INTERVIEW ANNEX to: STARVING THEM OUT: Forced Relocations, Killings and the Systematic Starvation of Villagers in Dooplaya District

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INTERVIEW ANNEX to: STARVING THEM OUT: Forced Relocations, Killings and the Systematic Starvation of Villagers in Dooplaya District

Published date:
Friday, March 31, 2000

This document is an Annex to the Karen Human Rights Group report "Starving Them Out" (KHRG #2000-02, 31/3/00). It contains the full texts of Interviews #1-39 and Field Reports #FR1-FR5 which are directly quoted and referenced in the main report. These interviews were conducted by KHRG field researchers between January 1999 and January 2000 with people who have fled to Thailand to become refugees and internally displaced people in Dooplaya District. KHRG would like to thank the human rights section of the Federated Trade Unions of Burma (FTUB), which contributed interview #39. These interviews, combined with other background interviews not reproduced here, were used as the foundation of KHRG Report 2000-02.

Some details have been removed or replaced by ‘xxxx’ for Internet distribution.

This document is an Annex to the Karen Human Rights Group report "Starving Them Out" (KHRG #2000-02, 31/3/00). It contains the full texts of Interviews #1-39 and Field Reports #FR1-FR5 which are directly quoted and referenced in the main report. These interviews were conducted by KHRG field researchers between January 1999 and January 2000 with people who have fled to Thailand to become refugees and internally displaced people in Dooplaya District. KHRG would like to thank the human rights section of the Federated Trade Unions of Burma (FTUB), which contributed interview #39. These interviews, combined with other background interviews not reproduced here, were used as the foundation of KHRG Report 2000-02.

For a detailed analysis of the situation in Dooplaya District, see the body of the main report #2000-02, "Starving Them Out". For further background on the situation in Dooplaya, see "Dooplaya Under the SPDC" (KHRG #98-09, 23/11/98),"Strengthening the Grip on Dooplaya" (KHRG #98-05, 10/6/98), "Clampdown in Southern Dooplaya" (KHRG #97-11, 18/11/97), and "Refugees from the SLORC Occupation" (KHRG #97-07, 25/5/97). SPDC order documents from the region can be found in "SPDC and DKBA Orders to Villages: Set 2000-A" (KHRG #2000-01, 29/2/00), "SPDC and DKBA Orders to Villages: Set 99-C" (KHRG #99-06, 4/8/99), and "SPDC and DKBA Orders to Villages: Set 99-A" (KHRG #99-01, 10/2/99). Photos are available in KHRG Photo Set 99-A (3/1/99) and KHRG Photo Set 2000-A (1/6/00). 

 

Notes on the Text

In the text all names of those interviewed have been changed and some details have been omitted or replaced by ‘xxxx’where necessary to protect people from retaliation. The Interview Number at the start of each interview corresponds to the Interview Numbers referenced in the captions of quotes used in the main body of the report. This Annex begins with an Interview Index listing the interviews by number and giving a brief summary of the interview contents.

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 Dooplaya District into five townships: Kru Tu (a.k.a. Kyone Doh) in the northwest, Kawkareik in the northeast, Waw Raw (a.k.a. Win Yaw) in the southwest, Kya In in the central area, and Kaw Te Hgah in the southeast. The official townships used by the SPDC do not correspond to the Karen townships. This report primarily uses the KNU townships. The SPDC does not recognise the existence of Dooplaya District, but only uses Townships, States and Divisions.

Many places have both a Karen and a Burmese name; for example, the townships of Kru Tu and Waw Raw are called Kyone Doh and Win Yaw respectively in Burmese, Khoh Ther Pler (Three Pagodas Pass) is Pya Thon Zu in Burmese, and the Tha May river is called Atayan in Burmese. The large village of Saw Hta in Kaw Te Hgah township is called Azin in Burmese; its name appears frequently because the SPDC has turned it into a major military base.

All numeric dates in this report are in dd/mm/yy format. In the interviews we have translated as ‘paddy’ the term for rice which has been threshed and winnowed but still has a husk, and ‘rice’ to mean husked rice ready for cooking. It takes about 2 baskets of paddy to make 1 basket of rice; villagers usually store it as paddy and only pound or mill small quantities into rice at a time. Villagers often refer to ‘loh ah pay’; literally this is the traditional Burmese form of voluntary labour for the community or the local Buddhist monastery, 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 often refer to the KNU/KNLA as Kaw Thoo Lei, the DKBA as Ko Per Baw (‘Yellow Headbands’), and SPDC troops and officials as ‘the Burmese’. SPDC officers often accuse villagers of being ‘Nga Pway’ (‘ringworm’); this is derogatory SPDC slang for KNLA soldiers. 

 

Terms and 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 SPDC until 11/97
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
KPA                Karen Peace Army, ‘Nyein Chan Yay A’Pweh’ (‘Peace Group’) in Burmese;
                       formed in 1997 by defected KNLA officer Thu Mu Heh and allied with SPDC
NMSP              New Mon State Party Army, Mon troops who have a cease-fire with the SPDC 
IB                     Infantry Battalion (SLORC/SPDC), usually about 500 soldiers strong
LIB                   Light Infantry Battalion (SLORC/SPDC), usually about 500 soldiers strong
Kaw Thoo Lei   The Karen homeland, also used as slang for KNU/KNLA
Nga Pway        ‘Ringworm’; derogatory SPDC slang for KNU/KNLA people
T’Bee Met        ‘Closed-eyes’; DKBA slang for KNU/KNLA people
loh ah pay        Forced labour; literally it means traditional voluntary labour, but not under SPDC
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 kg / 4.4 lb
Kyat                Burmese currency; US$1=6 Kyat at official rate, 300+ Kyat at current market

Index of Interviews and Field Reports

This index summarises the interviews and field reports which have been used directly in this report; many other interviews were also conducted and used for information but are not included here. All names of those interviewed have been changed. In the summaries below, FL = Forced Labour, FR = Forced Relocation, RS = Relocation Site, LM = Landmine, TL = Thailand, andIDP = Internally Displaced Person. The column ‘Nat.’ is for the interviewee’s nationality; K = Karen, B = Burman. Under‘Twp.’ (Township), K = Kawkareik, W = Waw Raw, Y = Kya In, H = Kaw Te Hgah, and R = Rangoon.

(The interviews appear sequentially following this Interview Index table; if you want to go directly to a particular interview, click on its interview number in the leftmost column of the table.)

#

Pg.

Date

Name

S

e

x

Age

N

a

t.

Village

T

w

p.

Summary

1

 

1/00

"Naw Muh Eh"

F

44

K

Khay R’Moh

Y

SPDC captured her nephew, detained village women while they looted houses, arrested/tortured village woman, forced women to find husbands and return to village, tortured 3 of her younger brothers, restricted travel, FL, women porters, rape, FR, left paddy in fields to flee

2

 

1/00

"Saw Kaw Muh"

M

42

K

Htee Po Way

Y

5 villagers captured/beaten for KNLA info., looting, women porters and shields for SPDC, killings, FR, paddy confiscation, planned FL road, rape

3

 

1/00

"Naw Muh Paw"

F

43

K

Paw Ner Mu

Y

SPDC closed school, looting, restricted travel, FL, women porters and shields, villagers tortured for KNLA suspicion, tax on paddy

4

 

1/00

"Saw Kaw Htoo"

M

37

K

Khay R’Moh

Y

SPDC closed school, taxes on trading boats, FL, looting, accused village men of KNLA, village burned, arrested/raped village woman accused of ‘wife of KNLA’, restricted travel, beatings, escaped from portering, extortion, soldiers sold rations and looted food, women porters/shields, FL road building, left paddy in fields to flee, FR, village flight to jungle and TL

5

 

12/99

"Saw Htoo Klih"

M

30

K

Plaw Toh Kee

Y

Looting, women porters/mine-sweepers, FR, SPDC killed 20 porters and 4 villagers, torture, FL, restricted travel, planned FL road, paddy confiscation, dangerous flight to TL

6

 

12/99

"Naw K’Paw"

F

25

K

Meh Gu Kee

Y

Health/education, 3 villagers tortured and killed, 3 women gang raped by soldiers, women porters and shields from KNLA ambush, some women injured in battle, orphans sent to FL, FR, left paddy in fields

#

Pg.

Date

Name

S

e

x

Age

N

a

t.

Village

T

w

p.

Summary

7

 

12/99

"Saw Lah Bway"

M

20

K

Kwih K’Neh Ghaw

Y

Fled from portering, witnessed SPDC commander torture and kill porter who escaped, troops killed man suspected of KNLA, porters abused, hunger, looting, FL, FR to Kyaikdon, paddy confiscation

8

 

12/99

"Saw Tha Htoo"

M

36

K

Xxxx

Y

SPDC hunt for KNLA soldiers, FR, he attended meeting when SPDC told villages in Kya In township about paddy confiscation and FR, SPDC killed villagers accused of helping KNLA, flight

9

 

12/99

"Saw Tha Dah"

M

43

K

Xxxx

Y

Portering for men/women, abused babies while women portered, looting, accused him of contacting KNLA and tortured him, FL, beatings, 3 villagers tortured/killed, looting, paddy confiscation, flight, pushed back by Thais at border before reaching xxxx refugee camp

10

 

12/99

"Saw Kyaw"

M

40

K

Meh Gu

Y

Paddy/rice confiscation, portering, women porters and shields against KNLA ambush, tortured/killed villagers, FR, fear of hunger

11

 

12/99

"Saw Lah Say"

M

29

K

Meh Gu

Y

3 villagers killed, others fled from fright, women porters/minesweepers, looting, FL as Army guides to find KNLA, paddy confiscation and buy back own rice, FR to Seik Gyi

12

 

12/99

"Saw Moe Shwe"

M

52

K

xxxx

Y

Fled to TL for medical care after portering, FL building Army camp, portering, taxes, porters not released on time, porter fees, paddy confiscation

13

 

12/99

"Saw Kler Muh"

M

20

K

Meh Gu

Y

Portering, no time to work fields, SPDC troops killed his brother, porters not released on time, women porters, looting, villagers afraid of Thai pushbacks so they don’t flee, FR, paddy confiscation, taxes, hunger

14

 

12/99

"Saw Kyaw Ni"

M

29

K

Meh Gu

Y

Paddy and rice confiscation, FL for everyone, 7 villagers tortured, some killed, village flight, village heads tortured, villagers left paddy in fields, fled secretly

15

 

12/99

"Saw K’Mwee"

M

17

K

xxxx

Y

FL on pagodas, child FL, torture, SPDC commander sexually harassed his cousin, village head arrested because couldn’t find porters, porter fees, hunger, fled secretly

#

Pg.

Date

Name

S

e

x

Age

N

a

t.

Village

T

w

p.

Summary

16

 

11/99

"Saw Lah Kuh"

M

51

K

Wah Lu

Y

Abused as porter, 4 villagers tortured/killed as suspected KNLA, he witnessed 4 others killed, soldiers sold rations and looted food, FL at Army camp, extortion, pork quota, FR, hunger at FR sites, restricted travel, afraid to flee, rape

17

 

11/99

"Pa Weh Muh"

M

32

K

Dta Broh

K

Portering, beat porters, left paddy in fields to flee, FL as guides for Army, paddy confiscation, looting, flight

18

 

11/99

"Pa Bway"

M

15

K

Yaw K’Daw

Y

Portered with other children, porters abused and die from minesweeping, widespread hunger, no time to work, many fleeing villages, he fled secretly with his family

19

 

10/99

"Pa Ler Thu"

M

xx

K

Hter Klah

H

Village relocated 2 years ago, portering, FL, fled secretly, soldiers sold rations and looted rice, SPDC doesn’t release porters, hunger, flight

20

 

10/99

"Saw Shwe Than"

M

37

K

Hter Klah

H

KNLA in village so SPDC beat village head and killed one villager, village fled because feared portering, IDP for 2 years before fleeing to TL, hunger, FL on roads

21

 

10/99

"Naw Blu Paw"

F

20

K

Hter Klah

H

IDP for 2 months, fled from portering, hunger

22

 

9/99

"Pu Tha Mu Heh"

M

57

K

Yaw K’Daw

Y

Portering including elderly, youth

23

 

9/99

"Saw Tee Doh"

M

18

K

Meh Toh

H

Porters died during battle, FL building pagodas

24

 

9/99

"Naw Wah Wah"

F

20

K

xxxx

H

SPDC accused her husband of being KNLA, afraid of being killed so fled, FL with ox carts, sexual harassment, accuse villagers of being KNLA to extract bribes and food, beatings, widespread hunger, looting

25

 

9/99

"Pa Htoo Pa"

M

24

K

xxxx

H

Fled portering, accused of being KNLA (is a former soldier), FL, looting, beatings, rapes, hunger, villager murdered to steal her rice

26

 

9/99

"Pati Tha Ghay"

M

47

K

Yaw K’Daw

Y

Fled portering, beaten as porter, fled with most of village, FL at Army camp

27

 

9/99

"Saw Bee"

M

17

K

xxxx

W

Beaten by SPDC soldiers for info. on KNU, arrested, looting by soldiers

28

 

9/99

"Saw Po Thu"

M

35

K

Yaw K’Daw

Y

Fled from portering, no money for fees, fled to Thailand for medical treatment, looting, FL at Army camps

29

 

9/99

"Saw Lay Doh Htoo"

M

27

K

Saw Hta

H

Constant FL at SPDC Army camp in Saw Hta and as porters, sickness after portering, rape of villager, flight to Thailand

 

#

Pg.

Date

Name

S

e

x

Age

N

a

t.

Village

T

w

p.

Summary

30

 

8/99

"Saw Hsah Htoo"

M

34

K

Kyaung Ywa

W

Long portering terms, villagers forced to replace rations of soldiers, FL at camp in village, porter killed, beatings, taxes on trading boats, education problems, no medicine, looting food, accused of being rebel village and taken to camp for FL, extortion schemes

31

 

8/99

"Saw Say Lweh"

M

47

K

Klay Hta

W

KNLA/SPDC battle near village, SPDC soldiers lost guns and demanded some from villagers, arrested villagers accused of being ex-soldiers as ransom for guns, tortured headman, destroyed sawmills, FL at new camp, looting, rice tax, extortion, porters tortured, problems with schools and clinics

32

 

8/99

"Saw Toh Wah"

M

34

K

Xxxx

W

Tortured including severe psychological torture by SPDC for witholding info. on KNLA, K--- village head and elders also beaten, extortion

33

 

7/99

"Pi Thu Paw"

F

56

K

Pa Nweh Pu

K

SPDC burned village twice, lived as IDP for 2 years, looting, portering, flight to Thailand

34

 

7/99

"Saw Ler Doh"

M

30

K

Plaw Hta

K

SPDC burned village in 2/99 after accusing villagers of supporting KNLA, IDPs, flight to Thailand

35

 

6/99

"Naw Paw Si"

F

16

K

Meh Naw Ah

Y

FL including children, no money for porter fees, served as a porter with other women

36

 

6/99

"Saw Muh Lah"

M

xx

K

Saw Hta

H

Hunger, ‘fake rice’ sold by soldiers, restricted travel, FL on car road

37

 

1/99

"Ko Myint Oo"

M

34

B

Rangoon

R

Prisoner from Insein prison, conditions inside prison, moved to Moulmein prison, then brought with 400 convicts to Kyo G’Lee and Po Yay to build FL road, many dead from disease, malnutrition, overwork

38

 

1/99

"Ko Than Aung"

M

23

B

Taw Oak twp, Rangoon division

R

Prisoner brought from Insein prison to do FL on roads at Po Yay camp, conditions in prison, brutal treatment of road labourers, many deaths of disease on the road, escape during KNLA attack

39

 

10/99

"Naw Paw Mo"

F

23

K

Xxxx

H

Fear of working crops, portering together with her baby, forced to go in front of column, flight, hiding in the forest 2 months, flight to TL (interviewed by FTUB Dooplaya)

FR1

 

12/99

Field Report #1           Field report by KHRG field reporter about violations committed by SPDC Army in Kya In and Waw Raw townships.

 

#

Pg.

Date

Name

S

e

x

Age

N

a

t.

Village

T

w

p.

Summary

FR2

 

6/99

Field Report #2           Report by KHRG field reporter concerning burning of Kyaw Plaw and Bo Kler Kee villages by SPDC troops in April 1999, displacement of villagers

FR3

 

7/99

Field Report #3           Incident reports by KNU field reporter regarding human rights abuses by the SPDC Army in Kya In and Kawkareik townships.

FR4

 

7/99

Field Report #4           Human rights violation report by KNU field reporter in Kawkareik township.

FR5

 

11/99

Field Report #5           Summary of abuses in Dooplaya throughout 1999, written by a KNU field reporter. FL, extortion, looting all ordered by camp commanders.

 

Interviews

#1.

NAME:        "Naw Muh Eh"          SEX: F          AGE: 44          Karen Christian farmer
FAMILY:      Widow, 6 children     
ADDRESS:    Khay R’Moh village, Kya In township                  INTERVIEWED: 1/2000

[When the SPDC came to "Naw Muh Eh"’s village, they told all the villagers to leave without specifying where to go or appointing a relocation site, so many fled to refugee camps in Thailand.]

Q: Did you have a school in your village?
A: Yes. There were about 20 students. We had one teacher.

Q: What do things cost in your village?
A: One viss [1.6 kg / 3.5 lb] of salt is 60 Kyat. It is 120 Kyat for one viss of fish paste, 100 Kyat for one viss of chicken. 500 Kyat for one viss of pork. One basket of paddy is 500 Kyat. I bought one basket of rice in the rainy season for 4,500 Kyat. If we didn’t have enough rice, we had to go buy it from the trading boats. We bought it from people who came to sell it because our village is on the bank of the big river.

Q: Why did you come to the refugee camp?
A: Because the Burmese came to torture and abuse us, so we came here. [Light Infantry] Division #88 came up to abuse us, so we fled here. They came to my house and threatened us and surrounded us. Then they came up into the house and told us in Burmese, "Nobody run down [out of the house]." So nobody dared to run, and they captured one of my nephews. His name is T---. He is 35 years old, and they captured him when he was going behind the house. They called him and pointed at him with guns, so he was afraid and came back to them. They ordered him to go up into the house, and they slapped his face once. After they beat him, they called him to go with them. After that we didn’t see him. But later he ran to escape. It was on Monday December 6th [1999]. The names of the commanders are Aung Aung and Nyo Lin.

