SLORC ORDERS TO VILLAGES: SET 98-A Pa’an District, Central Karen State

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SLORC ORDERS TO VILLAGES: SET 98-A Pa’an District, Central Karen State

Published date:
Sunday, March 1, 1998

Following are the direct translations of some written orders sent from SLORC Army units to Karen villages in southern Pa’an District of central Karen State, southeastern Burma. Though SLORC (State Law & Order Restoration Council) has now changed its name to SPDC (State Peace & Development Council), these orders were issued shortly before the name change. They include demands for villagers to do forced labour as porters and messengers, at Army camps and on the road from Nabu to Pa’an, as well as demands for food, building materials, and extortion money. Some are simply a summons for village elders to attend ‘meetings’ - these meetings at army camps are to dictate forced labour and extortion payment demands, and even though the Camp may be 3 to 5 miles away a 60-year-old elder is expected to drop everything and walk there. As a result, many village elders fail to attend them, which only leads to further threats of ‘action’ against the elders and the village. At the end of this report we have also included the translation of a letter from a villager in central Pa’an District to a KHRG human rights monitor, describing a meeting between SLORC officials and Village-level LORC representatives.

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

Following are the direct translations of some written orders sent from SLORC Army units to Karen villages in southern Pa’an District of central Karen State, southeastern Burma. Though SLORC (State Law & Order Restoration Council) has now changed its name to SPDC (State Peace & Development Council), these orders were issued shortly before the name change. They include demands for villagers to do forced labour as porters and messengers, at Army camps and on the road from Nabu to Pa’an, as well as demands for food, building materials, and extortion money. Some are simply a summons for village elders to attend ‘meetings’ - these meetings at army camps are to dictate forced labour and extortion payment demands, and even though the Camp may be 3 to 5 miles away a 60-year-old elder is expected to drop everything and walk there. As a result, many village elders fail to attend them, which only leads to further threats of ‘action’ against the elders and the village. At the end of this report we have also included the translation of a letter from a villager in central Pa’an District to a KHRG human rights monitor, describing a meeting between SLORC officials and Village-level LORC representatives.

For background on the current situation in Pa’an District, see "Abuses and Relocations in Pa’an District" (KHRG #97-08, 1/8/97). For every order reproduced here, hundreds more are issued every week; these should be seen only as a small representative sampling. Most of these orders were handwritten, some typed, and carbon-copied if sent to more than one village. They were issued by local Army commanders and Law & Order Restoration Councils (LORCs), which are local-level SLORC administration at the Township, Village Tract and Village level (since November 1997 these have been renamed PDCs, or "Peace & Development Councils", in keeping with SLORC’s renaming itself as the SPDC). A village tract is a group of villages making up a subarea of the Township and used as a local administrative unit. While the Township LORC consists of SLORC officials under direct military control, the Village LORC members are appointed, often against their will, by the local military. They are responsible for providing forced labourers, money, materials, intelligence etc. as demanded by the military and the Township LORC, and they are the first to be arrested and tortured if they fail to do so; this is what is meant by the commonly appearing phrase "should you fail the responsibility will be yours".

Village names, people’s names and Army camp names have been replaced with ‘xxxx’ or ‘yyyy’ where necessary to protect villages from retaliation. Even so, please do not pass this report to any SLORC representatives. Photocopies of the Burmese originals (with the same details blacked out) are available from KHRG upon approved request. We have attempted to accurately reproduce the visual page layout of each order, and underlining, etc. are as they appear in the order. ‘Stamp:’ gives the translation of the unit stamp affixed to many of the orders. Italic text in square brackets has been added by KHRG for clarification where necessary. Note that Burmese grammar is very different from English, and therefore some of the phraseology sounds awkward because we have tried to reproduce the wording as exactly as possible.

