COMMENTARY

You are here

COMMENTARY

Published date:
Saturday, September 20, 1997

This report documents the ongoing demands for forced labour from Karen civilians during the rainy season in Papun District, 1997. The SLORC are now staying in the area year-round, rather than retreating during rainy season. 

The 1997 rainy season is most of the way over. Usually rainy season is a time when military activity decreases due to the difficulty of travelling and operating, when villagers don’t have to do quite as much forced labour for the Army and can try to concentrate on the crucial task of growing the rice crop which will feed their family for the next year. However, as each year passes the rainy season is providing less and less respite for the villagers. First the SLORC Army, which used to withdraw from remote areas in rainy season, began staying there year round. Now they have gone beyond this, and over the past few years several regional offensives have been launched in rainy season. This rainy season has seen the SLORC working to extend and consolidate its control over areas which it captured in dry season, and to destroy the ability of villagers to produce food for themselves in difficult-to-control areas such as Papun District.

"The adage ‘As you sow, so shall you reap’ is also interpreted in the most practical sense when one speaks of people getting together in the thousands, or even hundreds of thousands, contributing to the accomplishment of a task that would benefit the general wellbeing of the State … For huge undertakings [such] as the building of railroads there is much manpower needed. We have that plenty, in the villages in the immediate area of the project. With little cudgeling, they get together to help." 

- ‘Perspectives’, New Light of Myanmar (SLORC-run newspaper), 2/3/95 (as quoted by Burma Issues)

"Send 10 servants from xxxx village tract to xxxx monastery today for the use of Frontline #113 Light Infantry Battalion. If you fail, there will be severe punishment." 

- typical SLORC written order sent to a village in Pa’an District, April 1997 (KHRG #97-10)

"For building the road we have to buy things, carry things, do everything. We have to buy petrol, pay for the car, buy stones - we have to buy everything, and we also have to go and do it ourselves. It is the motor road, it goes to Palaw and also to Tavoy. We also have to go work on it in Palaw. The width is 8 plah [12 feet], and the section we have to work on is 12 miles. Every day until it is finished! It can never be finished." 

- Karen woman aged 52 in Tenasserim Division discussing ‘self-reliance basis’ forced labour on the Mergui-Tavoy road (KHRG #97-09)

The 1997 rainy season is most of the way over. Usually rainy season is a time when military activity decreases due to the difficulty of travelling and operating, when villagers don’t have to do quite as much forced labour for the Army and can try to concentrate on the crucial task of growing the rice crop which will feed their family for the next year. However, as each year passes the rainy season is providing less and less respite for the villagers. First the SLORC Army, which used to withdraw from remote areas in rainy season, began staying there year round. Now they have gone beyond this, and over the past few years several regional offensives have been launched in rainy season. This rainy season has seen the SLORC working to extend and consolidate its control over areas which it captured in dry season, and to destroy the ability of villagers to produce food for themselves in difficult-to-control areas such as Papun District.

In Shan State, a steady flow of people continues to head for Thailand as the forced relocation campaign continues. Over 600 villages have been relocated, and in 1997 SLORC has been forcing those already at relocation sites to move again, trying to bring them under even stronger military control or simply to wipe out the Shan population by driving them to flee to Thailand. In the Kunhing area, troops have received orders to massacre civilians and at least 2 massacres of 30 or more people occurred in July [see upcoming KHRG report]. In Karenni (Kayah State) SLORC soldiers have still not allowed people to return home to the almost 200 villages which were forced to relocate in 1996. Furthermore, throughout this rainy season SLORC has been sending "search and destroy" columns through the Mawchi area of southern Karenni because many villagers there were still trying to hide around their villages and survive. People from this area are scattering further into the hills or trying to flee southward to Karen State, where the situation is definitely no better. For the Karenni villagers already in closed relocation camps throughout the State, it can only be assumed that the situation is becoming more desperate as they run out of food and are provided with nothing.

