DEATH SQUADS AND DISPLACEMENT

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DEATH SQUADS AND DISPLACEMENT

Published date:
Monday, May 24, 1999

Most of the villagers here are Karen, though there are also many Burmans living in the villages near the Sittaung River. Since late 1998 many Karens and Burmans have been fleeing their villages in the area because of human rights abuses by the State Peace & Development Council (SPDC) military junta which currently rules Burma, and this flight is still ongoing. Those from the hills which cover most of the District are fleeing because SPDC troops have been systematically destroying their villages, crops and food supplies and shooting villagers on sight, all in an effort to undermine the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) by driving the civilian population out of the region. At the same time, people in the plains near the Sittaung River are fleeing because of the ever-increasing burden of forced labour, cash extortion, and heavy crop quotas which are being levied against them even though their crops have failed for the past two years running. Many are also fleeing a frightening new phenomenon in the District: the Sa Thon Lon Guerrilla Retaliation units, which appeared in September 1998 and since then have been systematically executing everyone suspected of even the remotest contact with the opposition forces, even if that contact occurred years or decades ago. Their methods are brutal, their tactics are designed to induce fear, and they have executed anywhere from 50 to over 100 civilians in the District since September 1998.

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This report is a detailed analysis of the current human rights situation in Nyaunglebin District (known in Karen as Kler Lweh Htoo), which straddles the border of northern Karen State and Pegu Division in Burma. Most of the villagers here are Karen, though there are also many Burmans living in the villages near the Sittaung River. Since late 1998 many Karens and Burmans have been fleeing their villages in the area because of human rights abuses by the State Peace & Development Council (SPDC) military junta which currently rules Burma, and this flight is still ongoing. Those from the hills which cover most of the District are fleeing because SPDC troops have been systematically destroying their villages, crops and food supplies and shooting villagers on sight, all in an effort to undermine the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) by driving the civilian population out of the region. At the same time, people in the plains near the Sittaung River are fleeing because of the ever-increasing burden of forced labour, cash extortion, and heavy crop quotas which are being levied against them even though their crops have failed for the past two years running. Many are also fleeing a frightening new phenomenon in the District: the Sa Thon Lon Guerrilla Retaliation units, which appeared in September 1998 and since then have been systematically executing everyone suspected of even the remotest contact with the opposition forces, even if that contact occurred years or decades ago. Their methods are brutal, their tactics are designed to induce fear, and they have executed anywhere from 50 to over 100 civilians in the District since September 1998.

In order to produce this report, KHRG human rights researchers have interviewed over 50 villagers in the SPDC-controlled areas, in the hill villages, in hiding in the forests and those who have fled to Thailand to become refugees. Their testimonies have been augmented by incident reports gathered by KHRG human rights researchers in the region. The interviews were conducted between December 1998 and May 1999, with the exception of one interview from September 1998. Several interviews were also conducted with villagers who fled Tantabin township of southern Toungoo District in April 1999, because their testimony indicates that the Sa Thon Lon execution units are now operating there as well. KHRG would like to thank the human rights section of the Federated Trade Unions of Burma (FTUB), which contributed interviews #11 and #35. Photographs which relate to the situation described in this report can be seen in KHRG Photo Set 99-A (March 1, 1999), and for additional background see"Wholesale Destruction: The SLORC/SPDC Campaign to Obliterate all Hill Villages in Papun and Eastern Nyaunglebin Districts" (KHRG#98-01, April 1998).

This report consists of several parts: this preface, an introduction and executive summary, a detailed description of the situation including quotes from interviews, a list of 151 civilians killed directly by regular SPDC troops and Sa Thon Lon units since 1997, and finally an Index listing and summarising the interviews used in the report. The full text of the interviews and field reports upon which the report is based has been published separately as an Annex to this report and is available on request from KHRG.

Notes on the Text

In the text all names of those interviewed have been changed and some details have been omitted where necessary to protect people from retaliation. The captions under the quotes used in the situation report include the interviewee’s (changed) name, gender, age and village, and a reference to the interview or field report number. These numbers can be used to find the description or full text of the interview or field report in the Interview Index and the Annex.

The text often refers to villages, village tracts and townships. The SPDC has local administration, called Peace & Development Councils, at the village, village tract, township, and state/division levels. A village tract is a group of 5-25 villages centred on a large village. A township is a much larger area, administered from a central town. The Karen National Union (KNU) divides Nyaunglebin (Kler Lweh Htoo) District into three townships: Shwegyin (Karen name Hsaw Tee) in the south, Kyauk Kyi (Karen name Ler Doh) in the centre, and Mone (Karen name Mu) in the north. Reference is also made to Kyauk T’Ga and Pyu townships, which lie west of the Sittaung River, and Tantabin township, which is just to the north in Toungoo District. The official townships used by the SPDC do not correspond to the Karen townships; in this report we have used the townships as defined by the Karen, though usually referring to them by their more familiar Burmese names. The SPDC does not recognise the existence of Nyaunglebin District, but only uses Townships, States and Divisions. In this region many villages have both a Karen and a Burmese name, and where necessary this is clarified in the text.

In the interviews villagers often refer to ‘loh ah pay’; literally this is the traditional Burmese form of voluntary labour for the community, but the SPDC uses this name in most cases of forced labour, and to the villagers it has come to mean most forms of forced labour with the exception of long-term portering. Villagers, particularly those in the hills, do not keep track of dates or ages, and as a result sometimes different people give different dates for an event or different ages for the people involved. Wherever possible KHRG has attempted to establish and indicate the most accurate dates and ages possible. All numeric dates in this report are in dd/mm/yy format.

Abbreviations

SPDC = State Peace & Development Council, military junta ruling Burma
PDC = Peace & Development Council, SPDC local-level administration
         (e.g. Village PDC [VPDC], Village Tract PDC, Township PDC [TPDC])
SLORC = State Law & Order Restoration Council, former name of the SPDC until Nov. 1997
KNU = Karen National Union, main Karen opposition group
KNLA = Karen National Liberation Army, army of the KNU
DKBA = Democratic Karen Buddhist Army, Karen group allied with SLORC/SPDC
IB = Infantry Battalion (SLORC/SPDC), usually about 500 soldiers fighting strength
LIB = Light Infantry Battalion (SLORC/SPDC), usually about 500 soldiers fighting strength
Viss = Unit of weight measure; one viss is 1.6 kilograms or 3.5 pounds
Bowl/Pyi = Volume of rice equal to 8 small condensed milk tins; about 2 kilograms / 4.4 pounds
Kyat = Burmese currency; US$1=6 Kyat at official rate, 300+ Kyat at current market rate
loh ah pay = Forced labour; literally it means traditional voluntary labour, but not under SPDC

Table of Contents


Preface ..........................................................
Abbreviations ...................................................
Table of Contents ..............................................
Maps .............................................................
   Districts of Karen State (285K)
   Nyaunglebin District (321K)

Introduction / Executive Summary ..........................

Armies in the Region ..........................................

The Sa Thon Lon Guerrilla Retaliation Units ................
   Structure and Purpose .......................................
   Methods .......................................................
   Killings of Villagers ...........................................
   Other Sa Thon Lon Activities ..............................

KNLA and DKBA Activities .....................................

Villages in the Sittaung River Plains .........................
   Forced Relocations ..........................................
   Returning to the Old Villages ...............................
   Crop Quotas ..................................................
   Looting and Extortion .......................................
   Forced Labour for the Army ................................
   Forced Labour on Roads ....................................
   Arrests, Detention and Killings .............................

Villages in the Hills ............................................
   Destruction of Villages and Food Supplies ................
   Shootings and Killings .......................................
   Survival in the Hills .........................................

Flight of the Villagers .........................................

Future of the Area .............................................

Table of Killings by SPDC Troops ............................

Index of Interviews and Field Reports ......................

1
2
3
4

6

8

9
9
14
19
25

32

36
36
41
44
47
51
55
58

60
61
65
68

74

78

81

87

Introduction / Executive Summary

Nyaunglebin District (known in Karen as Kler Lweh Htoo) is one of the northern Karen districts, straddling the border of Karen State and Pegu Division (see maps on pages 4-5). It covers an area about 110 kilometres from north to south and averaging 40 kilometres from east to west, bounded by the Sittaung River in the west and the upper reaches of the Bilin River in the east. To the north lies Toungoo District, to the south Thaton District, to the east Papun District, and to the west the heartland of Pegu Division and the Pegu Yoma hills. The District is divided into three townships: Shwegyin (Hsaw Tee in Karen) in the south, Kyauk Kyi (Ler Doh) in the centre, and Mone (Mu) in the north. The District itself is a Karen designation dating back to colonial times; the SPDC regime no longer recognises districts, only townships and States/Divisions.

The westernmost part of the district is a narrow strip of fertile plains which form part of the Sittaung River valley. Just 10 to 15 kilometres east of the river itself, the hills abruptly begin and cover the eastern 75% of the district. Villages in the western plains tend to be larger and more prosperous, and have a mixed population of Karens and Burmans. Some villages are unofficially divided into a ‘Karen section’ and a ‘Burman section’, while in other places one village is entirely Karen and the next village up the road is entirely Burman. Because of the easy terrain, the proximity to central Burma and the roads which already run between Shwegyin, Kyauk Kyi and Mone, this area has been strongly controlled by the SLORC/SPDC military for a long time. As soon as you enter the hills to the east the situation is different; the population is almost 100% Karen, life is harder and based more on shifting hillside rice cultivation instead of flat paddy fields, and there are no vehicle roads except one which goes eastward from Kyauk Kyi into Papun District. Villages are more numerous but smaller than in the plains, averaging only 10 to 30 households in size. In these hills the Karen National Liberation Army [KNLA] is very active in guerrilla operations, and neither the SPDC nor the KNU/KNLA exerts strong control.

Finding itself unable to suppress Karen resistance activity in the hills, in early 1997 the SPDC (then named SLORC) began a campaign to wipe out all Karen civilian villages there. Where villagers could be found they were ordered to relocate westward into the plains; where they could not be caught, their villages were shelled without warning, looted and then burned to the ground, while villagers found afterwards were shot on sight. In 1997 KHRG compiled a list of 35 villages in Shwegyin (Hsaw Tee) township alone which had been completely destroyed [for this and other details of the 1997 campaign see "Wholesale Destruction", KHRG #98-01, April 1998]. A similar number of villages were destroyed in Kyauk Kyi township. Most villagers fled into the hills to live in hiding in small groups of families while trying to grow small patches of rice, and many others moved westward as ordered into SPDC garrison villages in the plains, or to stay with relatives in the comparative safety of larger villages.

Many of those who fled to the plains found they could not survive there; they had no land to plant and there was little work to be found, because villagers in the plains were suffering heavily under the heavy extortion fees and crop quotas imposed by the SPDC military and civilian authorities. At the same time, the hill villagers found they were being used as forced labour by the SPDC much more in the plains, both at Army camps and on local infrastructure projects. Unable to survive under these conditions, many have fled back to their home villages in the hills, only to find that the clampdown on the hill areas is continuing. In most cases the hill villages have not been rebuilt because SPDC patrols continue to move through the area destroying whatever structures they find, destroying rice stockpiles and crops in the fields, shooting livestock and shooting villagers on sight. Those living in the hills and those who have returned from the plains have no choice but to live in hiding in small groups, usually near their home villages or their old hill fields. They try to grow small crops, forage for food in the forest and flee further into the hills whenever SPDC patrols come near.

At the same time, something is happening which has never occurred to such a large extent before: an increasing number of villagers native to the Sittaung River plains, both Karen and Burman, are fleeing eastward into the hills, and some are fleeing southward along the main road through Pegu and Kyaikto, then eastward to the Thai border. In the past the prosperity of the Sittaung valley villages has always made it possible for them to survive even under the burden of SLORC/SPDC demands for extortion money and forced labour, but things have changed in the past two years. The SPDC has increased its military presence in the area in an attempt to increase its control in the hills to the east, and these troops are placing ever-increasing demands for extortion money, crop quotas and forced labour on the civilians. The SPDC in Rangoon is no longer sending them full rations and has ordered them to grow their own food or take it from the villagers; as a result, not only are they taking food from the villagers, but they are also taking their land and forcing them to work to grow food for the Army. At the same time, crop quotas which all farmers must hand over to the SPDC have increased and the corruption of the civilian authorities who collect the crop quotas has grown worse. The farmers might be able to survive this in good years, but most of them have suffered partial or complete crop failures for the past two years running due to droughts when they need rain, followed by floods once the crop is planted. The combination of the crop failures and the increased demands has made it impossible to survive. As though this were not enough, many have found they have to flee a new SPDC force which has been introduced in the area: the Sa Thon Lon Guerrilla Retaliation death squads.

The Sa Sa Sa, or Sa Thon Lon, is the Bureau of Special Investigations of the SPDC’s Directorate of Defence Services Intelligence (DDSI), and its Guerrilla Retaliation squads have been handpicked from Battalions based in the region, reportedly under the direct orders of DDSI chief Lt. Gen. Khin Nyunt. They began operations in the region in or around September 1998, and currently operate in the plains area east of the Sittaung River, covering Shwegyin, Kyauk Kyi and Mone townships. The Guerrilla Retaliation squads operate secretively in small groups, but with a clearly stated purpose: to execute without question everyone suspected of any present or past connection with the KNU or KNLA, regardless of how long ago or how slight that connection may have been. Their obvious purpose is to deliver a message to villagers that any contact whatsoever with resistance forces will be punishable by death, if not now then 10 or 20 years from now. They have already executed dozens of villagers both in the plains and the hills, both Karens and Burmans, guilty and innocent, and the terror they create is now driving many to flee their villages even if they have had no contact with the opposition. Recently they have expanded their operations northward into Tantabin township of southern Toungoo District, and they have also begun searching for people on the western side of the Sittaung River. This combined with all the other forms of oppression the villagers are suffering has driven them beyond their endurance, and villages in the plains as well as the hills are now breaking up.

Armies in the Region

In addition to the Sa Thon Lon Guerrilla Retaliation units (which are described in greater detail below), SPDC Battalions operating in the plains and hills of the region include Infantry Battalions #26, 30, 35, 39, 48, 53, 57, 59, 60, and 73, Light Infantry Battalions #264, 349, 350, 351, 361, 362, 364, 365, 368, 369, 439, and 440. Some of these Battalions are operating as part of Light Infantry Division #77, and some are operating under Strategic Commands #1, 2, and 3; these Strategic Commands have been set up in the area with 2 to 3 Battalions each. All of the regular SPDC troops in the area are under orders of the Southern Regional Command (Ta Pa Ka in Burmese), which is based in Pegu and commanded by Brigadier General Tin Aye. Each SPDC Battalion has approximate fighting strength of 500 troops, though some Battalions operate in several areas so not all of these are employed within the district. Some of their camps and outposts throughout the district are at Mone, Ma La Daw, Gawlawah Lu (Kyet Taung Mway), Aung Laung Say, Thaung Bo, Saw Mi Lu, Mu Theh, Kyauk Kyi, Yan Myo Aung, K’Baw Tu, Kaw Tha Say, Baw Ka Hta, Ko Sghaw, and Shwegyin. Troops from various Battalions are regularly rotated in and out of these camps, and mobile columns also head up from the plains into the hills, using existing camps in the hills as temporary bases or setting up their own temporary bases in and around villages.

The Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) is not a significant force in the region, but it has two camps at Payah Gyi in Kyauk Kyi township and Maw Lay (Plaw Haw) in Mone township. In total there are reportedly just under 100 DKBA soldiers in the district under the command of Battalion Commander Po Maung from DKBA Brigade 777. About 50 of these troops are at Payah Gyi, where Po Maung is based, and the remainder at Maw Lay are under the command of Bo Law Plah. The DKBA troops are mainly involved in reconstructing the old Klaw Maw pagoda near Payah Gyi, as well as pagodas at Maw Lay and Kyun Gyi. They also sometimes work together with the SPDC troops on operations. More details on their activities are included below under ‘KNLA and DKBA Activities’.

Nyaunglebin District is often referred to as KNLA 3rd Brigade area, and the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) is very active here. The 3rd Brigade consists of Battalions #7, 8, and 9; numbers are difficult to confirm, but there appear to be several hundred KNLA troops. These troops no longer firmly control territory in the district, but they hold de facto control over some parts of the hills and engage in extensive harrassment and guerrilla operations. SPDC troops usually do not dare penetrate too far into the hills except in large columns, and when this happens the KNLA and the villagers in hiding clear out of their way until they are gone, then reemerge. In the past the KNLA operated extensively in the plains to the west as well, but while they still make regular forays around the villages on the edge of the plains, they cannot operate as freely as before.

The Sa Thon Lon Guerrilla Retaliation Units

"They move during the night and they wear short pants most of the time. They go to houses and ask the names of the people, and if the person is on the list they kill them. They were given special authority and a license to kill. They can kill anyone who has helped the KNU. With the authority that they have, people have said that even Operations Commanders can’t comment on their work. The Operations Commander is under them because they are directly controlled by Khin Nyunt." - "Saw January" (M), KHRG human rights monitor (Interview #1, 1/99)

Villagers in the plains east of the Sittaung River and in the western reaches of the hills say that at present there is one thing which they fear more than all the other SPDC abuses in their area, and that this is the SPDC’s new Sa Thon Lon Guerrilla Retaliation force. No information is readily available on when this special force was first recruited, but it began appearing in the villages of western Nyaunglebin District in September 1998. The force only consists of an estimated 200 troops but they have been handpicked and specially trained. Operating in small sections of 5 to 10 soldiers, they are very secretive, moving by night from village to village. Their self-stated purpose is to summarily execute every villager who has ever had any kind of contact with resistance forces, whether at present or long in the past. They have been carrying out this function brutally, shooting, stabbing, and often beheading their victims and dumping their bodies in the rivers. Operating in Mone, Kyauk Kyi and Shwegyin townships, estimates on the number of people they have executed thus far range between 50 and over 100, though it is difficult to establish any definite numbers. Recent testimonies from villagers fleeing Tantabin township in southern Toungoo District indicate that they have now expanded their operations northward into this area, and they are also going west of the Sittaung River to look for people to target. This expansion of their operational area is cause for grave concern.

Structure and Purpose

This force goes by a variety of names, including Sa Sa Sa [‘SSS’], Sa Thon Lon [‘Three S’], Sa Thon Lon Dam Byan Byaut Kya [‘Sa Thon Lon Guerrilla Retaliation’], A’Htoo Ah Na Ya A’Pweh [‘Special Authority Group’], Baw Bi Doh [‘Short Pants’, a name invented by the villagers because of the civilian clothing the soldiers often wear], Myanma Ta Oo [‘Burmese Eldest’, i.e. most senior, troops], and Shwit A’Pweh [‘Shwit group’, ‘Shwit’ being the sound of a knife cutting someone’s throat]. All of these names have been used by the troops themselves in front of villagers. Judging by the testimonies of many villagers who have had contact with them and KNLA sources, it appears that their official name is the Sa Thon Lon (or Sa Sa Sa) Dam Byan Byaut Kya, which is translated in this report asSa Thon Lon Guerrilla Retaliation.

"[P]eople call them Baw Bi Doh [‘short pants’], but they don’t like that so they ordered people to call them Thad Shin A’Pweh [‘killing and clearing group’]. Later, they didn’t like that either and forced people to call them Shwit A’Pweh [‘shwit’ group]. They say that the sound of cutting someone’s throat with a knife is ‘shwit’." - "Saw Tee Ko" (M, 40), xxxx village, Mone township (Interview #19, 2/99)

"I don’t dare even go near the [Sa Thon Lon] guerrilla troops. If I looked at their faces I’m afraid they’d kill me. In Meik Tha Lin the village headman is friendly with him [Shan Bpu] so he asked him, ‘Teacher! What is your group called?’ Then he [Shan Bpu] took out his knife, put it to the headman’s throat and said, ‘Shwit’. The village headman told him, ‘You can tell me the word ‘shwit’ without having to pull out your knife’. Then he didn’t dare ask more." - "Saw Ghaw" (M, xx), xxxx village, Mone township (Interview #29, 1/99)

‘Sa Sa Sa’ is a Burmese abbreviation equivalent to SSS in English; ‘Sa Thon Lon’ simply means ‘Three S’s’. This is an abbreviation for A’Htoo Son Zan Seh Seh Yay Oo Zi Ka Na, which translates as Bureau of Special Investigations (BSI). According to independent Karen sources, this department was first formed by General Ne Win’s BSPP regime in the late 1970’s or early 1980’s with the function of cracking down on the country’s black market and investigating some other crimes. Sometime in the mid-1980’s it was shifted and placed under the control of the Directorate of Defence Services Intelligence (DDSI). DDSI currently has several branches, including Military Intelligence, Special Branch (the police), and the Bureau of Special Investigations (Sa Thon Lon). The Sa Thon Lon still has the function of cracking down on the black market, but the new Guerrilla Retaliation force has also been placed in this department. The reason may be to keep the force under the direct personal control of Lt. Gen. Khin Nyunt, Secretary-1 of the SPDC and head of the DDSI. According to villagers and KNLA sources, the Guerrilla Retaliation force was created by his direct order and remains under his control. This is the origin of the name A’Htoo Ah Na Ya A’Pweh [‘Special Authority Group’]. SPDC Battalion Commanders and Strategic Commanders in the area have said directly to villagers that they have no control over the Guerrilla Retaliation troops, and there are reports that regular SPDC troops in the region have shown some enmity and fear toward them. Villagers in the area consistently state that the regular SPDC troops never come near their village when a Sa Thon Lon group is around and vice versa. According to a KNLA source, the Guerrilla Retaliation force reports to Military Intelligence Unit #3 based in Toungoo, though they also appear to have some contact with the regular Army’s Southern Regional Command headquarters in Pegu (commanded by Brig. Gen. Tin Aye). This contact with the Regional Command may only result from the fact that most of the Guerrilla Retaliation troops were selected from regular SPDC units already operating in Nyaunglebin District.

"They told the villagers, ‘If you want to report about our guerrilla group, don’t bother reporting us to the Operations Commander or the Regional Commander. You should go to the centre, to Saw Maung [former chairman of SLORC] and Khin Nyunt to report about us. If you go there to report about us we’ll give you trip expenses.’ After they said that, village heads and elders didn’t dare do anything." – "Saw Tha Pwih" (M, 38), xxxx village, Tantabin township, Toungoo District (Interview #50, 5/99)

"The villagers went to complain to the Strategic Command Intelligence but they said they couldn’t do anything. They said, ‘In the past if you came and gave us money we could help you. However, they [the Sa Thon Lon troops] are controlled directly by the regional command so even if you give us money we can’t help you.’" - "Saw Htoo Lay" (M, 25), xxxx village, Kyauk Kyi township (Interview #30, 12/98)

"In the past we could run to the Operations Commander or the Battalion Commander for help if someone was arrested and they could help us to buy the lives of those arrested. But now the Operations Commander says he can’t do anything about this group [the Sa Thon Lon] because they have been given complete authority." - "Naw Hser" (F, 40), xxxx village, Mone township (Interview #20, 2/99)

"When the Army troops come the guerrilla group [Sa Thon Lon] goes to another village, then when the Army troops leave they come back again." – "Saw Lay Muh" (M, 42), xxxx village, Tantabin township, Toungoo District (Interview #53, 5/99)

"Now IB 39 and the Guerrillas [Sa Thon Lon] don’t like each other, even though they are both Burmese. They’ve said that a battle could occur between them." – "Pu Than Nyunt" (M, 60), xxxx village, Tantabin township, Toungoo District (Interview #52, 5/99)

The Guerrilla Retaliation troops were specially selected from among the Non-Commissioned Officers (Corporals and Sergeants) of the regular SPDC Battalions already operating in Nyaunglebin District. Based on their subsequent behaviour, it appears that they were selected based on their capacity for brutality. According to some KNLA sources, some of the troops were also recruited from among former KNLA soldiers who had surrendered to the SPDC. None of the villagers interviewed by KHRG have confirmed this, but it would make sense given the purpose of the force; former KNLA soldiers would be able to point out many people who had helped the KNLA in the past. In addition, one woman from Kyauk Kyi township told KHRG that a group of Guerrilla Retaliation soldiers accidentally left a leaflet in her house titled ‘Training Course of Pado Aung San’, which they later came back for. Pado Aung San was the notoriously corrupt forestry minister of the KNU who defected to the SPDC in early 1998; since then, he has denounced the KNU in several statements and appeared to be trying to find a role with the SPDC. It is possible that he gave some portion of the training for the Guerrilla Retaliation troops, possibly in KNU/KNLA strategy or politics.

"They have created the Dam Byan Byaut Kya because they hope people won’t dare be involved with the KNU even a little bit. … They chose 12 people from each Battalion. They only chose Sergeants and Corporals, and they were given training … Wherever they move there are no other SPDC troops moving. They stay in many different villages in groups of 4 or 5, and they walk during the night. The people that they have to kill, they kill immediately." - "Saw January" (M), KHRG human rights monitor (Interview #1, 1/99)

"The Sa Sa Sa in Kler Lweh Htoo district are special troops. We’ve received information that the enemy has collected soldiers who have surrendered from the KNLA, as well as P’Doh Aung San’s [soldiers], Thu Mu Heh’s [soldiers] and the DKBA. These soldiers, along with SPDC soldiers, have received special training and are being sent into each area. They are calling those troops the Sa Sa Sa, but they are also called the A’Htoo Ah Nah Ya A’Pweh [‘Special Authority Group’]." - "Saw Kaw Doh Muh" (M), who is with the KNLA in Nyaunglebin District (Interview #36, 2/99)

"One day they came to my house and took a rest, and when they left I saw a paper that the government had given them. I opened it and saw the title, "Training Course of Pado Aung San", and there were some things there written by Pado Aung San. They forgot it there in my house and came back to take it later. I read it quickly and secretly before they came back for it." - "Naw Thu" (F, 26), xxxx village, Kyauk Kyi township (Interview #29, 1/99)

"Some of them are SPDC soldiers and some of them are part of the resistance that was living in the jungle but surrendered to the Burmese. They joined the guerrilla troops and guide them. I only know the name of one of the group commanders, his name is Bo Nagah." - "Saw Ta Roh" (M, 37), xxxxvillage, Shwegyin township (Interview #32, 12/98)

Most available estimates place the total size of the Sa Thon Lon Guerrilla Retaliation force at about 200 soldiers. It is organised along the lines of a regular Army Battalion though using smaller numbers, and is apparently divided into four or five main Companies: ‘Mone Thon’ (‘Monsoon’), ‘Mone Daing’ (‘Storm’),‘Galone’ (‘Garuda’), and ‘D’Pyet Hleh’ (‘Sweeper’); the fifth is ‘Moe Kyo’ (‘Lightning’), though as yet KHRG has not been able to confirm whether this is a Company or just a Section. The main operational unit of this force is the section, consisting of 5 to 10 men. According to the limited information available, it appears that there are five sections in each company (making it different from a regular Army Battalion, which at full strength has five companies, each consisting of three platoons of three sections each). Several of these sections have taken on their own names, such as ‘Nagah’ (‘dragon’), ‘Moe Kyo’ (‘lightning’) and ‘Seik Padee’ (Buddhist prayer beads). A KNLA source provided the following partial list of Sections and Section Commanders which comes from KNLA Intelligence:

 

#

Commanded by

Battalion
of Origin

Section
Strength

1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13

Sergeant Kyaw Tint
Sergeant Khin Maung Than
Sergeant Wan Kan Dane
Sergeant Maung Myo
Sergeant Myint Naing
Sergeant Tint Lwin
Sergeant Myint Oo
Sergeant Khin Maung Myint
Sergeant Pa Tee Pyut
Sergeant Soe Win
Sergeant Aung Naing Win
Sergeant Zaw Win
Sergeant Mya Zaw Tint
IB #39
IB #73
IB #26
IB #60
IB #53
LIB #440
IB #35
IB #57
LIB #350
LIB #349
IB #59
IB #30
LIB #264
10 soldiers
10 soldiers
10 soldiers
10 soldiers
10 soldiers
10 soldiers
8 soldiers
10 soldiers
9 soldiers
8 soldiers
9 soldiers
8 soldiers
9 soldiers

According to the same source, Sections 1 through 5 above are part of the ‘Monsoon’ Company, which is commanded by Captain Maung Maung (commonly referred to as Bo Maung Maung) and operates in Mone township and the area between Kyauk Kyi and Na Than Gwin. Sections 6 through 10 are part of the ‘Storm’ Company, commanded by Major Zaw Naing Htun and operating south of the Kyauk Kyi / Na Than Gwin area. The above list is not complete, because according to information available thus far it appears that the force has 4 or 5 companies. Villagers in Shwegyin, southern Kyauk Kyi and Tantabin townships refer to a commander there named Moe Kyo. In Mone and Kyauk Kyi townships, several names recur in the villagers’ testimonies as being particularly brutal: Bo Maung Maung himself (commander of ‘Monsoon’ company), a section commander under him named Sergeant Bo Shan Bpu (also known as ‘Bo Shwit’), another Sergeant named Tint Lwin who is subordinate to Bo Shan Bpu, and a section commander named Bo Nagah (note: ‘Bo’ is simply a prefix attached to the name of a commander). Bo Maung Maung was previously with LIB #351, and Bo Shan Bpu was reportedly with IB #59. According to several accounts, Bo Shan Bpu is ethnically Shan, or at least can speak Shan. Villagers say that several of the Sa Thon Lontroops can speak various languages such as Pa’O, Shan and Karen. Bo Shan Bpu is a pseudonym, as is Bo Nagah (‘Nagah’ means ‘dragon’); Maung Maung may also be a pseudonym. Some of the section commanders use the same names as their sections; for example, Bo Nagah commands the Nagah (‘Dragon’) group, and Moe Kyo commands the Moe Kyo (‘Lightning’) group. Many of these soldiers may be using pseudonyms, because the Guerrilla Retaliation troops are very secretive, and they give very little information to the villagers other than telling them that they will kill everyone who has contact with the resistance.

"The bad person who goes and kills people is Shan Bpu, but he calls himself Bo Shwit. He is the worst, and he is a Shan. I asked him, ‘Commander, what is your nationality?’ and he answered that he is a Shan national, and his wife is Karen. He is about 28 years old and his hair is long, down to here." – "Pu Than Nyunt" (M, 60), xxxx village, Tantabin township, Toungoo District (Interview #52, 5/99)

These units operate as death squads, executing anyone even remotely suspected of having had any contact with the KNU/KNLA, even if that contact ended 10 or more years ago. Their secretiveness, their brutal methods of killing and beheading their victims, in short everything about the way they operate, is intended to terrify the villagers. The overall purpose of this is very clearly to deliver a message to the villagers that even the slightest contact with the KNLA, even involuntary contact such as when KNLA units demand food from village elders, will be punished with a brutal death, if not immediately then whenever this contact is discovered, even 5, 10, or 20 years in the future.

"They are a mobile unit that is trying to cut the connection between the KNLA and the people. They are primarily active during the night, but also during the day. This force is controlled directly by the regional command. The local troops in the area where they are active can’t make decisions for them or reprimand them. The regional commander held a meeting and told them they had to kill 30 people each month in each township. They are to kill 20 villagers who support the KNLA and democracy groups, and the other 10 people are to be anyone they find who has weapons. The names of people who support the resistance groups and democracy groups are written in their books. This group has already killed 2 villagers in each village of Ler Doh township. They’ve also killed villagers in Mone township and Hsaw Tee township. … Among the people they have killed, only a few of them have actually been in contact with us. Most people they have killed are innocent villagers. The names they have in their books are names of people who helped us a very long time ago and haven’t been in contact with us since then, but they look for the people who are listed in their books and they kill them." - "Saw Kaw Doh Muh" (M), who is with the KNLA in Nyaunglebin District (Interview #36, 2/99)

"They came on the first of September [1998]. They said they would patrol for 6 months and make the area A’Pyu Yaung Neh Myay [a ‘white’ area, SPDC terminology for areas which are completely subjugated]. … They are abusing the villagers from all areas. They can’t fight their enemy [the KNLA], so they say the villagers are their enemy for feeding the KNLA; that if the villagers didn’t feed the KNLA then the KNLA couldn’t fight them, so they are finding and killing the villagers." - "Saw Htoo Lay" (M, 25), xxxx village, Kyauk Kyi township, talking about the Sa Thon Lon (Interview #30, 12/98)

Initially these units only appeared in the plains east of the Sittaung River of Nyaunglebin District, but testimony from villagers who fled Tantabin township of southern Toungoo District in April 1999 indicates that Sa Thon Lon units are now operating there as well (excerpts from some of these testimonies are included in this report). They also now search for targets in villages on the west side of the Sittaung River. This expansion of their operational area is cause for extreme concern, as it may indicate that Nyaunglebin District has been used as an experimental ground for this type of operation, which if successful will be introduced in other regions as well. The SPDC’s major military offensives and mass relocation campaigns have weakened the resistance forces but have not even come close to wiping them out, and the death squad tactic may be an attempt at a new approach. There may also be elements of internal SPDC politics at play. The tension between the DDSI’s Lt. Gen. Khin Nyunt and regular Army leaders such as Gen. Maung Aye is well known, and Khin Nyunt’s initiative in this case may be intended to prove that his tactics are more effective than those of the other Generals. In addition, the creation of the Sa Thon Lon Guerrilla Retaliation force gives the DDSI an armed wing, which in effect gives Khin Nyunt his own private army. If the force is expanded in numbers and/or in the size of the territory where it operates, it will be important to watch its interaction with the regular Army as well as the dynamics which develop between the Generals in Rangoon.