Q: When they entered your village, did they beat any villagers?
A: They gathered all the villagers in their houses when they arrived, and then they made them stay together under the church building. They came in the morning, but nobody had eaten yet and some people had not cooked rice. After that the soldiers went into the houses and took our belongings, like necklaces, earrings, and all of the money that they saw. They detained us from morning till evening and then released us, so some children were hungry and wanted to eat rice, and they cried. But they scolded us to stop them, and when we did their sounds stopped for a while. After a while they started to cry again because they were so hungry, but the women didn’t want to eat because we were afraid. Then after they released us, the next morning they called one of our aunts to go with them. Her name is Naw M---. She is about 45 years old. They captured her because people told them that her husband had been part of the resistance. The Burmese had captured and killed him 4 years ago. Someone went to tell them that now Naw M--- had remarried her husband’s assistant [who was also a KNLA soldier]. After they heard this they came to see Naw M---, but she didn’t know about it [that someone had accused her] so she was there when they gathered the women. They didn’t let her go back and they called her with them when they left the village. Then when they arrived in Ter Noh they blindfolded her and tied and abused her, but we didn’t know what they were doing until she wrote a letter to us and asked us to send medicine that makes people fall asleep and not remember themselves[a drug to make her unconscious]. She couldn’t tolerate them, but we didn’t know what they did to her. It all started on December 8th, so it’s been many days already.

I think that they raped her because she told us that she couldn’t tolerate it. Maybe they abused and raped her. Before I fled here they had taken her to Ter Noh, but after that we didn’t see or hear about her, so maybe they took her to Seik Gyi or somewhere else.

Q: So you don’t know what happened to her?
A: We heard that after we left they said not to kill her because she is a woman. But she has to stay in jail for 7 to 8 years. I think that she has to go to jail because people said that she married her husband’s assistant. That is really not true, but people said it. So they put her in jail. They said that if she was a man they would kill her, but they sent her to jail instead.

Q: Why did they call the women under the church?
A: They called us together and ordered us to find our husbands who had gone to work. And they didn’t let us go home until we could find our husbands. If a woman’s husband didn’t come back, she couldn’t go home either, but if her husband came back she could go home with him. They said that if our sons and husbands had gone to work, they should come back in the evening [from working their fields outside the village]. If the husbands didn’t come, we must be people who work outside[families of KNLA soldiers]. So all of the women had to find their husbands on a very hot day, and some had to carry their children and babies in the heat to find them. The babies were crying. And they had to search until they found them. All of them found their husbands but it took one or two days because some men were afraid and dared not come back. But their wives had to persuade them, because if their husbands wouldn’t come back, they wouldn’t release the wife. So even at night they had to go and call their husbands to come back. The village head stayed behind and gave them [the SPDC soldiers] assurances. There are around 60 or 70 men, about 20 houses in our village. During those 2 days, they let them go and eat, but after they ate they had to come back again. They noted down the names of the women whose husbands already came back, and they let them go. But for the women whose husbands didn’t come back, they had to go out and find their husbands. But some husbands were afraid and took a long time to come back, and also some people couldn’t find them, so they just stayed like that until dark. In the night if the husbands came back, the soldiers let their wives go home and asked their husbands to sleep among them.

Mostly the men are workers and they had gone to their hill fields, but after they heard the Burmese had entered the village, they dared not come back, and they stayed in their hill fields. After they arrived back in the village, the Burmese let all of their wives go home, but they called their husbands and ordered them to carry loads for them the next morning. They told them that it would take 3 hours, but it took 3 days.

Q: Did they capture anyone else?
A: Then they captured two of my younger brothers-in-law on Wednesday, December 1st. They cut the younger one’s throat [not deeply] with a sickle, then they blindfolded him and tied his hands behind his back. They blindfolded the other one’s eyes for two days and nights, then put him in a sack and beat him 3 times on his head with bamboo, and once in his stomach with a piece of wood that broke. They came back to tell me about it. My younger brother told me that he was going to reap paddy and he brought his sickle with him, and he met the Burmese along the way. So they cut his throat with it, but the sharp part of the sickle was missing. If it weren’t missing, he thought he would have gotten a very deep cut. The sharp part of the sickle didn’t wound his throat. They took them both to Ter Noh and and tied them once they arrived there. They blindfolded their eyes, and the younger one was covered with a sarong, and the other one was covered with a paddy sack, and they beat them. The younger one is named Saw K--- and he is 20 years old. The other is 25 years old. They kept them 6 days in Ter Noh. They told me that they [the SPDC] interrogated them about people who work outside [information about KNLA soldiers] and asked them for names. They asked them where Pa T--- is [a villager believed to be a soldier]. They beat them a lot and they couldn’t tolerate it, but they didn’t tell them everything [that they knew about the KNLA]. He told them he saw him [Pa T---] in the past but hadn’t seen him recently and didn’t know where he is now. If he hadn’t told them they would have beaten him more and he couldn’t tolerate it, so he told them.

The younger one said that they told him they were going to kill him, so he was afraid and ran to escape. After the younger one ran, they were going to kill the older one, but he told them, "I am a farmer." And they said that if he was a good person, the village head had to come there [to vouch for him], so people went to call the village head and his brothers and sisters. But before they all arrived, they released him and ordered him to call his younger brother to come with them. They said, "You don’t need to worry", just come and they would give them a ticket so they wouldn’t need to worry [a guarantee that they were not soldiers, which would theoretically protect them from being arrested by other SPDC troops]. So they released him and asked him to go and coax his younger brother to come back, but the younger brother dared not go again. He is afraid. Then after they drove us out we left the village and came here.

The younger one was not beaten but tied and covered. The older one was beaten after they tied and blindfolded and covered him. They beat him terribly, and his head burst open because they beat him with a very big piece of bamboo. After they beat him 3 times his head was pale and sunken.

Q: Did you hear about other abuses to villagers?
A: The other thing we heard about was in Doh Gyi, where they killed two people. They killed one of them right away, but the other one they beat a lot before they killed him. Both of them were men, and in the past they worked outside [they were KNLA soldiers], but they had quit. They had left those jobs maybe 5 or 6 years ago.

I didn’t see it myself, but I heard people say that after they captured them they beat them because of this accusation. They beat them until they couldn’t see or walk, and after they didn’t know where they were anymore, they killed them. They tied one of them on a bamboo [stand] like a cross, and made him stay like that. They didn’t feed them enough rice, and he couldn’t move his hands or legs, but after a while he was cold and frozen. After that they set fire to a plastic bag and burned him with it, but he couldn’t move his body so he was yelling a lot. After that his wounds became infected. They knew that he wouldn’t be able to walk when they released him. He couldn’t walk or sit; his whole body was wasting away. When we fled here he was dying, but he hadn’t died yet. They are named Kaw Kaw and Kyaw Lay Doh.

Q: Why were they beaten so badly?
A: It was because of the accusation that they had been in the resistance in the past. Later they didn’t work with them, but because people accused them the Burmese went to capture them. Kaw Kaw stopped working as a soldier more than 5 or 6 years ago, but when the Burmese patrolled around Ter Noh village, people there accused him so they went to capture them. But the villagers didn’t know or care about it, so the Burmese captured and killed him. Before they killed him they beat them until they couldn’t even walk. Their faces were sunken and they couldn’t see anything, and they killed them.

Q: When the SPDC Army stays in your village, can you travel freely outside your village?
A: They don’t allow us to travel because if they stay in the village we have to stay in our houses. They allow us to go[to church], but we can’t go with the whole family because someone has to stay in the house. They allow us to go [to our hill fields], but the house cannot be empty. If there is nobody in the house, they say that the house is their enemy’s house [the house harbours KNLA soldiers or sympathisers]. If they see people in the jungle, they call them even if people say that they are going to work in their hill fields and that they are farmers. They call them and the people have to follow them, and if you don’t go they beat you. Even women have to go with them if they see them, and if there are no men to go, women have to suffer and go with them. They have to follow them and walk among them and carry loads that they [the soldiers]should carry. Sometimes 2 or 3 people have to go. Before I came here they collected 6 people from my village to help them carry loads. If they see many people they call many, and if they see two or three women, they take them too. If there are no men in the village they enter and run on a wild rampage, then call women instead, and the women dare not disobey and have to go. So people have no time to work [for themselves] because there is so much forced labour.

As I said before, they called women to guide the way, and when the people [KNLA] shot at them, two women got wounded. One of them got shot in her bottom and the other in her hand. They had to heal themselves; they [the Burmese] didn’t treat them. Their village is P’Dah Pra. They came back to get treatment from the medic who stays in the village.

I also heard that the Burmese slept with some women, but not all. I didn’t ask which village they were from, but it was people who were coming by boat to Thi Mu Kloh. They called them to get out of the boat and beat them. At that time the Burmese were drunk, and they raped two women. After they raped them, they released them.

Q: When you stayed there did you hear that the SPDC Army relocated villages?
A: Yes, they told our village, "Don’t stay in your village. All of you must leave the village. Wherever you want to move, move, but you can’t stay here. If you decide not to move, find and gather firewood and keep it under your house. Then none of you can come down from the house." Then they would come and set fire to the house. We dared not do this and we feared them, so that’s why we had to leave. We hadn’t even finished our fields, but we were afraid because they told us, "All of you have to move, and if you think that you are good people, don’t come back again. If you come back we will think that you are our enemies, so we will kill you." Even if we were villagers, if we didn’t move and they saw us when they came, they would kill all of us. So we dared not face the danger of getting set on fire, and we knew that even if we hadn’t finished our work we had to leave.

Q: Which group came to your village?
A: [LID] #88 entered our village, and that’s why no one stays there. As far as I know, my village and Kyaw Meh fled here, and after that we heard that they drove Ghaw Gheh to Ter Noh. Kyaw Meh had to move to Yaw Kya, but in Khay R’Moh village they told us that we should move wherever we wanted to move. After they took our aunt [Naw M---] they told all of us to move. But we don’t know what they thought about our village; maybe they identified our village as the place where the enemy stays. But I am not sure. They came to our village and told us to move and nothing else. They threatened us like that so we left our village.

Q: Where did you leave your paddy and rice that you had stored?
A: Der! We did not finish our work, so it was all left in the fields because we hadn’t reaped it yet and we couldn’t do anything.

Q: What kind of problems did you face on your way to the refugee camp?
A: The problems we faced on the way were due to the Burmese following close behind us. Some babies who came with us cried a lot. So to stop them from crying the mothers had to breastfeed them to fill their mouths. But they kept crying because of our troubles walking day and night, and their mothers scolded and spanked them, but they couldn’t stop. So we had to pass place after place, and once they nearly caught us - we slept in a place and left the next morning, then they arrived there too. We tried to carry our food and our children, so we couldn’t carry other things like clothes and blankets. We carried just enough rice for us to eat. If we got a fever or illness we had to stay sick because we didn’t have enough medicine on the way. We had to stay next to a fire if it was cold, and our clothes and blankets were torn and burned. The children were sick at that time, but we didn’t have any pills to heal them, so we suffered like that until we arrived here.

Because of the Burmese oppression, even if we don’t enjoy it here [at the refugee camp], we will stay because we can do nothing else. We came to stay here and left everything behind us. At the time we hadn’t finished our work so our paddy was all left in the fields. Even if we want to go back we dare not, because they have oppressed us horribly there. If they didn’t stay there, we would go back. If we go back, we will work our hill fields again. We are from the mountains and can’t do anything but work in our fields.

Q: Is there anything else you want to say?
A: In conclusion I will tell you about my younger brother. When he was a child my father admired him, and so he nicknamed him Dta Kweh Mu [‘Company Commander’]. The Burmese heard about that and they tried to find him, and after they found him they captured him. The village head went to explain it to them, but they still accused him of being a ‘Company Commander’ and beat him until his teeth fell out and his face was covered with blood, then they threw him on the side of the road. After that he woke up and came back to the house and we tried to find medicine to heal him. His eyes were filled with blood so we couldn’t recognize him; his whole face had sunken in. Even now when he wants to read the Holy Bible, he can’t read it. And he wants to eat meat but he cannot because he is missing some teeth and the others are weak. He is not quite 30 years old. He works in the fields, but the Burmese tried to find a grudge against him. All of the village heads went to explain, but they didn’t believe them. I was very sad because of how badly he was beaten. His real name is Saw K---. People kept explaining to the Burmese, and then they forgave him but they told the villagers, "From now on, don’t call him Dta Kweh Mu, instead call him Saw K---."

#2.

NAME:         "Saw Kaw Muh"          SEX: M     AGE: 42              Karen Christian farmer
FAMILY:       Married, 6 children          
ADDRESS:     Htee Po Way village, Kya In township                  INTERVIEWED: 1/2000

["Saw Kaw Muh" fled to Thailand with over 40 people from his village and was interviewed shortly after his arrival in a refugee camp in Thailand.]

Q: What level of education did you complete?
A: 7 standards [Grade 7] in Burmese school.

Q: Where did you study?
A: Kya In.

Q: Do you have a school in your village?
A: Yes, we had a school in the village through 1st Standard [Grade 1] with maybe 20 students. One teacher.

Q: How did you earn your living in Htee Po Way?
A: I earned it from our hill and flat fields.

Q: How did you get things like salt and fish paste?
A: We had to buy those things from Seik Gyi. We went by boat. Before we didn’t have any problems on the way, but now we do have problems because of the Burmese. On the way they tax it and bother people. They question us: "Do you carry things for the KNU?" They bother us by taking something for themselves to eat.

Q: How much does one viss [1.6 kg / 3.5 lb] of fish paste cost in your village?
A: In our village, 200 Kyat. One viss of salt is 50 Kyat. A duck is 1,500 Kyat. One basket of paddy is 4,000 Kyat. Rice is 4,500 Kyat [per basket]. If we didn’t have it in the village, we had to go and buy it from people who came up to sell it.

Q: Why did you come to the refugee camp?
A: Because the Burmese military oppressed us. They were from Burmese troop [LID] #88. There are 40-50 soldiers. I don’t know the name of the commander. When they entered my village they captured 5 villagers. They are farmers. They tied their hands behind their backs for the whole night. Then they ordered them to stand in a line and they pointed at them with guns. They lined them up to sit on a log during the night. They made them stay like that. They captured them because they were suspicious of them. They planned to capture and beat the villagers when they came, and they thought that if there was anything wrong in the village, the villagers would be afraid of them because of the beatings and would tell them the truth. I mean that if there were any faults with the village, the people would tell information about the KNU.

Q: Do you remember the names of the 5 people they captured?
A: L---. He is 35 years old. P---’s father is nearly 50 years old. K--- is 47 years old. M--- is 32 years old, and D--- is 12 years old. Only one of them didn’t have a family [wife and children].

Q: What did they do to them in the morning?
A: The next morning they knew that they are really villagers, so they released them.

Q: Did they beat any villagers?
A: They beat 2 villagers who had been porters. They beat them [with a stick] and punched their chins. B--- was about 30 years old, and the other one is P---, who is 32 years old. They were captured by Burmese soldiers on their way to their work. They had to carry bullets and shells for more than a week.

Q: Did the SPDC soldiers do any other damage to your village when they came?
A: Yes. The same night they captured those 5 people, they burned down a paddy storage barn and a hut. They also shot chickens and cooked them, and looted rice to pound and sticky rice to eat. At the time we had just finished threshing the paddy, so there were 30 baskets of paddy [in the barn that the soldiers burned]. They ate maybe 25 chickens in all. They ate a pig in the village, too. When people knew that they were coming to the village they hid their good things in a safe place, so it is good they didn’t lose their nice things. But people couldn’t keep their pigs and chickens in a safe place, so they [the soldiers] caught them and ate them.

Q: Do the Burmese force women to go for portering?
A: At this time they mostly force the men [in his village]. But in villages like Khay R’Moh they forced women to send them, and after they arrived at Paw Ner Mu, they released them. They kept them as cover because they were afraid that the KNU would shoot at them. There were about 40 people. All of them were women, with children and babies. They didn’t ask them to carry loads. When they arrived in another village, they released them.

Q: Did they rape these women, or any other women?
A: We heard about that in Khay Sone. I don’t know how many women, but we heard that they did it. People told us it was[LID] #88.

Q: Did they kill anyone in your village?
A: They killed men in Plaw Toh Kee. Three people: Peh Ko, Kyaw Thaw Han, and Si Si. It seemed to us that those three were bending their backs and earning their living from their fields, but they [the Burmese] wanted to accuse them of having relations with the KNU. So they didn’t believe them, and they accused them of working with the KNU. They killed them between Pu Kheh Toh and Ywa Thit village.

Q: Did you hear about anyone else who was killed?
A: I heard about two people from Lay Wah Ploh. I didn’t get their names but we heard people talking about it. We heard that they decided to kill at least 6 villagers a month. It is their plan and their goal.

Q: Did you hear of any villages that they have already relocated?
A: Some villagers from Plaw Toh Kee moved, and also some from Ghaw Gheh village moved, but especially from Khay R’Moh and Htee Po Way. When they entered Khay R’Moh, they wanted men, but the men dared not face them. But they saw their children and wives, so they gathered them under the church and left them to dry out in the sun for 3 days, and their children yelled. They didn’t give them rice. If their sons and husbands didn’t come back, they didn’t let them go. They made them stay in the sun like that for quite a long time and then they let them go.

We heard the Burmese Army forced the villages Pyu Gyi and Meh Baw Tee Kaw to move to G’Kya and G’Kya Po Kee. Also Kyaw Kheh Ko village had to move to Seik Gyi. Dta Dah Lee and Seik Doh and other villages on the other bank of the river had to move to the lower place at Noh Wah.

Q: Did you hear that the SPDC was confiscating villagers’ paddy?
A: I heard that at Paw Ner Mu and down to G’Kya, Gru Gyi, Khay Sone, and Yay Leh they demanded paddy. They have to send it first to Ter Noh, and then they send it on to Kya In Seik Gyi. If their column arrives, we have to feed them. For example, every time [LID] #88 arrives in the village they take everything that they want to eat and we can’t tell them not to. They take chickens, pigs, cattle and buffaloes, and we dare not say anything to them. They can do whatever they want to do. People told me that those villages have to give them paddy, but starting from our village and to the east, we have to feed the Army.

