DOOPLAYA UNDER THE SPDC: Further Developments in the SPDC Occupation of South-Central Karen State


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DOOPLAYA UNDER THE SPDC: Further Developments in the SPDC Occupation of South-Central Karen State

Published date:
Monday, November 23, 1998

Dooplaya District covers much of the southern half of Karen State, from the Myawaddy - Kyone Doh - Pa’an motor road in the north to the Three Pagodas Pass area 160 kilometres (100 miles) further south. In early 1997 the SLORC regime mounted a major military operation and successfully occupied almost all of this area, though the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) is still very active in guerrilla operations. While the SLORC/SPDC has gradually increased its repression to establish control over the area, they have also formed and employed a Karen proxy army called the Karen Peace Army (KPA) under Thu Mu Heh, a former KNLA officer who defected in 1997. In Burmese the KPA is known as the ‘Nyein Chan Yay A’Pway’, which literally translates as ‘Peace Force’. The SPDC removed the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) from most of the region and made a show of giving ‘authority’ over the area to the KPA.


The Current Situation in Dooplaya

Dooplaya District covers much of the southern half of Karen State, from the Myawaddy - Kyone Doh - Pa’an motor road in the north to the Three Pagodas Pass area 160 kilometres (100 miles) further south. In early 1997 the SLORC regime mounted a major military operation and successfully occupied almost all of this area, though the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) is still very active in guerrilla operations. While the SLORC/SPDC has gradually increased its repression to establish control over the area, they have also formed and employed a Karen proxy army called the Karen Peace Army (KPA) under Thu Mu Heh, a former KNLA officer who defected in 1997. In Burmese the KPA is known as the ‘Nyein Chan Yay A’Pway’, which literally translates as ‘Peace Force’. The SPDC removed the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) from most of the region and made a show of giving ‘authority’ over the area to the KPA.

The Dta La Ku

"(W)e went to the [SPDC] Operations Commander and asked if he could excuse us from portering. He agreed and gave us a letter of permission to be excused. After only six days, the Burmese soldiers ordered the Dta La Ku villagers to be porters again, and they told us that if the Dta La Ku people don’t do as they require then all Dta La Ku people must leave their country." 

"Pa Bway Htoo" (M, 44), Dta La Ku elder on the Burma-Thai border (Interview #6, 9/98)

The KPA set out to gather recruits by promising villagers that the families of those who joined would be exempted from forced labour for the SPDC, and by trying to force all able-bodied men of the Dta La Ku people to join. The Dta La Ku are a religious minority among the Karen, numbering some 5,000 people, who live mainly in southern Dooplaya District. They have been persecuted and pressured to join the struggle by both the SLORC/SPDC and the KNLA, even though taking part in an armed struggle or supporting one goes directly against their strict religion and lifestyle.

"There are two sides to our religion. One is Ter, which are the traditional practices of our religion, and the other is Taw, which is the word of our God. We must follow both our traditional practices and the words of our God. We must not become soldiers or aid in an armed struggle. However, when we were living among the people there we had to do some military work for them. We knew that if we lived among them for a long time we would have to violate our religious requirements. If we keep living among those people our traditional life will disappear. Even now it is deteriorating." 

"Maw Hla Shwe" (M, 44), Dta La Ku elder from Ywa Thay village, Kawkareik township (Interview #14, 9/98)

For further background on the KPA and the pressure on the Dta La Ku, see the report "Strengthening the Grip on Dooplaya" (KHRG #98-05, 10/6/98). When this report was published in mid-1998, most of the Dta La Ku refugees in Thailand had returned to their villages in Burma, but they were under increasing pressure to join the KPA and they had sent a delegation to request SPDC military authorities for permission to gather and live together in one small area near the Thai border, where they would be free of forced labour and KPA pressure and in return would not take any part in the struggle. Since that time, the local SPDC Tactical Commander granted them the permission they desired. About 2,000 Dta La Ku villagers gathered in the Kwih Lat Der / Taung Ka Lay area near the Thai border hoping to be able to farm and practice their beliefs freely without forced labour and military pressure.

Now the KPA is no longer demanding that all Dta La Ku men join the army, though they are still trying to attract recruits from among both Dta La Ku and non-Dta La Ku villagers [see below under ‘The KPA and the DKBA’]. However, over the past two months the SPDC military has reneged on its promise and has begun placing ever-increasing demands on the Dta La Ku villagers to provide porters and other forced labourers. Most of the forced labour demands are being made by troops from Light Infantry Division #44, particularly Light Infantry Battalion #343. The latest demand is that Kwih Lat Der and some other villages each provide 4 porters at all times, rotating the people every 5 days, or pay 80,000 Kyats per month. 80,000 Kyats is a huge sum of money for rural villagers. Even Kwih Lat Der, a large village which now has 150 households, could only come up with 40,000 Kyats the first month, so they negotiated a deal whereby they have to send 2 of the 4 people demanded and pay 40,000 Kyats. SPDC patrols coming through Kwih Lat Der area also demand additional porters every day and charge 100 Thai Baht per day as a fine for anyone who cannot go.

"Now we have been under the control of the Burmese soldiers for two years, so I know all about the Burmese soldiers. The longer we live under the control of the Burmese soldiers the poorer we become. We don’t have time to work on our farms. They always demand that we work for them, even though no KNU people come to our village. … We went to the [SPDC] commander and asked if the Dta La Ku people could be exempted from going as porters. They agreed once. Then we asked for that chance again but they never allowed it again, so now the Dta La Ku people must carry things as porters. Recently they demanded four Dta La Ku people or 80,000 Kyats from Kwih Lat Der area. [The village was ordered to send 4 people at all times on a rotating basis, or pay 80,000 Kyats per month to be exempted.] We begged them to be left to do our own work instead, so then they said they would accept two people and 40,000 Kyats." 

"Saw Meh Doh" (M, 44), Dta La Ku elder from xxxx village, southern Dooplaya (Interview #7, 9/98)

Dta La Ku village elders in the Kwih Lat Der area have repeatedly approached local SPDC military commanders, asking for the release of porters and protesting that portering and soldiering go directly against Dta La Ku religious beliefs. In response, they have only been scolded by the SPDC officers for being "irritants and troublemakers", and told that if the Dta La Ku are not willing to support the Army with their labour then they are to be driven out of Burma. This word has also been sent out through the soldiers, as returning Dta La Ku porters have said they were frightened when they heard the same thing from SPDC troops.

"(W)hen we asked the second time for the Dta La Ku people to be excused from portering, the Burmese soldiers said that the Dta La Ku people must not live in Burma. … We begged them to excuse us from carrying their military supplies because it violates our religious rules. But in response they told us that we Dta La Ku people are irritants so we cannot stay in their country." 

"Saw Meh Doh" (M, 44), Dta La Ku elder from xxxx village, southern Dooplaya (Interview #7, 9/98)

Further into SPDC territory and away from the border with Thailand, the 40 Dta La Ku families of Meh T’La village are being forced to provide 2 porters at all times on a 5-day rotation to carry rice and ammunition to Kyaikdon for the SPDC, and 100 people at a time also have to do forced labour building a security fence several kilometres long along the local motor road. Villagers are not allowed to go to their fields to tend their crops without a pass, and cannot stay in their field huts for more than 2 consecutive nights. In August a 20-year-old man named Maw Lu Po from the village was executed by SPDC troops for being caught in possession of medicine. He was bringing injection sets for the villagers, who have no doctor, but the troops accused him of possessing medicine to give to KNLA units. The village was also forced to move to another site by the SPDC, but was then ordered by the local KNLA unit to move back or be shelled with mortars. The villagers don’t dare go back against SPDC orders, and many see no option but to flee. At the same time villagers, including Dta La Ku, in Kru Tu Kee have been forced to provide 100 baskets of seed paddy, plant a crop and tend it for SPDC troops in the area. Dta La Ku villagers from Ywa Thay village in western Dooplaya claim that they have also been facing an increase of forced labour as porters for the SPDC, the KPA and remnants of DKBA (who still have troops in the far west and far east of Dooplaya), as well as forced labour building and maintaining an SPDC camp, pathways, and planting and tending a rice crop for the local SPDC Battalions. One village elder from this area stated that they could survive under the SPDC for the first year of the occupation, but by the end of the second year "everything is gone" because of all their demands for food and forced labour; in order to tend their crops and do other work, villagers pay money to avoid forced labour whenever possible, and to do this they must progressively sell off their livestock and valuables until nothing is left and they must go for forced labour or flee.

Dta La Ku villagers from Kwih Kler village in central Dooplaya report that they are also being used as SPDC porters and that the only way to escape this work is to pay money, but they have no money left. In the months before rainy season (up to June 1998) they were also forced to cut down many of their coconut trees to clear a path for a new road route. Construction on this road (probably a more direct route to replace the existing Azin - Kwih Kler - Lay Po Hta road) has not yet begun, but could begin in November or December 1998, and would most likely involve heavy use of forced labour from villagers in the Kwih Kler and Azin (Saw Hta) areas. SPDC officers have already ordered all Dta La Ku villagers who have already left Kwih Kler to return or have their homes and fields confiscated by the Army, but some of those who have left say they won’t go back anyway because they can no longer take the burden of forced labour.

As a result of all of the above, over 900 Dta La Ku villagers crossed the border to become refugees in Thailand in August and September 1998, and in late September elders from Dta La Ku villages in Dooplaya District claimed that all of those who had gathered to live in the Kwih Lat Der / Taung Ka Lay area, totalling close to 2,000 more, were preparing to cross the border the moment the pressure intensified further. At the time of printing, it appears that some of these have already crossed but most still remain just on the Burma side of the border ready to flee. The Dta La Ku refugees are not willing to go to the existing Karen refugee camp at Noh Po, because they fear that among the 10,000 refugees already at Noh Po they would have no chance to maintain their religion and lifestyle. Furthermore, Thai officials have told them not to go to Noh Po because Noh Po is a strictly closed camp and the Thai officials fear that the Dta La Ku would always be slipping in and out in order to attend religious events at their religious centres. Should another 1,000-2,000 Dta La Ku refugees arrive in Thailand, how they will be received remains uncertain.

"I don’t know what to do. The villagers are going to flee and come here again. We are not sure whether the Thai soldiers will allow them to come here or not, but I’m sure myself that the Thai soldiers will not allow them to stay. I want to know what we can do to stop the Thai soldiers from coming here to block their arrival." 

