CLAMPDOWN IN SOUTHERN DOOPLAYA Forced relocation and abuses in newly SLORC-occupied area

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CLAMPDOWN IN SOUTHERN DOOPLAYA Forced relocation and abuses in newly SLORC-occupied area

Published date:
Thursday, September 18, 1997

The interviews below detail the forced relocation and abuses against villagers in southern Dooplaya District, by SLORC.

Topic summary:

Demands for guns (Interviews #1,3,5-14), detention (#1,3,5,7-11,14), detention in ‘the hole’ (#3,8,10,11,14), beatings/torture (#1,2,3,5-11,13,14), killings (#1,5), rape (#7), looting/demands for money and food (#1,2,5,8,10-14), burning houses (#4), forced relocation (#2,4,6,11,12), movement restrictions (#1), disintegration/destruction of villages (#1-5,9,12-14), DKBA involvement (#3,7).

Forced labour: portering (#1-5,7-14), at Army camps (#1,6,7,10), on roads (#1), guides and sentries (#4,10), cart haulage (#3,10).

 

[Note: Some details have been omitted or replaced by ‘xxxx’ for Internet distribution.]

In February 1997, the State Law & Order Restoration Council (SLORC) military junta ruling Burma mounted a mass military offensive against large areas of Dooplaya District which were strongly or partly controlled by the Karen National Union (KNU). Dooplaya District lies in central Karen State, from Kawkareik and Myawaddy in the north to Three Pagodas Pass in the south. Troops from 6 different Light Infantry Divisions were involved in the offensive, which led to the capture of most KNU-held areas and the flight of over 10,000 civilians to Thailand. Many more were trapped inside their villages and home areas by the rapid advance of the SLORC troops. [For more background on the offensive and the refugees from it, see "Refugees from the SLORC Occupation" (KHRG #97-07, 25/5/97)]

SLORC claimed to have brought "peace" to the area, and the testimonies of refugees who fled in the first few weeks after the occupation indicated that SLORC troops appeared to be minimising their usual human rights abuses in areas directly adjacent to the Thai border, in the hope of drawing the refugees back and also to give the Thai authorities grounds to force them back. However, at the same time SLORC troops in the newly-occupied areas just 10 or more kilometres further inside were already restricting the movements of villagers, forcing them to work on military access roads, and looting villages.

Now that the areas have been occupied for a few months, the general clampdown appears to be widening and worsening. As indicated by the testimonies in this report from villagers who have just fled the southern parts of Dooplaya District, the attack troops from #44 Light Infantry Division who temporarily occupied their villages have now left and been replaced by troops from #22 Light Infantry Division and some other Infantry and Light Infantry Battalions who will probably be there for the longer term. These troops are going repeatedly from village to village, accusing every village of being "Kaw Thoo Lei" or KNU, and demanding that they hand over all of their guns. There are few Karen soldiers in the area and they only occasionally pass through the villages, so the villagers have no guns or knowledge of how to obtain any. As a result, people in every village are being detained, beaten, and tortured while the soldiers demand that they "give the guns". Villagers who have been Karen soldiers in the near or distant past, village headmen, and church leaders are being especially targetted, and at least one village headman (U Kyaw Ta, age almost 50, from Klih Tu village in Ye township) has been beaten to death. Even when they realise the villagers have no guns, the soldiers demand that they obtain some in any way possible. The desperation of the soldiers and their remarks to the villagers indicate that they have probably been given orders to come back with guns or face serious punishment from their officers. Demanding guns from villagers is a standard tactic of SLORC Army officers, who can then submit false reports to their superiors that they have been engaging the enemy without actually taking any risks. The villagers have no guns and no way of obtaining any, so many of them are fleeing into hiding, to other villages or to the Thai border between visits by the troops.

The arrests and torture are augmented by the increasing demands for forced labour building new Army camps and portering supplies and ammunition for the Army, looting of rice, livestock and possessions by the troops, and demands for extortion money in the form of ‘porter fees’.

As part of the clampdown, an increasing number of villages throughout Dooplaya are now being forced to relocate. At first, small villages, particularly if they were in remote areas, and villages from which most of the population had fled were ordered to relocate to larger villages. Since then, people living on the outskirts of many villages have been ordered to move their houses into the centre of their village. Now, since the beginning of rainy season in May/June, SLORC troops in southern Dooplaya have begun entering stable, established villages which are not close to Army camps and ordering them at gunpoint to move to SLORC-controlled locations near Army camps or along main roads. Five of these relocation sites are Ku Du Gweh (a.k.a. Meh Pra), Taung Zone (a.k.a. Lay Noh), and Anand Gwin (a.k.a. Noh Chut Neh), which are along the Thanbyuzayat - Three Pagodas Pass road, and Kaneh Kamaw and Beh Hla Mu (a.k.a. Ker), which are north of Ye near the Ye - Thanbyuzayat road. At least one village has been ordered to move to Three Pagodas Pass village at the Thai border.

The troops generally order the villages at gunpoint to move within 3 to 6 days, and in some cases they then stay in the village to watch the villagers dismantle their houses and ensure that they move to the designated site. Once at the relocation sites, the villagers get no food or help from SLORC, but they still have to give food and money to the troops. They are not allowed to work freely in their fields, generally being allowed only to leave the relocation site in the morning and return by evening, which makes it impossible to get any work done in cases where their fields are any distance away. They are not allowed to sleep at their field huts, and even while working in their fields with valid movement passes some villagers have been arrested and beaten or taken as porters. All of this is happening during rainy season, which is the crucial rice-growing season, and it is preventing most villagers from growing a crop sufficient to feed their families for the next year. Making it even worse, this year the rains have been so heavy that many crops have been damaged or wiped out. As the villagers can expect no support from SLORC, when their rice runs out they will have to starve or flee.

Villagers report that even villages which have not been ordered to move are disintegrating because so many people are fleeing torture and other abuses, particularly the repeated demands for guns and the detention, beatings and torture associated with this. One villager interviewed in this report fled his village after witnessing many of the villagers severely beaten, only to find himself in a village where he was used every day for forced labour building fences around a new Army camp - so he fled back to his home village, where he was then ordered to relocate. He finally decided he had no choice but to flee the area. Many villagers in Dooplaya are facing this situation, yet all of this is happening at a time when Thai authorities are denying asylum to any new refugees and stating that refugees can go back home because "there is no more fighting". However, the stories of the villagers in this report show that there is presently no possibility of refugees returning to Dooplaya District in conditions of safety and dignity, and that current SLORC activities in the region are only likely to lead to continued flows of refugees to Thailand for the foreseeable future.

The villagers interviewed in this report have fled their villages in Kya In township of western Dooplaya, Waw Raw (a.k.a. Win Ye) township of southern Dooplaya, and Ye township in Mon State, just south and west of Waw Raw. All of their names have been changed, and some details have been omitted to protect them. All false names are shown in quotes.


Abbreviations

SLORC = State Law & Order Restoration Council, military junta ruling Burma
KNU = Karen National Union, main Karen opposition group
KNLA = Karen National Liberation Army, army of the KNU
KNDO = Karen National Defence Organisation, militia/police wing of the KNU
DKBA = Democratic Karen Buddhist Army, Karen group allied with SLORC
IB = Infantry Battalion (SLORC), usually about 500 soldiers fighting strength
LIB = Light Infantry Battalion (SLORC), usually about 500 soldiers fighting strength
LID = Light Infantry Division (SLORC); one Division consists of 10 LIB battalions
Kaw Thoo Lei = The Karen homeland, also used to refer in general to KNU/KNLA/KNDO people
Kyat = Burmese currency; US$1=6 Ks at official rate, 250-300 Ks at current market rate
viss = Unit of weight measure; 1 viss = 1.6 kg. / 3.5 lb.

Topic Summary

Demands for guns (Interviews #1,3,5-14), detention (#1,3,5,7-11,14), detention in ‘the hole’ (#3,8,10,11,14), beatings/torture (#1,2,3,5-11,13,14), killings (#1,5), rape (#7), looting/demands for money and food (#1,2,5,8,10-14), burning houses (#4), forced relocation (#2,4,6,11,12), movement restrictions (#1), disintegration/destruction of villages (#1-5,9,12-14), DKBA involvement (#3,7).