"You can’t expect us to know their names. They never even allow us to look at their faces - when we see them we have to look down, away from their faces. … They said that the soldiers who came before were supposed to kill the people but they didn’t, so they are now showing the people that they can kill. That’s why we are always afraid." - "Saw Htoo Lay" (M, 25), xxxx village, Kyauk Kyi township, talking about the Sa Thon Lon (Interview #30, 12/98)

Methods

"They find people who had contact with the KNU in ‘95 and those who have contact now. If they can find people who have had contact with the KNU at any time in their past, they kill them. Shan Bpu has killed people in Lu Ah, Haw Ko Ghaw, Twa Ni Gone, Myeh Yeh, and Yan Myo Aung too. When we found out that they are going to kill all the villagers who have ever helped the KNU, we knew they would kill us too. Our names are in their books. … They are the Sa Thon Lon. People said that they don’t ask any questions [they kill without interrogation] and they are going to "cut off the tops of all the plants". The second group, Sweeper, will come to sweep up the people and then the third group will come to scorch the earth and "dig out the roots". They will kill all the relatives of the forest people [the KNLA]. The Sa Thon Lon don’t look like they will go and fight [go into battle], they are just going around killing members of the general public. They said that they are going to clear the people out of the countryside, that they have to kill all people who support the forest people and people who give taxes to the forest people. They also said that if the KNLA shoots and kills one of them, they will burn down the village closest to where it happened and kill everyone in the village." - "Saw Tee Ko" (M, 40), xxxx village, Mone township (Interview #19, 2/99)

The operational unit of the Sa Thon Lon Guerrilla Retaliation force is the section. Each section has 5 to 10 soldiers and moves independently from village to village. Between them they cover the villages of the plains east of the Sittaung River as well as the westernmost reaches of the hills. They do not establish their own camps, but stay in the houses of villagers along their way. Usually they stay in a village through the day, then move to other villages by night. They seldom spend two consecutive nights in the same village. They demand their food and money from the villagers, but when in the villages they order the villagers to look at the ground and not to look in their faces. They do not wear standard issue SPDC Army fatigues. Instead, many villagers say that they often wear civilian clothing, such as T-shirts and sarongs, around the villages, and guerrilla camouflage uniforms by night, or various combinations of civilian clothing and guerrilla camouflage. They very frequently wear camouflage short pants, and this brought about the Karen name Baw Bi Doh (‘Short Pants’) which many villagers call them. Villagers also say that their weapons are not the standard Army-issue G3 and G4 assault rifle but the AK47 and AR assault rifles, which are far better in the jungle. They have also on occasion used M79 grenade launchers, and they do much of their killing with knives.

"They only walk during the night and sleep during the day. … During the day they sleep in people’s houses but they never introduce themselves to the owners of the house, they never make friends with them. They live there with faces of stone and eat whatever they want to. They never look at the faces of the people they are staying with because they are afraid the villagers may be able to recognise them. … They don’t have people staying in every village at the same time, but they move around and sometimes stay in Haw Ko Ghaw, or Thit Cha Seik, or Yay Leh, or Nga Nwah Seit, or Weh Tu, or sometimes in Yan Myo Aung. They move around like that and don’t really have a home base. … They kill people wherever they go." - "Saw Tee Ko" (M, 40), xxxx village, Mone township, describing the Sa Thon Lon (Interview #19, 2/99)

"People are afraid of them because if you’re walking on the path and you suddenly see them you’re supposed to sit down and you must not look at their faces. If you look at their faces they kick you at once and say, ‘Why are you looking at my face? Am I handsome or something?’" – "Pu Nya Thu" (M, 70), xxxx village, Mone township (Interview #4, 5/99)

"As for the short-pants group, the area leader has to collect money for them once a week. Each family has to give 200 to 300 Kyat each week. This money isn’t toward any fees, just for the short-pants group’s food. Every village in Kyauk Kyi township has to pay that." - "Naw Say Paw" (F, 26),xxxx village, Kyauk Kyi township (Interview #29, 1/99)

According to the villagers, the sections have lists of people to be killed in each village, and some even claim that they are assigned a quota of people to kill in each township. A consensus on this number appears to be 30, though one villager interviewed claimed that Bo Nagah had said that they are to kill 70 people in each township; if this is so, the number 30 or 70 may have been decreed based on superstitious numerology, which is taken very seriously by Khin Nyunt and other SPDC leaders. In addition, a villager from southern Toungoo District who fled in April 1999 said that the Sa Thon Lon have now ordered villagers in his area to have family photos taken and submit one to the Sa Thon Lon and one to the Army Division. The Sa Thon Lon officer told the villagers that the Sa Thon Lon sections will check the faces of people they meet against their set of photos, and if your photo is not in the set for your village you will be killed.

"Now they’ve said that they plan to kill 30 people per month between Shwegyin and Mone, and 30 more between Mone and Tantabin. Among the 30 that they kill, one will be a bad person and the other 29 will be good [innocent] people." – "Saw Lah Thaw" (M), xxxx relocation site, Mone township (Interview #2, 5/99)

"They forced people to take family photos. We had to take three pictures: one to give them [Sa Thon Lon], another to keep in our house and another to give to the Division. They said that if they see people going anywhere they will ask their village name, look at the pictures from that village and if that person isn’t in the pictures they’ll kill him. Therefore people were afraid and had the pictures taken. Even if they didn’t have the money, they borrowed it from others and had the pictures taken." – "Pu Than Nyunt" (M, 60), xxxx village, Tantabin township, Toungoo District (Interview #52, 5/99)

In some cases they enter villages and surround the houses of people they plan to kill and try to catch them that way. Other tactics they use are to pretend to stop for a rest in a villager’s house and then kill him, or to conscript a villager as a guide and then kill him once they are out of the village. Many villagers have fallen unsuspecting into these traps, simply because they have had no contact with the opposition for years and are completely unaware of any suspicion against them. However, people are now aware of the Sa Thon Lon’s tactics and some have fled the village rather than face them, even if they have never had contact with the opposition. In fact, many of the people already killed have been completely innocent but were killed based simply on a remote suspicion or unfounded accusation. TheSa Thon Lon units have not only killed those on their lists, but also people who they encounter outside the villages at night, who are automatically suspected of working with resistance forces. At a meeting called by the Sa Thon Lon in Kyauk Kyi township in December 1998, they told villagers that they are no longer allowed to leave their villages between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. Even during the day, if they encounter people outside of villages they often stop them and beat them for no apparent reason other than to drive fear into them.

"They told us not to enter or leave any villages between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. or they would kill us. They said for our villagers to call their children who are in the KNLA to come back and live in the village, or they will kill the parents. They know, they said the names of all the KNLA are in their file, and they said they will kill anyone who has contact with the KNLA." - "Naw Say Paw" (F, 26), xxxx village, Kyauk Kyi township, describing what the Sa Thon Lon said at a meeting in her village (Interview #29, 1/99)

"They are really doing what they’ve planned to do, they are going to kill every relative of the KNLA in our area. They said that there’s only one way for them to win against the Karen and that is to kill all the relatives of the KNU. The Burmese soldiers who are friendly with us and go to the frontline told us that our names are in their book of those to be killed. We don’t dare live there anymore." - "Naw Hser" (F, 40), xxxx village, Mone township (Interview #20, 2/99)

"They held a meeting in our village one time, the same morning that they captured my husband. He [Shan Bpu] said that we mustn’t contact people on this side [KNLA]. He said, ‘If you want to contact them, leave with your whole family. If you don’t go, the day that you contact them will be the day you die.’" - "Naw Paw Paw Htoo" (F, 31), xxxx village, Mone township (Interview #12, 3/99)

"I fled because they are killing anyone who has ever had any contact with the KNU. There have been times when we’ve met them [KNLA soldiers] along our way and spoken to them, because they’re all people that we know. They kill people for that. … During January of this year [1999] they killed one village headman, Mya Htun, from Meik Tha Lin, and dumped him in the Sittaung river. He was 48 years old and has 5 children. He was unable to avoid being friends with the KNLA [the KNLA approaches the village headmen for food and money]. In their book there are names of anyone who has ever been friends with the KNLA, and I’ve heard that they kill the people whose names are in the book. … To cut all connections [with the KNU/KNLA]. To threaten the public so they won’t dare contact them in the future and won’t dare to give them rations. This is the main objective of their killing." - "Maung Soe" (M, 40), Kyauk Kyi town (Interview #21, 1/99)

"They call themselves ‘Bo Shwit’, because ‘shwit’ is the sound of thrusting a knife into someone to kill him. They are murderers. … Huay!! I can’t say how many tens of people they’ve killed. Any place you go you’ll hear about the people they’ve killed, they’ve killed people in almost every village. They haven’t killed anyone in xxxx yet, but they’ve killed people in Myeh Yeh, Hsi Mu Plaw, Si Pa Leh, and Meik Tha Lin, which is across the [Sittaung] river from our village. Their commander is Bo Maung Maung. I don’t know their base, they just travel from village to village. They don’t make camps, they just stay in people’s houses. They walk the whole night without sleeping." - "Naw Lah Paw" (F, 21), xxxx village, Mone township (Interview #28, 1/99)

The Sa Thon Lon troops sometimes shoot their victims, but more often kill them with knives by cutting their throats or stabbing them in the chest. In most cases it appears that they do not interrogate or torture their victims beforehand, they simply kill them. Some Sa Thon Lon soldiers have even told villagers that Sa Thon Lonstands for ‘No Interrogation’. However, after killing them they often mutilate the bodies, presumably to deliver a stronger message to the other villagers. Villagers interviewed for this report described many instances of beheadings, and in some cases the heads were then displayed as a warning to all villagers. In November 1998 they shot dead villagers Saw Aye from Myeh Yeh village and Po Theh Pyay from Ter Bpaw. They then ordered local villagers to build stands of bamboo, one along the path to Kyauk Kyi and the other on the path to Mone, and displayed the heads on these stands; the villagers were forced to guard the heads for a month, under threat that if the heads disappeared they would be replaced with their own. In another incident, after shooting dead Saw San Myint in Baw Bpee Der village on December 27th 1998, they beheaded him, hung his head over the path to Mone town, and stuck a cheroot in his mouth. The Sa Thon Lon troops often dump the bodies of their victims in the rivers, though sometimes they leave them where they lie and forbid the villagers to move or bury them. For many villagers, the mutilation of their relatives’ bodies and the inability to give them a proper burial or cremation is almost as much a crime as the killing itself.

"Before they kill people they tie their hands behind their backs. Most of the people are not shot, instead their heads are cut off with a knife and their bodies are thrown in the river. They normally call people on sentry duty from the village to bury the bodies after they kill them." - "Maung Soe" (M, 40), Kyauk Kyi town (Interview #21, 1/99)

"They cut out people’s tongues, cut their ears off and cover their faces with their own intestines. They do that so the villagers will be afraid. Now if we hear their voices, our hands and knees tremble and we can’t do anything. The women are very afraid of them… all the villagers are afraid of them." - "Saw Htoo Lay" (M, 25), xxxx village, Kyauk Kyi township, talking about the Sa Thon Lon (Interview #30, 12/98)

"The group that kills people now is the short-pants group [Sa Thon Lon]. They have been there since about two months ago. If they think you’ve done anything wrong they never ask any questions, they just summon you and kill you at once. They said that if they kill anyone the villagers have no right to say anything, to report it or to hold a ceremony for the dead people." - "Naw Say Paw" (F, 26), xxxx village, Kyauk Kyi township (Interview #29, 1/99)

Many villagers have managed to escape execution by fleeing the village before the Sa Thon Lon comes for them. In these cases the Sa Thon Lon troops come to the village and confiscate or destroy all of the villagers belongings, as well as their house, land, and livestock. If there is a crop in the field they have on occasion ordered the other villagers to harvest it and hand it over. The Sa Thon Lon troops know that many of these people have fled to villages on the west side of the Sittaung River because it is outside their usual area of operations, so they now occasionally go to villages west of the river and check family registrations from house to house, searching for the people they want. As a result, many people living west of the river are afraid to accept relatives or guests from the east any longer.

"Some of the people they tried to arrest fled and escaped. When they can’t catch people they commandeer their belongings in the village, such as their land, farmfields, fishponds, cattle and buffaloes. They take everything they see in the person’s house and sell it." - "Saw Ta Roh" (M, 37),xxxx village, Shwegyin township (Interview #32, 12/98)

"In Leh Gkaw Wah village of Kyauk Kyi township, they accused Ko Maung Aye and Bee Win of helping the KNU and were going to arrest them. They fled and escaped so they confiscated their cattle, chickens and buffaloes and took all their belongings from their houses. They took those things to Baw Ka Hta camp." - "Saw Htoo Lay" (M, 25), xxxx village, Kyauk Kyi township, talking about the Sa Thon Lon (Interview #30, 12/98)

"Lately, people who don’t dare stay in their villages have been going to other places that are safer such as to town or to the other side of the river [to the west of the Sittaung River]. So the Sa Thon Lon have gone to towns and villages on the other side of the river looking for people they want. They are checking family registration lists at each house. When they find people they want, they kill them and make problems for the families that took them in. Because of this, people in towns and villages on the other side of the river don’t like to take in villagers from eastern villages when we run to them anymore. They don’t even like us to go and visit them." - "Naw Hser" (F, 40), xxxx village, Mone township (Interview #20, 2/99)

The KNLA has tried to attack the Sa Thon Lon force on several occasions but with very little success, and they have tried to target Bo Shan Bpu himself at least once. In late February or early March 1999 the KNLA ambushed a passenger vehicle on the road near Kyun Bin Seik in Mone township, thinking that Bo Shan Bpu was inside because he always forces the drivers of passenger vehicles and motorcycles to transport him around rather than using Army vehicles. The driver and a passenger were killed, but Bo Shan Bpu had already got off the car some time before. The KNLA soldiers ordered everyone out of the car and burned it. Afterwards, the Sa Thon Lonpunished the villagers by forcing every family in the villages from Weh Gyi to Kyun Bin Seik to pay 3,500 Kyat, allegedly to pay for the cost of the car. In addition,Sa Thon Lon commanders Bo Maung Maung and Bo Shan Bpu have both told villagers in southern Mone township that for every Sa Thon Lon soldier killed by the KNLA, they will execute 10 villagers.

"When the Sa Thon Lon are in our area they use the villagers as their cover. They said there must be no sounds from weapons. If there is the sound of a weapon that causes one of them to die, they will kill 10 of our villagers. Shan Bpu and Bo Maung Maung both said that." - "Saw Ner Muh" (M, 30+),xxxx village, Mone township (Interview #8, 4/99)

"I’ve heard that they have already killed 30 people between Shwegyin and Kyauk Kyi. When the group commanded by Bo Nagah came, they said they are supposed to kill 70 villagers in the area between Shwegyin and Kyauk Kyi. They must kill exactly 70 people, then the group that comes when they rotate their troops will also kill 70 people. Each of their groups must kill 70 people. … They are killing a lot of people in Shwegyin and Kyauk Kyi areas. I’ve heard that they have also killed 30 to 40 people up in Mone township. They are killing there as they are here. The [SPDC] guerrilla troops are moving everywhere east of the Sittaung river. Usually they kill one person at a time, but they have killed 2 people at a time and also 8 people at a time. I’ve also heard and seen that they have gone to Nyaunglebin township and Kyauk T’Ga township [west of the Sittaung River] and are killing people there. They are doing in the towns the same as they are doing here [in the villages]." - "Saw Ta Roh" (M, 37), xxxxvillage, Shwegyin township (Interview #32, 12/98)

Killings of Villagers

"When they came and captured my husband, we were all in the house: my mother, my children and me. When they called him to go with them, I told my husband, ‘Don’t be afraid, pray to God.’ Then Shan Bpu took his knife and held it to my throat telling me not to speak. He said, ‘Don’t say anything! Don’t open your mouth! Or you will die!’ I was afraid and couldn’t speak. At first only two Burmese came for my husband, but later Bo Maung Maung arrived and tied my husband’s hands behind his back and covered his face with one of his old sarongs. They took a guitar string and tied it around his neck. … They didn’t say anything after that and they killed him that evening. They pulled him from place to place and then killed him at Teh Su while we were still in Yan Myo Aung. … The sadness I suffer from is so deep I can’t describe it. It’s like I’m in the dark. When they first captured my husband I couldn’t eat for 2 days but still my stomach felt full. I prayed all day and night. We also had the problem of not having any rice at that time so I had to find rice. I have many children and had to find food for them before every meal. My children didn’t know what was happening, they were playing and laughing innocently. … We didn’t have contact with the KNLA and we don’t have a well known name, the Burmese soldiers had never asked about us before, so how could we have known that they were going to come and kill us?" - "Naw Paw Paw Htoo" (F, 31), xxxx village, Mone township, describing the killing of her husband Saw Mah Htoo (a.k.a. Gah Gyi, age 37) in November 1998 (Interview #12, 3/99)

It is difficult to establish the exact number of villagers already executed by Sa Thon Lon units in Nyaunglebin District, but villagers and KNLA sources estimate somewhere between 50 and over 100. Most victims have been Karen, but there have also been many Burmans killed because there are many Burmans in the Sittaung River plains who sympathise with the Karen resistance. Many of the killings go completely unreported and in some cases people simply disappear so even the local villagers cannot be sure. KHRG has collected information on a number of killings which have been witnessed or are known to have happened, most of which have been corroborated by the testimony of several villagers. A list of 151 of these killings by the Sa Thon Lon and other SPDC units since 1997 is included on page 81 of this report. One factor which is very consistent in the villagers’ testimonies and other information is that many of those systematically executed by the Sa Thon Lon have either been completely innocent or have only had some rudimentary contact with the KNU or KNLA which occurred years ago. Many never did more than act as a guide a few times for a KNLA column or give them some rice. Some of those killed have been village elders who had no choice but to have contact with the KNLA, because the KNLA approached them to demand food and taxes from their village.

"Since 1998 the SPDC has been commanding guerrilla troops [Guerrilla Retaliation units]. … One night at 9 o’clock they entered Shan Su village and arrested Ko Kyi Hmwe, the 43 year old son of U Poh Bin. I saw them kill him outside of the village. They did that sort of thing in other villages also. They stabbed U Than Myint from Ma Oo Bin village [also in Shwegyin township] with a knife, they did it in the middle of the village. While he was working on his pond, they went and called him and then killed him without asking any questions. In Leh Gkaw Wah village [southern Kyauk Kyi township], which is near Ma Oo Bin, they called Maung Ba Aye down from his house and killed him without asking anything." - "Saw Ta Roh" (M, 37), xxxx village, Shwegyin township (Interview #32, 12/98)

"On 22/11/98 they killed a villager from Kya Plaw village who was over 40 years old. They accused him of helping the KNU in the past and killed him between Kya Plaw village and the old village of Ler Wah. They cut out his tongue and cut off his ears. On 27/10/98, they accused another man of being part of the backbone of the KNU. They took him to the top of Po Noh Po village and killed him. They didn’t allow people to go and bury that man. … They also killed two other Burman villagers, U Aung Baw and Khin Win, from A’Tet [Upper] Twin Gyi village in Shwegyin township. They killed them at the same time. U Aung Baw was 52 years old and Khin Win was 32 years old. They slit their throats near the Sittaung river and kicked their bodies into the river. People didn’t see the corpses." - "Saw Htoo Lay" (M, 25), xxxx village, Kyauk Kyi township, talking about Sa Thon Lon killings (Interview #30, 12/98)

"In our village they have killed 2 people, a wife and her husband. In Weh Gyi they also killed 2 people at night after the movie had finished showing. They captured them that night and killed them at once. In the morning the village head went to them and asked about the two villagers they had captured, but they told the village head they had not captured them." - "Maung Sein" (M, xx), xxxx village, Kyauk Kyi township, talking about Sa Thon Lonkillings in November 1998 (Interview #33, 12/98)

The killings carried out by the Sa Thon Lon units to date can be divided into two main categories: systematic executions of people they have targetted, and ad hockillings of people they find in farmfield huts or meet along the pathways. When they target a specific person for execution, a Sa Thon Lon section usually enters the village sometime in the night, surrounds the person’s house and orders them to come out, then takes the person away and executes them outside the village. On occasion they will have another villager go to fetch the suspect, or will call the suspect to go with them as a guide and then execute him/her once they are outside the village. One typical example occurred in Yan Myo Aung relocation site in November 1998. A Sa Thon Lon section led by Bo Shan Bpu and Bo Maung Maung asked various village headmen at the site for the whereabouts of Saw Mah Htoo (a.k.a. Gah Gyi). One of the Burman headmen said that he knew of him. That night the Sa Thon Lon group surrounded Saw Mah Htoo’s house, tied him up and marched him away. When his wife tried to protest, Bo Shan Bpu held a knife to her throat and threatened to kill her. They marched Saw Mah Htoo to Yay Leh village, executed him and threw his body in the Sittaung River. Saw Mah Htoo and his wife never even knew they were under suspicion, because the only contact he had had with the KNLA occurred years ago when he would sometimes act as a guide for them. In a similar example which occurred on the evening of November 15th 1998 in xxxx village on the west bank of the Sittaung River, Sa Thon Lon troops came to kill villager Maung A---, but caught his wife Ma S--- instead. Maung A--- ran to escape and they fired at him but missed. They began beating Ma S--- on the head intending to kill her, then cut off her ears to steal her earrings, slashed part of her mouth off and left her for dead. However, she lived and her brother secretly carried her to a hospital. When the Sa Thon Lonfound out about it, one of them went to the hospital and threatened her, after which she had to leave the hospital and now lives in hiding, as do her husband and brother.

"They tied him up, covered his face and forced him to go with them. His wife came down [out of the house] and said, ‘My husband is a good person.’ The Burmese who captured him said to her, ‘He is a good person now, but in the past he was a bad person.’ Then they pulled him away. … When they pulled him out of our village they were beating him, and we heard the next day that they killed him in Yay Leh and threw his body in the Sittaung river. Some people saw it. He shouted loudly and said, ‘I am not the leader of the defenders.’ … The rest of the Burmese left in the village called people to come to the school for a meeting. I didn’t dare go, I stayed in my house. Many people hid in their houses. They said, ‘Let this serve as an example. We won’t forgive you next time.  In the future, you must live and stand for people on this side [the side of the SPDC], you shouldn’t contact the KNU. The day we hear about you contacting the KNU,you will know.’ This is really dangerous." - "Saw Kyaw" (M, 34), Yan Myo Aung relocation site, Mone township, who witnessed the Sa Thon Lon unit take away Saw Mah Htoo, whom they later killed, in November 1998 (Interview #23, 1/99)

"They captured her, tied her up with rope and then beat her head until her head was broken. Her husband ran away, and they shot at him while he was running but he wasn’t hurt. Then they tried to finish killing her. They were beating her to death with a gun butt, but she wouldn’t die so they slashed her with a knife. They cut off her ears. There was a set of ornamental earrings worth over 10,000 Kyat in her ears. They slashed her chin and her face and left her to die, but still she didn’t die." - "Maung Sein" (M, xx), xxxx village, Kyauk Kyi township, describing how the Sa Thon Lon tried to kill his sister in November 1998; they left her for dead but he carried her to hospital, and she survived (Interview #33, 12/98)

"I went to see her in xxxx hospital but I don’t recall her name. She is a smart woman and speaks bravely. She told us that the Sa Thon Lon soldiers were coming to kill her husband but when they came her husband ran away. She spoke bravely to the soldiers so they got angry at her and cut off her mouth. When the doctors asked her about her story, she answered truthfully and told them that the soldiers had said, ‘You’re a woman who can speak very well so I’ll cut off your mouth.’ The doctor sewed her mouth [back together]. They [the soldiers] thought that she was dead but she wasn’t. When she was in the hospital, they heard about it so they went to the hospital. They couldn’t kill her in the hospital because there were doctors, nurses and police around. He told her, ‘You are very lucky! I thought that you died but you are still alive, so if you have to leave the hospital you’d better go somewhere that I can’t find you or you’re dead.’ She is a strong woman, her mouth, ears and skin were cut off but she is still alive." - "Naw Hser" (F, 40), xxxx village, Mone township (Interview #20, 2/99)

"On November 11th 1998, Sa Thon Lon Guerrilla Retaliation troops led by ‘Bo Nagah’ [a pseudonym] killed Saw Ba Aye and his wife Naw Dah at the same time without asking any questions. They said that this couple had supported the NLD since 1988 [note: the NLD did not even exist until 1989], and that this is why they had killed them. The couple were from Leh Gkaw Wah village in Kyauk Kyi township. When they were killed their son Maung Lay Lay was only 3 months old. Now his relatives have to take care of him and they are living in fear, spending only one day in each place. He is not getting enough milk and is very weak." - incident report from KHRG field reporter

The Sa Thon Lon have also been killing people in Tantabin township of southern Toungoo District, just north of Nyaunglebin District, which has become part of their operating area since the end of 1998. According to villagers who fled this area in April 1999, the first Sa Thon Lon unit there was from the Garuda company and they were mainly just interrogating people, but after one of their members raped a Burman schoolteacher they withdrew and Bo Shan Bpu’s group came in. Since then people have been killed in several villages of southern Tantabin township. The worst case occurred in April 1999, when Sa Thon Lon troops went to Dtaw Gone village and ordered all the villagers to come to the church. They were then ordered to come out two by two, and were beaten when they did. After interrogating and beating all of the Dtaw Gone villagers and 16 villagers from nearby Zee Byu Gone who happened to be there, they selected three men whom they knew had had past contact with the KNU: Hsah Tu Ghaw, age 35, married with 3 children; Pa Bee Ko, age over 30, married with 5 children; and Ka Ni Ni, age 22 and single. They took them into the trees nearby and executed them. From the church the villagers heard the screams of Ka Ni Ni, whose throat had been partly cut and who died slowly. They stabbed Hsah Tu Ghaw twice, then cut his throat and kicked him to the ground, and also stabbed Pa Bee Ko to death, all in front of witnesses from the village.

"They killed two people in Byin Gah and they also killed people in Yay Sha and Taw Ma Aye. In Taw Ma Aye they killed Uncle Pa Thu Po Pah, he is over 50 years old. They called all the villagers of Taw Ma Aye to go and give ‘obligation’ paddy. When they went, they asked Uncle Pa Thu Po Pah, ‘What is your name?’ He said, ‘Bo Gkay’, and then they tied him up, pulled him to Lay Tee and killed him. This group, if they capture anyone there is no coming back." – "Saw Tha Pwih" (M, 38), xxxx village, Tantabin township, Toungoo District (Interview #50, 5/99)

"They killed three people in Dtaw Gone, near my village. They killed them 2 weeks ago. Hsah Tu Ghaw is 30 years old, he has 3 children. Pa Bee Ko is over 30, he has 5 children. Ka Ni Ni is 22, he is single. They captured them in the church, took them to the jungle and killed them. … Ka Ni Ni was yelling in the jungle because his throat wasn’t completely cut. When we were worshipping in church at noon he was yelling, people heard it and went to him but he died when they got there. People buried him after the Short-Pants group left. We couldn’t bring him home because all his blood had runout. As for Hsah Tu Ghaw, there was a hole in his side where they’d stabbed him with a knife. And as for Pa Bee Ko, he had been ill almost to death even before they killed him." – "Naw Htoo Say" (F, 22), xxxx village, Tantabin township, Toungoo District, describing a Sa Thon Lon killing which occurred in April 1999 (Interview #51, 5/99)

Many of those beaten and killed are not specific targets, but simply villagers found outside their villages or relocation sites by the Sa Thon Lon troops. Sa Thon Lonunits have issued orders that no villagers are to be outside their villages between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m., and that even when they are allowed outside they must have a pass and are not allowed to have any food. People caught outside their village at night or caught with food are generally executed, while those caught without a pass or with an expired pass during the daylight hours are severely beaten. One of the worst killings of this nature occurred in November 1998, when a group of four Twa Ni Gone villagers and two Myeh Yeh villagers had gone from Yan Myo Aung relocation site to fish at some ponds near their home village. They had a pass, but a Sa Thon Lonunit found them in a hut with some rice and accused them of feeding the resistance. The two Myeh Yeh villagers were released, but the four Twa Ni Gone villagers were taken into a patch of scrub and shot dead. The gun jammed when they tried to kill the fourth victim, a schoolboy in his late teens, so they killed him with a knife and then seriously mutilated his body. The four killed were all male: Saw Gka Bweh, Maw Nyunt Po, Saw Lay Heh and Shaw Po Gkeh. A month later, 5 more Twa Ni Gone villagers were executed under almost identical circumstances. On November 18th 1998 in southern Mone township, Sa Thon Lon troops saw Po Theh Pyay from Ter Bpaw village and Saw Aye from Myeh Yeh village along a path because they had returned from the relocation site to fish. They called to the two villagers, but they ran because they were afraid and the troops shot them in the back. The bodies were then beheaded, and the Sa Thon Lon group forced the villagers to display the heads along two nearby pathways for an entire month. On December 27th 1998, Bo Maung Maung and Bo Shan Bpu led Sa Thon Lon troops into Baw Bpee Der village, where villagers were having a volleyball tournament for Christmas. They opened fire on the villagers, killing Saw San Myint, who was in his early twenties. They beheaded him and hung his head along the footpath to Mone with a cheroot stuck in its mouth as a warning to the villagers. These are only a few examples of some of the killings, both systematic and random, which are being carried out by the Sa Thon Lon troops; many more examples are provided in the table on page 81, the field reports and the texts of the interviews with villagers which appear in the Annex to this report, and even these are only a partial sample of the killings which have already occurred and are still occurring throughout the district.

"When they killed the four Twa Ni Gone villagers at the fishpond hut I was also in one of the fishpond huts. Those people were keeping some rice in their fishpond hut because they were staying there and needed to eat. They were villagers who had been forcibly relocated but had come back to work at their pond. When the soldiers saw their rice they accused them of feeding the KNLA, so they killed them. First they asked them questions and brought them to our hut. We had a pass to stay in our fishpond hut. … But the soldiers took the four Twa Ni Gone villagers away to kill them, and then we heard the sound of the gun: Doan, doan, doan, doan. One of the four killed was a schoolboy. He was in 10th Standard [Grade 10], so he was about 20 years old." - "Saw Ghaw" (M, xx), xxxx village, Mone township (Interview #29, 1/99)

"They killed Saw Gka Bweh, Maw Nyunt Po, Saw Lay Heh and my cousin Shaw Po Gkeh. When the Burmese shot at him their gun didn’t work, so they dug out his eyes with a knife, cut open his belly and cut open all his intestines. It was Shan Bpu who killed him." - "Saw Tha Doh" (M, 18), xxxx village, Mone township, describing the murder of his cousin in November 1998 (Interview #13, 3/99)

"That first time they killed 2 people who were single and 2 who were married. Then the next time they killed 5 people - they were all Twa Ni Gone villagers as well. That was on December 26th or 27th [1998]. Three of those people were single and two were married. All the people they killed were Karen. … They killed them for being friendly with the KNU. It’s part of their ‘dig out the roots’ policy." - "Pu Hla Maung" (M, 57), xxxx village, Mone township (Interview #22, 1/99)

"They killed Saw Aye and Po Theh Pyay while they were fishing in their boat [in November 1998; Saw Aye was from Myeh Yeh and Po Theh Pyay from Ter Bpaw]. When they saw them, they demanded that they come to them. When Saw Aye and Po Theh Pyay got to them, they ordered them to raise their hands and then they shot them dead. After killing them, they cut off their heads and took them to Ter Bpaw and Po Thaung Su. They hung one of the heads on the path to Mone and the other on the path to Ler Doh [Kyauk Kyi]. They ordered people [villagers] to guard the heads and said that if the heads were lost they would be replaced by the heads of those who had been guarding them and lost them. People on sentry duty watched them all day and night. They finally threw the heads away when they were decomposing. They had been hanging there for over a month before they finally ordered them thrown away." - "Saw Tee Ko" (M, 40), xxxx village, Mone township (Interview #19, 2/99)

"They hung one of the heads on the path out of the village that goes to Mone and another on the path to Ler Doh. We had to cut bamboo and weave it into stands like those used for drinking water and then put the heads on them. … [T]hey ordered people to do sentry duty around those heads and if the heads disappeared, they said the villagers would have to replace them with our own heads. They kept them there for over a month and then another Army group came and forced the villagers to bury the heads." - "Saw Ner Muh" (M, 30+), xxxx village, Mone township (Interview #8, 4/99)

"On October 15th 1998, Sa Thon Lon Guerrilla Retaliation troops entered Thit Cha Seik village in Mone township and burned down the houses of village chairman Nga Soe and secretary Tin Win. Later they fired three M79 grenades into Ter Bpaw village. The grenades hit village headman Po Thaut Kya’s house, killing his 2 daughters Naw Mu Lay, age 8, and Naw Dah Dah, age 2." - incident report from KHRG field reporter

"In our area, if we add it up, they are killing 2 or 3 people per day, but we are busy working so we don’t have time to listen to that and we don’t hear about it. Even though we’re not listening for that news, we still hear of people dying every day, because the enemy is killing many people." - "Maung Baw" (M, 30), xxxx village, Kyauk Kyi township (Interview #39, 12/98)

Other Sa Thon Lon Activities

"One of them got married in Nga Nwah Seit. His name is Bo Maung Maung, he is from the Sa Thon Lon. He asked the girl’s parents to give him their daughter, and she didn’t like him but she had to marry him. People in the countryside are forced to marry them. They wrote letters to each of the villages and the village leaders had to collect enough money from all the villagers to pay for the food that was going to be prepared and for the clothing and jewellery, a necklace and earrings for the bride. The elders from my village of Yan Myo Aung collected money from the villagers and the whole village had to pay 17,000 [Kyats]. I don’t know what other villages had to pay but big villages had to give more. He [Bo Maung Maung] showed movies in each village before the wedding to make money. Each person had to pay 50 Kyats for each night the movies were showing regardless of whether they went to see the movie or not. In our village they showed movies on two nights so we had to pay 100 Kyats each. One movie was an English movie and the other was Burmese, but I don’t know the titles of the movies because I’m not interested in movies. The village elders couldn’t do anything, they could only tell us that we had to pay whether we went or not, so some villagers went and watched the movies. After the wedding he [Bo Maung Maung] had a house built in Nga Nwah Seit. It was a brick house and the villagers had to bring the bricks as well as build the house. All the expense and labour that went into that house came from the villagers." - "Saw Tee Ko" (M, 40), xxxx village, Mone township (Interview #19, 2/99)

Though killing is their main function, the Sa Thon Lon units are also involved in several other activities, some of which are deliberate efforts to intimidate the villagers and some of which are the random and brutal acts of undisciplined soldiers. Their overall purpose is to terrify the villagers so that they will not support the opposition, and to achieve this they make a point of trying to frighten villagers whenever they see them. Ordering villagers not to look them in the eyes, refusing to tell them anything, constantly moving and arriving by surprise in the middle of the night are all tactics intended to disorient and frighten the villagers. Sa Thon Lon leader Bo Shan Bpu makes a point of hitting villagers before he even speaks to them whenever he meets them along the pathways. One villager told KHRG that he and his teenage friends met Bo Shan Bpu along a path near their fields - he immediately slapped them all in the face, then asked them their ages and beat them for being younger and yet taller than him. Another villager described how his 67-year-old father was stopped by a Sa Thon Lon unit when going for SPDC forced labour with other villagers; the leader beat all of them for not having passes, but gave his father an extra beating because he was the eldest and should therefore "know better".