As in the originals, numeric dates are shown in dd/mm/yy format. Many orders call for ‘loh ah pay’, which we have translated literally as ‘voluntary labour’, though it is the term used by SLORC to call for forced labour. The term ‘wontan’ also appears frequently; it translates as ‘servant’, and is used by SLORC to refer to porters and other forced labourers. ‘Operation servants’ specifically means military porters. Some of the orders refer to ‘rotation’ servants; this refers to the quota of porters and Army camp forced labourers which villages have to provide to every Army camp at all times, rotating the people every 3 to 7 days. Reference is made to "servants’ fees", also known as "porter fees"; these are the routine extortion fees which villagers must pay to all Army battalions in their area. The money is not used for porters, but is simply taken by the Army officers. The orders are almost all addressed to village elders. Many use a phrase in Burmese which translates best as "the gentleman’s village", meaning "your village" but in a more polite form. LIB = Light Infantry Battalion; IB = Infantry Battalion; LORC = Law & Order Restoration Council, SLORC’s local and regional administration.

Topic Summary

Army Camp / portering forced labour (Orders #1,2,4,5,8,10,11,19), forced labour on Nabu - Daw Lan - Win Sein - Ain Du "Exalted Nation" road (#18), demands for cash (#3,5,19), demands for food (#3,6,7,8,11), paddy quota demands (#19), plans to build a school (#19), demands for Army camp building materials (#9), summons to meetings (#2,4,12-18). (Note: #19 is the text of the Letter from Pa’an District included at the end of this report.)

Orders

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Order #1

To:   Chairperson                                                                                                          Date: 19-10-97
        xxxx/yyyy village

Frontline Light Infantry Battalion #XXX needs 3 servants for an emergency, so send them on 20-10-97.

Saw xxxx and U yyyy, who served for several days for Light Infantry Battalion #XXX, have now been released.

                    Stamp:                                                                                  [Sd.]
#XXX Frontline Light Infantry Battalion                                                          Column Commander

        Column #1 Headquarters                                                                      Frontline #XXX Light Infantry Battalion
                   19/10/97

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Order #2

To:   Chairperson                                                                                            5-8-97
        xxxx village

Send 2 servants for the Army tomorrow from your village, gentlemen. The Commander wants to meet you, so you are informed to come together with the servants tomorrow.

              Stamp:                                                                                          [Sd.]
#XXX Light Infantry Battalion                                                                          Lt. XXXX

            Column #1                                                                                        Intelligence Officer

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Order #3

            Stamp:                                                                                                      Date: 4-10-97
#XXX Light Infantry Battalion
          Company #2

To:   Chairperson
        xxxx [village]

Subject:     Requesting rice for servants

The gentleman’s village should send rice for the servants who have gone together with the [Army] Column (for consumption). You are therefore notified to send it to xxxx Camp as soon as possible.

Bring along money for 15 days of servants’ fees.

                                                                                                            [Sd. / illegible, Captain]
                                                                                                            Camp Commander

                                                                                                            xxxx Camp

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Order #4

To:   Chairperson
        xxxx village

Subject: To discuss matters of servants and security

Calling you again for failing to come to the Camp

1) Regarding the subject mentioned above, [you] failed to attend a meeting on 23-10-97.
2) Come to xxxx Camp as soon as you receive this letter. If you fail, there will be no pardon and it will be entirely your responsibility.

Note: Bring 3 servants together with you.

                                                                                                            [Sd.]
                                                                                                            Camp Commander

                                                                                                            xxxx Camp

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Order #5

To:   [blank]                                                                                                              19-10-97

Regarding the subject, I can do nothing for you, because you have sent neither people nor money. Therefore I can’t do anything. However, if your headman comes directly to me, I myself will go to the Captain and plead for you.

You know very well about this Battalion. If they arrive in your village, you will suffer. When you come to me, bring 4,000 [Kyats] for 5 days’ servants’ fees for Major XXXX.

                                                                                                            Lovingly,
                                                                                                            xxxx [village] Chairman U xxxx

Come before the 30th of October. If not, action must be taken. xxxx Camp, Captain XXXX.