Forced labour: portering (#1-5,7-14), at Army camps (#1,6,7,10), on roads (#1), guides and sentries (#4,10), cart haulage (#3,10).

 

Interviews

 

INTERVIEW #1.

NAME: "Saw Htoo Heh"         SEX: M         AGE: 31 Karen Buddhist farmer
FAMILY: Married, 4 children
ADDRESS: xxxx village, Waw Raw township    INTERVIEWED: 8/97

["Saw Htoo Heh" was headman of his village, but fled due to abuses by the occupying SLORC troops.]

Q: Were you the headman?

A: Yes. I am the Karen village headman. There is also a SLORC headman. [One villager acts as liaison with the KNU, while another acts as liaison with SLORC.] I left my village this month on the 5th of the Burmese calendar - maybe the 8th or 9th of August. We were afraid and we could not stay. There are many groups of SLORC. The first group which entered the village was #22 Division. They arrested people and bound their feet and their necks, and tied their hands behind their backs. This group tortured people a lot in our village. They tortured our people and then they left, but even after they were gone our villagers were still suffering from what they did. Now that it has been a while, they are all better.

Another group [of SLORC soldiers] came to the village and told the villagers: "The people who work far away from the village have to go in the morning and come back in the evening." So by the time we arrived at our fields we already needed to come back. Then when the soldiers saw us along the path they made trouble for us even though their officers had given us permission to go. So we stayed in the village and we couldn’t do any work. Since we were afraid and had no chance to do our work, it was better to leave.

Q: Were you tortured?

A: No. They arrested me and I escaped immediately. But many villagers have to suffer that, and they came with me here. Many families already came and I heard more will come. The village has already been destroyed. The houses are still there but no one is staying there anymore. Before, there were over 40 houses. Some people ran to SLORC area. Some families went to other places. They went to nearby villages and they come back sometimes to look after their animals, fields and gardens. When they do SLORC arrests them. The SLORC soldiers sawed the neck of one of my cousins with the sharp edge of a knife until the skin was cut open. Many people were tortured by the SLORC and came with me. They were tortured in their houses.

Some people say that if we stay in Burma we cannot escape from the Burmese. "If the Burmese come, no one should run", say the elders. The elders say: "Stay!" But the Burmese elder [the headman for SLORC] also ran. He was the first one to run. When the Burmese came, they beat him until he could not eat for one day. Around our village area, the Burmese have beaten elders to death. That happened in Klih Tu village. He didn’t die immediately after he was beaten. He treated himself for 7 or 8 days and then died. His name was U Kyaw Ta. He was nearly 50. It happened in the month of T’Gu [in April; see Interview #5 with "Saw Shwe Hla"].

Among the many people who were tortured in our village, some were seriously beaten and some not. They accused us of being a KNU village so they demand guns. They said that the Karen Army are staying in our village and that they keep their rations there. People who cannot speak Burmese properly were not beaten so seriously, but those who can speak Burmese were [probably because this made it possible for the soldiers to interrogate them - this is an exception to the rule, because normally villagers are beaten for NOT being able to speak Burmese]. The Burmese kicked and slapped about 10 people this way. Three or four people were seriously beaten. They were swollen, but not as badly as the Klih Tu headman.

In our village there are no Karen soldiers, only civilians and ex-soldiers. They are beaten because this place is a ‘black area’ [opposition-controlled territory]for the SLORC. The Karen soldiers sometimes crossed and passed through the village, but they didn’t stay. They don’t have their own place. Sometimes they just come and sleep one night and then leave. But the Burmese said: "This village is Kaw Thoo Lei. After you give us their guns, we won’t trouble you and we won’t come again. If you don’t give us the guns and if we go back, we don’t have that option. We have to get guns before we go back." [The soldiers must have been ordered to bring back some guns or face severe punishment.]

Q: Which battalion?

A: #22 [Division]. When I came here there were many soldiers staying around. They were staying in one village for one or two nights and then going to another village for one or two nights. One time when they left our village we secretly escaped and came here. We dare not face them, because when they come back they will demand guns again. Maybe they will tie people up and demand 10 viss of pork, or 50 viss, like that [1 viss = 1.6 kg./3.5 lb.]. So we left the village just before they were to come again. Only a few people stayed behind in the village. All the young people left. We were worried that our village would be destroyed, so we were staying to try to prevent this. But when I escaped, everybody escaped at the same time. Anyone who thought it was better to come here came. Other villagers wanted to go to other places and they went. Everyone went separately. Some people didn’t escape far and went to stay downstream. Not many are in the forest, only those who came back to look after their animals and their fields. Those who had nothing just left. With their entire family, with the children and everyone...

Q: For those who are still there, will they be able to harvest some paddy this year?

A: I cannot say about this. If the situation is good they will harvest. If not, they won’t. The latest group which came to our village is #355 [Battalion]. Then they left. So there was a little time there, and at that time the villagers who had run not too far away came back to the village, but only the older people, not the younger. They didn’t bring the children along and they left again on the same day. They came back just to look at the situation and at their houses.

Q: Did the SLORC order villages from your area to move?

A: They didn’t, but they are torturing people in villages which are small and distant from them. In the villages close to the car road they usually don’t torture the people. Our village is away from the car road and away from them, so they tortured us a lot and they considered it as a ‘black area’. When they called for loh ah pay [forced labour] we had to go to cut and clear [the scrub along roadsides and around Army camps]. We have to work for them. The loh ah pay was the same for all the villages which are staying close to them. The car road [from Thanbyuzayat to Three Pagodas Pass] is 5 klih [armspans] wide. They clear both sides of the car road, not because they are afraid of mines, but so that when their trucks go along the road no Karen soldiers can hide beside the road to attack them.

Q: Did they demand porters or labour in your village?

A: They asked for porters but we gave them money instead. Like this. In the area, there are two different groups of troops and people have to go and work for both of them. The troops which are staying nearby accept money, but the other group who stay further upstream need porters. Before we came here, they ordered 3 porters every day by turns. The nearest group is #106 [Infantry Battalion] and the group further away is #545 [Light Infantry Battalion], #22 [Division], and #355 [Light Infantry Battalion]. The nearest group ordered us to clear the car road and cut and clear a place to plant vegetables. That is the loh ah pay, but for the porters we can give money. When they plan to go to Tavoy area [this can mean Tavoy itself, or the Karen expression "going to Tavoy", which just means anywhere very far away], we dare not go and we give the money.

Q: Why did you come to this place?

A: Even though my heart is not cool here [Karen expression meaning that he is worried and afraid], it is better than there, because if we stay in our village we dare not do our work so we have no work to do. We stay in our houses and we dare not go out. Just like this... We came with our children, so we had to walk for 9 days. Without children, it would take only 4 days.

 

INTERVIEW #2.

NAME: "Saw G’Lu Taw"         SEX: M         AGE: 50 Karen Christian farmer
FAMILY: Married with children
ADDRESS: xxxx village, Waw Raw township    INTERVIEWED: 8/97

["Saw G’Lu Taw"’s village northeast of Ye was ordered to move. Adding to his comments in this interview were an elderly woman who is a relative of his (noted as‘Old woman’) and a church elder from their village (noted as ‘Church elder’).]

"Saw G’Lu Taw": We just arrived today. Just now! Because we are afraid of the Burmese.

Old Woman: We were afraid of the Burmese. We dared not stay because they beat us, hit us.

Q: What did they do to you?

"Saw G’Lu Taw": They didn’t beat me but...

Old Woman: But they beat some people. And hit them...

"Saw G’Lu Taw": The Burmese will come, so the headman asked us to leave the village. Around our village, they tortured so many people. They make the people like their slaves. When they arrested porters, they never released them.

Q: When were you a porter?

"Saw G’Lu Taw": Just now! That’s why I escaped and came here.

Old Woman: We had to come because the Burmese are getting worse and worse. If we stay there, we have no more strength left to face all the problems. If we go back to our village, they will force us to move to the car road.