"Pa Bway Htoo" (M, 44), Dta La Ku elder on the Burma-Thai border (Interview #6, 9/98)

Ironically, although they are in Thailand many of the men return back across the border once per month to do a shift of forced labour as porters for SPDC troops. This is because when they fled villages like Kwih Kler to gather around Kwih Lat Der the SPDC noted down all the family registrations and use these to demand one person from each family for forced labour each month. If the villagers, including those already in Thailand but still on the SPDC list, do not return for their shift then the SPDC troops force the Kwih Lat Der village elders to pay 300 Kyat for each missing person. Rather than bring suffering on the elders, even the Dta La Ku refugees already in Thailand either send 300 Kyats each month or go for a shift of portering.

The KPA and the DKBA

"Thu Mu Heh’s army, the KPA, is in Klih but he is not there. Klih is below Kyaikdon [downstream along the Hong Thayaw river] near Kwih Kalay. They have nearly 2,000 soldiers around, but I don’t know exactly how many [other observers estimate only 200-300]. Now they have become the enemy of the KNU. … If a villager becomes a KPA soldier his family does not have to do forced labour. Some villagers become KPA soldiers. Some of those who joined have remained as KPA soldiers, but most of them have already quit. … (T)hey cause problems for the villagers by asking for taxes whenever the Burmese soldiers ask for taxes, and they also force people to work whenever the Burmese soldiers force people to work. The villagers say that the KPA are nice to them about one-third of the time. … (T)he KPA commander ordered each village headman to give them some villagers to become soldiers. The village headmen don’t dare to violate orders so they must ask the villagers to go and become KPA soldiers. Two or three people from each village have to become KPA soldiers."

  "Saw Day Htoo" (M, 40), Kwih K’Baw village, central Dooplaya (Interview #5, 9/98)

In late 1997 the SPDC made a big show of handing ‘authority’ over all of central and southern Dooplaya to Thu Mu Heh and the KPA. In the process they ejected the DKBA from all of Dooplaya except the western strip and the ‘hump’ of eastern Dooplaya which projects into Thailand. The DKBA has its roots further north in Pa’an and Thaton districts, and had struggled slowly for 3 years with the help of the SLORC/SPDC to establish a small presence in Dooplaya before this occurred, only to find many of their troops sent back to Pa’an district by the SPDC.

In reality, the SPDC retains complete authority in central and southern Dooplaya and the KPA only exists as a front to present to the villagers and the outside world. Even in this role the KPA has essentially failed. The KPA has been largely unsuccessful in its recruitment drive, and its membership still numbers no more than about 200-300 according to most reports from Dooplaya. The KPA has alienated the villagers by working exclusively with and under the protection of the SPDC. Very few villagers joined under the promise of exempting their families from forced labour, so in many villages the KPA has simply demanded 2 or 3 recruits. Village elders must comply or face punishment by the SPDC. However, many of those who initially joined the KPA have since run away, according to villagers from Dooplaya. Being villagers and not former soldiers, they were not used to army regimentation, and many only joined on the understanding that they would be posted in their home villages. When their brief training ended and they were ordered to other parts of the district, some of them fled back home. The KPA is now less prevalent along some parts of the border with Thailand, and it seems the SPDC has withdrawn them from certain areas. Some SPDC units still have two or three of them attached to the unit to do errands and villagers in central and southern Dooplaya frequently see them together with SPDC columns, but the KPA has for the time being been marginalised as an effective force. Most of those not on the move with SPDC columns stay at their base at Klih, 10-15 kilometres north of Kyaikdon. Thu Mu Heh, who formed and commands the KPA, is reportedly staying in the western Dooplaya garrison town of Kya In Seik Gyi, most likely so that he can remain in close contact with the SPDC command and because he would be too vulnerable to assassination by the KNLA if he stayed among his troops. The KNLA has already tried to assassinate him on more than one occasion since 1997, coming close to succeeding but only managing to kill some of his relatives in the process.

As of September 1998 the SPDC was reportedly still paying salaries to KPA members on the order of 1,000 Kyats per month for soldiers and 1,500 for higher officers. Similar salaries were paid to those who joined the DKBA in the first 2 years of its existence, but then they were cut off. The SPDC may still be paying salaries to KPA members in an attempt to attract more recruits, but if so then it is likely that these salaries will be cut off soon. Like the DKBA, the KPA receives its food and ammunition supplies from the SPDC. Over the past 2 years the SPDC has severely cut back such supplies to the DKBA, even stating that they may cut off food supplies to the DKBA headquarters at Myaing Gyi Ngu at the end of 1998. The KPA may also face similar cutbacks, but they are not as well established as the DKBA and therefore may not be able to survive as an army if this happens.

The DKBA is still present in small numbers in western and southwestern Dooplaya, around the heavily SPDC-controlled ‘white areas’ of Mon State. They also occupy the eastern ‘hump’ of Dooplaya which projects into Thailand and the narrow strip along the Moei River from the ‘hump’ north to the border town of Myawaddy. Their main base is at Wah Lay, and they also have soldiers at places like Kyo G’Lee. The DKBA at Wah Lay and in the ‘hump’ have been much more benevolent to the villagers than their colleagues elsewhere; villagers from this area consistently say that the DKBA protects them from the SPDC. When the DKBA is around the villages the SPDC generally doesn’t come. One villager even told KHRG that whenever the SPDC troops at Th’Waw Thaw (a.k.a. Sakanthit) or Kyo G’Lee are coming to their area to round up porters, the local DKBA warns the villagers to run and hide in the forest. There have been several incidents in the region of DKBA officers stepping in to rescue villagers from detention and torture by SPDC troops, and telling the SPDC to leave the villagers of this area alone. All of the villagers in this region are Karen; most of them are Buddhist, but the minorities of Christians and Animists among them say that they have suffered no persecution or abuse by the DKBA. Some villagers report that they would still prefer the KNU to the DKBA, but that as long as the SPDC remains in the area they are happy to have the DKBA around for protection.

"(T)hey [SPDC troops] come but they only stay a short time. They usually come once a week or once every 10 days. They don’t make trouble for the villagers because the DKBA are there. They don’t steal or enter the village because the DKBA are in the village. In the past they came and stole the chickens and the pigs. When they went into houses they took whatever they wanted. But now they don’t do anything to us because the DKBA are living in the area. … (W)henever the Burmese are going to the frontline and are planning to capture people as porters, the DKBA tell us to run away and sleep in the jungle. … The DKBA help the villagers with problems, but the Burmese only threaten to beat and arrest the villagers." 

"Pa Boh" (M, 38), xxxx village, eastern Dooplaya (Interview #9, 9/98)

"(T)hey [DKBA] came to Kwih Kalay and Tha Der Ko. Their leader is Commander Pa Ka. Pa Ka was a KNLA soldier before. Our guess is that they will arrive here, but we remember the KPA telling us that this area does not belong to the DKBA, that only the KPA can rule over this area. The KPA only travel together with the Burmese. But before that the DKBA said that they could rule over the entire territory of Burma. Recently the KPA told us that the DKBA can come to this area but they can only build pagodas and monasteries, they can’t do any other work. Anyway, we can’t understand the politics of it so we don’t care what they do. The only thing we want is for them not to force our people to do labour more than we can tolerate."

"Pa Bway Htoo" (M, 44), Dta La Ku elder, Dooplaya border (Interview #6, 9/98)

At the same time the SPDC has brought at least one group of DKBA soldiers back into central Dooplaya. Sources in the area report that a group of 38 DKBA soldiers has been moved in to Tha Der Ko, near Kwih Kalay. They are building a pagoda there, and visitors to the area claim that they are using the forced labour of local villagers, both Buddhist and Christian. After this, villagers reported that some DKBA troops were also posted in the central village of Kyaikdon in August 1998. It appears that the SPDC has decided to allow the DKBA back into central Dooplaya, though to what extent is as yet unclear. Tha Der Ko is only about 5 kilometres south of the KPA headquarters at Klih, making it very possible that there could be a confrontation between the two groups. One KPA officer has told Dta La Ku villagers further south that Dooplaya belongs to the KPA, and that the DKBA can only be allowed there to do religious work, nothing political or military. It is possible that this is the explanation which the SPDC has given to the KPA, and this would explain why the DKBA are building a pagoda. However, it appears strange for the SPDC to bring the DKBA back to an area from which they were previously ejected just to build a pagoda. The SPDC may be planning to marginalise the KPA further and reinstall the DKBA gradually in the region, or it may be planning to set up a fight between the two. It is well known that the two groups see each other as potential enemies. If there is an open fight the KPA would stand little or no chance, unless the SPDC took their side and used this as a method to severely weaken the DKBA. The SPDC continues to distrust the DKBA, while the KPA tends to be a much more loyal proxy army. At this point it is still impossible to predict the effect of any potential reintroduction of the DKBA into central Dooplaya, but it is a situation which calls for close observation.

"Now 38 members of the DKBA have come to Kyaikdon and we don’t know what they will do. They don’t stay in Kyaikdon, but in a place above Kyaikdon called Tha Der Ko [this is a big hill north of Kyaikdon, near Kwih Kalay]. They aren’t building a road, but they said that they will build a religious centre at Tha Der Ko. The villagers must help them [building a pagoda]. It is mainly the Buddhists who have to help them, but the Christians also have to go whenever they are told. We heard that they had planned to attack Noh Po [refugee camp]. We don’t know when, but they said they will wait until the rivers get a little shallower."

"Saw Day Htoo" (M, 40), Kwih K’Baw village, central Dooplaya (Interview #5, 9/98)

"When we came here [in August 1998], the DKBA were staying in Kyaikdon. They are staying in a different place than the Burmese because they just arrived from the lower plains [the west]. I heard that from other villagers. I don’t know how many DKBA soldiers are there, but there are approximately 3 to 4 hundred Burmese soldiers from Division 22."

"Ko Sein Aung" (M, 21), Saw Hta village, central Dooplaya (Interview #1, 9/98)

"Before there were only Burmese soldiers and KNLA soldiers, but then there was also the DKBA. After that the KPA came along as well, so the villagers are required to work more. When the DKBA came the villagers had to give them whatever they required. When the KPA came the villagers also had to give whatever they required. When the Burmese came the villagers had to start working for them. The villagers cannot tolerate all of this, so they’ve fled from their villages."