Q: Did they tell you why they are confiscating your paddy?
A: After they get a lot of paddy, they report to other countries that their country produces a lot of paddy. But really they beat civilians and take the paddy from us. They are just starting to do this now so we still have enough rice to eat, but if they keep doing this for many years, I don’t think there will be enough.

Q: What did you do with your belongings?
A: We left our things, and if people want to eat them [their stored food and rice], they will. When I left the village, all of the villagers were ready to go and half of the villagers had already left.

Q: Do you think that other countries may help you, and how?
A: According to a lot of people who have fled here, if international countries see the situation, and if they think that it is not good to stay like it is, and if they plan something, we believe that the situation will improve. But if they don’t do that, it can’t get better.

Q: Did you know of an SPDC plan for your area?
A: The first thing that they did was to order that by December 25th they would gather everything and after that they would not allow anybody to go out [of the village boundaries]. After that they won’t allow people to travel, and if they see the villagers go out, they will shoot to kill them all.

We also heard that they will build a road. I heard they will build a car road from Pya Thon Zu [Three Pagodas Pass] to Kya In. We heard that they will use it to transport their rations. I hear that they will torment civilians to build it because we will have to go and dig and build it, so then the civilians will not have time to work, as you know. It will only benefit the Burmese military.

Q: How many people did you come here with?
A: We came here with 44 people, 10 houses from 3 different villages. We had to face weakness and illness. We provided for each other and healed each other with medicine that we brought with us. We do not have a medic in my village, but we discussed with the parents and treated them with traditional medicine, like grilling roots and drinking them.

Q: Have you ever heard of HIV?
A: We did not have this disease in our village. We didn’t hear about it, and we don’t have a test.

Q: When you were in your village, did you hear about any women who were raped?
A: I heard they raped women, and they also have to porter and guide for them. If men aren’t staying in the village, the women have to build, guide, work, and cook. If I look at it carefully, we don’t have different troubles [referring to men and women]; both of us are greatly tormented with similar things.

Q: If you had a choice to go back now or stay in the refugee camp, what would you do?
A: If there was peace and equality and no problems there, we would like to go back. I would do the same thing I did before: work on my fields. But we have to do something to be ready to face these problems before we go back.

 

#3.

NAME:          "Naw Muh Paw"          SEX: F          AGE: 43          Karen Christian farmer
FAMILY:        Married, 4 children
ADDRESS:      Paw Ner Mu village, Kya In township                    INTERVIEWED: 1/2000

["Naw Muh Paw" fled when the SPDC relocated her village; she expects that most of the other villagers will follow her group once they have finished threshing their paddy.]

Q: Do your children go to school in Paw Ner Mu?
A: Yes, we have a school with about 50 students and 3 teachers. But they closed the school, so people dared not go. All of the children were separated. They did not let them go to school. They [the Burmese] worried that fighting would occur if people [the KNLA] come to shoot them.

They opened the school but didn’t let them study; instead they asked them [the children] if they had seen outsiders [the KNLA]. They did this to know about the situation outside, so they coaxed and questioned children and fed them bread and cigarettes. So the students dared not go to school and we worried that trouble would occur in the village.

Q: Why did you come to xxxx [refugee camp]?
A: Because the SPDC tried to blame us and make up problems among the villagers to divide us. So we dared not stay and we had to flee. It was LID #88 on December 1st. They took villagers’ belongings and amimals that they owned like chickens, ducks, and pigs. They shot them and ate them as if they were theirs. The Burmese steal the food that people keep for themselves to eat, and they don’t ask from the owners. They just take it. There were more than 100 chickens but now there are only 50 left.

Q: Did they destroy your village or your paddy?
A: Yes, we heard they burned down the houses when they couldn’t capture the owners, so they set fire to them and to the paddy barns and stored food. It was not in Paw Ner Mu but in other places.

Q: Were you free to travel outside your village?
A: We weren’t free to travel because they did not let us. Also it is not easy to go to church. In the past they entered our village on Sunday when people were going to worship, but they didn’t let people go to church. Instead they told people to thresh harvested paddy for them. So people had to thresh paddy and sift it on the Sabbath day.

They didn’t let people go when they were in the village, but when they were outside the village, we could go. When they stayed in the village if people went out they accused them of contacting rebels.

Q: Did your village have to do forced labour or porter?
A: Married women from other villages like Ka Theh and Htee K’Pa had to do forced labour. They kept them as a cover to stop the people shooting them. So they took the married women in the night and rain, and their children cried, and they said that the women made their children cry. Really they didn’t make their children cry, it was that their children were sick. Then they wrung the necks of the children [according to other villagers’ testimonies, the Burmese didn’t actually kill the babies, but twisted their necks to threaten their mothers].

Q: Were the women raped?
A: I didn’t hear about that.

Q: Did you hear if any villagers were beaten or killed?
A: I heard from a village that they tied a man and stabbed his stomach. His intestines came out, and they touched them with fire. And then they asked him, "Does this hurt?" and he dared not say whether it hurt or not, but he had to suffer like that. They scalped the second person and pulled him to follow them.

Q: Why did they do these things to these people?
A: Because other people had accused them that they had worked with outsiders [the KNLA], so the two had to suffer. They were not in the resistance, but they had worked and walked together [with opposition people] like that.

Q: Did you hear if they have relocated or burned any villages?
A: I only heard about Khay R’Moh village. We didn’t hear if they burned any houses or not, but we heard they ordered villagers to move and didn’t let any of them stay.

Q: Did they confiscate the paddy?
A: We didn’t hear if they confiscated the paddy, but after people finish their work they have to give the paddy to them according to what they ask. It depends on the number of houses [in the village]. Some big villages have to pay 500 baskets of paddy, and some pay 250 baskets.

Q: How much did your village have to pay?
A: 250 baskets of paddy. G’Kya has to give 500 baskets. We have to send it to Ter Noh. They told us nothing else.

Q: Do you think more people will flee here?
A: Yes, we have more people coming here. I think maybe 50 or 60 more.

 

#4.

NAME:          "Saw Kaw Htoo"          SEX: M          AGE: 37        Karen Christian farmer
FAMILY:        Married, 3 children          
ADDRESS:      Khay R’Moh village, Kya In township                    INTERVIEWED: 1/2000

["Saw Kaw Htoo" came with over 40 people to xxxx refugee camp, braving a dangerous journey. Once in the camp, they found out that their village had been burned by the SPDC shortly after their departure.]

Q: Do you have a monastery in your village?
A: We didn’t have a monastery, but we had a church in my village. All of the villagers are Christians.

Q: Do you have a school in your village?
A: I have a school in my village, but not a high school. It just has only 2 or 3 grades and one teacher.

Q: After the Burmese arrived, did you still have a school?
A: Students went to study under the building of the church, but after they didn’t allow us to stay in the village [after the SPDC came and imposed a deadline to relocate the village], we requested that they give us half a day to clear the bushes under the church, but they didn’t allow us to do it, so we couldn’t do anything else. They couldn’t go to school as before and all of the students scattered. The teacher fled, too.

Q: What do you produce in your village for your livelihood?
A: In the village we have bananas, limes, and betelnut crops to sell. Mostly people earn from their hill and flat fields. We grow paddy but we don’t get any profit for ourselves. We breed pigs and chickens, but our cows and buffaloes have gone since [LID] #44 arrived in the village and we had to leave also.

Q: So when you didn’t have food in your village, where did you get food to buy?
A: If we didn’t have food in our village, we bought it from the Mon who came in their big boats to sell things in T’Mee Kloh. Our village is established on the bank of this river. Some people go to buy rice in Kya In Seik Gyi.

Q: What were the prices like?
A: One viss [1.6 kg / 3.5 lb] of garlic or fish paste was 200 Kyat. One viss of salt is 30 Kyat. A basket of rice is 4,000 Kyat. One viss of pork is 500 Kyat, and one viss of chicken is 700 Kyat.

Q: Did the Burmese give you trouble when you went to trade or buy things?
A: They made trouble, like when they taxed for each basket of rice and each longtail boat. Some Burmese didn’t ask, they just took. Sometimes it was necessary to stop to sleep and they asked for money. If you had rice, they asked for rice.

Q: Can you explain why you came to xxxx [refugee] camp?
A: The reason that we came here is because the Burmese Army tortured us and we couldn’t tolerate it anymore. They made us do forced labour when we had to work our jobs, so we fled here.

Q: What was the battalion number of the troops that came?
A: I don’t know their [battalion] number but the badge that they wear is #88. [Light Infantry] Division #88. 50 soldiers. They came on Monday, December 6th [1999].

Q: Did they beat any villagers?
A: They entered the village when the men had gone to work. They gathered all of their wives and children and kept them in the same place. When they called them together on the ground in the same place, they went up into the houses and took all of the belongings like clothes, blankets, and pots that they could use or were nice. And at the time married women and children, even babies, had to stay under the hot sun so they were crying and had nothing to eat or drink. They ordered them to find their husbands, but some had gone to work a far distance away because they didn’t know that the Burmese would come to the village. So it was very complicated for them [the women], because if their husbands didn’t come back they [the Burmese] said that they all must be wives of Kaw Thoo Lei [KNLA]. They accused them of that, so people had to find them. Before finding their husbands, the women and children suffered because they didn’t eat any rice or drink water that whole day. The children ate rice that evening, but it hurt and weakened them a lot.

Q: Did they take all the animals as well?
A: They ate all the livestock bred by houses in the village. Sometimes they ate our pigs without asking us. They ate all the chickens that were kept in our teacher’s house, around 30. And they ate about 50 chickens in total from the village. There were approximately 70 or 80 chickens and ducks.

Q: Did they burn down houses in the village?
A: After I left the village, I heard that they burned down the village. Khay R’Moh village was destroyed. I didn’t see it with my eyes, I just heard from others.

Q: Did they beat any of the villagers before they relocated the village?
A: No, they didn’t beat any civilians, they just gathered them together, including a village headwoman, on December 6th. They ordered her to come and then took her to their Operations Commander at T---. They said that they [the villagers] fed Kaw Thoo Lei and that she was the wife of Kaw Thoo Lei, but the village headwoman is a widow. And since then we have heard that three soldiers in the unit were drunk because of their Operations Commander [who encouraged them to drink]. He collected 3 soldiers for the interrogation and they blindfolded her and interrogated her at the same time. Her name is Naw M--- and she is 46 years old. She has 5 children who stay in T---. They interrogated her many times for a long time, and the village headmen and villagers wanted to go and see her and testify for her. But they didn’t allow them to go, and she asked to see her children. But this unit of Burmese didn’t allow them to see them.

I didn’t see for myself when they beat her, but according to a letter that she sent, she asked the villagers to send a kind of medicine that makes people dizzy. After she drank it she would be drugged so she wouldn’t wake again, so she didn’t have to face the suffering that she was facing right then. And she wrote to make the villagers aware, because she wanted the villagers to know. As far as I know they took her to T---, but recently I heard that they sent her to Kya In Seik Gyi, but we are not sure if that’s true or not. But they did not release her. We thought they had two options for her: one, to kill her, or two, to jail her.

Q: Do you think that they beat or raped her?
A: It could be something like that [rape], according to the letter that she sent. Because they didn’t allow them to sleep with women in someone’s house, so they ordered her to sleep among them. And she still has a pretty body, too.

Q: When and where did they capture her?
A: They captured her in Khay R’Moh village 27 days ago.

Q: Did they allow the villagers to travel freely outside your village?
A: They did not allow us to travel as freely as we liked. They didn’t allow us to go and work outside the village, or travel, and if they saw us in the jungle and the date or time had expired [on their travel passes], they would shoot us dead if we ran. If we didn’t run, they captured us and we saw some people who were captured and beaten. They captured two villagers from my village. Their names are Saw B--- and Saw K---. They are over 20 years old. They are workers in the hill fields, and they were captured when they had gone to work in their fields. Then they questioned them about many things and accused them of being soldiers, but they are not. If the people say that they haven’t seen them [KNLA soldiers], they are beaten, but if they say that they have seen them, they are accused of being Kaw Thoo Lei, and the soldiers ask them to show them [where to find KNLA]. But how can we show them?

Q: Did they beat them?
A: After they captured them, they blindfolded them and tied and beat them, and they put one of them into a gunny sack. They knotted a sarong and put him inside it, and beat them and interrogated them for two days and nights.

Q: Were they fed?
A: Not enough, because I went at that time too. It was during the time that they called the widow. They fed her just enough to keep her alive. At the time when I went with them, the widow didn’t have to carry anything, and they carried their own loads. As for me, my shoulders burned and even if I couldn’t carry I had to try. It was a very heavy load for me. I had to carry vegetables, meat, rice, and pots and other food that they looted. They told us to go with them for 3 hours [to porter], but they forced us to go east and west, and we couldn’t finish our own work.

In the early morning they fed us just a bit of leftover rice, but if we compared it to what we eat at home, humans don’t eat that—we give it to the dog. But we had to eat this dish of rice that was soggy and rotten, because we were afraid of them and hungry. We tried to eat it to stay alive.

Q: How many porters went with you?
A: All of the porters numbered more than 30, including the ones from our village and other villages. There were 50 soldiers. No women were involved. I asked the oldest porter I saw, "Uncle, you are very old already. Why do you have to carry?" and he told me, "We dare not stay without coming to carry." He had gray hair already; he was more than 50 years old. They forced them to carry the same things as we did, like pumpkins, fruit, food and rice. Even if they couldn’t carry it, they had to go slowly until they could. Some fell down and people had to pick them up; it was torturous. We saw that they slapped some. But they scolded them horribly so even if you couldn’t go you had to go.

Q: Did anyone run to escape?
A: Yes, some people escaped. For the people who ran, they noted down their names and charged each of them one pig. If they didn’t have a pig, they had to pay 6 viss of chicken and a bag of rice. They went to [Kya In] Seik Gyi and people had to pay them.

Q: Did you escape when you portered?
A: Don’t mention it! I did run to escape from them. I ran to escape from everything, and to save myself from paying them a pig, too. So I fled and stayed in the jungle because I dared not face them or be close to them.

Q: If they captured porters again after they fled, did they release them?
A: After that, people had to give recommendations for them [fellow villagers had to ‘vouch’ to the local military commander for the porters who fled], but the first and second times they [the Burmese] didn’t release them, not until the third time. They also had to pay some money, but not so much.

Q: Did they beat them?
A: Yes, it was very horrible. They beat their heads and shoulders until they sunk in, and they sliced a person’s throat with a sickle. It was very painful.

Q: Did they ever capture porters who ran?
A: For those people they beat them and tortured them. They shot them with guns. They shot a man from Kaw Ler who ran to escape at the other side of the river called T’Mee Kloh, which is near our village. I saw it because we were with them, and they fired many guns and a lot of bullets. After that the man dove into the water, and they kept shooting him in the river for a long time. His name is N---. They couldn’t capture him.

Q: Did they give you any medicine when you portered?
A: They didn’t give us any. One of my younger brothers who had gone with us got a fever and he just had to suffer. I saw that they just gave him quinine, but it didn’t heal him and he got worse. A lot of people got fevers, and I had to buy medicine for myself, too. There were two medics in their unit. They had medicine for themselves; if their soldiers got fevers, they treated them very well. But for us we know that they really did not treat us well.

Q: Did you have money to pay them if you really didn’t want to go?
A: Yes, if people dared not go, they had to pay money. Each village had to give 10,000 Kyat to the SPDC Army. But that is only per month, not for the whole dry season. Some villages had to pay 10,000 or more, but smaller villages paid 7,000 or 8,000 Kyat. After we paid we still had to go, but a little less often.

Q: Did they carry enough rations with them?
A: They didn’t carry enough rations with them because we saw them ask and take rice from villagers’ houses. They asked without paying money to the villagers. The villagers had to give it to them because they fear them. If the villagers didn’t give it to them, they beat them and looted it from them anyway.

Q: Did they demand that any women go with them when you portered?
A: We saw that they called to women along the way and ordered them to guide them. Actually, they kept them as cover for when the people [the KNU] shot at them. We heard from another village that they demanded all of the villagers, including women and children, because the people had shot at them. They ordered them to guide them to each village, then to another. As far as I know they called a lot of women from Htee K’Pa village, including children. People had to come down to send them [the Burmese] to Paw Ner Mu Hta, and then they released them. They called some for one or two days, but some for days at a time. Some women had to carry their babies on their backs and the Burmese forced them to go like that. They fed them just enough to stay alive. For the women who could carry, they ordered them to carry, too. Some didn’t have to carry but they forced them to go with them like that.

Q: Did you hear that they raped any of the women that they called?
A: We didn’t hear about that around our village. But I have heard about it from other villages, though I couldn’t tell about it because I don’t know their names. But everything I was told and know is true. They called the women, children, and old people to go with them to stop the people from shooting them. They ordered them to go with them, and the second thing was that they told the villagers we saw that if people shoot at them near a village, they will enter that village and torture the villagers. I heard that near Kyo Kyaw village the people shot at them, so they [the Burmese troops] entered the village and killed two villagers. I didn’t see it with my own eyes, but I heard it and it is true. I think it was [LID]#88. I only know one person’s name, Saw Klo Paw. He is nearly 40 years old. I know that both of them were farmers.

Q: When you lived in your village, did they allow you to worship in a church?
A: When we stayed in the village they allowed us to go to church, but they guarded the church with a fence.

Q: Since you made your living farming but you couldn’t go to your huts, how did you tend your fields and cattle and buffaloes?
A: Since they don’t allow us to work freely, we lost those things and they were ruined. They said that after 8 days if they saw us in the jungle they would shoot us because we didn’t obey the rules. For that they gave us 8 days, but for portering sometimes it was 10 days or half a month. As for me, we had already harvested and gathered the paddy, but we had to leave it behind, and we dared not go close to it.

People couldn’t do anything with their cattle or buffaloes. So they let them loose, and people thought that if they had the chance to come back after they left the village, they would be able to catch them again. But some might be lost.

Q: In your area did the Burmese relocate villages and burn down the houses?
A: We didn’t hear anything special about villages before we fled here. The first village that had trouble where people had to flee was Khay R’Moh village. And they said that Khay R’Moh was feeding Kaw Thoo Lei and was a rebel village. So people ran to escape, and they said, "If you run, run until you escape from us, but if we see you again, you have no chance to live, and you can never come back to the village."