Q: Did your village receive an order to move?

Old Woman: Yes. We had to move to Ker.

"Saw G’Lu Taw": It is over 2 miles away from our village. It is a little bit away from the car road. We had to move at the beginning of the rainy season. When it was already raining heavily. We didn’t know why, they just ordered us to move. In May, the soldiers came to the village by themselves and waited there with their guns watching while the villagers had to dismantle their houses. The big houses are built of wood and we stripped the wooden planks off of them. All the houses had to be destroyed within 6 days. The bullock carts had to carry our things to Ker and we didn’t have any time to work any more.

I know of 5 villages which were ordered to move: Htee Ter, Wah Ka Ter, Wah Pa Theh, Kru Maw Hta, and Tar Ba Taw villages, but there are many others. The other villages had to move to Kaneh Kamaw. They were given the order during the same month but not on exactly the same day.

Q: Did the SLORC prepare a special place for you to stay at Ker?

"Saw G’Lu Taw": It is only a temporary place. People just build like they do here [small bamboo shelters].

Church Elder: They divided the plots separately, group by group. There was no fence.

Q: Did you get any rice or support from the SLORC?

"Saw G’Lu Taw": No, they don’t give us anything. Moreover, they are asking things from us. Our chickens, our rice.

Q: Can you still go to work on your fields?

"Saw G’Lu Taw": Some people work half their field and can work only for a short time. They cannot complete their work. They don’t allow us to stay at our farm huts. We cannot work anymore. Even if they see us in the fields, they will beat, hit and kill us.

Q: Now, where are your villagers?

"Saw G’Lu Taw": They all moved to Ker. We destroyed our houses and moved at the same time. The Burmese didn’t allow them to stay in the village. Now I am arriving from Ker.

Church Elder: All moved to Ker. No one is hiding in the forest.

"Saw G’Lu Taw": Most of them moved to Ker and some came here. Many more want to come but it is difficult because of the heavy rains. Their children are very small so they couldn’t come now. They are waiting until the rainy season is over.

Old Woman: We are not the first group. They started coming two months ago. As soon as they moved to Ker they saw that they couldn’t stay there, so they decided to come here immediately. They have already arrived.

Q: How many houses were there in your village?

"Saw G’Lu Taw": About 40. At Ker there are over 100 houses.

Old Woman: No Burmese [troops] stay in Ker yet, but they come sometimes.

"Saw G’Lu Taw": They come from #343 Battalion... No, it is #31 battalion. [SLORC constantly rotates its Battalions, so villagers often cannot keep track of which is which.]

Q: In Ker, did the soldiers ask for porters?

"Saw G’Lu Taw": They asked for money for porter fees, and we had to give it every time. One house, 150 Kyats, every month regularly. If you give them money, no need to go. But then another group of Burmese orders us to go as porters and we have to go. That’s why we don’t want to face that problem. If people don’t go [as porters], they arrest them.

Q: Why did you choose to come here?

"Saw G’Lu Taw": If we run, we meet the Burmese everywhere. We run this way, we meet the Burmese, we run that way, we also meet the Burmese. We don’t want to be there. So we came here. It took 6 days to come here [he showed the blisters and calluses on his feet from walking].

Old Woman: When we ran, we had nothing to eat.

Q: Are there many people who want to leave Ker?

Church Elder: The Ker villagers didn’t come but the villagers who were forced to move there want to come here. Some will come and some will stay there. Our church congregation members are all going to come here. The other villages also want to come but it is raining now. In our village, we have about 30 families who are church members. And all the church members from xxxx will also come. Their church has more than 45 families.

"Saw G’Lu Taw": Even the Pastor will come too. We came here because we were worried that the Burmese will come [to Ker] and do more terrible things to us than before. The SLORC don’t give trouble to the [Karen] soldiers, they just give trouble to the civilians. When the Burmese shoot, it is the villagers who have to suffer. We don’t know exactly why they do this. The head of our village has to go to see the Burmese every day, and he told us the Burmese said to him: "The Karen are like a tree. If you cut the trunk, branches will come up again, so you have to dig out the roots so it will never grow again." The Burmese from #106 [Infantry Battalion] told him that during a meeting at Maw Kaneh about one month ago.

 

INTERVIEW #3.

NAME: "Saw Tee Wah"         SEX: M         AGE: 35 Karen Christian farmer
FAMILY: Married, 4 children
ADDRESS: xxxx village, Kya In township    INTERVIEWED: 8/97

["Saw Tee Wah" is the son of "Saw Nee Th’Blay" (see interview #14 in this report). He fled after being forced to carry Army rations on his bullock cart, being beaten and being taken as a porter.]

Q: What did the SLORC do to you?

A: The Burmese ordered us to go and bring their rations with our bullock carts. On the way back, when we arrived at Kru M’Tee, they tied us, interrogated us and tortured us. They were demanding guns. They didn’t get any guns, so they tortured us. We are only villagers. How can we have guns? But they ordered to find some and give them. How can we find guns and give them? We don’t have any.

Q: How were you arrested?

A: When they first came to our village the men ran into hiding [when they first occupied the village during the offensive]. Then the Burmese made trouble for the women, so we came back into the village. They welcomed us and they registered the number of houses and people. At first they didn’t disturb us too much. They only imposed stricter rules. Then later on, bit by bit, they started capturing us.

It was in April. I arrived at Kru M’Tee in the evening, on the return trip. I had just gone to Seik Gyi to get their rations with my bullock cart and carried them back to Kru M’Tee [where there is a SLORC Army camp]. Altogether we were 30 people with our bullock carts. They caught and tortured 15 of us. They never tortured us at our own village because they were worried that our wives would see it. The Burmese use their brains. If they tortured us in our village it wouldn’t look good for them.

They didn’t ask anything. They just started calling names from their list. I don’t know how they knew my name, but one person [a Karen soldier] had surrendered to the Burmese and he knew me. The soldiers called our names and demanded guns, tied us up and tortured us, all at the same time. They were asking for guns and beating us. You couldn’t even talk. It was night time, and many soldiers were torturing us. I couldn’t see them. Two of them punched and kicked me while they asked for guns. They punched my chest 5 times and slapped my face 5 times. They also burnt my beard. Other soldiers, I don’t know how many of them, came and touched us with their guns. They beat me for 10 minutes. Other villagers were tortured for 15 or 20 minutes. They were all young and their foreheads were bleeding. My face was also bleeding. They took everything that belongs to me, like my knife and my watch. Afterwards, we had to carry their rations as far as their camp. Some had to go to Paw Ner Mu and Ya Kra to carry rations for the soldiers who were staying temporarily in the villages.

The soldiers came from Seik Gyi [Kya In Seik Gyi, 3 days’ walk away]. When they arrived at our village they didn’t build a camp, they just stayed temporarily. They went patrolling to the other villages. After #44 [Division] left, they [other groups] came for three or four days at a time. They went by sections, 100 soldiers covering 7 villages. The Burmese stayed very close to me, two houses away from my house. I couldn’t tell whether there were DKBA together with the SLORC or not, but a lot of them were speaking Karen language. They all had the same [SLORC] uniform. I knew some of them but I don’t know their names. I don’t know where they came from. Before I saw them walking along the road, following the Burmese. [These may be SLORC soldiers who are Karen, DKBA soldiers attached to SLORC units, or soldiers from KNLA Battalion #16, whose commander surrendered to SLORC in February; some Battalion #16 soldiers have reportedly joined SLORC, while the commander has set up a SLORC-run militia in Dooplaya District.]

Q: When were you a porter?

A: I was a porter once and then I escaped because I couldn’t bear it. The first time, in April, I was ordered to take their rations with my bullock cart, but the second time I had to carry things on my back. I had to carry gun barrels and one bag - I don’t know what was inside. I carried for 4 days. Our loads were over 30 viss [48 kg./105 lb.]. We could barely even move, it was too heavy. So I escaped and went back home. They didn’t beat the porters, but after 4 days carrying like this you couldn’t even lie down on your back. I had to carry for a distance of 3 miles, going and coming back, again and again. We had to go by turns, one man for two or three days. In xxxx [his village] they demanded 7 villagers every day. If the headman didn’t collect people to send replacements, they would never release the porters. We had to carry rice and ammunition, ducks and chickens, everything... They put everything that they took by force from the villagers into baskets and ordered the porters to carry them. They started in Paw Ner Mu, to Ywathit, Ywa Haw and then back to Meh Ta Kreh, Kru Kyi and K’Kyar and then to M’Ya Done. Just around the whole area.