"Pa Bway Htoo" (M, 44), Dta La Ku elder on the Burma-Thai border (Interview #6, 9/98)

Life of the Villagers

The SPDC continues to implement its general program for consolidating military control over all of the territory and civilians throughout Dooplaya. Their method for doing so varies slightly in different parts of the district; for example, forced labour and other abuses are somewhat less in areas near the border with Thailand because they know that the villagers can flee, and in the eastern ‘hump’ of Dooplaya they use the DKBA to pacify much of the area for them, and the DKBA has been using a ‘hearts and minds’ approach which makes things easier on the villagers. Villagers in central and southern Dooplaya report that the soldiers of Light Infantry Division #22 who now occupy their area are somewhat less brutal than the Light Infantry Division #44 troops who first came with the military offensive in February/March 1997. However, particularly in north-central, central, and southern Dooplaya, the general patterns of SPDC human rights abuse continue to occur, including extrajudicial killings, rape, arbitrary detention, torture, forced labour and forced relocations.

Killings and Other Abuses

"(I)f a battle occurs near a village then after that they kill any villagers they see because they say that the villagers are the energy of the KNU. They never leave villagers alive. If they don’t kill them right away then they capture them and beat them. If they are not sure whether a farmer is a soldier or not they kill him."

"Saw Day Htoo" (M, 40), Kwih K’Baw village, central Dooplaya (Interview #5, 9/98)

In many parts of Dooplaya the KNLA continues to conduct limited guerrilla operations, particularly in the south. Wherever this occurs there are also incidents of killings of villagers by SPDC troops. In some cases these are random shootings of the first villagers seen after a KNLA ambush, and in other cases they occur when village elders or others are arrested as ‘suspects’ after the fighting occurs. One example of the former occurred on March 30, 1998, after a soldier from LIB 357 disappeared in southern Dooplaya. The other troops searched for him, and in the process they were shot at by a small group of KNLA soldiers. Shortly thereafter they saw Daw Naw Naw, a 21-year-old woman from Kone Kan village who was 7 months pregnant. Even though she repeatedly called out "I’m a good person!" they opened fire on her. She managed to run back to her house, but they followed, shot her dead there and shot her husband in the hand. Not long afterward they found the missing soldier, who had wounded his foot on the path and was being treated by a villager. In central Dooplaya in May/July 1998, SPDC troops captured a KNLA soldier and under interrogation he claimed that he had left his gun with the headman of Htee Law Bler village. The troops interrogated the headman, who had no gun but he couldn’t answer their questions because he couldn’t speak Burmese. They presumed him guilty, killed him and beheaded him before hanging the KNLA soldier and beheading him as well. Similar incidents continue to occur regularly throughout most parts of Dooplaya.

"A woman was coming back from her farm at about 1 p.m. The soldiers shouted at her and she responded, ‘I’m a good person! I’m a good person!’ They didn’t care what she said and started shooting at her. They shot with 4 or 5 guns. She ran behind a coconut tree and wasn’t hit. She ran to her house and the soldiers followed her there. They shot her dead at her house. She was shot once in her chest and once in her head. She was about 20 years old and pregnant when she died, her husband was about 23 years old."

"Saw Win Than" (M, 50), xxxx village, southern Dooplaya, describing the behaviour of SPDC soldiers after they were shot at by the KNLA in March 1998 (Interview #2, 4/98)

"He [a captured KNLA soldier] said that he kept his weapon with the chairman of Htee Law Bler village. So the Burmese went to Htee Law Bler village. There were over 30 Burmese soldiers. They asked the chairman of Htee Law Bler village, ‘Did this guy keep his weapon with you?’ The chairman was not able to speak Burmese so he couldn’t answer properly. After that, the Burmese asked him many questions but he couldn’t answer. Finally, the Burmese forced him to look for the weapon in the area of Htee Maw Wih Kee. He couldn’t find any weapon so the Burmese cut off his head at the source of the river among the bamboo forest. … The Burmese took [the captured KNLA soldier] to Htee Law Bler village and killed him. They hanged him by the neck from a jack-fruit tree. Then they cut off his head and his body fell to the ground while his head remained hanging from the rope."

"Saw Kler Eh" (M, 53), Saw Hta village, central Dooplaya (Interview #10, 9/98)

"(T)hey killed one person in Nu Kloh Ti village. His name was Saw Dee Dee, son of Naw Mu Ku. He was a villager. He has no father, only a mother who is a widow. He arrived back to visit his village with his friend at night, so the next day he slept. The Burmese soldiers entered his village suddenly and asked his mother, ‘Where is the man of the house?’ His mother woke him up and he got up from his bed. He came out, and the Burmese soldiers immediately shot and killed him as soon as they saw him. They did this without any reason. … This happened three months ago. His name was Dee Dee and he was 18 years old. He was not married. He was just a villager."

"Saw Day Htoo" (M, 40), Kwih K’Baw village, central Dooplaya (Interview #5, 9/98)

Villagers continue to be arrested, detained and tortured on suspicion of having contact with the KNLA, or often simply because the SPDC troops want to obtain some weapons which they can report as being captured from the KNLA. To do so they simply detain and torture villagers, demanding to know "where the guns are" and insisting that they obtain some guns and hand them over.

"Before I fled, I was under the control of the Burmese for three months. The Burmese held me under arrest for three months, until three guns were given to them. … In those three months I had to do forced labour every day. I had to carry their things, guide them to places where they wanted to go, walk along with them and do anything else that they asked of me."

"Saw Day Htoo" (M, 40), Kwih K’Baw village, central Dooplaya, describing why he first fled his village in mid-1997 (Interview #5, 9/98)

"Once they [SPDC] captured me, my mother-in-law, my brother-in-law, my cousin and another person from another village whom I didn’t know. That was when people were sowing paddy [in June 1998]. We were taken to Kyo G’Lee and held captive for 5 days. They put us in a shelter and locked our legs in stocks. They tied our hands behind our backs tightly so we couldn’t lie down or move, so we had to stay like this [he demonstrated that he could only sit with his legs in the stocks and his hands behind his back, he couldn’t lie down]. They accused us of being in contact with the KNU and of having a radio and weapons. They asked us to give them the weapons but we couldn’t give them what we didn’t have. They asked us to look for the weapons and the radio. How could we find those? We couldn’t find anything. That’s the reason they beat us. The Burmese put something on my back and then stepped on me. They beat my head with the butt of their gun, taw! taw! I was bleeding from three cuts on my head. They beat me a few times each day. They finally released us because the DKBA came and asked them to release us, and we returned to our wives and children."

"Pa Boh" (M, 38), xxxx village, eastern Dooplaya (Interview #9, 9/98)

Village headmen are regularly beaten or detained for not complying with orders for forced labourers or extortion money, and as a result some villages are finding it difficult to appoint new headmen. In many villages the local SPDC military simply appoints a headman with or without his agreement, then issues orders through him. Some villages have chosen female village heads, hoping that this will alleviate the physical abuse.

"Division 22 went down to Klay Thu village and arrested 2 village headmen. They beat them and one of them died. … They questioned him and accused him of not answering truthfully. … At about 10 p.m. they beat 6 people but only that village headman was seriously hurt, the rest were farmers. They tied their hands tightly behind their backs and kicked them, beat them and shot them with slingshots many times. Four people, a corporal and 3 soldiers, took turns beating them. They beat them with bamboo as thick as my wrist. They kicked their heads, backs and stomachs with jungle boots until they couldn’t breathe. When they stopped breathing they stopped for a moment to wait until they breathed again and then continued beating them. … I saw it happen from a distance but was afraid to go near them. They beat them for 2 hours until they were satisfied and then let them go. They said to them, ‘Commit this to your memory. This is the price for not telling us the truth when we ask you questions.’ The village headman [age 50] was sent to the hospital near Ler Mer but the hospital said he was too badly injured and they couldn’t help him. They sent him back to his house and he died there." 

"Saw Win Than" (M, 50), xxxx village, southern Dooplaya (Interview #2, 4/98)

"In Saw Hta area the village headmen have all been chosen by the Burmese soldiers, such as the headmen of the villages of Wah Lu, Ta Ri Kee and K’Yeh Theh. But later they still persecute the village headmen."

"Saw Day Htoo" (M, 40), Kwih K’Baw village, central Dooplaya (Interview #5, 9/98)

Rapes by SPDC troops also continue to occur sporadically in central and southern Dooplaya. However, in each of three or four cases recently reported to KHRG, after the rape the villagers reported it to the SPDC commander and the soldier was then punished. Punishments vary between being stripped and beaten in front of the other soldiers, forced to do hard labour for a short time, being detained or sent off to prison, or being transferred to another unit. Though these punishments are clearly insufficient and some incidents still go unpunished, it is significant that rape is the only human rights abuse by SPDC troops for which perpetrators face a significant possibility of punishment of any kind. As a result soldiers and junior officers who commit rape in Dooplaya usually try to do it covertly and tell the woman that they will kill her if she tells the senior officer. In Burmese culture, rape is generally considered a worse crime than murder and the SPDC is very sensitive to accusations on this subject.

"There were two men, and one covered her mouth while the other held her arms and they carried her down to the bushes just at the edge of the village. We don’t know how many people were at the place where she was raped so it may have been more than just the two of them who raped her. She tried to shout but she couldn’t make any noise because they had covered her mouth. They raped her for 2 hours. When they were finished they set her free and she came back. Her face looked like she wanted to cry but she couldn’t cry or smile. She covered herself with a blanket until morning because she was ashamed. After that the girl didn’t dare say anything about what she had suffered because she felt shy and afraid the soldiers would kill her if she told people they’d raped her."

"Saw Win Than" (M, 50), xxxx village, southern Dooplaya, describing a rape in August 1997 by SLORC troops at his village (Interview #2, 4/98)

Extortion and Looting

"When they came in the hot season last year, they came with a bulldozer. They told the villagers how much food they had eaten in town and the cost of the fuel [for the bulldozer] and demanded that we pay for it. The Saw Hta villagers had to pay 100,000 [Kyat]. There are over 200 houses in Saw Hta village, and they came to collect taxes whenever they wanted. They taxed us once a month, but sometimes we had to pay twice a month. I have little money so I was only taxed 500 Kyats. Richer villagers had to pay 2 to 4 thousand Kyats [each time]. I suffered from having to porter and from paying the taxes of 500 Kyats. Each house had to pay that much. Those villagers who couldn’t give 500 Kyats were ordered to give 300 Kyats and those who couldn’t afford that had to spend a day and night in the stocks in the police jail. Some villagers went to do daily labour which paid 400 Kyats and then gave that to the Burmese."

