s main objective in driving the refugees back to Burma is to establish a civilian support base for themselves at their Myaing Gyi Ngu (Khaw Taw) headquarters and other locations, while SLORC would benefit by being able to use many of the refugees in labour camps, and screen out and execute or imprison those with anti-SLORC activity in their past or relatives in the Karen National Union. The existence of the refugees itself is physical evidence of the human rights abuses which SLORC constantly denies, and SLORC does not need this embarrassment at a time when it is attempting to gain international legitimacy; whereas if the refugees return, SLORC could point to this as evidence of peace, stability, and improvement.
Through the first half of 1995, DKBA vowed to burn entire camps, and in the end they did completely burn and destroy Baw Noh, Kamaw Lay Ko and parts of other camps in April 1995. Many camps were then abandoned and amalgamated into larger camps, particularly Beh Klaw (Mae La) with a current population of at least 25,000 and Sho Kloh, current population about 10,000. Thai security and direct government control in these camps has been stepped up, but they are still not secure and most refugees point out that Thai security troops would rather hide than fight to defend refugees, and that they are only interested in defending Thai citizens.
In late 1995 and 1996 the nature of the attacks has changed somewhat, most likely because of changes in the relationship between SLORC and DKBA. SLORC is now engaged in ceasefire talks with the Karen National Union (KNU), DKBA’s rival, and it may be that SLORC sees a ceasefire deal with the KNU as the best way to get the refugees back. Most observers agree that as soon as any ceasefire deal is signed the Thai authorities would begin preparing for forced repatriation of all Karen refugees. At the same time, SLORC has cut off all the cash salaries it used to pay to DKBA soldiers (these were offered largely as an enticement to get people to join) and has cut off many of the supplies it used to give to DKBA, apparently having decided that the DKBA has served its purpose for the moment and that the organisation is too unpredictable to be left too strong. As a result, the DKBA is now much more focussed on looting and extortion than previously, its already loose command structure has become virtually nonexistent in some areas, and many DKBA units are operating more like local bandit groups. Without SLORC incentives to bring the refugees back, the DKBA forces crossing the border usually do not even try to drive any refugees back with them anymore; most of their attacks are focussed on looting, and their main target is often the market sections of refugee camps or Thai Karen villages where no refugees live.
There was a large number of such attacks between late 1995 and February 1996. Then the number of attacks let up somewhat, and the Thai government claimed that it had convinced SLORC to pull back all DKBA forces from the border. This was not true; the DKBA forces were still there, but now they are usually only allowed to stay in small groups near larger SLORC units, and many are effectively under direct SLORC command. Even so, attacks have continued and some appear to have direct SLORC support - particularly the mortar shelling of Sho Kloh refugee camp on 16 June (see interviews in this report), which shattered whatever peace of mind the refugees had managed to gain since February and threw the entire border back into a state of tension and fear. It is unclear what will happen in the immediate future, but for now the security situation is still tense to the point that Thai forces sometimes hold foreign aid organisations out of the camps due to the high risk of imminent attacks.
This report covers incidents in the Burma-Thai border area from Beh Klaw refugee camp (60 km. north of the Thai town of Mae Sot) northward to Sho Kloh (110 km. north of Mae Sot), as well as Ban Sala and Meh S’Kup camps, about 250 km. north of Mae Sot in the area northwest of Mae Sariang in Mae Hong Son province. The incidents covered are only a small sampling of the cross-border incidents; as can be seen from the Sho Kloh schoolteacher’s diary and other information in this report, border incursions are so frequent that it would be almost impossible to compile a complete list. This report contains interviews with witnesses to some of the incidents, summary reports, excerpts from the diary of a schoolteacher in Sho Kloh refugee camp, and a copy of a 7 May article written in the Bangkok Post after Thai Army sources had put forward a list of 43 border incursions and 14 deaths which had occurred within 6 months. This list was far from complete; most of the Army’s list were attacks against Thai targets and it ignored many of the attacks against refugees.
The names of those interviewed have been changed; all false names are enclosed in quotes, while other names are real. Some details have been omitted or blanked out to protect the people involved. After some of the incidents, the people interviewed have moved to other places in fear, effectively becoming ‘refugees’ from camps which are already for refugees. In some of the accounts of looting in refugee camps, the cash and jewellery stolen is worth a great deal; it is important to note that most of the refugees have no such wealth, that the people targeted for looting are generally well-off shopkeepers who form a small minority of the camp population. The reason they have a significant amount of gold jewellery is because this is how villagers in Burma keep their savings; 2 or 3 gold necklaces can represent both a family’s inheritance and its life savings. In this report two currencies are often mentioned: Thai Baht (US$1 = 25 Baht at the time of printing) and Burmese Kyat (US$1 = 6 Kyat at official rate, 140 to 200 Kyat at market rate at the time of printing; the rate is currently wildly fluctuating).
|Index of Interviews ...................................……..
Diary of a Sho Kloh schoolteacher ........................
Summary of some other incidents ........................
Bangkok Post 7/5/96 list of incidents .....................
Index of Interviews
|Comments by a DKBA deserter on the DKBA view of refugees
DKBA attack on Sho Kloh refugee camp, killing of 2 refugees
DKBA looting attack on Sho Kloh market
DKBA attack on hospital / medical research unit in Sho Kloh camp
Report on the DKBA attack on Mae U Su Thai Karen monastery, killing a monk, a civilian, and a Thai policeman and looting the monastery
SLORC attack on Mae S’Kup, Salween River
DKBA attack in Kamaw Lay Ko Thai Karen village
Theft of motorcycles, threats and extortion by DKBA in xxxx Thai Karen village, comments on Mae U Su monastery attack
Ban Sala refugee camp attack and looting
Ban Sala refugee camp attack and looting
Mortar shelling of Sho Kloh refugee camp from Burma
Mortar shelling of Sho Kloh refugee camp from Burma
SLORC = State Law & Order Restoration Council, Burma’s ruling military junta
DKBA = Democratic Karen Buddhist Army, allied with and supplied by SLORC
Ko Per Baw = ‘Yellow headbands’, common Karen name for DKBA referring to the yellow scarves they wear
KNU = Karen National Union, Karen opposition organisation and rival of DKBA
KNLA = Karen National Liberation Army, army of the KNU
Ta Bee Met = ‘Closed-eyes’, DKBA way of referring to KNU/KNLA
Ko Per Lah = ‘Green headbands’, a new name for KNLA soldiers in some areas, referring to the green scarves they have been issued to distinguish them from DKBA
[The following statement was made during a KHRG interview with a DKBA soldier who fled the DKBA in November 1995:]
Q: When DKBA troops go into refugee camps and villages to take rice and things, is this by the order of the Khaw Taw monk [U Thuzana, founder of DKBA]?
A: They do it on their own. The officers command them to take everything from the village. They tell them, "Consider that these things belong to you and no one else."
Q: While you were in DKBA what did they say about the refugees? A: They said that they resent the thought that Buddhists do not want to come back to them. They accuse them of being foolish to stay among the deaf and the blind. They said all sorts of abuse against them. They said that they can attack those refugees, and that they would also shoot the Thai troops.
NAME: "Naw Plaw Htoo" SEX: F AGE: 38
FAMILY: Married now widow, 4 children aged 4 to 12 but one already died
ADDRESS: xxxx refugee camp, Thailand INTERVIEWED: 25/2/96
DISCRIPTION: Karen Christian
["Naw Plaw Htoo"’s husband Saw Wah, age 52, Karen Christian, was killed on 2/12/95 in a DKBA attack on Sho Kloh refugee camp. She has since moved to another camp.]
Since I arrived in Thailand over 10 years ago, I have been staying in Sho Kloh. 11 years now. My husband’s name was Saw Wah. He was 52 years old.
Q: What happened on 2 December 1995?
A: I don’t know how the incident started. My husband’s father died at 6 p.m. After that, I went to gather some people to my house. After we finished the funeral service, the DKBA came just after 8 p.m. At that time, my husband was standing and was about to go to our new house. When he was standing up on the steps, suddenly the DKBA came and said "Don’t run away". They shot one bullet in the air. He was surprised and stood without moving. The DKBA soldier shot him instantly. They shot him straight in the chest at his heart. With only one bullet. After a few seconds, he fell down sitting and then his body fell over. Blood didn’t come out. It stayed inside his body. But when we carried him, he started losing blood.