Q: But they didn’t tell you where they were going to relocate your village?
A: They didn’t tell us where they are going to drive us, but they said run until you get to safety. We didn’t hear where, and they didn’t announce it to us.

Q: Why did they drive out the villages?
A: The villages that they drove out are good villages, but they said that there are Kaw Thoo Lei in them. If they know that Kaw Thoo Lei has passed through that village, they make trouble and drive the people out. Some villages haven’t been driven out yet, but there has been trouble in them before [i.e. a battle has occurred there or they have had past contact with KNU/KNLA] so the villagers dared not stay, and they ran away. This happened in my village; we dared not face them, so we ran away.

Q: You said you heard that they were confiscating villagers’ paddy?
A: Yes, we heard about this in the villages of Meh T’Kreh, Paw Ner Mu, G’Kyo and A’Kyo, and Gru Kyi. They took paddy and asked each village for a certain amount, and villagers had to send it to Da Nu. There were many other villages but I don’t recall their names. Some villages had to pay 500 baskets of paddy, and some small villages paid 150 baskets. It was very difficult for the villages to pay as they demanded, because they had no time to work.

I think that they demanded paddy because they wanted to subjugate the village, that’s why. We all know that the villagers who don’t know where to flee and stayed in their villages will have to buy things to eat from the Burmese later.

Q: What did you do with your rice, animals, and belongings when you had to leave your village?
A: We had no time to keep those things that we left. The reason why we couldn’t keep them was because they only gave us a few days to finish working on our rice and paddy. They called us for 10 days and more [of forced labour], so that left us no time to work, and so those things were left to ruin. We left the paddy in the fields and all of our pigs and chickens were left in the village also. The paddy we couldn’t do anything with was destroyed. The villages usually get about 2,000 baskets of paddy [from the annual harvest].

Q: Is anybody still there, or has everyone fled your village?
A: Not all of us fled here, but nobody stays in the village because they dare not, and the Burmese won’t allow them to stay either. We know that some people went to stay in other villages, and some are hiding in the jungle, and some are trying to come here [xxxx refugee camp], but they haven’t arrived yet. There are a lot of people who want to come here, but they can’t because some are sick, so they just hide.

Q: Do you know any of the SPDC’s plans for your village or for the area?
A: We heard that they plan to build the road, and it will be terrible for civilians. Because if they are going to build a road, we heard they will call for civilians to do forced labour. We are not sure if it’s true or not; we just heard that they are planning to build a car road from Kho Ther Pler [Three Pagodas Pass] to Kya In Seik Gyi. It is a very far distance; it takes 5 days on foot. So it will be a problem for civilians. I think that it will benefit them [the SPDC].

The other thing that they have planned which makes us afraid is what they will do to our relatives who joined the resistance. It is easy for them to capture them, and they will torture and abuse us until we tell them [who is in the KNLA]. They will interrogate us until we answer, so we are afraid of them and have to avoid them. They will also demand things and gather our paddy, but what will they do to the villagers who remain in the village? We heard that they will do the same thing that they have done in the area of Myint Wah Kyo Baw. So they will drive them to the same place and force them to work hard for them. They will work each morning and afternoon, and the villagers will have to go and take rice from them for each meal. They will suffer like that. They do this because they want to starve Kaw Thoo Lei. The way I see it is if they do it this way, it will not hurt Kaw Thoo Lei, but it will hurt civilians.

Q: How many villages from your area fled here?
A: There were three villages who started to come from our area. Khay R’Moh, Htee Po Way, and Paw Ner Mu. There were 10 houses with 44 people. On the way we had to sleep in the jungle and bush to avoid the enemy, and it was horrible for us. There were some children who got sick, but we dared not make a sound. We had to climb many mountains to arrive here, and it was very difficult. Some children were very sick, and some adults were, too. We met with each other on the way here, and really we didn’t know how to come here. But we asked Karen villages that we passed to show us the way here. It took 7 days on the way.

Q: Are you happy to stay in xxxx [refugee camp], or do you want to go back again?
A: We are happy to arrive in xxxx camp because we are saved from our enemy’s oppression. But we want to go back to our village if we can go back to stay, and if our enemies have gone back to their place. Because it is our village—our place—and we have belongings and animals, too. So we have to go back.

 

#5.

NAME:          "Saw Htoo Klih"          SEX: M           AGE: 30         Karen Christian farmer
FAMILY:        Married, 2 children          
ADDRESS:      Plaw Toh Kee village, Kya In township                   INTERVIEWED: 12/99

["Saw Htoo Klih" left all his belongings and food in his village and fled to the Thai border with 26 other families.]

Q: Why did you come to the refugee camp?
A: I will explain to you what I heard and saw. The main problem was that we feared the oppression of the SPDC. The first fear is that when the SPDC army entered the village, there were no men there at the time. So they gathered all of the women and then the private soldiers went into houses and took everything they liked. Then when they wanted to eat the livestock like chicken or ducks, they took it all. Then since they didn’t see any men in the village, they called the married women with babies and forced them to carry loads for them for one or two days, even if their children cried.

Q: Which unit entered your village and tortured you this way?
A: The main group is Strategic Command #881, LIB #415 Column 1, and the name of their commander is Lt. Colonel Zaw Aung. They came on November 23rd [1999] and left the village on November 30th after they oppressed the villagers.

Q: Did they burn down your village or force it to relocate?
A: They drove the villagers who stayed around the village into the same place [i.e. forced the villagers in outlying areas to consolidate into the centre of the village]. They warned that if they didn’t see everyone crowded in the same place, they would kill them all. They said that if they didn’t drive them all together, the villagers would contact their friends in the Karen resistance, so they drove all of them to the village to starve the resistance. They could not make contact in the SPDC area.

Q: Did the women have to porter?
A: The longest period of time was 1 or 2 days. When there were not men, the women had to carry bullets, clothes for the soldiers, and everything that they took from the villagers’ houses. We didn’t see how heavy it was, but after they arrived back at their houses all of their bodies ached, and they were in pain. All of the women had to carry. If they saw the mother of a newborn while she was going to find vegetables, they called her too, but they carried quite light loads. For the people who could carry 20 viss, they forced them to carry 50 viss. For the people who couldn’t carry loads, they beat them until they died. As for the women who couldn’t carry loads, they called them in Plaw Toh Kee to follow them anyway. The youngest was 18 years old.

They ask women to carry because the men dare not face them. The second reason is that they worry that on the way the resistance will shoot them and lay landmines on the path. But they know that if they go with women the resistance won’t shoot or trap them with landmines. So they call a lot of women to carry for them.

Q: How did they collect the women porters?
A: When they came they held a meeting in the village, and they told us that if the women were not involved with them, the resistance could shoot a lot of them. So we had to call women to go with them, and after they released them they said "Thank you very much." At the time there were more than 30 women who went to carry for them.

Q: Where did the women sleep when they portered?
A: They surrounded them and guarded them carefully. They didn’t allow them to sleep separately. They made them sleep in the area where their commanders sleep. Their commanders sleep among their private soldiers, who guard their commanders. The women sleep around the commanders because then in the night they are protected from shelling. They had to sleep in the forest and it was very cold for them because of the rain.

Q: Did they provide medicine for any porters if they got sick on the way?
A: They gave some porters medicine, but some couldn’t get it, and more often they killed them along the way. I don’t know the names of the people who were killed, but they lived near my village. On the way from Kyaw Soe to Plaw Toh Kee and on to Kyi Soe, they killed at least 20 porters. I also saw them kill three people in Plaw Toh Kee.

Q: How did they kill them?
A: Before they killed them they captured them, and they didn’t feed them rice or give them water for 7 days. They didn’t let them lie down or sit down, they just tied them standing against trees and a stand of bamboo. Then they questioned them about the resistance, but they couldn’t answer them because they are farmers. They beat them and punched each of their faces more than 500 times. Then they sliced their legs and arms in rows, and dried them in the hot sun. They stabbed them 1 inch deep at least 200 times each. They abused them until they cut out their intestines and then pushed them back inside their gut, but didn’t kill them right away. They kept them like that day and night, then killed them in the jungle. Their names were Peh Ko, Kyaw Thaw Han, and Si Si.

Q: Do these men have families?
A: Peh Ko is my younger sister’s husband, and he has 2 children, also his wife is pregnant. She went back to stay with her mother. Kyaw Thaw Han has 2 children and his wife has been left alone; she went to stay in another village. They could not escape their enemies and feel the same things as other people do, like fear.

Q: Why did they kill those people?
A: They thought that they were people who work for the resistance, so they accused them and killed them. The village head went to recommend them but he couldn’t. After they killed them they buried them in the same hole. They had never carried guns in their lives; they were workers in the fields and they bred cattle. They stayed in the village and everybody in the village believes that they were good men.

Q: Which troops did this?
A: The troops were Strategic Command #881, LIB #415. The commander is [Lt. Colonel] Kyaw Zaw Aung but he ordered his privates to do it. They didn’t allow us to go and watch closely when they tortured them; we looked from afar and listened to their voices. Only a person who could not die would beat another person like that. As far as I know, they beat them at least 3 times a day, and they kept them separately in each place. Each group went to beat them once or twice. The troops that beat them have a medic, and the medic wanted to treat them but their commanders didn’t allow him to. They kept them in the village for 6 days. On the 7th day they pulled them to Ywa Thay, but along the way the three people couldn’t walk, so they killed all of them. We knew that they killed them because some villagers travelled outside, and when some villagers from Plaw Toh Kee went to porter, they saw it near Ywa Thay. They didn’t allow anybody to see it, but people could see them when they pulled them to the place where they were going to kill them. And they heard their voices digging the hole for them, and after they buried them the other people saw that they had buried 3 people there, so we believe that they were killed in that place for sure.

Q: Did you hear of any other people who were killed?
A: I didn’t see it with my own eyes, but my friend saw, and I heard from other people as well that they killed a lot of people like those three. We heard that they killed someone by standing on him until he drowned in the mud, and then they stabbed someone by throwing a knife at him. His name is Nga Lu and he stayed in Htee Khay village. I didn’t know him very well, but I heard from people patrolling around my village that he was a good man. It was the same unit that killed those other three. There were just a few days between when they killed those people and when they killed Nga Lu.

From what we heard, there were also a lot of people from other villages killed. Some villagers from Plaw Toh Kee who portered for the Burmese saw people tortured. Their wrists and ankles were decayed and maggots had consumed them and they smelled bad. Those people saw it with their eyes and said, "This is torture by the SPDC".

Q: Did your village have to do forced labour in their camps?
A: We had to go and work for them. We started facing this oppression when [LID] #44 arrived [during the 1997 offensive] and they forced the villagers to go and dance in their camp. Some girls didn’t want to go for singing and dancing and they complained about it, but they had to go.

Q: Since the SPDC came to your village, have you been able to earn your living in the village and to travel?
A: After they came to the village, they didn’t want to allow the villagers to work far from the village. They wanted them to work in the village and on the fields near the village. They said that if they saw villagers in the jungle they would kill them, so we fled to the refugee area because we feared them. We left all of our belongings and paddy in the village. From the 153 people who fled here, there were not less than 5,000 baskets in Meh Gu/Plaw Toh Kee. We didn’t finish reaping the paddy, so it’s still in the jungle [i.e. hill fields]. We won’t be able to get it if we go back again. If you add together all the belongings that we left in the village, the price would not be less than 5,000,000 Kyat.

Q: How many families fled here?
A: There were 26 families with 153 people. 52 children under five years old.

Q: Did you have a school in your village?
A: Before the SPDC came, we had a school. But after they arrived, our school, our village, and all of our belongings were destroyed.

Q: Are there any villagers who remained there?
A: There are a lot of people who fled to the refugee camp and some villagers who ran to stay in other villages, but now there a few people who still stay in the village. They have to live in terror and anxiety, and they said that if the situation becomes worse than this all of them will leave the village too.

Q: Did you hear that the SPDC will relocate the village?
A: According to the people who went to the meeting, our enemies [SPDC] said that they will drive villages consisting of 20-30 houses to the big village. In the area around my village, they came and held a meeting and said that they would drive us to Kyi Soe, the place where their Battalion Commander stays, in order to make that place a town. But now every villager lives in terror and anxiety. The villagers think it’s strange that they would drive us from many villages to join with a big village like that.

Q: What is the Army’s presence like in the area? How will they deal with the villagers?
A: According to the enemy’s situation in the village right now, I have seen with my eyes and am sure that they would beat the villagers more than 3 times over. If the resistance people shoot them in the village, they told us that they would kill all of the villagers who stay in that village.

Q: Is it true that they will build a place to store paddy?
A: They are already building those things and we saw them with our own eyes. And they came and held a meeting in Plaw Toh Kee and told us that they are going to build a road. They asked the village head, "In order to build the road, will we build it with machines or with people?" [A rhetorical question, meaning the SPDC will use forced labour to construct the road.]But the village head and villagers couldn’t answer them because it was not their plan. The road that they are going to make starts at Kya In Seik Gyi and continues until Khoh Ther Pler [Three Pagodas Pass]. As far as I know, this road will pass at least 10 villages or more.

Q: Will this road benefit villagers?
A: If the SPDC army is going to build this road, the number of villagers who have died up till now will increase by threefold. What’s more, the benefit will go to the SPDC, and the villagers will face twice as much torment as before. Before I came here they collected 100 baskets of paddy from every village, but after I left my village, I don’t know what happened.

Q: What do you think they will do with the paddy they collected?
A: They expressed their aim about gathering paddy in the meeting with the village heads in Kya In township. They will order the villagers to go and collect from them enough for each meal or each month. They think that if the villagers do not have food to eat, the resistance will not have food to eat either. They said, "In a pool we can’t leave some fish to catch, so we have to catch them all." And then he said, "I am not fighting the resistance, I fight civilians." So they do, and they collect paddy among the civilians to break the foundation of the resistance. They announced it during the meeting and all of the village heads and villagers in Kya In township heard about it.

Q: While you were coming here, did you face any problems along the way?
A: I left my village on the 2nd of December [1999] and on the way we had to fear all SPDC troops because there were many along the way. We had to suffer crossing rivers, sleeping in the mist, and some children got sick with fevers [in cold season, each morning the ground is covered by a heavy damp cold mist which the sun does not penetrate until 10 or 11 a.m.]. After we arrived in the [refugee] camp a lot of people got fevers. But because of the love of our God, we were blessed on the way and nobody died or got separated from us.

 

#6.

NAME:         "Naw K’Paw"               SEX: F          AGE: 25        Karen Christian farmer
FAMILY:       Married, 2 children                
ADDRESS:     Meh Gu Kee village, Kya In township                    INTERVIEWED: 12/99

["Naw K’Paw" fled with 150 villagers after the Burmese relocated her village. After a difficult journey which involved being forced back across the border twice by the Thai Army, they arrived in a refugee camp.]

Q: Do you have a school in your village?
A: We have a primary school up to 2nd Standard [Grade 2]. It is in Toh Doh Noh [the village connected to Meh Gu Kee]. There’s just one teacher and 15 students.

Q: In your village, what is the highest standard that men have graduated from?
A: The highest standard that our village men have completed in Meh Gu is 8th standard.

Q: What about for women?
A: 8th Standard as well. We have 3 or 4 villagers who are continuing their education in Kya In Seik Gyi.

Q: Do you have a hospital in your village?
A: We do not have a clinic; there is one in Kya In. It was set up at the intersection of the main road.

Q: What is the main health problem that people in your village face?
A: Mostly fever and malaria.

Q: What about HIV/Aids?
A: We haven’t seen it yet. We heard about it but we haven’t seen it. It frightened me when I heard about it.

Q: Have the SPDC troops arrived in your village?
A: Yes, they arrived on November 24th. Strategic Command #881 Column 1 under Lt. Colonel Zaw Aung.

Q: Did they abuse anyone in the village?
A: Yes, when they entered the village they captured 3 men: Si Si, Peh Ko, and Pu Law [a.k.a. Kyaw Thaw Han]. Si Si is about 25 or 26, Peh Ko is about 40 years old. The other person is quite old, maybe more than 50. They work on the flat fields. They [the Burmese] captured them in Meh Gu because they believed the testimony of a villager, so they beat them. Si Si was captured when he was reaping paddy in the fields, and the other two men were captured in their houses. As soon as they captured them they tied them tightly until they couldn’t speak. I don’t know how many times they interrogated them, but they didn’t allow their relatives to go and see them. The private soldiers started to interrogate them, and then it went up step by step to the Battalion Commander. Some [soldiers] were drunk, but some didn’t drink. They didn’t keep them in the same place; they kept them separately and covered their eyes. They didn’t give them anything to eat. They sliced Peh Ko and Si Si’s skin until their blood gushed, and we dared not look at them. All of them were beaten like that. They burned them with fire and gave them electric shocks. They abused them and sliced their skin terribly in rows for a whole week, and then they couldn’t tolerate it and died. They killed them in Ywa Thay, Kya In township on the 30th of November. They said they were all Kaw Thoo Lei soldiers.

Q: What did the other male villagers do when the Burmese came?
A: The other male villagers ran away when they entered the village. These 3 men didn’t because the column arrived suddenly and they didn’t know anything about it beforehand, so they were captured.

Q: How did they kill them?
A: All of them were tortured in the same way: they sliced their skin in rows, then shocked them with electricity, burned them with fire, and pulled their necks with ropes until they nearly died. They accused them all of being Kaw Thoo Lei soldiers. They didn’t kill them right away. They sliced them with the knife in small cuts until their blood gushed. If they yelled they burned them and shocked them with electricity, and pulled them with a rope. But they didn’t shoot them or stab them or slit their throats. They abused them by burning and torturing them slowly until their spirits left them.

Q: Did they make contact with the Kaw Thoo Lei?
A: They never contacted Kaw Thoo Lei.

Q: Did you hear that they tortured villagers from other places like this, too?
A: As I am a woman, I cannot hear what happens in other villages far away. [It is not easy for women to travel.]

Q: When they entered your village, did they rape any women?
A: Yes, I heard that. I heard that three women who stay in A’Leh Ywa were coming back from their hill fields. Two of them are married and the other one is single; they raped all of them, one by one, when they were coming back on the way. It was only just over a month ago.