"Ko Sein Aung" (M, 21), Saw Hta village, central Dooplaya (Interview #1, 9/98)

In all areas of Dooplaya where the SPDC exerts direct control, systematic extortion and occasional looting are taking place. The main exception is the eastern ‘hump’, where as mentioned above the presence of the DKBA keeps the SPDC troops out of most villages. Even there, when SPDC patrols do pass through a village the villagers say that they loot their livestock. In central and southern Dooplaya, villages where SPDC troops are based such as Saw Hta and Taung Zone have a constant problem with troops looting their livestock, fruits and vegetables.

"We told them there’s an old military camp there, why don’t you prepare it and stay there? But they said they didn’t want to stay there. They stayed in the village, mostly in the houses of women who have children. Their commander came to sleep in my house one time. The village chairman’s house is very big, but they didn’t stay there. [They like to use the women and children as shields against attack.] … They didn’t bring their own rice. They also stole our fruit and vegetables that grow near our houses, like corn, cucumbers and many kinds of fruit. They stole our chickens at night when we couldn’t see. If we went to tell their commander, he said, ‘If you see them, just tell them not to do it’. When they rotated their troops, they took all the chickens and sold them in Saw Hta village. If they’re sleeping in Po Hsi Mu, they go to Meh T’Leh to steal. Whenever they’re patrolling they look to see who has a lot of chickens. They sleep two nights in the village, then they leave for two or three days and then come back again."

"Naw Ghay Wah" (F, 31), schoolteacher describing the situation in xxxx village, near Saw Hta (Interview #4, 9/98)

When SLORC/SPDC troops first arrived in the region they did a lot of looting and also demanded large one-time sums of money from villagers in some places. As the occupation continues, the extortion of money, food and building materials is becoming more systematic. For example, in Saw Hta village of central Dooplaya the villagers are graded by relative wealth; the wealthier villagers are forced to pay two to four thousand Kyat per family per month in extortion, while the poorer farmers are forced to pay 500 Kyat per month. In both cases, the amount is calculated to be all the money the family could possibly procure in a month, though it often turns out to be more than they can get. In Saw Hta those who can’t pay 500 Kyats are ordered to pay 300, and if they can’t even do that then they are taken to spend a day and night with their legs in stocks at the local police jail.

"…according to the agreement of the xxxx village tract headmen and small village leaders, yyyy village is assessed (two thousand) for servants’ fees. Therefore, [you] are informed to come and pay this money at xxxx village."

Text of written SPDC order to a village in southern Dooplaya, May 1998 (Order #4)

"[You] are informed to send (30) logs, (6) inches in diameter and (8) feet in length, for repairs to the camp, to xxxx camp before 25-1-98. If [you] fail to send [them], it will be the gentleman’s [i.e. your] responsibility alone."

Text of written SPDC order to a village in southern Dooplaya, January 1998 (Order #5)

SPDC units also stop traders moving goods or livestock and villagers who are transporting rice and extort either money or part of their load in order to allow them to pass. When many Dta La Ku villagers were fleeing Kwih Kler area to go south to Kwih Lat Der, a group of SPDC troops knew they were moving and set up a roadblock each morning to collect 500 Kyats from each cart before allowing it to pass. There have also been several reports of traders being stopped, whether or not they have already paid the required ‘taxes’, and either the trader or his goods being held captive until a ransom in money, livestock or goods has been paid.

"There were 1 Corporal and 12 soldiers. They collected taxes from the villagers who were carrying rice by ox-cart, 500 Kyats from each ox-cart. Whether we carried one basket or 5 baskets of rice in the ox-cart, we had to pay 500 Kyats. If we didn’t give the money to the Burmese at Meh Tharaw Hta, they wouldn’t allow us to go. After I gave them money, 500 Kyats, they allowed me to go. They collected money from the villagers as though they were begging for food."

"Saw Htoo Po" (M, 25), Meh T’Ler village, central Dooplaya (Interview #3, 9/98)

"In Kyaikdon there was a 100-year-old pagoda called Oorey Pagoda. The Burmese know that the old pagodas have many valuable objects inside, so they destroy these pagodas to steal the valuables. After that, the Burmese soldiers order the villagers to build a new pagoda but don’t give them any building supplies. The Burmese soldiers already reported that they’ve destroyed the old Oorey Pagoda and that they’ve built a new pagoda in its place. That is what they did. Don’t ever think that they will help the people."

"Saw Day Htoo" (M, 40), Kwih K’Baw village, central Dooplaya, describing what he saw on his July-September 1998 visit to central Dooplaya (Interview #5, 9/98)

Forced Labour

"They ordered the Kwih Kler villagers to go to their camp every day, their camp was there. They forced 2 villagers to do sentry duty around their camp. Even though the villagers had a lot of work to do they forced them to help them. They only called men to help, but if there were no men in the house a woman had to go. The women were forced to clean their camp. The women also had to clean [wipe and polish] the gate that was in the fence surrounding the camp. The men were forced to clear and dig out mud from the bunkers. A sentry forced me to enter the camp. I went with my friend from Htee Hta Baw village. … The Burmese forced us to enter the camp and to dig mud for the Signal Corps. We also had to dig out the mud in the bunkers. When I was digging I got a cold with a bad cough and chest pain. My body was in a lot of pain and I had to take penicillin. … I also had to do sentry duty twice for one day and a night each time. They didn’t give me food and I had to sleep at the camp in the evening. I could see my house from their camp but they still forced us to sleep on the ground at the gate of their camp, they didn’t allow us to enter the camp. We slept at night but sometimes they forced some of us to follow them in the night. … In the morning we went back to the village to eat and then we went back to their camp to work until evening. Then my friend came to replace us and we went back."

"Saw Htoo Po" (M, 25), Meh T’Ler village, central Dooplaya (Interview #3, 9/98)

Villagers throughout central and southern Dooplaya face a steady stream of demands by SPDC troops for various kinds of forced labour. One of the most common is forced labour related to roads. Villagers from Kwih Kler say they have already been forced to cut down many of their coconut trees to clear a path for what is supposed to be a new road from Saw Hta to Kwih Kler and Lay Po Hta, possibly to replace the rough existing road. Forced labour building this road could begin as early as November or December 1998, now that the rains are over. In mid-February 1998 two convoys totalling 50-70 trucks loaded with convicts from prisons throughout Burma were brought to Kyaikdon and Saw Hta to do forced labour on roads, and this could happen again in the coming dry season; this would lighten the load on the villagers, but they would still most likely be called for forced labour. The road from Kyaikdon and Po Yay eastward through the hills to Kyo G’Lee and then northward to Wah Lay, which was being built with bulldozers by Frontline Engineers #904 Battalion, was reportedly finished in April/May 1998. However, the SPDC troops are reportedly too afraid to use it because of their fear of ambush by the KNLA troops who occupy the remote hills along part of the route, and by now the road has probably been at least partly destroyed by the rains.

"They haven’t built the roads yet but they’ve already cleared the bushes and coconut trees to make way for the road [around Kwih Kler]."

"Saw Meh Doh" (M, 44), Dta La Ku elder from xxxx village, southern Dooplaya (Interview #7, 9/98)

At the moment most of the road labour throughout Dooplaya involves clearing roadsides and maintaining roads that now exist. Villagers in Meh T’Lah of central Dooplaya have to work on a fence several kilometres long along the sides of the road near their village which is supposed to protect the road from being landmined by the KNLA. At least 100 villagers at a time have to work building this fence. In the far south of Dooplaya several villages were forced to relocate earlier in 1998 to sites near the Ye-Thanbyuzayat road, which is the main north-south coastal road. They were then used together with villagers who already lived there for steady rotations of forced labour maintaining and upgrading the road. Work on this road appears to be done for the moment, but the villagers still have to do other kinds of forced labour and will probably be called back to repair the road once again after it is damaged by the next rainy season in 1999.

"They forced the villagers to build a fence that goes further than from here to Kwih Kler! [7 or 8 hours’ walk away, about 20 km.] The villagers must weave bamboo to make the fence along both sides of the road. About one hundred people were building the fence every day."

"Pu Bway Doh" (M, 82), Dta La Ku villager from Meh T’Lah village (Interview #8, 9/98)

"They just rebuilt the car road which leads to Sa Keh, it goes from Saw Hta to Kyaikdon. There is also a car road from Kyaikdon to [Kya In] Seik Gyi but it’s not as well built as the roads you see around here - it looks more like an oxcart track. The villagers had to work on it. When the Burmese first came, they came with a bulldozer to dig the mud for the construction of the road because the villagers weren’t able to make the road correctly, but then they took the bulldozer away and the villagers had to do the work. The bulldozer hasn’t come again since last year. There is also a road that connects Saw Hta, Kwih Lat Der and Htee Hta Baw which was built back when everyone was living there [before the SLORC/SPDC occupation, when the area was controlled by the KNU]. Now they are working on this old road using machetes and mattocks [large hoes; this is being done as forced labour by the villagers]."

"Saw Day Htoo" (M, 40), Kwih K’Baw village, central Dooplaya, describing what he saw on his July-September 1998 visit to central Dooplaya (Interview #5, 9/98)

Villagers throughout central and southern Dooplaya are used almost constantly for forced labour as porters, and in eastern Dooplaya the troops go to the villages to look for porters whenever their troops rotate, which is every few months. Most villages in central and southern Dooplaya are under standing written orders to provide a certain number of ‘permanent porters’ on a rotating basis; the number is usually 3 to 10 per village depending on village size, and the people must take along their own food for shifts of 3 to 5 days. During this time they are used as porters as well as messengers and sentries. Not only must the villages provide these ‘permanent porters’, but the troops also round up porters or catch people in their fields whenever they need additional porters, for example to carry their rations from supply drop-off points. Demands are occasionally made for large numbers of people, for example one person per household, when an operations column is heading on a journey of several days’ distance, such as the trip from Saw Hta to Htee Hta Baw, which is over 60 kilometres in a straight line.

"You the headperson are informed to send 5 permanent servants with their own rice to arrive today for the use of Frontline #xxx Light Infantry Battalion, Column 2, and prepare to rotate the servants every 5 days."

Text of written SPDC order to a village in western Dooplaya, July 1998 (Order #2)

"(I)f the Burmese soldiers went on patrol, they forced the village headman to collect 3 or 4 villagers to carry their things. They don’t call them porters, they call them ‘servants’ [wontan]. The village headman has to find the people to do it and rotate the people every time. They have to carry bullets and rice. They have to go for three days at a time."