"My uncle asked me to help by pounding his paddy so I went to do that, and on the way back I and two of my friends met the Short Pants. I was with my friend M---, he is 16 years old. … They asked us about our passes and we showed them to them. Another one, Shan Bpu, came up to us and he didn’t say anything, he just slapped my face 3 times and punched the three of us in the stomach once each. He asked M--- how old he was and when he answered that he was 16 years old, Shan Bpu punched him in the chest and said, ‘Why are you taller than me if you are 16 years old?’ I couldn’t say anything because a soldier held a knife at my throat and if I’d said anything he would have killed me. He asked again, ‘Why are you this big if you are only 16 years old?’ Then he slapped his face again. … Shan Bpu said, ‘Nga lo ma Kayin myo, pyang!’ [loosely translates as, ‘You Karen sons of my whore, get out of here!’]. Then we rode our bicycles home." - "Saw Tha Doh" (M, 18), xxxx village, Mone township (Interview #13, 3/99)

"They even beat my father-in-law who is 67 years old. They force villagers to go back [from the relocation sites] and clear the paths in their old villages. Every morning villagers are going back to their own villages to cut the scrub. One morning in December, they came and saw villagers going to clear their old village. They asked for their passes but none of them had a pass, so they beat them all with fresh bamboo they had cut in the area. On that day, my father-in-law went instead of me because I had to go and give my paddy to the central [command]. … They beat each of them 2 times with the exception of my father-in-law. He [the Sa Thon Lon commander] said that the others were young and had little knowledge, but that my father-in-law is old and should have enough knowledge to show some respect but didn’t. So he was beaten 12 times. He is 67 years old and his head shakes all the time. … When he returned after being beaten he got a fever, and we had to give him an injection of penicillin." - "Saw Ner Muh" (M, 30+), xxxx village, Mone township (Interview #8, 4/99)

"We hadn’t done anything, we were just going to carry our paddy and they saw us, called us to them and then beat us. Most of us were Karen, but there were 3 children among us and they were Burmese. Some were 35, 40 or over 50 years old, and the children were about 10 years old. Eight of them called us over to beat us. First they just asked us, ‘Where do you live?’, and we told them we live in xxxx. They forced us to lie on our stomachs on the ground. They beat us with 8 cane sticks until all but one of the sticks were broken. They beat us here, on our legs. Thirteen of us were beaten, and they beat each of us ten times. The children were only beaten 3 times each, but they beat the rest of us with all of their strength. While they were beating us their officer [Shan Bpu] ordered them, ‘If they move, shoot them dead at once’. Two of them were beating us, and the rest were aiming their guns at us." - "Naw Lah Paw" (F, 21), xxxx village, Mone township, describing her beating by Bo Shan Bpu’s Sa Thon Lon unit in December 1998 (Interview #28, 1/99)

"When we were sitting and talking about how to get our living, the guerrillas [Sa Thon Lon] came suddenly. My friends saw them and ran away. I didn’t run, because the Burmese soldiers always told us not to run when we see them. I stayed, and they came and asked me, ‘Who was that running?’ Before I answered he hit my head here and it bled. … He hit me with his gun barrel, my face was cut here and my head was bleeding." – "Saw Tha Pwih" (M, 38), xxxx village, Tantabin township, Toungoo District (Interview #50, 5/99)

In order to preserve their element of secrecy and surprise, the Sa Thon Lon units have also been ordering villagers to kill their dogs. Many villagers keep small dogs which they take with them to the forest, particularly when hunting, and which provide security at night in the village by barking at strangers. Sa Thon Lon units do not want the villagers to know when they are arriving in the night, so when dogs bark at them they order the owner to be brought forward. They then order the owner to kill his dog, and in addition they beat or fine him as punishment. In the villages of T’Kaw Pwa, Way Sweh, Nga Byaw Daw, Twa Ni Gone, Haw Ko Ghaw, Lu Ah, and Weh Gyi, all in Mone township, Sa Thon Lon units issued orders in late 1998 for all villagers to kill their dogs. In T’Kaw Pwa village alone the dead dogs filled two bullock carts, and the villagers had to discard them outside the village. Some villagers tried to hide their dogs, but when these were found later the troops threatened to kill the owners if they wouldn’t kill their own dogs, and most people complied out of fear.

"The Sa Thon Lon are moving in the area at night and don’t like the dogs because they bark at them when they want to move secretly. They ordered the village headmen to tell people to kill all their dogs or they would beat the owners. They are really doing what they threatened to do. After killing the dogs that bark at them they beat their owners. Some of us loved our dogs and didn’t want to kill them, so we tied our dogs in hiding places. It’s not easy for them to be tied up all the time for many days, so we untied them sometimes. There was one night that they came and people didn’t know they were coming. The dogs barked at them so they asked, ‘Whose dogs are these?’ People had to go and get the owners of the dogs, and when the owners came they said, ‘If you are going to kill your dogs then kill them now, but if you aren’t going to kill them then I’m going to kill you.’ The dog owners were afraid of dying so they had to kill the dogs they loved. My dog was very good and obedient, so I was very upset but there was nothing I could do. Finally I had to kill it. When I killed it my children were crying loudly, but we had to kill it because we feared for our own lives. Our dog had to die for us. In T’Kaw Pwa village, people had to give them a list of all the dogs and then people had to kill all the dogs in the village. The dead dogs filled two bullock carts, and the people had to take them and throw them away in the fields." - "Naw Hser" (F, 40), xxxx village, Mone township (Interview #20, 2/99)

"They beat the dogs to death and then they beat the owners of the dogs [which bark at them]. If they shoot the dog dead, then they beat the owner and also demand 500 Kyats for the cost of the bullet after they beat him. They have ordered villagers in the area of Way Sweh, T’Kaw Pwa and Nga Byaw Daw villages to kill all their dogs. … Now there are no dogs there. I even had to kill my own dog. In Yan Myo Aung 10 dogs were killed, but in Twa Ni Gone, Haw Ko Ghaw, Lu Ah, Weh Gyi and T’Kaw Pwa all the dogs were killed." - "Saw Tee Ko" (M, 40), xxxx village, Mone township (Interview #19, 2/99)

The Sa Thon Lon units have threatened villagers with forced relocation and burned houses on occasion. They have also ordered villagers who have already been forcibly relocated to return by day to their old villages in Mone township to cut down all the fruit and other trees in the village and to clear scrub along the sides of footpaths, presumably to protect the Sa Thon Lon and other SPDC troops from ambush by eliminating cover for resistance forces while also making it harder for the villagers to find food in their villages. (For more information on forced relocations see below under ‘Villages in the Sittaung River Plains’.) One villager stated that in March 1999, Sa Thon Lon units in Kyauk Kyi township began ordering villagers to build fences around their home villages, with only two gates for access. Villages in Tantabin township of Toungoo District have also been forced to fence in their villages.

"When we were in Yan Myo Aung, Bo Maung Maung came and told us, ‘In this area, if I don’t allow you to live here, you can’t live here. If I allow you to stay you can stay, so cut down the trees and plants in the village so it looks clear.’ Anytime he comes to the village he demands clothing, sarongs and food. When we see a taxi arriving with Shan Bpu inside it, everyone prays and no one feels like eating. He forces taxi drivers to take him wherever he wants to go, and he never pays them. When he came, all the villagers didn’t dare move. Some hid in their rooms and others went to hide in their toilets." - "Naw Paw Paw Htoo" (F, 31), xxxx village, Mone township (Interview #12, 3/99)

"In March 1999, when the road construction was almost finished, the intelligence [Sa Thon Lon] soldiers of the SPDC Army ordered villages in Kyauk Kyi township to make fences around their villages. The villages were allowed to have only two gates." - "Naw Ghay" (F, xx), xxxx village, Kyauk Kyi township (Interview #11, 4/99)

"They forced us to fence our village and then they forced us to stick sharpened pieces of bamboo around the fence. People have to do that in every village." – "Saw Lay Muh" (M, 42), xxxx village, Tantabin township, Toungoo District (Interview #53, 5/99)

"Now they’ve closed everything. They don’t allow people to go to farm. They burned every farm hut and ordered people not to go out of the village. They’ve fenced the village tightly." – "Pu Than Nyunt" (M, 60), xxxx village, Tantabin township, Toungoo District (Interview #52, 5/99)

Like other SPDC troops, the Sa Thon Lon units largely support themselves by looting and extorting money in villages. In Kyauk Kyi township, each family in villages where they operate has to pay 200 to 300 Kyat per week which is supposedly for the Sa Thon Lon soldiers’ food. Villagers throughout their entire area of operations have to pay varying amounts of fees to support them. In addition, when they arrive in villages they choose a villager’s house, go to stay there and demand that the house owner prepare food for them. One villager claimed that the Sa Thon Lon group that comes to his village demands at least 5 chickens per day; by Karen standards this is a grossly extravagant amount of meat for a group of only 10 people. They also take whatever they like from small village shops without paying, and demand that the villagers weave or buy fancy traditional clothing for them. The villagers often have to pool their money afterwards to pay for the food and goods they have taken. For transport, they commandeer bullock carts and bicycles, often ordering people with bicycles to deliver messages for them or summon people to them. When Bo Shan Bpu goes back and forth to town and along the roads, he never uses military transport, but instead orders local passenger vehicle or motorcycle drivers to take him wherever he wants to go without payment. His preference for civilian over military transport may be for his own safety; he is a KNLA target, so he may feel that he is safer travelling covertly with civilians.

"They commandeer bulls, carts and bicycles [to carry or send things for them]. Two bullock carts and one bicycle must be ready for their use each day. The bullock carts must take them wherever they want to go, and the bicycles have to send messages for them or go to summon anyone they want to see. In the past, although we had to give taxes and fees we could travel when there was no fighting, but since they’ve arrived people dare not travel or do their work. When people can’t dare go anywhere they can’t think of what to do with their lives." - "Saw Ner Muh" (M, 30+), xxxx village, Mone township, about the Sa Thon Lon (Interview #8, 4/99)

"They demanded we give them a chicken every day. We had to buy the chickens for them. When they demanded alcohol they didn’t like the local rice whisky, they liked the alcohol that people sell in town. They demanded things like that for a long time, until the villagers couldn’t support it any longer. … They once held a meeting where I heard them say, ‘Whenever I go out [on patrol] you will hear that I have killed people.’" - "Saw Dee Ghay" (M, 38), xxxx village, Kyauk Kyi township, talking about the Sa Thon Lon (Interview #9, 4/99)

"When they came to our village, they went to the shops and took everything they liked without paying and then left. The villagers had to take up the cost of that. They did it 3 or 4 times. When they first arrived in our village we had to buy them a jacket which cost 5,000 Kyats and 5 or 6 sets of Karen traditional clothing and sarongs. … We don’t dare to wear watches and we hide our nice clothes. When the Sa Thon Lon enter the village and see you wearing nice clothes or watches, they demand that you give all of it to them. When a person from Tint Lwin’s group saw my cousin’s watch, he demanded the watch from my cousin but my cousin said, ‘This is my mother’s watch.’ He slapped his face and took his watch anyway." - "Saw Ner Muh" (M, 30+), xxxx village, Mone township, describing the behaviour of Sa Thon Lon troops (Interview #8, 4/99)

The Sa Thon Lon troops are definitely targets of the KNLA, and as a result they are afraid to travel along the road from Kyauk Kyi to Mone because it skirts the western edge of the hills. To protect themselves, in January 1999 they began ordering villagers to build a new road about 5 kilometres further west, running from Na Than Gwin to Mone along the Sittaung River. The length of this road is 30 to 35 kilometres, and forced labour on it has been intensive because they are in a rush to complete it. Thousands of villagers had to rotate shifts of five days to a week building and smoothing a 4½ foot high embankment and roadbed all along its length between January and March 1999. Sa Thon Lon troops have been supervising the construction, which is now mainly complete except for a number of bridges. Villages have been ordered to provide all the timber for these bridges, and are currently being forced to build them. In April, when Sa Thon Lon commander Bo Maung Maung ordered a final intensive labour week to smooth the embankment, he told the villagers that at the end of the week he would ride a motorbike from Na Than Gwin to Mone and back, and that if he ever had to stop his motorbike because the road was too bumpy the villagers would "know about it". (For more information on this road see below under‘Villages in the Sittaung River Plains: Forced Labour on Roads’.)

Several Sa Thon Lon soldiers have also forced local girls to marry them. The most notorious case of this involved Bo Shan Bpu in Mone township. In December 1998 he saw Naw O---, a 19 year old girl from Lu Ah village, working in her family’s beanfield. He grabbed her and tried to rape her, and she fled. Later he went to her village and asked her parents and the village headman for her in marriage, even though there are some reports that he already had a wife elsewhere. When Naw O--- heard this she fled her village and went to Toungoo. Then Bo Shan Bpu threatened that if she did not return he would burn the village and kill everyone in it, so her parents called her back and she was forced to marry him on December 25th. He ordered her to move to Meik Tha Lin but she didn’t want to go, so to encourage her he burned down her family’s house in early January. Realising that after that he would be known throughout the district as the man who burned down his father-in-law’s house, he then burned down all the houses in Lu Ah village. The Lu Ah villagers had to flee, and are now living in small shelters in a field outside Weh Gyi village. All of these details have been confirmed by the testimony of several different villagers from the area. One villager reported that after that time, he arrived at xxxxvillage with a bunch of pigs he had stolen, intending to use them to buy a girl named Naw L--- in marriage, but when he found out she was away studying in town he forced the villagers to buy the pigs he had brought and then left.

"We saw a girl in Lu Ah treated this way. Shan Bpu asked the village headman, her parents and the villagers to give her to him. Both her parents and the village headman had to tell her to marry him. The villagers told her the same thing. They said, ‘If you don’t marry him they will kill us all, as the village headman and your parents told you.’ Finally, she had to give herself to the Burmese [soldier] because she loves her parents, the village headman and the villagers. … She was crying when they first got married and after they were married she was still crying because she doesn’t like him. Now her husband has called her to go and live in another area but she didn’t go, so he said that she was too attached to her house and returned to burn down his father-in-law’s house. When he had finished burning his father-in-law’s house he was worried that people would say ‘He’s the one who burned his own father-in-law’s house’, so he burned down every house in the village." - "Saw Tee Ko" (M, 40), xxxxvillage, Mone township (Interview #19, 2/99)

"She told her siblings, ‘I feel very sad that I had to sell myself because of all of you. I want to die but I don’t know how to die.’ So her siblings are very sad for her also. Whenever she sees her siblings she tells them she is very ashamed. We told her not to be ashamed. She asked us how to suffer this kind of life and we told her there’s no other option but to suffer like this. Shan Bpu burned the houses of his in-laws and then burned all the houses in the village. He burned all 50 or 60 houses in [Lu Ah] village plus all the bamboo that the villagers were going to use to build new houses. That happened in early January [1999] … They built temporary huts in a place near Haw Ko Ghaw, but then they had to move and build temporary huts in the field near Weh Gyi. … They are living in the fields and can’t build [proper] houses because all of their things were burned." - "Naw Hser" (F, 40), xxxx village, Mone township (Interview #20, 2/99)

"He killed four people after he got married. He got married on December 25th, and on the night of December 26th he called four people out of the village and killed them." - "Saw Ghaw" (M, xx), xxxx village, Mone township (Interview #29, 1/99)

"They raped a woman near Zayat Gyi. She is a teacher and she is Burmese, not Karen. That group calls themselves the Garuda group. Then they had to go back to clear that up so Bo Shwit [Shan Bpu] came to replace them. When the Garuda group was in our area they came and ate in our village and they just interrogated people, they didn’t torture them, but when Bo Shwit came we saw killing and beating." – "Pu Than Nyunt" (M, 60), xxxx village, Tantabin township, Toungoo District (Interview #52, 5/99)

Bo Maung Maung and other Sa Thon Lon soldiers have also reportedly forced local women to marry them. Villagers in Mone township repeatedly complain that every time aSa Thon Lon soldier marries, everyone in the area is forced to give money as a wedding gift. When Bo Maung Maung was getting married, he sent orders to several villages demanding money for the wedding feast, clothing and jewellery; for Yan Myo Aung relocation site alone, the total came to 17,000 Kyat. Bo Maung Maung then arranged for movies to be shown on two consecutive nights in each village, and everyone had to pay 50 Kyat per night for the movies whether they went to see them or not. After each Sa Thon Lon soldier gets married, the villagers have been forced to buy bricks, take them to the village where the soldier wants to live, and build a brick house and surrounding fence for the bride and groom.

"Sa Thon Lon soldiers also liked two female students around the age of 16. Those girls were about to write their examinations, but instead they left the school and fled." - "Naw Hser" (F, 40), xxxx village, Mone township (Interview #20, 2/99)

"In Shan Bpu’s section, all the soldiers are stupid and impudent because all of them are NCO’s [Non-Commissioned Officers]. When each of them got married, the villagers had to give them money for gifts and money for pigs. When they gave the invitation to the village headman, it had written on it how much money each village had to give and it also said that everyone must go to the wedding and bring money as a gift. It said those who didn’t go must still give 500 Kyats as a forced gift. The villagers had to bring wood and build a house with a fence around the garden for each of them after they got married. They got married one by one and the villagers had to do that each time but they didn’t dare to say anything. … I didn’t go but many people had to go to build their houses. They have to live in nicer houses than ours." - "Naw Paw Paw Htoo" (F, 31), xxxx village, Mone township (Interview #12, 3/99)

"You have to work for them all the time. Any time they force you to work, you must go and do it. You have to carry bricks and build houses for their families. If they order you to bring them 30 bullock-carts filled with bricks, you must bring it to them as they say. … We got the bricks from a place beside Yan Myo Aung village. We had to buy them. … We took the bricks to Bo Maung Maung, and then he ordered carpenters and others to build brick houses for them." - "Saw Tha Doh" (M, 18), xxxx village, Mone township (Interview #13, 3/99)

Villagers also complain that whenever they have their own festivals, they are under orders to invite the local Sa Thon Lon group, who usually ruin the festival by demanding alcohol and frightening everyone. According to villagers who recently fled the area, villagers in Nyaung Bin Seik village of northern Mone township were having a festival in March in honour of a monk who had died, and Bo Shan Bpu was there. When a young woman was singing on stage people were going up to give her presents. Bo Shan Bpu went up on the stage and tried to grab her, but some local young men drove him off and had to be held back or they would have hit him. Bo Shan Bpu left, but then came back and fired M79 grenades into the crowd without warning, killing one villager and wounding several others. In another example, after killing a villager named U Kyi Hmwe in Shan Su village of Shwegyin township in December 1998, the Nagah section of the Sa Thon Lon came to the funeral ceremony being held by the villagers and started playing cards and drinking as though it were a party. However, in the midst of all these other activities the Sa Thon Lon groups continue to focus on their main function, which is to execute villagers. On December 26th 1998, the day after his wedding, Sa Thon Lon commander Bo Shan Bpu called four people out of Twa Ni Gone village and executed them, and on the 27th he killed and beheaded Saw San Myint, a young man from Baw Bpee Der village.

"In Nyaung Bin Seik people were having a festival in honour of a dead monk, and there was a stage show. While one performer was dancing and singing, people were going up to give her presents. Shan Bpu also went to give her a present, but he acted like he would grab her so her friends got angry and jumped up to protect her from him. He got angry too and said, ‘I was giving her a present with good intentions, but you’ve made a scene’. Then he went and fired shells among the crowd and the performers." – "Saw Lah Thaw" (M), xxxx relocation site, Mone township, describing an incident in March 1999 (Interview #2, 5/99)

"We live not too far from the KNLA, so they call us ‘rebels’. They force the villagers to work for them and to give them what they want. They don’t like people asking them questions. They don’t even like people to look at their faces. They’re walking from place to place every day, and if they enter our village we have to prepare whatever they want to eat. They order more than 5 chickens for each meal. … They said that if the villagers were going to have any kind of party, they had to be invited. We invited them to a wedding in the village when we had pork for everyone. However, they didn’t like pork and demanded steamed duck, so we had to steam ducks for them." - "Saw Ner Muh" (M, 30+), xxxx village, Mone township (Interview #8, 4/99)

"He was Burmese, his name was U Kyi Hmwe and he was 45 years old. They accused him of helping the KNU, which he had. They are killing all the villagers who have had contact with the KNU since it was formed, including Burmans. They took him halfway [along a path] and then slit his throat. … While the villagers were having a [funeral] ceremony for U Kyi Hmwe, they came to play cards and drank alcohol as though the villagers were having a party for them. They were happy, but they kill very brutally." - "Saw Htoo Lay" (M, 25), xxxx village, Kyauk Kyi township, talking about the Sa Thon Lon (Interview #30, 12/98)

KNLA and DKBA Activities

"The enemy [SPDC] persecuted us. My mother and father were in contact with the Nga Pway, because we had to feed them too. We have to be afraid of all of them and feed them all, both Nga Pway and the Burmese." - "Saw Yeh" (M, 19), xxxx village, Kyauk Kyi township; ‘Nga pway’ (‘ringworm’) is SPDC slang for KNU/KNLA (Interview #42, 12/98)

The Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) is very active in Nyaunglebin District, particularly in the hills which cover the eastern three fourths of its area. The KNLA does not have complete control over any area, but they have a form of de facto partial control in the area of villages such as Tee Muh Hta and Tee Nya B’Day Kee in eastern Kyauk Kyi township. SPDC forces do not dare enter these areas except in well-armed and usually large columns. When they do enter, the KNLA soldiers and many of the villagers disappear deeper into the forest and higher into the hills, only to return as soon as the SPDC column is gone. The villagers in these areas, particularly those whose villages have been destroyed and who are internally displaced, sometimes seek shelter or medical help from KNLA units. The KNLA obtains much of its intelligence on SPDC movements from the villagers, and in return warns villagers when SPDC columns are coming into the area. The KNLA units themselves are small and mobile, usually consisting of 20 or 30 soldiers. They engage primarily in hit-and-run ambush and harrassment operations, avoiding large battles. KNLA units also penetrate the Sittaung River plains to ambush SPDC units and to go to villages there to obtain food, taxes and porters, but they cannot stay in the plains for any length of time because there are too many SPDC troops there. In recent months the KNLA has made several incursions into the plains to attack Sa Thon Lon units and they have tried to kill Bo Shan Bpu on at least one occasion, but without success.

The KNLA’s weapons are few in number and old but well maintained, and their ammunition supply is severely limited. They get most of their food from the villagers, demanding it as a form of tax from villages which are stable enough to produce a reasonable crop. Cash taxes are also demanded from the elders of such villages. In Nyaunglebin District these demands are mainly levied against those villages in the hills which have not been destroyed and against villages in the eastern part of the Sittaung River plains. The KNLA also asks for porters, but they only have to go for short periods and are not physically abused; only able-bodied men are taken, and households which have no one fit to go are exempted. Even so, these demands place villagers in a difficult situation because they have no choice but to comply, but after they comply they are accused by the SPDC of supporting the resistance. Many village elders have been killed by the Sa Thon Lon or have had to flee because the KNLA used them as a contact person in the past, even if this happened against their will.

The KNLA not only attacks SPDC patrols, but also those of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), the armed Karen group which was formed in 1994 and is closely allied to the SPDC. The main areas of operation of the DKBA are further south, but they have a small presence in the plains of western Nyaunglebin District. Their two camps are at Payah Gyi village in Kyauk Kyi township and Maw Lay (Plaw Haw) village in Mone township, with an estimated 40-50 soldiers at Payah Gyi and the same number or fewer at Maw Lay. They are under the command of Battalion Commander Po Maung from DKBA Brigade 777 based at Payah Gyi; the local commander at Maw Lay is named Bo Law Plah. Their main activities centre around the restoration of the old Klaw Maw (Kyauk Maw) pagoda near Payah Gyi, the building and restoration of other pagodas near both of their camps and also at Kyun Gyi in Kyauk Kyi township.

"In Payah Gyi DKBA camp there are about 45 DKBA soldiers. They demand that each nearby village provide them 1,200 Kyats and 20 kilograms of rice per month. The DKBA soldiers bake charcoal in the hills, and villagers have to work for them. … The DKBA soldiers have been supervising construction of the Kyauk Maw pagoda since the beginning of 1997. Our village had to send 7-10 people for that pagoda construction. The work involved carrying stones, bricks and sand. … Even non-Buddhists were called to work on the construction." - villager (M, 45) from Kyauk Kyi township (Interview #35, 4/99)

People from the villages near both of the DKBA camps complain that they have had to do forced labour on the pagoda construction, hauling stones, bricks and sand and helping to build the pagodas themselves. Many of those who have been forced to do this labour are non-Buddhists, primarily Christians and Animists. After most of the work on the Klaw Maw pagoda was already done the DKBA continued calling villagers to do forced labour on it, but the villagers who went were used instead to build barracks at the DKBA camp. The DKBA camps also force a few people from each village to do rotating shifts of forced labour doing small jobs and baking charcoal in the hills which the DKBA then sells for profit.

"The DKBA is building pagodas in Klaw Maw and above Kyun Gyi and forced us to go to work. We did that so much that we didn’t have time to do our own work. We had to go for 2 or 3 days and then we had to go for sentry duty [for the SPDC]. Even I had to go because I didn’t have any money to hire people. We now have nothing. We were also forced to cut trees, and now people are being forced to dig dirt for a road. People have to go to do that by turns, 5 days at a time." - "Naw K’Ser Tee" (F, 29), a Christian from xxxx village, Kyauk Kyi township who was forced to build pagodas despite her religion (Interview #10, 4/99)

"I had to work on a pagoda for the DKBA a few times. They’re building it on the flat land outside Kyun Gyi. I had to carry stones for 2 or 3 days at a time. Ten people had to go each time, and then we had to go again if it wasn’t finished." - "Saw Dee Ghay" (M, 38), xxxx village, Kyauk Kyi township (Interview #9, 4/99)

"They [DKBA] said that they would build a pagoda. They finished building the pagoda but then they continued to order the villagers to work on it, when actually it was ‘loh ah pay’ on the Ko Per Baw [DKBA] living quarters and not on the pagoda anymore. Each of their groups collects 30 baskets of rice each month. They also collect money, cooking oil and many other things. If the villagers don’t go and give it to them, they arrest and beat the villagers." - "Saw Htoo Lay" (M, 25), xxxx village, Kyauk Kyi township (Interview #30, 12/98)

The SPDC no longer supplies the DKBA in the region with rations, so the DKBA camps are now demanding rice each month from the nearby villages. They also demand other food items and cash. At the full moon of March 1999 the DKBA wanted to celebrate completion of the Klaw Maw pagoda, so on February 15th Battalion Commander Po Maung demanded 30 baskets of rice and 150,000 Kyat from each village tract in the plains of Kyauk Kyi township.

"DKBA troops have based themselves at Klaw Maw pagoda in Kyauk Kyi township, led by DKBA Battalion Commander Po Maung. They have been rebuilding the Klaw Maw pagoda, and wanted to celebrate completion of the pagoda at the full moon of March 1999. They asked support for this from the SPDC but were refused, so Po Maung ordered each of the 15 village tracts in the plains area of Kyauk Kyi township to give 30 baskets of rice and 150,000 Kyat on February 15th. He said that the village tracts which did not give would be moved to the SPDC relocation site." - incident report from KHRG field reporter

Whenever their troops are attacked by the KNLA, the DKBA reacts against the villagers. After an attack by the KNLA in late December 1998 in Kyauk Kyi township, DKBA troops called in the local SPDC Battalion and the two groups cooperated in forcibly relocating Kya Plaw and Leh Wain Gyi villages to a forced relocation site in the first week of January 1999. After another KNLA attack on November 12th 1998, the DKBA arrested three villagers from Thu K’Bee village in Kyauk Kyi township and executed them on November 20th. There have also been abuses resulting from lack of discipline among DKBA troops; for example, in March 1999 a drunken DKBA Sergeant named Saw Shwe Min demanded that a young woman marry him in Taw Ko village of Kyauk Kyi township. When she refused, he fired his gun outside the village, claimed he had fired at the KNLA, and fined and robbed the villagers as punishment. The young woman who refused him no longer dares to live in the village.

"On November 12th 1998 the KNLA shot at the DKBA, those who broke with the KNU, but the DKBA didn’t have time to fight them. Then the DKBA said that the villagers are feeding the KNLA and that the villagers had asked the KNLA to shoot at them. That’s why the DKBA arrested two villagers, Maung Htwe Soe and Maung Kyaw Thaung Klaw, from Thu K’Bee village. They took them to their camp at Klaw Maw Pagoda. Then on 19/11/98 the DKBA arrested an Indian [villager of Indian descent] from Leh Wain Gyi village. The DKBA took all 3 of them to a place near Klaw Maw pagoda and killed them. They said that they were the backbone of the KNU. Battalion Commander Bo Po Maung of [DKBA] Brigade 777 gave the order to Platoon Commander Saw Ku Mu to kill them. People who had to go for ‘loh ah pay’ saw that when they were on their way back and then came back to tell us about it. The people who saw it said that the 3 of them were killed on 20/11/98 at 8:10 a.m." - "Saw Htoo Lay" (M, 25), xxxx village, Kyauk Kyi township (Interview #30, 12/98)

"On March 7th 1999 at 9 p.m., DKBA Sergeant Saw Shwe Min went to Taw Ko village in the plain area of Kyauk Kyi township. He asked for the love of Naw M---, age 25. She refused because she knows he already has a wife and children, so he got drunk and then left the village and fired his gun. Then he said that he had shot at the KNLA and ordered the villagers of the entire village tract to pay the price of the bullet, 20,000 Kyat [which is at least 50 times the real price of a bullet], as well as 4 watches with metal bands and 4 watches with plastic/leather bands. He said he would ask her to love him again, and that if she refused he would shoot her dead. As a result Naw M--- is afraid to stay in her village anymore." - incident report from KHRG field reporter

Despite the forced labour and occasional abuses, the DKBA is perceived by villagers as being much better than the SPDC. In their other areas of operation further south, they sometimes protect villagers from the worst SPDC abuses. As a result, some villagers in Nyaunglebin District have tried to escape the Sa Thon Lon death squads by taking refuge with the DKBA. Some villagers report that this has worked, while others have given examples where the DKBA has handed villagers over to the SPDC for execution. It appears that the DKBA is willing to protect innocent people who are fleeing the Sa Thon Lon squads, but if they are subsequently asked to hand over a specific person by name they will do so. This reflects the complex nature of the relations between the DKBA and the SPDC; while the DKBA is allied to the SPDC and helps the regime in many ways, most DKBA soldiers personally hate and distrust the SPDC. Some DKBA soldiers and commanders are more interested in personal power and loot than anything else, but there are also those who want to protect Karen people from the SPDC’s abuses as much as they can. However, when faced with direct demands and orders from the SPDC they have little choice but to comply or face direct punishments and restrictions on their activities.