[Note: this was sent from one village chairman to the chairman of a nearby village, in answer to a plea to intervene with the Army because his villagers cannot go for forced labour at the moment. This response makes it clear that unless forced labourers or money are sent, no intervention will help; the Battalion will come to the beleaguered headman’s village, and "you will suffer". The note at the bottom appears to have been added by a SLORC officer in order to strengthen the warning.]

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Order #6

To:   Chairperson                                                                                                          29-10-97
        xxxx village

Chairperson, as quickly as possible bring the requirements [meats, etc.] for curries for the xxxx Camp Commander.

Required for curries:
1) 2 chickens
2) 8 baskets of rice
3) 3 pumpkins

Send the items before 30-10-97 at 10 o’clock in the morning.

                                                                                                                    [Sd.]
                                                                                                                    (for) Camp Commander

                                                                                                                    xxxx Camp

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Order #7

To:   Chairperson                                                                                                                  29-10-97
        xxxx village

Chairperson, as quickly as possible bring the requirements [meats, etc.] for curries for the xxxx Camp Commander.

Required for curries:
1) 2 chickens
2) 8 baskets of rice

Note: The chickens must be no less than 50 kyat thar [weight: 50 kyat thar = 800 g./1.8 lb.]
Send the items before 30-10-97 at 10 o’clock in the morning.

                                                                                                                    [Sd.]
                                                                                                                    (for) Camp Commander

                                                                                                                    Personal Curry Procurer
                                                                                                                    xxxx Camp

[Note: The above 2 orders were sent to two different villages, but on the same day and by the same Army camp.]

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Order #8

To:   Chairperson
        xxxx village

This is to inform you that the Chairperson of xxxx village should come with 2 servants, 1 viss of chicken, pumpkin and vegetables today (5-6-97) without fail.

                                                                                                                    [Sd.]
                                                                                                                    Sergeant - Clerk XXXX

                                                                                                                    Tactical

[1 viss is 1.6 kg. / 3.5 lb.]

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Order #9

            Stamp:                                                                                                                          Date: 9-6-97
#XXX Light Infantry Battalion

    War Command Section

To:   Chairperson
        xxxx village

Subject: Requesting assistance with bamboo ties, bamboo and thatch

This is to inform you that the gentleman’s village should send 100 bamboo ties, 5 bamboo [poles], and 100 [shingles of] thatch to XXXX village on the 10th for the use of Frontline Light Infantry Battalion #XXX without fail.

                                                                                                                [Sd. / illegible, Captain]
                                                                                                                Intelligence Officer

                                                                                                                #XXX Light Infantry Battalion

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Order #10

            Stamp:
#XXX Light Infantry Battalion
   War Command Section

To:   Chairperson                                                                                                              Date: 5-6-97
        xxxx village

Subject: To send servants

Frontline Light Infantry Battalion #XXX needs rotating servants, so you gentlemen in each village should send ( 2 ) to XXXX village today. Chairmen should also come with them.

                                                                                                                [Sd. / illegible, Captain]
                                                                                                                Intelligence Officer

                                                                                                                #XXX Light Infantry Battalion

[Note: this letter was carbon-copied and sent to several villages, with the village name and number of ‘servants’ added in differently on each copy.]

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Order #11

To:   Chairperson
        xxxx [village]

Send vegetables with the daily messengers from your village, gentlemen.

                                                                                                                [Sd. / illegible, Corporal]
                                                                                                                (for) Column #2 Commander

                                                                                                                Frontline LIB #XXX

[Note: the "daily messengers" are villagers who must be sent each day to do forced labour.]

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Order #12

                Stamp:                                                                                                          Date: 11-10-97
#XXX Light Infantry Battalion
             Company #2

To: Chairperson - xxxx [village]

The Chairperson’s village is required to meet the Army Column tomorrow (12-10-97) at 0900 hours. Therefore, if the Chairperson is not there send a representative without fail, you are hereby informed.