"They came in and called for us, then they shot at us. They shot with their rifles. I saw them shooting at us, but no one was wounded. They shot at us and we ran away, and then they burned the houses. We ran without our clothes and without our pots and things, we left everything behind." 

- male villager aged 40 from the Bilin River area in eastern Nyaunglebin District describing how SLORC troops destroyed his village (KHRG #97-12)

"They fired their big gun at the mouth of the stream and the source of the stream. Then they shot over there and over here, they shot all around. … I was in the jungle, and 3 or 4 of the shells fell near me. Then we got out as fast as we could, because we dared not stay. They shot and shot so we ran away. We ran and ran without light because we dared not light a fire. Then we went to the cave. The children kept falling down but we picked them up and pulled them because they couldn’t walk. Even when we’d already got out of the place they were still shooting their gun. When we came back to look later we could see a lot of shell pieces." 

- man over 40 from a village in Papun District. SLORC troops took up a position on an adjacent hill and began a mortar barrage of the village without warning, then marched in after all the villagers had fled and burned every house. (KHRG #97-12)

"The Burmese tried to run after us like a hunter tries to catch animals in the forest. Even after we had left they were still looking for us. We couldn’t even think of building a house - if we heard a gunshot we had to flee." - Woman aged 60 from a new free-fire zone in Papun District describing life in hiding in the forest (KHRG #97-12)

"… if they see someone in the forest they kill him. They killed 2 children in Koo Ray Hta, close to my village. I don’t know their names, but one of them was 5 years old and the other was 8 years old. They were children. The Burmese saw the children in the forest so they killed them. They hacked them and killed them with a knife." 

- Man aged 40 from Maw Thay Hta village, Papun District (KHRG #97-12)

In Papun District of northern Karen State, people whose villages were burned by SLORC troops in the months leading up to rainy season were hoping for a rainy season respite so that they could continue living in hiding in forest shelters close enough to their fields to grow a crop. However, SLORC has continued to send out "search and destroy" patrols throughout the rainy season. By the end of June, KHRG had compiled and confirmed a list of 73 villages which had been completely burned and destroyed and 4 others which had been partly burned. An independent visitor who just returned from the region has updated this list to 93 villages, and more are still being destroyed. This does not include the shelters in the forest where villagers have been hiding - SLORC patrols have been specifically searching out these hiding places to burn and destroy these shelters, causing villagers to flee yet again. The troops specially target rice storage barns in order to wipe out the villagers’ food supplies, often bushwhacking their way to hard-to-find hiding places just to burn one or two small rice barns. Troops are also revisiting villages they have already burned, just to look for any trace of villagers and to burn any remaining buildings or sheds which they accidentally missed the first time. Any villagers seen in the area are shot on sight. [For details see "Wholesale Destruction: The SLORC / SPDC Campaign to Obliterate All Hill Villages in Papun and Eastern Nyaunglebin Districts", KHRG #98-01, to be released shortly.]

"They stay near the village, but they always have to run away and come back. It’s not easy to get food there. We had to go back to steal our food that was left behind in the village, and they shot at us two times but no one was wounded. There is only enough food left for 3 months. After that, they will have nothing." 

- man aged 40 from the Bilin River area in eastern Nyaunglebin District describing the situation for the people living in hiding around his village since it was burned by SLORC (KHRG #97-12)

"We didn’t know that they were coming - if we had known we would have run away. They came into the village and they immediately shot at the villagers so we couldn’t run away anymore. The children were playing volleyball, they saw that and shot at them. … People ran away and they ran after them. They arrested us and tied us all up, and they made us carry things." 

- man aged 46 from Meh Way area, Papun District, who couldn’t escape when SLORC troops entered the village (KHRG #97-12)

"They both died this year. There was about one month between their deaths. My mother hanged herself and died because she didn’t want to live anymore, and my father was sick and when we ran away to the forest he died. It was at the beginning of this month. The Burmese came and shot at us so we ran away. They burned all 15 houses. We had nothing left. They had burned everything. … Another person died. His name was Tay Htoo. He was about the same age as my father. He had 5 children. He went to get some food, the Burmese shot at him and killed him." 