About 20 DKBA came in Section 1. First they came to Aung Nyunt’s house because he had promised DKBA that he would go back to Burma. He asked DKBA to come and get him. His house is near my house. They were looking for Tu Ree, Naw Lu Kyaw and also Plo Wah [Plo Wah was the Section security leader]. He [Plo Wah] was an ex-KNU soldier. When DKBA came, they were looking for these 3 people.
They thought that my husband was Tu Ree and after they shot him, they came up to him and they said, "I know that you are section leader." I was thinking: "My husband was never a section leader, but you shot him already. Why do you come to say that now? Your punishment will come from God." They knew that my husband was not a section leader but they couldn’t see well. I was not crying but my son was crying a lot. [Note: Tu Ree wasn’t section leader either.]
DKBA also said: "No more talking. We will burn all the camp tonight." I was really worried about that. I also worried about what would happen to the Sho Kloh market. After they left, the Thai soldiers arrived with two trucks. All the people had run away. Only three were still staying with me. My eldest son was crying. "My father died and I don’t want to stay here", said my son and I asked him "Where are you going to stay?" And he was crying and I told him, "Don’t cry anymore."
Before they came to my house, first they arrested Plo Wah. They killed him on the other side of the river [the Moei River, i.e. the border, on the same night; Plo Wah was Section 1 security leader, Karen Buddhist]. They said that Plo Wah was a KNU soldier. But before they killed him, they cut the skin of his thighs and his shoulders and they put salt on the bare wounds. After that, they killed him with a knife. Villagers saw his dead body floating in the Moei river at Mae Salit. He was 28 or 29 years old and had 3 children. They arrested two other people but the other young man escaped. He was staying in Section 1. I don’t know his name [his name is Pa K---, and he is Karen Buddhist]. When DKBA asked him what he was doing, he told them that he was going to visit some girls in the camp. But DKBA told him that he was KNU. He said, "Please don’t arrest me", but they arrested him. He almost arrived at Khaw Taw [DKBA headquarters, where they were taking him], but he managed to escape on the way. He said, "If I had arrived at Khaw Taw, I am sure I would have to become a DKBA soldier." He escaped with the help of God.
In Section 1, they also took one cassette-player from Kaw Doh’s father and one big radio/cassette player from U Daw Nyunt. They went to U Daw Nyunt’s house and said to him: "You didn’t turn off the radio!" and they took it. He couldn’t do anything.
They were all speaking in Karen and were all carrying guns. When they came to the camp, DKBA said: "KNU always say that we steal things from the people, but actually we do not." I didn’t recognize any of them, but I heard that Pa Naw Leh also came to the camp that time. [He is a DKBA who used to stay in Sho Kloh Section 2.]
None of them came inside our house. After they shot my husband, they left and went to Section 2. They went to K---‘s house and looked for K--- but he was not there. They pointed their guns at K---‘s wife and said: "If I shoot you, you will die". K---‘s wife said: "Please do not kill me because my children are still young. You can take everything in my house". Then they took everything from her house. DKBA didn’t kill her. [According to another refugee, they took earrings, rings, necklaces and bracelets]. They also took 7,000 Baht from his house. K--- was the security leader in Sho Kloh camp. Now he has come here too. When DKBA came to his house, he was at the monastery with the Thai soldiers. They also looked for the section 2 leader but couldn’t find him. They only shot 2 bullets in Section 2. They said they will kill all the section leaders. Then they left.
The Thai Army did nothing, they just asked me questions just after my husband died [the same night]. They didn’t shoot at DKBA because they couldn’t see them. When they came, the DKBA troops had already left. The DKBA didn’t stay long in the camp. They were there for about one hour, maybe only 45 minutes. They came through the camp like thieves. They came quickly and then they left.
Now we can’t do anything. We have to stay like this. I have been here over two months now. I have no money for my family. With my husband, we were selling curries. At least here, I don’t feel afraid. But my blood is still coming to my head and I feel heartbeats in my head. [Others say that after her husband’s death, she didn’t feel well and she was very anxious. Her husband’s younger brother took her to stay in a safer place.]
NAME: "Ma Sein" SEX: F AGE: 30
FAMILY: Married, 3 children aged 3, 12, and 15
ADDRESS: xxxx refugee camp, Thailand INTERVIEWED: 18/2/96
DISCRIPTION: Karen Buddhist, shopkeeper
["Ma Sein"’s shop in Sho Kloh refugee camp was looted by DKBA during their attack on the camp on 26/12/95. She has since moved elsewhere.]
I don’t remember exactly the date when DKBA came into the camp [it was 26/12/95] because I went around and around afterwards. At the time, I was sleeping in my shop. It was after midnight. They didn’t call us. They suddenly broke the fence and came in. Suddenly they burst into our bedroom and looted all our belongings. At the same time, others also arrived through the back door. They called us and ordered us to open the door because the door was locked. I was staying with my husband and two of my children. Altogether we were 4 people in the house. They didn’t allow us to speak. If we spoke, they would kill us. They pointed their guns and searched for things. They said: "If you don’t give us your belongings, we will kill you. Our leaders ordered us to come and kill you." They didn’t do anything to us. They ordered us, "Stay quiet!" and we stayed like that. There were over 20 soldiers. About 8 of them came to our shop and the others went to other shops. All of them had guns. They were all Karen. I even knew some of them. They used to live in Sho Kloh. They ordered:
"If you have gold, jewellery and money, give it to us. If you don’t give us, our leader told us to shoot you." They filled 3 or 4 big plastic bags with the goods from the shop: food, Coffee-mate, shoes, sarongs and a lot of things. They took whatever they wanted. Even toothpaste, and all new goods [not used yet]. They also took money. The money alone was over 48,000 Baht and the value of the goods was more than 20,000 Baht. They also took 17 golden chains, earrings, golden amulets. And a tape recorder. We lived in Sho Kloh for a long time and we bought these things with the money we earned in the shop. They already brought along big plastic bags with them to carry away the things. Afterwards, they told us: "Don’t say anything about it, otherwise we will come and shoot you." But how can I stay quiet and say nothing?
Q: Did they shoot when they came?
A: Yes, a lot. When they came, they were shooting along the way. A child and his father were shot at and wounded in Section 7. This child is only two years old and he was hit by 2 bullets. His father got one bullet in his leg. His name is Noh Three. He was the rice storehouse keeper. They were in their house when they heard the shooting and they started to run away. It was a short distance from my house. Around my shop, they didn’t shoot. They were talking on their walkie-talkies. They pointed their guns at the whole family and didn’t allow us to speak, they said "If you speak someone ordered us to shoot you. You must give me all the money you have." My husband told them: "My friends, take only half and leave some for me." But one of them replied: "Don’t speak or I’ll kill you...". It was Maw Win. He used to be a civilian in Section 7 of Sho Kloh. [In April 1995, he went into Gray Hta refugee camp to rob somebody and killed one person there. Apparently, he was arrested by the camp security and later let free. Then he joined DKBA.] My husband ran away before they left. I stayed with my children under the house. When they left we got out quietly. Then they came again and looted again in the shop. They tore the pillow cases. They thought money and jewellery were hidden inside the pillow cases. They also looked under all the mats.
They also robbed 3 other shops. Altogether 7 houses, all in the market. The other shops were near my house. They didn’t take the rice [from the camp rice storehouse] but they took food, clothes, cassette recorders and gold. They stole gold in 3 houses. In one house, 14 golden chains and earrings. From another person, one chain of one-baht-weight gold, earrings and rings. The owner was crying a lot. As for her, the DKBA pointed their guns at her while she was crying and told her, "We will shoot you, we will shoot you!". And the DKBA also went to the mosque and took the clock there but I don’t know how many other things.
They came along with porters, they even had some women porters to carry back the things for them. People said that there were 2 or 3 women porters. They had big plastic bags with a zip. They left by going along the river and under the bridge [they went under the bridge of the main north-south Mae Sot/Mae Sariang road, right past the Thai Army post which is supposed to protect the camp. Apparently they were even singing and talking, but the Thai Army did nothing to stop them.]