"Naw Ghay Wah" (F, 31), schoolteacher describing the situation in xxxx village, near Saw Hta (Interview #4, 9/98)

"In the evening at 8:30 p.m., when the villagers were watching a movie, they entered the place where we were watching the video. They told the men to be porters. We didn’t dare flee. They collected 10 to 20 villagers to porter from each village, over 200 villagers at a time altogether. The villagers came from Dta Ray Kee, Tee Wah Klay, Meh K’Dtee, Taw T’Naw Kee, Lay Po Kee, Kyaw Kee, Tee Meh Baw, Kaser Po Kler, Meh Tha Ler, Kwih Kler, Dta Nay Pya and Po Hsi Mu villages. … We had to follow a few soldiers. I had to carry rice and there were G3 bullets together with the rice, it weighed about 18 viss [29 kg / 64 pounds]. Sometimes I had to carry their bags and pots. We had to carry things to Kyun Chaung [southern Dooplaya] and Ler Theh Wee. We walked for 5 days on the way to Kyun Chaung. They only rested at 6 or 7 p.m., sometimes 10 p.m. They started going at 6 a.m. … Some porters had to carry big shells. My shoulders were bruised, as were the shoulders of all the porters. Some porters were crying. A villager named Po Thu Daw, who was over 45 years old, was crying. The youngest porter was 16 or 17 years old. I was a porter for 18 days, then I fled from them at Kyun Chaung. 4 or 5 porters from Saw Hta village are left with them and the rest of us fled."

"Ko Sein Aung" (M, 21), Saw Hta village, central Dooplaya (Interview #1, 9/98)

"They demand porters once a week. People who can’t go must pay 1,000 Kyats, and those who can go must go. All of my friends below here, near the car road which is about 9 miles [14.5 km] from my place, have to porter. … They have to carry rice and the chickens that the soldiers steal during the night. They also steal goats and pigs and never pay for them. The villagers don’t say anything because they’re afraid and they think that giving the Burmese what they want is better than being persecuted and killed. They steal the rice from the villagers’ farmfield huts which are far from the village and they eat that together with all the chickens."

"Saw Win Than" (M, 50), xxxx village, southern Dooplaya (Interview #2, 4/98)

"When their column went to the front line, they always forced 6 porters [from his village] to follow them. We were 60 people in all. They forced all the men to go. As for the old people who couldn’t walk, someone would have to go in their place, usually their son. If there were no men in a family, the family had to pay 300 Kyats. … The Burmese forced groups of 6 from each village to go one after another, 2 days each time. For example, after they forced the Kwih Kler village group to go, it was the turn of another group from another village. They rotated groups from each village in this way. If they didn’t have enough people, we had to go again [twice in a row]. Each person had to carry twelve 60 mm mortar shells."

"Saw Htoo Po" (M, 25), Meh T’Ler village, central Dooplaya (Interview #3, 9/98)

"A porter from Meh T’Kreh fled but the Burmese captured him again and beat him. The Burmese beat him many times and kicked him until he fell down. When I saw that, I took great pity on him. The Burmese beat him with a bamboo stick and he shouted very loudly. The stick was as thick as a big toe - some that they use are as thick as knife handles. The bamboo was already dry, and the Burmese beat his back, boan, boan! His back became so swollen that we couldn’t stand to look at him. He wasn’t able to carry anything so the Burmese left him on the path. He was able to return to the village as we were not far from the village. Three porters from Saw Hta were sick with malaria and they were left behind also."

"Ko Sein Aung" (M, 21), Saw Hta village, central Dooplaya (Interview #1, 9/98)

In addition to portering on foot, villagers in some areas have to go with their oxcarts to haul SPDC supplies, and in central Dooplaya the few villagers who own motor vehicles are forced to use them for the same purpose. In March 1998, one such car was blown up by a landmine while hauling SPDC supplies, killing a child and wounding the parents (see below under ‘Landmines’).

"#12 Military Operations Command Headquarters requires cart porters urgently. Therefore, [send] 1 cart with 1 team of bullocks together with enough rations from each of your villages to arrive at the Village Peace and Development Council office together at 4 o’clock this evening without fail, you are informed. … If there is failure and those from the Army camp come to arrest you, it will not be our responsibility."

Text of written SPDC order to a village in western Dooplaya, June 1998 (Order #3)

Villagers must also do rotating shifts of forced labour in SPDC camps at Saw Hta, Kwih Kler, Meh Za Lee and other sites throughout Dooplaya. Often the women are forced to cook and clean while the men are used to build and maintain barracks, bunkers and booby-traps. The men must also act as messengers and guides, and spend their nights around the perimeter of the camp as unarmed sentries. One villager from Meh T’Ler in central Dooplaya even reported being forced to spend day after day weaving baskets for the forced porters to use when carrying ammunition for the troops. He stated that neither he nor the others knew how to weave baskets, but the troops called in some other villagers to teach them.

"(T)he villagers have to do many kinds of forced labour. Every day, two or three people from each village have to go and stay in the Burmese camp and do whatever the Burmese soldiers ask them to do, such as standing sentry, portering, and other things. The Saw Hta villagers have to do forced labour every day. One person from each family has to go. If there are no men in the family then a woman must go. Children aged 16 and above must go. They [Burmese soldiers] don’t care about old age. The old people must go also."

"Saw Day Htoo" (M, 40), Kwih K’Baw village, central Dooplaya (Interview #5, 9/98)

"To build xxxx camp, you are informed to come with (26) voluntary labourers with one bowl of rice each, to xxxx monastery on the 2nd at 8 o’clock without fail."

Text of a written SPDC order to a village in southern Dooplaya, June 1998 (Order #1)

"They forced me to weave baskets. They didn’t teach me how to weave but they still forced me to weave. They found villagers who could weave and they taught us. We had to weave until evening and then we went to sleep. In the morning the sentry beat the hollow log, Tone! Tone! Tone! and we had to go and weave again. We had to cut the cane nicely, if it wasn’t nice they didn’t like it. The baskets were used to carry ammunition [by porters]. We also had to repair their fence if it was broken. Sometimes we had to use bamboo spikes to make booby traps. We had to whittle the bamboo all day and then dig a hole in the earth."

"Saw Htoo Po" (M, 25), Meh T’Ler village, central Dooplaya (Interview #3, 9/98)

Some forced labour has also been demanded for building pagodas, both by the DKBA at Tha Der Ko and by the SPDC in other parts of northern and central Dooplaya. Villagers have also reported having to do forced labour growing crops for SPDC troops in the southern and western parts of the district.

"They are building pagodas everywhere. The soldiers order the villagers to build the pagodas. The Christians have to go sometimes too, whenever they are told to. Do not say that the soldiers will help you. Even when your back is wounded from carrying sand the soldiers will continue to watch over you with guns."

"Saw Day Htoo" (M, 40), Kwih K’Baw village, central Dooplaya, describing what he saw on his July-September 1998 visit to central Dooplaya (Interview #5, 9/98)

"Each of these villages had to provide 100 baskets of paddy seed and sow it for the Burmese. They had to plough, sow, harvest and pound the paddy, they had to do everything. All of the rice that is produced from the 100 baskets of seed must be given to the Burmese soldiers. They don’t have time to do their own work so they couldn’t tolerate staying there. That is happening in Kru Tu Kee, Lay Tai and Kler Ta Gu, in Kawkareik township."

"Pa Bway Htoo" (M, 44), Dta La Ku elder on the Burma-Thai border (Interview #6, 9/98)

"The people who live under the authority of the Burmese must do forced labour for them and must also go as porters. Those who live with the Burmese sometimes have to carry things from Kyaikdon down to Kalay Kee and to [Kya In] Seik Gyi. Sometimes they have to carry things from Kyaikdon up to Kwih Kler, Kwih Lat Der, and Htee Hta Baw. [Htee Hta Baw is several days’ walk south of Kyaikdon, towards Three Pagodas Pass.] The villagers who don’t live close to the enemy are living in the jungle, on the mountains and at the source of the rivers. The people who are living in the jungle do not show themselves because they don’t want to work for the SPDC."

"Saw Day Htoo" (M, 40), Kwih K’Baw village, central Dooplaya (Interview #5, 9/98)

"When they were forcing you to porter, did they say anything to you?"

"Yes, they said to us, ‘Nga Lo Ma Tha!’ [‘I fucked your mother and you are the child!’], ‘Kway Ma Tha!’ [‘Son of a bitch!’], and ‘You are a lazy porter and if I kick you, you’ll go flying!’"

"Ko Sein Aung" (M, 21), Saw Hta village, central Dooplaya (Interview #1, 9/98)

Forced Relocations

"They don’t force them [at gunpoint] but they order them to go and live at the relocation sites. The villagers don’t dare to go because they know that people who go and live there have to do forced labour and are beaten by the Burmese soldiers, and sometimes they are killed. So the villagers always run away whenever they tell them to go and live at a relocation site. The villagers from Thay Pa Htaw had to relocate to Po Yay. Because of the relocation many of the villagers fled and several villages were destroyed. Now the Thay Pa Htaw villagers have returned to Thay Pa Htaw village and are staying there again. In Kya In area, near [Kya In] Seik Gyi, the Burmese relocated villages like T’Ka Kee and Kalay Kee. … Now nobody is living in Kalay Kee village because the Burmese already forced them to move, and there is also nobody in Toh Kee. The villagers are now all spread out. Nobody is there." 

"Saw Day Htoo" (M, 40), Kwih K’Baw village, central Dooplaya, describing what he saw on his July-September 1998 visit to central Dooplaya (Interview #5, 9/98)

In January 1998, many Karen villages in the far south of Dooplaya were forced by SPDC Infantry Battalion #230 to relocate to Thanbyuzayat and Three Pagodas Pass. Meh K’Naw, Meh K’Wa, Htee Kay, Htee Klih Thu, Lay May, Htee Po Yu, Ah Pa Lone, Lay Po, Hsing Pyay, Kwih Prer Htee, Maw Po and other villages were given 3 days to move, after which several houses in each village were burned and Meh K’Naw and Htee Maw Keh villages were burned completely. Suffering from lack of food at the relocation site, the villagers finally managed to get permission to return to their villages, but they now have to pay extortion money regularly to IB 230 and go on rotating shifts of 3 days’ portering labour. Anyone who cannot go must pay 1,000 Kyats.