- girl aged 21, second-eldest of 9 children who fled the Papun free-fire zones after both of their parents were dead (KHRG #97-12)

"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. … 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." 

- Karen church elder (M, 45) from Waw Raw township describing the main activities of the SLORC troops who have now occupied Dooplaya District (KHRG #97-11)

"In my 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." 

- church elder (M, 57) from Kya In township describing life since the SLORC occupation of Dooplaya District (KHRG #97-11)

In Dooplaya District of central Karen State, the SLORC offensive launched in February has completed its work of capturing Karen-held territory. Karen troops continue to operate as small guerrilla columns throughout the area, harassing the occupation forces. SLORC claims 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. Many of the masses of troops used for the offensive have now been rotated out and replaced by longer-term troops who are there to establish camps and consolidate SLORC control over the area. In the southern parts of Dooplaya District, the offensive troops from #44 Light Infantry Division who temporarily occupied the 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.

"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 also ran. He was the first one to run. When the Burmese came, they beat him until he could not eat for one day."

- village headman aged 31 from Waw Raw township, Dooplaya District, describing the new SLORC occupation of his area (KHRG #97-11)

"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]. So he came back to the village and died in our village. He was the secretary of the village. His name was Kyaw Ta." 

- man aged 21 from northern Ye township talking about the increasing clampdown since SLORC troops captured Dooplaya District to the north. (KHRG #97-11)

"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." 

- man aged 35 from Kya In township, Dooplaya District, who was tortured when SLORC troops occupied his village (KHRG #97-11)

The arrests and torture are augmented throughout Dooplaya 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.

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. [For more details see"Clampdown in Southern Dooplaya" (KHRG #97-11, 18/9/97), and an upcoming KHRG report on increasing abuses in northern Dooplaya.] 

"They didn’t torture me every day, just once a week or so, but then they did it so badly that I became unconscious. … 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 dug a hole in the ground 4 plah x 5 plah, like a bunker [1 plah (elbow to fingertip) is about 1½ feet]. … They put logs on the top of the hole and left only one gap to get in. I couldn’t stand up inside. 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. … Kyaw Pay was also tortured. He is 30 years old. They tied Kyaw Pay’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]. He was tortured for one day and then they released him. He couldn’t hold anything in his hands anymore." 

- male villager aged 45 from Kya In township describing torture methods used by the SLORC occupation troops in Dooplaya District to force villagers to find Karen guns for them (KHRG #97-11)

"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." 

- man aged 50 from Waw Raw township, Dooplaya District, who fled after SLORC forced his village to move (KHRG #97-11)

"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. … 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. … 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 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 can’t say exactly how many were beaten, but I know more than 10. … They kept me like this for two days and one night. … 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 send him to another place, about 5 or 6 miles away…"

- Baptist pastor aged 41 from Kya In township in Dooplaya District who wanted to stay in his village after the SLORC occupation, but found it impossible (KHRG #97-11)

The SLORC offensive further south in Tenasserim Division may have disappeared from the media, but it is still going on. There is continued fighting, and at the same time SLORC is trying to consolidate its hold over areas it has already captured. While the situation continues to be very unstable, it is likely that SLORC will work toward establishing a similar situation to that in the areas just west and south of the offensive area - in these areas, SLORC has forcibly relocated at least 60 villages and created large free-fire zones, and is using the relocated villagers as forced labour to build new roads back into their home areas so that Army camps can be established to control the area. These free-fire zones continue to exist, villagers are living in hiding while SLORC patrols increasingly roam the area, but now the offensive has cut off any possibility of running away for the villagers, who are living in increasingly desperate circumstances. Because of the offensive, many who had fled to take refuge in areas held by the Karen National Union have now had to flee back into the free-fire zones, where they have to live in hiding and face the possibility of being shot on sight. [For more information see "Free-Fire Zones in Southern Tenasserim" (KHRG #97-09, 20/8/97).] 