After they left, I couldn’t do anything. I was going around and thinking. I dared not stay there anymore and the next day, in the morning, I came here. Only my husband stayed in Sho Kloh and asked me to go and collect our things. But I dared not go there. Here I feel safer. If I had stayed in Sho Kloh, I wouldn’t dare sleep at night.
The Thai soldiers did nothing. After DKBA left, they only came the next morning and registered the things stolen from the shops. The DKBA just came to look for money and things, they had no time to arrest people. They were in uniform, but some were wearing shorts. When they arrived, they announced that they were Ko Per Baw [DKBA]. They called themselves "the monk’s soldiers". All of them were wearing yellow scarfs. As for me, I dared not look at them. I was not allowed to look at them.
Before I had a shop in Baw Pa Hta and I had to move to Sho Kloh a year ago. Now, I bought just a few things to sell in a shop here, because all my money is lost. Even here, I am afraid to sleep at night in my shop.
1) NAME: "Naw Sah Lwe" SEX: F AGE: 22
FAMILY: Married, 1 child aged 9 months DISCRIPTION: Karen Buddhist
2) NAME: "Naw Nwee Paw" SEX: F AGE: 31
FAMILY: Married, 2 children aged 3 months and 7 years DISCRIPTION: Karen Christian
ADDRESS: xxxx refugee camp, Thailand INTERVIEWED: 18/2/96
["Naw Sah Lwe" and "Naw Nwee Paw" work at a malaria research clinic in the refugee camp.]
Q: Which day did DKBA attack the Malaria Research Unit in Sho Kloh?
"Naw Sah Lwe": It was on 3rd January. They came at about 1 a.m. [actually 1 a.m. on 4/1/96]. I didn’t really see it happen. Somebody told me that they came across the bridge to the hospital. Then they went up [the hill] and came back. We heard the shooting, and we ran and hid under the bridge. They went and came back twice over the bridge.
"Naw Nwee Paw": Her house is very close to mine. When she heard the shooting she ran to the fence near my house with her mother and her child.
"Naw Sah Lwe": We heard them shouting "Maw Sah, Maw Sah" [a person’s name] and they also shouted "The ‘pa kyaw’ [’horny roosters’] are coming!!"
"Naw Nwee Paw": One also shouted - because they saw many cars, I think there were 4 cars there that night - "Many white cars!". Another one called "Shall we burn the cars?". But then another one called back "No, don’t burn them! If you burn them, you will be in the middle and it would be hard to get out." They were shouting at each other and talking on the walkie-talkie. "Naw Sah Lwe" was hiding under the bridge, near my house. She saw them passing across the bridge.
"Naw Sah Lwe": I saw 7 crossing the bridge. They were wearing uniforms.
"Naw Nwee Paw": They had black uniforms like the Thai soldiers and they had guns with them. When you saw them, if they didn’t shout you wouldn’t know that they were DKBA because they dressed themselves up as Thai soldiers, in black uniforms. [Thai paramilitary Rangers in the camps wear black uniforms.] All of them were wearing black uniforms. But they were speaking in Karen. Those who came to our unit, we heard that they were all Karen. They came from 3 different directions. Some came through Section 6, some through Section 2 and some from Sections 4 and 5. Not all came to the Malaria Research Unit, only those who arrived from Sections 4 and 5. They also went to the MSF [Medecins Sans Frontieres] hospital nearby. While some came to our hospital, our guesthouse and Dr. xxxx’s house[a foreign doctor], others went to the MSF hospital and took three microscopes and things like blood pressure cards, stethoscopes and medicines. They broke into the store to take the medicine.
"Naw Sah Lwe": All the medicines, and also the blood pressure cards and stethoscopes. They also asked where were all the medics and the lab technicians. Maybe they wanted to arrest them. [The DKBA is short of medics in their area and is often looking to kidnap some.] They asked for the medics but they didn’t find anybody. One of the nurses was just putting a drip to a patient, and when she saw DKBA she just pretended she was a patient herself. She took a blanket from a patient and just sat there like a patient saying nothing, so the DKBA didn’t do anything to her. The group that came to our clinic took our clock.
"Naw Nwee Paw": They also took the CB radio that we used to contact Bangkok and also the thermometers. I think they thought that these were walkie-talkies because they look like walkie-talkies. You put them on the table when you take the temperature of the patients and they have a wire from them, with a stick. You put the stick in the patient’s mouth. You turn it on and when the time is up, it goes "Bip...Bip...". Then you take it out and check the temperature. They took only two of these thermometers. I’m sure they thought there were walkie-talkies [laughs...] We have computers but they didn’t come to our office. They went to the guesthouse, to the hospital and to Dr. xxxx’s house. That guesthouse was only used by foreigners who visited the unit. There were only mats in there, nothing else.
"Naw Sah Lwe": Some DKBA stayed looking around the hospital area. They saw Naw xxxx and asked her "Who are you?" And she replied "Just me, Naw xxxx". So they didn’t do anything to her.
"Naw Nwee Paw": Some of the soldiers saw people hiding but they didn’t shoot. First they went to the hospital, then to Dr. xxxx’s house [the foreign doctor] and then to the guesthouse. They stole the CB radio from Dr. xxxx’s house.
"Naw Sah Lwe": They stole the forks and the spoons from his house too. And also his shoes, his jacket [an expensive leather jacket] and his shirts.
"Naw Nwee Paw": And his boxes of cookies...
Q: How did DKBA carry all these things?
"Naw Sah Lwe": They didn’t have porters with them. It must have been very heavy for them to carry everything on their backs! I have no idea how many DKBA soldiers came altogether because they came from different directions.
"Naw Nwee Paw": Some went to the shops up the hill in the market, some to our unit, some to the MSF hospital and also some to Section 6. Nobody was hurt, but some DKBA were wounded. We saw blood in the morning, on the sand of the street in front of the MSF hospital. But we don’t know how many of them, maybe 1, 2 or 3.
"Naw Sah Lwe": Naw xxxx’s husband said that beside him he saw a wounded DKBA soldier who was dragged by another DKBA soldier. When they passed beside him, he stayed quiet. It was under a tree. I heard it was the camp security who attacked them but we’d better say that it was the Thai Army. DKBA was pulling their wounded friend beside the river. Just when they were about to cross the river, the Thai soldiers and the camp security attacked them.
We stayed hiding for a long time. Even after they left, we stayed there for a long time. In Section 6, they said: "We are leaving now but we will come again."
"Naw Nwee Paw": They were there for about one hour. The same night they came to our unit, they also went to Section 6 and took a cassette player and money, maybe 200 or 300 Baht from a shopkeeper. We were very afraid, so we stayed hiding and we dared not come up to our houses. They were already gone but we still kept hiding. Finally, later, we went back to our houses. And the next day, the Malaria Research Unit decided to move. Not the whole team, but most of us. They told the people who were hiding, "You are very bad. We asked you to go back to Burma and you didn’t, so when we come next time, we will burn the place down!" But because we were hiding, they didn’t see us anyway.
"Naw Sah Lwe": As for the other sections [of the camp], they had known these DKBA for a long time, so the people replied: "When you finish the car roads in Burma, only then will we go back!" [Just across the border, the DKBA and SLORC in Pa’an District are using all villagers as forced labour building roads.]
"Naw Nwee Paw": But some women were so afraid of them that they told them "Tomorrow we will go back".
[On 30 January 1996 in the middle of the night a large DKBA force attacked a Thai Karen Buddhist monastery at Mae U Su, about 90 km. north of Mae Sot along the paved road which parallels the border. A Buddhist monk, a 67-year-old lay helper and a Thai policeman were shot dead and the DKBA troops looted the monastery before retreating back across the Moei River into Burma. A KHRG monitor visited the monastery and wrote the following report after interviewing monks and villagers there.]
