NAME: "Nang Sai" SEX: F AGE: 30 Shan Buddhist farmer
FAMILY: Married, 4 children
ADDRESS: Wan Mai village, Lai Kha township INTERVIEWED: 3/00
["Nang Sai" left Kho Lam relocation site in Nam Zang township a few days before part of the site was burned in an accidental fire on January 24th 2000. She is now living in northern Thailand with her family, working as a field labourer.]
Q: When did you leave your village to go to Kho Lam relocation site?
A: 3 or 4 years ago.
Q: Why did you have to leave?
A: The Burmese soldiers only said, "All of you will be moved." They relocated us to Kho Lam. We had to go.
Q: What did the SPDC do when they came to the village? Did they give you any warning or threaten you?
A: When the Burmese soldiers came to the village, they killed the chickens belonging to the villagers and took them away. The soldiers threatened that if we didn't move, they would burn all our houses. First the soldiers came and told the village head, and he told the villagers. They said we had three days. But before the deadline the soldiers came and drove us out. We all moved together to Kho Lam.
Q: How big was your village?
A: 30 houses.
Q: What were the conditions like at the relocation site?
A: We couldn't carry many things with us to move because we didn't have a lot of things. It was difficult to live and find food in the relocation site. Before when we lived in our original village we could eat 3 times a day. In the relocation site we only had enough to eat once or twice a day.
Q: When did you come to Thailand?
A: It's been more than a month since I left Kho Lam.
Q: Were you there when the fire happened?
A: We were on the way [to Thailand].
Q: Do you know how many houses were burned?
A: 300 houses.
Q: Did you have to do forced labour at the relocation site?
A: Yes. Sometimes we had to go carry water, and sometimes find bamboo or wood for cooking fires. We had to build a military camp and clear the sides of the road. In Kho Lam there are many houses and many villagers so it would be a while before I would have to do forced labour again [they took turns]. Maybe in one month we went 2 or 3 times, but one time might be 10 days long.
We were not allowed to go to our original villages to gather vegetables. It was very difficult to survive in Kho Lam. Sometimes the villagers went back to their original villages to get their animals like cattle or buffaloes, and if the Burmese soldiers saw them they would shoot them. Sometimes the village men went back to pick their vegetables and crops. The Burmese soldiers killed them like they would kill a chicken or a bird. If the Burmese killed our husbands, we had to stay in the relocation site and do forced labour for them.
Q: Were children allowed to go to school?
A: Before when we lived in our original village, the children went to school. But when we went to Kho Lam, my children didn't go to school because I didn't have enough food to give my children for lunch.
Q: What was the main reason that you left?
A: Because it was difficult to survive and to find food.
Q: Were you afraid that the soldiers would harm you while you lived in Kho Lam?
A: The Burmese soldiers ordered us to work for them. If we didn't go to work for them, they beat us and tortured us.
Q: Did you know of anyone who was killed in the relocation site?
A: I heard about many incidents of Burmese soldiers killing villagers, but I only knew one. He was my Uncle. He went back to his village to gather vegetables and the Burmese shot him. When we moved to the site I didn't carry anything with us; I only had the clothes on my back. I didn't carry food or any of our animals. So soon after we got there our Uncle went back to look for our animals and for food. The Burmese soldiers found him on the way and shot him.
Q: Were the villagers who were killed mainly people who went back to their old villages and were caught by the Burmese?
A: Yes. Some people didn't have enough food in the relocation site, so they returned to their villages to get food. But also many people tried to forage just outside of the relocation site, and the soldiers didn't allow us to go outside so they killed them.
Q: Were women afraid of getting raped by soldiers inside the relocation sites?
A: Yes. We were always afraid. Many women were raped when they went outside the relocation site and were found by the Burmese. I was never raped by Burmese soldiers, but I heard women crying and yelling out, "Help me!" Some women got sick after they were raped [with sexually transmitted diseases].
Q: Was there a lot of begging at Kho Lam by people who didn't have food?
A: Yes. There are many Shan beggars in Kho Lam, but no Chinese or Indians because they have shops.
Q: How many houses from your original village have come to Thailand?
A: I don't know because the villagers don't tell each other when they will come to Thailand. Some come to Thailand by foot. All of the villagers moved to the relocation site together, and some have enough food, but some come to Thailand. Some have moved to Nam Jan.
Q: What do most people know about Thailand before they come?
A: I heard from other people that in Thailand it is easy to find food and earn money to feed our families. I don't have work yet because I arrived only one month ago, but I found an employer already.
NAME: "Sai Kham" SEX: M AGE: 25 Shan Buddhist farmer
ADDRESS: Nam Khai village, Lai Kha township INTERVIEWED: 3/00
["Sai Kham"'s village was relocated twice; the second time the SPDC burned the village so there was no option of returning. After living in a relocation site for some time, he fled to Thailand in hopes of earning enough money to survive.]
Q: When did you come to Thailand?
A: 5 or 6 days ago.
Q: How did you get here?
A: By truck. We walked from Nam Khai to Nam Jan.
Q: How long did the journey take you?