"I can’t guess why they come and torture us. I can’t guess. We didn’t do anything to them. We are not people who gather ammunition and go against them. We are just farmers. Our work is farming and harvesting. We didn’t do anything to them, but they came and burned. We didn’t do anything. If we had ammunition and fought against them and then they burned our houses, then we would not be sorry." 

- man aged 48 from a free-fire zone in Tenasserim Division who was ordered to move, had his house and village burned and destroyed by SLORC troops, and now lives with his extended family of grandparents, 9 children and close relatives in a small shed in the forest. (KHRG #97-09)

All of this is happening at a time when Thai authorities are denying asylum to any new refugees, which they now insist on calling "displaced persons fleeing fighting", and stating that refugees can go back home because "there is no more fighting". Refugees in camps in Thailand are facing ever-increasing restrictions on their movements, they are being forced to fence in their own camps, and more and more often refugees who break any of the rules face threats, beatings, or worse by Thai soldiers. In new refugee camps such as Ban Don Yang and Ban Tam Hin, refugees have lived through the entire rainy season under flimsy plastic sheeting simply because Thai authorities refuse to allow them to build houses in these ‘temporary’ camps, and they have repeatedly been refused permission to build any kind of school. It is clear that Thai policy is to make life so miserable in refugee camps that the refugees will decide it is worse than life under SLORC. What they do not realise is just how bad it was under SLORC in order to make these refugees take the desperate option of flight to a strange and foreign country. Most of the refugees have no intention of going back voluntarily as long as SLORC continues to act in its current fashion.

The approaching dry season will bring a very different situation in Karen areas of Burma. This will be the first dry season when SLORC can take advantage of almost full control of Karen State and Tenasserim Division, and it is likely to use this control to severely clamp down on and control the civilian population. We are already seeing the beginnings of this in Dooplaya District, but with the end of the rains it is likely to get much worse. This may be accompanied by an offensive to establish SLORC control in Papun District, which if it occurs will probably lead to the destruction of the rice crop so desperately needed by the villagers in hiding there. At the same time, SLORC’s new membership in ASEAN and the resulting increase in SLORC-Thai cooperation can only lead to worsening conditions for refugees who manage to make it to the border. For both the democracy movement throughout the country and the villagers of rural eastern Burma, the coming dry season could prove to be a watershed time. For the villagers, it is not a dry season they are looking forward to.

"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." 

- Karen village boy aged 18 from Waw Raw township, Dooplaya District, describing what happened to him when SLORC troops came to his village and demanded guns from the villagers (KHRG #97-11)

"The people from Ta M’La village haven’t fled. We stay. Nobody has fled yet, we stay. Our livelihood is there, if you leave you have no livelihood so we stay and live there. We have nowhere else to go, so whatever they order us to do we must do. When they don’t order us to work we work for ourselves. When they order us to go we leave our work and we go to build the road. If we have children then we send the children to build the road and we stay behind to do our own work. The people who have no children, they stay as one so they have to go as one. If we go somewhere else how will we live?" 

- man aged 51 from a village on the southern Tenasserim River who has to do forced labour on roads and at army camps (KHRG #97-09)

"Regarding the above subject, the gentleman’s [i.e. your] village tract has not finished work on roads and bridges such as smoothing the road and clearing the scrub along the road. Therefore, as soon as you receive this letter come to xxxx Army Camp and report. … If you fail it will be your responsibility, sir." 

- SLORC written order to a village in Pa’an District demanding labour on the Pata - Daw Lan road (KHRG #97-10)

"People would shake when they heard U xxxx’s voice. For example, if some villagers didn’t have enough rice, they would sell one cow to get money to buy rice. Then if he heard about it he would come and take all the money, saying that the villagers are illegally trading. If I planned to buy a bullock to work in my field and he heard about it, he would come and take all my money and say that I was illegally trading. They arrest all the traders, take their money and divide it among themselves. Then if their shares are not equal they fight each other. No one is free to sell anything. We have to ask their permission and give money for a pass before we can do anything." 