"Some people have gone to live in Klaw Maw because the Sa Thon Lon are looking for them to kill them. They don’t dare live anywhere except with the DKBA. They’ve told their friends that they can’t run anywhere so they go and take refuge with the DKBA. … When I went to the DKBA area in Klaw Maw there were more than 50 or 60 households of villagers there. The villagers there hire themselves out to others in the area who are ordered to go for forced labour but aren’t able to go [the forced labour is pagoda-building for the DKBA]. They hire themselves out for 200 Kyats per day and use that money to buy food. People living in Klaw Maw said to me, ‘We don’t know what is going to happen to Klaw Maw after the pagodas are completely finished. If there is no DKBA area then we will have no safe area to live in, and we don’t know of any other place where we can take refuge. We’re really afraid of the Sa Thon Lon.’" - "Naw Hser" (F, 40), xxxx village, Mone township (Interview #20, 2/99)

"His name was Pa Mee and his wife, who is now staying with her siblings, is called Naw P---. He was not a village headman but he had helped the KNU. The Strategic Commander of Infantry Battalion #60 ordered him to meet them at Thaung Bo. He didn’t dare go and instead fled and went to stay with the DKBA. The Strategic Commander told the DKBA that they wanted to see Pa Mee. The DKBA sent Pa Mee to him and he shot Pa Mee dead. After they killed him they took his belongings, such as his cattle, his buffaloes and his sugar cane plantation." - "Saw Htoo Lay" (M, 25), xxxx village, Kyauk Kyi township; Pa Mee was executed in July 1998 (Interview #30, 12/98)

"The [SPDC] guerrilla troops threaten them and they have to hide and sleep in secret places. They face many problems. Some villagers move to the DKBA area for a while. The DKBA has said that if those troops want the people who they are after, they can’t stop them." - "Saw Ta Roh" (M, 37), xxxxvillage, Shwegyin township (Interview #32, 12/98)

Villages in the Sittaung River Plains

"All of us were forced to relocate to a field near Thit Cha Seik and live in an open area where there are no [rice] fields and it’s very hot. Thit Cha Seik [village] lies to the east of the car road and the place they kept us was to the west of the car road. They call the place Gwet Thit [‘New Area’]. The Sa Thon Lon came and forced us to go back to our village and cut down all the trees. We had to burn and clear everything except the coconut trees. … They also forced Lu Ah villagers to move to live in Weh Gyi on the bank of the Bpareh Loh [Sittaung] river. … All the trees in Lu Ah village were cut down. … We are allowed to go back to our fields but we have to carry a pass. A pass costs 5 Kyats and is good for 3 days to a week. We can’t sleep at our fields. We can’t leave before 6:00 a.m. and have to return by 6:00 p.m. At first they didn’t tell us we needed a pass, but after they saw people who had no passes and then beat them, people started to carry passes even when they go for ‘loh ah pay’." - "Saw Ner Muh" (M, 30+), xxxx village, Mone township (Interview #8, 4/99)

The villages in the Sittaung River plains in the west of the district are normally fertile and prosperous, so it is the first time that significant numbers of people have begun fleeing these villages. The reasons which eventually led to their flight began accumulating several years ago, when SLORC authorities began forced relocations of many of the villages between the Sittaung River and the hills to the east. The relocated villagers could still return to farm their fields but only under heavy restrictions. In the past two years, demands for crop quotas, extortion money and forced labour placed on them increased to a point where they could no longer bear it, particularly when combined with the failure of rice crops of 1997 and 1998 due to floods and droughts. When the Sa Thon Lon Guerrilla Retaliation squads began patrolling the area in late 1998, killing people along the pathways and beating and terrorising farmers in their fields, this was the final straw for many people. They no longer dared go to their fields, they could not earn a living, and yet they still faced the constant demands for money, crop quotas and forced labour from the regular SPDC units and civilian authorities. They saw no option left to them except flight.

Forced Relocations

"In December of 1998 they ordered us to relocate from our village of xxxx to Kaw Tha Say, but I moved to yyyy instead. There are no longer any people in xxxx because they only gave us 3 days to relocate. They said if they saw us in our village after 3 days they would kill us." - "Naw K’Ser Tee" (F, 29), xxxx village, Kyauk Kyi township (Interview #10, 4/99)

The first forced relocations in the plains area of the district occurred over 20 years ago in the mid-1970’s,when the BSPP regime, predecessor of the SLORC and SPDC, initiated the ‘Four Cuts’ policy - a policy to cut all supplies of food, funds, recruits and information from the resistance groups by bringing all villagers under direct Army control, punishing villagers for attacks by resistance forces, and pressuring villagers with excessive extortion, looting, and stealing crops and livestock so that they will never have any food or resources to give to resistance groups. This policy is still in effect today. As the initial relocations were not sustainable, most villagers gradually ended up back in their home villages. In 1991, after a battle between SLORC and KNLA forces in southern Mone township, the villages of Myeh Yeh, Ter Bpaw, Po Thaung Su, Twa Ni Gone, Bpa Reh Si, Noh Htaw Hta, and Ta Maw Ma were forced to move to a buffalo-grazing field at Yan Myo Aung, along the road between Kyauk Kyi and Na Than Gwin. Three to four years later some of these villagers were allowed to move back to their villages, but as soon as the SLORC troops rotated they were forced back again and many of them have now been living at Yan Myo Aung relocation site for three years or more. The site itself is a terrible choice; in rainy season it floods and the water can be waist deep in places, while in dry season there is no good water. The SLORC drilled a well but the villagers complain that the water it produces makes people sick unless they purify it first two or three times using sand pots.

"When we first arrived we had to clear the bushes and trees to stay there, because they forced us to move to a jungle area where a nearby village let its buffaloes forage for food. It was rainy season and water was everywhere. The water came up to our waists in places. It was very hard to live." - "Saw Tee Ko" (M, 40), xxxx village, Mone township, describing conditions in Yan Myo Aung relocation site (Interview #19, 2/99)

"When we first arrived at the relocation site they opened a clinic that provided medicine but it was only open for 10 days. They pretended to take care of us but they didn’t really. … In our area people suffer from fever, coughing and diarrhoea.  The water there is not clear. They made a pump well for us but the water from that well makes your teeth and gums turn green if you drink it before purifying it. We dug our own well and it gives water that doesn’t need to be purified before using it, but that well only has water in it during the rainy season. Most of the time we have to use water from their pump well and purify it in two steps, using sand pots, to make it clear. 50% of the people there, including me, had goitres because of the water. People there [at Yan Myo Aung] are not healthy. They suffer from fatigue and dizziness, but they have to stay that way because they have no way to solve the problem. There are no healthy looking people there, only skinny people." - "Naw Hser" (F, 40), xxxx village, Mone township (Interview #20, 2/99)

Other relocation sites have been established more recently at Mone, Weh Gyi and Thit Cha Seik in Mone township, and Yan Gyi Aung and Kaw Tha Say in Kyauk Kyi township, and Than Seik/Min Lan in Shwegyin township; there are certainly other sites as well, but KHRG has not yet been able to confirm them. The following list shows 39 villages known to have been forcibly relocated and which are still not allowed to return home, based on the testimony of villagers from the area. Some of these villages have been forced to move two or three times in the past several years, to a relocation site, then back to their villages, then to another relocation site, and so on. This list is far from complete.

 

 

From

Township

To

Order Date

Remarks

Baw Bpee Der
Myau Oo
Aung Chan Tha
Kyaut Bu Daung
Sweh Dtee
c
Noh Nya Thu
Kya Plaw
Leh Wain Gyi
Ma Oo Bin
Kyi Pin Su
Leh Bain (Leh Pa)
Lu Ah
Hintha Weh
Nga Peh Inn
Shan Su
Kaw Chay Moo
Lan Gweh
Twa Ni Gone
Bpa Reh Si
Myeh Yeh
Noh Htaw Hta
Ta Maw Ma
Po Thaung Su
Nga Law Der
Oo Chit Kin
Ter Bpaw
Tha Htay Gone
Thay Ko Bu
Thein Kyo
Kyaw Ah Gweh Hta
Doh Ko Wah
Bplaw Hta
Meh Theh
Toh Kee
Wah May Kyo
Deh Oo Po
Saw Theh Kee
Bweh Si Kee
Maw Pi Yah
Zee Byu Gone

Mone
Mone
Mone
Mone
Kyauk Kyi
c
Kyauk Kyi
Kyauk Kyi
Kyauk Kyi
Shwegyin
Shwegyin
Mone
Mone
Kyauk Kyi
Kyauk Kyi
Shwegyin
Kyauk Kyi
Kyauk Kyi
Mone
Mone
Mone
Mone
Mone
Mone
Mone
Mone
Mone
Mone
Shwegyin
Shwegyin
Shwegyin
Shwegyin
Shwegyin
Shwegyin
Shwegyin
Shwegyin
Shwegyin
Shwegyin
Shwegyin
Shwegyin
Tantabin

Mone town outskirts
Mone town outskirts
Mone town outskirts
Mone town outskirts
Baw Ka Hta/
Kaw Tha Say
Yan Myo Aung
Yan Myo Aung
Pa Hee Ko
Than Seik/Min Lan
Than Seik/Min Lan
Yan Myo Aung
Yan Myo Aung
Kaw Tha Say
Paleh Taw
Paleh Taw
unspecified
unspecified
Yan Myo Aung
Yan Myo Aung
Yan Myo Aung
Yan Myo Aung
Yan Myo Aung
Thit Cha Seik
Thit Cha Seik
Thit Cha Seik
Thit Cha Seik
Thit Cha Seik
none specified
none specified
none specified
none specified
none specified
none specified
none specified
Than Seik/Min Lan
Than Seik/Min Lan
Than Seik/Min Lan
Than Seik/Min Lan
Baw Hta
Taw Ma Aye

4/99
4/99
4/99
4/99
15/1/99
c
7/1/99
7/1/99
3/1/99
1/99
1/99
1/99
1/99
1/99
12/98
12/98
10/98
10/98
1997/98
1997/98
1997/98
1997/98
1997/98
1997
1997
1997
1997
1997
1997
1997
1997
1997
1997
1997
1997
1997
1997
1997
1997
c
1999

c
c
c
c
c
c
c
c
SPDC+DKBA moved, then burned
c
c
c
c
c
c
c
c
c
Forced several times since 1991
Forced several times since 1991
Forced several times since 1991
Forced several times since 1991
Forced several times since 1991
First moved to Yan Myo Aung in 1991
First moved to Yan Myo Aung in 1991
First moved to Yan Myo Aung in 1991
First moved to Yan Myo Aung in 1991
First moved to Yan Myo Aung in 1991
No site specified, just driven out
No site specified, just driven out
No site specified, just driven out
No site specified, just driven out
No site specified, just driven out
No site specified, just driven out
No site specified, just driven out
cc
c
c
c
c
cIn southern Toungoo District

All of those listed in the above table are currently not allowed to stay in their home villages. Many villages, such as Myeh Yeh in Mone township, have a Karen section and a Burman section; the SPDC accused the village of being "full of rebels" and forced the Karen section to move but not the Burman section. Villages which are primarily Burman, such as Thit Cha Seik, were not forced to move. Ma Bpee Po and Ma Bpee Doh villages (frequently referred to together as Ma Bpee) were previously forced to Yan Gyi Aung site, but have since returned to their village and are currently paying a large amount of money each month to local SPDC troops as a bribe to avert forced relocation. Similarly, Yay Leh village in Mone township and Baw Ka Hta village in Kyauk Kyi township are paying in order not to be relocated; such bribes can be in the tens of thousands of Kyat per month, and as soon as the village can no longer pay or the troops rotate they may be forced to relocate. For example, a former elder from xxxx village stated that his village could not pay the money demanded three to four years ago, so they were forced back into Yan Myo Aung site while Ter Bpaw and Po Thaung Su paid 300,000 Kyat each to the SPDC troops to be allowed to remain in their villages, and Yay Leh had to pay 500,000 Kyat because it is a larger village; however, since that time both Ter Bpaw and Po Thaung Su were forced to move to a field west of Thit Cha Seik, while only Yay Leh in that area continues to pay to be exempted.

"They have forced all the villages around Yan Myo Aung to move to Yan Myo Aung. It is about 2 hours walking from xxxx. The villages that were relocated are Twa Ni Gone, Yay Leh, Bpa Reh Si, Noh Htaw Hta, Myeh Yeh and Si Bpaw Bpaw. Those people have to stay in Yan Myo Aung." - "Pu Hla Maung" (M, 57), xxxx village, Mone township (Interview #22, 1/99)

"Yay Leh, Ter Bpaw, Po Thaung Su and other villages bribed the soldiers with money so they could stay in their old villages. Each village had to pay hundreds of thousands of Kyats to bribe the soldiers. I heard that Ter Bpaw and Po Thaung Su had to pay 300,000 Kyats each. Yay Leh village is large, so they had to give 500,000 Kyats. As for our village, we couldn’t bribe them so we had to relocate again." - "Saw Tee Ko" (M, 40), xxxxvillage, Mone township, describing the second time his village was forced to Yan Myo Aung relocation site, in 1994 (Interview #19, 2/99)

"We returned to xxxx [their home village] over two years ago. We just came back by ourselves. Now they’re demanding more money from xxxx than other villages, but we give it to be allowed to live in our village. Some people are still left in Taw Ma Aye [relocation site]." - "Naw Paw Ghay" (F, 34), xxxx village, Tantabin township, Toungoo District (Interview #54, 5/99)

"The Burmese kept coming to the village and demanding money, poultry and pigs. Then they forced everyone out of the village. They forced them to Baw Ka Hta [where the SPDC camp is]." - "Naw Eh Muh" (F, 51), xxxx village, Kyauk Kyi township (Interview #17, 2/99)

Relocation sites are chosen by the SPDC for their ease of control by the Army. Yan Gyi Aung and Than Seik/Min Lan sites are alongside the Shwegyin-Kyauk Kyi vehicle road. The site at Thit Cha Seik is in a field west of the Kyauk Kyi - Mone road, and the site at Weh Gyi is beside a new road from Na Than Gwin to Mone being built with forced labour. Kaw Tha Say and Baw Ka Hta sites are right beside SPDC Army camps. The newest relocation site, created in April 1999, is on the outskirts of Mone town. Conditions at the relocation sites are generally bad; they are often on lowlying land prone to flooding and there is usually no good water available. Nothing is provided for the villagers; they must bring along building materials they have stripped from their houses in their home villages, or find materials around the new site. They must also bring along whatever rice and other food they can, as none is ever supplied by the authorities.

"As for those who are staying in the relocation sites, they have to do day labour and have difficulty finding food from day to day. They can’t go back to work in their villages because some of them are from Mah Bpee and Sweh Dtee, which are very far away so travelling is difficult for them. Many of the people from Hintha Weh who went to live in Baw Ler Hta died of illness. Some of those people fled to the west of the Pay Sa Loh river, and many went to live in Ler Doh [Kyauk Kyi town]. … I have been there and people in Yan Gyi Aung can’t live there all together, their lives are very hard. Some have gone to live with their relatives in other villages so in the relocation site there aren’t many villagers left." - "Naw Hser" (F, 40), xxxx village, Mone township (Interview #20, 2/99)

Medicine is not supplied either, and many villagers die of treatable diseases in the relocation sites. Those who have been forced to Yan Myo Aung site say that when it was first established in 1991, the SLORC set up a clinic but it was only open for 10 days, and there has been no access to medical help since then. Those who are sick have to go to hospital in towns like Kyauk Kyi, and they have to take along enough money to pay all the costs of treatment and to buy all required medicines, which are expensive. Villagers are not allowed to bring medicines from town to the relocation sites or villages because the SPDC wants to ensure that no medicine can reach resistance forces; as a result, villagers are threatened that anyone caught with medicine outside the towns will be executed.

"There was no medicine and we weren’t allowed to carry medicine. When our children were ill, we went to buy medicine for them and had to hide the medicine on the way back. If they [the Burmese soldiers] saw us with medicine, they would have killed us. After the soldiers told us that, no one carried medicine anymore so no one was killed for that reason. When my children were ill I had to give them traditional medicine and if that didn’t work I had to take them to the hospital. We couldn’t carry medicine but we were allowed to take sick people to the hospital." - "Saw Tee Ko" (M, 40), xxxx village, Mone township (Interview #19, 2/99)

"We dare not go to the government hospital if we have no money. If we don’t take money they don’t give us medicine. [If it is serious] we have to try hard to find the money to cure the disease. Mostly we treat things using traditional medicines. My children have never had an injection or vaccination. They called us to go and get vaccinations for our children but we were afraid because people said their children got fevers after the injection." - "Naw Mary" (F, 30), xxxx village, Mone township (Interview #15, 3/99)

According to a villager from xxxx who fled Thit Cha Seik relocation site in March 1999, SPDC troops are now registering the names of young men from villages in the area for what she believes will be forced recruitment to the SPDC Army in the near future. This is normal SPDC practice in areas which they completely control; each village is forced to provide a number of recruits per month or per year, the number being set based on the village size. Villagers whose sons are drawn in the lottery can only get out of it by paying a very large bribe.

"Now they [the SPDC Army] are going to collect soldiers and I have two younger brothers who are single. We were worried for them so we moved away from our village. They are registering names and they say the villagers who become soldiers won’t have to give any fees anymore." - "Naw Mary" (F, 30), xxxx village, Mone township (Interview #15, 3/99)

There was a spate of forced relocations in 1997, then somewhat of a lull through early 1998. However, in late 1998 and early 1999, there have been more relocations as well as repeat relocations of villages which had previously made their way back home. This is probably connected with the aim of the Sa Thon Lon Guerrilla Retaliation units to bring all villagers under complete control, execute any with past or present KNLA connections as a warning to the others, and make the area into a ‘white area’, which is SPDC terminology for regions where the population has been completely subjugated. After Sa Thon Lon Guerrilla Retaliation officer Bo Shan Bpu burned all the houses in Lu Ah village in January 1999, the village was forced to move to a field near Weh Gyi, along the new road which is being built by forced labour under Sa Thon Lon supervision. Also in January, Kya Plaw and Leh Wain Gyi villages were ordered to move to Yan Myo Aung and Pa Hee Ko, and immediately afterward the villages were burned by regular SPDC troops. The forced relocation in April 1999 of Baw Bpee Der, Myau Oo and Aung Chan Tha villages, none of which had been relocated before, to a new relocation site on the outskirts of Mone town seems to indicate that the immediate future will probably bring even more forced relocations. Those who are still in their home villages go on living in the hope that they can remain there and in some cases paying heavy bribes for the privilege, while those who have already relocated try to survive by making the dangerous trip back home to farm their old fields whenever they can get a pass to do so from the SPDC.

"Recently, when a battle occurred at Saw Mu Theh involving the DKBA, they [the Burmese] forced the villagers from 2 villages, Leh Wain Gyi and Kya Plaw, to move to a relocation site near the Ler Doh car road. They called it Pa Hee Ko village. The [SPDC] guerrilla troops were working [on this] together with the DKBA. All the villagers had to move within 3 days starting on January 3rd [1999]. After they finished moving, the villages were burned. They said that if the villagers couldn’t move within 3 days they would fine us and cause us pain. If we couldn’t carry all of our things they would be happy because they could take them and sell them." - "Saw Htoo Lay" (M, 25), xxxx village, Kyauk Kyi township, talking about the Sa Thon Lon(Interview #30, 12/98)

Returning to the Old Villages

"I will tell you about the people who relocated to Yan Myo Aung. They are going back to eat in their old villages but they aren’t allowed to keep their rice there. When they [Burmese soldiers] saw the rice and living place of a Bpa Reh Si villager named H---, they burned down all his rice and paddy just after he had finished putting his harvest in his storage barn. They also burned the rice storage barns of his friends that were near his storage barn. That happened just a few days ago." - "Saw Kyaw" (M, 34), Yan Myo Aung relocation site, Mone township (Interview #23, 1/99)

Many of the Karen villages in the plains east of the Sittaung River currently lie abandoned because their inhabitants have been forced to relocation sites or have fled. Many people spend part of their time in the relocation site and part of their time hiding around their old village or in their farmfield huts with or without a valid pass, leading a tenuous and risky existence. Some Karen villagers have gone to stay in the Burman villages which were not forced to move. In some villages which had a Karen section and a Burman section only the Karen section was forced to move, and some of the Karen villagers have now returned to stay on the fringes of the Burman section. Villagers from Myeh Yeh in Mone township who have done this say that they can stay but that all the passing SPDC columns demand much more food from them than from the Burmans. People can never be sure for how long they’ll be allowed to stay where they are, and in such circumstances there is little or no chance to send their children to school.

"The situation is bad and we must move up and down, fleeing and sleeping outside whenever they [SPDC] come and tell us things [i.e. issue a new relocation order], so we can’t send them to school. The situation is very unstable. There is a government school but we can’t send them there. We learn Karen language at the pastor’s house, mostly reading from the Bible. People dare not open a school to teach the villagers." - "Naw Mary" (F, 30), xxxx village, Mone township (Interview #15, 3/99)

"My eldest child is 10 years old and has never been able to go to school because we have to run every year." - "Saw Kyaw" (M, 34), Yan Myo Aung relocation site, Mone township (Interview #23, 1/99)

The villagers at the relocation sites have no land there and paid day labour is difficult to find, so most of them try to return to their home fields to farm. This requires a pass which must be bought for varying amounts from the local SPDC military. When available, these passes are only valid for 3 days to a week, and they do not allow the villagers to spend the night; people are only allowed to leave the relocation site after 6 a.m. and must return by 6 p.m., and those in Kaw Tha Say relocation site are not even allowed to take a packet of cooked rice with them for lunch. Many people’s home fields are 3 hours or more on foot from the relocation site, so these restrictions make it extremely difficult for them to farm properly, especially as they use labour-intensive farming methods which usually require them to sleep in their field huts through much of the planting and growing season.

"They allowed us to go to work but we had to go in the morning and return in the evening. They didn’t even allow us to take cooked rice with us for lunch. We had to eat rice in the early morning in our house and could only eat again when we returned in the evening." - "Naw K’Ser Tee" (F, 29),xxxx village, Kyauk Kyi township (Interview #10, 4/99)

However, villagers have little option but to obey the restrictions, because many who have been caught with invalid passes have been seriously beaten or taken as porters, and several villagers have been killed simply for being found in farmfield huts after 6 p.m., particularly since the arrival of the Sa Thon Lon Guerrilla Retaliation units in the area. SPDC patrols also search for any evidence of food supplies in field huts or abandoned villages, and take or destroy whatever they find. Any villagers caught together with a hidden supply of rice run a strong risk of being accused of ‘feeding the rebels’ and summarily executed.

"They took the rice from the villagers of Zee Byu Gone because they thought that the villagers would feed the KNU. There were 69 baskets and 4 bowls of rice. They took them to the Burmese village together with the rice milling machine from Shan Gyi Bo Daing, poured kerosene on the rice and burned it." – "Saw Tha Pwih" (M, 38), xxxx village, Tantabin township, Toungoo District (Interview #50, 5/99)

"They never take care of us. We can’t even go and buy medicine from town. If we bring back medicine, even pills, they give us the death sentence. That is one of the problems." - "Saw Ner Muh" (M, 30+), xxxx village, Mone township (Interview #8, 4/99)

Since late 1998, regular SPDC and Sa Thon Lon Guerrilla Retaliation units have begun taking some additional steps to ensure that people cannot go back to stay in their home villages and that resistance forces cannot take cover there. In some villages they have burned whatever remains of the houses. For example, in December 1998 they burned all the remaining houses in Twa Ni Gone village of Mone township, which has been forced to Yan Myo Aung relocation site and is abandoned. However, some Twa Ni Gone villagers were nearby with passes to farm their fields and saw it happen. When Kya Plaw and Leh Wain Gyi villages in Kyauk Kyi township were forced to relocate in January 1999, the villagers stripped their houses of building materials so that they could build huts in the relocation site, and then as soon as they were gone SPDC troops burned what remained of their houses. In addition to burning the remains of villages, they have begun ordering villagers in the relocation sites to return to their villages to cut down all of the trees in and around the village. Sa Thon Lon Guerrilla Retaliation troops forced villagers in Thit Cha Seik and Weh Gyi relocation sites to return and cut down all except the coconut trees in Ter Bpaw, Lu Ah and other villages. According to a villager from xxxx, people from his village who have been forced to Kaw Tha Say now have to return to cut down "all the trees between Sweh Dtee and Kyun Gyi", a distance of several kilometres. People from several villages have also reported being forced to clear scrub along both sides of the paths around their old villages, presumably to protect SPDC patrols from ambush. Villagers who have fled the western plains of Kyauk Kyi and Tantabin townships state that in March 1999 in their home areas the Sa Thon Lon Guerrilla Retaliation troops began forcing people to build fences around their own villages with a maximum of two gates, also to allow tighter control and monitoring of the movement of villagers.

"Before I came here they burned some houses and farm huts in Twa Ni Gone. They burned them without any reason. They said they were ordered to do it. The villagers there were forced to relocate to Yan Myo Aung a few years ago, but there were some old houses still left there. … They can go back to the village to work, but they need a pass, and if the soldiers see you and call you, you must go to them and answer all their questions. If you don’t go to them or if you run they kill you." - "Naw Lah Paw" (F, 21), xxxx village, Mone township (Interview #28, 1/99)

"For ‘loh ah pay’, we had to cut down the whole forest so they could see anyone who might be walking there. We had to cut 3 or 4 ‘khah’ each day for a whole week. They are trying to clear all the trees between Kyun Gyi and Sweh Dtee." - "Saw Dee Ghay" (M, 38), xxxx village, Kyauk Kyi township (Interview #9, 4/99)

Even people with passes to return to their villages are finding it more and more dangerous to do so, particularly with the Sa Thon Lon forces in the area. These special troops regularly stop villagers on the path and beat them for no apparent reason except simple harassment and to frighten them. According to a villager fromxxxx, villagers in Yan Myo Aung relocation site have recently been told that they will no longer be allowed to return to their fields, and that the fine for anyone caught doing so will be 100,000 Kyat. This may also be an initiative of the Sa Thon Lon units. If this is enforced, it will make survival virtually impossible for the people in the relocation sites, and they will have no choice but to attempt to flee.

"We could do that [leave the relocation site to work their old fields] for 3 or 4 years, but since the Sa Thon Lon came into the area we haven’t been able to buy passes to go and work anymore. We have to live in fear, and people have to have passes with their exact name and age on them to go to places near their home villages. If the name they give [when stopped by soldiers] isn’t exactly the same as the name on the pass they are beaten nearly to death. There was one villager who got a pass from his village elder with his short name on it, the name everyone calls him by. When the Sa Thon Lon asked him his name he told them his real name, which is different from his short name [nickname] on the pass. He was forced onto his hands and knees and then was kicked until he vomited blood." - "Naw Hser" (F, 40), xxxx village, Mone township (Interview #20, 2/99)

"We were forced to relocate [to Yan Myo Aung] but later they allowed us to go back to live beside the Sittaung river and work our fields. When we were working the fields, they demanded we give them 3,000 Kyats per month and they also demanded we give them 1,000 Kyats when any of them got married. Because of this, we went to live in Yan Myo Aung again. Now the orders are that we can’t work our fields anymore, and anyone who does must pay a 100,000 Kyat fine. There are 15 farmfield huts in the area, and they will know if we go back to work because more huts will appear. … People don’t dare go back to work in their fields." - "Saw Tha Doh" (M, 18), xxxx village, Mone township (Interview #13, 3/99)

Crop Quotas

"People who have hill fields must give 12 baskets per acre. Whether our fields yield or not we must give them what they order. They told us, ‘We don’t care if there’s a hole in your bucket, just bring us the water.’" - "Naw Thu" (F, 26), xxxx village, Kyauk Kyi township (Interview #29, 1/99)

As in the rest of Burma, villagers in the plains near the Sittaung River all have to hand over a portion of their crops to the SPDC authorities. This applies both to people still living and farming in their home villages and to those living in relocation sites but commuting to farm their own land. For the crop harvested at the end of 1998, the quota rate was 15 baskets of paddy (unhusked rice) per acre of flat irrigated paddy field, and 12 baskets per acre of hillside ricefield (one basket of paddy weighs approximately 20 kilograms, and when milled produces about ½ basket of rice, which weighs 16.5 kilograms). The SPDC paid 300 Kyat per basket for this quota paddy, while local market price at the same time was 520-600 Kyat per basket. In a good year, one acre of flat paddy field can produce only 40-50 baskets, so this is a sizable portion of the crop. However, in the 1998 season many farmers lost over half their crop and some lost almost their entire crop due to early lack of rain followed by floods; others only had enough seed to plant part of their fields because of debt caused by 1997 crop failures and SPDC extortion, and some lost part or all of their crop because of restrictions on movement or fear of SPDC and Sa Thon Lon Guerrilla Retaliation units. No exceptions or reductions were made for any of these farmers, with the result that many had to sell their livestock and valuables or go even further into debt in order to buy paddy at market price and then hand it over as their quota. When they asked for quota reductions because of the failure of their crops some were told by SPDC officials, "We don’t care if your bucket has a hole in it, just bring us the water." In the end, many have been left with no valuables, large debts, and nothing to eat but boiled rice soup - a thin gruel which families eat to try to make what little rice they have last longer.

"[W]e had to sell them 12 baskets [of paddy] for each acre of paddy field but they paid a very low price. They paid 300 Kyats per basket, but the market rate is 600 Kyats per basket. They say it’s our duty to sell it to them and they don’t allow us to sell it in the market. We have 8 acres of field but we weren’t able to produce any paddy because it all died, so we had to buy rice from someone else for 500 Kyats per basket and then sell it to them. We didn’t even get 300 Kyats per basket, because they said some was for a donation and then they deducted a fee." - "Naw K’Ser Tee" (F, 29), xxxx village, Kyauk Kyi township (Interview #10, 4/99)

"We work on a field, but this year we couldn’t because the paddy died and then the Burmese government asked for paddy. We couldn’t give it to them so we had to buy it from outside and give it to them. This year we couldn’t eat. This year we could only plant one acre so we didn’t even get 40 baskets of rice. We had to give the government 12 baskets of paddy for each acre and now we have none left for us [they own 2 acres so they had to pay 24 baskets even though they only planted one acre]. They pay 300 Kyats per basket of paddy, but if we buy it outside, one basket costs 550 Kyats. They also cheated us on the number of baskets. We took them 25 baskets of paddy but they only paid for 22 baskets." - "Pi Kler Meh" (F, 60), xxxx village, Mone township (Interview #14, 3/99)

"If we don’t sell it to them they scold and beat us, so we have to buy some from outside to sell to them. This year I had to buy 30 baskets of paddy which I then sold to them. … The villagers who can’t buy any have to sell their cattle to buy paddy to give them. Those who have nothing are arrested and forced to porter and they beat them. … Some other people have their fields confiscated. … We must sell them paddy every year, and they close the accounts on April 1st. … When we went to the meeting they called, they shouted at us and scolded us." - "Naw Mary" (F, 30), xxxxvillage, Mone township (Interview #15, 3/99)

To make it worse, the local quota collection officials are extremely corrupt and the Army demands additional quotas from some farmers. The written law in Burma decrees that all land belongs to the state. A farmer from xxxx explained that his field to the west of the Mone - Kyauk Kyi road was designated as property of the Township Peace & Development Council, while his field to the east of the road was designated as property of the Army; for the Township land he had to give 12 baskets per acre at 300 Kyats per basket, but for the Army land he had to give 10 baskets for acre to the local Battalion with no payment whatsoever. In addition, the Township officials use several transparent tricks to steal much of the villagers’ paddy and money. When farmers bring their 12 or 15 baskets per acre, the officials often claim that it’s not ‘clean’, i.e. that it contains bits of straw and impurities, and either winnow it a second time or calculate a reduction in the number of baskets to be paid for. They then deduct a portion of the paddy which they say will be a ‘donation to the temple’, and reduce the payment appropriately, though it is very unlikely that this paddy will ever be given to any temple. An additional 4 bowls (a quarter basket) of paddy or husked rice per acre is then demanded for the Township Peace & Development Council without payment, and a cash service charge is deducted from the amount to be paid to the farmer. Sometimes even more deductions are made. In the end, most farmers are paid for no more than two thirds of the paddy which they are forced to bring, and at only 300 Kyat per basket. The officials take all the paddy, probably log it as all having been paid for, and can keep the extra rice they confiscate for the Township as well as one third or more of the cash for themselves. The villagers are fully aware that this is simply corruption, but they do not dare complain for fear of arrest. They have no choice but to pay the quota as demanded, and they must do so before the deadline of April 1st each year.

"From each basket they took out a ‘donation’, then they took an extra 5 baskets from my field for the Ma Ah Pa [Township Peace & Development Council] without paying anything, then they took 4 bowls [about 8 kg / 18 lb] for free from each acre of my field, and they also took 25 Kyats out of my money just for themselves. They are just crooks, and I said to them, ‘Ma aye loh, tha ko dway!’ [‘Motherfucker, thief!’] But they didn’t say anything back to me, they were just quiet because they’re satisfied once they’ve got their money from you." - "Saw Ghaw" (M, xx), xxxx village, Mone township (Interview #29, 1/99)

"As for my fields, to the west of the car road they have been marked as belonging to the Township and to the east of the car road they have been marked as belonging to the Army. So I had to give Battalion #60 ten baskets and received nothing for it. For my field west of the car road, the government gives me some money, 300 Kyats per basket. However, I didn’t get all the money because they said that some of the rice was for donation and some was for other things, so only about half was left." - "Saw Ner Muh" (M, 30+), xxxx village, Mone township (Interview #8, 4/99)

"In the past we had to give them 10 baskets from each acre for free, but we heard that this year they will demand 20 baskets from each acre. We also had to give 10 baskets of peanuts from each acre for free. They don’t pay us anything for this because our fields are east of the car road [so it is ‘Army land’ and not ‘Township land’]. … If we grow mungbeans we also have to give 10 baskets per acre, so there’s no difference. They said that the land we’re working is their land." – "May Oo Mo" (F, 58), xxxx relocation site, Mone township (Interview #3, 5/99)

"We must give [the SPDC] 15 baskets [of paddy] from each acre. They said that if we couldn’t give it to them they’d kill us, so we had to finish getting the paddy for them before we came here. They have no understanding that because we had less water the paddy didn’t yield as much, they only know that we have to give them whatever amount of paddy they demand. We had to take our paddy to Na Than Gwin. Then they said that the paddy we took them wasn’t ‘clean’, so they winnowed it again using a machine and then took the ‘clean’ paddy. Some of the grain went to the waste, and they took that themselves to their houses to eat it. If the paddy you give them is supposed to be 30,000 Kyats, before they give you the money they take some for the monastery, and after they winnow your paddy again a lot of grains are lost, so in the end you might get 10,000 Kyat instead of 30,000. Some people brought 3 bullock carts full of paddy but lost [the price of] one whole bullock cart load in the process. I had to give 150 baskets because I have 10 acres. After they took everything out, I was left with 30,000 Kyat [payment for 100 baskets]. On top of that, they also take 4 bowls [about 8 kg / 18 lb] for free from each acre of your field. We had to pound that paddy [to husk it] for them first. Living and working in our place is like working just to feed them." - "Naw Say Paw" (F, 26), xxxx village, Kyauk Kyi township (Interview #29, 1/99)

Villagers face additional food security problems because SPDC Army units in many parts of Burma no longer receive full rations and have been ordered to either produce their own food or obtain it from the villagers. In some areas they simply demand more food from villagers, while in others they have confiscated farmland and force the villagers to grow crops for them (see below under ‘Forced Labour for the Army’). Villagers report that near Pay Sa Loh Army camp in Kyauk Kyi township, the families of SPDC LIB 264 soldiers simply walk into the local villagers’ fields and pick their vegetable crops without asking any permission. When a farmer from Kyauk Kyi township drove a soldier’s family out of his field in January 1999, a group of 4 soldiers led by a Sergeant appeared an hour later, threatened the farmer and beat him until he needed to be hospitalised.