A: It took us 6 nights. We had a problem on the way.
Q: Why did you decide to leave?
A: Our village was relocated to Nam Wan, so no one lives in our village anymore. We moved to a relocation site and we didn't have a field. It was difficult to live and to find food. The relocation site is 4 hours walk by foot from our original village. It was between Nam Wo and Nam Wan village. Nam Wo is east of our village.
Q: When was your village relocated there?
A: In '97. First I went to live in the relocation site, then we went to ask the Burmese officer for permission to come back to our village for a short time. So we came back to live and work in Nam Khai. In September '98 another group of soldiers came to our village and ordered us to move again. Then they burned our whole village and then we moved to Nam Wan again. We came here from Nam Wan.
Q: Which Battalion of SPDC troops came to your village and burned it?
A: #247 [Infantry Battalion] from Nam Jan.
Q: Did they give the villagers any warning before they burned the village?
A: The soldiers didn't say anything. They came to our village at 4:00 in the evening. They told us to take our things down to the ground and they gave us one hour. This season was our working season and we were very busy. By 5:00 we couldn't move all of our things, but the soldiers burned all of our houses. Only two houses were left out of thirty. We could save only one third of our things, and the Burmese took away the good things that they liked, then they burned the rest.
Q: Did they also burn the rice?
A: They burned the paddy with the houses, and they scattered the rice on the street.
Q: Was anyone harmed?
A: The soldiers gathered the villagers in Nam Khai and took them in bullock carts, even some old people. They arrested all the villagers and detained them in Nam Wo Khao Sein for 2 days. After that, they took them to their office in Nam Jan town. They took only the mother of some villagers, or only the daughter of others. The commander questioned the villagers, "Have you seen Shan soldiers or not?" They beat and tortured them, and some were afraid and ill, and some died. All the young men were tied and beaten on the way to Nam Wo Khao Sein. They kicked the villagers. One old woman named Nai Nu was beaten and kicked, and she died at home after she came back. They arrested more than 30 villagers. Some were children, even a baby 2-3 months old. They didn't arrest the mother, only the baby. The other villagers had to collect money and pay for their release. They just seized anyone they could get their hands on. The villagers paid for their release and they were released. Then the villagers hired 3 small trologies [small Chinese tractors] to drive themselves back to Nam Wan [the relocation site where they were ordered to go].
Q: How many villagers in total live in your village?
A: 70 villagers in our original village. At the time the Burmese came there were 50 in the village, and they arrested 30. Many young men worked in the fields and didn't come back because they were afraid. The people who stayed at home were arrested by the Burmese. I ran away. If the Burmese soldiers grabbed our arms we couldn't run, but if they didn't then we could run away.
Q: Did they shoot at anyone when they came into the village?
A: When they burned a house, they also shot into that house. They didn't kill anyone.
Q: Where are the villagers living now?
A: Most of them are in Nam Wan [relocation site].
Q: Why did you decide to leave at the moment that you did?
A: Because we didn't have a field in Nam Wan. We are not original villagers there, so we were day workers. Sometimes we went back to work at our original village, but the Burmese soldiers found us and shot at us. Since we were not allowed to go back to our village, we didn't have land to work to get food. I could not go back to my village to farm my own land. There was no work to do. We heard people say that at least we can survive on small wages in Thailand. We had to borrow money from our relatives and come to Thailand.
NAME: "Sai Heng" SEX: M AGE: 30 Shan Buddhist farmer
FAMILY: Married, 3 children
ADDRESS: Nong Harn village, Murng Pan township INTERVIEWED: 3/00
["Sai Heng" fled a relocation site in Hwe Mark Pun village, Murng Pan township and went to Thailand. He fled with a group of 12 villagers originally from Nong Harn and Nam Tong.]
Q: When did you come to Thailand?
A: On the 12th [of the Shan lunar calendar during the waning moon; late February 2000 by the Gregorian calendar].
Q: Why did you decide to leave your village?
A: We didn't have food so it was hard to survive. It was difficult to stay there, and difficult to go anywhere near the village. It was difficult to enter the jungle; if they saw us in the jungle outside the relocation site they would shoot us.
Q: Did you know of anybody who was shot by the SPDC?
Q: Were they your friends or your family?
A: Yes, fellow villagers from Hwe Mark Pun [relocation site]. 3 people. Old men.
Q: What were the circumstances of their deaths?
A: They went out to forage for food and to catch fish in the stream.
Q: Were they found by the SPDC while they were looking for food?
A: Yes. If the SPDC finds villagers, they don't ask any questions. As soon as they saw them they shot them. Two of them escaped but three were shot dead. Five people went out together but two managed to escape.
Q: How did you find out about this?
A: The two who escaped came and told us that 3 of our friends were shot dead. In Nong Harn [his home village] one other man was also killed. That man went into the jungle to get resin and he met a group of SPDC soldiers on the way, then they arrested him and killed him. He had gone out to gather resin and bamboo to take to the relocation site to build his shelter.