Q: What can villagers do? Can you complain in the courts when women are raped?
A: We cannot complain because our Karen people do not win against Burmese people, and we dare not tell them. So we have to live quietly and submit. They told us, "If you dare to go to court, you can, but the next time we will do it worse than before." Also, they never accept or respect the village head, and they said that the chairperson is also Kaw Thoo Lei.

Q: Do women in your village have to porter as well?
A: In the past they did not need women, but last dry season [the first half of 1999] women started to go because they beat a lot of men horribly when they went to porter, so men tried to avoid them in the village. In every house they came to there were only women, so they called all of the women, even some with small babies, and they forced them to go with them. They didn’t ask them to carry loads, except for the women who didn’t have babies. They collected village by village and exchanged [porters]. They forced them to go in front of them, not behind, like security guards.

Q: What about sick or pregnant women, were they forced too?
A: Yes, they collected them too. They forced people like Naw P--- who was pregnant and got wounded by a gun at Doh Blaw. They shot her.

Q: How many women from each village had to go?
A: There were 3 or 4 women from each village. They went for 3 or 4 days and then exchanged. Some women are health coordinators, but some help their husbands in the hill fields. Some stay in the house and pound paddy and look after children.

Q: Can you tell me about your journey here?
A: I left to come here on the 5th of December. It took 10 days by foot. In my group there were 152 people including children, probably more than 40 houses. You can’t imagine the problems because I came with children, and we also had to fear the [SPDC] soldiers and the Thais. After we arrived in L---, the Thais found out about it and they forced us to go back to our village twice. But we decided we would keep trying until we got here, then we met up with people who have responsibilities here. They sent us during the night, so we had to climb many mountains at night with small children. They didn’t allow us to let the children cry because we were terrified walking through the night. In the daytime we had to hide in the forest and sleep, and we feared the children’s voices. In the evening we entered the village and passed through it and climbed up the mountains. Before arriving here some children were sick with fever and diarrhoea and we did not have any medicine to treat them until we arrived here.

Q: Did you have food along the way?
A: Before we came to a new village we brought some rice from the old village for a meal. But we couldn’t carry a lot, so we just carried enough for each meal.

Q: How many houses are left in your village?
A: There are not so many houses left in the village, and none of them have children in their families. We fled here because we couldn’t tolerate the persecution of the SLORC [sic: SPDC]. When they entered the village they threatened us, and if they didn’t see the men they demanded women to go and work, so women dared not stay in the village. And if they saw children, they called them also. They called the children and if they saw that they didn’t have parents [i.e. children presumed to be orphans], they took them. And if they saw the animals that we have under the houses, they killed them to eat. So every animal that we breed is wasted, and if they see paddy or rice, they set them on fire.

Q: Did they also relocate any villages?
A: Yes. Meh Hser Kee Chaung Pya had to move to Meh Hser Kee village.

Q: Do you mean that they asked the villagers to move into the centre of the village?
A: Yes. Just as Meh Hser Kee Chaung Pya had to move, all of the villagers who stay in their farmfield huts had to come back and stay in the village. But Paw Ner Mu village did not have to move because it is a big village. I don’t know why they relocated us, but I heard them say that villagers have huts that Kaw Thoo Lei could come and stay in and hide. They did not provide anything [the SPDC gave the villagers nothing after forcing them to relocate].

Q: Did you have time to finish your paddy field before you came here?
A: People didn’t have time to work on their fields, but some finished reaping already and others didn’t, so they just kept their paddy in their fields. We didn’t have time to give our fields away or ask somebody to look after them. Some villagers had cattle and buffaloes, and they untied them and let them go in the jungle. They thought that if they let their animals go, the SLORC [sic: SPDC] couldn’t eat them all, and if the situation in their village gets better again, they will recapture their own cows and buffaloes.

Q: How is the army going to continue to persecute the villagers who remain?
A: We heard that the next unit that is coming is worse than this one. I don’t know how they are going to do it, but they told us that if there is water, there might be fish, and to get to the fish, they have to drain the water. We really do not understand the meaning of this, but we are afraid of them.

Q: Which army unit told you that?
A: LIB #415, from [LID Strategic Command] #881, Commander Zaw Aung.

Q: Do you think you will return to your village someday?
A: I don’t know, but after my difficult trip here I don’t know if I will go back again.

 

#7.

NAME:         "Saw Lah Bway"          SEX: M          AGE: 20          Karen Buddhist Farmer
FAMILY:        Single               
ADDRESS:     Kwih K’Neh Ghaw village, Kya In township            INTERVIEWED: 12/99

["Saw Lah Bway" escaped from portering and temporarily stayed in other villages to avoid Burmese soldiers before making his way to Thailand.]

Q: Before you came here, did you live in Kwih K’Neh Ghaw?
A: I wasn’t living in Kwih K’Neh Ghaw. I went back near the villages of Kwih K’Neh Sree and Noh Ta Ra. I hadn’t moved there for good; at the time I had fled from portering. I started on the path [at Kwih K’Neh Sree] to come here. I dared not go back to my village because I was worried that the Burmese would come. We were so afraid, so we had to come. We dared not stay there because we had fled from the Burmese. They would have killed us if they’d seen us, since we’d fled from their hands. They had already killed one who fled from them. My siblings don’t know I came here.

Q: Who was the name of the commander of the troops you fled from?
A: Tin Maung Aye.

Q: What is the name of the escaped porter who they killed?
A: Kyaw Ngay. He was about 39 years old. I don’t know the name of his mother and father because they are dead. They are not my relatives.

Q: Was Kyaw Ngay married?
A: Yes, to K---. She has two children, one daughter and one son.

Q: How did they capture him?
A: They went to capture him secretly. After they captured him, they hung him by his hands on a tree. I saw it because at the time I was portering. They captured him in the river at Nya Ka Aye Kee while he was fishing. The Burmese were patrolling and heard that he had fled and was staying at that place. They found him and tied him. Before they killed him, they tortured him. They kicked him with their big boots and burned the hair on his testicles with a candle. They kicked him and then killed him in the jungle.

Q: Was it Tin Maung Aye’s troops that killed him?
A: Yes. Only the officer tortures the people. He [the commander] cut his throat.

Q: Did they kill anyone else?
A: Kyaw Ngay was one and the other was Kyaw Taw. Kyaw Taw didn’t go to porter; they met him in the jungle. When they met him they ordered him to stop cutting grass in his hill field. He was staying with his wife and 3 children in the farmfield hut. He was from Toh Kee, but his wife comes from the other side of the mountain at Ka Kya Po Kee. They arrested him near Toh Kee and they shot him through the mouth while he was cutting the grass. They killed both of them within 2 days. At the time I was portering for 9 days. They forced us to bury him and sleep near the grave. There was heavy rain and we all got wet. We got cold and chilled, and we couldn’t sleep.

We crossed his farmfield hut [the troops and porters traversed his field and stayed in the huts overnight]. His wife couldn’t do anything. She wanted to cry but the commander didn’t want her to cry. If she cried he would have killed them all. The woman dared not cry. Then they slept there and in the morning they left that place.

Q: Why did they kill Kyaw Taw? 
A: Kyaw Taw was working a hill field deep in the jungle. The Burmese ordered that people have to carry recommendation letters [letters from the village head or Burmese officers granting permission for villagers to travel outside the village], but he didn’t have a letter. Therefore they killed him and said he was Nga Pway [‘Ringworm’, i.e. KNLA].

Q: What did they do to porters who fled?
A: They [the Burmese] didn’t see them, but they ordered them to pay a fine. They fined one porter 3,000 Kyat and 10 vissof pork. Those people must bring it to them. If they don’t, they will come to kill all people in the village. They sent a letter [to the village that expressed this threat].

Q: When did you have to porter?
A: I had to porter 4 times. The last time, last month, I went for 10 days. Once I had to go for 26 days. That time they fined me 3,000 Kyat because I fled from them. Then they replaced their troops and a new troop came. When the new troop came, I had to porter again.

Q: Which troop came to replace Tin Maung Aye’s troops?
A: They called it ‘Kweh Dteh’ [‘Company 1’] or ‘Dteh Dteh’ [‘One One’]. There was the writing, ‘Ko Thon Lone’[‘Three 9’s’, or ‘999’] on their guns. It may be that the people are calling them ‘Ko Thon Lone’. They were Burmese. I don’t know this troop well because I just went to porter for them once. [999 is the number of a DKBA Brigade further north; the weapons had probably been taken back from the DKBA. The SPDC supplies the DKBA with all of its weapons and ammunition.]

Q: Did they feed you when you portered?
A: We had to eat rotten rice. We didn’t have enough to eat; the portion was as big as 2 eggs. They were angry when we asked for salt from them. The load was very heavy, about 20 viss [32 kg/70 lb].

Q: Did they ever torture you?
A: They never tortured me, but they tortured some friends of mine. They tortured people from Toh Kee and Tha Mu Theh. I saw it because we portered together. Some porters got tired and couldn’t carry anymore. The Burmese kicked them with their big boots and slapped their faces. If they [the porters] took a rest after they climbed a mountain because they were tired, they[the Burmese soldiers] pounded their backs with [bamboo] stalks. The porters had to scurry up the hill, but they were tired and couldn’t climb. They didn’t give us water to drink. When we came to a river, we could just sprinkle water in our throats once to wet them, but we couldn’t stop to drink. They gave us medicine [when needed], but we still had to carry heavy things. We had to carry their backpacks in our baskets [in addition to their already full loads].

The commander didn’t ask them to beat us, but when the porters were tired, they beat them. The commander didn’t see it because there were many soldiers. There were 60, 70, 80, or 100 soldiers moving. In [LID] #22, another commander’s name is Htun Tin Ha, and I had to carry for him one time. He didn’t torture the porters, but his soldiers tortured porters. Sometimes the commander didn’t see when the soldiers tortured them. They did it secretly. The commander ordered the soldiers to guard us with guns and bamboo. He worried that the porters would escape.

Q: How much did you have to pay if you couldn’t porter for them?
A: If people have to porter for 10 days, they must hire someone for 10,000 Kyat. If they go for 3 days, 3,000 Kyat.

Q: When you entered villages, did they capture the villagers’ chickens?
A: At night when they stole chickens under the houses, people would scold them in Karen, but they only spoke Burmese. They didn’t understand each other, and then they took the peoples’ chickens and went away.

Q: Did the porters go between them when they walked?
A: Sometimes one or two soldiers went between the porters. Or they forced two porters to go ahead, and the two soldiers followed behind the porters. They followed them, but they still pointed their guns. They worried that they would flee and escape. Usually soldiers went first, but when the battle occurred they forced the porters to run ahead. When I was portering a battle occurred once near Meh T’Kreh village. They didn’t have time to force us to run ahead because the people [KNLA soldiers] just shot at them 2 or 3 times and then ran away.

Q: Did the villagers also have to do loh ah pay?
A: The villagers who dare not go to porter, like women, go for loh ah pay. The men also have to go, though. If there are many people in the house, it is better. If there are only one or two people in the house, you don’t have time to work [on your own fields; each demand for forced labour usually specifies one person per house]. The only way is to run [escape from portering].

Q: Do the villagers in Kwih K’Neh Ghaw have enough food to eat if they are always working for the Burmese?
A: Many villagers do not have enough food. They have to buy rice. Some villagers have been asking from each other, then they pay it back when the time comes [when the rice is harvested].

Q: How much is one basket of rice in your village?
A: 450 Kyat [for one basket of paddy]. 3,000 Kyat for one basket of rice.

Q: Did you come here alone?
A: I came with two people. I came with K--- and I followed the Kaw Thoo Lei [KNLA]. I must stay here for at least one month. But if the Burmese troops are replaced this month, I will dare to return by the K--- path. If the troops don’t change, I dare not go back.

Q: Do other villagers from Kwih K’Neh Ghaw want to come here?
A: Yes, but they are not finished with their work. If you leave immediately and the Burmese see you, they will kill you. You have to flee secretly because the Burmese don’t allow you to flee. If the villagers flee, the Burmese can’t force the villagers to work. They didn’t know that I was coming here. They are going to force our village to Kyaikdon.

Q: They’re going to relocate your village to Kyaikdon?
A: They said so. They wanted to separate us from the Kaw Thoo Lei. I heard that they were going to confiscate the villagers’ rice and paddy when the villagers finished working [harvesting]. They are going to keep it in Kyaikdon. They will force the villagers to go and stay and eat there. I heard about this while the villagers were harvesting the paddy but they hadn’t confiscated it yet before I came here. The village head told us in a meeting. The villagers couldn’t tell[what to do]. When they finish their work, they will run or they will hide their paddy and run. Some villagers aren’t going to send their paddy [to the Burmese].

 

#8.

NAME:         "Saw Tha Htoo"          SEX: M     AGE: 36               Karen Christian farmer
FAMILY:       Married, one child
ADDRESS:     xxxx village, Kya In township                                INTERVIEWED: 12/99

["Saw Tha Htoo" is a former KNLA soldier. He fled with the village head of his village and other villagers after the SPDC warned that they were looking for ex-soldiers and their families.]

Q: Can you tell me why you decided to come to xxxx [refugee camp]?
A: Because the enemy is torturing us, so we came here.

Q: How did the Burmese torture you?
A: They were dividing all the villagers and the resistance. They plan to make the resistance disappear. They even screen out the villagers. For example, they say the fish are in the pond, but there a few fish they can’t catch. So they drain the water to catch the fish. They will do this to the resistance until they are no more.

Q: How exactly did they oppress the villagers?
A: They said that the people who live in the areas surrounding Mine, over the mountain at xxxx [village], do not obey and that there is a lot of resistance. They said that the villagers who are good and dare to face them must stay at home starting the 25th of December. They must see all the villagers, wives, husbands, and children. If they come and don’t see all of them, they will give them one chance and free them. After that, when they come the next time and don’t see full families in their houses, they will kill all of us.

Q: Do you know the troop number of the Burmese?
A: We went to visit them at [LID] #88’s camp. They are staying in Da Nu. It is close to Sin Kaung, Yay Leh. It takes 3 hours on foot. They called one representative from each village to attend the meeting. They told the villagers, "When we come to interrogate you, you must tell the truth. You must tell truly whether you are a relative of the resistance or not. When the outside people [the KNLA] enter the village, or if you find anything, you must tell us the truth. If the people shoot us, we will kill all the villagers who we have interrogated." They also said they would force the villagers to move down. They are driving the villagers to the same place. At the specified time, the villagers who don’t want the [current]village head could be the village head when the Burmese come [the SPDC told the villagers that they will appoint a new village chairperson].

Q: When did they tell you that you had to relocate?
A: On the 25th of December, all the villagers must go back to gather and stay at Ghaw Gheh village. They said that if they see any villagers who stay outside [the village], they will kill them without question. They told us this in a meeting.

Q: Why did all these new arrivals come to xxxx [refugee camp]?
A: The villagers who run to xxxx made contact with the outside people. In the last 4 or 5 years their children have been in the resistance. So they dared not stay in the village. They are villagers but when we went to a meeting at Da Nu, they said they would kill all the people who had been soldiers but quit less than 15 years ago. If it was over 15 years ago, they must go to sign with them [register with the SPDC].

Q: Did they ever give problems to the relatives of ex-soldiers?
A: Yes. They said they will capture one person [in the family of a soldier]. For example, if your nephew or sibling is a soldier, they will arrest one person from your house and force him to go and bring back the one who went to become a soldier, and ask him to surrender. If the person can’t find him, they will kill the one who went to find him.

Q: When you went to the meeting, were you the village head?
A: No, I was the representative of the village head.

Q: When was the meeting you attended?
A: On December 5th, 1999 [according to other villagers’ testimonies and field reports, the meeting was actually held on November 25th]. It was with about 70 or 80 villages.

Q: How long have the Burmese been in your village torturing the villagers?
A: It was 3 years ago when the Burmese first came. It was better when [LID] #44 came, but now the old troop has been replaced, so we couldn’t suffer there anymore. Like a screw, they keep turning it tighter.

Q: What will they do after they confiscate the paddy from the villagers?
A: They will confiscate it and then they will ration it out. They will take it to Da Nu. It may be that the villagers who stay far away will be given enough for one day. The villagers who stay nearby will get it day by day. They will ask, "How much do you eat at one time?" If the villagers say, "2 milk tins", then will give 4 milk tins for one day. They will measure it on a scale. If they give too much, they worry that the villagers will feed the outside people.

Q: Had they already captured anyone who was an ex-soldier by the time you left the village?
A: They [the relatives] talked to the village head. They already heard about it and were careful about it so the Burmese couldn’t capture them. Before we came, we didn’t hear of anyone who they had killed. But they arrested one person in Paw Ner Mu and we didn’t hear if they were going to kill him or not; however we don’t know where they will take him. They also arrested Grandfather Teacher xxxx’s wife. Her son-in-law is a soldier, so they arrested her. I heard that the villagers went to vouch for her. Later they released her, but she couldn’t go out of the village. If she left the village, they would think that she was contacting her son-in-law. As for Grandfather Teacher xxxx, they didn’t get the chance to arrest him because he is the pastor and got a recommendation letter from the Burmese government.

Q: What if the resistance entered the village and stayed in a house of a villager? Would the Burmese kill the owner if they saw him?
A: If they see that they [KNLA soldiers] are staying in a house, they kill them. They did it to one villager from Kyaut Mine village. The Burmese came to find the soldier in their house, and they killed the whole household. But they couldn’t kill the soldier because he jumped down from the house and escaped.

Q: How did they kill the villagers?
A: It could be that they stepped on them and beat them. They didn’t shoot the villagers because they didn’t bring guns.

Q: When did this occur?
A: It occurred over 10 days ago. They killed 3 other villagers at Plaw Toh Kee also. I know only one named Peh Ko. There was no unusual reason why [they killed him]. They knew he was helping Kaw Thoo Lei soldiers because he served sentry duty for the village. It occurred at the end of November [1999].

Q: Did they also rape the women?
A: They didn’t do that. They came when the village head welcomed them, and they didn’t do anything. We can’t say anything about it if the village head doesn’t welcome them. Right now they said if they arrest a villager, the monk or pastor can’t vouch for them. They can’t come to recommend them. They will kill anyone who dares to complain to them. They already told us this. If the people don’t turn on them and shoot, there will be no resistance.