Observations: The monastery at Mae U Su is located on the top of a hill beside Mae U Su village and near the main Mae Sot-Mae Sariang road. The monastery has mainly Thai-Karen monks and is visited by both Thai Karen villagers and Karen refugees. There were bullet holes everywhere, in the roof, walls and floor of the main monastery building (built of wood with a tin roof, raised above the ground on supporting posts), and also in the cement walls of the building which is under construction [on the grounds beside the main monastery hall]. Two RPG’s were fired [rocket-propelled grenades fired from a shoulder launcher, originally designed as anti-tank weapons but commonly used as a form of ‘portable artillery’], one under the monastery main building just near one of the supporting poles and another in the wall of the caretaker’s room causing a big hole in the wall.
Account of the Incident: On Tuesday January 30, 1996 at about 12.30 a.m., two groups of DKBA soldiers emerged from 2 directions surrounding the monastery at Mae U Su, which is located on the top of a hill beside Mae U Su village and near the main Mae Sot-Mae Sariang road. One of the groups came from the direction of the old Kler Ko refugee camp [abandoned in 1995 due to DKBA security threat]. There were many DKBA soldiers. Nobody knows how many but the people said maybe a hundred. No Thai Army was around - they usually stayed at Mae U Su primary school and in a building near the river just downhill from the monastery but all the Thai troops had left just two days before the incident happened.
The DKBA troops first shot at the primary school, then went uphill and shot at the monastery and as they were retreating they shot at the Thai police box on the main road.
At the time they came, 4 monks, 3 novices and about 13 or 14 villagers were sleeping in the main monastery building and the villager who was looking after the monastery was sleeping with his wife and 4 other people in the room near a building under construction on the monastery grounds. The bullets which killed the monk and the villager were fired from outside the buildings while the victims were inside.[The victims were not specifically targeted]. One bullet hit the monk in his back, probably as he was sitting up, and came out through his chest. Stains of blood were still visible on the wooden post beside the spot where he was sleeping. The monk was Thai Karen, 29 years old, and his name was Pra Bisukathammal.
Just before they left, one DKBA soldier came to the entrance of the monastery and asked one of the novices "Where are the Thai troops?"
The villager who was killed in the room near the building under construction was U San Poe, 67 years old. He was a Karen from Burma but had been staying for 20 years at the monastery with his family and was helping around the temple. He had a blue Thai ID card. He was sleeping beside the wooden shutter of the window which was shut. The bullet went through the wooden shutter and hit him in his head through his right cheek. It was an AK-47 bullet and it didn’t come out of his head.
His wife was sleeping beside him. She said: "When I heard the shooting, I wanted to wake my husband up. I shook him because he was not moving. Then I saw blood all over his face. He was already dead." She and the 4 other people sleeping in that room ran out and away to hide, just before a group of DKBA soldiers entered the room. They stole everything that was there: the video-player, the radio/cassette recorder and the fan, all belonging to the monastery and which were kept in that room, but also 5,000 Baht, clothes, blankets and mosquito nets belonging to their family.
After that the DKBA troops retreated down to the main road, shot dead one Thai policeman at the police box and went back towards the Moei river. The whole shooting only lasted for 5 or 6 minutes.
It is difficult to find out the reason for this attack. The monks don’t understand why DKBA have attacked a monastery. They believe that DKBA actually wanted to attack the Thai troops [which would explain why so many DKBA came] but they didn’t know that the Thai troops had left. So instead, they took the opportunity to loot the monastery.
I personally believe that the main reason was probably to loot the monastery in the first place since they knew that some valuable equipment was there. They definitely shot a lot at the room where the valuables were kept and the villager killed [bullet holes were everywhere and a hole blown by an RPG grenade], more than they shot at the other buildings. Maybe they came in such a large number because they expected to face the Thai troops in the process. Or maybe the attack was a combination of the two.
NAME: "Saw Shwe Than" SEX: M AGE: 32
FAMILY: Married, 3 children
ADDRESS: Meh S’Kup refugee camp, Thailand INTERVIEWED: 6/6/96
DISCRIPTION: Karen Christian
["Saw Shwe Than" is a security officer in Meh S’Kup camp who describes SLORC soldiers crossing the Salween River (which forms the Burma-Thai border) to loot a house. The refugee camp is just 20 minutes’ walk into Thailand from the river, and there have been many incursions of SLORC soldiers in the area during 1996.]
It happened at the riverbank [Salween river]. It was in April, nearly at the end of the month. I could check the exact date in my register but it is in Htee Hta at the river bank. They came twice to the Thai side, in the daytime. I was even staying there the first day.
The first time, at about 11 a.m. 6 of them came down from their camp and swam across to steal the boats on the Thai side, because they have no boat on the Burma side. The boats were near the shops on the river bank. When they got the [two] boats, they went back to their camp. After a few minutes, they came back on the boats with their weapons and robbed the goods from the trader’s house. They looted until 2 p.m.
The trader was in the house. His name is Saw xxxx, 30 years old. When he saw the SLORC troops he ran away. He is from a village in Burma. He came to Thailand and bought some goods to sell in Burma. At that time, he was staying at his friend’s house and had his goods with him [the house actually belongs to the trader’s friend, but he keeps his goods there in transit]. He always buys things from Thailand and goes back to sell them in Burma. So the SLORC robbed all his goods. They took clothes, shoes, soap and shampoo. The value was 6,320 Baht. They didn’t shoot at him [when he ran away]. They carried the goods in the boat and took them to the other side. I don’t know where he is now. He lost all his things. Probably he went back home because he has no money to continue doing his business. The other shop owners who are staying there [on the Salween riverbank] got some news before the SLORC soldiers came, so they had moved their goods to the camp before the soldiers arrived.
The next morning at about 8 a.m., they came again like that. They came in the two Honda motor boats that they took from the people the previous day. They decided to come to the [refugee] camp, but unfortunately for them the Thai soldiers were waiting for them at the riverbank. The SLORC officers had previously told the Thai soldiers "Don’t do anything to our soldiers if they don’t bring their weapons with them". But these 6 soldiers came secretly with their weapons, like thieves. So the Thai soldiers started shooting at them on the Thai side. They had already arrived on the Thai side, probably to loot the goods in the shops of the camp. Three of them were wearing uniforms and three civilian clothes. They all had guns. When the shooting started, they also shot at the Thai soldiers. But a few minutes later, two of them ran to the boat and of these two, one was wounded. Then they went across the river and ran back to their camp. The other one escaped by swimming across the river. They left one boat at the other[Burma] side of the river and they left the other boat behind on the Thai side.
Two SLORC soldiers died on the Thai side and one died while he was swimming back across the river. Three of them got to safety but I know that one was wounded. They were from #434 Battalion. They came from the SLORC post which is only 20 minutes upriver by boat. They were all Burmese.
The villagers [refugees] are under the control of the Thai Army who told them: "Don’t go anywhere and just stay in the camp. Nothing will happen to you. If the Burmese troops come, we will attack them. Don’t worry. Don’t be afraid." The people don’t want to go anywhere. They are afraid but they are controlled by the Thai Army. No refugee was wounded in the shootings. Now most of the people who were staying there [at the river bank] moved into the camp.
NAME: "Saw Maw Lay" SEX: M AGE: 45
FAMILY: Married, 4 children
ADDRESS: Kamaw Lay Ko village, Thailand INTERVIEWED: 31/5/96
["Saw May Lay"’s sister-in-law was killed when the DKBA attacked Kamaw Lay Ko village on 28 April 1996. They are originally from Burma a long time ago, but they are not refugees. There used to be a Karen refugee camp at Kamaw Lay Ko, but it was abandoned after it was burned by a joint DKBA/SLORC force in April 1995.]
On 28 April 1996 at 9 p.m. Thai time, I was sleeping in my house in Kamaw Lay Ko village. My brother-in-law and my sister-in-law had just visited me that evening and they had gone back to their house. Their house is only about 50 yards away from mine. They were not sleeping yet.
Then I heard gunshots and the screaming and crying of the family. Within one minute after the gunshots, my sister-in-law ran into my house with her youngest child. She laid down on the floor and showed me her wounds. She was hit by three bullets but she was not bleeding. She must have been bleeding inside.