"The families of LIB 264 troops based at Pay Sa Loh do not receive enough rations to live, so they demand food from the villagers. On January 12th1999, some families of the Battalion soldiers were looking for and taking vegetables from the villagers’ fields. … They arrived at the hill field of Saw T--- near K--- village, Kyauk Kyi township, and started picking the beans in his field. Saw T--- was staying at his field but they didn’t ask his permission, so he drove them out of the field. They went back to the Battalion camp, then over one hour later Sergeant Mya Than and 3 other soldiers came to see Saw T---. They said the villagers must feed the military, that everything belongs to the military and they can take whatever they want. Then all 4 of them beat Saw T--- at the same time. He suffered a cut on his head, his right hand was broken and he fell unconscious. Later his relatives took him to hospital and he has still not returned. His family sold their belongings and sent the money to the hospital so that he could receive treatment. Since then, whenever the soldiers’ families come and steal the vegetables from villagers’ farms no one dares to stop them." - incident report from KHRG field reporter

Looting and Extortion

"When they enter the villages they tell the villagers, ‘The forest people have come to your village, so if you want to live peacefully come and give me money.’ Villagers from each village have to bribe them with hundreds of thousands [of Kyat]. What they said about the forest people entering the villages isn’t true, they just lie to the villagers to get money. They demand alcohol, bags and clothing. People bought them things worth 2 or 3 thousand Kyat but they didn’t like them, they wanted things worth 4 or 5 thousand Kyat. They required 2 bicycles but they didn’t want bikes worth 4 or 5 thousand Kyats, they demanded bikes worth 15 or 20 thousand Kyats. If they see business people, like traders of rice, beans and pigs, they rough them up and take their money. Business people have to avoid them if they hear they’re in the area." - "Saw Tee Ko" (M, 40), xxxxvillage, Mone township (Interview #19, 2/99)

Deserters from the SPDC Army have often testified to KHRG that a large portion of their salaries and rations are stolen by their officers, that their officers try to make as much money as they can before being rotated out while the regular troops have to loot villages for food to survive. In the villages of western Nyaunglebin District this appears to be the case, because troops are constantly looting food and livestock and demanding alcohol and clothing from people in the villages and relocation sites. At the same time, the officers are demanding cash and valuables to an extent where many people have fled their villages because they can no longer pay.

"Sometimes we had to give over 2 or 3 thousand each month. Every house had to pay them. If you couldn’t give it the police would come and arrest you and put you in prison. Then you have to buy your release for no less than 10,000 [Kyats]. That has happened to many people in my village, but not to my family. Those who don’t have the money to pay flee with their families to stay in other places." - "Pu Hla Maung" (M, 57), xxxx village, Mone township (Interview #22, 1/99)

"They don’t even like people to go and stay in their farmfield huts. Any time they see people at their farm huts they fine them in cash. Recently, one of my nephews was in trouble and was fined over 50,000 Kyats. They accused him of being friendly with the KNLA soldiers when they come. The Burmese from Infantry Battalion 351 beat him until he was almost dead. … The villagers also had to give 50,000 Kyats for him so the total cost was 100,000 Kyats. … [T]he KNLA didn’t go to his house. The Burmese soldiers were just looking for a reason to fine him … They are used to looking for faults in people, but it is hard for them to find someone to accuse who is actually guilty. … The reason they make trouble for the villagers is because they want money. Their troops who stay in the village stay for about a month, and try to make money before they leave the village on rotation." - "Saw Thet Wah" (M, 49), xxxx village, northern Mone township (Interview #34, 9/98)

"No one likes to live there but they can’t do anything about it so they just have to suffer. Who would want to live in a place where you have to give fees and taxes until you can’t afford to buy food? We were forced to give things all the time. They demanded money, sarongs, bags, clothes and Karen traditional clothing." - "Naw Paw Paw Htoo" (F, 31), xxxx village, Mone township (Interview #12, 3/99)

Villagers are forced to pay many kinds of cash fees at least once per month, and often several times per month. These fees are given various names such as porter fees, sentry fees, pagoda fees, road fees, and development fees, but the names are simply invented by the officers as an excuse to extort money. Many villagers testify that whenever the Army becomes aware of any villagers making any money they immediately demand fees; for example, ethnic Burman bamboo cutters in Shwegyin township told KHRG that whenever they return from the forest with a load of bamboo to sell, the local military demands that they pay half of whatever they get for it. Villagers in xxxx village of Kyauk Kyi township testified that the basic monthly extortion fees have recently been doubled to 1,000 Kyat per family per month by the Army in their area, and villagers in Shwegyin township are reporting similar fees.

"We had to give whatever they ordered us to give. We paid fees 2 or 3 times each month. In the past they demanded that we give them 300 or 500 Kyats each time, but now they are demanding 1,000 Kyats each time. When we couldn’t find the money we had to borrow money from other people and sell our belongings. Our bullock carts and cattle are all gone. Everything is gone." - "Naw K’Ser Tee" (F, 29), xxxx village, Kyauk Kyi township (Interview #10, 4/99)

"We came because we couldn’t bear to pay the porter fees. We couldn’t even eat from what we made from work. First the porter fees were 250 [Kyat], then 400, after that 800 and now 1,000 [Kyat per family per month]." - "U Than Myint" (M, 50), xxxx village, Shwegyin township (Interview #27, 1/99)

"If I made 100 Kyats they demanded 50 Kyats, and if I made 50 Kyats they demanded 25 Kyats. They were the Burmese Army. They said it was for the price of a pass from their Army camp. We had to get a pass whenever we went anywhere. If we didn’t they caught us and fined us, saying that we were disrespectful of them. Moreover, we also had to give porter fees and ‘patrol’ fees of 1,000 Kyats every month. In the past we only had to give 500 Kyats, but starting 3 months ago we’ve had to give 1,000 Kyats each month. If we couldn’t give it, the soldiers from the Army camp captured us and tied us up in the camp, then afterwards they forced us to go out to find the money and bring it to them." - "Daw Khin Htwe" (F, 30), Burman bamboo cutter from xxxx village, Shwegyin township (Interview #24, 1/99)

In addition, the villagers face constant demands for various kinds of forced labour, which usually require them to send one person per household. Many don’t dare go because of the heavy work and abuse by soldiers, and those without large families cannot go because they need to work to survive, so they have to pay fees for each day or shift of work which they miss. Some Battalions demand more forced labourers than they need for the sole purpose of collecting this money from many of them, and in some cases when villagers arrive for forced labour they are told they are not even wanted, that they were supposed to pay. One villager from Kyauk Kyi township stated that the local Army Battalion demands two villagers for three-day rotating shifts of labour at their camp but actually refuses to accept workers, demanding instead that the village pay 500 Kyat each 3 days to avoid the work; as a result the villagers have named this ‘sitting porters’. Villagers throughout the district state that most families now have to pay out 2,000 to 3,000 Kyat per month for the combination of regular fees and fees to avoid forced labour. People who cannot pay the fees are threatened with arrest, beatings and forced labour as porters, so people sell their belongings in order to pay the fees. Many who have nothing left to sell flee their villages rather than face the punishments for non-payment.

"There’s no limit. Sometimes 40 Kyats, sometimes 1,000 Kyats. They demand them whenever they want them. Sometimes they demand them once a month, sometimes twice a week. We can’t count it all. … Aaaaay! All there was was porter fees and ‘loh ah pay’! You have no chance to eat. It’s been that way for many years and it’s been getting worse and worse. This year has been the worst of all. If you don’t go to porter then you must pay the porter fee. If you do ‘loh ah pay’, you have no time to do your own work. It seems like we are slaves. … They are killing us one by one until everyone is gone." - "Pu Htaw Say" (M, 65), xxxx village, Mone township (Interview #7, 4/99)

"They captured us like this: first they ordered every man to come to a meeting where they said they would tell us important things. When all the men arrived, they forced us to get in their truck and then took us to the other side of the road. They told us, ‘Anyone who dares not go must pay us a bribe.’ The people had to pay 5,000, 6,000, 7,000, 14,000, 15,000 and 20,000 Kyats and then they released them [the price went up as more were released]. They did that twice. They also captured everyone they saw working in the fields. … People had to leave their working tools behind and follow the soldiers." - "Saw Tee Ko" (M, 40), xxxx village, Mone township, describing how the SPDC takes porters from Yan Myo Aung relocation site (Interview #19, 2/99)

"The army demands two villagers to work at the camp for three days at a time. However, the army camp does not accept villagers to work, instead they demand 500 Kyats for not doing that job. Thus, our village has to pay 500 Kyats every three days. That’s why the villagers named that process ‘sitting porters’." - villager (M, 45) from Kyauk Kyi township (Interview #35, 4/99)

Some villages are also paying heavy monthly or yearly fees to local Battalions to hold off orders for forced relocation. Ter Bpaw and Po Thaung Su villages in Mone township paid 300,000 Kyat each to avoid being forced to move several years ago but could not pay again, so they were forced to move to Thit Cha Seik. Yay Leh village, a larger village also in southern Mone township, is reportedly still paying to avoid being moved, as is Zee Byu Gone in Tantabin township. Whenever fighting between SPDC and resistance forces occurs, nearby villages are also heavily fined as part of the punishment. In January 1999, Sa Thon Lon Guerrilla Retaliation troops called a meeting and told villagers in Kyauk Kyi township that they would be fined 100,000 Kyat for each gun lost by the Sa Thon Lon in fighting in their area, in addition to other punishments such as executions and forced relocation.

Fees are usually demanded through the village headperson, who must distribute the burden of the extortion fees among the households of the village. Usually only the village head and a few others are exempt, such as the village secretary and the pastor. The burden is so heavy that all other households must pay, even widows and others who have great difficulty supporting themselves. When troops take livestock, food, alcohol and other such things, money is often collected from all the villagers to compensate those who have been robbed, though often it is the village head who must provide these things and pay for them out of his/her own pocket. Whenever demands are not met, it is the village head who is immediately arrested, detained and physically punished. The expense and physical risk of being a village head make it difficult to find people who are willing to do the job, so some villages have implemented a system to rotate the headman’s duties every week or every month between themselves. In some Burman or part-Burman villages the situation is more stable for the village head, and here the village heads often become part of the corruption; if the troops demand 1,000 Kyat from each household they will demand 1,200 or 1,500 Kyat and keep the balance for themselves.

"We have a method of selecting the village head and assistant by a rotation system. One term of being village head lasts one month. Within a one month term, a village head has to spend 15,000 Kyats for the SPDC soldiers who demand chicken, rice, other foods, alcohol, cigarettes and so on. Each family contributes 300 Kyats each month toward that expense and the rest has to come from the village head. If Karen guerrillas attack SPDC soldiers around the village, the village head is severely punished and the village has to pay a huge amount of money as punishment." - villager (M, 45) from Kyauk Kyi township (Interview #35, 4/99)

"Every 15 days the village headman changes because nobody dares to be the headman for long. They come and they scold the village headman." - "Pi Kler Meh" (F, 60), xxxx village, Mone township (Interview #14, 3/99)

"They hold the meetings in the monastery. They told us that we have to give fees and the dates when we had to give it to them by. They shouted at us because we couldn’t speak Burmese. We have to give them what they want, they don’t care if we can eat or not. We have to pay taxes for the house and the people in it. For each person we have to pay 30 Kyats tax. They also collect yearly taxes and taxes for sports. They also collect for the village headman. We work, get money and then we have to give it to them for tax while we ourselves can’t eat. We have to pay porter fees twice a month, sometimes once a month. Sometimes we have to give 50 [Kyats] and sometimes we have to give 100 [Kyats]. If you don’t go for ‘loh ah pay’ you must also give money for that. If you are sick or don’t have time to go, you have to give between 100 and 200 Kyats each time. If you add all the taxes together, we have to pay about 3,000 Kyats per month in tax [per family]." - "Naw Mary" (F, 30), xxxx village, Mone township (Interview #15, 3/99)

"There are a few families near my house that don’t have enough food for every meal. They have to go and work and sometimes they still don’t have any rice to cook to eat in the evenings. There are many families like that. Before I came here there was a 50 year old woman who didn’t have any buffaloes, cattle, fields or rice to cook, so when the [village] section leader asked her for porter fees she was crying. She has 4 children, all of whom are girls, the oldest is in her early 20’s and the youngest is over 10 years old. All she can do is day labour, and even she has to give. Even though you have nothing to give you still have to pay the fee." - "Saw Ner Muh" (M, 30+), xxxx village, Mone township (Interview #8, 4/99)

"When people can’t pay, they mark down their names and then demand that they pay by force. If they still can’t pay, they threaten that they will lock them in the stocks at the township, or put them in jail. That’s why people are afraid of them, so they try to find the money, and if they still can’t find the money they sell everything they own. As for us, we didn’t have anything to sell anymore so we had to leave." - "U Than Myint" (M, 50), xxxx village, Shwegyin township (Interview #27, 1/99)

"Many villagers have to drink boiled rice soup this year because we have to give so many taxes and fees. Most of the villagers are suffering from hunger." - "Saw Thet Wah" (M, 49), xxxx village, northern Mone township (Interview #34, 9/98)

"They say we must go as porters or pay porter fees, or if we cannot pay we must flee. I cannot pay any more, so now I’ve fled." - "U Hla Shwe" (M, 40), xxxx village, Shwegyin township (Interview #26, 1/99)

Forced Labour for the Army

"We also had to go as porters and give them money. … My children went to do ‘loh ah pay’, they had to dig the earth and dig out the stumps at the road near their [Army] camp. They had to go for 3 days and take their own food. About one year ago they called one of my sons-in-law [to go as a porter] for 14 or 15 days. They said he would come back after that, but we haven’t seen him yet. His name is Aung Aung, he has 3 children and he is 25 years old. When we asked people they said he would come back, but later we heard that he died. They killed him. … You see his daughter sleeping over there? At the time he left, her mother was 7 months pregnant with her. When she was born we took care of her, and then the situation worsened so we left the village." - "Pi Kler Meh" (F, 60), xxxx village, Mone township (Interview #14, 3/99)

People in the villages and relocation sites of the plains have to regularly do many kinds of forced labour as ordered by the Army units throughout the area. One of the most common and feared forms of forced labour is portering, which involves both carrying rations and supplies to outlying Army camps and carrying munitions, equipment and rations with SPDC patrols heading into the hills to "mop up" the villagers living in hiding there. Portering assignments to carry supplies between Army camps usually last a few days to a week; villagers have to take their own food, and are not usually treated too brutally as long as they are not kept beyond the originally specified period. However, it takes them away from their farmwork and there is always the risk of being beaten or killed, so people try to pay instead of going if they can. Portering with SPDC patrols heading into the hills can last for months, and people avoid going at all costs because many never return from this brutal form of forced labour. These porters are forced to carry 20 to 40 kilogram loads of shells and rations through the hills, barely fed and left behind or beaten to death if they can no longer carry.

"Both the SPDC and the DKBA force the villagers to do sentry duty and portering. Some people have to go portering for 1 or 2 months, while others have had to go for 14 or 15 days. It is not always the same. Everyone must go for portering and sentry duty, and we don’t get paid. If we can’t go we must give money. At regular times we have to hire people [to go in their place] for 5,000 or 6,000 Kyats each. When there are military operations it is worse. They demand that we give them 8,000 or 10,000 Kyats per person [or go as porters]. We must pay 30,000 or 40,000 Kyats for the whole year [per family]. They also demand money directly [apart from the context of forced labour]." - "Saw Ta Roh" (M, 37), xxxx village, Shwegyin township (Interview #32, 12/98)

"We always had to go for ‘loh ah pay’. Even though my daughter is only 15, she had to go and carry 48 tins of milk [this would weigh about 20 kg / 44 lb]. She couldn’t carry it but she had to. She was crying, so the other people who were there for ‘loh ah pay’ helped to carry it for her. … We had to carry 30 viss [48 kg / 105 lb; i.e. one sack] of rice, and we couldn’t carry it. I had to go for ‘loh ah pay’ 4 times, but I fled one time. They didn’t pay us, and we had to take our own rice and tea. Some people got sick, and they didn’t care for them. We couldn’t walk anymore but we had to keep walking, we had no time to rest." - "Naw Eh Muh" (F, 51), xxxx village, Kyauk Kyi township (Interview #17, 2/99)

"I had to go as a porter this year. When I went to watch video, they arrested me on the path in front of the video [the village video cinema]. I had to carry a basket of their rice for about one week, or maybe two weeks, then I fled and escaped from them. I fled at night. I didn’t know the place, but it was very far from my village. It took me 15 days to get back home." - "Saw Po Hla" (M, 25), xxxx village, Kyauk T’Ga township (Interview #18, 2/99)

"I had to go 4 or 5 times per month, every month. For portering, I had to carry rice or shells. … The last time I went I had to carry about 20 viss [32 kg / 70 lb] of shells. … We also had to go for sentry duty, each turn was 2 days. They forced us to work for them every day." - "Saw Dee Ghay" (M, 38), xxxx village, Kyauk Kyi township (Interview #9, 4/99)

"They have to go for sentry duty for 3 days at a time. Sometimes they force people who are doing sentry duty to go as porters. Just before I left a child from our village was forced to go portering from sentry duty. He’s already disappeared for two weeks, but we don’t know where he is. His name is Saw Htoo Gkee, he’s about 20 years old." – "Pi Naw Htoo" (F, 75), xxxx village, Mone township (Interview #5, 5/99)

"He was called for portering by Battalion 264 and disappeared. Finally, we asked people and they said he is dead. What can we do now that he’s dead? Can we say anything more once he’s dead?" - "Pu Htaw Say" (M, 65), xxxx village, Mone township, talking about his son-in-law who never returned from forced labour as a porter (Interview #7, 4/99)

Each village also has to send several people on rotating shifts of three to five days to each Army camp in their area for miscellaneous forced labour, which is sometimes referred to as ‘patrol’. This labour routinely includes clearing scrub and grass in and around the camp, maintaining barracks, digging and maintaining trenches and bunkers, building fences and man-traps, cutting firewood, carrying water, cooking, cleaning, and delivering messages to other Army camps and order letters to local villages. They also have to do unarmed sentry duty, both outside Army camps and along vehicle roads which are used by the military. Villagers in northern Mone township report that they now have to do nightly sentry duty along the roads from Kyauk Kyi to Mone and northward to Toungoo. Three villagers have to man each sentry post, which are closely spaced along the road, for rotating 24-hour shifts, and are supposed to report any strangers on the road to the local military. It costs 150 Kyat to avoid one 24-hour shift, and villagers are also punished if they are not seen at their post during the shift. Under normal SPDC practice, villages assigned to do sentry duty along a length of road are held fully responsible for any resistance activity (such as landmines or ambushes) which occurs there. In addition, in March 1999 the Sa Thon Lon Guerrilla Retaliation group reportedly began ordering several villages in Kyauk Kyi and Tantabin townships to build fences around their own village, with only two gates allowed for access.

"In January 1999, SPDC battalions IB 60 and LIB 351 from Kyauk Kyi started calling villages to repair their barracks and fences. Our village was ordered to cut down trees, and other villages were ordered to build fences for the battalions. Villagers had to work on that construction for almost 20 days in January." - "Naw Ghay" (F, xx), xxxx village, Kyauk Kyi township (Interview #11, 4/99)

"After the rice harvest season [i.e. starting in January 1999], the army camp at Kaw Tha Say called for 5 to 8 people each day from each village around the camp to rebuild buildings and fences. Villagers had to cut down trees and bamboo for construction, then build and reconstruct the whole camp. … Two villagers per day have to work in the camp, doing things such as cleaning the compound, carrying water, cooking and so on. … If SPDC soldiers patrol around the area, they demand 2 villagers from each of the nearby villages. These villagers have to carry food, supplies and ammunition. This is demanded about once a month and it lasts around 10 days. … Sometimes soldiers demand that villagers carry them to Shwegyin on bicycles for their shopping. Villagers have almost no time to work for themselves and they are getting poorer." - villager (M, 45) from Kyauk Kyi township (Interview #35, 4/99)

"A few months ago in our village they added another duty for us to do - we have to do sentry duty along the road from Ler Doh [Kyauk Kyi] to Taw Oo [Toungoo]. … If we don’t go we have to give 150 Kyats for one day and night. Three people from the village have to go to each place for sentry duty each time. If there are three posts near your village for sentry duty, 9 villagers must go with 3 at each post. There must be 3 at each post. The groups of three have to rotate. Each group of three has to stay for one day and one night. You go at 4:00 p.m. and must stay until 4:00 p.m. the following day. If you are not on the road during your turn [if they pass and you aren’t there], they fine you one pig or force you to jump like a frog. … Most of the Karen people in our village don’t go, they pay the fees. It’s mostly the Burman people who have to go." - "Saw Thet Wah" (M, 49), xxxx village, northern Mone township (Interview #34, 9/98)

Some SPDC troops are confiscating land and ordering local villagers to grow crops for them; some of these crops are used to feed the Army and some are sold in the market for the cash profit of the military officers. In Shwegyin township, villagers have been forced to grow over 100 acres of beans for Infantry Battalion #57, harvest and then sell the beans and hand over the money to the Army camp. In December 1998 they ordered the villagers to build a storehouse for the bean crop, but before this could happen the KNLA attacked their camp and burned many of the beans and the wood for the storehouse. In Kyauk Kyi township, villagers report that in January 1999, several Battalions began forcing villagers to clear land for Battalion agricultural projects; they were told that each Battalion would clear 1,000 acres. Several villages in the township have already been forced to grow 2 acres of beans per village for the Army since 1997. One villager who had to grow these beans says that they then had to sell the beans and pay the Army 20,000 Kyats per acre for the proceeds; when the villagers asked if they could just pay the money rather than grow the beans they were refused because the local Army needs to show beanfields to their superiors as evidence that they are producing their own food. West of the Sittaung River in Kyauk T’Ga township, villagers are also being forced to travel all the way to Pegu to dig fishponds for another Army food production project.

"This work [clearing the ground at Kaw Tha Say] started in January 1999. Our village had to send 20 people to a place 3 miles away from the village. Those 20 people had to work for 5 days. When they returned, another 20 people went to work on a rotating basis. The village sent males and females between 12 years and 60 years old. They were not paid. No supplies or equipment were provided either. … We heard that the land was for IB 57, LIB 349 and LIB 350; 1,000 acres for each battalion for army agricultural projects. … We heard that in Kyauk Kyi villagers have been called to work for IB 60 and LIB 351 agricultural projects at Kya Theh Taw since 1996. Villagers there were forced to work, to plough the fields, to tend the crops and to reap the harvest. Moreover, starting in 1997 the SPDC battalions in Kyauk Kyi township forced each village near their camps to grow two acres of beans. Then at the harvest, they let the villagers sell the beans and then demanded that they give the army 20,000 Kyats per acre. The villagers negotiated with the battalions, offering that they would not grow and tend beans but would give 20,000 Kyats per acre to the army instead, but the army officials refused because they need bean fields to show at inspections." - villager (M, 45) from Kyauk Kyi township (Interview #35, 4/99)

"The Army had called for ‘loh ah pay’ from the village and we had to sow those beans for them. We had to sow, tend, and winnow those beans and then take them to Shwegyin and sell them for them. This year their enemies burned some, but there are still more because there are more than 100 acres [of forced labour bean crop, on confiscated farmland]. To hold those 100 acres of beans we were supposed to build a storehouse for them." - "U Hla Shwe" (M, 40), xxxx village, Shwegyin township, talking about forced labour growing beans for IB 57 near his village (Interview #26, 1/99)

"We had to go to dig ponds for them to raise fish at Pegu. It is very far from my village. Some went by car and some went on foot. I had to do it for one or two months. Each time 70, 75, or up to 100 people [from his village] had to go. We had to take our own food. Each person was forced to dig 7 or 8 ponds. People who got sick had to keep working, they wouldn’t allow them to go back. They could only go back when they finished digging the ponds." - "Saw Po Hla" (M, 25), xxxx village, Kyauk T’Ga township (Interview #18, 2/99)

"Sometimes we have to go and work at Bpaw Hser Ko clearing their [Army] fields, sowing beans or carrying stones. We have to do whatever the soldiers in the battalion force us to do. They don’t give us food, we have to bring our own rice from home. Last year, when we went to dig out large rocks for a road for them, a few villagers died of illness when they returned. … All the people in the village except the very old have to go. Old people who live in separate houses from their children must register separately from their children and so they have to do ‘loh ah pay’ [each household has to send a person, regardless of how many people live in the house or their ages]. Old people who live together with their children don’t have to go for ‘loh ah pay’. If there are no men in the family, women must go. The only people in the whole village who are exempted from ‘loh ah pay’ are the pastor and the village chairman. All the rest have to do ‘loh ah pay’. We don’t have time to do our own work. … I had to go to work on the road twice. I came here instead of going to work on it for a third time." - "Saw Ner Muh" (M, 30+), xxxx village, Mone township, describing forced labour on the new road from Na Than Gwin to Mone (Interview #8, 4/99)

"Whenever they went anywhere they called us to go with them. They also called us to work to get them their food. They forced us to do many kinds of work for them. At last when we didn’t have any food for ourselves anymore we talked to them about our problems, but they didn’t care. They said, ‘If we let one of you behave like this then everyone will become like you. So if there is one person in your house then half of that person should work for us, and if there are two people then one should work for us.’ … Now we have to go for 3 weeks out of every month, and if you don’t go you must pay 700 Kyats for each week. I couldn’t do the work because I had to go to stay with my mother and also with my Aunt for a while. So I didn’t go for the work for 3 weeks, and then they came and demanded that I pay 2,100 Kyats for 3 weeks plus 2,000 Kyats for porter fees. I told them that I had no money to pay, and they said they would send me to the Army camp. Then I decided not to stay there any more and I came here." - "Daw Khin Htwe" (F, 30), xxxx village, Shwegyin township (Interview #24, 1/99)

"‘Loh ah pay’ is unfair. Every villager from every village must do ‘loh ah pay’. Even if you don’t have food for yourself you must go and do their ‘loh ah pay’. They won’t care about us until we starve to death." - "U Hla Shwe" (M, 40), xxxx village, Shwegyin township (Interview #26, 1/99)

Forced Labour on Roads

"I had to go 3 or 4 times already. We had to dig dirt to make the embankment for the road. The height [of the embankment] is higher than this roof and it’s about 10 cubits [5 metres / 15 feet] wide. People from both the east and the west had to come and work on it. Some people would have gone but they didn’t allow them to go and instead demanded that they give money. … They never give you food, you must always take your own food. Moreover, you have to bring your clothes and sleep there when you work. There are many people so we go in turns and each person must stay for a week. … They give Karen people the hard parts [of the road] and their own people [Burmans] get the easy parts. … If you’re ill, you must cure yourself. They never take care of you. They never waste their money on you. It’s a hard life that gives us no chance to eat what we work to produce." - "Pu Htaw Say" (M, 65), xxxx village, Mone township, describing forced labour on the new road from Na Than Gwin to Mone (Interview #7, 4/99)

Villagers are being forced to work on several roads in the area. People living west of the Sittaung River, and sometimes those on the east side, are regularly forced to work maintaining the main north-south road from Nyaunglebin to Toungoo. Those in the entire western half of Nyaunglebin District are forced to maintain the roads from Shwegyin to Kyauk Kyi, Kyauk Kyi to Mone, and Kyauk Kyi to Na Than Gwin, all dirt roads which need extensive work after the annual rains. Villagers in southern Mone and northern Kyauk Kyi townships are also being forced to maintain the military access road eastward from Kyauk Kyi to Mu Theh and into Papun district. This is also a basic dirt road through the hills which is washed out and needs to be rebuilt after each rainy season. It was extended through Papun District in 1997/98 all the way to the Thai border, at Saw Hta on the Salween River [for more details see "Wholesale Destruction", KHRG April 1998]. The extension through the hills of Papun District was performed by bulldozers under heavy Army guard, but even then the bulldozers were attacked and destroyed by the KNLA on at least one occasion. Now the road is essentially complete, and all work maintaining it is done by the manual forced labour of the villagers. The road has already been used to increase militarisation with SPDC Army camps dotted all the way along its entire 100-kilometre route, at Kyauk Kyi, Thaung Bo, Saw Mi Lu and Mu Theh in Nyaunglebin District, and at Pwa Ghaw, Plah Ko, Maw Pu, Maw Kyo, Leh Klay Ko, and Saw Hta in Papun District.

"People from the village had to carry stones from Saw Mi Lu and build the road above Ler Doh. The length of road that our village had to build was 1,000 yards. Some villages had to build more and some had to build less, it depended on how big or small the village was. But every village had to finish their assigned length of road. … They repaired it in order to transport their food and weapons to Pwa Ghaw [to the east in Papun District] and Mu Theh. They forced us to carry the stones and lay them on the road. You must lay them properly." - "Saw Thet Wah" (M, 49), xxxx village, northern Mone township (Interview #34, 9/98)

"We were forced to dig dirt and make a new car road in Yan Myo Aung village. They told us we had to finish the road in 5 days and if we didn’t they would kill us. We tried to finish it quickly. Now it is finished except for the bridge." - "Saw Tha Doh" (M, 18), xxxx village, Mone township, describing forced labour on a new section along the Kyauk Kyi - Na Than Gwin road (Interview #13, 3/99)

"I had to go to the place where they were repairing the embankment on the Kanyunt Kwin road [the main north-south road from Nyaunglebin to Toungoo]. That’s on the other side of the [Sittaung] river. We had to go and carry dirt. Both men and women had to go, if the women were busy the men had to go in their place. We sometimes had to go for 3 days, sometimes 2 days. If there were only a few villagers we had to go for 5 days. We had to go once a month and we had to take our own food. We usually had to go on foot, but sometimes they took us by car and then made us pay for travel expenses. They didn’t take us for free." - "Naw Mary" (F, 30), xxxx village, Mone township, describing forced labour on the main north-south road from Nyaunglebin to Toungoo (Interview #15, 3/99)

"I had to go, I had to go. We had to do ‘loh ah pay’ regularly every 10 days. We had to work on the road, digging the earth. They came to pick us up and bring us back in the evening with a boat. The work was at Thein Zayat and Shwegyin. They never gave us rice, we had to take our own from home. … It was not well built, so they called us very often to work on it. Now the young people are saying they have to go and build a car road at other villages too. That started after I left the village. They have to go for the whole week and if they don’t go they must give 700 Kyats, but how can we do that?" - "Daw Hla" (F, 48), xxxx village, Shwegyin township, about forced labour on the road from Shwegyin to Kyauk Kyi (Interview #25, 1/99)

The road from Kyauk Kyi to Mone skirts the western edge of the hills and SPDC troops are regularly ambushed near this road. To protect themselves, in January 1999 theSa Thon Lon Guerrilla Retaliation force ordered people from all villages and relocation sites in the plains of Mone and northern Kyauk Kyi townships to begin construction of a road further from the hills, following the Sittaung River from Na Than Gwin north to Mone, a distance of 30 to 35 kilometres. They want this road built quickly, and forced labour on it has been intensive. People from every family have had to go, usually for 5 days to a week at a time on rotation. Each village is assigned a length of road of several hundred yards depending on village size, and this is divided up by family; for example, the families in one village of Kyauk Kyi township had to build 54 feet of road each. The family has to send one or more members, who must stay until their length of road is complete and sleep alongside the road. The villagers are forced to dig earth and build a road embankment 4½ feet high and up to 24 feet wide, and must also clear the ground along both sides of the road. Then they must haul sand and pack it on top of the embankment to smooth the roadbed. Some villagers have also been forced to make drainage ditches. One villager from southern Mone township said that he and other villagers tried to gather money to hire a bulldozer to help them, but when they asked permission of the Sa Thon Lon officer in charge it was refused. According to the latest reports provided by villagers from the area, most of the road construction was finished by April 1999, and all that remains to be built are 10 or more bridges. For the bridges, villages in the area have been ordered to cut logs and saw them into timber, and at the same time they have been ordered to pay 500 or 600 Kyat per family to "buy materials for construction", though this is most likely just extortion by the military officers. According to a villager who just fled to Thailand at the end of April 1999, SPDC troops confiscated all the wood people had cut for their houses, took it away and then forced the villagers to buy it back from them and use it to build the bridges; in addition, the villagers had to supply all the cement and other materials for building the bridge foundations. Currently, the villagers of the area are doing forced labour to complete the bridges. Since March, labour on the road and bridges has been intensified, as the troops probably want the road completed and usable before the first rains. In April, Sa Thon Lon commander Bo Maung Maung ordered villagers to do a final intensive week of labour to finish smoothing the road and threatened that at the end of the week he would go from Na Than Gwin to Mone and back on a motorbike, and that if he ever had to get off his bike because the road was too bumpy, the villagers "will know about it". Given the Sa Thon Lon’s record of summary executions and burning villages, he did not need to be more specific.