                                                                                                                [Sd. / illegible, Captain]
                                                                                                                Camp Commander

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Order #13

                   Stamp:                                                                                                          Date: 29-7-97
#XXX Frontline Light Infantry Battalion

              Column #2 HQ

To:   Chairperson
        xxxx village

Come and meet with the Column Commander at xxxx Camp as soon as you get this letter.

                                                                                                                [Sd. / illegible, Corporal]
                                                                                                                (for) Column #2 Commander

                                                                                                                Frontline LIB #XXX

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Order #14

                        Stamp:                                                                   Frontline Light Infantry Battalion #XXX
#XXX Frontline Light Infantry Battalion                                               Column 2
                  Column 2 HQ                                                                xxxx Camp
                                                                                                    Number 1001 / 01 / U 1
                                                                                                    Date: July 19th 1997
To:   Chairperson
        xxxx village

Subject: To attend a meeting

The Column 2 Commander of Frontline Light Infantry Battalion #XXX wants to hold discussions with the Chairperson, so come quickly to xxxx Camp as soon as you get this letter.

                                                                                                            [Sd. / illegible, Corporal]
                                                                                                            (for) Column #2 Commander

                                                                                                            Frontline LIB #XXX

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Order #15

                    Stamp:                                                                      Frontline Light Infantry Battalion #XXX
#XXX Frontline Light Infantry Battalion                                              Column 2
                  Column 2                                                                      Number 1001 / 01 / U 1
                                                                                                    Date: July 25th 1997
To:   Chairperson
        xxxx village

Subject:     Come and meet with the Column Commander

The Column 2 Commander of Frontline Light Infantry Battalion #XXX wants to hold discussions with the Chairperson, so you are informed to come quickly as soon as you get this letter.

                                                                                                            [Sd. / illegible, Corporal, 25/7/97]
                                                                                                            (for) Column #2 Commander

                                                                                                            Frontline LIB #XXX

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Order #16

        Stamp:                                                                                                          Date: 23-4-97
#XXX Infantry Battalion
    Company #4

To:   Chairperson
        xxxx [village]
        Myawaddy Township

Subject:     Calling for a meeting

There will be a meeting on April 25th 1997 at 12 o’clock at xxxx Camp, so come without fail before 11 o’clock on 25-4-97.

                                                                                                            [Sd.]
                                                                                                            Camp Commander

                                                                                                            xxxx Camp

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Order #17

            Stamp:                                                                                                          17-1-97
#XXX Light Infantry Battalion
          Column #2

To:   Chairperson
        xxxx village

You are hereby informed to come together with this messenger to the LIB XXX Column as soon as you receive this letter.

Without Fail.

                                                                                                            [Sd.]
                                                                                                            (for) Column Commander

[The "messenger" is the villager doing forced labour at the Camp who was sent to carry this order.]

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Order #18

                        Stamp:                                                                 Township Law & Order Restoration Council
Township Law & Order Restoration Council                                      Hlaing Bwe Town - Karen State
                Hlaing Bwe Town                                                           Number 100 / 2-3 / TLORC (HB)
                                                                                                   Date: January 22nd 1995

To:   All Chairmen and Village LORC members
        All Village Heads
        xxxx village tract
        Hlaing Bwe Township

Subject:     Calling for a meeting

Regarding the abovementioned subject, for regional development and smooth communication, the Nabu - Daw Lan - Win Sein - Ain Du (Myat Pyi) road will be built by the service of the people. Therefore, a discussion meeting for building the road will be held as follows, so attend the meeting without fail (without fail).


                   Program

Date
Time
Place

-
-
-

25-1-95 (Thursday)
12 o’clock
Monastery, Daw Lan village

                                                                                                        [Sd.]
                                                                                                        (for) Chairman

                                                                                                        (Kyaung Moe - Secretary)
Copies to  - Police Chief, Daw Lan Police Station, Hlaing Bwe Township
                - Office Receipt / Internal Circulation

[Note: The road is to be called the ‘Myat Pi’, or ‘Exalted Nation’, road. Though dated 1995, this order is included here because forced labour on this road is continuing today.]