Q: Do they loot the villagers livestock?
A: They take the livestock, but you can’t complain. They said if you complain, they will kill you. Their Strategic Commander said "You satisfy and feed the outside people, but you don’t satisfy or feed us."

Q: Do you think the torturing might have abated since you left the village?
A: They come to clear a village. After it is clear, they will clear another village.

Q: How long did it take you to come here?
A: It took 5 days. The Burmese didn’t know. We came together with the village head. The village had already been destroyed, but the pastor was still living there and taking care of some people. There are 4 or 5 houses left in xxxx [his village]. I think that they will not come. They will go down to the lower place [to the west].

Q: Will you go back after a while?
A: If the situation is good, I will go back. I will go back and take care of things.

Q: Before you came had they already confiscated the paddy?
A: They have already confiscated the paddy near Da Nu, Sin Kaung, and Yay Leh.

Q: How do you feel about the enemy torturing you?
A: I can’t tell you about my suffering. One other thing was that I was a soldier in the past, so my siblings didn’t want me to stay there. I left [the KNLA] 4 or 5 years ago.

 

#9.

NAME:         "Saw Tha Dah"          SEX: M          AGE: 43          Karen Christian Farmer
FAMILY:       Married, 2 children                
ADDRESS:     xxxx village, Kya In township                              INTERVIEWED: 12/99

["Saw Tha Dah" is the village head of his village. His group of refugees was pushed back by Thai soldiers at the border, but they then sneaked back into Thailand, arriving the day before he was interviewed.]

Q: Why did you come here?
A: Because the Army oppressed us and we couldn’t stay any longer, so we came up here.

Q: How did they oppress the villagers? Can you tell me exactly? 
A: The first time the Burmese enemy entered our village, they forced the villagers to porter. They gathered the men and also the women. After that they took all the belongings that they liked from the houses. They forced the men to carry things, then released the women to go back home. That was the first time. Not so long ago, just before I came here. It was only 2-3 weeks ago. Then the next time they came the men fled. They dared not face them. Therefore they called the women and arrested them [to go as porters], including the ones who have infants or are pregnant. When they slept in the jungle and the babies cried, they [the Burmese] twisted their necks [the Burmese twisted the necks of the infants as a threat, to force their mothers to prevent them from crying]. They twisted and caused them pain. Then the babies didn’t cry. The next morning they released them…They came and called the women day by day. They called them to go to the other villages and the next day they released them. If there were no men in the village, they called the women. They didn’t care if they were mothers with infants or if they were pregnant.

Q: Did they rape any of the women?
A: No, they didn’t. They called the women because they worried that the people [KNLA] would shoot them. Therefore they forced the women to stay around them.

Q: Did they pay the villagers who went to porter for them?
A: I don’t think so. They beat them when they couldn’t carry and fell down.

Q: Did you ever go to porter?
A: No, never. I am a village head [village heads usually do not go except to supervise their villagers doing forced labour]. In the past, Plaw Toh Kee, Htee Kyaw Kay, Ghaw Gheh, Htee Klih Thu, and Ya Ka Rar were all in the same group. When the enemy came up they didn’t like it. So they separated the villages of Htee Kyaw Kay, Ghaw Gheh, and Ya Ka Rar. But they kept Plaw Toh Kee and Htee Klih Thu as the same village.

Q: How many days did you have to send villagers to porter?
A: I don’t know how many days. First they changed every 3 days. Later I couldn’t change the porters [he couldn’t get anyone to send for the next rotation]. Then when the villagers fled from portering, the Burmese caused problems for me. When I went to the Burmese, they accused me of contacting Nga Pway [‘Ringworm’, i.e. KNLA], and said that I had told the porters to flee. After that they poured boiling water on me. Here, do you see?

Q: Did they accuse you of this?
A: Yes, they ordered me to go, and then they poured boiling water on me. Do you see it? The scar is very wide. They also tied my wife’s hands behind her back.

Q: Which unit did this to you?
A: It was a long time ago. After [LID] #44 went back, #22 came. It was 2 years ago.

Q: Have they arrested and tied other villagers in your area?
A: They didn’t beat and tie villagers in my area yet, but they are doing it in the other areas. My village is xxxx. There are 25 houses in the village. They haven’t arrived yet, but they have already written me a letter and ordered me to go. Then I thought that I would go soon. I have a long moustache and a goatee [which could be used to accuse him as a KNLA soldier, since many soldiers also have facial hair]. In the morning I got a letter from them [KNLA]. They told me that the village head from xxxx [his village] shouldn’t go because at that time we were working with them. When I finished reading the letter from Kaw Thoo Lei, I went to take a bath. When I finished bathing and came back, I received a letter from the Burmese. I finished reading it, and I decided that since the Burmese were ordering me to go, I might go. They said, "You must come this evening." Then I went.

Q: Where did they ask you to go?
A: xxxx. It is 3 furlongs. When I arrived half-way along the path, I decided that it was not possible to go. They also called the village head from yyyy village. I met the elder and he told me, "You can’t go." Behind me a person ran and told me not to go. He is my friend and his name is K---. He told my wife, "Tell my friend not to go. The Burmese have already arrested all of my friends." Then I ran to my friends.

Q: Did you ever go to the Burmese?
A: No. The Burmese informed the village head from yyyy village and he went. When he went the Burmese said to him, "Right now, I do not fight Nga Pway. I am fighting the civilians. If the people dare to shoot one bullet at me, it is enough. I will shoot into the village. I have no relatives there."

Q: Did he say he came to shoot Kaw Thoo Lei?
A: No, he didn’t come to shoot Kaw Thoo Lei. He said he had no relatives there, and he called himself Kayin Maung Nyo. He is the Commander of #415 [Light Infantry Battalion], LID #88. They camp at Da Nu, close to Kya In Seik Gyi. The people said they are about 500 soldiers. I have never been there, but the village head from yyyy village went there. This happened in November. [He is referring to the November 25th meeting with all the village heads in Kya In township, also referred to in many other interviews in this report.]

Q: In the past, did the Burmese enter your village at all?
A: They entered the village and we couldn’t suffer it [anymore]. Also they forced us to work a lot. They also beat one of my cousins almost to death. In the evening he regained consciousness. They took all the clothes off his body. It was 2 years ago. His name is Pa K---. He is a villager from Meh Gu. He went to porter and when he couldn’t carry things, he fell down because he had high blood pressure. They kicked him and also they beat him with the stalk of a gun. The people had to go and pick him up. They left only his pants on his body. They took his clothes [shirt and sarong, leaving only his short pants].

Q: When they entered the village, did they take livestock?
A: Some troops took things without asking the owners. They shot the livestock and you didn’t even dare complain to them. They didn’t beat any villagers, but they were annoyed. If the villagers said they would complain to the commander, the soldiers said, "Do you dare complain to the commander? Do you dare to die?"

Q: Did they ever kill any villagers?
A: I heard that they killed 3 people at Gru Kyi. It happened when the Burmese came, when [LID] #88 came up.

Q: Is it far from Gru Kyi to Meh Gu?
A: It takes one day’s walk. The people came to tell us. This unit is very dangerous and is killing villagers. If the Burmese come up and say that this villager is good, you are good, and if they say bad, you are bad. If they don’t like you, they do as they want. They also killed 3 people in Plaw Toh Kee village. I know them. They were Peh Ko, Si Si, and Kyaw Thaw Han. They are villagers who work on farms. I don’t know who went to complain to the Burmese. At the time, the Burmese went to arrest them and tortured them. At night, they tied and forced them to sleep in a standing position, sliced them with daggers, and cut their abdomens. They tortured them many ways.

Q: Why did they torture them?
A: I don’t know. They sliced them because they wanted to. It might be that people complained about them. I didn’t go there. When the event occurred, the chairperson of yyyy village had gone down there [to see the Burmese]. When he came back to the village, he called a meeting. I also went to the meeting because he called all the village heads. I dared not go to a meeting that the Burmese called. The village head from yyyy village had gone to a meeting with the Burmese. When he came back he called a meeting and said, "I do not agree with this Burmese group. They are very serious and dangerous. If you dare to face them, you can. As for me, I won’t face them anymore. You have to elect a new village head." One of his brother-in-laws is working with the Burmese; he surrendered to them. The KNLA are skeptical of him [the village head] because they worry that if he went to visit the Burmese, he would become interested in them too. Therefore he also dared not go. He left the soldiers [KNLA]. He worried that the people will complain about him to the Burmese. So he asked the villagers to elect a new village head.

Q: Did it take a long time for you to get here after you left your village?
A: 8 days. We left at night. The Burmese hadn’t arrived yet; they were just coming up when we started our journey from the village.

Q: Did you have any problems getting here?
A: We had a problem when the Thais drove us back [across the border] to H---. We met the Thai Army above the K--- border. They called us and asked, "Where are you going?" We said that we were going to Noh Po [refugee camp]. They said that when they looked at us, they pitied us. At the time it was evening. They told us to stay there and tomorrow they would come to see us at 8:30 a.m. So we slept well. Then they came at 8:00 and called us and gathered us in a field. Then they asked, "What is the problem that you face?" We told them about how the Burmese oppress us and that we had left our paddy. Some villagers had left 50-100 [baskets of] paddy. They told us they pitied us a lot. They asked, "What did you leave in your house?" The villagers told them about what they had left. They said, "You came here but you left your belongings in your house. It is not possible. Now you must go back." We dared not complain to them about anything. They sent us back across the border to the H--- area. We slept there. [He goes on to describe how the group of refugees managed to sneak back into Thailand, omitted here for safety reasons.]

Q: Before you came, did the Burmese have a plan to confiscate your paddy?
A: Yes, they are confiscating the paddy. The Burmese demanded 100 [baskets of paddy] from xxxx [his village] and 100 from Ghaw Gheh. We must give them paddy. The village head saw that they had built a big rice barn at Da Nu.

Q: Did they also build one at Plaw Toh Kee and Ta Mi Ni?
A: No, they didn’t build those yet. They will build them piece by piece. They didn’t confiscate the paddy from all the villages. They will confiscate it from the ones that are specified. I didn’t hear about it in Plaw Toh Kee.

Q: What did they do with the paddy?
A: I can’t tell. I don’t know if they will come to take it or if they will force the villagers to carry it to them.

Q: Do you think that the villagers will have enough food in the future?
A: There is no hope that there will be enough. The villagers are going separate ways. My mother said she will go back to her village. Her village is N---. She came halfway with me. She went back in tears. She told her youngest child, "In this situation, we will see you in our prayers." As for us, we came here. I can’t do anything. My mother is going one way and my children are going another way.

Q: Do you think that you will go back?
A: I think that I will go back after I have finished building the house for my wife. I have friends there [meaning the KNLA]. I will go back to fight the Burmese.

 

#10.

NAME:         "Saw Kyaw"          SEX: M          AGE: 40              Karen Buddhist farmer
FAMILY:       Married, 3 children           
ADDRESS:     Meh Gu village, Kya In township                          INTERVIEWED: 12/99

["Saw Kyaw"’s family fled to Thailand along with two others. They had very little food and decided to leave when the SPDC began confiscating paddy.]

Q: What are the Burmese doing to oppress you in Meh Gu?
A: The Burmese are confiscating the paddy and rice. They are torturing us. They are starting to make us carry now. The villagers dare not face the Burmese. But the village head stays in the village and he doesn’t let the villagers flee. If the villagers have to porter, they must go together.

Q: Did they arrest any villagers?
A: They arrested the women. They arrested them and gathered them at their place. I think that they worried that the KNLA would shoot them [the Burmese arrested the women to protect themselves against an ambush by the KNLA]. It wasn’t even a month ago. If they chased them [the KNLA], they called the women. They had to follow. They called them to the place where they settled down for 2, 3, or 4 days. They didn’t release them. When they arrested the women from Ghaw Gheh village and then went on to Paw Ner Mu, they stopped there for 3 or 4 days and released them. If the KNLA doesn’t come, they won’t arrest the women again. But they [the Burmese] called the men to porter. They forced the village head to bring porters for them.

Q: Did the Burmese kill any villagers?
A: I heard about that in Plaw Toh Kee village. They killed one because they saw that he carried an army hammock and petrol to go fishing. They chased him outside the village. They asked him, how many friends do you have? He answered them with the names of villagers who lived in the village. They are not soldiers [KNLA]; they are villagers. He was also a villager, but he was afraid of the Burmese and told them. They didn’t beat him. He gave the names of 4 people, so there were 5 including him. The people told me, but I know only one of their names: Peh Ko. Later they killed the 4 people. They released one person when the village heads from 4 or 5 villages came to guarantee him. They sliced his leg.

Q: How long ago did they arrest them?
A: Not so long ago. They arrested them not even 20 days ago at Plaw Toh Kee.

Q: Before they killed them, did they torture them?
A: Yes, before they killed them they stabbed them and sliced them with a dagger. They accused them of being soldiers. They were not soldiers.

Q: Did they torture the relatives of the 4 people also?
A: They [the relatives] didn’t know. We only knew about it when the village head from G--- came back to tell us. When the Burmese started to arrest one of them, the village head went at once to follow him because he is a villager. He went to ask the commander why he tied that man. The commander said, "This does not concern you." Therefore the village head dared not complain to him anymore.

Q: Could the village head take him back home?
A: No, he didn’t. When they arrested him, they covered his face right away.

Q: Right now in the village, have they started to confiscate the paddy?
A: Is today the 20th of December?

Q: Today is the 16th of December.
A: Then it will be 4 more days until people will finish gathering the paddy. If they don’t finish bringing in the paddy the Burmese will confiscate it, and if they see the villagers who aren’t finished gathering the paddy and staying in the fields, they will kill them.

Q: Where will they keep the paddy?
A: They are going to keep the paddy at Plaw Toh Kee. They have built a rice barn there.

Q: Will they give the villagers’ paddy back to them?
A: I heard people say that they will give it back. But the villagers must go to get it each day.

Q: What is the name of the commander of the troops who told you this?
A: I don’t know. We are illiterate so we can’t remember it. The Burmese troops are staying in a far away place, near Bilin. They do not camp at Plaw Toh Kee.

Q: Will they wait for the paddy?
A: We can’t tell. Maybe they will build a camp.

Q: Is there a plan to relocate the villagers?
A: The villagers who live in Ghaw Gheh must move to the side of the road. As for Meh Gu Kee, Htee Tha Blu, and Toh Doh Noh, they must move along the main road of Ghaw Gheh.

Q: Do they allow villagers to stay in their farmfield huts?
A: No. They will kill them. They told the village head this when they finished holding the meeting, over 20 days ago.

Q: With all of the things they have to do, do the villagers still have enough food?
A: If they keep doing this, the villagers will not have enough food to eat.

Q: When you came here, how many families were with you?
A: When we came here we were 3 families. It took 5 or 6 days. The Burmese didn’t know when we came. They already said they would not allow us to come to the refugee camp. When we were coming here, if they had arrested us they would have killed us.

Q: Is there anything else you want to say?
A: In the past, I was unhappy because we didn’t receive money and they pained us by forcing us to work. I am still unhappy. I think that if it is possible, I will take revenge on them. I will join the resistance against them.

 

#11.

NAME:         "Saw Lah Say"          SEX: M          AGE: 29          Karen Buddhist Farmer
FAMILY:       Married, 2 children ages 2, 5
ADDRESS:     Meh Gu village, Kya In township                         INTERVIEWED: 12/99

["Saw Lah Say" arrived in a refugee camp in Thailand 3 days prior to being interviewed. Until his arrival, he was unaware that SPDC soldiers had been following his group for much of the way.]

Q: Why did you come here?
A: The situation is bad in our place. We dared not suffer from the Burmese, so we came here. The Burmese are oppressing us in Meh Gu.

First of all, they arrested a villager named Si Si who carried 2 hammocks, an electrical wire, and 1 small tank of petrol. They arrested 2 people at the same time; the other one wasn’t fleeing from the Burmese. He was going to harvest the paddy and drink water at his farmfield hut. The Burmese had already seen them. When the Burmese went to surround the hut, that villager was also arrested with Si Si. When the Burmese arrested him [Si Si], we don’t know what he told them. The Burmese arrested 3 more people after that. We thought that when the Burmese beat him, Si Si told them everything. The other man did nothing. They both live in the village. The people [KNLA] were travelling, and when the Burmese came they [KNLA] called them[the villagers]. They [villagers] dared not stay, and they had to go and send things [serve as messengers for the KNLA].While the Burmese stayed in the village, they [KNLA] didn’t let them go back to the village. They worried that the Burmese would find out about their secret place. Therefore when the people [KNLA] rigged the landmines, the villagers were also there. After the Burmese went back, the villagers didn’t continue rigging mines. They went back to stay in their homes. However, when the Burmese asked him [Si Si], he presented them with everything. They asked him, "Are you a villager?" and he said, "Yes." So the Burmese said that when they came to the village, it was villagers who shot at them. Therefore the villages dared not face them again. When I came up, I knew they had arrested 4 villagers. They were Naw Haw Pa [‘Naw Haw’s father’, a.k.a. Kyaw Thaw Han], S---, Peh Ko and Si Si. They killed 3 villagers: Peh Ko, Naw Haw Pa, and Si Si. I heard the people say they released the other one. We didn’t go to see them.

Q: Why did the Burmese kill them?
A: Because Naw Haw Pa was going to rig landmines. As for Peh Ko, the people [KNLA] gave him a ticket to do logging [a recommendation letter from the KNU]. The Burmese saw this and killed Peh Ko.

Q: Did any villagers dare to stay after this happened?
A: We dared not stay. We came here. Sometimes the soldiers travel and meet us on the way, and they call us. If the Burmese knew about that, they would arrest all of us. They said they would kill all.

Q: Have the Burmese come to your village often?
A: They came in the past up until now. In the past it was not the same as now. Then they didn’t arrest women. Right now when they arrive in villages, they call and gather the women. After that when they patrol, they call them. When they arrive at a village, they release them. If they don’t arrive at a village, they don’t release them. In the past the women dared to face them. We didn’t think that they would call the women. They drive the women to go in front of them, but they do not force them [to carry loads]. When we came here, many women were fleeing.