In Nong Harn the SPDC arrested many of us and killed one villager. They cut off his nose and killed him. Twenty villagers were tied up together at that time. When they came to relocate the village they arrested and tied us. They tied us two by two around our necks. They tied our hands behind us. They beat two village leaders. The SPDC told them to pay them one bahtweight of gold each. The two men paid them the gold because the SPDC had beaten them in the head and their blood was gushing out. The two men gave the gold and they released them. The two men who the SPDC beat were the head man and the one who helped the village head [his assistant]. They killed Aye Nya, but they didn't ask him to give any gold beforehand; they just killed him.
Q: What did the SPDC say when they came to the village and tied everyone up?
A: The SPDC didn't say anything; they gathered all the villagers in the center of the village and tied them up. Some people ran away, but the people who stayed in the village were tied up. They took the two leaders to a separate place. They covered their heads with plastic tarps and trampled them. Then they forced them to pay the gold.
Q: Do you know which unit number of SPDC troops did this?
A: I don't know their number but they were based in Murng Pan township.
Q: Were the villagers that they tied men or also women and children?
A: [There were] two women also.
Q: How many villagers were in your original village?
A: About 35-36 houses. When they came to gather people in the village, not all the people were in the village. Some were outside gathering food or doing their daily work.
Q: Did they give you any time to gather your things before you went to the relocation site?
A: They came and ordered us to move on the same day, and if we didn't finish they said they would burn our houses that day.
Q: Did they tell you where they would move you?
A: No, they didn't tell us. They told us "Go and find your relatives and stay with your relatives near the town [Murng Pan]." They said they would kill all the people who refused to leave.
Q: Did you have any people who could not move, like the sick or old?
A: No. For the old people we used bullock carts. Everybody moved, even the monks.
Q: Could you take anything with you?
A: Yes, we were allowed to take our things, but we could only take about one third of what we had.
Q: What about your food, could you bring that with you?
A: Some of us could take our food, but some could not. The SPDC took everything that the villagers could not take with us.
His wife: We only had one day to take all of our things. The SPDC didn't allow us to leave anything in the village.
A: Some villagers were rich and they had time to take their money and their gold.
His wife: But we were poor and we didn't have many things.
A: We didn't have anything, and we also didn't have time to take anything.
Q: When you were in the relocation site, what was your primary source of food? Did you have enough rice?
A: If they allowed us to go outside the relocation site, we could find some food. When they didn't allow us to go outside, we could only buy 10 milk tins [enough rice for a few meals]. Sometimes we went to the jungle near the relocation site and foraged for vegetables, then we sold them in town. If we got a lot of money from selling them, we could buy rice. Sometimes we didn't have anything to eat. They [the SPDC] didn't give us anything.
Q: Where did you buy rice?
A: We went to buy it in town [Murng Pan].
Q: Did you have to make your own houses?
A: Yes, we had to cut wood and bamboo by ourselves and build our own shelters.
Q: What if you got sick, was there any medicine available?
A: No, they didn't give us anything, but we went to the hospital in Murng Pan. We had to buy medicine at the hospital.
Q: Could you afford to buy it?
A: After we worked we would buy medicine, but we had to wait until we had money. When we were sick we went to the hospital and then we came back and had to work to pay them back. But sometimes the SPDC didn't allow us to go to the jungle to get vegetables to sell to get money.
Q: Did you have to do forced labour at the relocation site?
A: Yes. They forced us to cut wood and bamboo to build the military camp, and we had to dismantle houses and the monastery in Ba Ka village and Wan Lan village. These two villages had already been relocated.
Q: What did they do with the materials once they had dismantled them?
A: They used them to build the military camps.
Q: How many times did you have to go for forced labour per week or per month?
A: We had to go and do forced labour 20 times for every 10 times [days] we could do our own work. Only the village head was spared from forced labour.
Q: Did you also have to porter for the Burmese?
A: Yes. Some had to go for a month or half a month. When we went to porter, the SPDC yoked the porters together.
Q: What were the conditions like for porters?
A: They beat us if we couldn't carry our loads properly and if we couldn't go fast enough. Some were also killed. I had to go so many times.
Q: Were you ever beaten or tortured?
A: Yes, I was beaten once. I was carrying rice and I couldn't climb up a steep mountain, so I was beaten. Then they pushed me from behind with a stick to make me go.
Q: Did they collect the porters from your village or from your relocation site?
A: At the relocation site in Hwe Mark Pun.
Q: Did you have to go once a month?
A: We went 4 or 5 times a month. I also had to porter in Nong Harn [before he was relocated]. If the village is far from town, the SPDC tortures the villagers. They always took us for forced labour. We went on rotation. Sometimes they took our mules and horses, and sometimes people, about 7 or 8 at a time. They also shot loose cattle from the villages, wherever they found them. No less than 200 cattle have already been shot.
Q: When they used to come to the village, did they steal a lot of your things?
A: They didn't ask for anything, they just took what they wanted: chickens, pigs, and everything. They just took it in front of the villagers' eyes.
Q: Did they do the same at the relocation site?
A: Yes, sometimes they also did it at the relocation site, but not as badly as in Nong Harn because ours was a remote village, and the relocation site was near their camps. Sometimes they arrested the village leaders.