The other villagers hid. They were too afraid to see what happened. She said she saw 6 people, but only 4 came inside the house to rob and shoot. The others stayed behind. First, they pointed their guns and asked for money. They got the money and left, taking her husband with them. She was left in the house. She was afraid for her husband and left the house to get him back. Her husband pushed the men to run away and shouted at her to run. Their youngest child followed his mother. So, the mother and the child ran one way and the husband another way. Then the men shot at them. I heard about 40 rounds fired. The husband managed to escape and was not hurt, but she and the child were hit. One bullet passed through Ka La Myint’s body and hit her child. She was hit by three bullets in her back and her child by one bullet. Then she ran to my house and asked for a car to take her to hospital. One platoon of Thai soldiers had just arrived to guard the village. They were sleeping and hadn’t heard anything. I woke them up and asked their help to send her to the hospital. We got a car and sent her to Mae Tan hospital. Then she was transferred to Mae Sot hospital where she got an operation. Her intestines were cut in three different places. She had 10 bottles of blood but she died the next morning.
Her name was Ka La Myint. She was 22 years old. She was Karen and Buddhist. She was married and had 2 children aged 6 and 4 and she was 4 months pregnant. Her elder child was hiding under the house and was not hurt. The other child’s name is Wah Nah. He is 4 years old. The bullet that passed through his mother’s body hit him on the side of his belly and remained in his body. He also went to hospital. They removed the bullet and now he is okay.
Q: Why did they attack them?
A: For the money. They robbed 300,000 Baht and also 10 baht-weight of gold jewellery. But the money was not theirs, it was to pay their workers at the sawmills [the husband owns sawmills]. He had that amount of money just that day. Someone in the village must have been an informer.
Q: What clothes were the men wearing who attacked them?
A: They were not sure if they were wearing military clothes or not, because it was dark. But they had painted their faces with charcoal dust. The four men who came inside the house had guns: two AK’s and two M-16’s [AK47 and M16 automatic assault rifles]. They didn’t say anything. They only asked for the money and pointed their guns at them. They asked in Karen language. Afterwards, people enquired about them and found out that three of them were from the Burma side. They are linked with DKBA. We are not sure whether they are DKBA members or not. You know, many people who returned from the refugee camps to Burma [in 1995] found themselves with no work and nothing to do, so some of them joined DKBA. They don’t really become DKBA soldiers but they get help from them. I think they received weapons.
Ka La Myint’s husband burnt down his own house and went back to stay with his family in another village. The children are now staying there, with their grandparents. Even now, they are still trying to get money from him at the new place. His sawmill is on the Burma side, in DKBA area, and they want to get taxes. I don’t know how much money. He agreed to pay them, but his wood was not ready to sell so he had no money to pay them. At present, the Thai authorities are blocking the road and not allowing timber to go for sale [apparently to cut off resources to the DKBA]. The sawmill owners now have to pay taxes to SLORC, KNU, DKBA, and also to the Thais. Some sawmill owners refused to pay, and soldiers came and shot up or burnt down the sawmill. So some sawmill owners stopped their business. At Kyaw Lo Gwo, the DKBA came and asked for 50,000 Baht. The owner refused to pay and they burnt down the whole sawmill last year. It was a very big sawmill, that one.
Kamaw Lay Ko is one hour away from the riverside [border]. DKBA come often to Kamaw Lay Ko village. Within the last two months they have come 4 times. They came to Kamaw Lay Ko and crossed the village on their way to Klay Mu Kyaw near the Mae Sot-Mae Sariang road. That is quite far from the river. People called it the Kamaw Lay Ko sawmill. All the workers are Karens from Burma. The owner and the manager are Thais. Some workers were not paid there, so they went back to Burma side and came back to get money from them [with DKBA-provided weapons] because they were angry.
The DKBA ask people to give things, but they never pay the price of the goods. Before this incident, they came to the village and to the sawmill but they didn’t hurt anyone. Sometimes, they even asked the villagers to carry things to their side and afterwards these villagers can come back. That happened more than once! Sometimes, they walk in the jungle and lose their way, then they take a person to guide them and when they arrive at their destination, they release the person. That is in Thailand. As long as they don’t harm any Thai people, the [Thai] authorities feel it is not their business. Now the Thai Army has one platoon in Kamaw Lay Ko, the Tak regiment [Task Force 34], not the Black Rangers. Since the killing they are staying there all the time.
NAME: "Pa Boe" SEX: M AGE: 53
FAMILY: Married, 7 children
ADDRESS: xxxx village, Thailand INTERVIEWED: 31/5/96
DISCRIPTION: Karen Buddhist
["Pa Boe" is the father of Ka La Myint’s husband (see previous interview), who lives in Thailand but operates some small sawmills on the Burma side of the border. DKBA has been trying to extort money from "Pa Boe"’s son as ‘tax’ for these sawmills, and has also robbed the village in Thailand where "Pa Boe" lives.]
They came to this village at night time. It must have been during the month of Water Festival [April], the monk wrote it down. We mind our own business. We just go to our field every morning and come back in the afternoon. Only that. But people told me that they stole two motorcycles and took a motorcycle to the other side [of the border]. The Thai teacher wasn’t there when his motorcycle was taken. There were two motorcycles together at that house. They kept them at xxxx’s house. They took the two motorcycles, one from xxxx and one from the Thai teacher. They took one along with them across the river and left the other one on the way because they couldn’t ride it. So they pushed it, and when they couldn’t push it anymore they left it on the way. DKBA grabbed the gold from xxxx’s neck but I don’t know how much money they took from their family. We heard that the thieves robbed his house and took one motorcycle, one gold chain and one video.
Moreover, they took one video from the monk [at Mae U Su; see report #5]. This video was in the monk’s servant’s house. The monk is abbot of the monastery, people call him U Hkein Min. He has lived there for over ten years. When the Monk and I went to worship at Tee Nya Mu, he said:
"Nowadays, even we monks have to be afraid and people consider us as their enemy. I don’t know what to do". The monk said that he would go to Burma and ask them to return his video. Then when he went to Burma and asked for his video, DKBA told him: "We here haven’t taken your video. I am not sure if they were our DKBA soldiers or not, though we heard that they were DKBA soldiers. The problem is that we don’t know their names. Do you know their names?" asked DKBA. "I don’t know", replied the monk, "People just told me it was Ko Per Baw". So the DKBA leader said, "Then we cannot find the people who stole your video. Wait for a while. We will find out who they are. But you don’t know their names either, so it will be difficult." The monk said, "We don’t know, because they came at night time". Then the monk came back to Thailand where he stays until now. But I don’t know whether he got his video back or not.
Last night at about 7 p.m. DKBA came and asked for my son. They said, "Where has he gone to?" I told them, "He already left in the afternoon". They asked, "Will he come home this evening?" and I said, "No, he will sleep somewhere else". "So", they said, "tomorrow, if he comes back, tell him to go and meet me at xxxx village. Tell your son that tomorrow he must go. If he doesn’t go, we won’t come again. We don’t want to come very often. We are not children. We have been waiting for him for a long time. He doesn’t respect us. I don’t want him to think that we are children. Tomorrow, tell him to come to the appointment". I told them that I didn’t know whether he will be late or early. "If he comes back, I will tell him. For sure, I will ask him to go", I said. And the man with one leg said, "We will wait for him at xxxx village".
There were four of them. One was wearing camouflage, but the others were dressed like you and me. It was night time and dark. One of them didn’t say anything. Three were speaking. I didn’t see any guns but I don’t know whether they had a pistol or not. They came by car. They left their car near the village and came straight to my house. I only recognised one of them, the one who has one leg, the left leg. I don’t know his name but he has already been here twice. When he said "We don’t want to come very often", he was angry. Also he said, "If he doesn’t come, later we won’t want the money anymore". So I thought that they might kill him.
People complain that this [DKBA] group is taking advantage of our villagers. Things never happened like this before. They killed the monk at U Thu Klo [Mae U Su in Thai]. He was an ordinary monk. We don’t know which group of Ko Per Baw did that. I went myself to his funeral service in Mae Tan.