Q: How did they order you to do that?

A: They told the headman to call the people. If it was not for the headman calling us, the Burmese would never find us. Our headman was afraid that the Burmese would burn down the village so he tried to control the villagers. We listened to our headman until we couldn’t carry anymore. After that, he couldn’t do anything [to stop them from fleeing].

I cannot explain how much they torture the people. Some of our villagers were beaten until they were bleeding. Many of those who were tortured by the SLORC went to stay at xxxx. Some other villagers in our village were put in the hole, but not me. They didn’t allow us to see it and we couldn’t go near. We could listen from far away. My uncle had to suffer more than me. He was put in the hole. When they put people in the hole, we were not even allowed to go and give them some food.

Many people didn’t dare face that any longer and ran away from the village. The villagers don’t even care about their property anymore, they would rather flee. I came here without my wife even knowing. I dare not suffer all that. My family still stays in xxxx. I don’t know what to do. I came here just a few days ago and now I’ve decided to go back to xxxx and stay with my wife. My family should move away from the Burmese. If it is possible, I would like to go with them and stay in a refugee camp. If not, we will stay there hiding. We could go and stay in the forest if there are not too many of us. We are Karen people, we would like to stay there because it is our land and our country. My farm is in the village, but we dare not work on our farm and we have to leave the land. We are not free. Sometimes we have to get passes, sometimes not. They treat us like children. People don’t want to work anymore and try to find a way to escape. Thinking about it, it is better to stay in a refugee camp or somewhere else. If we escape, we want to be safe.

 

INTERVIEW #4.

NAME: "Saw Lay Htoo"         SEX: M         AGE: 56 Karen Christian farmer
FAMILY: Widower, 5 children (3 daughters and 2 sons)
ADDRESS: xxxx village, Waw Raw township INTERVIEWED: 8/97

["Saw Lay Htoo" lived in a Karen village along the Thanbyuzayat - Three Pagodas Pass road, but had to flee after his village was ordered to relocate and his house was burnt down.]

Originally I am from Doe Way Paw village, about 2 days walk from here in Kya In township. I left my village 10 years ago because the Burmese were doing operations in the area and they forced the villagers to work, so we dared not stay. We went to live in xxxx village.

I arrived here one week ago because the Burmese burnt down our house in xxxx, so we had to leave and we came to stay here. The Burmese forced us to move to the village [to Three Pagodas Pass village], we didn’t go and then they came to burn down the houses.

Q: How did they order you to move?

A: They first came and told the villagers to move. I don’t know which Battalion, but I saw "62" on their uniform [this is #62 Infantry Battalion, notorious in the region for destroying villages; it was this Battalion which attacked Halockhani refugee camp in 1994]. We didn’t move and after 4 days they came back and said to the villagers: "Don’t stay here. Go and stay at Three Pagodas Pass." I told him: "Yes, we can go and stay there but we cannot bring our belongings with us." The villagers didn’t go and the same day they burnt our house down. xxxx. They burnt my house while I was hunting in the forest but my family saw it. We lost everything which was in the house, like clothes, pots, plates, ... everything! I felt very angry.

The villagers couldn’t stay anymore, so all the households moved to the Burmese place [to Three Pagodas Pass as ordered by the SLORC]. We stayed there for a short time and they asked us to do this and that. They ordered us to carry their things but I am old and I cannot carry anything, so I asked the children to go. If any troops came, we had to go as their guides. So altogether 6 members of my family came here: one daughter, one son, the other daughter with her husband, one grandchild and myself.

Q: You were a farmer. Did you have to give paddy to the SLORC in Three Pagodas Pass?

A: We haven’t had to give any yet because we haven’t stayed there very long. If we had stayed there, we would have to.

Q: Before they burnt your house, did they take porters or ask for labour?

A: They demanded porters but the villagers had not gone yet. I haven’t been a porter but my children sometimes had to carry their things. Before they burnt my house, we could stay there.

Q: What are your plans for the future?

A: I cannot do anything here so I am trying to work collecting bamboo shoots.

 

INTERVIEW #5.

NAME: "Saw Shwe Hla"         SEX: M         AGE: 21 Karen Buddhist farmer
FAMILY: Married, 2 children
ADDRESS: Klih Tu village, Ye township    INTERVIEWED: 8/97

["Saw Shwe Hla" witnessed the beating by SLORC troops and subsequent death of his village headman. He was interviewed just a few days after fleeing the area.]

I ran from the Burmese because I do not dare stay. When the Burmese came, they called us and we had no more time to work. They came and ate our rice that we had prepared to store for our food, and they ate the fowl that we reared. When they order us to work for them, they do not feed us and we have to take our own rice with us. If they ask for porters and they don’t get them, they torture the village headman.

Q: Were you beaten?

A: Most people were but I escaped. The whole village was beaten and the village head as well. It was at the beginning of this rainy season. They were asking for guns. When the people said we didn’t have guns, they started beating people. They tortured our village leader and now he has already died. They beat him with a stick, they hit him with a gun butt and they shot him with a slingshot. They burnt him with a fire, they beat him with a rock and they cut through his skin with a knife. I saw him. He was a tall man. He was completely bruised and black. After the Burmese tortured him, he went to the hospital in the morning, but the hospital wouldn’t accept him [for victims of shootings or beatings, written passes from SLORC officers are required for admission to hospital; any doctor or nurse who treats such a person without Army permission risks arrest or the loss of their licence to practice]. So he came back to the village and died in our village. He was the secretary of the village. His name was Kyaw Ta.

Q: Did your village receive an order to move?

A: No. There were 100 houses in our village and about 80 or 90 are still left. Some people went to the towns, like Ler Moe Mor and Lai Sa Bya [these are big Mon villages]. Some families came here. Some from Wah Pyi came here too, after the Burmese came to their village.

Now the Burmese have left our village, but people are saying that they will come again. I left my village about one month ago and went to stay outside the village, inxxxx village. It is not near here. I stayed there because the heavy rains stopped me from going further. There was no problem in xxxx, because the Burmese never arrived there yet. But we heard that they will come there too. So we came here. We slept two nights on the way. We couldn’t carry anything. We came with the children and it was raining too. I came only with my own family. If we go to any other place we will be among the Burmese again, so I don’t want to go.

 

INTERVIEW #6.

NAME: "Pa Ngeh"         SEX: M         AGE: 36 Karen Buddhist farmer
FAMILY: Married, 2 children
ADDRESS: xxxx village, Waw Raw township    INTERVIEWED: 8/97

["Pa Ngeh" saw a woman and the headman tortured in his village so he fled to Kyun Chaung, where he had to do forced labour for SLORC. Then he fled back to his village, only to be ordered to move, so he finally fled the area.]

I arrived last week, just over 10 days ago. We had to face so many problems. They tortured people a lot. One or two people. The soldiers tortured one of the women very seriously. There was a woman buying something at the shop and they came close to her. She was afraid and ran. Then the soldiers grabbed the woman shopkeeper and asked: "Who is that woman?" She answered: "She is a good person." Then they said, "She is not good. If she is good, she wouldn’t have run!" And they started beating the woman shopkeeper until she passed stools in her sarong. She had to suffer instead of the woman who ran away. They wanted to beat the other woman but couldn’t run after her, so they accused the shopkeeper of being a "Kaw Thoo Lei trader". They beat her I don’t know how many times. They hit her with a bamboo as big as this. I dared not look at it.