Q: Did they detain them for a long time?
A: Yes, they usually detained the village leaders until they got what they wanted. They asked for money and when the money was paid they released them. The villagers usually had to collect money among themselves to pay for the release of their leaders.
Q: Was travel restricted in your village, or could you go to your fields?
A: In the village, before they came to relocate the villagers, the villagers could plant their rice anywhere they liked. But after we moved to the relocation site we were restricted to the site and we were not allowed to go out. They took two men off the street of the relocation site, then went out of the village and beat them. They didn't say anything [they didn't explain why], but afterwards we found out they [the soldiers] were drunk.
Q: Now that you are in Thailand, what type of future do you see? Would you like to stay here, or if it is possible would you like to go to a refugee camp?
A: If we are allowed to work and if there is work to be done, and if the Thai people employ us, we would like to work. But if it's difficult to get work, then we would like to stay in the camps.
Q: Do you have enough food and supplies now to stay here while you work?
A: Work is not always available so sometimes it is difficult. But we just manage to survive. We want to be able to live peacefully.
Q: Do you feel safe in Thailand, even though sometimes the police cause problems for you?
A: Yes, we feel safe here and a bit happier. The main thing we worry about is getting work; even if the police give us trouble it's not as bad as the Burmese soldiers.
Q: Are you the main family provider? How many people can work?
A: There are 5 members in our family. Three are able to work.
NAME: "Sai Seng" SEX: M AGE: 37 Shan Buddhist farmer
FAMILY: Married, children
ADDRESS: Nong Harn village, Murng Pan township INTERVIEWED: 3/00
["Sai Seng" fled Hwe Mark Pun relocation site to Thailand in late February 2000.]
Q: Did you have to do forced labour at the relocation site?
A: We had to cut bamboo and dismantle the fences in the deserted villages that had already been relocated. They used it[the materials from villagers' abandoned homes] to build the military camp. Some days we went to villages that had already been relocated, gathered the cattle and buffaloes and brought them to the military camp. We had to kill the animals for the soldiers. We couldn't tell them that we couldn't go. We had to take sharp knives with us to cut bamboo and kill the animals. Every three days we had to do forced labour for one day. Each time they took 15-20 villagers to do forced labour. If the paddy was ready to thresh, we would do it for the soldiers [in fields the military had confiscated]. We were forced to sell our own rice to the Burmese military. We couldn't do anything about it. If they ordered us to work for them, we had to go.
People had to do forced labour every day. If a husband has to porter, then the wife has to go to forced labour. They can't say, "I don't want to go to forced labour because my husband already went to porter." They can't stay at home freely, they have to do forced labour. The husband is a porter, the wife works forced labour, and the children go begging in town.
Some children went to school but we had to pay for the school teacher. We didn't have enough money so we asked other villagers for it. When we left we told them that we were going to Murng Ton [the bordering township to Murng Pan, across the Salween River], not to Thailand.
Q: When you were in the relocation site, did the Burmese military allow you to go outside?
A: The villagers go to the areas around the relocation site and work the fields [hire themselves out for a daily wage]. We can only hire ourselves out to work by the day. When the paddy was yellow and ready to harvest, we made a big stack. Then the Burmese soldiers ordered us to return to the relocation site, and during the night the Burmese soldiers went to the fields and threshed the paddy for themselves. The soldiers forced someone to drive a trology [small Chinese tractor which can haul a small cart] from town to the field, then to carry the paddy back to the camp. When the field owner went to the field to collect his paddy, there was only a little bit left.
After 5:00 in the evening, the Burmese soldiers did not allow us to walk on the road outside the village [relocation site], and if they saw us they would shoot us. We couldn't have our own fields, because the villagers already owned the fields around the relocation site.
Q: Were there villagers who chose not to come to the relocation sites and stayed in the jungle instead?
A: We didn't have anyone from Nong Harn village who went to live in the jungle. I didn't hear about other villagers staying in the jungle. At the time of relocation, we didn't have anything with us. I didn't have anything with me and I went to work in the fields with other villagers. If we didn't have work we asked other people to give us money.
Q: Did the soldiers threaten you when they ordered you to relocate?
A: They beat us and tied us. They threatened to kill us and burn down the village. After they relocated us to Hwe Mark Pun they didn't allow us to go back to our village, so we don't know if they burned it all or not. But I saw the Burmese soldiers burn 5 houses in our village. They didn't allow us to go back; if we went back they would have killed us. We were afraid to go back.
Q: Do you know about other villages who were able to bribe the soldiers to deter forced relocation?
A: Whether we paid money to soldiers or not, it didn't matter. They ordered us to move to the relocation site, and if we didn't move we would have been killed. It was the same for other villagers. Sometimes villagers wanted to collect vegetables from their old villages and when the Burmese soldiers saw them they killed them.
Q: How many households were in Hwe Mark Pun village?
A: The total number of houses in Nam Tong and Nong Harn and Hwe Mark Pun was 100. Hwe Mark Pun had only 50 houses.
Q: Were there any villagers who wanted to go back to their original villages and were granted permission to go back by the Burmese?