NAME: "Saw Htoo Klih" SEX: M AGE: 20
FAMILY: Single, 5 brothers and 2 sisters, mother already dead
ADDRESS: Ban Sala refugee camp, Thailand INTERVIEWED: 4/6/96
DISCRIPTION: Karen Christian student
["Saw Htoo Klih" was a witness to the DKBA attack at Ban Sala refugee camp on 26/5/96. The camp is over 10 km. inside Thailand.]
I used to live in Saw Hta. Two years ago, I became a refugee. We had to move to Ka Htee Hta camp because the Burmese took our whole area. Then after the DKBA was formed, we dared not stay there anymore and our family moved to Sala camp. [Ka Htee Hta camp was a main DKBA target in 1995; see "SLORC’s Northern Karen Offensive", KHRG #95-10, 29/3/95.]
When the attack happened, my father was not staying here. He was away visiting, in the mountains. And my mother died already. No one was looking after us. We were all together [with his brothers and sisters]. It was on a Sunday at midnight [on 26/5/96]. I was sleeping.
Before they came into my house,they threw one grenade which exploded. They also threw another one which didn’t explode. Then they shouted: "1, 2, 3, Up!" and they ran up to our house. Four grenades were thrown around our house but only three exploded. They came into my house and Hsar Htoo Wah’s father’s house but he wasn’t at home.
When they came into my house, they pointed a knife at me. It was an ordinary knife, like the bayonet that the Burmese military use on the end of their G-3 rifles, and he told me: "We came with a lot of our friends. Don’t run away. Didn’t you hear the grenades exploding?" "Yes", I told them. I couldn’t see what he was wearing because he put the torchlight in my face and it was very bright since the batteries were new. He wasn’t actually pointing the knife at me. He was holding it in his hand and pointed the torchlight in my face. Suddenly he told me to run away. So I left immediately, I took no time and dared not look at him. I ran into my room. I dared not run away [outside]. I didn’t know where to run because they also went to other houses. I just ran inside my room and stayed quietly. This man pointed a knife at me but didn’t do anything to me.
Then he left but another man came to my house. He was very angry and asked me where were the camp leader and important people who are staying in the camp. We directed him, "The camp leader is over there". But we didn’t tell the truth. So they were not sure where the headman or the leaders were staying. They came to this house here [the camp leader’s house, where the interview was conducted] and took 16 mosquito nets. In my house, they took one bag of clothes from my brothers and sisters. I don’t know what they thought was in the bag. They stayed for a moment and then left up the hill.
There were 3 of them. When they left, people saw 3 men together but they were not sure how many came altogether. Two of them went to Hsar Htoo Wah’s father’s house and one man to my house. They went to another house and held the house owner with the knife straight to his temple. I didn’t see if they were carrying guns, but I know they were carrying grenades and a knife. They talked a lot but I can’t remember. I only remember them saying: "Where are the headman and the leaders? Where are the shops? How many shops in the camp?" They spoke in Karen language. All the villagers were afraid and dared not look at them.
A grenade damaged the shop because they threw it just in front of the shop and it hit the walls and one of the women was wounded. [Grenade splinters went through the bamboo front wall; the woman was sleeping in the shop just behind that wall and was hit by the splinters]. She was a teacher. She was sleeping in the shop. She was seriously wounded in her arm, slightly in her neck and she had two wounds on her head. She is in hospital. When they threw the grenades, the owner of the shop ran away. They entered into the shop and took 3,500 Baht. They also took orange juices, and cigarettes from Burma.
I don’t know who these 3 men were. These 3 men stayed about 30 minutes in the camp, then they went away up that hill. People told me that they saw my brothers’ and sisters’ bag behind the mountain range. I went to that place to get it because we had no more clothes left. They didn’t do anything to us but we were afraid of them. It is the first time this has happened in our camp.
[According to witnesses in the camp, the attackers were Pa Pa Yaw, Kaw Paw and Maung Pu Tu, all of whom used to be refugees in Ka Htee Hta refugee camp before 1995, then went and joined DKBA. They were seen in a village near Ban Sala camp both the day before and the day after the attack. People are not sure whether the men are still with DKBA or not.]
NAME: "Saw Hai Kaw" SEX: M AGE: 30
FAMILY: Married, 4 children aged 2 to 6
ADDRESS: Ban Sala refugee camp, Thailand INTERVIEWED: 4/6/96
DISCRIPTION: Karen Christian shopkeeper
["Saw Hai Kaw"’s shop in the camp was attacked with grenades and looted in the DKBA attack on 26/5/96. The camp is over 10 km. inside Thailand.]
I had only a little shop. I don’t know exactly what happened. I didn’t see them and I didn’t hear them speak. When they came I was sleeping, as we do every night in our house. I was in my house [his shop is also his house] when they threw the grenades but when they entered our house I had already left. I took my wife and my children and we ran away to the other side of the stream [which runs behind his shop]. Nothing happened to my wife and my children but my sister got wounded. Her name is Taw Oo. She is 20 years old.
I had opened the door of the shop to run away and I had no time to close it, so they were able to enter the shop easily. They took cigarettes, orange juices and 6 or 7 bottles of Sprite. And also money, 3,000 Baht. This money was not mine. Someone gave it to me and asked me to give it to another person. Before I gave it to him, I was keeping it in the front of my shop. But they didn’t know I had this money. They only came to the camp to loot everything they saw in the houses.
Now we still stay here, but my wife doesn’t dare stay in the house. Now I am staying with her on the hill at the other side of the stream. [They are staying in someone else’s house and their shop now lies empty and abandoned.] I don’t think I can keep the shop. I am going to sell the leftover goods. Now I don’t know what to do next.
NAME: "Saw Lah" SEX: M AGE: 23
FAMILY: Married, 1 child aged 20 days
ADDRESS: Sho Kloh refugee camp, Thailand INTERVIEWED: 16/6/96
DISCRIPTION: Karen Christian medic
["Saw Lah" was a witness to the shelling of Sho Kloh refugee camp from the Burma side of the border on 13 June 1996. He is a medic in the refugee camp hospital, and treated the victim who later died.]
Last Thursday on 13 June 1996, the shelling started at 6:10 p.m. exactly. At the time I was in my house. I heard the sound of a big bomb at the other side [of the stream], on the hill. I stayed in my house and a few moments later there was another one on the streambank, and then again near the hospital. They shelled 3 mortars and also one near the monastery. I heard 4 shells. They were 81 mm mortars [other accounts suggest they were actually 60mm mortars]. All of them exploded. There was about a 5- or 6-minute interval between each of them. All the people ran under their houses and I also went under my house. Everybody was afraid and stayed under the houses. The mortars fell near houses but didn’t destroy any. Only tree branches were cut down, but not the houses.
After the shelling people came to call me to go and see because they said that 2 or 3 people were injured. So I went to see. I found the woman who had a wound on the right side of her head [near her temple]. She was bleeding a lot and she had lost consciousness. There was another girl about 12 years old and she was injured on the right buttock. Both were wounded by shrapnel. I found them on the streambank. They had run down to the streambank because there is a big rock there and a hole and they were going to hide there. They were running to the hole when the mortars fell down there, right where they were going to hide. They were not from the same family. The woman was 21 years old. Only one piece of shrapnel hit her on her head, here just behind the temple. The piece went inside and maybe her brain was also damaged. At that time we gave her injections and we took her to the hospital. That night, we decided to refer her to a big hospital but at that time nobody dared drive on the highway [the Mae Sot-Mae Sariang road]. So we kept her one night and she didn’t die. In the morning, at 6 or 7 a.m., we transferred her to Mae La [refugee camp]. That day, we heard that at 4 or 5 p.m. she died in the hospital there. Her name was Naw Mu Khee Po. She was 21 years old. She was married and she had two children - the younger of her children is only 9 months old and is still breastfed. At the time when it happened, her husband had an abscess on his right leg so he was being treated in our IPD [in-patients’ department] where we had opened the abscess. He went together with his wife [to Mae La] but I don’t know if he came back here or not.