Many people were tortured in xxxx [his village], even the village head. I saw the Burmese burn him with their cheroots and demand guns from him. Now he has fled and is hiding in that area. I was not beaten, but I didn’t want to stay in xxxx anymore. That’s why I went to stay in Kyun Chaung. In Kyun Chaung I had to suffer too. I had to work for them weaving bamboo every day. We had no time to work for ourselves. We had to go and stay with them. I was there for two months and we had to cut the bamboo, weave it and build a fence [part of the 7 layers of fencing SLORC has placed around their new Army camp in Kyun Chaung]. So I went back to xxxx [his home village], but I saw them there too. We had to move. I was living in the outskirts of the village and they forced the villagers who were living in the outskirts to move to the centre of the village. So I fled. I came here because I had to move.

Q: Do you feel safe here?

A: I don’t know but I will stay until other people move. Then I will move with them. I won’t go back.

 

INTERVIEW #7.

NAME: "Saw Tamla Wah"         SEX: M         AGE: 41 Karen Christian pastor
FAMILY: Married, 3 children
ADDRESS: xxxx village, Kya In township    INTERVIEWED: 8/97

["Saw Tamla Wah" is the Baptist pastor of his village. He fled 3 months ago after being arrested and tied to a tree for 2 days by SLORC troops.]

Q: Why did you leave the village?

A: When #44 [Division] entered the area, the villagers heard that they were torturing people a lot so they all ran here and there. I told them not to run. I said if the Burmese make trouble for the villagers, I will face it. We don’t want our church and our congregation destroyed, our congregation scattered, and we don’t want our village and our families destroyed either. So when #44 Division entered, I faced them in the village. I had to solve their problems for them, so I became a leader among the villagers. The Burmese started registering the names of all the villagers, and they often called me for any number of reasons. And later on, #44 left.

Then #22 Division came into the village and they ordered me to go and see them. I thought that I had done nothing wrong so I went. When I met their group, they asked me to sit down beside the Captain and he told me, "Don’t tell me anything. Only when I ask you questions, then you must answer me. Otherwise you mustn’t question me or say anything." Then he told me many things, and he accused me of having two guns and one walkie-talkie and ordered me to bring them to him. Later on, he interrogated me three more times. He sent the soldiers to call me to see him. I went three times like that. After that, he said to me: "You are choosing the way to death!" I had to go and bring these things [guns and a walkie-talkie] to him but I had nothing, so I couldn’t. Then he ordered me to get them from anywhere I could and bring them back to him. I couldn’t do that either.

So the Captain, I don’t remember his name, tied my hands behind my back. They tied up many people. They tied people up in the garden under the trees. First they tied people with a rope, then they tied the rope to a tree, and they had 3 sentries to guard each group. I was tied up to a friend of mine. I didn’t see the others because we were kept separately. I can’t say exactly how many were beaten, but I know more than 10. Their wives told me about it later. They kept me like this for two days and one night. We couldn’t sleep because we were very anxious and we just had to sit there like that. They gave food to us, the same food they ate. They didn’t beat me but they beat the others and dunked their heads in the Tha May river. Some were beaten and kicked until they were bleeding. Some escaped but they still haven’t returned home yet. The man tied to me was not beaten, but later on they ordered him to be a porter and sent him to another place, about 5 or 6 miles away. I wasn’t beaten, just kept like this for 2 days and one night until the Battalion Commander arrived. He ordered the soldiers to untie all the people that they had tied up. Then one by one, he interrogated us.

I escaped when the Major ordered me to go and talk to the villagers. He said: "If they have any gun that is hidden or buried, they must show it and give it to me. You are the pastor and most of the KNU leaders are Christians, so if you speak to them they will listen to you. Tell them that their fighting is now over, they must join us and work together with us." That is why they let me go to the village. He let me go at 6 p.m. in the evening and told me: "This same night you have to report to us!" and I said to him: "Tonight I cannot arrive there." So he told me then: "Tomorrow at 6 a.m., you have to be back." I promised that I would be back at 6 a.m. But I left with my family and didn’t go back.

Q: What other things did the soldiers do in your village?

A: Three people have to go at all times and work for them. If they’re staying in their camp then the villagers have to work in their camp. They also order the villagers to carry things to the frontline. The soldiers walk in front and keep the porters in the middle of their group [so they can’t escape]. They know that the Karen Army hasn’t put mines around there so that is why they don’t send the porters in front of them.

The situation for the villagers is very difficult, because if the Karen soldiers make any action close to the village, the blame is put on the villagers. For example, if any mine explodes near the village, the village will be destroyed by SLORC and the villagers have to move to another place.

In other villages too, some people were tortured badly but I didn’t see that. Pastors like me were tortured until the skin broke on their heads and their jaws became swollen. I saw one that had to suffer that, but I heard that many others suffered it too. His name was Thra E--- from H--- village, not very far from us. We are friends and we work together. The Burmese hit his head with their gun butts, kicked him and punched him, and his whole body got swollen. He was beaten because one of his church congregation members, Padoh T---, is a KNU leader. The SLORC told him, "He is your church member. You must know everything about him and his movements." That is why they beat him!

I didn’t see it but I heard they raped 3 women from xxxx and yyyy villages in Waw Raw area. When they entered the village the men were afraid, ran to the forest and slept there. Then the Burmese went and raped the women. This happened not so long ago, shortly before I came here. After I left my village I also heard that one woman was raped by the soldiers in xxxx village, a nearby village. That information I know is true. That happened last month in July, when her husband went to sleep in the forest and the women stayed alone in the village. She was 32 years old and she has 3 children. She is the mother of G---. She is still staying there in the village.

Q: Is your village all Christian or mixed?

A: Our village has 20 households. Some are Buddhists, not all are Christians. The SLORC don’t care which you are. They also arrested some Buddhist people but most of them were Christians. I didn’t see any sign of DKBA. When they arrested me, the soldier who was guarding me was a Burmese guy from Rangoon. He talked about many things to me and he said, "Among our #22 Division, some are DKBA. DKBA only combined with us because they couldn’t join the other Divisions." I knew that some DKBA were with them so I was afraid. [Because DKBA members often identify anyone they don’t like, particularly Christians, as ‘KNU’ so that SLORC will execute them.]

 

INTERVIEW #8.

NAME: "Pa Noh"         SEX: M         AGE: 45 Pwo Karen Christian farmer
FAMILY: Married, 6 children
ADDRESS: xxxx village, Kya In township    INTERVIEWED: 8/97

["Pa Noh" fled his village after being arrested and badly beaten by SLORC troops.]

One month ago I arrived at the Thai border. I left because the Burmese came to my village and arrested people. They called us and interrogated us about guns. We don’t have guns but they said we have. They beat us often. I was detained for 4 [sic: 3] months, from the time when they arrived in Saw Kee and Saw Hta [a.k.a. Azin]until #44 [Division] left our village.

Q: Were you a porter?

A: No, I wasn’t. They arrested me and interrogated me about the guns and tortured me. They punched me, beat me and hit me with a gun butt. They tortured me up to the point that four times I became unconscious. They accused me of having contact with Kaw Thoo Lei. They told me: "If you stay in this area, then Kaw Thoo Lei is here too."

Q: Are you the headman?

A: No, I am not, they have a Burmese headman.

Q: When did they arrest you?

A: During the month of the Water Festival [in April], I was in Plaw Toh Kee and Tee Klee Thu area. They captured me at Plaw Toh Kee. They have established a new strategic camp there. They beat me, they stomped on my chest with their boots and hit me with a gun barrel. They accused me of having a gun, but I’ve never had any gun. Then they said that I was a traitor and that everything that goes wrong in the country is my fault. They said I was the one who wouldn’t allow the civilians to come back [from hiding and from the refugee camps, to live under SLORC]. The Burmese ordered me to go around with them. They ordered me to follow them and tied my hands. Just me alone. They kept me for more than one month. They didn’t torture me every day, just once a week or so, but then they did it so badly that I became unconscious. They slapped and beat me many times, four [sic: 5] times they beat me unconscious. The first time I went unconscious was in Khaw Gheh when I was walking along with them. At Meh Ker Kee once, Plaw Toh Kee once, Ivo once, and Paw Ner Mu once. The first time they tortured me, they hit me with a gun barrel and they kicked me with their boots and they hit my head. They punched me on my ear and it was broken. For 3 days when I was passing urine it was only blood, and when I passed stools it was also blood. I thought I would die. I will show you the scars. This one is from punching. On my head there are many scars. They also rolled a bamboo pole over my shins. They ordered me to stretch out my legs, they put the bamboo over my shins and two soldiers on each side of me rolled it very heavily.