A: They didn't allow us to go back. People who owned cattle and buffaloes couldn't take them to the relocation site, and the Burmese killed them all for food. If we portered for the Burmese and went near our old villages, we could see them[their old villages], but that was all.
Q: How do you feel about staying in Thailand? Do you want to work in the fields or stay in a refugee camp?
A: We are not as happy as when we lived on our own land. But if we work every day and we get money to live day to day to eat and survive, it's okay. It is better for us to live here than in Shan State. If we can stay together in a camp and have friends, it is good. But we want to work every day. If we were allowed to work, it would be better to live there [in a refugee camp].
Q: When you lived in Shan State, what did you hear about Thailand?
A: Other people told us that Thailand is more peaceful than Shan State. In Shan State we couldn't work and we didn't have enough food. In Thailand we were told that even if we couldn't work every day [because they wouldn't be hired], we would still have enough food.
Q: When you came to Thailand, where did you cross the border? Did you have any problems along the way?
A: No, we didn't have any problems on the way. We crossed near Bang Ma village [Fang area]. Near the border we passed one Burmese gate. The Burmese soldiers took our ID cards because we told them, "We will go to Thailand in the morning and come back in the evening." But we didn't go back to collect our ID cards.
NAME: "Loong Aw" SEX: M AGE: 50 Shan Buddhist farmer
FAMILY: Married, children
ADDRESS: Narn Tong village, Murng Pan township INTERVIEWED: 3/00
["Loong Aw" arrived in Thailand less than 2 weeks before he was interviewed. He had been living in Hwe Mark Pun relocation site for more than a year after the SPDC relocated his village.]
Q: Why did you have to leave?
A: They didn't permit us to leave our village [to go outside the village boundary], then the Burmese soldiers moved us. They came to the village and told us to move. They threatened us and tied us up and beat us. They killed three people.
Q: What were the names of those they killed?
A: Chit Ta was one man. Jan Tee Ma was another one. Dtee Ya [was the other man]. They were cutting bamboo and floating it down the river, then the Burmese troops came and found them and killed them. They saw them and then they killed them. They had done nothing wrong. They came and saw those people and killed them, then they told the village to move.
Q: How long did they give you to move?
A: 3 days. The time was too short for us to take all our things, and our village was far from the town [Murng Pan, where they were told to move].
Q: Did they threaten that if you hadn't moved by this day they would do something to you?
A: They said they would shoot all of us dead. They also burned all the rice and paddy that we left behind. They burned the paddy barn so we didn't get anything to eat at the relocation site.
Q: What about the rest of your belongings?
A: It was all burned, so we didn't have anything.
Q: Did you have any money at the relocation site? How did you get food?
A: I asked my relatives. They are villagers from [Hwe] Mark Pun.
Q: Did your relatives take care of you or could you find a job there?
A: The villagers from Mark Pun gave me a place to build a shelter. The villagers didn't give us food, so we had to find it. We went into the jungle to find vegetables, but if the SPDC soldiers saw us they killed us. We found vegetables and then sold them in Murng Pan and bought rice.
Q: Did you have enough food when you were there?
A: No, it was not enough. Sometimes we had to do without meals.
Q: What about when you got sick? What did you do?
A: We went to buy medicine in Murng Pan town, and when we didn't have any money we just borrowed from the shop.
Q: Were you afraid of the Burmese in the relocation site? Did you have to hide from them?
A: Yes, all the time we were afraid of the Burmese soldiers. Sometimes we had to hide and go sleep somewhere else [the men had to flee the site periodically when the soldiers came looking for porters.].
Q: Did you ever have to hide in the jungle for a long period of time to escape the Burmese?
A: We had to hide in the jungle for 2 or 3 days sometimes. Mostly we didn't have anything to eat, but sometimes if our relatives knew where we were they managed to bring food to us. Most of the time the men had to run away, but sometimes the women and children also had to hide.
Q: Did they call you often for forced labour and portering?
A: Yes. Many times. Usually the porters were yoked up to poles they used to carry their loads. Mostly men had to go for portering, and women and children had to go to do other forced labour, and sometimes women had to follow the bullock carts[hauling things for SPDC troops].
Q: Did you ever hear of anyone in the relocation site who was killed or tortured by the soldiers?
A: They came and took some people away and beat them almost to death. But I don't know why, because they hadn't disobeyed or anything like that. One person was killed. He was a villager from Hwe Mark Pun village. His name was Wah Li. He was 30 years old.
Q: Why did you decide to come to Thailand?
A: Because of the oppression by the Burmese soldiers. We could not go out of the relocation site to farm or do anything, and if we were found we would be killed.
Q: Did you decide to come with only your family, or did you come with other villagers as well?
A: With other villagers. We came in a big group. There were 12 of us.
Q: Did you have to leave secretly?
A: We just went out of the site because there were no soldiers guarding it, and no one to see us. The driver had to tell the soldiers [at road checkpoints] that we were going to Murng Ton [township, across the Salween River from Murng Pan township], not that we were going to Thailand. We came by truck.