In the latter part of 1997 several other villages in southern Dooplaya were forced to move to Taung Zone (a.k.a. Lay Noh) and Anand Gwin (a.k.a. Noh Chut Neh) along the road from Thanbyuzayat to Three Pagodas Pass, and to Kaneh Kamaw and Gker (a.k.a. Beh Hla Mu) near the Ye-Thanbyuzayat road.

"They haven’t ordered us to relocate yet, but they have already relocated villagers from below our place [downstream] to places near their camps alongside the road. I know of 3 villages that have been relocated. Wah Pa Theh and Gru Mer were relocated to Gker [a.k.a. Beh Hla Mu], and Way T’Lay was relocated to Kaneh Kamaw. … They wrote a letter to Kwih K’Saw Si [village] which said, ‘If you don’t relocate in 7 days we will burn down your village and persecute the villagers.’ They didn’t say where to go, they just demanded that they not stay in their village any more. All the Kwih K’Saw villagers left their village when they received the letter and went to wherever their relatives were living."

"Saw Win Than" (M, 50), xxxx village, southern Dooplaya (Interview #2, 4/98)

Several villages in the Kya In Seik Gyi area of western Dooplaya, such as T’Ka Kee, Toh Kee and Kalay Kee, have been forced to move and the villagers have scattered. In central Dooplaya, many pockets of remote villages were forced to move, such as K’Lah Lay, Dta Ri and Htee Po Ghaw, which were forced to Dta Nay Pya.

"Before we fled they forced the villagers from such places as K’Lah Lay, Dta Ri and Htee Po Ghaw to go and stay in Dta Nay Pya together and build their own houses there. Villagers who were staying outside the villages in their farmfield huts were forced to move into Bu Kler village. The villagers couldn’t find work there and they couldn’t work their land anymore. They were given no food but had to find food for themselves, so they asked the Burmese if they could return to their villages to farm. The Burmese agreed to let them go and now they have gone back to their villages."

"Saw Htoo Po" (M, 25), Meh T’Ler village, central Dooplaya (Interview #3, 9/98)

The general practice has been to force small and remote villages to move to larger villages which are more directly under the control of SPDC troops. In many villages, particularly in central Dooplaya, orders were issued for all villagers living in houses or farmfield huts outside the villages to move into the centre of their villages. In southern and western Dooplaya some of the relocations have not been rescinded, but many of the villagers in central Dooplaya who were forced to relocate were later allowed to go back to their villages after complaining that they could not farm or earn their living. Even so, villagers who live in remote areas or out in their fields are always at high risk of being caught as porters or shot by patrolling SPDC troops. Relocations continue to be ordered sporadically whenever and wherever KNLA activity flares up. In areas of southern and western Dooplaya where villagers cannot get permission to return to their home villages, they have no choice but to try to find a living at relocation villages or in the villages of their relatives. This is extremely difficult, because these places tend to be quite strongly SPDC-controlled, often even having an SPDC base right at the village, so the relocated villagers are used all the time for forced labour and have trouble paying all the extortion fees levied on them.

"The villagers in Kaser Po Kler also came to stay in Saw Hta. They didn’t dare stay in Kaser Po Kler any longer because the Burmese were forcing them to stay right in the village so they were afraid. The Burmese aren’t forcing people to relocation sites but they don’t allow the villagers to stay outside the villages or in their farmfield huts. They force them back to stay in the village."

"Ko Sein Aung" (M, 21), Saw Hta village, central Dooplaya (Interview #1, 9/98)

Internally Displaced People

"(M)y guess is that there are more than 100 families of villagers living there in the jungle [just in the xxxx area]. They began living in the jungle when the Burmese first arrived, over a year ago. The Burmese know they are in the jungle and they go looking for them sometimes, but the people always hide themselves. Each family keeps 4 or 5 shelters in different places. When the Burmese come near one of their shelters they run to another shelter, and when the Burmese move on toward that shelter they run to the next one of their shelters. … Each family works two or three fields in different places. Every time the Burmese commander orders his soldiers to go out, the villagers in the jungle must run away."

"Saw Day Htoo" (M, 40), Kwih K’Baw village, central Dooplaya, describing what he saw on his July-September 1998 visit to central Dooplaya (Interview #5, 9/98)

At least several hundred families remain internally displaced in central Dooplaya, not daring to go back to their villages but afraid to run to Thailand. Most of them are villagers who could no longer bear the burden of rotating forced labour but had no money to pay to avoid it, while some are villagers who fled the initial SLORC/SPDC offensive to the forest, and are afraid that if they return to their villages now they will be arrested and suspected of contact with the KNLA. Some of these families already fled to Thailand once but were forced back by Thai troops; some of them were among the group which was shot at and terrorised by Thai troops at Thay Pu Law Htwee in November 1997 (see "Strengthening the Grip on Dooplaya", KHRG #98-05, 10/6/98, for further details). There are also scattered families of internally displaced villagers in the south of Dooplaya near the Three Pagodas Pass-Thanbyuzayat road, who fled the forced relocations of villages in the area in late 1997 and early 1998 and are now living in the hills. Several thousand people from southern Dooplaya have fled southward to Mon-held areas since the occupation in early 1997, and some people continue to flee in that direction.

"When the Burmese started to come to their villages they fled together to Thay Pu Law Htwee. But then the Thai soldiers threatened them by shooting their guns at them, so they were afraid and went back to stay in the jungle. Now they stay in the jungle because they don’t dare come to Thailand again. They are afraid."

"Saw Day Htoo" (M, 40), Kwih K’Baw village, central Dooplaya, who spent time with the displaced in central Dooplaya in August 1998 (Interview #5, 9/98)

"They didn’t destroy our homes but they took any food they found in our houses, such as salt, Ajinomoto [MSG seasoning] and shrimp paste. They took everything they found. They also took rice, though they left some behind for the owner. All the men ran to the jungle. Only the women and children stayed in the village. All of the villagers from xxxx, about 6 families, are still living in the jungle. The Burmese soldiers told them to go live in Kyo G’Lee or K’Neh Thay Po Lay."

"Pa Boh" (M, 38), xxxx village, eastern Dooplaya (Interview #9, 9/98)

In central Dooplaya it is very difficult to remain hidden for internally displaced people, as the terrain of the central plain is easy for SPDC troops to move around, and in some areas there is not a lot of forest cover. The SPDC regularly issues orders for these people to return to their villages, but they dare not for fear of arrest. They stay in small groups of shelters in the forest, fleeing from one shelter to another every month or two when an SPDC patrol comes near their shelters. Each family has 4 or 5 shelters and 2 or 3 small ricefields, scattered in different places so that they can keep ahead of SPDC patrols. Because they always have to move, they have difficulty growing or obtaining enough food, and they have no access whatsoever to medicines. Many of these people have already died of disease, particularly children and the elderly.

"People are still living in the villages which are near the [Thai] border, but there are no people in the villages starting from Dta Broh and Kay Lu Nee. There are no people in Dta Broh Kee. There are people in K’Yeh Theh and Yaw Ka Daw. Their area is mined and the Burmese control them. There are also mines around Yan Day Ya and there are people living there."

"Saw Day Htoo" (M, 40), Kwih K’Baw village, central Dooplaya (Interview #5, 9/98)

"Those in the jungle are not so healthy because they have no medicine with them. They suffer from malaria, oedema, abscesses, dysentery, diarrhoea, headaches, ‘dee klih law’ [symptomised by grotesque swelling of one or both testicles], gastric pains, belly pains, numbness [quasi-paralysis brought on by severe Vitamin B deficiency], ringworm and many other illnesses. Of course, they die from the illnesses sometimes. Both children and adults have died because there is no medicine."

"Saw Day Htoo" (M, 40), Kwih K’Baw village, central Dooplaya (Interview #5, 9/98)

Problems for Farmers

"They [the villagers] can’t stay in their field huts because when they go to their farms they must get a pass that only lasts for one day’s work. If they don’t have a pass then they [SPDC soldiers] treat them as their enemy. … The villagers had to give the Burmese some rice even though they [the soldiers] already received some rice from town [their rations]. Now in Kyaikdon area they have taken some fields. The Burmese are supervising these confiscated fields and forcing the villagers to work often on the fields. The Burmese have established a paddy plantation at Kyaikdon but it is the villagers who have to do all the work on it."

"Saw Day Htoo" (M, 40), Kwih K’Baw village, central Dooplaya, describing what he saw on his July-September 1998 visit to central Dooplaya (Interview #5, 9/98)

Even farmers living in their villages are having a lot of difficulties under the SPDC occupation. Throughout all of Dooplaya other than the DKBA areas in the east, the SPDC has placed tight restrictions on farmers to make sure they cannot support the KNLA in any way. In central Dooplaya, families who used to live in their farmfield huts or houses far from the village have been ordered to relocate into the centre of their villages, which makes it extremely difficult for them because their fields can be 2 hours or more on foot from the village. Compounding this, all villagers are not allowed to leave their villages without an SPDC pass. In some areas, the pass requires them to return before sunset even if their fields are a long distance away, while in other villages they can get a pass allowing them to spend only one or two nights in their farmfield hut. Rice farming is labour-intensive, and it is difficult to tend a crop and protect it from animals while only being allowed to stay in the farmfield hut for one or two nights at a time during growing season.

When they go to their fields they are only allowed to take a very small amount of rice, in order that there be no way they could give any to KNLA troops. This is so tightly restricted that farmers usually can’t even take as much as they would normally eat; when doing physical labour Karen farmers eat a lot of rice, but the SPDC limits them to taking as little as one milktin (about 200 grams) of uncooked rice for a day, no more than half what they would usually eat. Once in their fields, even with a pass they are at high risk of being shot on sight by SPDC patrols or captured as porters. In addition to all of these problems, the shortage of rain in the early part of the 1998 growing season has destroyed much of the crop; without enough rice to eat and facing constant demands for extortion money and labour for SPDC troops, life will be very difficult for farmers in Dooplaya over the coming year.


"No children are going to school because the Burmese came and destroyed all the schools. If the situation is good the children can go to school."