They didn’t keep me at any one place, they ordered me to follow them. When they arrived in a village they stayed there for 2 or 3 days and they tied me up. Sometimes in 3 days they only gave me one meal.

They dug a hole in the ground 4 plah x 5 plah, like a bunker [1 plah (elbow to fingertip) is about 1½ feet]. They have only one hole to put people in. They wanted to dig a hole of around 8 plah depth but they met with rocks at the bottom, so they couldn’t get deeper than 5 plah. Then they put the excavated ground around the top and made it 6 plah deep. They put logs on the top of the hole and left only one gap to get in. I had to grab the soldier’s hand [to climb down inside]. I couldn’t stand up inside [he was forbidden]. They put me in there and then covered the opening with a plastic sheet so I couldn’t breathe inside. They put me in that hole once, for the whole day. After that, I couldn’t see properly. When the opening was covered, it was hard for me to breathe. I could sit and lie down but I had to stay inside breathing little by little, slowly.

I know the name of those who tortured me: xxxx and yyyy from #44 Division. The Battalion Commander above them is named xxxx and he is Arakanese. They finally released me when #44 left the area. Then I dared not stay in my village because they had said: "We won’t release you! We interrogated you and we got nothing out of you. So I will hand you over to the other army troops." Then 2 new Battalions came and they surrounded my house to arrest me. So I dared not stay. And a third group arrived around my house too.

Q: Did they torture anyone else in your village?

A: K--- was also tortured. He is 30 years old. They tied K---’s wrists behind his back and put a bamboo pole through under his two arms like this, and they hung him on a tree like that. Then they kicked him and one of his arms went loose [they disjointed his shoulder]. It happened in the cattle corral. He was tortured for one day and then they released him. He couldn’t hold anything in his hands anymore. Now he still stays at xxxx but not in the village, in the forest.

Q: Did the soldiers kill anyone? What else did they do?

A: They didn’t kill anyone but they tortured many people like this. Moreover, the villagers have to go and carry things for them. Our xxxx village has 80 houses. Eight persons each day have to work for the Burmese as porters. One person has to carry three big tins of rice [50 kg./110 lb.] and we have to take our own rice to eat. On top of that, they also take machetes and other things like coconuts from us. They eat them or destroy them. They arrive in the village and they eat whatever they want, like our rice. They didn’t take all of our rice but they took some for themselves to eat.

I came here with all of my family. If I left them there the Burmese would come and arrest them. They are staying here now. I will stay and see the situation.

 

INTERVIEW #9.

NAME: "Saw Lah Po"         SEX: M         AGE: 19 Karen Christian farmer
FAMILY: Married, no children
ADDRESS: xxxx village, Kya In township         INTERVIEWED: 8/97

[When interviewed, "Saw Lah Po" had scars from torture, as did his brother and his uncle.]

I arrived here one month ago. I dared not stay because they said, "If I see you again, I will not allow you to say one word and I will torture you again."

Q: What did the SLORC do to you?

A: We ran away from them and we thought that they would not come again. But then in April I met them beside my house in xxxx. They didn’t ask any questions, they just started at once to tie our hands. They took me to Kru M’Tee monastery. They have a camp in Kru M’Tee. They pushed me with their gun barrels and hit my back with gun butts. They beat me on my neck. They stomped on my back with their boots once, here and here. They punched me here and on my stomach many times. They ordered me to carry things and demanded guns. I left the Karen Army two years ago. I told them, "I don’t have any!" and they said, "Yes, you have!" They tied me up and stomped on me. They handcuffed my hands behind my back and attached the handcuffs to the post of the monastery. They ordered me to stretch my legs and keep them straight and together. Then they stepped on my shins with their boots. They made me stay under the hot sun for four days at Kru M’Tee monastery. I felt burning inside. They didn’t allow me to drink any water. They only gave me one cup of rice and salt, and they gave this only in the afternoon. Early the next morning they gave me another cup of rice. In the night they didn’t untie me and I had to stay sitting up.

After 4 days, they gave me a pass [allowing him to stay]. They said, "If you lose this pass, you don’t need to say one word" [i.e. don’t even bother trying to explain]. When they gave me the pass the commander told the soldiers, "If you see that pass, don’t bother him and don’t arrest him". After they released me, they called me back many times and I had to carry things for them. Then when the other SLORC troops [a new group] saw my pass, they tore it up. After my pass was torn, the first group of soldiers tried to arrest me again. I had to go and stay in the forest. Then I went to stay in xxxx [in Thailand]. I am still there doing day labour. My wife and her mother are staying there. Her mother and her older brother cannot see very well. She has "tha mu paw" [a disease which causes blindness]. I arrived after my wife. She came first.

Q: Were you the only one tortured in the village?

A: No, my elder brother and my uncle too. They arrested my brother and I on the same day but they kept us separately in Kru M’Tee. They kept my elder brother by the road and I was detained at the monastery. My elder brother was also an ex-soldier. One of his friends surrendered to the SLORC and came back with them. The Burmese arrested my brother and also demanded guns from him. They thought that he was a Captain, so they beat him and stomped on him. They tied him up and tortured him a lot too. They made a fire and forced him to hold his face close to the fire. His face was burnt and became covered with blisters. His mouth was also burnt and he couldn’t eat anymore. After the first beatings he could still eat but not after the burns. He was tortured so badly for two days that he was passing blood in his stools. My elder brother also received a pass, but he lost his too [it also was torn up by the new troops].

Only my brother had joined the army [KNLA] in the past, not my uncle. But the Burmese also accused my uncle of having a gun. They pushed my uncle’s head into the water. He is 40 years old. They bobbed his head up and down in the river. They made a fire under him and he was forced to lay above the fire. They smoked cheroots and pressed the burning cheroots on him. They handcuffed his hands behind his back. They beat him 3 different times and one time he went unconscious. When he fell unconscious the soldiers hit him with their gun butt. There were many wounds on his body, and many scars all over from the cheroot burns. Blood still comes out of his mouth because of the stomping he got.

Q: Did they ask for porters in your village?

A: 5 people every day. They have to carry 3 tins [50 kg./110 lb.] of rice to Seik Gyi and then they have to come back in the middle of the night. If the porters get too tired to go on, they catch new ones. It is a long way from Seik Gyi to our village, 4 days’ walk. So altogether their duty is for 5 days [4 days carrying the rice, then a fast non-stop walk home].

Before there were 20 households in xxxx, but now only 12 or 13 households remain in the village. The men have gone to stay outside the village and the women remain in the village. Many people stay outside the village, some have gone to other villages and some have gone to stay at xxxx. My elder brother is now at xxxx. I have 4 brothers and 2 sisters. I am the youngest. My father died already when I was young. My mother stays in Burma and I came alone to stay here with my parents-in-law. I would like to go and see my mother but I dare not go back. If the Burmese meet me there will be problems for me.

 

INTERVIEW #10.

NAME: "Saw Po Ther"         SEX: M         AGE: 18 Karen Christian farmer
FAMILY: Married, no children
ADDRESS: xxxx village, Waw Raw township    INTERVIEWED: 8/97

["Saw Po Ther" had to flee his village after being tortured by SLORC.]