Woman: Whenever we stopped to sleep, we had to pay for the night. There were guesthouses along the way, so we had to pay the owners. We had to pay 200 Kyat per person per night. We didn't have enough money. We could only eat rice for each meal[they couldn't buy curry or anything else to eat with their rice].
A: We spent about 10,000 Kyat each.
NAME: "Sai Harn" SEX: M AGE: 40 Shan Buddhist farmer/fisher
FAMILY: Married, 6 children
ADDRESS: Wo Long village, Kun Hing township INTERVIEWED: 3/00
["Sai Harn" arrived in Thailand 3 days before he was interviewed. He was internally displaced for nearly 3 years, living on an island with his family in the middle of the Nam Pang River. On his way to Thailand, he floated down the Salween River on a raft and observed the final survey work on the Salween dam project.]
Q: When was the last time you were in your original village?
A: We were living in Nga Tang and then we left for Thailand. We lived in the fields because we are poor and we didn't have anything. We have many children, a big family, so we didn't move. We didn't try to move anywhere [to the relocation site]; we decided to live there even though we didn't have enough food and we always worried for the future and whether the Burmese soldiers would come and kill us. But we didn't die, and we came to Thailand.
Q: Where did you go instead of being relocated?
A: We lived on an island in the Nam Pang [River]. In Kun Hing township.
Q: How long did you live on the island?
A: More than 2 years. It will be 3 years in the coming 6th month [of the Shan lunar calendar, or May 2000 on the Gregorian calendar].
Q: How did you survive there?
A: If the Burmese soldiers didn't come around there, we went out and foraged for food. Sometimes we went to our original village and found some food there. Sometimes we bought rice and food from Kali town. If soldiers were around, we didn't go, but if there were no soldiers then we could get food from Kali. If we met soldiers, we threw away our food and ran away.
Q: Were there a lot of soldiers in that area?
A: If they came they came with one, two, or three officers. But there is no permanent camp in this area.
Q: Can you describe what happened when the SPDC came to your village?
A: People live in the jungle and they are afraid to face the soldiers. If we heard that soldiers were marching or if we found their tracks, we were afraid and we hid. We stayed quiet and made no movement.
The Burmese soldiers came to our village twice and ordered us to move. The first time they came they ordered us to move on the full moon of that month, and the village head talked to them and asked for more time. Then the Burmese soldiers gave us permission to stay in the original village. After 15 days the officer changed [because the troops rotated], and they came again to our village. They told us again to move in the 6th month [of the Shan lunar calendar, or May by the Gregorian calendar], then we moved that day.
Q: Did all the villagers go to the relocation site when they ordered you to move, or did many go to the jungle like you?
A: They relocated to 3 places: Kali town, Kun Hing town, and Nam Karn village. They ordered us to move to the northern part of Kun Hing, but I don't know the name of the village. Many people stayed in the jungle like us. Only a few villagers went to the relocation site, but many more lived in the jungle like me. The villagers who lived in the jungle were big families, and didn't move to the town because we worried that we would have to build a house and find food for all of us. All of the villages in the Keng Kham tract were ordered to relocate on the same day. They gave us 3 days, and if we hadn't moved in 3 days the Burmese soldiers would have shot us dead.
Q: Did you serve as a porter before or after you were relocated?
A: I lived on the island and the Burmese soldiers couldn't find us, so we didn't go to porter. Before when we lived in the village, I wasn't a porter but I had to pay porter fees.
Q: Other villagers have said that the Burmese gave permission for villagers to come back to their original village near Keng Kham, and then when they came back the Burmese found them and killed 19 of them. Did you hear about this news?
A: I heard about it, but I didn't see it myself. I didn't see the dead bodies. This happened in the 2nd month [of the Shan lunar calendar, or January]. It's true they all really died, but we don't know the place where they died. They didn't come back home [to the area around their original village where they had been hiding with other displaced villagers]. Their original village was Kun Pu. 19 villagers were killed, and 3 were women.
Q: Who did you hear this news from?
A: The Burmese soldiers took a porter. There were 20 villagers in all. They killed 19 and took one as a porter. He was only a porter for one day and then he ran away and came back to tell other people the news. There were other porters with them, too. The villagers were going to a ceremony for the guardian spirits of Keng Kham village tract at Meh Hin Tang. The 20 people did not come from the relocation site. They had been living in the jungle, and then they were going to the ceremony and the Burmese soldiers met them on the path and took them away. Those people had gone back to their original village and cleared a place for their houses, but they didn't die at that time because the soldiers didn't find them. First they all went to their original village and cleared it, then they went back to their hiding place in the jungle. The next day some went to the ceremony and the Burmese found them and took them. The soldiers found them on the path, then they shot over their heads, so they were afraid to run away. Then they took them to another place and killed them later, but no one knows where. The Burmese soldiers didn't kill them at that place. [According to other testimonies, there were actually 2 different massacres: one on January 30th where 19 villagers died and one on February 12th where 20 villagers were shot. Both massacres occurred in the Keng Kham area around the same time, so it appears that this villager has confused the details of the two. Most of the details he gives are about the February 12th massacre of the Kun Pu villagers, but the people who had 'gone back and cleared a place for their houses' were those who were killed in the January 30th Keng Kham massacre. KHRG has been unable to substantiate the report of these massacres with eyewitness accounts, but there is sufficient evidence from other sources to give a full account of the incidents. More complete details have been gathered by the Shan Human Rights Foundation and were reported in their newsletters of February and March 2000.]