Later that night we heard a lot of shelling but we don’t know exactly, maybe it was the Thai soldiers shelling and the DKBA also. But it was near the highway [the highway runs north-south just to the west of the camp, between the camp and the Moei River which forms the border. The Thai Army post is at the entrance to the camp from the highway]. The shelling came from the other side [of the border] but maybe SLORC or maybe DKBA, I don’t know. They shelled from Baw Pa Hta or Klaw Kway. I heard somebody saying that. I don’t know why they shelled.
Q: Do you think they still want to scare the refugees to go back to Burma?
A: Yes, maybe. For a long time they have asked the refugees to go back. But nobody wants to go back. As for me, I don’t want to go back, because in Burma there are many problems. If I have to go and stay there I will have no job, I will have nothing to eat and I will face a lot of problems. Last year, they already came into the camp and shot. They took many goods and equipment in the IPD like our microscopes[in the 4/1/96 attack - see related interview in this report]. They took a lot of things. After that it was quieter. But this shelling was sudden. Nobody expected that. Now many people have started to be afraid again. The Thai security asked us to dig holes under our houses. What they are going to do and what will happen in the future, I don’t know.
NAME: "Saw Nyi Nyi" SEX: M AGE: 47
ADDRESS: Sho Kloh refugee camp, Thailand INTERVIEWED: 16/6/96
DISCRIPTION: Karen Christian
["Saw Nyi Nyi" was a camp security officer at Sho Kloh when the shelling occurred.]
On Thursday June 13th I went to visit the Thai Army at around 6 p.m. While I was speaking to them, I heard the mortar shells launched from the other side of the river. They launched 5 or 6 mortars in the Sho Kloh area. There were about 5 or 6 minute intervals between each shell. Later in the night, they shelled more but outside the Sho Kloh area, maybe near the main road.
They shelled from Baw Pa Hta area. SLORC and DKBA are staying there. The SLORC have two camps in that area, not far from each other and some DKBA are around. The SLORC troops are from Tactical Command 991. Only a few soldiers are usually staying in Baw Pa Hta and their main camp is in Kler Deh. There are also about 10 DKBA soldiers led by Bo Kleh.
Q: Who shelled, DKBA or SLORC?
A: Bo Kleh did the shelling but the shells are not Bo Kleh’s shells, they are from SLORC. I saw a piece of one and it was given to the Thais. They were made in China. They look like 81 mm but not really. They were 2-inch mortars, like 60 mm. The Thais could not identify them very well. Maybe a new type of mortar shells. But the Burmese used them. Some villagers who have been porters said that they have seen them before.
Q: Did the Thai Army shoot back?
A: Yes. During the night, when the SLORC shelled again, the Thais responded. The second time they shelled, they didn’t shell into Sho Kloh but towards the main road instead. They were trying to hit the Thai Army.
Q: Why did they shell Sho Kloh camp?
A: The next day I heard Bo Kleh on the walkie-talkie saying that he had called the refugees to come to a ceremony at the Baw Pa Hta monastery and that nobody came, so he got angry. Before many people used to go there, but since DKBA and SLORC occupied Baw Pa Hta nobody goes there anymore. But I don’t believe this. I am sure SLORC ordered him to do it. Bo Kleh is under SLORC command. He couldn’t do this if SLORC didn’t allow it. SLORC always orders DKBA to do things like this, so that their own name is not connected to these actions. They were angry because the KNU fought them at Pu Lu Hta. [In May the KNLA attacked and recaptured the DKBA/SLORC position at Pu Lu Hta, about 7 km. south of Sho Kloh.]
Q: What do you think will happen in the future?
A: The Thai security troops say, "Don’t be afraid. We are increasing the security on the border." But the SLORC troops say, "The Thais don’t want to fight, so we will attack the border". Before the shelling, some villagers reported to the camp here that the SLORC soldiers told them that there will be fighting on the border. The SLORC and also DKBA have increased their troops on the border. I think they want to come to destroy the refugee camp. Now the people are very afraid.
Diary of a Sho Kloh Schoolteacher
[This is an excerpt from the diary of a schoolteacher in Sho Kloh refugee camp running from 30 November 1995 through 2 February 1996. It is included here to show the nature and frequency of DKBA incursions on the camp. Population of the camp is about 10,000 refugees.]
Thursday 30.11.95: Three men from Sho Kloh, Saw Maw Bee, Saw L--- and Khine N---, were granted permission from Noh Bo village to cross to Pu Lu Hta, on Burma side. Their reason for going to meet with DKBA appears to have been to discuss with the DKBA regional leader Tha Htwe about Sho Kloh’s safety and security, safety of relatives inside Burma and unresolved conflicts from KNU’s past when Tha Htwe was a soldier under Lt. Maw Bee’s command. Their visit resulted in Maw Bee (Karen, Buddhist) being killed and his body thrown into the river. L--- (Karen Christian, mechanic) was forced to remain in Burma to work for DKBA repairing boat engines. Khine N--- (Arakanese Buddhist, Sho Kloh camp health committee officer) was released to return across the border. Since then, L---‘s wife was given permission to visit him and after seeing him was allowed to return to Sho Kloh with threatening messages for the refugees. [Note: L--- later escaped.]
Saturday 2.12.95: At about 8 p.m., 40 DKBA intruded into Section 1. It was reported that they were seeking guns and walkie-talkies [according to closer witnesses, they were only looting]. Saw Wah (Karen Christian, civilian) was killed. Three people, Plo Wah of camp security (Karen Buddhist, civilian but ex-KNU soldier), Pa K--- (Karen Buddhist, civilian) and Aung Nyunt (Karen Buddhist, civilian) were arrested and taken to Burma. Plo Wah was later killed and his body found in the Moei river, Aung Nyunt is still apparently being kept there and Pa K--- escaped and returned across the border.
At about 8:45 p.m., the DKBA group continued to the camp security leader’s house in Section 2. He is a Karen Christian civilian but was not sleeping at home. 2,000 Baht were taken from the camp security fund and 4,000 Baht from his personal savings. Earrings, a necklace and a wedding ring were also taken. At about 9 p.m., the same group proceeded to a shop opposite the No. 1 Primary school in Section 2. The shop was looted of a stereo cassette system and many consumer goods.
Sunday 3.12.95: At about 8:30 p.m., there was a short exchange of gunfire for one minute between Thai Army and DKBA in the jungle near Section 2 and Section 7. Casualties unknown.
Tuesday 5.12.95: A Thai-Karen village in Ukwe district was reportedly robbed of 200,000 Baht.
Thursday 7.12.95: The Thai Army shot one burst of automatic fire into the air in Section 1 at 8 p.m. without warning any camp residents. The rumours were that unknown people were moving in the jungle and once again, the refugees had a sleepless night in fear of an attack.
Tuesday 12.12.95: Two DKBA soldiers in possession of 3 guns and a walkie-talkie were found by Sho Kloh villagers sleeping in the jungle near Section 1. They were handed over to the Thai Army but what the Thai Army did with them is unknown. It is unsure whether there was a third member to account for the third gun.
A person who returned from the DKBA camp opposite Sho Kloh was told by DKBA that any refugees found inside their houses will be treated as enemies. When DKBA come and search for particular people[i.e. camp leaders], they also intrude into or guard the surrounding houses. They guard the refugees in these houses in order to prevent them from alarming the camp security. So more civilians are coming under threat. Many refugees are sleeping in the jungle in fear of being targeted by DKBA and people have hidden much of their clothing and valuable belongings in safer places.
The situation of the refugees is extremely tense as fear of intrusion comes every night. It only takes a dog to bark or any other noise in the evening or the night to make the camp residents anxious and petrified. The psychological pressure on the refugees is enormous but still a large number of them are affirming a strong desire to stay in the camp as opposed to returning to Burma or moving to Beh Klaw[another refugee camp, also under threat]. They consider that these alternatives would be even more dangerous or problematic in other ways.