I arrived here with my wife on July 6th. I left my village because the Burmese tortured us and accused us of having guns. We don’t have guns. They arrested us on April 16th and asked us to give them guns. We had a television and they took it. Before they arrested me, they took everything - sleeping mat, watch, goat, chickens, pigs, plates, pots, ... They took everything from me. They accused people of contacting the rebels. They arrested me at my house, took me to the church and beat me there. I told them that I don’t have any gun but they said I have. The first night they tied me to a tree and didn’t beat me. In the morning, they tortured me for 3 hours, stopped for a while and then beat me again for one hour. Then they arrested me again on April 28th. They kept me in the church for 12 hours, the whole night, and the next day at noon they moved me to another place along the Tha May river and they tortured me again. They rolled a piece of wood on my shins. They tied my feet in the air, my hands behind my back and hung me up [hanging upside down]. They hit me so many times that I couldn’t count it, and I was bleeding here and there and here... My whole body was swollen. They beat me with a piece of wood, on my head, my body, my feet. They hoofed me, kicked me with their boots and beat me until I was broken. You wouldn’t have recognised me if you saw me then. They tortured me until I was unconscious. I didn’t vomit because I swallowed it. I didn’t want to show them that I was really hurt.

Then after beating me up, at 7 o’clock in the evening they put me in the water for 15 or 20 minutes and let me breathe only sometimes. They tied me up that night. I had to stay there on April 30th. Then they moved me to Ywathit and they tied me up there for 3 days, and then they sent me to Ya Kra and I was kept there for 3 days. In the mornings the Burmese ate fried rice and drank tea, but they didn’t give anything to us. Only sometimes in the afternoon they gave us one piece of chicken with stale rice. Once in the evening they gave us one meal. Then they untied one of my hands, and one night later they released me.

I didn’t go to hospital because it is far away from my house. I stayed in my house for one month in May to recover. #44 Division had already left and I thought I could stay in our village. But then on July 1st I heard that #44 Division was coming again, so I decided to leave the village and I arrived here on July 6th.

Q: Did they torture other people in the village?

A: They also arrested 2 of my elder brothers. The three of us were tortured more than the others. With the others, they only ordered them to carry things as porters. My two elder brothers were tortured even more than I was. They were arrested the same night as me. The soldiers beat their shins and their heads with a piece of wood. Now they cannot walk anymore. They can just stay like this. And they had to go into the hole for 6 days. They had to pass urine right there in the hole. They were released on May 4th. My brothers are still staying in the village. They didn’t come because they think they are too many problems on the way. They will come if the situation gets worse.

Q: Did you have to be a porter?

A: No, because the headman did not allow me to stay in the village anymore. In our village, they are asking for 5 kinds of porters. Since their boat sank they have asked for human porters, bullock-cart porters, boat porters, carrying porters and porters to guard them. [He uses the term for ‘porter’ to refer to any kind of forced labour; by ‘carrying porters’ he means people to carry supplies, while ‘human porters’ presumably means people for Army camp labour and ‘porters to guard them’ means forced sentry duty.] In the place where their boat sank, their guns also sank and so they ordered villagers to guard the place. [Some escaped porters reported that this sinking occurred during this rainy season, when a boat carrying a dozen soldiers as well as a group of porters tied to each other was attempting to cross a river in that area and sank. The 12 soldiers drowned because of their boots and heavy equipment, while the porters managed to swim tied up together and reach the bank. After the incident, the Army was determined to recover the guns from the river bottom, so they forced villagers to guard the place and also forced them to dive into the wild current to recover the guns.]

We’re not making things up behind the backs of the Burmese. I want to tell you this to report it because what they are doing is really true, they are torturing us like this without mercy and we cannot bear it. I don’t say this just to tell bad things about them. It is the very truth. Our soldiers are weak and there is no fighting. Why are they treating us like this?

Q: Do you feel safe here?

A: Not safe but we can rest for a while. I’ll just wait and see the situation. I won’t go back to my village.

 

INTERVIEW #11.

NAME: "Saw Lah Kuh"         SEX: M         AGE: 41 Karen Christian farmer
FAMILY: Married, 5 children
ADDRESS: xxxx village, Kya In township    INTERVIEWED: 8/97

["Saw Lah Kuh" was headman of his village, but fled after being detained in a hole in the ground and beaten by SLORC troops.]

Q: When did you leave your village?

A: I cannot say exactly, because when I escaped from my village I was really frightened. It was over 3 weeks ago. The SLORC hurt the people, so I was afraid and came here. It took me 3 days to get here.

Q: How did they arrest you?

A: At first [when SLORC occupied the village] I escaped for about one week and the village elder asked me to come back. He is the SLORC headman in our village [the villagers choose one headman to represent them to SLORC (though SLORC often dictates whom this will be), and another to represent them to the KNU; "Saw Lah Kuh" was the "KNU headman"]. He has to go often to the Burmese camp. He called me back to go to their camp. They had built a temporary camp in our village. The Burmese had requested him to go and call me. He told me: "Even though you escape, you are not safe. The Burmese will not be around for just 2 or 3 months!" So I had to go back and stay in my house. I went to the Burmese and I had to let them interrogate me. I am the leader of the village group [liaison with the KNU].

Q: What did they do to you?

A: In April, they put me in the hole and interrogated me because I was the village headman. That is the main reason. When I arrived at their place, they asked my name. My name was already written down in their list on their books. Then they immediately put me in the hole and didn’t allow me to say a word. After they put me in the hole, the Burmese called the young man who works together with me and interrogated him too. Then they took me out of the hole and questioned me more. They put me in the hole again for another half day and then interrogated me again. They interrogated me three times each day. They asked so many questions on so many things that I cannot tell you all of it. They questioned me about guns and about Karen soldiers. "Where did the soldiers escape to?" and "Where did they hide their guns?" I didn’t know about that. I didn’t see that. So I couldn’t tell anything. But they interrogated me until I couldn’t answer anymore. When I felt very tired they would let me rest for a while, and then as soon as I was a little better they interrogated me again. They frightened me. They cocked their pistol to shoot me. During the first 8 days they didn’t torture me, but on the last day they did.

On the 9th day, they started torturing me. They kicked me with their boots and punched me. My chin was hurt. They punched my chin twice and I fell unconscious. Then people came to lift me up and the Burmese put me in Y---’s house. That house was inside the Army camp fences. After 9 days, they released me.

#44 [Division] arrested me. #44 also arrested other people who were tortured more than me. Altogether 12 people were arrested. The first time they arrested 6 and later 6 more. Those who worked together with me were beaten more than me and were detained longer than me. The Burmese tied them up, punched them, kicked them and put them in the hole. I couldn’t see all of them because we were kept separately. They arrested us at the same time but they separated us at once. In the evening they put us together. In the daytime they separated us.

When #22 Division came in, they asked the village elders about me and then they started interrogating me again. They didn’t do anything to me. I just explained to them that when they make operations like this, the Karen soldiers split and move in separate groups, so obviously they wouldn’t tell me where they stay and I don’t know that. Then when #549 [Light Infantry] Battalion came, I dared not face them because they always beat people they meet on the road or see ploughing their fields.

Q: What is the situation now in xxxx?

A: I already left so I don’t know, but before I came here they used to do like that. We don’t have time to work in the fields, and they order us to go and carry things for them. If they see us when we are ploughing or if they see us on the road, they call us and beat us. Therefore we cannot work in our fields anymore and we came here. We always had the problem of going as porters. Now there is more oppression but I can’t explain everything. They take a lot, chickens, pigs, cattle, coconuts,... and they took some rice from some villagers but not from others.

Q: Were any villages around xxxx forced to move?

A: Yes, I heard that the Burmese ordered villages to move, like Kwih Gyi Kloh. Around xxxx, the small villages and the villages where many had fled and few people were left all had to move to the big villages. To Meh Ta Kreh village and to Ka Kyar village, I heard. I heard that the soldiers just came and gave the order.

Q: Where did the villagers go?

A: xxxx. They have problems on the way because of the floods and the rivers and they have small children. Some men came here to check the place and then went back to bring their families, but because of the rains they haven’t arrived yet.

Q: Do you feel safe here?

A: We stay here and we are waiting to see how the situation will evolve. If we can stay, we will. If we have to move, we will move again. xxxx. I don’t feel very safe here but it is better than there. As long as we are staying away from the SLORC, our hearts are a bit cooler.

 

INTERVIEW #12.

NAME: "Saw Ler Muh"         SEX: M         AGE: 45 Karen Christian farmer
FAMILY: Married, 7 children
ADDRESS: xxxx village, Waw Raw township    INTERVIEWED: 8/97

["Saw Ler Muh" is a church elder from a village near the Thanbyuzayat - Three Pagodas Pass road. He had to flee after SLORC troops ordered him to find guns for them.]