Q: Did they torture them when they took them away?
A: I don't know. The Burmese soldiers took them and the villagers didn't see them again. No one knows what happened to them[though the porter who escaped saw them get shot]. They didn't come back home.
Q: How did you meet that porter and hear the story from him?
A: I didn't meet the porter, but the porter talked to our villagers and the villagers talked to me. A friend from my village went to buy rice up north, and he heard the news from the porter.
They didn't return, so everyone believed that they were dead. They didn't return to their hiding place or their relatives, and the relatives believed that they were killed. The man who heard this news from the porter didn't ask if there were any other porters [taken on the day of the massacre]. He [the porter] was anxious to tell his story about how he escaped.
Q: Did you hear that the Burmese soldiers had given them permission to come back to their original village?
A: No. They allowed people to go to stay at Wan Lao. They distributed leaflets announcing that anyone who wanted to go to stay at Wan Lao could go [people from that original village who had been staying in relocation sites could go back]. The villagers from Keng Kham tract had permission to live in Wan Lao if they wanted to. People from everywhere, from Keng Kham and Keng Lom village tracts, went to live in Wan Lao. People who were relocated to Kali are now moving to Wan Lao. I don't know how many people live in Wan Lao, but I know that many have moved there.
Q: The people who are hiding in the jungle, have they ever been to a relocation site?
A: No. I only stayed on the island.
Q: Did you fish when you were living in the jungle?
A: Yes. That's the main food. We caught enough to eat one day to the next, then we also sold them to buy food.
Q: Did you set up another village in the jungle, or did you have to keep moving from place to place to avoid the soldiers?
A: Yes, there were different kinds of shelters depending on how big the family was. We stayed on a remote island where the Burmese soldiers didn't want to go.
Q: Did you have a school on the island?
Q: What about medical care?
A: Sometimes when we managed to get to Kali or Kun Hing we could buy things from them.
Q: During the time you lived on the island, did Burmese soldiers kill any of your villagers?
A: No. A few days after they relocated us, some villagers went back to the village to get their things. Then some soldiers shot them in the fields. During the time we lived in the jungle we just heard about the 19 people they killed.
Q: Why did you decide to come to Thailand?
A: It became very difficult to do anything to make a living. We couldn't work our fields in the old village because if the soldiers found us, they would shoot us. We heard that if we came to work in Thailand, we would have enough to stay here and eat.
Q: Are you able to find work here?
A: Yes. We are picking onions in the fields.
Q: Do you have a family to support?
A: Yes, 6 children. Two of my older daughters are already married and I have two sons-in-law. We have two grandchildren. One of my nephews and his wife and child came along.
Q: Did you have to leave secretly with your family?
A: I told my relatives that I would go to Thailand. We just came because there was no one to be afraid of then. There were no soldiers around then.
Q: Did you walk?
A: We walked to the Salween River. We followed the Nam Pang until it got to the Salween, then we crossed near Murng Pu Long village in Murng Paeng township. We could not walk along the trail because we had to hide. Then we took a raft down the Salween River. Then we crossed to the eastern side of the Salween into Murng Paeng. We rafted down the Salween again for one day and one night. We crossed at Ta Sala. Then we went to Murng Ton by truck.
Q: How long did it take you?
A: 2 days and 1 night from Keng Kham to Ta Sala.
Q: Did you see any machines by the Salween River?
A: Yes, I saw drilling machines on both sides of the bank and some were sucking water and drilling. 3 machines on each bank. All together 6, but 3 on each side on 2 hills [aligned on 2 hills across the river from each other]. One was on the top, one in the middle, and one below on both banks. It was at Tang Ba Lai. It's upriver on the Salween. I saw Shan and Thai workers on both sides. There were Burmese too. I saw military camps on both sides. I didn't see everyone in the camp, but I think there were about 25 [soldiers] in each camp. I saw many workers, maybe 40 or 50. Shan workers get 500 Kyat per day. The Shan people were from around that area near the Salween. I know because we passed near them, and we had to stop at the Burmese military camp. We stopped and talked to the Shan workers for one hour [while they waited for the guards to decide if they could pass or not] and they told us all about it. We had to show them our ID cards when we were on the raft, but we said we didn't have ID cards because we were hiding in the jungle. The Burmese soldiers didn't say anything and they allowed us to pass there. We'd brought along some chickens and the soldiers even bought some of our chickens.
Q: Did the soldiers fine you for passing through?
A: No. The Burmese said, "Where do you come from?" We told the truth, "We come from Keng Kham."
Q: Did you see Thai people there also?
A: Yes, I saw them operating machines. The Shan also said that there were Thais among the workers. They were Thai workers[civilians], not Thai soldiers.
Q: Did the workers have camps by the river?