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Letter from Pa’an District

Following is the translation of parts of a letter dated October 2nd, 1997 from a villager in Pa’an District to a KHRG human rights monitor.

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In Bee T’Ka and Yebu area SLORC is still oppressing people and using them for sentries, and is also demanding compensation from the people.

On 14/7/97 there was a meeting for all Township and Village LORC representatives in Karen State at Pa’an. The Secretary of the Karen State LORC met representatives from Hlaing Bwe township about agriculture and regional development. He told them to concentrate on increasing rice production and that there will be further increases in the amount of quota rice to be purchased, so the local leaders should cooperate. However, the local leaders explained that many paddy fields were destroyed by the floods so this would be difficult to implement. Also, the local leaders said they were worried about starvation of the villagers in the coming year. But the Secretary did not address the local leaders’ concerns. He changed the subject, saying that there will be a new school built under the local development program. He said the school would cost about 900,000 Kyats. The Village LORC representatives responded gladly to this news for the sake of their villagers. Basic education is necessary for the children who will be the next generation of leaders, so the VLORC leaders were very glad. Then the State Secretary added that the State would provide 300,000 Kyats, and the remaining 600,000 Kyats must be provided by the local people. The Village LORC representatives thought of the villagers, who are already under the heavy burden of porter fees, and they replied that in that case they don’t want a school, they just want one teacher and they would arrange to build the school by themselves. The Secretary appeared not to like this idea, and he replied that there are not enough teachers, so they could not send one teacher. He said that to get a teacher is impossible.

The Township and Village LORC representatives had to pay all their own expenses to go to this meeting, for transportation as well as food. On 18/7/97, the meeting finished. The Township and Village LORC representatives had received nothing [in terms of help/projects for their villages]. Currently, people need medical assistance and education, but SLORC is forcing people to do loh ah pay [‘voluntary’ labour] as labourers, messengers, and rotating servants, so people are very unhappy now having to deal with SLORC.

Respectfully,
M---.

["Porter fees" are the routine extortion fees which villagers must pay to all Army battalions in their area; the fees are not used for porters, but are simply taken by the Army officers. Regarding the discussion at the meeting, rice quotas are demanded every year from farmers throughout Burma. Usually the amount is about 12 baskets per acre, which can be as much as a third of the crop, and these amounts are regularly increased both to feed the expanding Army and to generate rice export profits for SLORC/SPDC. Farmers are only paid about 20% of market price for quota rice, and in bad years they must buy rice at market price just to be able to pay their quota, or face arrest. There are no exceptions allowed for bad crop years. A large percentage of Burma’s rice crop was wiped out by floods in the mid-1997 rainy season, particularly in the Irrawaddy Delta, Pegu Division and Mon State. As SLORC/SPDC authorities cannot demand heavy rice quotas in those areas, they are determined to increase rice quotas even more than usual in other areas, even though these were also affected by the floods. This plan spells disaster for the farmers, who have trouble meeting these quotas even in normal years.

It is unclear why SLORC had plans to build a school when they say themselves that no teachers are available. However, this is a typical occurrence in rural Burma. First the school (or often it is a hospital) is used as an excuse to extort 3 or 4 times the actual cost of construction from the local population. The local and State officials take this money, combine it with whatever money may be provided by Rangoon, and pocket the entire sum except a small amount which is required to build a substandard building (often using forced labour and building materials demanded from the villagers). Teachers, doctors or nurses either come for a few months and then disappear, or they never even come in the first place. Either way, new schools and hospitals throughout rural Burma are sitting idle and empty. In Myawaddy township of central Karen State, villagers report that the Burmese schoolteachers cannot survive on their low pay so they are actually working as illegal labourers across the border in Thailand, and only return one day each month to collect their teaching salary.]