"[S]tarting in January 1999 the intelligence [Sa Thon Lon] soldiers ordered about 20 villages in Kyauk Kyi township to build a new road from Na Than Gwin to Mone, along the Sittaung river due west of the old Kyauk Kyi-Mone road. The Kyauk Kyi-Mone road has to pass through forest and hills, so the SPDC soldiers feel it is not safe to use. The Mone-Na Than Gwin road construction is under the control of the intelligence units led by Shan Bpu. The road is 15 feet wide, 24 feet wide at the base [of the embankment], and raised by 4.5 feet. It is at least 20 miles long. The work was divided and each family had to dig the earth and make a segment of road 54 feet long. Therefore villagers had to bring cattle, rakes, baskets, hoes etc. and work until their quota was finished. The villagers were even ordered to work at night in February, so the villagers brought lamps, batteries and fluorescent tubes to the work site and had to work nights. There were no materials supplied and there was no payment for the construction. … In March the earth work was almost finished, except the bridges. For bridge construction, the intelligence soldiers confiscated wood, even small pieces, from houses and ordered villagers to build bridges. Some villagers had to cut down trees in the forest for bridge construction. Then each family was ordered to give 500 Kyats to buy materials for the construction. Moreover, each family had to send a person for three days for bridge construction. There were around 10 bridges or maybe more. If a family could not work on bridge construction, they had to give 200 Kyats per day to hire a substitute person." - "Naw Ghay" (F, xx), xxxx village, Kyauk Kyi township, describing forced labour on the new road from Na Than Gwin to Mone (Interview #11, 4/99)

"They started it in March [1999]. For the two months from March to May, we had no time to take a rest. They forced people from Yan Myo Aung and other villages. … Now they’re demanding that we give money for the bridges. They’re demanding 600 Kyat from each household. They came and confiscated the wood that people had cut for their houses, they saw it and confiscated it all. Then they demanded that people go and buy that wood from them and use it to build the bridges. For the foundation of the bridges we had to buy bricks, cement, powdered lime and nails. We had to buy everything for them." – "Saw Lah Thaw" (M), xxxx relocation site, Mone township (Interview #2, 5/99)

"We had to go and work on their road to the east of Weh Gyi village, digging dirt. The road goes from the Mone hospital to Na Than Gwin, which is about one day’s walk. They ordered us to make the road 10 cubits [5 m / 15 ft] wide with an embankment 3 cubits [1.5 m / 4.5 ft] high. The road also had to have clearings 3 cubits [1.5 m / 4.5 ft] wide on each side, so the total width is 16 cubits [8 m / 24 ft] with the middle 10 cubits being elevated. After building it up with dirt they said we had to carry in sand and lay it down nicely. We started the work in early March [1999] and dug for the whole month. We returned [to our village] once a week for food. We had to bring our own rice, food and anything else we needed [such as tools]. … We started working at 6:00 a.m. and worked the whole day. We could take a short rest after we ate rice. We had to try to complete the part they ordered us to finish. We all slept there. We slept under the trees on the side of the road beside Weh Gyi village. They didn’t build us shelters. When I came here, the part I was working on wasn’t complete yet. … We weren’t allowed to use vehicles. We had told a friend in Ler Doh [about the work] and he told us that he could arrange a machine for us but it would cost money. We told each other to gather up our money for the machine. However, when we got the village headman to go and ask Bo Maung Maung’s permission for us, we weren’t allowed to do it. … We have to make a drainage pipe with cement and bricks and then lay wood over top of it, and we were going to have to make a bridge. … It’s not finished yet. When I came, people still had to go and dig. The road has to be finished this year. It’s almost finished, all that needs to be done is to make it level. Before I came here they ordered people to take food for 7 days and to completely finish the road. He [Bo Maung Maung] was going to go to Mone and back on a motorbike. He said he will go straight through on the motorbike and that if he ever has to get off his motorbike because the road isn’t good, we villagers will know about it." - "Saw Ner Muh" (M, 30+), xxxx village, Mone township, describing forced labour on the new road from Na Than Gwin to Mone (Interview #8, 4/99)

Arrests, Detention and Killings

"In xxxx [Army camp] they interrogated us and accused us. They said that we are the wives and children of men who live outside the village and that they would kill us. They said that the people from our village have radios and landmines. They said we must know about that so we must go and bring these things to them, and that if we didn’t go and bring them they would have to kill us. They said they’d had an order from higher up that they must kill us. … He said that if we lied to him he would kill us, but if we ‘gave them our meat’ he would release us with our lives. … He forced us to sleep with him. He asked for love. I told him, ‘Captain, I am 51 years old. I am the same age as your mother so you’d better not say that word to me. You should also remember that you are a Christian.’ He said, ‘I won’t suffer in Hell.’ … I apologised but told him not to do that to me because I am old. Then he said, ‘Then I must kill you, Mother’. He said it slowly, then he forced me to lay down and hold his penis. I didn’t dare hold his penis, but he drew my hands and forced me to hold it, and he grabbed my buttocks. … While he was doing it he threatened me with a dagger, he touched it to my chest, neck and armpits. Naw H--- told me how they had interrogated and tried to rape her too. She was crying. She came back saying that he wanted to rape her and forced her to hold his penis, and that he kissed her all over her body. … Another time after that, they called us in at midnight. They said they would kill us, they touched our chests with a dagger and told us to pray." - "Naw Eh Muh" (F, 51),xxxx village, Kyauk Kyi township, describing part of her 15-day detention at xxxx Army camp in May 1998 (Interview #17, 2/99)

Village heads and elders are usually the first to be arrested, detained and tortured whenever their villages fail to comply with demands. Villagers who are suspected of any contact with the KNU/KNLA or who fail to comply with demands for forced labour and extortion money are also regularly arrested, beaten and either sent as porters or detained and tortured. Knowing this, people usually do whatever it takes to pay the fees and either do the forced labour or pay to avoid it, and when they can no longer do so they flee elsewhere rather than face arrest. Sometimes SPDC troops arrest villagers and accuse them of working with the resistance simply so they can demand money from the other people of the village to secure their release. One particularly brutal case of this occurred in May 1998 in xxxx village of Kyauk Kyi township, when Company Commander Captain xxxx of Infantry Battalion #60 arrested seven villagers and had them taken and detained at xxxx Army camp for 15 days. Most of the detainees were women, including one 70-year-old and one 13-year-old. All were beaten, interrogated, and threatened with knives and other weapons, and at least two women were raped, aged 51 and 28. They were repeatedly told they would be killed, and two of the women were even tied up and sent "down to the river" with some soldiers to make them think they were to be executed. They were accused of knowing where the KNLA stored its landmines and radios. They were robbed of 8,000 Kyat on their arrest, and after 15 days all but one were finally freed when the other villagers paid for their lives. Naw H---, a 28-year-old woman who had been repeatedly raped, was not released but instead was handed over to LIB #349, taken off and imprisoned in Shwegyin town. According to a friend of hers who saw her in detention there, she had been raped again in Shwegyin and was still being held there several weeks later; no information is currently available on whether or not she is still there.

"Her father never came back because he is living in the mountains with the other villagers [internally displaced]. But they think her father is a bad person [KNLA]. She was about 25 years old. I dare not tell you her name. … She is single. He put a hand grenade in her hand and demanded her love. Every night he called her to his room and demanded love. … He was asking her love and trying to get money from her. When they arrest many people they can get a lot of money [from the other villagers, to secure their freedom]. They also arrested a girl who was 13 years old. … They interrogated her and touched her with a dagger. They released her after 8 days. … They didn’t release Naw H---. She was handed over to #349. The #349 troops arrested her, locked her in the stocks and then sent her to Shwegyin. They sent her to their Battalion camp in Shwegyin and put her in a cell. Then a Corporal with 2 chevrons came and called her, he took her to the Battalion [HQ] and turned off the light. He was with her for 2 hours. When the soldiers went to look, he had raped her. … After that we came to the hills and didn’t hear any more about her. She is still in jail." - "Naw Eh Muh" (F, 51), xxxx village, Kyauk Kyi township (Interview #17, 2/99)

Other incidents regularly occur involving SPDC soldiers firing into villages without cause and killing villagers, sometimes for strategic reasons and sometimes due to drunkenness; in either case the killers are never punished. There have also been killings connected to rape or extortion. For example, on January 4th 1999 in Kyauk Kyi township, Second Lieutenant Soe Myint Aung and 4 other soldiers from LIB 264 based at Pay Sa Loh camp raped and stabbed to death 20-year-old Naw Mu Mu from Htee Pu Lu village. They then placed a landmine in front of her field hut, which killed her brother when he came to look for her the next day. Following the explosion, they appeared in her village again, accused the village elders of laying landmines, beat them and demanded 200,000 Kyat as a fine from the villagers. Such incidents will continue to occur as long as SPDC troops in the region enjoy complete impunity for all their abuses.

"On January 4th 1999, Second Lieutenant Soe Myint Aung and 4 other soldiers came to Htee Pu Lu village in Kyauk Kyi township and demanded food from the villagers. On their way back, at 8 p.m. they saw Naw Mu Mu cooking alone in her farmfield hut and raped her, then stabbed her to death. Naw Mu Mu was 20 years old, single, a Karen Buddhist farmer from Htee Pu Lu village. After killing her, the soldiers laid a landmine outside the hut and then headed back to their camp. Naw Mu Mu’s brother Saw Na Dway went looking for her the next day because she hadn’t returned home, stepped on the landmine outside the farm hut and was killed. On January 5th, Second Lieutenant Soe Myint Aung and his friends returned to the village. They said they had heard the sound of a landmine explosion but no one had reported it to the Battalion office, so they beat the village elders, accused them of conspiring with the KNLA to lay landmines, told them not to tell this information to their [SPDC] commanding officers, and demanded 200,000 Kyat." - incident report from KHRG field reporter

"On October 13th 1998, IB 59 Column 2nd-in-command Aung Soe opened fire in Aung Chan Tha village, Mone township. When they shot at Ma Lah Myint’s house, one of her daughters was wounded. Then they captured Ma Lah Myint, age 45, and Ma Nyunt, age 15, both from the village, and raped them. Then they took them back to their houses and shot both of them dead." - incident report from KHRG field reporter

Villagers are also sometimes killed when they are porters or summarily executed by SPDC troops. However, most of the executions and other direct killings in the plains of Nyaunglebin District are currently being carried out by the Sa Thon Lon Guerrilla Retaliation units, whose methods and activities have already been described above.

Villages in the Hills

"If they see villagers, they shoot them dead or beat them to death. They burn down all the houses. They burned about 15 houses in Thaw Ngeh Der, 30 houses in Dta Kaw Der, about 20 houses in Tee Nya B’Day Kee and some from Oo Keh Kee. They couldn’t burn everything because of the rain. In addition, when they see farms and fields they pull up the paddy and destroy it. In the area of Theh Kee they shot and killed villagers, destroyed their paddy, and fired at the houses to set them on fire but they didn’t all burn because of the rain. The villagers fled the village and all of their belongings were lost because they couldn’t carry them when they left. They have no food and other villagers have to feed them. They [the Burmese soldiers] took all their belongings and killed the chickens and the pigs but didn’t eat them. They just cut open one side of all the animals and leave them [to make the meat begin rotting immediately so villagers couldn’t come back and use it]." - "Saw Ghay Po" (M, 40), xxxx village, Kyauk Kyi township (Interview #41, 12/98)

East of the Sittaung River plains lie the hills which make up approximately 75% of the area of Nyaunglebin District. They begin abruptly 10-15 kilometres east of the Sittaung River and extend all the way eastward into Papun District; steep and rugged, dotted with small villages and forested except where they have been cleared to make hillside rice fields. The villagers rotate use of these fields, clearing and planting a field one year, then letting the scrub overgrow it until they use it again several years later. The Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) is active in these hills, and in an attempt to undermine it the SLORC/SPDC began systematically burning villages and shooting villagers in the easternmost regions in early 1997 [for more details see "Wholesale Destruction", KHRG April 1998]. The intent was to undermine the KNLA by driving everyone into the plains or killing them, thus depopulating the entire region. The campaign has driven thousands of villagers into hiding in the forests and hundreds to Thailand as refugees but has failed to undermine the KNLA. Rather than give up, the SPDC has responded by expanding the campaign throughout the hills of Nyaunglebin District and prolonging it indefinitely. In the hills, villagers live in fear in and around their villages, many of which have been destroyed, and flee further into hiding whenever SPDC patrols come around to burn more houses, destroy their food supplies and shoot villagers on sight.

Destruction of Villages and Food Supplies

"It’s not possible for us to stay there anymore because the enemy [Burmese soldiers] burned down the village and all the paddy. They came to stay on the hill beside our village at about 1 p.m. on November 16th [1998] and burned all the houses. We ran and stayed in the jungle. Then they were looking for us there so we came here. They didn’t see us, but they fired at us near the village when we were out looking around so we ran, they fired at us again and again and we ran." - "Saw Wah" (M, 30), xxxx village, Kyauk Kyi township (Interview #38, 1/99)

When the campaign to depopulate the hills began in 1997, over 30 villages in Shwegyin Township were systematically and completely destroyed by SPDC columns who took up positions on nearby hills, shelled the villages, then entered and burned all houses and sheds in sight [for a list of these villages and other details see"Wholesale Destruction", KHRG April 1998]. Throughout 1998 and thus far in 1999 military columns have continued to set out from bases at K’Baw Tu, Mu Theh, Saw Mi Lu, the Sittaung River plains between Shwegyin and Mone, and Papun District on a regular basis to move through villages in eastern Nyaunglebin District. The columns usually target a specific group of 5 or more villages, which they shell without warning. They then enter the village shooting, kill the livestock, and loot valuables from the houses. When they find plates and pots they smash them or poke holes in them to make them useless. Some or all of the houses are burned. The villagers flee and if seen are either shot on sight or captured as porters. The troops then hunt out rice supplies, and if they find any they take what they want and destroy the rest by scattering it on the ground or burning it. For the period November 1998 to February 1999 in Kyauk Kyi township, villagers interviewed by KHRG have described such attacks on Tee Muh Hta, Kler Kee, Ler Wah, Htaw Ee Soh, Tee Nya B’Day Kee, Dta Kaw Der, Kheh Der, Paya Hser Der, K’Dee Mu Der, Ler Hah, Maw Kee, Thaw Ngeh Der, Oo Keh Kee, Khoh Lu and Po Meh Baw villages. Some villages have been attacked more than once. Villages in the Tee Muh Hta and Kheh Der areas of Kyauk Kyi township have been particularly hard hit because columns have come repeatedly to destroy whatever is left and hunt for villagers in hiding.

"The day after they were shooting in our village, they went to Kler Kee village. The villagers had already fled when they got there but had left their belongings in their houses. They entered the village and shot the pigs and chickens, then they burned the village. After they burned Kler Kee village, they went to stay at Lah Soe. There are 2 or 3 farms at Lah Soe and they destroyed them all. They pulled out the paddy and stomped on it, they didn’t eat it." - "Saw Tee Muh" (M, 37), xxxx village, Kyauk Kyi township (Interview #40, 12/98)

"They told me that SPDC troops arrive at their place 2 or 3 times a month. SPDC troops are always moving around their area so they live in fear and must always be cautious. When I was there on November 17th [1998], the SPDC troops came and shot up Paya Hser Der, K’Dee Mu Der, Ler Hah and Maw Kee [villages]. That was a time of many troubles for the villagers. At that time many people died, including a student in 3rd Standard [primary school, Grade 3], and 3 other schoolchildren were also injured. They [SPDC troops] burned down paddy storage barns and houses. Before burning the houses they took the things inside, such as clothing, blankets, pots, plates, and other things. They took what they could carry with them and destroyed the rest." - "Saw January" (M), KHRG human rights monitor describing conditions in the hills of the district (Interview #1, 1/99)

It is important to note that when the SPDC columns attack villages there are almost never any KNLA troops in the village, and no one fires back at them. The KNLA troops camp in the fields and forests, especially if they know an SPDC column is in the area. The purposes of the attacks are simply to drive out the villagers and to make it impossible for them to survive in the area. In most areas the SPDC would use forced relocation orders for this purpose, but in the hills of Nyaunglebin District the villagers flee as soon as they hear of an SPDC column coming, so the columns have no opportunity to issue relocation orders to them. The columns set out to areas where they have heard of KNLA activity but do not seek out the KNLA, they simply go from village to village destroying everything they can. Whenever there is a KNLA ambush or attack of any kind they also retaliate against the villagers. For example, on February 25th 1999 there was a skirmish between SPDC LIB 351 and the KNLA near Ler Wah village in Kyauk Kyi township. As retaliation, the Battalion shelled Ler Wah village, then entered after the villagers had fled and looted and destroyed their belongings. They also went to Htaw Ee Soh village nearby on February 27th, but they couldn’t catch any villagers there so they destroyed the paddy storage barns of 15 families, a total of 715 baskets of paddy. Just 3 months earlier, a combined column of Light Infantry Battalions #351, 361 and 368 had already shot at people in Ler Wah village and burned down 17 of their paddy storage barns.

"There was a firefight and several SPDC soldiers were wounded and killed. As punishment, they fired shells into Ler Wah village. The villagers had no time to gather their things and fled for their lives. Then the SPDC soldiers entered the village, took some of their belongings and burned and destroyed others. The villagers are now internally displaced, living in hiding in the fields and forests, and have nothing." - incident report from KHRG field reporter

"They don’t just shoot at people who have weapons, they kill the general population to clear the area. The following day, the 17th [November], they were shooting around Tee Muh Hta where there are many villages, such as Paya Hser Der, K’Dee Mu Der, Ler Hah and Maw Kee. I saw that with my own eyes." - "Saw January" (M), KHRG human rights monitor describing conditions in the hills of the district (Interview #1, 1/99)

"As we were fleeing we weren’t able to take anything with us. We left everything behind in our houses, such as our pots, clothes, blankets and all our rice. They destroyed all the things we couldn’t take. They also ate the pigs and chickens and destroyed 2 paddy storage barns in the village that belonged to Uncle W--- and S---. They hacked down and destroyed their paddy barns and all the paddy fell out. Uncle W--- had 70 baskets of paddy in his barn and Uncle S-- had 60 baskets of paddy. … They were shooting in the village for about half an hour and by then all the villagers were gone from the village. There must have been at least one or two hundred soldiers because they were firing a lot of guns. They continued shooting for about another half an hour. There were only villagers in the village, no one shot back at them." - "Saw Tee Muh" (M, 37), xxxx village, Kyauk Kyi township (Interview #40, 12/98)

In order to make it impossible for the villagers to survive or to support the resistance, the SPDC columns are also systematically trying to destroy their food supplies. After villagers harvest their paddy, they winnow it, dry it and then store it in paddy storage barns, which are small sheds measuring about 2 metres square, raised on posts and filled entirely by a woven bamboo paddy storage bin. In recent decades, their fear of Burmese troops and the regular need to flee to the forest has caused most of them to hide their paddy storage barns deep in the forest, only keeping a portion of their supply in the village at any given time. When SPDC columns approach the village, people have no time to save their rice or paddy, so the troops take it or deliberately destroy it when they arrive in the village. They also hunt for the villagers’ paddy storage barns in the forest, and whenever they find them they either burn them along with all of the paddy, or tear them down and scatter the paddy on the ground to be destroyed by dirt and animals. Sometimes if the owners return from their hiding place soon afterward they can salvage some of the paddy which is scattered on the ground, but usually only a small portion of it.

"Now these two columns are moving through the hill regions, and when they arrive at villages they burn the houses. When they see paddy storage barns, they burn them and destroy all the paddy. If they can’t take it to eat, they destroy it. When they see paddy growing in the fields they pull it up, and when they see paddy which the villagers have already harvested they burn it all. They also burn other plantations, like betelnut, betel-leaf trees, durian and many other kinds of trees, they burn them all. When they see villagers they shoot them dead, or if they can catch them first they abuse and torture them first and then kill them. As for livestock like pigs, chickens, cattle, goats, and buffaloes, they shoot them dead and eat them. If they can’t eat it all, they just kill them and throw them away. They also take belongings like clothing, pots, plates, knives and small baskets. If they can’t carry them all they cut, poke or shoot holes in them to destroy them. They keep doing it until the situation is like it is now." - KHRG field reporter, Nyaunglebin District (Field Report #FR2, 1/99)

[T]hey came and burned it all. We got rice from other villages that hadn’t been burned, but this latest time they came they burned all the villages so now we can’t live there anymore and we left. … They destroyed paddy storage barns, took everything from the houses and ate all the food from the two fields belonging to Pa W--- and Saw M---. They didn’t burn the houses, they only took what was inside. They destroyed all our things which we had hidden in our secret huts [in the forest and fields] such as clothing, blankets, pots, mats and plates. They also took money from me and everyone else. Some people lost 10,000 Kyats and some lost 20 or 30 thousand Kyats. The paddy storage barns contained about 100 baskets of rice each. They belonged to Maw C--- and K---. They didn’t burn the paddy barns, instead they tore them down. They ate some of the paddy and threw the rest away. … Maw C--- was able to collect 10 baskets of his rice off the ground, and another person got 5 baskets. People who have paddy are sharing it with the people who don’t. They look after each other this way. People have farms, but I don’t know if they can work on them because of the troops moving in the area. … When they went to Lah Sho they burned 4 sets of farming tools and 4 farmfield huts. They burned over 10 houses in Kler Kee village - only 3 houses were left unburned. They shoot the livestock everywhere all the time." - "Saw Wah" (M, 30), xxxx village, Kyauk Kyi township (Interview #38, 1/99)

"In Htaw Ee Soh village on February 27th they destroyed all the paddy storage barns they could find. Fifteen families lost a total of 715 baskets of paddy. The troops took some of the paddy to eat and destroyed the rest. The villagers fled into hiding in the fields and forests, and some continued on to refugee camps in Thailand." - incident report from KHRG field reporter

The SPDC columns also shoot the villagers’ livestock whenever they see it in the village or the fields, and either eat it or leave it to rot. One villager from a hill village in Kyauk Kyi township told KHRG that in his area the troops cut open one side of the cattle and buffaloes they had shot, just to make sure the meat would be destroyed by insects or rot before the villagers could get to it.  During the rice growing season, SPDC columns which see rice crops growing in the hills often go into the fields and pull up the plants or beat and stomp them down with machetes and Army boots in order to destroy the crop. In Khoh Lu village of Kyauk Kyi township in August 1998, an SPDC column cut and bundled the entire crop of several farmers, then threshed the unripe grain from the stalks onto the ground to destroy it. Another Column used the same  method to destroy much of the crop at Kler Kee village in November 1998. The hillside rice fields are impossible to conceal, though fortunately for the villagers the Columns often do not have the time to stop and destroy more than a portion of the crop. When harvest time comes the Army columns seem to step up their activities, possibly with the intention of driving the villagers away from their crop at this crucial time. It is common for villagers to lose muchof their crop because SPDC Columns are too close to their fields just when the rice is ready for harvest. There have also been several cases of people being shot while trying to harvest, some of which are documented below under‘Shootings and Killings’.

"When we fled and then returned all our paddy was lost. … Some people were able to harvest their paddy before [the SPDC soldiers came] so they got their paddy. Some people hadn’t harvested their paddy yet so when the SPDC came they destroyed all of it. Animals also destroyed some of the paddy, so there isn’t enough. … We can’t go and buy rice from the plains because the SPDC are there. If we could, we would have to pay 1,000 Kyats for one big tin of rice." - "Pu Ko Suh" (M, 60), xxxx village, Kyauk Kyi township (Interview #47, 12/98)

"They entered the village while we were harvesting. I had only put 10 or 20 baskets of rice in my paddy barn so far. After we fled we didn’t dare go back to work on our fields so all the paddy was destroyed by animals. Now I have returned to stay on the farm and we got a little bit of paddy, but it’s not enough for the year. It’s only enough for about one or two months, so I’m going to have to ask some from others. Most of the villagers don’t have enough paddy." - "Saw Lay Muh" (M, 48), xxxx village, Kyauk Kyi township (Interview #46, 12/98)

"When I was collecting information on December 5th 1998, commander Min Kyu and his troops from LIB 361 burned 7 of the villagers’ hill fields. … Now these villagers have to live very hard lives, because the SPDC troops are patrolling around there even now. When they see the owners of farmfields they don’t distinguish between old and young, they kill them all. If they see villagers’ belongings like clothing, pots, plates and knives, they take it all. If they can’t carry it they destroy it. People have to suffer many kinds of problems. When I went to see them they were gathering a little bit of their paddy which had been scattered on the ground by the SPDC troops so that they would have something to eat for a short time. … I asked him, ‘How will you get food in the rainy season?’ He answered, ‘We can’t do much in the rainy season. We go to gather some bamboo shoots, we cut it up into small pieces and then mix it with a little rice and cook it. If there are seven of us, we mix it with one milktin of rice [less than enough for one person in normal times] and we eat together.’ I asked him, ‘Before your paddy crop is ripe, what will you do if you have no more rice and there are no more bamboo shoots?’ He answered, ‘We won’t be able to do anything if there are no bamboo shoots. We’ll dig for taro roots and eat that until the paddy is ripe.’" - KHRG field reporter, Nyaunglebin District (Field Reports #FR2, 1/99)

Shootings and Killings

"Both the first and second times they came they killed villagers. The first time they came two villagers died, Saw Bo Kee and Saw Pa Toh [October 13th 1998]. They were in their farm hut with two other villagers. The other two were able to flee and escape. The second time they came [November 16-17 1998] 4 villagers died and 3 were injured. The villagers who died were Saw Ko Pah, Saw Maw Dah, Nat Noh and Naw Tha Paw. Nat Noh and Saw Ko Pah were brothers and Saw Maw Dah and Naw Tha Paw were their cousins. Those who were injured had to treat their own wounds in the jungle. It was very difficult." - "Saw Lay Muh" (M, 48), xxxx village, Kyauk Kyi township (Interview #46, 12/98)

When moving through the hills, if SPDC columns see people in the villages, fields or forests they usually shoot at them with no questions asked. Occasionally they will call to the villager first, but when this happens people usually try to run away in fear and are then shot. However, there have also been cases where they have seen villagers working their fields, concealed themselves along the path and then shot the villagers when they try to head home. Some of the worst cases have happened near Tee Muh Hta village in Kyauk Kyi township. On October 13th 1998, a column of troops from LIB 368 saw a farmfield hut at xxxx where some villagers were weaving a mat. They opened fire without warning, and two villagers were killed while the other two escaped. The two men killed were Saw Bo Kee, age 33, and Saw Pa Toh, age 40, both from Paya Hser Der village. After killing the two men, the troops burned the farmfield hut and destroyed the paddy in the nearby fields. Saw Bo Kee’s wife fled to Thailand as a refugee with their child, but Saw Pa Toh’s wife is still trying to survive in hiding with their 3 children. Then on November 16th 1998, an SPDC Column from LIB 361 arrived at xxxx to shoot up and loot the village. As they entered the village they saw Saw Nat Noh, a 26-year-old man, and shot him under his house; he managed to drag himself out of the village and died on the path. The rest of the villagers had scattered, and the troops then looted the village, killed livestock and destroyed the villagers’ rice, pots, plates and other belongings. Then they set off for xxxx village, burned some houses and camped along a path between the villages. Twenty-year-old Saw Ko Pah had heard that his village had been shot up, so he was concerned for his parents and set out from Ler Wah village with a group of friends. They were ambushed by the LIB 361 Column along the path and Saw Ko Pah and his 14-year-old friend Saw Maw Dah were killed. Naw Tha Paw, a girl aged 17, was killed as well, though it is unclear whether she was shot or raped and then knifed to death. Three others escaped, but two of them were wounded. Making the tragedy even worse, Saw Ko Pah was the brother of Saw Nat Noh, who had been gunned down the day before. Their father told KHRG that he and his wife had 10 children but only four are now left - two have been shot dead by the SPDC, and four others have died of illnesses when they have had to flee SPDC columns and hide in the forest. After hearing that her two sons had both been killed, his wife cried for several days and then fell seriously ill. Saw S---, the owner of the paddy field where Saw Ko Pah and the others were killed, said that after killing the villagers the LIB 361 troops destroyed his entire paddy crop, and he subsequently fell seriously ill as well.

"We have to cut the weeds and then flee. We have to harvest the paddy and then flee. It’s always been that way until now, when they came to shoot my sons. Both of my sons were shot and killed at the same time but they were killed in different places. Saw Nat Noh died first and then Saw Ko Pah died the following evening. Nat Noh was killed near xxxx village, and Saw Ko Pah was killed in xxxx, which is near xxxx village. Nat Noh had been married for 3 years when the SPDC killed him but he had no children. His wife is now staying with her parents, who are already old. They are poor and have difficult lives. Saw Ko Pah had been living in xxxx, which is a 2 hour walk from xxxx. I wasn’t healthy, so when the SPDC came to shoot in xxxx he was worried that I couldn’t run and he came to help me. … On his way back, he met some SPDC soldiers and they shot him dead. They also killed his friend and his cousin at the same time. They shot and killed 3 villagers, and 3 more were injured but managed to flee and escape. … Since my sons died I can’t work and that’s causing me problems. Now I only have 4 children. Three of them are single and only one son can work [the others are too young]. … I have 10 family members if you include those who have died [himself, his wife and 8 children]. The SPDC killed two a month ago, and the others died from illnesses. We fled and had to stay in the jungle, that’s why they were sick. They died in the jungle. Now I only have a few children. … We only have small children left and we can’t ask them to help us. … My wife has been sick for 4 or 5 days. She was mourning her sons and then got sick." - "Pu Ko Suh" (M, 60), xxxx village, Kyauk Kyi township (Interview #47, 12/98)

"I know her [Naw Tha Paw] because she harvested the paddy with us. She is 17 or 18 years old and was wearing a shirt and sarong. She was raped and killed on November 16th by the troops I mentioned before. That column also included some Ko Per Baw [DKBA soldiers]. A porter who had escaped saw it and told us. They stabbed her to death at L---’s farm. As for the boys, they shot them." - "Saw Wah" (M, 30), xxxx village, Kyauk Kyi township (Interview #38, 1/99)

"Saw Ko Pah was the younger brother of Saw Nat Noh - both brothers were killed by the same enemy group. Saw Ko Pah had heard the news about the enemy but he thought that the enemy wasn’t on the path. He was going to find his parents where they were hiding. He was worried that they weren’t so well. He thought his parents had had to flee and was coming to take care of them." - "Saw San Htay" (M, 40), xxxx village, Kyauk Kyi township (Interview #43, 12/98)

"On October 13th 1998, Burmese troops from LIB 368 at K’Baw Tu killed two villagers: Saw Bo Kee, age 33, married with one child, from Paya Hser Der village; and Saw Pa Toh, age 40, married with 3 children, from Paya Hser Der village. These two men were weaving a mat in a farm hut at xxxx. There were 4 people in the hut when the SPDC saw them, but the other two escaped. Then the Burmese robbed 1,000 Thai Baht and some Kyat from Saw Bo Kee. Now Saw Bo Kee’s wife has fled to be a refugee in Thailand, and Saw Pa Toh’s wife is still staying near xxxx and taking care of their 3 children with great difficulty." - KHRG field reporter, Nyaunglebin District (Field Report #FR2, 1/99)

There have been many killings similar to those listed above. In addition, some SPDC columns have deliberately targetted villagers tending their fields and those harvesting rice. Usually villagers harvest in groups, making them an easy target, and during the harvest of late 1998 there were several incidents of SPDC Columns opening fire on people harvesting in the fields. On November 17th 1998, an SPDC Column from Mu Theh camp saw villagers harvesting a hillside field near xxxx village and opened fire on them. All escaped except Saw S---, age 40 from xxxx village, who was hit in the leg and the shoulder. He tried to escape and managed to keep going for two hours before collapsing and later being rescued by other villagers. On November 21st 1998, another SPDC column opened fire with large and small weapons on villagers harvesting near xxxx village in Kyauk Kyi township. Saw M---, age 38, ran to fetch his 9-month-old daughter from the hammock where she was resting and then fled carrying the baby but was hit in his legs. He handed the baby to his wife so she could keep running, but his wife discovered that one of the baby’s legs had been blown off and the other was broken. The baby later died.

"I didn’t dare stay in the plains so I came up to the mountains. I came to stay with my parents and work on the farm. Then during harvest time they shot at me many times. They came up from Mu Theh. They shot at us at xxxx, on the xxxx [river]. There were two of us, me and S---. S--- is married and Buddhist, he is from xxxx village. He is over 30 years old. They shot at him many times and his arm got wounded." - "Saw Yeh" (M, 19),xxxx village, Kyauk Kyi township, describing how SPDC troops fired on him and his friend while they were harvesting rice on November 17th 1998 (Interview #42, 12/98)

"While they were shooting at the people who were harvesting, a man named Saw M--- ran quickly to his field hut and took his 9-month-old baby daughter, who had been sleeping in a hammock, and ran away. Then he was shot in his leg and hand, and his baby was also hit. Saw M--- couldn’t run properly anymore so he passed the baby to his wife. She was running with their other children. … Then she looked down at her baby daughter, 9 months old, and saw that there was no way that the child could survive. One of the baby’s legs had been blown off by the gun and the other was broken. She put her baby daughter down and ran to safety with her other children." - "Saw January" (M), KHRG human rights monitor describing what happened when SPDC troops opened fire on villagers harvesting rice at xxxx village, Kyauk Kyi township, on November 21st 1998 (Interview #1, 1/99)

SPDC Columns in the hills know that most of the villagers are living in hiding in their farmfield huts and in makeshift shelters, usually along small streams high in the hills. One of their tactics is to fire mortar shells into the forest, stepping the shells up the gullies along the streambeds in the hope of hitting the villagers in their hiding places. As this can be done from a distance, it catches the villagers completely without warning and they have no idea of where the troops are or what is happening. Usually they are lucky enough not to be hit, but there have been several deaths of villagers and their livestock from this practice. On December 3rd1998, a man from xxxx village was wounded by shrapnel in both his heels when troops from LIB 361 fired mortar shells into the forests in an area of northern Shwegyin Township where displaced villagers are hiding. In Kyauk Kyi township on December 14th 1998, troops from LIB 368 fired mortar shells into the forest near xxxx village and Saw Lay Lay Paw, a 10-year-old boy, was blown completely apart.