A: They had set up tents on the river bank. The tents had plastic tarps.
Q: Did anyone know when the dam would start being built, or what the plan was for building?
A: I asked the Shan workers, "Brother, do you know what you are building?" They said they didn't know what is going to be built there. They didn't tell the workers that they were building a dam. The people who live near the Salween River told me that they are building a dam. They told me when I got to Ta Sala.
NAME: "Sai Long" SEX: M AGE: 25 Shan Buddhist farmer
FAMILY: Married, one child
ADDRESS: Wan Lao village, Kun Hing township INTERVIEWED: 3/00
["Sai Long" left for Thailand from his village and arrived 5 days prior to being interviewed. Originally from Wan Lao, he was forced to move to Kun Hing, then forced to move again back to Wan Lao and to help build a new SPDC Army camp there. Now he is hiring himself out as a day labourer and living with other displaced Shan refugees in northern Thailand.]
Q: Why did you decide to come to Thailand?
A: Because it was difficult to make a living.
Q: What has changed to make it difficult for you to make a living now, and not before?
A: In the past Wan Lao was relocated to Kun Hing town. Last year when it was raining and we were planting rice [around June/July 1999], the Burmese soldiers allowed us to go back to live in Wan Lao village. The original villagers in Wan Lao already owned the fields. We were original villagers from Wan Lao but we didn't have any fields. I had worked a hill field but it is far from our village and the Burmese soldiers didn't allow us to go far from the village. So I had to hire myself for day labour in the fields. The soldiers only allowed us to go in the morning and come back in the evening. If our fields are very far, it takes a long time to walk there and come back. If we go in one day, we have no time to work because we have to walk so far.
Q: Did the Burmese restrict the movement of the villagers?
A: If we had to work outside our village we had to take rice with us, only enough for one meal. We had to get a travel pass from the Burmese, then we could go in the morning and come back in the evening, but we couldn't stay overnight. Now many villagers are coming to live in Wan Lao because many people from other places have been given permission to come to Wan Lao. There is not much free land to be found. I had to go far away to farm. There was no time to do any work because it ran out on the way [because he could only go for one day, he had to spend all his time travelling and did not have enough time to work his fields].
Q: Did the Burmese threaten to do anything if you disobeyed that order?
A: The Burmese issued us a travel pass for only one day. If we slept at our farms for one or two nights, and the Burmese came to ask us for our papers and it was past the date, then we had to pay them 3,000 Kyat.
Q: Did the Burmese ever arrest or torture people if they overstayed their passes?
A: If the soldiers find out that you have stayed out longer than you were allowed, they fine you. The poor people cannot afford to pay, so they run away. If they caught them when they tried to run away, they arrested them. Then they beat them and tortured them. Some soldiers only beat them but some soldiers beat them until they almost died. Three of my relatives were beaten: my uncle, my cousin, and my brother. This was last year during the rice planting time.
Q: Were your relatives beaten inside the relocation site or outside?
Q: What other types of physical abuse do the villagers suffer from the Burmese?
A: They kick and slap the faces of villagers who don't listen to their orders.
Q: Did they only harm the men?
A: Mostly men.
Q: Did they ever rape any of the women in the village?
A: Yes, twice I heard that women were raped, but I don't know their names because those women were from another relocation site [before Wan Lao]. The women were going to their workplace which is 2 hours away by foot from Wan Lao. The Burmese soldiers saw them and went to rape them.
Q: How long did you have to stay in the first relocation site before you could come back to Wan Lao?
A: First we were relocated to Kun Hing town, and then we were allowed to come back. Then we had to build a military camp in Wan Lao. The troops at Wan Lao have been forcing the villagers to work.
Q: Did they send you back to Wan Lao so you could do forced labour?
A: Yes, because there has been no one to take care of the fields around Wan Lao since the villagers have been relocated. If you use one basket of paddy, you have to give the Burmese one basket of rice after the harvest. Sometimes the soldiers don't want rice but they want money.
Q: Do you have anything left for yourself?
A: If we plant one basket and we get a lot of rice, then we only give the Burmese one basket and we still have a lot. If we want to sell to other people and get money, then we can. We get a lot of rice if the animals don't come into the fields and eat our rice. We don't have permission to sleep in the fields, so we can't guard them at night. We can't protect our fields.
Q: Did farmers have to buy rice because you didn't have enough?
A: Yes. Out of our harvest, we had to pay the buffalo owners to plough the fields [they pay in rice for the use of buffaloes to plough], and we had to buy paddy to plant, and then we had to pay people to help us plant and harvest and thresh, and then we had to pay people to carry the rice back to the village, then we had to pay taxes to the Burmese. If the growing time has finished [and the paddy is ready to harvest] and animals come to eat our rice, then we lose the rice and we have to buy rice to pay the Burmese soldiers.
Q: How much does one basket of rice cost?
A: 1,600 Kyat for a basket of sticky-rice. It's cheaper than rice.
Q: Do you have any idea how long you want to live in Thailand?
A: No, I don't have a plan. I would like to stay here as long as the situation is bad in my home village. I would like to return when it's safer.