Q: When and why did you leave your village?

A: On July 15th. It took me one day to get here. When I was living in xxxx, they came and asked for chickens. Then they went into the houses and searched everything. They didn’t get anything. They left and then another group came. They found two bullets in my kitchen. I think that the first group who came to my house left those two bullets behind purposely and told the second group how to find them so they could accuse me. Karens never use that kind of bullets, they were G3 bullets. [The G3 assault rifle is used by SLORC troops but almost never by Karen forces, who prefer M16 and AK47 assault rifles.] "Are these M16 gun bullets?" they asked. I told them, "No, they are G3 bullets!" and I went inside the house and took a gun to show them. I had a hunting gun. They said to me, "You have to look for this gun until we get it." They gave me a deadline, 3 days, to find the gun. I couldn’t find the gun and I fled. That is the reason why I left.

First they ordered me to find the gun which the bullets came from. Then within 2 or 3 days they demanded that the whole village find them one gun. The villagers could not find a gun and had to give them 2,000 Kyats. Then later again they asked for two guns and since the villagers could not find them, the Burmese soldiers went to the Tha May riverside and captured the headman there. His name is xxxx and they called him back with them. xxxx is an old man and he is friendly with the Burmese leaders. The leaders from Seik Gyi gave him a special pass. When the Burmese soldiers who captured him saw that pass, they couldn’t do anything to him so they let him free. Then the Burmese left the village. They couldn’t do anything. But as soon as they left, the families also left the village at once and came to this area.

In the past, there was no one in xxxx and then the Burmese forced people to move there. After the people went to stay there, the Karen soldiers did not come anymore. Before we were staying at the mouth of the stream and along the Tha May river, then the Burmese forced the people to go and stay near the main road. xxxx is very spread out, divided into 3 parts, so altogether there are 60 houses but my area, the middle section, has 30 houses. But now the Burmese come often and ask the people for guns, so the villagers are now all scattered here and there. I don’t know how many houses are left but in the upper side no more families remain. Some are still left in the part of the village where I stayed.

Q: What did the soldiers do in your village?

A: They stay in the village and they ask for porters, shoot the cattle and the pigs, and steal our chickens. They wait along the road for the cattle traders, they demand one cow from them and then let them go. They don’t bring their rations, instead they ask rice from the villagers and the villagers have to feed them.

I was not a porter but I had to give money - each month 200 Kyats for porter fees, and twice a month we have to give other fees as well. Then for the Captain who came and stayed there, we had to give 10,000 Kyats. I don’t know why, maybe for the soldiers’ salaries. This is for #202 [Battalion], #355 [Battalion], and #44[Division]. The headman said that if each house gives 200 Kyats, he will find people to hire [to meet the demands for porters]. We gave the money to the headman, and the headman gave the money to the Captain. The officer who stays in our village is not the commander. The commander stays in Lay Noh [called Taung Zone by the Burmese, along the Thanbyuzayat - Three Pagodas Pass road]. He asked for the money so we had to give it. They move around that area, and porters have to go with them and carry their things and ammunition in the rain. In the rainy season the road is washed out and trucks can only come up to Anand Gwin. It is half a day’s walk between Taung Zone and xxxx [his village].

Q: Do you feel safe here?

A: My heart is not cool yet. Do you think I might have to move again?

 

INTERVIEW #13.

NAME: "Saw Kler Eh"         SEX: M         AGE: 25 Karen Christian farmer
FAMILY: Married, 2 children
ADDRESS: xxxx village, Kya In township    INTERVIEWED: 8/97

["Saw Kler Eh"’s brother, who was present at the interview, was beaten by SLORC troops even though he is deaf and mute and must communicate in a sign language unique to his family. "Saw Kler Eh" himself was once a Karen soldier so he was accused of possessing guns. Both brothers had to flee the village.]

I arrived here during the last week of July, about one month ago. I dared not stay in xxxx. I used to be a Karen soldier. I left the army already, but the Burmese accused me of having guns. They told me to find them. I knew that if I couldn’t they would start to harm me.

Q: Could you give money instead?

A: No.

One month ago, my elder brother was staying in a hut and the Burmese came there. He cannot speak [he is deaf and mute]. They ordered him to come down from the hut and hit him twice with a knife on his head and took his clothes and money. He hadn’t left with me because he thought that he would stay and do the farm work. But after that, he dared not stay and work in the farm anymore.

Q: What other problems did the SLORC make in your village?

A: They asked for porters, and if they could catch any animals they ate them. They always asked for porters. When I came here they were asking for 7 porters. Even after the villagers already go [for a shift as porters], they come and catch more people ploughing in the fields. After I left, I heard that now they are demanding up to 20 porters. We have to go by turn. If they need you for a week, you have to go for a week. If they go somewhere, the porters have to go with them. If they stay, you have to stay with them. If your time is up, you must be replaced. They change porters every week. Some people who have carried their things have been badly tortured. Some of them have had to climb high mountains and couldn’t do it anymore so they were beaten. When they came back the skin of their backs was damaged and raw. I know some of them but they haven’t come here. Before I left, among the porters who came back to the village two of them had had the skin of their back ripped off until it was completely raw, and another one had been beaten.

Over 20 families have left our village up to now. Before we had 50 or 60 households. It is not easy to leave because we have to pass through the Burmese. We had to go secretly without them seeing, because they would never allow us to come here. We’re not safe here either, but it is better than in our village.

 

INTERVIEW #14.

NAME: "Saw Nee Th’Blay"         SEX: M         AGE: 57 Karen Christian farmer
FAMILY: Married, 6 children
ADDRESS: xxxx village, Kya In township    INTERVIEWED: 8/97

["Saw Nee Th’Blay" was a church elder in his village but had to flee after SLORC occupied the area and began abusing the villagers.]

I arrived at the Thai border about 3 months ago. We dared not stay in our village because the SLORC oppressed us. They didn’t oppress me so much but they oppressed my children [his church congregation] too much, so I felt as though they were oppressing me. They put some in holes, some were beaten, some were punished, some were bleeding so much that we dared not even look at them. Therefore I left with my whole family.

They beat and kicked and punched, they did so many things. Many people were tortured in my village. Not only in my village, in every village. The Burmese demanded guns. Even though you don’t have any guns, they say you have.

Q: How many people were tortured in xxxx [his village]?

A: More than 20. In my [extended] family, they tortured about 10 of us. My nephews and nieces, my grandchildren, ... They had to suffer mostly in the same way. If they put one person in the hole for 3 hours, then they do the same to everyone. They put them in, take them out to demand guns, then put them back in again, out and in again... all the time. The troops that torture the villagers are from #44 Division. Then another group came and oppressed us more than them, and afterwards another one came and oppressed us even more. I couldn’t stay there anymore and face all these problems.

Q: How often did they come?

A: They always come often, going around and checking everywhere. But since they came in April they’ve always stayed in the village. Now they stay in every village. In my village, 200 soldiers came to stay. In the other villages, about 100, 200 or 300 soldiers. They stayed until the rainy season and then left. Now there are fewer in the village.

They stayed in the villagers’ houses. They took everything. I don’t even want to talk about it. They arrived and took our rice without even asking. They also took our prawn paste and ate it.

Q: Did they give you money for what they took?

A: Not at all.

Q: Did they order the villagers to be porters for them?

A: That man [his son - see interview #3 with "Saw Tee Wah"], the skin of his back was ripped off and the flesh is still raw now.

Q: Now how many households are still left?

A: There were 70 houses in xxxx [his village]. Now I am not sure how many are left. You should ask people who came out later than me.

Another man: I left 3 weeks ago and only 50 houses remained. And I am not sure whether they are going to stay in the village or not because everyone wants to leave.

Q: What are your plans now?

A: We can’t go anywhere so we are planning to stay here for the time being. First we went to stay at xxxx but our hearts were not cool [Karen expression meaning that he was worried and afraid there]. So I arrived here but my wife and my children are still left there.