Q: What do they do with the women?
A: I think that they use them as protection from the landmines [i.e. human minesweepers]. Last month they gathered the women from Meh Pra and forced each of them to carry a little rice. There were about 20 women. The people told us about it when we arrived at Y--- while we were fleeing.

Q: Do the men dare to face the Burmese?
A: In the past we dared to face them. This year the people [KNLA] said do not face them. The people said if we can run, we must run. The village head told us. The people also told us. The leaders said if we can run, we must run. We dare not face them.

The Burmese entered the village. At the time they forced villagers to be sentry guards each day. When I had to guard and the Burmese came, I met T--- [an SPDC soldier/officer]. T--- called me because he didn’t know the way to go; he wanted to go to Tee Lay Thu. When the Burmese entered the village, the KNLA began shooting. My wife and children fled and they didn’t remember to hide anything. The Burmese took it all. They [the Burmese] took all of my blankets, pots, and mats. One blanket costs 700 or 800 Kyat; total it would be about 2,500 Kyat.

Q: Did villagers have to do loh ah pay?
A: There was no loh ah pay. [We had to] porter and go as lan pya [guides for the Burmese troops]. If they didn’t need porters, they called us for lan pya. They didn’t let the village chairperson know where they were going. If they needed us for lan pya at once, they ordered the village chairperson to find villagers for them. When they arrived in a village [their destination], they released them. When we served as lan pya, they told only one of us secretly [where they were going]; they didn’t even let their soldiers know. The soldiers asked us. We asked them if they knew where they were going. They said they didn’t know. Their Sergeant told us secretly of the villages where they were going. If the Sergeant said they were going to a place, we didn’t believe him. They went to another place.

Q: Which troops did you porter for?
A: When I went to porter, it was for [LIB] #545 and [IB] #231. Also [LIB] #306. This year, I didn’t go. The whole rainy season this year, the Burmese didn’t come. The Burmese started coming when the paddy turned red.

Q: Why did they come again?
A: They will confiscate the paddy. The village elder told us we must go gather the paddy at Ta Mi Ni. Right now they tell us to go quickly. They told us to finish doing the paddy, then to gather it in the village. The Burmese said they would carry all the paddy. After they finish confiscating it, they will drive the villagers to the lower place. The village elder said they will drive the villagers to Kya In Seik Gyi. They will make it so that when the soldiers [KNLA] travel, they don’t get food [from the villagers].

Q: Will they give you a ration of the paddy?
A: I don’t know. The village head said they will hand it back to us, but we have to buy one basket of paddy for 300 Kyat. We do not have money. How can we buy it? If we can’t buy it, we don’t have paddy to eat. Therefore, I didn’t harvest my paddy. I asked someone else to harvest it.

Q: Do the Burmese shoot the villagers if they see them fleeing from them?
A: At this time, they have entered the village but they haven’t ever seen the villagers fleeing from them. I think that they will shoot if they see the villagers fleeing. We know that they will come. The soldiers [KNLA] are also staying there. They are talking on the radio.

Q: How many soldiers came to confiscate the paddy?
A: There were about 60 soldiers. It would be about 100 people including porters.

Q: Where will they keep it?
A: They said they will keep the paddy at Ta Mi Ni. They haven’t built the rice barn; they haven’t dared confiscate the paddy yet because the people [KNLA] are waiting to shoot them. If they [the Burmese] go to find them, they will see the place where the people are hiding. The people are hiding in the paddy. They [the Burmese] are calling the women to go with them. They are always calling the women.

Q: Do you think the villagers who live in the village will get enough paddy to eat if they confiscate the paddy?
A: Now they do not have enough to eat. If they confiscate the paddy, it will be a problem. The people said that many Burmese are coming up. It will be worse. It is not getting better. Before we fled they came to torture the villagers. When the time to harvest the paddy arrived, they came 2 or 3 times. But they hadn’t tortured us yet. They tortured the people when they came to Plaw Toh Kee.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to say about the Burmese activity in your village?
A: I only know that they said if they see the people who worked with the soldiers for 2 or 3 years and resigned, they would still kill them. Right now even the people who went once to carry things for Kaw Thoo Lei have been accused of contactingNga Pway [‘ringworm’, i.e. KNLA]. They didn’t kill them, but they asked them to identify Kaw Thoo Lei’s place, and they beat them. But we are villagers, we don’t know their places. Therefore the villagers dared not suffer, and they fled from the village.

Q: Do you think that you will go back to Meh Gu?
A: I think that I won’t go back to stay because my wife and children are staying in a good place. As for me, I will go back to pick up my parents-in-law. They asked me to pick them up. The Burmese said that if the people who go to stay in xxxx[refugee camp] or yyyy [IDP camp] have relatives left in the village, they will kill them all. The Burmese told the chairperson and the chairperson told us. The chairperson and all the villagers knew when we left the village, but the Burmese didn’t know it. The chairperson fled before I left. He arrived at L--- [at the border] before us.

Q: Did you have any problems getting here?
A: We didn’t have any problems. But before we arrived at K--- [at the border], we were afraid. The people said when we came the Burmese followed us half-way.

 

#12.

NAME:         "Saw Moe Shwe"          SEX: M          AGE: 52          Karen Buddhist farmer
FAMILY:       Married, 8 children      
ADDRESS:     xxxx village, Kya In township                                 INTERVIEWED: 12/99

["Saw Moe Shwe" fled to Thailand in December 1999 to receive medical treatment for injuries suffered while portering.]

Q: When did you arrive at xxxx [refugee camp]?
A: I arrived here on Saturday. It was 11 days ago. I came to the hospital to get treatment.

Q: Back in your village, are the Burmese torturing the villagers?
A: Yes, they are. Some are fleeing and then coming back. Some are fleeing from the village [to live in the jungle or go to Thailand]. They are torturing us by forcing the villagers to work. They are collecting money. They are forcing villagers to pay. And they are forcing the villagers to carry loads and go to loh ah pay. Oh nephew, I can’t tell you. They are forcing so many ways. They are forcing the villagers to porter.

Q: Did you ever have to porter?
A: I went to porter once myself at the beginning of the dry season in Tha Din Kyut [October]. When I came back, I coughed harshly. Whenever I finished eating, there was a great pressure in my stomach.

Q: How many days did you have to porter?
A: I had to porter for 4 days. I don’t know what I carried; I had to carry some beans. When they came across the villagers’ vegetables, like pumpkin, or other food, they put it on top [of his load]. It was over 10 viss [16 kg / 35 lb].

Q: How many villagers have to go for loh ah pay?
A: Oh nephew, don’t ask how many people have to go. All the villagers have to go. One column enters the village and when they leave, they demand porters. There were 6 of us. They collected us. First they told us that we were going for 3 days. Some villagers had to go and returned after a month. If our friends from the village didn’t come to replace us, they didn’t release us. One of my friends was told to porter for 3 days, but he had to go for one month and one day.

They forced us to go to P’Ya Daung in Kyaikdon. The villagers also had to go and work at Wah Lu near P’Ya Daung. They had to weave [baskets], dig, and carry dirt. They had to cut bamboo and carry it themselves, then weave a fence. They were building their [SPDC military] camp. Sometimes the villagers went in the morning and came back in the evening. Sometimes they forced us to do it for 3 days. If we had to go for 3 days, we had to carry our own rice. If you had to go for one day, you had to pack your own rice and bring your own chillie paste. They did not feed us.

Q: Did they call children to do loh ah pay also?
A: They don’t like them too young. They force the older people. If they have no children to go for them, they all must go or else hire someone else to go.

Q: Did they guard you as you worked?
A: Yes, they sat in the shade and guarded us. They tortured us. They didn’t allow us to sit and rest. They held a stick. If they saw the people sitting and smoking, they shouted at them. They forced them to get back to work at once.

They didn’t call the women to porter, but they called them for loh ah pay. If we have women the women have to go [to porter], and if we have men the men have to go. If one finishes and comes back when you have time to go, you must go again. When the Burmese go out many times [on patrol] we have to go [to porter] 1 or 2 times per month. When they only go a few times, we have to go once a month. They don’t hire us; they ask the village head. Then the village head asks the villagers and collects us by rotation.

Q: How much do you pay them per day if you cannot go?
A: For portering they ask 1,000 Kyat a day. Later the villagers didn’t go so we had to pay 1,500 Kyat. When some porters came back, they had no money to pay. They paid in rice and asked them [the other villagers who had covered their portion of the payment] to wait. They repaid it a little at a time because they [the villagers] took pity on each other.

Q: What were the conditions like when you portered?
A: They didn’t feed us. We didn’t get enough food. Some villagers brought their own rice.

When you fall down, they kick you. If you don’t walk quickly, they kick you with their legs. The porters who get a fever aren’t allowed to come back. They give us nothing [no medicine]. When you get a fever, you must sleep in the rain. You bring your own rice but when it is finished, they won’t feed you enough. They cook in the morning but they feed you in the evening. It is rotten rice. The porters are afraid of them, so they eat like this. They dare not complain.

When they go out on patrol, they come to sleep in the village. Right now if they come they sleep in their camp with their friends. They have an Army camp. [They built it] when they came the first year. Different troops stayed at Kyaikdon and Wah Lu, Yaw Doh, and near my friend’s village at P’Yee Gone. There were many soldiers, over 20. The people said they were[Infantry Battalion] #29. We had to sleep where they slept. When they slept among the trees, we had to sleep with them on the ground, while they had plastic tarps and hammocks. At night they sometimes guarded us. When we slept in the villages, they let us sleep in the villagers’ houses. They stayed under the house and guarded us with guns. When we had to go to the toilet, we had to call them.

Q: What did the soldiers have to carry?
A: They had to carry their bags. The soldiers carried only guns, equipment, and their boots when they walked. The porters had to carry all of their other things. They forced the strong porters to carry their backpacks and one basket of rice.

Q: Were porters ever tortured?
A: Yes, they tortured them. They kicked them and slapped their faces. They tortured some porters who got fevers because they fell down as they walked.

Q: What happened if porters fled?
A: The porters who fled were fined 10 or 20 viss of pork. They [Burmese] went to demand it from the village head because the village head had written down the names of those who went to porter.

Q: When the Burmese entered villages while you were portering, did you see if they raped any women?
A: I didn’t hear about it because when they slept in the village, women from one or two houses gathered and slept in the same house. Then they kept a fire going.

Q: Did you hear if the Burmese were confiscating paddy?
A: When I came here I heard that they built a rice barn and they would start confiscating the people’s paddy. The villagers are talking about coming [to the refugee camps] in the dry season [after the harvest, from January to June 2000], because if they confiscated their paddy, all the people will have to move. When I stayed in the village, I heard that they forced the villagers to cut wood to build a rice barn. They are starting to confiscate the paddy. The people are talking to each other about whether they will tax the fields or confiscate the paddy. Yesterday some villagers from Kwih K’Neh Ghaw came and said they are confiscating their paddy, too.

Q: Do you want to say anything else about what the Burmese are doing in your village?
A: What do I have to say? I tell you this. They are torturing us by forcing us to work and porter and by taxing us. We must go whenever they force us to go. As for me, if I hadn’t gone to work for them, I wouldn’t have gotten this illness.

 

#13.

NAME:         "Saw Kler Muh"          SEX: M          AGE: 20          Karen Christian farmer
FAMILY:        Single          
ADDRESS:     Meh Gu village, Kya In township                          INTERVIEWED: 12/99

["Saw Kler Muh" fled his village when the SPDC started to confiscate the villagers’ paddy and issued a forced relocation order. He was interviewed after arriving in a refugee camp in Thailand.]

Q: Why did you come here?
A: We came here because the enemy oppressed us and we dared not suffer anymore. They forced us to carry heavy loads. When we couldn’t carry, they oppressed us. In addition, we had no time to work for ourselves. We had to flee. If they captured us while we were fleeing, they forced us to carry loads. When we got tired and couldn’t carry loads, they tortured us. If people who fled from portering were recaptured, they were killed. They already killed some of them.

Q: Who did they kill?
A: My older brother named Peh Ko. He was over 30 years old. They killed him one or two weeks ago in the month of December. I went back to the village to pick up my mother, because I came here alone and stayed with my cousin when the camp started. I went back this year, in October to stay there for over 3 months. They killed him after I came back here. I knew that because the villagers who stay in the same village as me came to tell me. Saw T--- told me; he arrived here recently. He is a villager from Plaw Toh Kee but he lives in Y---.

Q: Did you encounter the Burmese when you went back?
A: I dared not face the Burmese. Whenever the Burmese arrived at the foot of the house, we fled. We didn’t have time to watch out for them. When we heard the sound of the dog barking, we fled. If we faced them, they forced us to carry loads. They told us to carry for a certain number of days, but then they didn’t release us on that day. They released us when they met their friends in a larger troop. They told us to porter for 3 days and said they would release us when they arrived at a certain village, but they didn’t release us.

One or two porters fled. Some had bruises on their backs. They couldn’t carry so they fled. They tortured the porters that they recaptured. The porters weren’t dead yet but they shot them dead. I saw 2 or 3 people from Ya Ka Rar who the Burmese shot there. We went to see. When the Burmese went down [to another village], their porters were bleeding, but they didn’t release them. Even though they couldn’t carry anymore, they kept them until they arrived at Htee Po Way and then left them there. They released them only when they could capture other porters.

Q: Do villagers in your village dare to face the Burmese?
A: In the past they dared to face them, but right now they do not face them. Also they [the villagers] don’t have time to work for themselves. When they arrest the villagers, they tell them to carry for 3 days but they don’t release them. They still force them to carry. Therefore the villagers can’t stay there and suffer, so they flee. If they recapture the porter who has fled, they don’t release him at all. They torture him. They arrested one person in his hill field while he was harvesting. His name is P---. He is over 30 years old and lives in Plaw Toh Kee. When they captured him they tortured him. They tied his neck, hands, and other parts of his body. His blood couldn’t move [he couldn’t breathe]. They didn’t kill him. They tied and beat him with the butt of a gun and then forced him to carry two backpacks. In the night, he couldn’t sleep. One of the commanders asked him, "Why don’t you sleep?" He said, "They tied my hands and I can’t bear it. I can’t lay down and also I can’t breathe." He [the commander] told his soldiers to loosen his bonds, and after that he could sleep. I know about this because he came back and told us. It happened when this Burmese group came, not so long ago. About a month before I came back here.

Q: Did they also force women to porter?
A: Yes, they forced the women. Their names are Naw P---, Naw H---, and many other women. I can’t recall all their names. They said that when they arrived at a certain village, they would release them, but they didn’t get to the village. They didn’t go on the path. They passed through the bush and fell down. They [the women porters] said they had to climb the mountains and carry one backpack each. They said it was a very heavy weight.

Q: What about children around 12 years old?
A: All. They all have to carry. They forced them to carry bullets. It is very heavy and makes their backs stoop. The porters who fell down were kicked on their butts. They forced them to go so quickly.

Q: Did they eat the villagers’ livestock when they entered the villages?
A: Chickens always crow in the morning. But now when you enter the village you do not hear the sound of dogs barking. Chickens also do not crow. They have eaten all. They ate the villagers’ dogs, pigs, and cats.

Q: Do you think that other villagers will come here?
A: Yes, the villagers will come here. But they will have problems if they come because they are afraid of the Thais. They worry that the Thais will capture them and send them back to the Burmese. In addition they are afraid that they will meet Burmese soldiers on the path. They told me they dare not come. They asked me to find the way, then go back and pick them up.

Q: Did you bring your mother back with you?
A: I didn’t bring her. She asked me to come back and find the way. She dares not come up because she is afraid of [meeting the Burmese on] the way.

Q: Are the Burmese planning to relocate your village?
A: They will drive them out. The villagers thought they were forcing them to Htee Po Way. Last year they already drove them out once. The villagers went to stay in Plaw Toh Kee and fled in different directions. Now the villagers are gathering and staying at Htee Po Way. It takes 3 hours to walk there.

Q: Did you hear that they are confiscating the villagers’ paddy?
A: I heard that they built a rice barn at Ta Mi Ni. They said they would confiscate all. Right now they take 2 baskets of paddy from each house. They are collecting but the villagers haven’t paid them yet. The villagers don’t have the paddy because they hadn’t finished harvesting it yet when I came here. The villagers who have no rice to eat must go and ask them. They give only enough for each day [rationing it back out from the villagers’ own rice].

If Kaw Thoo Lei [KNU/KNLA] comes back, they [the Burmese] will restrict the villagers. They want to starve Kaw Thoo Lei. This is their plan. Right now they haven’t finished doing it yet. They don’t even have time to harvest the paddy because they are forcing the villagers a lot. The villagers don’t have time to work on their paddy.

Q: What do they do with the paddy they collect from the villagers?
A: They eat it. If they see villagers’ rice in the house, they take it all.

Q: Do the Burmese also collect taxes in the village?
A: Last year they collected money. The villagers didn’t pay them because they couldn’t. They collected over 1,000 Kyat from each house. It wasn’t for the whole year. They collected it once when the column came to the village.

Q: Do villagers have enough to eat?
A: The villagers don’t have enough food to eat. They have to find milk tins of rice. This rainy season the villagers didn’t have time to work. They were hungry and had to eat klee tee [taro root].

Q: How does all of this oppression make you feel?
A: As for me, they were always chasing me. When they chased me, I ran and had to sleep in the thorns. Sometimes I was hungry for rice and I didn’t get enough to eat. Sometimes I didn’t get rice for one or two days because I had to run from them. They came to capture porters. We all had to run so often. When we ran, we met each other in the bushes. We couldn’t do anything when we were hungry. Sometimes someone brought one milk tin of rice. We had to boil rice and share one plate.

 

#14.

NAME:         "Saw Kyaw Ni"          SEX: M          AGE: 29          Karen Christian farmer
FAMILY:       Married, one child aged 6
ADDRESS:     Meh Gu village, Kya In township                          INTERVIEWED: 12/99

["Saw Kyaw Ni" fled secretly from his village after the SPDC started confiscating his paddy.]

Q: Why did you come to xxxx [refugee camp]?
A: We had problems with the Burmese so we came here. The Burmese were oppressing us. They confiscated our rice and paddy; we dared not suffer anymore. They occupied some villages and confiscated the crop. They made a barn near the monastery and kept it there; it is not in Meh Gu village but near the big river. They keep it there and when the villagers need to eat they give us only enough for one potful. For example, they ask: "How many milk tins of rice do you eat in your house?" [They give us] only enough for one time.