"Pu Meh Thu" (M, 70), xxxx village, eastern Dooplaya (Interview #15, 9/98)

All of the former village schools throughout Dooplaya which were operated by the villagers themselves or by the Karen National Union (KNU) have been forced to close down under the SPDC occupation. The SPDC has only set up a few schools in major villages such as Azin and Kyaikdon, but few children outside these villages have access to these schools, particularly young children. People in outlying villages, and particularly those who are internally displaced, are afraid to send their children away to schools in large SPDC-controlled villages. As a result, most children in Dooplaya are no longer able to go to school.

"There was one schoolteacher there. Then the government changed all the rules and made us teach only Burmese subjects. They wouldn’t allow us to teach in Karen language. But that other teacher couldn’t teach in Burmese [so he/she lost the job]."

"Naw Ghay Wah" (F, 31), schoolteacher from Pa’an district who was ordered to move and become a teacher in Dooplaya after the SLORC occupation (Interview #4, 9/98)

"Before there was a school but after the Burmese came the school was destroyed. My 18-year-old son has never been to school. Before he was going to start going to school his mother died. He was young and I couldn’t do anything for him. When he got bigger people asked him to join the army. … He has been a soldier 3 times. He was a DKBA soldier once for more than one year and had to go to Wah Lay but he was never in a battle. … He was a KNLA soldier twice, the first time he served for more than one year and the second time he served for more than 3 years. But he never served for the Burmese. The three times that he served as a soldier, it was demanded of him. When he was a KNLA soldier the first time, the KNLA commander came and demanded that he be a soldier. Then when he became a DKBA soldier, they came to his home and called him outside then made him join the army. This time, now [still ongoing], the KNLA came and demanded he be a soldier for three years but now he is allowed to stay at home because he has already served a lot. He was about 15 years old the first time he became a soldier. After that he was tired, he didn’t want to become a soldier again but he had to."

"Pu Tha Wah" (M, 66), xxxx village, eastern Dooplaya (Interview #13, 9/98)

In the SPDC schools only Burmese curriculum is taught; all is supposed to be taught in Burmese language and Karen language is not allowed to be taught, but as some of the teachers are Karen they often teach in Karen even though they are not supposed to. In xxxx the Karen teacher was sacked by the SPDC authorities because he could not speak Burmese well enough, and this may have happened at other schools as well. From March through May 1998, the SPDC held a primary school teacher training in Kya In Seik Gyi township for SPDC-authorised teachers from Dooplaya and other surrounding regions. This was conducted under the ‘Border Areas Development Programme’, an SPDC programme with support from United Nations agencies which mainly focusses on improving infrastructure for military access to the border areas and ‘Burmanising’ the ethnic nationalities. According to a Karen teacher who attended the training, the trainer was a Burman woman from Mandalay who constantly verbally abused the 31 Karens at the training and treated them as second-class citizens until they no longer wanted to be there. The trainees did not receive enough food and had to spend much of their own money to support themselves during the three months. Then on returning to xxxx village, this Karen teacher and her husband both had their teaching salaries withheld by local authorities until they couldn’t survive and had to flee to Thailand.

"They called 8 people from Saw Hta area, including me, to attend the training in Leh Gu. It was in March 1998. I went to attend the training for 3 months in Leh Gu. … They called it ‘Border Areas Development’. Three months of special primary school teacher training. It was in Kya In Seik Gyi township. There were 31 of us from Karen State, 6 men and 25 women. I was the leader of the women. At the training they spoke to us very harshly. The border development supervisor was a Burmese woman from Mandalay. She scolded us. She told me, ‘You people from Karen State, your bags are very small [i.e. you brought very little], haven’t you ever been to a training before?’ We didn’t want to go to their training! But the soldiers ordered me to go, and they said, ‘No need to take your things, everything is there’. The woman scolded us because we didn’t bring our sleeping mats and blankets. We didn’t dare talk back to her because she is a border supervisor, we all just cried. We talked to each other about how she thinks Karen people are lower class. She didn’t scold the other nationalities [probably Burmans and Mons], only us. … I was there for three months. They gave us food twice each day. … They gave us a very tiny cup of rice with a small piece of chicken for each person. It wasn’t enough to eat, so we had to buy food from the shops. I took along 30,000 Kyats of my own money and it lasted me for the 3 months. Some of the single girls had to spend 40,000 or 50,000 Kyats. … After I left the training I stayed in xxxx for two more months. After that we couldn’t stay anymore in xxxx. The monthly pay from the government is 925 Kyats but I never got it. … My husband never got his pay either, so we couldn’t stay there. He came and stayed with me and taught in xxxx, but he never got paid. The villagers gave us some food, but the government didn’t give us any food."

"Naw Ghay Wah" (F, 31), schoolteacher from Pa’an district who was ordered to move and become a teacher in Dooplaya after the SLORC occupation (Interview #4, 9/98)

Illness and Medical Care

"(M)any people are sick, they are coughing a lot. Some also have diarrhoea. They can’t find any medicine. Two people have already died, a 2-year-old girl died ten days ago and another child died about a month ago. They both died of diarrhoea, which they’d had for almost two months. They wouldn’t have died if they’d had medicine. In the past, children in Kyo G’Lee [area] who had medicine didn’t die from this."

"Pa Boh" (M, 38), xxxx village, eastern Dooplaya (Interview #9, 9/98)

Medical clinics formerly supported by various organisations and the KNU throughout Dooplaya have closed under the SPDC occupation, and very little medical help is available. Even in the central village of Saw Hta (Azin) there is no proper clinic; villagers there were forced to pay for the establishment of a clinic after the SPDC occupation and had to build it themselves, but even so they must pay to go there. There are no doctors there, only one or two Karen-speaking nurses, and villagers who go there have to buy their own medicines. The medicines are very expensive, and most people cannot afford to buy more than one or two tablets.

"In Saw Hta the Burmese collected money from the villagers to establish a hospital and then forced the villagers to build it. But when the villagers go to the hospital, when they’re ill, they must pay. They don’t have enough medicine. In Kalay Kee they also collected money to establish a hospital which the villagers then had to build, and there too the villagers must pay when they go to the hospital. The medics are army medics."

"Saw Day Htoo" (M, 40), Kwih K’Baw village, central Dooplaya (Interview #5, 9/98)

"Our whole family was sick, my husband, my children and myself. Medicines were very expensive. We had to pay 15 Kyats for each capsule of penicillin. To take medicine just one time cost 40 or 50 Kyats, and if we had to take medicine 3 times a day we had to pay over 100 Kyats. We were living there in poverty, and if we’d stayed there any longer our children would have died and I would have died too. We all had malaria. … Last year one of my children died in xxxx. She was 4 years old and died of malaria. When she was sick I sent her to Saw Hta, but they don’t do malaria tests there, they only treat wounded soldiers. There is no medicine for our children. We have to buy that and treat them ourselves."

"Naw Ghay Wah" (F, 31), schoolteacher from Pa’an district who was ordered to move and become a teacher in Dooplaya after the SLORC occupation (Interview #4, 9/98)

Outside of the main villages in central Dooplaya, people have no access to medical help or medicines whatsoever unless they risk a trip to Thailand. In the eastern ‘hump’ of Dooplaya, villagers say that they’ve already run out of money to buy medicines in Thailand so most people use roots and other herbal cures as their only medicines.

"(T)here are no clinics or doctors. If they are sick they grind the roots of trees to make medicine. Sometimes they go to buy medicine in Klaw Taw [a village just inside Thailand]."

"Saw Muh" (M, 36), xxxx village, eastern Dooplaya (Interview #11, 9/98)

"I cough all the time and there is no medicine or hospital. People here eat the roots of trees for medicine. Some are healed by the roots but others aren’t and remain ill."

"Pu Tha Wah" (M, 66), xxxx village, eastern Dooplaya (Interview #13, 9/98)

No training is available for villagers who want to become medics, because the SPDC is afraid that they will use their skills to help KNLA soldiers. In August 1998, SPDC troops executed a 20-year-old Meh T’Lah villager named Maw Lu Bu because they caught him carrying some injection sets to treat the sick in his village. They shot him dead on suspicion of carrying medicine for KNLA soldiers.

"The Burmese had exchanged fire with the KNLA, but no villagers were injured. Then later they captured a villager on the path to Noh Pa Wah, and they saw some medicine in his bag so they shot him dead on the path. … His name was Maw Lu Bu and he was about 20 years old. He wasn’t married yet. They shot him when I was back there, not even a month ago. They killed him near the pond between Meh T’Lah and Khaw Wah Kloh. They killed him just because they saw medicine in his bag."

"Pu Bway Doh" (M, 82), Dta La Ku villager from Meh T’Lah village (Interview #8, 9/98)


"His name was Paw Eh Pa. We did not know if it was a Burmese or KNLA landmine, but it was put on the way to Kwih Kler, near the top of the village. He went to his farm at 5 a.m. with his wife along the sandy path. His wife was walking in front of him when he stepped on the landmine. His wife was sprayed with sand and she dared not call to her husband. All that was left of her husband was his head, chest and one hand. His feet were found very far from where he died and his liver, intestines and stomach were destroyed. His left hand was wrapped in his sarong, and his right hand had disappeared. His slippers and torch were destroyed and pieces were spread everywhere. We think it was a Burmese landmine. I saw this all with my own eyes."

"Saw Htoo Po" (M, 25), Meh T’Ler village, central Dooplaya (Interview #3, 9/98)

In areas like Dooplaya, the KNLA can only operate in small groups and are dependent for ammunition on very tenuous supply lines. To compensate for the imbalance in numbers, to harass the SPDC troops and to protect caches and supply lines, they are increasingly relying on landmines. Most of these mines are of their own design and manufacture, but quite effective. The SPDC responds by increasing their own use of landmines. The KNLA usually lays mines slightly off pathways, not in fields or just outside villages, and always tries to tell local villagers which pathways to avoid because they are mined. However, this is not always effective, particularly in areas where the KNLA cannot enter villages because the SPDC is based there. As proof of this, villagers continue to be blown up by KNLA mines. The SPDC lays its mines on pathways to farmfields and in other areas where villagers commonly go and never tells anyone where the mines are, making these especially dangerous. Landmines are not yet as much of a problem in Dooplaya as they are further north in Pa’an district, where they have become a major cause of fear and flight among the villagers [see "Uncertainty, Fear and Flight: The Current Human Rights Situation in Eastern Pa’an District" (KHRG #98-08, 18/11/98)], but they may become more of a problem as time goes on and they are already becoming an issue in the daily lives of the villagers in all parts of Dooplaya.