"At 6:30 a.m. they shelled the villagers in hiding while they were cooking their morning meal, and Saw M--- from xxxx village was wounded on both his heels. They also destroyed 7 of the villagers’ fields, and the crops in 20 other fields were destroyed by animals. These troops regularly fire shells at the streams and into the deep forest just in case villagers are hiding there, so the villagers have to live in fear and can only cook before dawn and after dark." - incident report from KHRG field reporter

"Now the villagers there are living in hiding, but LIB 368 patrols and regularly shells all the places which they think are not secure. At 10 p.m. on December 14th 1998 they shelled the villagers’ hiding place near xxxx village, and Saw Lay Lay Paw, male, age 10, was hit by a shell and blown completely apart." - incident report from KHRG field reporter

Survival in the Hills

"They have built huts to live in but these are very small. Some people don’t even build huts in the dry season, they say that in the dry season they’ll live instead near the stream in the jungle and will build huts again for the rainy season. If they build huts during the dry season, they’re worried that the Burmese will burn them if they see them. [Instead they just build a small split-bamboo sleeping platform under the trees.] Groups of 2 or 3 families live in each hiding place with 2 or 3 pots and their baskets to carry their belongings and their rice. They build their paddy storage barns in the jungle as well, and then they don’t go far from where their paddy storage barns are hidden. The Burmese burn their paddy storage barns if they find them. They are living as animals live." - "Saw January" (M), KHRG human rights monitor, describing living conditions of people hiding in the hills (Interview #1, 1/99)

Many villages in the hills are already destroyed or partly destroyed, and those that still exist are abandoned whenever SPDC patrols are anywhere nearby. The villagers lead a very tenuous existence, some staying in their villages when they can but often fleeing to hiding places they have already established in the forest, while many more have forsaken their villages entirely and live in farmfield huts or shelters in the forest near their fields. People from some areas have had to flee the area entirely because too many SPDC patrols are always passing through; for example, many of the people of K’Dee Mu Der have left their village and fields and have tried to reestablish themselves living in the forests further east. Some have also fled westward to the plains, particularly if they have relatives there, but this is a very dangerous move particularly since Sa Thon Lon death squads have begun operating in the plains. Anyone from the hills would be perceived by the Sa Thon Lon as having contact with the KNLA. When the village destructions began in 1997, many people from the hills moved westward into the plains, but many of them have fled back into the hills over the past year, stating that they could not survive in the plains because they had no land, there was no work and the burden of forced labour and fees which must be given to the SPDC was more than they could bear. When they return to the hills they cannot go to their villages, but live in hiding in the forests like the others.

The people in hiding in the forest build small lean-to’s from bamboo and leaves or small huts. Some villagers only build open-air sleeping platforms from split bamboo in the dry season because they have to run from place to place so often, or because they are afraid a hut would be too visible and the SPDC troops will burn huts if they find them. They stay in small groups of two to four families, and when SPDC troops are anywhere in the area they don’t even dare light cookfires except before dawn and after dark. The young men of the villages often act as sentries, going out to look around and watch for any signs of SPDC Columns so they can give the others advance warning. Even so, the villagers often have little or no time to flee when troops appear, and in the sudden flight essential items like cookpots and clothing get left behind, and families scatter and get separated. When an SPDC Column arrived atxxxx village in November 1998 and started shooting, 16-year-old "Pa Noh" found himself alone because his family were out working the fields. "Pa Noh" is blind, but he managed to run out of the village. Later when he tried to return, SPDC troops saw him and opened fire on him and he ran again. In the end he spent over 2 weeks in the forest, surviving on nothing but water, bamboo shoots and some jungle leaves; once he fell in a river and had to swim, but eventually by following the riverbank he made his way to xxxx, about 10 kilometres from his home, and found some villagers. At the same time that "Pa Noh" fled, a grandmother in the village who is over 70 years old had to flee with her three small grandchildren because their mother was out harvesting rice. The four of them were in the forest for over a week with no food but what they could find, and the youngest child was constantly crying because it needed to be breastfed, but they couldn’ treturn to the village because the SPDC Column was still in the area. When they were finally found they were all extremely weak. There are many stories of such suffering in the forest, particularly from the elderly and the handicapped among the villagers.

"They shot at him when he was running away. The Burmese shot at him Baun, Baun, Baun, Baun, many times. He can run, and he ran down to a lower place. He lost his slipper there. He crossed the xxxx river. He said that when he went to drink the water in the river, he fell in and then he tried to get to the other bank. It was during the rains when he fled. … He disappeared for about 3 weeks. … He slept many days on the way. … He didn’t know where he was when he arrived at xxxx village because he had never been there before. … He didn’t have any food for over 10 days, he only drank water and ate wild jungle vegetables. When he returned he had a fever and his arms and legs were in pain." - "Pi Hser" (F, 50+), xxxxvillage, Kyauk Kyi township, describing how her 16-year-old blind son "Pa Noh" fled alone into the forest when SPDC troops came and was lost alone for over 2 weeks, surviving on water and raw bamboo shoots (Interviews #44 and #45, 12/98)

"I was staying alone in the village at that time. The other villagers were harvesting their paddy beside the village. At that time, the Burmese started shouting and firing their guns. I prepared a small amount of rice and packed my clothes and blanket. I had no friends with me, I was alone. I didn’t see my son when he fled, he got lost. I couldn’t walk and carry my things for long. I discarded a bottle of salt on the path so I was only carrying my blanket and some rice. While I was walking the Burmese passed in front of me. I slept in the jungle for 4 nights. I didn’t have any good rice to eat and could only eat a small amount of rotting rice when I needed to eat. When people saw me after that, they carried me. If they didn’t carry me I wouldn’t have been able to walk because I was so weak." - "Pu Tha Muh Htoo" (M, 75), xxxx village, Kyauk Kyi township (Interview #48, 12/98)

"Then on November 16th they came again to shoot in the village. When they came the villagers were threshing their paddy, but everyone fled when they arrived. When they came, the first thing the villagers heard was the sound of the shooting so all the villagers fled from the village. One villager was killed [Saw Nat Noh, age 26] and 2 others were injured. We had no time to take care of each other. At that time an old grandmother named K---, who is about 70 years old and can’t hear or see well, was staying in the village with three of her grandchildren. The children’s mother had gone to harvest paddy. The youngest child was still breastfeeding, but their mother left them with their grandmother. When the enemy came to shoot in the village, she fled with her three grandchildren in a different direction [than the other villagers]. She couldn’t do anything with the youngest grandchild who still required breastfeeding and was crying. When we asked her, she said that she had boiled cucumber and vegetables to feed her grandchildren. They were staying in the forest for a week before some people found them and carried them back. When they were found, the grandmother and the three children were very weak and had to be fed, but they recovered." - "Saw Tee Muh" (M, 37), xxxx village, Kyauk Kyi township (Interview #40, 12/98)

"The villagers are having difficulties doing their work because their farms are near the Mu Theh road, which is where the enemy is staying. The villagers are doing what they can to get food. They have to move amongst the enemy cautiously and keep their eyes and ears open all the time. The villagers post sentries around their area, and if they get careless and don’t remember to worry about the enemy then the enemy comes and shoots at the villagers." - "Saw Ghay Po" (M, 40), xxxx village, Kyauk Kyi township (Interview #41, 12/98)

"They have to listen for the Burmese troop movements and if the troops are moving in their direction they must gather up their children and the baskets containing their pots, clothes, rice and salt, and run to hide themselves. Men, women and children are always living like wild chickens. … Some people don’t have enough rice to eat because insects have destroyed their crops, while other people had enough rice but the SPDC burned and destroyed it." - "Saw January" (M), KHRG human rights monitor, describing living conditions of people hiding in the hills (Interview #1, 1/99)

For the villagers in hiding in and around their hill villages, the key factor is food. As long as they can somehow obtain food they feel that they can survive, even if they regularly have to avoid SPDC patrols. For this reason they try to stay near their farmfields unless it is absolutely impossible, and if they cannot then they try to establish new fields elsewhere. Unfortunately, rice fields are very visible to SPDC patrols and very vulnerable, and the villagers often have their crop destroyed by an SPDC patrol or they have to flee at a crucial point in the crop cycle. Even after the harvest is in, there is always the danger of SPDC troops finding the hidden paddy storage barns and destroying the food supply. For these reasons, villagers in the hills often have little or nothing to eat. When KHRG was interviewing internally displaced villagers in the hills before the harvest in late 1998, almost all of them said they were surviving on boiled rice gruel, which is made by boiling rice for an extended period of time, then eating it with the water it was boiled in; villagers only do this when they need to make a small amount of rice last a long time. They have little or nothing to eat with the rice; most have no livestock or meat, only a little salt or chillies if they are lucky. Many have nothing but bamboo shoots, taro roots or ‘sour cucumber soup’, which is just cucumber boiled in plain water, or soup made by boiling jungle leaves. The 1998 crop was already seriously damaged by a severe shortage of rain early in the growing season. Then when the harvest came, some people managed to get a reasonable crop but for most it was a partial or total failure, particularly in areas where SPDC patrols were operating around harvest time. They had to flee, and much of the crop was destroyed by the SPDC troops or by animals. Those who have rice have been sharing it with those who have none, sometimes as simple charity and sometimes with the understanding that it will be paid back next year.

"All the villagers gathered together and we went to harvest the green [unripe] paddy which we then had to dry in a pot over a fire. Then we pounded it to get rice and ate the rice together. If we didn’t do it like that, we wouldn’t have been able to eat. Our living conditions were very difficult. Those who had plastic sheets made shelters with them. We had to stay under a tree or under bamboo trees, and sleeping was very hard. When we fled it was rainy season and many children as well as old people got sick. We couldn’t do anything." - "Saw Tee Muh" (M, 37), xxxx village, Kyauk Kyi township, describing what the villagers did after the SPDC raided his village on November 16th 1998 (Interview #40, 12/98)

"All the villagers from the other villages have fled to stay in the jungle. They can sleep in their houses for one or two days at a time and then they have to flee. They have to carry food, rice and paddy. We couldn’t get our rice and paddy because of the troops moving in our area, so we had to flee and we have to make rice soup with what little rice we have. … It is better in the hot season; in the rainy season it is very terrible. … We have to go back and get food, cut banana trees and bamboo shoots. We eat very poorly. The children get sick and there is no medicine. Also there are no plastic sheets [to protect them from the rain]. The water is also no good. The villagers don’t have enough clothes to wear. There isn’t enough of anything." - "Saw Ghay Po" (M, 40), xxxx village, Kyauk Kyi township, describing life in hiding in the forest (Interview #41, 12/98)

"They [the Burmese soldiers] went to the houses of the villagers who had fled and ate their pigs and chickens. When they saw buffaloes, they shot and killed them. When the villagers who have fled to stay in the forest run out of food, they return to their village [looking for food]. When they [the Burmese soldiers] see them, they shoot and kill them." - "Saw Thu" (M, 33), xxxx village, Kyauk Kyi township (Interview #49, 12/98)

Some villagers have been seeking out their relatives from other villagers to borrow rice, or trying to find food left behind by villagers who have fled the area, but these sources have almost all been used up by now. Many villagers have taken their jewellery and whatever other valuables or cash they still have and set out on the dangerous trip to try to buy rice from the plains. However, they are at risk of being shot on sight or executed by a Sa Thon Lon squad if they do this, and they can only go if the path is clear of SPDC troops. Some villagers say that they made the trip but on the way back with their rice they were spotted by an SPDC patrol and had to flee, and in the process they lost all the rice. They cannot allow themselves to be caught, because anyone caught carrying rice from the plains into the hills would be accused of feeding the KNLA.

"We went into the plains to find rice. We had to pass through the enemy’s area. Sometimes we got one or two bowls [about 4 kg / 9 lb] and sometimes we got one big tin [about 16 kg / 37 lb]. … The villagers met the enemy and lost their rice several times. They [the Burmese soldiers] shot at them, killing one villager named Saw Shwe Win … We are living day by day." - "Saw San Htay" (M, 40), xxxx village, Kyauk Kyi township (Interview #43, 12/98)

"The other thing I want to tell you about is when we go to bring food from the lower places [the plains]. The people who carry the food for us, if the enemy sees them they shoot them. The enemy also shoots at us if they see us carrying food. Many of the villagers throw away the rice [when they get shot at] and much rice is lost. The enemy doesn’t allow the villagers to carry rice, salt, tobacco, tea, other foods or bread. If they see people carrying those things, they beat and kill them." - "Saw Ghay Po" (M, 40), xxxx village, Kyauk Kyi township (Interview #41, 12/98)

"Here I’ve had to flee two times. … Last year I had to flee for the whole year. I’ve met with many kinds of problems. During the rainy season I couldn’t buy rice so I had to eat boiled rice soup the whole rainy season long, for about 3 or 4 months. Getting food was difficult and frightening." - "Saw Lay Muh" (M, 48), xxxx village, Kyauk Kyi township (Interview #46, 12/98)

Villagers taking medicine from the plains into the hills would also be executed as rebels, and for this reason the villagers have no access to modern medicines. Those who are sick can only be treated with roots and herbs. Many have died of treatable diseases such as malaria, diarrhoea and dysentery, particularly children and the elderly. For those who suffer gunshot or shrapnel wounds, the villagers have no gauze or antiseptics, only herbs and sesame oil. Sometimes they are lucky enough to get some help from a KNLA medic, but only if there is one in the area who has any medicine or bandages which he can spare. For the villagers in the hills, going to the plains to go to hospital, particularly for a gunshot wound, would be just as risky as going to buy rice.

"The most common illnesses they suffer from are fever and malaria. People with fevers or malaria who wouldn’t normally die are dying because there is no medicine. Most of the people who have died are children, ages 1 to 5 years old. I saw children with fevers, and because they had no medicine the fever never went down. Even though they put sesame oil on the body of the child, they still die. There is no gauze, no cotton and no medicine for when someone is injured. All they have are their traditional healing practices, but those are not perfect without some medicine as well." - "Saw January" (M), KHRG human rights monitor, describing living conditions of people hiding in the hills (Interview #1, 1/99)

"People keep them [villagers with gunshot and shrapnel wounds] in a hiding place and treat them with curry roots and cooking oil. It’s difficult to get cooking oil and it’s very expensive. Some people pound the curry roots and mix them with cooked rice and then put it in the wounds. Some people make holy water and mix it with curry roots. There is no other medicine." - "Saw Ghay Po" (M, 40), xxxx village, Kyauk Kyi township, talking about how villagers in the forest treat each other for gunshot wounds (Interview #41, 12/98)

"I waited for one or two days and then saw people bring S---. He is about 40 years old. They were carrying him in a hammock and he was bleeding a lot. He was wounded on his leg and his shoulder, and his shoulder was bleeding too much. I asked people, ‘Is there any medicine?’, and I was told, ‘There is no medicine. Those who are hurt always know in their hearts that if they are lucky they will live but if they are unlucky they will die.’ I told them, ‘It is not good to keep things like that in your heart, you should find medicine.’ They told me, ‘There is no medicine.’" - "Saw January" (M), KHRG human rights monitor who was there when villagers in hiding tried to treat a villager who had been shot on sight while harvesting rice on November 17th 1998 (Interview #1, 1/99)

The children in the hills have also lost all opportunity for education, because it is not possible to keep a school open in such an unstable situation. When SPDC Columns raid villages, schools and churches are usually the first buildings they burn. In xxxx village of Kyauk Kyi township they managed to keep a primary school open until September 1998, but then had to close it because none of the teachers or students had enough food anymore, and everyone had to do all they could to get enough food to survive. There was a plan to reopen the school in November, but then an SPDC Column shot up the village and everyone had to flee. At present the villagers around xxxx are still fleeing back and forth between hiding places in the forest, and there has been no chance to reopen the school.

"[W]e closed our school on September 13th [1998] because we didn’t have enough food. The students and teachers have only a little food left. The paddy that the enemy didn’t destroy will be eaten by us all together [shared between all of them]. We thought that we would open the school again later, but then the enemy came on October 13th. That’s why we had to close the school until December." - "Saw San Htay" (M, 40), xxxx village, Kyauk Kyi township (Interview #43, 12/98)

"My son who was killed by the Burmese was starting to study but was killed before he could finish school. Some of my other children went to school for 2 years but because of the current problems they’ve stopped going to school. They are afraid to go back to school. When we are not afraid they will go back. But we are afraid of the SPDC and must lead difficult lives." - "Saw Lay Muh" (M, 48), xxxx village, Kyauk Kyi township; his 14-year-old son Saw Maw Dah was shot dead by LIB 361 on November 16th 1998 (Interview #46, 12/98)

Flight of the Villagers

"The Burmese opened fire on Ler Wah village before dawn and after the villagers had run away they entered the village and burned the houses and paddy storage barns. The villagers told me that they had harvested enough rice for the whole year but the enemy burned their paddy storage barns, so now they don’t have any food to eat. They couldn’t live in their home area so they went to a refugee camp." - "Saw January" (M), KHRG human rights monitor who met with Ler Wah villagers just after their village was raided on December 26th 1998 (Interview #1, 1/99)

Karen villagers are subsistence farmers and are extremely attached to the land. Many would rather die on their land than flee, and for the vast majority the idea of leaving the only home they have known and the land which is their only source of security is extremely frightening, an insane thing to do. This is why the people in the plains stay on even in the face of constant and inhuman abuse and repression, and thousands of people in the hills continue to hide in makeshift shelters deep in the forest, suffering from disease and hunger and running away every week or every month, rather than leave their land and flee to Thailand. However, for the villagers in the hills and those in the plains there comes a point when they know that to stay means almost certain arrest, death at the hands of SPDC troops, or death by disease or hunger. For many people, the decision comes when they think of their children rather than themselves. Some refuse even to consider it, and say that they will die before they will flee. But for many, they reach a point where flight becomes the only option.

"In the past it was better and now it’s getting worse. People can’t tolerate it anymore. Some people would like to flee but they don’t know how or where to go." - "Saw Dee Ghay" (M, 38), xxxx village, Kyauk Kyi township (Interview #9, 4/99)

It is difficult to estimate the number of people who have been displaced from their villages in the hills and are living in hiding from SPDC forces, though the number is probably 10,000 or more. The vast majority of them are still trying to live in the forests around their own villages or villages further into the hills. Since 1997 some of them have fled westward into the plains, though many of these have found it impossible to survive in the plains and have now returned to live in hiding in the hills. At the same time, since the beginning of 1998 villagers native to the plains have begun fleeing to the hills for various reasons: some are fleeing in fear from the Sa Thon Lon death squads, some can no longer pay the ever-increasing extortion fees and provide all the forced labour demanded of them, some can no longer produce their own food because of all the restrictions imposed on them in the SPDC relocation sites, and for most the reason is a combination of all of these factors. The population in the plains is much higher than in the hills and to date it appears that only a few hundred to a thousand have fled, but the flow is increasing each month. Many have fled to villages west of the Sittaung River where conditions appear safer, but now the Sa Thon Lon squads are looking for them there. As a result, an increasing number are now fleeing eastward into the hills or to Thailand.

"I came here because my name appeared. In the past I stayed in the mountains and worked for the resistance, but when I started getting old I knew I couldn’t do that anymore so I went back to live with my children in the village. However, my name was written down and now they are going to kill me so I have to find a place of refuge. … I couldn’t stay in my village or my head would have been cut off." - "Pu Hla Maung" (M, 57), xxxx village, Mone township, interviewed after his arrival in Thailand (Interview #22, 1/99)

"This force [Sa Thon Lon] is made up of people from every battalion. The current leader of the people doing the killing in our area is from Battalion #53. … They wear simple T-shirts, but at night sometimes they wear guerrilla uniforms. … They were going around and asking people about me by name. They came 3 months ago. I don’t dare to go back and I won’t go back until this force leaves the area. I will go back after they move away. I’ve come as a refugee." - "Maung Soe" (M, 40), Kyauk Kyi town, interviewed after arriving in Thailand (Interview #21, 1/99)

"They said that if they couldn’t kill the head of the household they would kill the whole family in the house, so my family couldn’t dare stay in the village. They [the Sa Thon Lon] came and looked around our house 3 times, so we headed towards the mountains where the KNLA are.… We came without even a blanket or a pot and had to ask others for some. Now we are living like this."- "Saw Ta Roh" (M, 37), xxxx village, Shwegyin township, interviewed in hiding in the forest (Interview #32, 12/98)

I don’t dare stay in the village so I came here. None of the villagers are in the village anymore. They are all afraid and don’t dare to stay there. They are afraid of Byaut Kya [Sa Thon Lon], who said that if they know of anyone who has joined the people here they will kill them all." - "Pu Eh Doh" (M, 55), xxxx village, Kyauk Kyi township, interviewed while living in hiding in the hills (Interview #31, 12/98)

For those who can no longer survive in either the hills or the plains, there are few options. Some flee to the homes of relatives in near or distant towns. However, this often doesn’t work out because even people in towns are struggling to survive, and the SPDC is always checking house registrations looking for unregistered strangers whom they often arrest or take as porters. The other option is to try to flee to Thailand, though this is also difficult. Most people are afraid to head for Thailand because they have no idea of what awaits them in such an utterly foreign land. In addition, the trip is long and dangerous, and they have heard the stories that refugees in Thailand are still attacked by SPDC and DKBA troops and abused by Thai troops as well. However, some decide that this is their only option. For those in the hills the usual route is to cross overland, eastward across the hills of Nyaunglebin District and then northern Papun District. This is a difficult walk through the hills and would take 4 to 7 days at the best of times, but travelling with children, the elderly and sick, cookpots and basic belongings makes it take two weeks or longer, with no access to food along the way. Since 1997 the SPDC has destroyed all of the villages in the hills of northern Papun District; the villagers there are also living in hiding in the hills and are shot on sight if seen by SPDC patrols [see "Wholesale Destruction", KHRG April 1998]. As a result they have little or no food to share with the people from Nyaunglebin District who are passing through, and the villagers heading for Thailand must often stop for days and hide when SPDC Columns are moving in the area. Many of the paths along the way have also been landmined by the SPDC or the KNLA. Usually the only way the villagers can make the trip is if they gather into a group and are escorted all the way by a KNLA Column, and for this reason they often arrive in Thailand in groups. For example, on January 10th-11th 1999 a group of 107 people, 28 families from the xxxxarea in Kyauk Kyi township, arrived together at xxxx refugee camp. There have also been smaller groups of several dozen at a time arriving before and since then, producing an overall total of several hundred since late 1998. Thus far they have been allowed to stay at the refugee camps by Thai authorities; however, because of concerns about arriving in large groups they sometimes split up into groups of one or two families when they reach the border and try to arrive at the camps in small numbers. There are reports that some families crossing the border singly have been forced back if they encounter a Thai Army unit before reaching the camps.

"Over a hundred people came with us, about 150 people. We left on December 31st and arrived here on January 11th. Many children were sick on the way. We had no medicine, but when we crossed the river and arrived here [the refugee camp] people here gave us medicine. … On the way here the SPDC Army nearly found us. One group of their troops was behind us and another was in front of us. The KNLA in the area showed us the way to evade them. If they’d shot at them they could have killed them, but we told them not to because we were travelling with children." - "Saw Wah" (M, 30),xxxx village, Kyauk Kyi township (Interview #38, 1/99)

"We had problems because we had to avoid them [the Burmese soldiers] in some places. We left the village 15 days ago and arrived here 3 days ago. We spent a lot of money coming here. Some was spent on food and some on travel. We rode [in a vehicle] to the foot of the mountains and then came on foot. We won’t go back. My father, 2 of my younger brothers, an elder sister and her 2 small children are still coming but they haven’t arrived yet." - "Naw Mary" (F, 30), xxxx village, Mone township (Interview #15, 3/99)

People fleeing the plains in the west of the district have been using a different route, taking commercial passenger trucks southward along the main roads to Pegu, Thaton and Pa’an, then eastward by truck or on foot to the Thai border near xxxx. These people then arrive at xxxx refugee camp, or disappear into the illegal labour market in Thailand. Since early 1999 ten or twenty people per week have been arriving at the refugee camp this way, a mix of Karens and Burmans from the Sittaung River plains. Their numbers do not appear on the camp registers because Thai authorities officially refuse to accept any new refugees. The Burmans are viewed with suspicion by the Karens in the camp and the Thai authorities, so they usually have to leave and find illegal labour somewhere in Thailand. For this reason it is difficult to estimate the total number of people who have arrived by this route.

"The two of us are the first from our village who have ever come to Thailand. There are some people from other villages who have already fled, so they [the SPDC troops] were afraid that we would flee too. That’s why they threatened us and said, ‘If people go and I find out, I will kill them when they come back.’" - "Naw Say Paw" (F, 26), xxxx village, Kyauk Kyi township (Interview #29, 1/99)

"If the enemy keeps moving around their area, they have only one option, to come here. That is what I’ve seen; we don’t dare go to stay among the enemy." - "Saw Wah" (M, 30), xxxx village, Kyauk Kyi township, after arriving in Thailand as a refugee (Interview #38, 1/99)

Future of the Area

"The Burmese are very strong and there is no security here for us. They are staying close to us, so we have to hide and live the hard way. We can only farm a little bit. It’s not enough for us. Last year when we had a farm and were carrying our paddy, they were waiting for us on the path and shot at us when they saw us. If we had died, it would all be over for us. The villagers living here have to depend on their luck. We don’t know if we will die tomorrow or this evening. I am talking to you now but I may be dead tomorrow. The people who are here are on the path to death. The enemy doesn’t differentiate between good and bad people, whenever they see villagers they just kill them. If they see a man, they kill him. If they see a woman, they rape and then kill her." - "Maung Baw" (M, 30), xxxx village, Kyauk Kyi township (Interview #39, 12/98)

The situation in Nyaunglebin District is quite similar to that in Toungoo, Papun and some other Karen districts, with the exception of the Sa Thon Lon death squads. For both Karens and Burmans in the Sittaung River plains, it is the Sa Thon Lon which is the last straw forcing them to flee the area, and people are still being executed every week. For this reason it is very important to watch for developments involving the Sa Thon Lon squads, whether their behaviour continues as it is and whether they expand their operations into other areas or similar units are created elsewhere. The fact that they have now expanded their operations northward into the southern part of Toungoo District is cause for grave concern. At the same time, some villagers say they have been told by Sa Thon Lon soldiers that the force will withdraw in May or June 1999; the soldiers may just mean they will be rotated with fresh troops, as a complete withdrawal of the Sa Thon Lon force appears very unlikely. The use of the Sa Thon Lon in Nyaunglebin District may be an experiment which, if the SPDC perceives it as working, will be recreated in all other regions where they are trying to consolidate their control. The possibility of Sa Thon Lon-style death squads being created all over Burma is frightening.

For the villagers in the Sittaung River plains it appears that the situation will only continue to get worse. The latest wave of forced relocations, when 5 villages in northern Mone township were forced to a new relocation site outside Mone town in April 1999, appears to indicate that the SPDC is not finished with its forced relocations of villages in the plains. As long as the KNLA continues to occasionally come out of the hills to ambush SPDC and Sa Thon Lon troops, the SPDC will continue to forcibly relocate every village which is not under their direct and constant control. At the same time, the continued heavy militarisation of the area will ensure that the triple burden of forced labour, extortion and crop quotas will continue to fall heavily on the villagers. Most people have already sold most or all of what they have and have gone into debt in order to pay these fees and quotas and survive, and if it goes on much longer they will have to flee. Their only hope is that the failures of the 1997 and 1998 crops will not be repeated in 1999; however, many of them do not even have enough seed to plant a full crop and cannot dare go to their fields because of movement restrictions or fear of the Sa Thon Lon squads. When harvest time comes at the end of the year, none of this will be taken into account when the authorities once again demand their rice quota. In the meantime, many villagers will be living on boiled rice gruel to make it to the harvest. If this harvest fails for any reason, there may be a rapid increase in the number of people fleeing the area.

"Everyone is in trouble. People like us only have food to eat when we go to the forest [to earn money gathering bamboo and thatch], but when we come back we have to give fees and taxes to them. Not only do we end up with nothing to eat from our work, but we also have to go and do work for them, so we are living the lives of slaves. People who had bullock carts and teams now have no bullock carts or teams." - "Daw Hla" (F, 48), Burman bamboo cutter from xxxx village, Shwegyin township (Interview #25, 1/99)

For the people in the hills the situation is even more immediately desperate. Most of them are already almost completely out of food and are surviving on rice gruel and jungle vegetables such as bamboo shoots and banana tree stalks. With little or no seed to plant and regularly having to flee SPDC Columns, it is very unlikely that any of them will be able to produce enough rice to support themselves for more than a month or two. They will have to continue moving from shelter to shelter when SPDC Columns come near; some of their shelters will be burned, and some of their crops will be systematically destroyed by SPDC troops. However, their attachment to their land is so strong that most of them will probably continue to survive in this manner for as long as they possibly can. Many will be killed by SPDC troops, many more will die of disease, and some will flee. Regular groups of refugees from the hills of Nyaunglebin District can be expected to arrive at the Thai border, and hopefully the Thai authorities will continue to allow them asylum in the existing refugee camps. At the same time, the flow of Karens and Burmans from the Sittaung River plain to refugee camps in Thailand can be expected to increase as long as the Sa Thon Lon squads continue to operate as they do at present.

"We can’t do anything, we have no food. Some villagers are thinking they will go to the refugee camps. Some have said that they will stay in this difficult situation and try to find food in other places. It won’t be easy. We have talked about many ideas. We can’t do anything and we don’t know how to help each other. … We dare not go back to stay in our village but we will stay near our village. We will have to stay cautiously, because they come to the village and patrol the area. We will stay in our own country here. Some villagers have said that they will go to stay in the refugee camps if they must. If it is at all possible, we don’t want to go to the refugee camps." - "Saw Tee Muh" (M, 37), xxxx village, Kyauk Kyi township, interviewed in hiding in the forest (Interview #40, 12/98)

There is no sign that the killings, abuses and repression by regular SPDC units and Sa Thon Lon squads will decrease as long as the KNLA is active in Nyaunglebin District, and the KNLA shows every sign of remaining active for the foreseeable future. The SPDC tactics have been very effective in wiping out villages and the people in them, but have had very little success in undermining the KNU/KNLA. For its part, the KNU has repeatedly sought ceasefire negotiations with the SPDC, but at present the SPDC is refusing to negotiate any political or human rights issues and is demanding that the KNU renounce its struggle, surrender its weapons and "join the legal fold". The small-scale autonomy and military zones which were offered to other opposition groups in the past are not being offered to the KNU. The KNU is unwilling to accept this because it views surrender to the SPDC as suicide. Most villagers say that they would like to see the fighting stop because they are tired of all the retaliations taken out against them by the SPDC for the KNLA activities in the area, but at the same time they do not trust the SPDC at all. Most of them believe that even if the fighting stops the KNLA should continue to exist and should keep its arms, because otherwise things would only get worse for the villagers; that the SPDC troops would initiate an unrestrained witchhunt to kill all villagers with KNU/KNLA connections, and would then use the villagers as nothing but a captive population of forced labourers. The situation is at a deadlock with little room for optimism, but the villagers have little time to think about the politics of it all. For them, even thinking about life six months in the future is a luxury they cannot afford. They need to survive until tomorrow.

"If the enemy stops moving, the population can survive. If they don’t stop moving the villagers won’t be able to live. The enemy is not kind, they are killing people like they are dogs or pigs." - "Saw Ghay Po" (M, 40), xxxx village, Kyauk Kyi township (Interview #41, 12/98)

"The people from the foreign country said the SPDC are coming now. They said they will come and do good things, but they haven’t come to do good things. They have shot and killed the villagers. We don’t understand what they are doing. Will they clear out all the Karen people or not? We don’t see how they are going to clear out all the Karen people. We don’t know what their purpose is for clearing out the Karen people. However, they are still killing and eventually we will all be gone." - "Pu Ko Suh" (M, 60), xxxx village, Kyauk Kyi township (Interview #47, 12/98)

Table of Killings by SPDC Troops

This is a partial list of villagers killed directly at the hands of regular SPDC troops and Sa Thon Lon units in Nyaunglebin District and the area of Tantabin township, Toungoo District which lies just north of Nyaunglebin District. These killings have been described in the interviews and field reports collected for this report, and many of them have been corroborated by several interviews and field reports. There are 151 people in this list who have been killed since 1997, but it is important to emphasise that this list is far from complete because it is only based on interviews and field reports gathered by KHRG; the true number of those killed is most likely double or triple this amount. Furthermore, this list does not include those shot at, wounded without being killed, or the hundreds who have died of starvation, disease and accident caused by having to flee their villages. Due to the amount of time it takes to travel in these areas and obtain information, there are few accounts of killings which have occurred over the past few months; this does not reflect a decrease in the rate of killing, just a difficulty in obtaining reliable information. Under ‘Twp.’ (Township), S = Shwegyin, K = Kyauk Kyi, M = Mone, P = Pyu township west of the Sittaung River, and T = Tantabin township, Toungoo District. Under ‘Source’, FR indicates Field Reports from KHRG field reporters, and ‘Ix’ indicates interviews with villagers, ‘x’ being the interview number used in the report. Full texts of these interviews and field reports are available as an Annex to this report.

 

Date

Name

Sex

Age

Home Village

Twp.

Remarks

Source

4/99

Hsah Tu Ghaw

M

30

Dtaw Gone

T

Interrogated and beaten with other villagers, then pulled into forest and knifed to death by Sa Thon Lon

I50, I51, I54

4/99

Pa Bee Ko

M

>30

Dtaw Gone

T

Interrogated and beaten with other villagers, then pulled into forest and knifed to death by Sa Thon Lon; he was very ill when they killed him

I50, I51, I54

4/99

Ka Ni Ni

M

22

Dtaw Gone

T

Interrogated and beaten with other villagers, then pulled into forest and throat cut by Sa Thon Lon

I50, I51, I54

4/99

Saw Htoo Kee

M

20

Myeh Yeh

M

While doing forced labour as sentry, taken away as a porter and never seen since

I5

3/99

Unknown

?