- Buddhist widow aged 49 from Pa’an District who had to flee after being repeatedly arrested and beaten by DKBA troops, describing how a DKBA operative controls her village (KHRG #97-08)

"In the daytime they demand it, at night they just steal it." 

- man aged 37 from Myawaddy Township, Pa’an District, discussing ongoing SLORC and DKBA looting (KHRG #97-08)

"Nobody had guns or was wearing uniforms - we were all only civilians. The soldiers just saw people running and shot them. They knew for sure that they were villagers, they shouted "Don’t run!", but the villagers were afraid of them and ran and they shot at them. Three of them were running through the field, and two of them were hit. Pa Kyi Kheh was hit in the middle of his back. He was hit twice. My younger brother P--- was also wounded. The people who didn’t run saw their friends get shot, so they ran too and then they were also shot at by the soldiers. The Burmese say if we run they will shoot - so they did shoot. One villager dead, one wounded." 

- villager from eastern Pa’an District who witnessed the shooting of 2 villagers in a farmfield on 26 June 1997 (KHRG #97-08)

"How old are you now?"

"Many years. The mountain people never count our ages, we look at our children and know. Now my youngest child is over 10 years old. I thought too much about my son, when I went to the fields I thought about him, when I asked him to work for me I saw him work here and work there, but now I don’t see him anymore. I became old and needed him to help me, now they’ve come and shot him dead and they’ve gone. Some day the people who killed him will have to survive like me." 

- woman aged over 50 in Pa’an District mourning the loss of her 20-year-old son, who was shot on sight in a farmfield for no reason by DKBA and SLORC troops on 26 June 1997 (KHRG #97-08)

"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."" 

- Karen villager aged 50 from Waw Raw township, Dooplaya District, discussing the strategy of the current SLORC clampdown in his area (KHRG #97-11)

"I couldn’t open the school because people [meaning SLORC and DKBA] wouldn’t allow it to open. Later I asked people there, "Did the school at Toh Thu Kee already open?" People told me it had opened but only for 2 weeks - then the Ko Per Baw asked for 100,000 Kyats, so the school had to close. ... Now I think it won’t be easy to open the school this year. If they [SLORC and DKBA] allow us then we can open it, otherwise we cannot. Last year we opened it and they asked, "Whose school is this?" We said it’s the villagers’ own school, it’s not a Kaw Thoo Lei [KNU] school, not a Buddhist school, not a Burmese school, just our own village school. But whenever the Army came we had to close the school. ... Once they arrested one of my teacher friends and he had to be their porter for over a week. His name is Saw H---. We were teaching together when the column of soldiers came, so we closed the school and went to the monastery. We had no time to run, so we let all the children go home, it was just the two of us. Then the Burmese arrested him and made him a porter. They also arrested me, but the monk came and told them, "This man has to look after the monastery", so they let me free. ... All are afraid of the Burmese. If they know you’re a teacher, they will ask many questions, like "Where did you go to school?" and things like that. [Any teacher suspected of having been educated in KNU territory would be arrested.] ... We have no way of knowing what they [SLORC] are thinking, we only know that they are the Burmese and that whatever they choose to do to us we simply have to face it. Even if we are teachers or headmen, if they see us away from our place they will take us and keep us for no reason. We are Karen, and we have to think and know about these things. If they enter the village and they see anyone running, they shoot them dead. If you don’t run, they make you a porter for 2 or 3 days. So everyone runs away as soon as we hear they are coming." 

- Karen schoolteacher aged 30 from the hills of Pa’an District describing the difficulties when villagers try to open a school for their children (KHRG #97-08)

"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?" 

- Karen village boy aged 18 from Waw Raw township, Dooplaya District, who had been severely tortured by SLORC troops (KHRG #97-11)