"Six villagers from Kyo G’Lee and one person from K’Neh Thay Po Lay were injured by Burmese landmines. The KNLA landmines haven’t hurt any villagers, but the Burmese plant landmines on the paths which lead to the farms and everywhere. They also plant them on the road. They don’t tell the villagers where the landmines are, which is why the villagers get injured by the landmines."

"Saw Muh" (M, 36), xxxx village, eastern Dooplaya (Interview #11, 9/98)

"The KNLA tell [the villagers] where they have put their landmines, but the Burmese never tell us. Although many villagers die as a result of their landmines they still don’t tell us where they put them. Some people get hurt by their landmines when they go to their farms. Some people went fishing and got hurt by their landmines. They never tell the villagers. … I know that one person from Kyaw Plaw died from a landmine and another had to have his leg amputated. … His name is Ku Lu Po, he is 40 years old and has a wife and children. Another person died in the jungle, he was a Bo Kler villager. That happened last summer."

"Pu Eh Thee" (M, 68), xxxx village, eastern Dooplaya (Interview #12, 9/98)

In eastern Dooplaya the villagers are quite aware that there are many landmines around and many are afraid to go too far from their villages because of this. In central Dooplaya, there have been several reported cases this year of villagers being maimed or killed by landmines. It is not always clear which army laid the mine. One of the worst cases occurred on March 22nd 1998 near Kwih Kler in central Dooplaya. Pa Gaw Gu from Htaw Wah Law village was being forced to use his small truck to carry SPDC rations and was giving the family of Saw Po Dee a lift. The truck hit a vehicle mine (apparently planted by the KNLA) along the road and was blown apart. Saw Po Dee’s 6-year-old daughter was killed and all of the others were wounded.

"The Burmese were going to come to bring their rations, but instead they forced a villager who owned a car to take the rations to them. … The car with 4 people in it from Htaw Wah Law village hit a landmine. The car had Saw Po Dee, his wife, Ma San San, from Kwih Kler village, his 6-year-old daughter and the driver, Pa Gaw Gu, inside. The car was carrying rice, chillies and beans for the Burmese, and these were spread everywhere after they hit the landmine. Their 6-year-old daughter died, I saw her brain had come out of her nose. If she hadn’t been shielded by the rice sacks her body would have been completely destroyed. His wife and the driver escaped out of the front of the car, but Saw Po Dee was thrown from the car and fell. His mouth was bleeding and he was bruised. The Burmese put him on an intravenous drip and then they forced a car from Kwih Kler to take him to Kyaikdon. His wife, whose eyes were swollen from crying, went with him. The Burmese took his daughter to the Burmese camp and covered her body. They didn’t allow people to see her but I had gone to see [the accident site] before they took her away and felt such pity for the girl."

"Saw Htoo Po" (M, 25), Meh T’Ler village, central Dooplaya (Interview #3, 9/98)

Though there are not yet reports of SPDC troops systematically using porters as human minesweepers as they do in Pa’an district, this may be because villagers in Dooplaya are not yet aware enough of landmines to realise that this is what is happening when they are sent out in front of the military column. A few villagers have already referred in interviews to being sent out in front of the military column when they are portering. If the use of landmines continues, this will probably become a more common and systematic practice by SPDC troops.

"The Burmese knew the way but they made trouble for us and forced a villager to go in front of them. I think they were afraid. I’m not sure why, maybe they were afraid that the enemy would shoot at them."

"Saw Htoo Po" (M, 25), Meh T’Ler village, central Dooplaya, describing his experiences while portering (Interview #3, 9/98)

"No one has stepped on landmines recently, but in May my cousin Saw Lay Htoo, Ka Lu Po, Naw Kyaw Ta and Mu Dwaw stepped on a Burmese landmine in Kyo G’Lee village. Ka Lu Po died immediately and Saw Lay Htoo died later in the Mae Sot hospital [in Thailand]. The other two only sustained injuries. Saw Lay Htoo was 33 years old. He was married with two children but one of his children had already died. A landmine exploded in xxxx village after I was arrested [in June] and injured one of my uncles, Pa Haw. People carried him to Kyo G’Lee village and the Burmese injected him with medicine but he died soon after. He was 50 years old and had a wife and children. Nobody goes to their farms on that path anymore, people must take a different path, a car road. The Burmese put landmines on the paths, beside the paths and on the oxcart tracks."

"Pa Boh" (M, 38), xxxx village, eastern Dooplaya (Interview #9, 9/98)

Future of the Area

"Things are getting more difficult every day. Even the Burmese leaders capture each other and put each other in jail. If they can capture and imprison even the people who have authority, then how are the villagers supposed to tolerate them? That’s why the villagers are fleeing from Burma."

"Pa Bway Htoo" (M, 44), Dta La Ku elder (Interview #6, 9/98)

The SPDC is without doubt determined to continue consolidating its control over all of Dooplaya district. As this occurs it will carry the usual byproducts of SPDC control for the villagers: increasingly systematic extortion of food and money, standing orders for rotating forced labour of various kinds, and forced labour on infrastructure, Army farms and money-spinning projects for local battalions. The KNLA is likely to continue its small-scale guerrilla activities throughout the region, and this will likely cause the SPDC to continue the sporadic forced relocations of villages, arrest and detention of suspected KNLA collaborators, and tight restrictions on the access of farmers to their fields. As the struggle continues, the KNLA may become more reliant on landmines and the SPDC may respond by doing the same and by taking more porters as human minesweepers, as their troops already do in Pa’an district.

"Even if the KNLA gives them all of their weapons there will be no peace at all. They cannot give us peace because they have persecuted us from the beginning. The Burmese can lie about many things. If the KNLA give them all of their weapons, they will still persecute the Karen people. They will continue to force them to carry things like rice and ammunition. They will also continue to beat them and force them to dig mud for road construction."

"Saw Muh" (M, 36), xxxx village, eastern Dooplaya (Interview #11, 9/98)

"If there is no KNLA maybe the Burmese would persecute the Karen people. Look, they stayed far from the village but they came here, it is a long distance from their place. They didn’t do anything to us because the KNLA are nearby, but if there were no KNLA they would do whatever they want to us. If you look at the people from the lowlands, they are oppressed, beaten, persecuted and killed by the Burmese often."

"Pu Eh Thee" (M, 68), xxxx village, eastern Dooplaya (Interview #12, 9/98)

The DKBA and the KPA are an uncertain factor in the future of Dooplaya. It remains to be seen whether the KPA will succeed in becoming a major player in the district, or whether they are marginalised by the SPDC and/or the DKBA. The initial question is whether the current reappearance of DKBA troops in northern and central Dooplaya will be expanded to cover areas further south in the district, and how many DKBA troops will be involved.

The situation will likely become increasingly difficult for the villagers who are currently internally displaced in central and southern Dooplaya, until they may have to choose between fleeing for Thailand or returning to SPDC control in their villages. If extortion and forced labour continue to become more systematic in the villages, it can be expected that more villagers will flee to become internally displaced or to head for Noh Po refugee camp in Thailand. Currently it is very hard for new refugees to gain admittance to the refugee camp, because the Thai authorities state that all new refugees are to be forced back unless they are "fleeing from fighting". Many new arrivals will probably be forcibly repatriated on arrival. The Dta La Ku people are facing an especially difficult situation, and may spend much of the near future running back and forth across the Thai border.

"I can’t do anything. I think that I would have to stay because I’m very old but I’m not sure if I would be able to stay. I don’t know if the young people will dare to stay or not. If they don’t dare to stay they can run. As for me, I’m very old and cannot run, if they want to kill me then let them kill me."

"Pu Eh Thee" (M, 68), xxxx village, eastern Dooplaya, discussing what he will do if the SPDC troops return to his village (Interview #12, 9/98)

"If the Thai Army forces us back we go back to our villages, if the Burmese Army makes trouble for us we come here [Thailand]. All the Dta La Ku people plan to flee and come here because when we asked the Burmese commander to allow us to be exempt from being porters, because it is against our religion, the Burmese said that the Dta La Ku people are troublemakers and they should leave Burma."

"Saw Meh Doh" (M, 44), Dta La Ku elder from xxxx village, southern Dooplaya (Interview #K4, 9/98)

According to villagers within Dooplaya, the SPDC may be planning to use either the DKBA or the KPA to attack Noh Po refugee camp over the coming dry season. SPDC patrols already made repeated incursions into Thailand in March 1998 to test out the Thai defences, but stopped short of actually attacking the camp. If an attack comes, it is difficult to predict whether Thai forces will defend the camp, or abandon it to be destroyed as they have done with other refugee camps. They have already stated that at some point in the near future they want to move the camp to another site further north, possibly consolidating it with other existing refugee camps. If so, they may allow it to be destroyed as a way of coercing the refugees to move to a new site. However, if the camp does move it will be far from refugee crossing points, thus making it even more difficult for villagers in Dooplaya to escape the complete control of the SPDC.

"…we have to stay and die if the Burmese come because we have no place to run to. If they persecute and kill us we will have to suffer, but if they don’t kill us we can live. If we run away our food will not follow us. When we ran away last time we felt bad that our rice was still in the village. When I first came back it was only myself and my youngest son, the others didn’t come back. I came back and I stayed here. Later, I heard a dog barking and I saw many Burmese soldiers. They called me to come down from my house. Then they went into my house and took all that they wanted, such as my clothes and blankets. I don’t know if the others will run or not but I’ve heard them say that they don’t know where to run either. We don’t want to stay in another country."

"Pu Tha Wah" (M, 66), xxxx village, eastern Dooplaya (Interview #13, 9/98)

"I worked in my village but I couldn’t get any support. Burma is our country but nobody there treats us fairly when we work. When my children got sick, I had to buy medicine for them in the shop and treat them myself. When I stayed in xxxx for the last two months I spent over 10,000 Kyats that way, and I realised I could not stay like that anymore. If I’d stayed there much longer my children would have died there, we all would have died there."

"Naw Ghay Wah" (F, 31), schoolteacher from Pa’an district who was ordered to move and become a teacher in Dooplaya after the SLORC occupation (Interview #4, 9/98)

"I would like to say that if the situation is good in the future I will tell you about the good things, but if the situation is bad I will tell you about the bad things. What I have told you is true and I hope that the situation will be better in the future. Now we villagers have difficult lives because the SPDC persecutes us. I would like to ask the foreign countries to please help us and to do whatever they can as soon as possible."

"Saw Win Than" (M, 50), xxxx village, southern Dooplaya (Interview #2, 4/98)