?

Nyaung Bin Seik

M

Killed at festival when Bo Shan Bpu of Sa Thon Lon fired M79 grenades into the crowd; several others wounded

I2, FR

1/99

Mya Htun

M

48

Meik Tha Lin

P

Village headman, killed by Sa Thon Lon and body dumped in Sittaung River

I21

1999

Two villagers

M

 

Byin Gah

T

Executed by Sa Thon Lon

I50

1999

Pa Thu Po Pah,
a.k.a. Bo Gkay

M

>50

Taw Ma Aye

T

Headman, executed by Sa Thon Lon

I50

1999

Two villagers

M

 

Shan Gyi Bo Daing

T

Executed by Sa Thon Lon

I50

27/12/98

Saw San Myint

M

25

Baw Bpee Der

M

Killed when Sa Thon Lon entered village and opened fire on people playing volleyball for Christmas; they beheaded him, stuck a cheroot in his mouth and hung head on path to Mone

I1, FR

26/12/98

Five villagers

   

Twa Ni Gone, now at Yan Myo Aung

M

Found near their home village by Shan Bpu of Sa Thon Lon, executed; 3 were single, 2 married

I22, I29

16/12/98

Nay Lah Mu

M

?

Tee Nya B’Day Kee

K

Shot on sight, robbed, then disappeared

I41, FR2

15/12/98

Maung Soe Myint

M

?

Shah Ku

K

Executed by Sa Thon Lon after warning his neighbour they were looking for him

FR

15/12/98

Ko Kay Mweh

M

?

Shah Ku

K

Executed by Sa Thon Lon

FR

14/12/98

Saw Lay Lay Paw

M

10

Kheh Der

K

Blown apart when LIB 368 shelled the villagers’ hiding place in the forest without warning

FR

3/12/98

Maung Htun
Myaing

M

?

Tha Say

S

Shot dead by Sa Thon Lon

FR2

12/98

Saw Shwe Win

M

?

Tee Muh Hta

K

Shot on sight by troops who saw him trying to carry rice from the plains up into the hills

I43

12/98

U Than Myint

M

?

Ma Oo Bin

S

Stabbed to death in middle of the village by Sa Thon Lon

I32

12/98

Ko Kyi Hmwe

M

43

Shan Su

S

Executed by Sa Thon Lon ‘Nagah’ group

I30, I32, I35

12/98

Ko Kyi Myint

M

40

Ma Oo Bin

S

Executed by Sa Thon Lon ‘Nagah’ group

I35

12/98

Two villagers

M

 

Zee Taw section,
Shwegyin town

S

Executed by Sa Thon Lon ‘Seik Padee’ group

I35

12/98

Two villagers

M

 

Kyi Pin Su

S

Executed by Sa Thon Lon

I35

12/98

Three villagers

M

 

Inn Palah

S

Executed by Sa Thon Lon

I35

12/98

Fourteen villagers

M

 

Than Seik

S

Executed by Sa Thon Lon

I35

26/11/98

Saw Htoo Yay

M

30

Goh Nee

M

Executed by Maung Maung and Shan Bpu of Sa Thon Lon

FR

22/11/98

Saw Mya Sein

M

30

Meh Praw Hta

S

Shot dead at farm hut by IB 96

FR

22/11/98

Unknown

M

>40

Kya Plaw

K

Sa Thon Lon executed, then cut off tongue and ears

I30

21/11/98

Po Muh Si

F

9 mos.

xxxx

K

SPDC Column opened fire on parents while harvesting; her leg was blown off while father carried her, she died, father Saw M--- wounded

I1, I41, FR

20/11/98

Maung Htwe Soe,
a.k.a. Maung Htwe

M

20

Thu K’Bee

K

Arrested on 12/11/98 by DKBA, detained and then executed near Klaw Maw pagoda

I30, FR2

20/11/98

Maung Kyaw Thaung Klaw, a.k.a. Kyaw Thaw

M

30

Thu K’Bee

K

Arrested on 12/11/98 by DKBA, detained and then executed near Klaw Maw pagoda

I30, FR2

20/11/98

Saw Gawla Thu

M

25

Leh Wain Gyi

K

Arrested on 12/11/98 by DKBA, detained and then executed near Klaw Maw pagoda

I30, FR2

20/11/98

Saw Maung Aye

M

?

Leh Gkaw Wah

K

Village headman, executed by Sa Thon Lon

I30, FR

18/11/98

Saw Aye

M

50

Myeh Yeh

M

Shot on sight with Po Theh Pyay in fields by Sa Thon Lon, beheaded, head hung along path near his village for 1 month

I1, I8, I12, I19, I29, FR

18/11/98

Po Theh Pyay

M

36

Ter Bpaw

M

Shot on sight with Saw Aye in fields by Sa Thon Lon, beheaded, head hung along path near his village for 1 month

I1, I8, I12, I19, I29, FR

17/11/98

Saw Ko Pah

M

20

xxxx

K

Returning from xxxx to help parents after his village shot up; ambushed and shot dead on the path by LIB 361, who had killed his brother Saw Nat Noh the day before; Saw Maw Dah and Naw Tha Paw also killed, and two others wounded

I37, I38, I40, I43, I45, I46, I47, FR, FR1, FR2

17/11/98

Saw Maw Dah

M

14

xxxx

K

Shot on sight together with Saw Ko Pah and Naw Tha Paw

I37, I38, I40, I43, I45, I46, I47, FR, FR1, FR2

17/11/98

Naw Tha Paw

F

17

xxxx

K

Ambushed together with Saw Ko Pah and Saw Maw Dah, either shot or raped and stabbed

I37, I38, I40, I43, I45, I46, I47, FR, FR1, FR2

16/11/98

Saw Nat Noh

M

26

xxxx

K

Shot on sight under his house by LIB 361 troops who came to destroy the village, tried to flee and died on the path; brother Saw Ko Pah killed the next day

I37, I38, I40, I43, I45, I46, I47, I48, FR, FR1, FR2

15/11/98

Saw Myint Si

M

40

Tee Blah

S

Shot on sight by IB 96, friend Saw P--- wounded

FR

13/11/98

Pa Naw Htoo

M

18

Saw Theh Hta

S

Shot on sight by LIB 351

FR

11/11/98

Maung Ba Aye

M

36

Leh Gkaw Wah

K

Arrested by Sa Thon Lon ‘Nagah’ group, accused of ‘supporting the NLD’ and killed together with his wife Naw Dah, leaving a 3 month old child

I32, I35, FR

11/11/98

Naw Dah

F

?

Leh Gkaw Wah

K

Arrested by Sa Thon Lon ‘Nagah’ group, accused of ‘supporting the NLD’ and killed together with her husband Maung Ba Aye, leaving a 3 month old child

FR

9/11/98

Saw Per Kaw

M

40

Ma La

M

Taken as porter, couldn’t carry anymore so shot dead

FR, FR2

9/11/98

Saw Kah Ko

M

?

Ma La

M

Taken as porter, couldn’t carry so killed by SPDC troops

FR

11/98

Saw Mah Htoo,

a.k.a. Gah Gyi

M

37

Yan Myo Aung relocation site

M

Taken away from his house by Maung Maung and Shan Bpu from Sa Thon Lon, executed in forest and threw body in Sittaung River

I12, I13, I23

11/98

Tee Sweh

M

?

K’Dee Mu Der

K

Shot dead when SPDC troops shot up K’Dee Mu Der village

I45

11/98

Wah Ku Mu Pa

M

?

K’Dee Mu Der

K

Shot dead when SPDC troops shot up K’Dee Mu Der village

I45

11/98

Wah Ghay Paw Pi

F

?

K’Dee Mu Der

K

Shot dead when SPDC troops shot up K’Dee Mu Der village

I45

11/98

Mu Ghay Paw

F

?

K’Dee Mu Der

K

Shot dead when SPDC troops shot up K’Dee Mu Der village

I45

11/98

Ta Kweh Mo

F

?

K’Dee Mu Der

K

Shot dead when SPDC troops shot up K’Dee Mu Der village

I45

27/10/98

Unknown

M

?

Po Noh Po

K

Executed by Sa Thon Lon

I30

22/10/98

Saw Lay Heh

M

?

Twa Ni Gone

M

Sa Thon Lon arrested at fishpond hut, took away and shot dead

I1, I12, I13, I19, FR

22/10/98

Saw Gka Bweh

M

?

Twa Ni Gone

M

"              "

I1, I12, I13, I19, FR

22/10/98

Saw Maw Nyunt Po

M

?

Twa Ni Gone

M

"              "

I1, I12, I13, I19, FR

22/10/98

Saw Po Shaw Gkeh

M

~20

Twa Ni Gone

M

Arrested with his 3 friends above and taken off for execution but gun didn’t work, so stabbed to death

I1, I12, I13, I19, FR

15/10/98

Naw Mu Lay

F

8

Ter Bpaw

M

Daughter of village head, killed along with her sister Dah Dah when Sa Thon Lon fired M79 grenades into the house

FR

15/10/98

Naw Dah Dah

F

2

Ter Bpaw

M

Daughter of village head, killed along with her sister Mu Lay when Sa Thon Lon fired M79 grenades into the house

FR

13/10/98

Ma Lah Myint

F

45

Aung Chan Tha

M

Raped and killed by IB 59, daughter wounded by gunfire during IB 59 village raid

FR

13/10/98

Ma Nyunt

F

15

Aung Chan Tha

M

Raped and killed by IB 59

FR

13/10/98

Saw Bo Kee

M

33

Paya Hser Der

K

LIB 368 surrounded farm hut and shot dead together with Saw Pa Toh

I40, I43, I45, I46, FR, FR1, FR2

13/10/98

Saw Pa Toh

M

40

Paya Hser Der

K

LIB 368 surrounded farm hut and shot dead together with Saw Bo Kee

I40, I43, I45, I46, FR, FR1, FR2

10/98

Po Naw

M

?

Kaw Chay Moo

K

Headman, killed by SPDC during forced relocation

I30

Late 98

U Aung Baw

M

52

A’Tet Twin Gyi

S

Sa Thon Lon cut his throat and threw him in the Sittaung River

I30

Late 98

Khin Win

M

32

A’Tet Twin Gyi

S

Sa Thon Lon cut his throat and threw him in the Sittaung River

I30

Late 98

Saw Heh Bo

M

?

Lu Ah

M

Killed by Sa Thon Lon

I19

21/9/98

Saw Maw Lay

M

63

Khoh Lu

K

Shot dead then beheaded by Sa Thon Lon

FR

19/7/98

Saw Muh Kaw

M

30

Ler Klah

M

Killed by LIB 367/703 column

FR

19/7/98

Saw Ta Bpu Lu

M

45

Khoh Pu

M

Killed by LIB 367/703 column

FR

19/7/98

Saw Eh Doh Wah

M

12

Khoh Pu

M

Killed by LIB 367/703 column

FR

7/98

Pa Mee

M

37

Leh Yo Poh

K

Summoned by IB 60 to camp at Thaung Bo and executed

I30

27/3/98

Hsah Tee Dray

M

20

K’Pah Hta

M

Killed by LIB 703

FR

26/3/98

Maw Ray Heh

M

30

K’Dee Mu Der

K

Killed by IB 59

FR

25/3/98

Naw Thay Shwe

F

38

K’Dee Mu Der

K

Killed by IB 59

FR

24/3/98

Naw Law Htoo

F

45

K’Dee Mu Der

K

Killed by IB 59 together with the 3 listed below; Naw B--- (F, 18) escaped with injuries

FR

24/3/98

Naw Shwe B’Dee

F

47

Ler Hah

K

Killed by IB 59

FR

24/3/98

Naw Mo Reh

F

40

K’Dee Mu Der

K

Killed by IB 59

FR

24/3/98

Naw Mu Ghay

F

10

K’Dee Mu Der

K

Killed by IB 59

FR

16/3/98

Mo Loh Ko

M

30

K’Waw Ko

M

Killed by LIB 703

FR

13/3/98

Saw Shwe Yoh

M

27

K’Kyay Hsay

M

Killed by IB 26

FR

13/3/98

Soe Kyi

M

35

Leh Bpa

M

Killed by IB 26

FR

Early 98

Aung Aung

M

25

Ter Bpaw

M

Taken as porter, never returned

I14, I15

16/12/97

Saw Lah Wah

M

17

Nga Law Der

M

Killed by IB 48

FR

11/97

Saw Maw Ko

M

12

Tee Blah

S

Shot on sight while harvesting rice

KHRG*

20/10/97

Saw Maw Gu

M

20

Tee Blah

S

Killed by LIB 440

FR

11/9/97

Naw Deh Deh

F

60

Saw Mu Hsay Day

S

Killed by LIB 350

FR

30/7/97

Saw May Lway

M

20

Aw Bp’Lah

S

Killed by LIB 440

FR

30/7/97

Pa Lay Po

M

45

Aw Bp’Lah

S

Killed by LIB 440

FR

27/7/97

Saw Pah Lee

M

55

Blaw Hta

S

Killed by IB 96

FR

20/7/97

Saw Soe Myint

M

37

Meh Praw Kee

S

Killed by IB 96

FR

22/6/97

Saw Thay Nee

M

25

Meh Praw Hta

S

Killed by IB 96

FR

22/6/97

Saw Cha Po

M

28

Blay Blaw Soe

S

Killed by IB 96

FR

25/5/97

Saw Mah Ner

M

50

Shwegyin

S

Pastor, killed by IB 20

FR

22/5/97

Saw Maw Aye

M

50

Saw Theh Kee

S

Killed by LIB 349

FR

22/5/97

Saw Pah Dee

M

30

Khaw Hta

S

Killed by LIB 349

FR

2/5/97

Way Thay

M

25

K’Pah Hta

M

Killed by LIB 439

FR

2/5/97

Saw Eh Muh

M

25

Nya Mu Kee

M

Killed by LIB 439

FR

27/4/97

Pa Ti Bu

M

32

Ler Hah

K

Killed by joint column of IB 101, 105, & 107 under Division 77

FR

27/4/97

Pa Mah Mu

M

43

Paya Hser Der

K

Killed by joint column of IB 101, 105, & 107 under Division 77

FR

27/4/97

Naw Yweh Ray

F

19

Paya Hser Der

K

Killed by joint column of IB 101, 105, & 107 under Division 77

FR

23/4/97

Saw Way Bpa

M

63

Kheh Der

K

Killed by joint column of IB 101, 105, & 107 under Division 77

FR

23/4/97

Saw Yeh Nyu

M

15

Tee Kay Loh

S

Killed by LIB 440

FR

21/4/97

Pa Taw Thu

M

28

Tee Kay Loh

S

Killed by LIB 440

FR

21/4/97

Saw Tah Lee

M

80

Toh Thu Kee

S

Killed by LIB 440

FR

18/4/97

Saw Ner Kaw

M

40

Tee Blah

S

Killed by IB 20

FR

17/4/97

Saw Tee Muh

M

20

Shwegyin

S

Killed by IB 57

FR

12/4/97

Saw Thi Oo

M

33

Tee Blah

S

Killed by IB 20

FR

11/4/97

Saw Eh Muh

M

25

Kheh Der

K

Killed by joint column of IB 101, 105, & 107 under Division 77

FR

9/4/97

Saw Pah Rah

M

23

Wah Kah Der

S

Killed by LIB 440

FR

6/4/97

K’Lah Nga Way

M

35

Baw Bpee Der

M

Killed by LIB 439

FR

6/4/97

Saw Bo Ghay

M

72

Kheh Der

K

Killed by joint column of IB 101, 105, & 107 under Division 77

FR

3/4/97

Naw Paw Htoo

M

50

Maw Soh Ko

K

Killed by joint column of IB 101, 105, & 107 under Division 77

FR

29/3/97

Maw Aye Kyi

M

70

Mu Kee

K

Killed by joint column of IB 101, 105, & 107 under Division 77

FR

20/3/97

Po Lah Heh

M

45

Suh Mu Hta

S

Killed by LIB 440

FR

17/3/97

Saw Mu Kaw

M

32

Ta Ghaw

M

Killed by IB 60

FR

17/3/97

Saw Hsah Kah Htoo

M

20

Ta Ghaw

M

Killed by IB 60

FR

13/3/97

Pa Saw Gkeh

M

50

Wah Peh Kwih

S

Killed by IB 107

FR

13/3/97

Saw Ah Gker

M

37

Wah Peh Kwih

S

Killed by IB 107

FR

13/3/97

Saw Pah Drah

M

45

Wah Peh Kwih

S

Killed by IB 107

FR

12/3/97

Saw Ta Plah Plah

M

3

Doh Daw Kee

K

Division 77 troops shelled village without warning and everyone fled, leaving him and his sister Mi Mu Wah behind. Troops found them walking around crying and threw them into their burning house

FR

12/3/97

Naw Mi Mu Wah

F

2

Doh Daw Kee

K

Division 77 troops shelled village without warning and everyone fled, leaving her and her brother Ta Plah Plah behind. Troops found them walking around crying and threw them into their burning house

FR

12/3/97

Saw Sah Lway

M

32

Ter Bpaw

M

Killed by combined column of IB 26, LIB 351 & DKBA

FR

3/2/97

Naw Khi Lah Paw

F

17

Toh Kee

S

Killed by IB 96

FR

1996-98

Say Sai

M

?

Yay Leh

M

Killed by SPDC troops at Yan Myo Aung relocation site

I19

1996-98

Maw Kaw Gwee

M

?

Twa Ni Gone

M

Killed by SPDC troops at Yan Myo Aung relocation site

I19

1996-98

Maw Peh Yah

M

?

Thay Ghee Lu

M

Killed by SPDC troops at Yan Myo Aung relocation site

I19

1996-98

Lah Kaw Wah Pa

M

?

Thu Boh Lu

M

Killed by SPDC troops at Yan Myo Aung relocation site

I19

1996-98

U Gah Lu

M

?

Bpa Reh Si

M

Killed by SPDC troops at Yan Myo Aung relocation site

I19

1996-98

Unknown

M

?

Ta Maw Ma

T

Killed by SPDC troops

I19

* indicates source was KHRG Report #98-01, "Wholesale Destruction", interview #52

Index of Interviews and Field Reports

This index summarises the interviews and field reports used in this report. The interview numbers correspond to those used in the quote captions. The full text of these interviews and field reports is published as an Annex to this report which is available from KHRG on request. All names of those interviewed have been changed. In the summaries below, FL = Forced Labour, FR = Forced Relocation, RS = Relocation Site, and SSS = Sa Thon Lon. The column ‘Nat.’ is for the interviewee’s nationality; K = Karen, B = Burman. Under ‘Twp.’ (Township), S = Shwegyin, K = Kyauk Kyi, M = Mone, P = Pyu (west of the Sittaung River), Y = Kyauk T’Ga (west of the Sittaung River), and T = Tantabin (in Toungoo District).

 

#

Date

Name

Sex

Age

Nat.

Village

Twp.

Summary

FR

98-99

Field Reports

         

Incident reports submitted by KHRG field reporters

FR1

98-99

Field Report 1

         

Human rights report written by KHRG field reporter in December 1998/January 1999; flight of hill villagers, SPDC raids on villages and killings, crop destruction

FR2

1/99

Field Report 2

         

January 1999 report of KHRG field reporter; military units in area, destruction of villages, fields and food supplies, looting/extortion, detention and torture, killings in fields, DKBA killings, struggle to survive in hiding

1

1/99

"Saw January"

M

xx

K

   

Interview with KHRG field reporter; suffering of villagers in the hills, lack of food and medicine, raids by SPDC patrols, shooting at people harvesting, burning villages, lack of schools, DKBA activities, SSS structure and killings, opinion on political situation

Villages in the Plains

2

5/99

"Saw Lah Thaw"

M

xx

K

xxxx

M

FL building Na Than Gwin – Mone road including FL on bridges and demands for bridge materials, FL cutting all trees in villages, FL as sentries, burning field huts, fees, demands for materials, paddy quotas, SSS Shan Bpu’s shelling of festival in 3/99, SSS burning of Lu Ah village, FR

3

5/99

"May Oo Mo"

F

58

K

xxxx RS

M

Husband and son badly beaten by SPDC, fees, crop quotas, SSS forced marriages and killings

4

5/99

"Pu Nya Thu"

M

70

K

xxxx

M

Fear of SSS, fees, near-killing of young porter, raids on villages, FL clearing trees

5

5/99

"Pi Naw Htoo"

F

75

K

xxxx

M

Restrictions on movement, FL as sentries, taking sentries as porters, disappearance, FL on road and DKBA pagodas, SSS killings and demands

6

5/99

"Pi Ghi Lah"

F

67

K

xxxx

M

Fled SSS because sons involved in KNLA, repeated FR of her village, FL on roads, food shortage in RS, looting from Karens more than Burmans, FL portering, fees

7

4/99

"Pu Htaw Say"

M

65

K

xxxx

M

Porter fees, FL on Mone – Na Than Gwin road, SSS killings, DKBA, KNLA, son-in-law died as a porter

8

4/99

"Saw Ner Muh"

M

30+

K

Xxxx

M

FR to Thit Cha Seik, FL cutting down trees in old village, movement restrictions and passes, curfews, threat to kill those caught with medicine, FL on Mone – Na Than Gwin road, fees, FL growing beans for SPDC, paddy quotas, FL portering, SSS looting, beatings including his aged father-in-law, killings and beheadings, attempted KNLA ambush of SSS

9

4/99

"Saw Dee Ghay"

M

38

K

xxxx

K

FL portering, as sentries, clearing trees, making a path, movement restrictions, SSS demands and killings, DKBA, FR

10

4/99

"Naw K’Ser Tee"

F

29

K

xxxx

K

FR, FL portering, as sentries, clearing trees, and on road, FL on pagodas for DKBA, SSS, increasing porter fees, paddy quotas

11

4/99

"Naw Ghay"

F

xx

K

Xxxx

K

FL on barracks & fences at Army camps and clearing trees, SSS looting shops, KNLA attempt to ambush SSS, FL on Mone - Na Than Gwin road, orders to fence villages

12

3/99

"Naw Paw Paw Htoo"

F

31

K

xxxx

M

Arrest and execution of her husband by SSS in November 98, other SSS killings, SSS looting, Shan Bpu’s forced marriage, forced gifts when SSS soldiers marry and FL building their houses, extortion fees

13

3/99

"Saw Tha Doh"

M

18

K

xxxx

M

He and friends beaten by SSS Shan Bpu, FL on Mu Theh road and road in Yan Myo Aung, targetted by SPDC soldiers so fled, demands for housing bricks for SSS, SSS killing of his cousin and 3 others, new order that villagers can’t go to fields

14

3/99

"Pi Kler Meh"

F

60

K

xxxx

M

Failure of crop followed by demand for paddy quota, FL as porters and at Army camp, death of son-in-law while portering, porter fees, flight to Thailand

15

3/99

"Naw Mary"

F

30

K

xxxx

M

Registration for SPDC forced recruitment, death of her husband while portering, paddy quotas, punishment of villagers who can’t give quota, many taxes, FL on Kanyunt Kwin road, lack of schools and medical care, flight to Thailand

16

2/99

"Saw Joseph"

M

27

K

xxxx

Y

Extortion fees, villagers in debt

17

2/99

"Naw Eh Muh"

F

51

K

Xxxx

K

Arrest and detention by IB 60 for 15 days in 5/98 along with 6 other innocent villagers; beatings, physical & psychological torture, and rape of several detainees, demands for money for their release, continued detention and rape of one woman after release of others, FL portering by her 15 year old daughter, flight to the hills

18

2/99

"Saw Po Hla"

M

25

K

xxxx

Y

FL portering, selling belongings to pay porter fees, FL digging fish ponds for the Army

19

2/99

"Saw Tee Ko"

M

40

K

xxxx

M

Repeated FR to Yan Myo Aung since 1991, FR of other villages, conditions at Yan Myo Aung RS, hunger and food shortages, SPDC threat to kill anyone with medicine, villages paying to avoid FR, FL as porters, SSS tactics, threats and killings, SSS demands, SSS order to kill all dogs, SSS forced marriages, destruction of rice supplies by SPDC

20

2/99

"Naw Hser"

F

40

K

xxxx

M

Repeated FR to Yan Myo Aung, conditions at Yan Myo Aung RS and Yan Gyi Aung RS, going back to village to farm but now don’t dare due to SSS, SSS beatings, women’s fear of SSS, Shan Bpu’s forced marriage, burningof Lu Ah village, FR of Lu Ah, SSS slashing of woman from xxxx, SSS order to kill all dogs, flight of villagers to west side of Sittaung River and SSS looking for them there, schooling in RS, water problems in RS, movement restrictions, life with DKBA at Klaw Maw, recent FR, paddy quotas, flight to Thailand

21

1/99

"Maung Soe"

M

40

B

Kyauk Kyi town

K

SSS killings, fled because SSS was looking for him

22

1/99

"Pu Hla Maung"

M

57

K

xxxx

M

Fled because SSS was looking for him, SSS killings, Shan Bpu’s forced marriage, FR to Yan Myo Aung, heavy extortion fees and arrest of those who can’t pay

23

1/99

"Saw Kyaw"

M

34

K

Yan Myo Aung RS

M

FR from Myeh Yeh, SPDC destroying rice supplies in old villages, SSS executions, extortion fees for SPDC and DKBA, he was arrested and beaten years ago, now fled due to fear of SSS

24

1/99

"Daw Khin Htwe"

F

30

B

xxxx

S

SPDC demands for half of all money she made, arrest of those who can’t pay, movement passes, FL getting food for the Army, FL at Army camp, child FL

25

1/99

"Daw Hla"

F

48

B

xxxx

S

Sold everything to pay extortion fees, FL on roads

26

1/99

"U Hla Shwe"

M

40

B

xxxx

S

Movement passes, beatings if you don’t have a pass, extortion fees, FL as porter, FL at Army camp, FL growing, harvesting and selling 100 acres of beans for the Army, punishment of villagers after a KNLA attack

27

1/99

"U Than Myint"

M

50

B

xxxx

S

Ever-increasing extortion fees, arrest of people who can’t pay, sold everything to pay fees, FL on road, arrest/beating of his friend, stopping people from making a living cutting bamboo

28

1/99

"Naw Lah Paw"

F

21

K

xxxx

M

Brother did FL as sentry and maintaining Army camp, she was beaten in the fields by SSS soldiers together with 12 others, including children, SSS killing of Twa Ni Gone villagers and others, houses in Twa Ni Gone burned, FR, flight to Thailand

29

1/99

"Naw Say Paw"
"Naw Thu"
"Saw Ghaw"

F
F
M

26
26
xx

K
K
K

xxxx
xxxx 
xxxx

K
K
M

FL for DKBA, SSS methods, SSS involvement with Pado Aung San, curfew, SSS threats, FL, paddy quotas, corruption of paddy collection officials, SSS extortion and killings, Shan Bpu’s forced marriage, flight to Thailand

30

1/99

"Saw Htoo Lay"

M

25

K

xxxx

K

FL on DKBA pagodas, DKBA killings, SSS setup and killings, regular Army killings, flight of villagers, FR in 1/99, FL as porters, his flight into the hills

31

1/99

"Pu Eh Doh"

M

55

K

xxxx

K

SSS killings, fled in fear of SSS, SPDC attack on his village in 12/98, flight into the hills

32

12/98

"Saw Ta Roh"

M

37

K

xxxx

S

Arrested and imprisoned twice in 92 and 95 for alleged rebel contact, SSS killing in his village, SSS methods, FL as porters and sentries, flight to hills due to fear of SSS

33

12/98

"Maung Sein"

M

xx

B

xxxx

K

SSS came to kill his brother-in-law and his sister; her husband escaped, so they beat his sister, then cut off her ears and mouth and left her for dead; "Maung Sein" carried her to hospital; other SSS killings, fees, looting

34

9/98

"Saw Thet Wah"

M

49

K

xxxx

M

Porter fees, FL as porters, FL as road sentries every day, FL clearing roadsides, villagers prohibited from staying in farm huts, his nephew arrested only to extort 100,000 Kyat from him so had to flee to Thailand to make money for the debt, extortion fees so villagers have no food or belongings anymore, FL farming for the Army, FL on Saw Mi Lu road

35

4/99

Unnamed

M

 

K

xxxx

K

FL as porters, at Army camps and clearing land for Army agricultural projects; types of portering; FL on DKBA pagodas, including non-Buddhists; extortion, paddy quotas, corruption of paddy collection officials, problems for village heads, FR, SSS killings

36

2/99

"Saw Kaw Doh Muh"

M

xx

K

Nyaunglebin Dist.

 

KNLA officer discussing the SSS

Villages in the Hills

37

1/99

"Saw Muh"

M

55

K

xxxx

K

SPDC destruction of hill villages, killing villagers on sight, destruction of rice supplies, burning farm huts, flight to Thailand

38

1/99

"Saw Wah"

M

30

K

xxxx

K

SPDC attack on the village, flight of the villagers, SPDC killings of villagers, burning rice stockpiles, flight to Thailand with a large group of villagers

39

12/98

"Maung Baw"

M

30

K

xxxx

K

Fleeing his village to xxxx area, subsequent SPDC attacks at xxxx, killings of villagers, difficulty of living in hiding in the hills, SSS killings, life in the plains including fees, portering, paddy quotas, taking those who can’t pay as porters

40

12/98

"Saw Tee Muh"

M

37

K

xxxx

K

Shot at in his field by SPDC in 10/98, SPDC attack onxxxx, flight of villagers, some elderly and blind lost in the forest for weeks without food, troops destroyed paddy barns and belongings, killings of villagers, survival in the forest

41

12/98

"Saw Ghay Po"

M

40

K

xxxx

K

Flight into hiding in the forest, SPDC shooting villagers on sight, houses burned in several villages, illness and suffering in the forest, troops pulling up and destroying crops, shooting villagers who are harvesting, lack of food and medicine, villagers shot at when trying to carry rice back from the plains, difficulty of treating villagers who have been shot

42

12/98

"Saw Yeh"

M

19

K

xxxx

K

Fled to the plains, returned to the hills, shot at while harvesting in 11/98, friend badly wounded, destruction of rice

43

12/98

"Saw San Htay"

M

40

K

xxxx

K

Fled to xxxx, then had to flee to forest when SPDC troops came, villagers shot on sight, crops destroyed by troops, farm huts burned, trying to find food in the forest, going to the plains for rice, closure of the local school

44

12/98

"Pa Noh"

M

16

K

xxxx

K

Blind since his youth, he was alone when SPDC attacked the village and had to flee alone into the forest; wandered alone for over 2 weeks surviving on water and bamboo shoots, shot at by SPDC, fell in a river, finally found other villagers in hiding

45

12/98

"Pi Hser"

F

50+

K

xxxx

K

"Pa Noh"’s mother (see Interview #44); husband shot dead by Burmese Army when "Pa Noh" only 3 months old, fled village 3 times already this year, villagers shot on sight by SPDC, worry for "Pa Noh" when he was lost, then he returned after over 2 weeks with fever and in pain, belongings stolen by SPDC troops, destruction of rice supply

46

12/98

"Saw Lay Muh"

M

48

K

xxxx

K

Fled to xxxx, since then has had to flee twice again, SPDC shot dead his 14-year-old son (Saw Maw Dah) in 11/98, killings of other villagers, rice and belongings destroyed, several villages burned, couldn’t harvest his crop because had to flee

47

12/98

"Pu Ko Suh"

M

60

K

xxxx

K

Living in hiding in the hills, lack of food, then SPDC shot dead 2 of his sons (Saw Nat Noh & Saw Ko Pah) in 11/98, several of his other children have died of disease due to constant flight, his harvested paddy destroyed by SPDC, the rest of his crop lost because he had to flee, feelings about SPDC

48

12/98

"Pu Tha Muh Htoo"

M

75

K

xxxx

K

Fleeing to the forest, lack of food, cut his foot on bamboo and could barely walk during flight, then SPDC came again and he had to flee alone, in the forest alone for 4 nights with only rotten rice, couldn’t walk by the end of it

49

12/98

"Saw Thu"

M

33

K

xxxx

K

Fled when SPDC troops came, villagers and livestock killed by SPDC troops

Villages in Southern Toungoo District

51

5/99

"Naw Htoo Say"

F

22

K

xxxx

T

Three villagers executed by SSS in Dtaw Gone village in April, heard them screaming as the SSS were stabbing them and cutting their throats, SPDC troops ate their livestock, they couldn’t pay rice quota so SPDC piled their rice on the car road and burned it, FL, her brother was taken as a porter for 2-3 months, then couldn’t carry so was beaten almost to death, they had to pay to get him back

52

5/99

"Pu Than Nyunt"

M

60

K

xxxx

T

SSS beating people, not allowing people to farm, fencing the village, forcing villagers to have family photos taken and submit them, will kill anyone they meet who is not in the village photos, enmity between IB 39 and SSS, rape of Burman schoolteacher by SSS

53

5/99

"Saw Lay Muh"

M

42

K

xxxx

T

SSS forced all villagers in Dtaw Gone to go to church, beat all as well as 16 Zee Byu Gone villagers, executed 3 Dtaw Gone villagers, extortion, burning of houses in other villages, burning of farm huts, FL on road, FL fencing their own village, FL as porters, flight to Thailand

54

5/99

"Naw Paw Ghay"

F

34

K

xxxx

T

Some houses in the village burned by SPDC troops, killings by SSS, SPDC demands for money and rice, FL on roads, repeated FR of her village to Taw Ma Aye, now paying bribes not to face FR again