Tuesday 26.12.95: At 2 a.m., 2 groups of DKBA entered and targeted Section 7 market. One group came through the bushes near the rice store, then down past the SDA church in Section 7. The other group entered Sho Kloh through the bushes at the other side of the river before crossing to Section 7. Seven shops were robbed of goods. It was reported that there were about 20 or 30 DKBA soldiers in total. This includes a few women who were seen with the group acting as porters. A man and his son were shot at although not seriously injured. 6,800 Baht were reported stolen from the mosque, 48,000 Baht in cash from one shop, 9 baht-weight of gold from another valued at 4,800 Baht per weight, jewellery, clothes and food. Looting reportedly continued for 15 minutes after the first gunshots were fired and before DKBA left via a main path leading under the bridge of the Mae Sot-Mae Sariang road towards the Moei river. Despite the noise of the gunfire and voices, neither the Thai Rangers [paramilitary regulars] nor the Thai Regular Army appeared in Section 7 market until daylight the next morning.
Thursday 4.1.96: At about 12:30 a.m., 3 groups of DKBA estimated to number over 40 entered the camp. One group came through Section 5, split over the foot bridge to Section 4, robbed the MSF [Medecins Sans Frontieres] hospital of 3 microscopes, continued to the malaria research unit compound and stole the long range CB radio from Dr. xxxx’s house. At this stage, a grenade exploded in response to the DKBA group coming from Section 6. The contingent robbing the hospital retreated. The grenade was thrown by the Thai Rangers at this group just past Section 5 on the way back to Section 7. But no one is believed to have been injured. A second group entered through Section 6, walked along towards the Sections 3 and 4 market. Near the video house, at the T junction of the market and the main path to Section 6, this group was met by a grenade from the Thai Rangers. Two DKBA were killed and four injured before the DKBA retreated without further incidents. A third group approached the camp through Section 1[which is now abandoned, as it is closest to the border] but retreated before initiating any action when they heard the gunfire and explosions.
Sunday 14.1.96: At 5:30 p.m., a landmine exploded in the forest near the monastery in Section 3 but it is unknown what triggered the blast. At around 7 p.m., there was a short burst of gunfire from camp security on the northern side of Sho Kloh river opposite Section 7, where unidentified people were seen walking through the bushes guided by a covered torch.
Monday 15.1.96: At 8 p.m., two landmines exploded in the same area as the previous night in the bushes behind the monastery in Section 3. Thai Rangers fired into that area on 3 occasions within the next hour but didn’t make any positive identification of anyone.
Thurday 25.1.96: Two DKBA soldiers were arrested by Thai Rangers during the day in the bushes beyond Section 1.
Friday 2.2.96: Notice was given by the Thai Army that all refugees in Sections 1 and 7 needed to move further inside [from the main road] to the other sections from where retreat would be a longer process for DKBA. Everyone must move before 10.2.1996. With improved security, refugees are feeling that it would be more difficult for a large group of DKBA to intrude into Sho Kloh camp. But they are fearing that a small group could get in and burn down the houses during this dry season. [Many refugees had already abandoned Section 1 on their own, as it is at the front of the camp at the main road, the first point of contact for DKBA troops coming directly from the border. This section of the camp now lies abandoned, and it is a 20 minute walk from the main road to the occupied part of the camp. After this period, camp security was improved somewhat and the attacks let up, until 16 June 1996 when the centre of the camp was attacked with mortars fired from the Burma side of the border, killing one woman and injuring a child (see related interviews in this report). As a result of the shelling, Sho Kloh camp residents are again living in fear and the atmosphere in the camp is very tense.]
Some other incidents in camps/villages
The following list gives summaries of a few other attacks not included in the report, mainly against Thai targets. It should be taken in combination with the contents of the 7 May Bangkok Post article affixed to the end of this report, which provides a further list of incidents. Neither of these lists is complete, but should only be seen as a representative sampling.
6.10.95 - Sho Kloh: Section 1 leader of Sho Kloh camp, Saw Ka Ter Per, was killed by DKBA. [He was section leader for 2 years]. DKBA troops came directly to his house at around 10 p.m. and shot him dead. A neighbour, a young man aged 20 [name not obtained], was shot too for being there.
25.12.95 - Thai Karen Village: At least 10 armed DKBA plundered one shop at Wang Ta Khian village in Tambon Tha Sai Luad. The shopkeeper was hit by a bullet in his head and was robbed of his Thai ID card, 700 Baht and 8,000 Kyats in cash, a crate of whisky and 5 chickens.
27.12.95 - Thai Karen Village: At 8.30 p.m., a group of about 30 DKBA plundered Tee Nor Koh village, 95 km. north of Mae Sot on the Mae Sot-Mae Sariang road. An 8-year old girl, Suda Panyasupatho, ran out of her house, was shot in the neck and died. Her father, 53, was shot in the shoulder and her elder brother was held hostage. They took 12 baht-weight of gold and other valuables worth 100,000 Baht from 3 houses.
11.1.96 - Beh Klaw refugee camp: At approximately 1:30 a.m., about 30 DKBA troops entered the area of Beh Klaw refugee camp, went to a house just outside the camp perimeter and murdered a retired KNU general, General Taru, 70 years old. He had a stroke about 7 years ago and was barely able to walk again. The DKBA entered the room in which he was sleeping with his wife, dragged both of them out then shot him in the chest killing him instantly. Others in the house were held at gunpoint but were left unharmed.
Between 20 and 29.1.96 - Kamaw Lay Ko Thai Karen Village: One Karen refugee was arrested by DKBA but was later released.
30.1.96 - Mae U Su Thai Karen Village: 100 DKBA troops attacked the monastery at Mae U Su, killing one monk, one villager and a Thai policeman [see interview in this report].
10.2.96 - Mae Wih Kloh camp: 250 DKBA soldiers along with 150 porters invaded Mae Wih Kloh camp. Four porters who were ordered to clear the way of landmines got wounded stepping on landmines or in the crossfire.
7.4.96 - Mae Sot: A 30-year old Dutch doctor and his spouse working at a medical unit in a Karen refugee camp were having a weekend bicycle ride along the Moei river near the Thai town of Mae Sot. At 11 a.m., on their way back, five men stopped them at a place opposite a SLORC military camp, Yebu, 4 km. north of the Burmese town of Mywaddy and 7 km. west of Mae Sot. They were robbed and the lady doctor was raped by 2 of the men while her husband was held at pistol point. The intruders, thought to be SLORC soldiers from Yebu camp, took with them two mountain bikes, two watches, one pair of earrings and 1,500 Baht robbed from the foreign doctors. They even took their sandals leaving them barefoot.
The victims added: "The language they spoke didn’t sound Thai or Karen to us. Their complexions were dark brown [i.e. more likely Burman than Karen or Thai], and they were wearing normal clothes (no military clothing). The leader of the five carried an alarm pistol. Another one had a green hand grenade with smooth surface [a Chinese grenade] and also a machete". [After the incident the Thai authorities claimed to have raised the issue with the SLORC commander of the area and claimed they had received assurances that the perpetrators were being sought and would be punished. This is extremely unlikely; moreover, it is quite likely that the Thai authorities never even raised the question for fear of angering the Burmese at a time when Thai businessmen in the area are desperate for SLORC to allow the Mae Sot-Myawaddy cross-border "Friendship Bridge" to open. The bridge has been complete for one year, but is still closed and blockaded by SLORC.]
25.4.96 - Thai Karen Village: 15 DKBA with assault rifles and grenades robbed a headman and five villagers of goods worth 40,000 Baht in Tha Song Yang. They forced two villagers to carry some of their loot to the border.
DKBA raided Ban Panorti, Tambon Mae La, at 3 a.m. and took 19,000 baht and valuables worth 23,000 Baht from headman Chaepho Dikarawa, Su Kana, Kham-mai Khamchan and two men identified as Mr Jakhee and Mr Musao. The last two were forced to carry sacks of rice and preserved food for the DKBA troops.
Thai and Thai-Karen villagers in Tha Song Yang have complained that security officials cannot protect them from the renegades. As night falls, children, women and the elderly leave the villages and return in the morning.
[For a further list of cross-border attacks against primarily Thai targets, see the 7 May article from the Bangkok Post affixed to the end of this report.]
[Note: the Bangkok Post article and a map showing attack locations are included with the printed version of this report, but are omitted here. The article quotes Thai Army sources as listing 43 cross-border attacks resulting in 14 deaths over the 6-month period from December 1995 to May 1996. The list ignores most of the attacks against refugees, focussing instead on attacks against Thai citizens.]