Q: When did they confiscate your paddy?
A: Not so long ago, it’s been nearly a month [confiscated in November 1999].

Q: What did the villagers do when the Burmese confiscated it?
A: The villagers didn’t want to suffer. When they confiscated it, the villagers couldn’t do anything. They had to yield to them because they were afraid. They confiscated the paddy but not yet in our village. They took it at Plaw Toh Kee close to our village.

Q: When they entered your village, did they stay there?
A: They slept there sometimes. The men dared not face them because they called them and arrested them to be porters. We ran. Some of the villagers who didn’t have time to run were captured. If there were no men, they captured the women. They are also starting to make the villagers do loh ah pay. The villagers have to go and clean their camp. We didn’t build it, we just clean it. It is in Plaw Toh Kee.

Q: Did they force even old people to go to loh ah pay?
A: Yes, they force them. They are calling all the children. They call all the children who can carry one backpack.

Q: Have you heard of the Burmese killing any villagers?
A: Yes. I don’t know them because they are from Plaw Toh Kee. We knew about it because the village elders came back and told us. I knew that they killed them when my younger brother came back and told me. There were 7 people but they hadn’t killed all of them yet. They killed some of them. The Burmese went to their house and found wire [which is suspicious to the SPDC, because it could be used to make landmines]. They aren’t soldiers, they are villagers. They arrested them. I didn’t hear when they started killing them. I heard that they shot them dead. After we came here, we didn’t know anything more about it.

Q: Do you know the names of the people killed, or the unit that killed them?
A: I don’t know.

Q: What about Meh Gu Kee village—is it destroyed now?
A: There were about 30 houses in the village. The village is not yet destroyed, but the villagers have all fled in separate directions. I think the village will be destroyed. There are only a few houses still left in the village. The Burmese arrived in our village once before we came here. They said that the villagers are going to do hill fields and flat fields in the jungle [which they do not like because villagers might have easier contact with the KNLA]. They forced the village head to gather the villagers and come back to stay in the village. The village head dared face the Burmese, but just for a few days, then he also left. The village head couldn’t find them [the villagers who had fled].

I heard the village head say that they were going to confiscate [paddy and rice]. The village head called a meeting and told us, "You have to finish doing your paddy first. When you have finished the harvest, bring it and keep it in the village. Now they [the Burmese] will gather the paddy."

Q: Did the Burmese torture the village head because he couldn’t find the villagers?
A: Yes, they did. The name of the new village head is A---. He always must go to stay with the Burmese. They keep two people: A--- and P---. One or the other of them must stay with them every day.

Q: Do the villagers have enough to eat when the Burmese confiscate their paddy?
A: Some villagers have enough. I had finished harvesting the paddy, but I hadn’t threshed it yet. I had gathered it. My older sister took care of it for me. The other villagers will finish harvesting their paddy. One of the old men with white hair left his whole paddy field. [Turning to the man’s son] Did your father harvest some of his paddy?

Young man: My father’s field? He harvested the paddy. It was nearly finished.

Q: Did he leave the whole field [all of the paddy he had harvested]?
Young man: Yes. He was afraid and dared not stay.

Q: When you came here, did you have any problems along the way?
A: It took 10 days. There weren’t any problems but we had to avoid the Burmese before we arrived at the border. We had to leave secretly. If the Burmese had found out, they would have killed us. They already told us this in the village. If they see us, we will die.

Q: Do you think that you will go back?
A: I won’t go back. I dare not go back and cross their path. I dare not suffer it all. We must go and get rice to eat from them [if they stay, they must hand over all of their rice to the SPDC troops and then receive it back day by day as a ration]. We never dare to go and see them, so we dare not get it from them. We dare not face them.

 

#15.

NAME:         "Saw K’Mwee"          SEX: M          AGE: 17          Karen Buddist Farmer
FAMILY:        Single          
ADDRESS:     xxxx village, Kya In township                              INTERVIEWED: 12/99

["Saw K’Mwee" was interviewed the same day he arrived in a refugee camp. He left his village alone to escape forced labour, but his family was left behind.]

Q: Why did you come here?
A: I am afraid of the Burmese. I had to carry. I couldn’t do it. I had to go.

Q: Where did you have to go for loh ah pay?
A: To P’Ya Daung. I had to build a pagoda, carry bricks and cut bamboo. There were many kinds of work to do. I had to carry white calcium [meaning is not clear, but it is likely lime or cement]. I had to go in the morning and come back in the evening to eat. They didn’t give us rice. Sometimes it took all day. It was so far [to the forced labour work site]; we had to walk one and a half hours. They also tortured us if they were not satisfied with our work. If we couldn’t carry [the weight while portering], they tortured us. When I stayed in my farmfield hut, they came to see me and tortured me.

Q: Did children younger than you have to work also?
A: They forced us a lot, even the children as young as 10. They carried a few bricks.

Q: What about women?
A: Yes, they forced them to work. [Commander] Tin Maung Aye catches women. He went to stay with Naw C--- when the people fled to stay in the monastery. He asked her to love him, but she didn’t love him. The girl was going out, but he didn’t allow her to. He ordered her to stay with him. Her parents were living in xxxx, and after the people fled her mother went back to breed pigs in the village. She had only that one daughter. He asked for her love and he kissed her once. The girl didn’t want to do anything with him; she didn’t love him. He forced her to do this. He also wanted to give her a gold chain, but the girl didn’t take it. I know this because that girl is my cousin.

Q: Did the Burmese sleep in your village?
A: The Burmese always went to sleep there. He [Tin Maung Aye] slept there for many days about one or two months ago. He is the Commander, the highest ranked soldier in their troop. I think he is a Major of [LID] #22 [he is actually the Major of Battalion #210 from LID #88].

Q: Did they harm other villagers besides your cousin?
A: The Burmese couldn’t collect people [to serve as porters], so they put my Uncle M--- into the stocks because he is a village head and he couldn’t find porters. The Burmese had tried to collect many [porters]. They didn’t release him for a day, even though it was past the time. They slapped him many times on his face, but they didn’t do anything else. Another time [that the Burmese jailed him] they didn’t beat him.

Q: Why did the Burmese finally release him?
A: M--- went to tell them [i.e. vouch for his innocence], so they released him. She lives in K---. She is married to my brother.

Q: How many days did villagers have to porter?
A: For 3 days. Sometimes they went for 10 days or more because they had to go very far and they couldn’t find replacements. They [the Burmese] didn’t hire them; they took money from them. I didn’t go but my father went to porter. The basket was very big and I couldn’t carry it. But I had to go to loh ah pay.

Q: If your father didn’t want to porter, could he pay them instead?
A: Yes. We had to pay 3,000 Kyat for 3 days. Everybody had to pay them. Sometimes we had to borrow money from each other.

Q: Did the villagers have time to do their own work if they had to go to porter and loh ah pay?
A: They weren’t free. Some people didn’t get paddy to eat. We couldn’t do anything. We could just ask for food from our brothers and sisters.

Q: Did the villagers have enough food?
A: Not enough. Now one big tin of rice costs 1,500 Kyat.

Q: What about when people served as porters—were they fed rice then?
A: They fed some porters but they didn’t feed others. My father had to carry rice and bullets, over 10 viss.

Q: How did they collect porters?
A: They told the village head how many porters they needed, then the village head had to find the porters for them. They collected 3 or 4 people. Sometimes they arrested them and sometimes they collected them.

Q: Are there many houses left in xxxx village?
A: Not so many. About 30 houses are left in the village.

Q: When you left the village, did you have to leave secretly?
A: We had to leave secretly. If they found out they made problems for the relatives [of those who fled]. If they knew that people were fleeing, they would kill their parents. I came here but I am so worried for my parents. I don’t know how they are doing now that they are left behind.

Q: Will more villagers come here after you?
A: Yes. Some are not free because they are not yet finished with their work. I will go to see my parents in about a month. I just arrived today.

 

#16.

NAME:         "Saw Lah Kuh"          SEX: M     AGE: 51          Karen Christian farmer
FAMILY:       Married, 8 children
ADDRESS:     Wah Lu village, Kya In township                     INTERVIEWED: 11/99

["Saw Lah Kuh" stayed in a relocation site after Wah Lu village was relocated. He and his family fled to Thailand because they could not get enough food there.]

Q: Why did you come to xxxx [refugee] camp?
A: Because the Burmese army troops abused and tortured us. It was LIB #210 and the Captain is Maung Oo; he is the assistant to Major Tin Maung Aye.

Q: How did they abuse you?
A: They demanded that we carry heavy loads, beat and kicked us, and if they saw us in the hill field huts, they called us and captured us. Once they shot a gun in someone’s mouth, and they cut another person’s ears and lips, then beat his testicles. Then a third person who was quite old and debilitated was captured in his hut and beaten until his ear bled inside and they thought that he was dead. But after that he came back to his house, and they found him there and stabbed him to death in his neck with a bayonet.

The person who they shot in the mouth was Kyaw Toh from Toh Kee. I think he was around 30 years old. I didn’t see it but his wife came and told us. There are 3 or 4 people in her family and they have gone to stay with other people. We are not sure if they stay in K’Maw Theh or among the hills, but they face difficulties. The second man was Kyaw Man from Kwih K’Neh Ghaw. He was 35 years old. First they asked him for a chicken, so he brought a chicken for them and they forced him to carry a load, but he couldn’t carry it because he was sick. So they captured him and slit his lips and ears, and then they beat his testicles until they broke, and then he was dead. He had 4 children and his wife stays with her older sister. His occupation was working on a hill field; he had no faults. They just called him to come and when he did they killed him in his hut. The third person they killed stayed in his farmfield hut, and the Burmese beat him unconscious. After he awoke he came back to his house and the Burmese saw him again on the foot of the ladder. The Burmese said, "This old man came back again", so they stabbed him to death in the neck with a bayonet. He was from Kwih K’Neh Ghaw village and around 60 years old. His name was Pa Kher Htoo. They [the Burmese] told him not to go and reap paddy at his farmfield hut. But the villagers survive from their hill fields, so they have to go. He went there and they killed him. They beat him in the morning and in the afternoon they killed him. He has 2 daughters and a wife, and all of them went crazy.

There was a woman who stayed in Kwih K’Neh Ghaw village, and she was a shopkeeper. Nga Pway [KNLA] bought things from her shop, and the Burmese shot at them but no one was injured. After that the Burmese went and fired four shots at her behind the shop. Her name was Ma L---. They said that she fed Nga Pway.

Q: Were there other forms of torture that you saw?
A: I portered for them and when I arrived in Meh Naw Na Kee on a person’s farm, there was a man who was wearing jeans. He was lying in the hut, and they looked at his clothes and thought that he was a soldier, then two Burmese stepped on his back and stabbed him to death. Then his blood came out and he died. But we dared not look, because if we had they would have beaten us, so we didn’t see it. They left him in the hut. I don’t know for sure, but when I looked at his face he looked like a villager and he wore jeans, not soldier’s trousers. On the way they captured a woman and two men, and tied them with the same rope. Then he [Burmese soldier] bent down and stabbed all of them in the gut. Then he [one of the victims]struggled, and his blood flew straight up. He did it to 3 of them, and then pulled them among the wild banana trees and came up without their bodies. [It was] LIB #210, Tin Maung Aye’s troops. He distrusted them, so he stabbed them and pulled them among the wild banana trees.

Q: Did anything else happen at Meh Naw Na Kee?
A: When they arrived in the village there was a woman with a very young baby. Then he [a soldier] called her husband to climb for coconuts and called me to chase his rooster. The owner said that if they wanted to eat chicken, they could, but just let his rooster and hens live. So I stopped chasing it but then he [the soldier] caught the rooster. He was angry with me and pulled me among the thorns. I could not run among the thorns because they cut me, and he told me "If you do this next time I will kill you." So I told him I would never do it again.

Q: Did you see if they looted a lot of things from the villagers?
A: They took nets for catching fish, chillies, and everything else they saw. They didn’t carry a lot of rations, just arrived there and took things to eat. After they collect their rations they sell them all to villagers in Kyaikdon for a low price. When they get to P’Nweh Klah and Wah Lu, they demand food from the villagers. After they sell their rations, they get money and then they take freely from us. When we did not give to them, they killed us.

Q: Did you see if they did anything to the women?
A: I did not hear or see anything like that, but I saw that they killed people and beat them. I heard that they kissed a young woman in Kwih K’Neh Ghaw, then people complained to their Operations Commander, but he didn’t punish them [the soldiers who assaulted her].

Q: Did you have to porter?
A: Yes, for 4 days. It was awful for me because I am old and I had to carry 3 big tins of rice, and they ordered me to run in the heat, so it was very horrible. When I went to drink water, he kicked me and I fell down. Both of my legs got infected. But I had to continue going because we were afraid of them and kept carrying heavy loads. If we said anything, they would beat us.

Q: Did you also have to do loh ah pay?
A: Yes. We had to build places for them. We carried wood and bamboo to build 2 or 3 fences for their camp, and now they have built 4 fences. They have a camp in Wah Lu. In the early morning 10 people had to go and work for them, and the next morning another 10 people had to go. We had to build it until it was finished; if we didn’t finish it, we couldn’t go back home. Even if it was raining we always had to send trees and bamboo, and if we didn’t send it they came and beat us. So every time they ordered people to send it. We had to carry things with our own bullock carts, and there were between 40 and 100 villagers from 2 villages: Ko Wah and Kwih K’Neh Ghaw. We had to carry our own food each day. They did not allow us to rest. They did not feed us or pay us; instead you had to pay them. Sometimes they asked for money to buy alcohol. Each bottle of alcohol costs 100 Kyat. We had to work all day until sunset. We had to dig holes and make gardens for chickens because they breed chickens and ducks, so we had to do it all for them. Then we had to bring husks for the pigs and food for the chickens also. But women do not have to go; just men have to go for that.

Q: If you cannot go, what do you do?
A: People have to pay 1,000 Kyat to the camp officer. We also had to go for portering for 10-15 days, and if we couldn’t go we had to pay 10,000 Kyat. We had to pay the Camp Officer, but after that we still had to carry more than what they had told us, so then we ran to escape because we didn’t want to carry. Then if we fled back to our village they charged us 3viss of chicken. One viss of chicken costs 600 Kyat. They didn’t give us any food, but we had to send them pork and beef. We had to send them at least 10 viss of meat and 10 viss of chicken once or twice a month. And now in the village if you kill a pig you have to tell them and send them 3 viss of pork. If you don’t give it to them they come and arrest you. One of my cousins killed a pig and didn’t tell them, so they put him in a 6-hole locked cell for a week. Then they took him out of the locked cell to kill him, but many married women gathered together to vouch for him. So he was released and after that he dares not kill a pig, but if someday he wants to kill a pig, he will have to tell them. It happened in Kaw Nweh village. Every village that kills a pig has to pay. The villages that have to send meat to Wah Lu camp are Htee Noh Boh, Kaw Wah Klay, Kwih K’Neh Ghaw, Bo Teh, Dta Moh Theh and Kwih K’Neh Sree.

Q: Did you see any villages that were destroyed by the Burmese?
A: All of the villages were destroyed after they arrived. Kwih K’Neh Ghaw, Htee Noh Boh, Kaw Wah Klay and Kaw Nweh were destroyed because people couldn’t stay and eat. Wherever they call and drive you, you have to go. People couldn’t stay in Noh K’Rer and P’Yaw Pu Hta either. They came and burned down people’s huts and drove out the owners, do people dared not stay in their villages and had to stay in the places where they drove them. They drove them to Kaw Wah Klay, but Kwih K’Neh Ghaw went to Naw Shaw Sin Ko. They drove out two or three villages in the same area, but they didn’t allow them to stay in their own area.

Q: Why not?
A: They worried that Nga Pway would disturb them when they were patrolling and they didn’t want us to feed Nga Pway. If they do it like that [relocate people to controlled sites], Nga Pway dare not find their food there, so they gathered people in the same place. They didn’t provide food [at the relocation site]; the people had to bring their own food to eat. If you want to take medicine, you have to buy it and if you don’t buy it, you can’t have medicine. Sometimes you can trade it for chicken: 2 tablets of para [Paracetamol] for ½ viss of chicken. But they don’t give it to you for free. You have to trade with the Burmese soldier’s medic.

Q: Where do people find food when they are at the relocation site?
A: Mostly they have enough food, but if they don’t have enough, they borrow from someone in the village. And after they get food, they pay for it or give them other food in return.

Q: Were they able to take their belongings with them when they were driven out?
A: How could they carry it all? Some animals ran away and were lost. Some buffaloes ran to escape, but Nyein Chan Yay [KPA]came and drove them to the same place, and then gave them to the Burmese. Most Karen people became poor because their buffaloes were lost and they didn’t get any money for them. They asked Nyein Chan Yay to drive them, but Nyein Chan Yay gave them to the Burmese and we didn’t know where the Burmese sold those buffaloes.

Q: What about their rice and paddy?
A: They couldn’t carry it all, so they left it in their houses. If they want to eat rice they have to go and take it from their house. Some people could not carry it all, so some rice was stolen because if the Burmese arrived there they took it all, since they had told the people to take it with them. After they arrived in their camp, if they couldn’t eat it all, they sold it. But the villagers don’t have enough food for themselves, so they have to borrow it from other people and then pay it back. The Burmese don’t feed them; even if you work for them you have to bring your own food.

Q: How do these people earn their living?
A: They work flat and hill fields, but now they haven’t reaped the paddy yet. Because if you go to your hut, they [the Burmese] fire at you with their guns. And they give you a ticket [written permission certifying that the villager is going to his field to work and is not a soldier] to carry that costs 90 Kyat. If they see you in your hut, you show them your ticket, but they give you 5 fingers [i.e. they slap you]. So how many slaps could you accept? Just two slaps and it is enough for you. Then you have to turn your head and come back. So they don’t want you to go to your hut, and if you go they accuse you of contacting Nga Pway. And if they see you they shoot to kill you, so you dare not go, and you can’t reap your paddy.

Q: What do they do to people who already finished reaping their paddy?
A: When you have already finished reaping your paddy, they ask you to send it to Kyaikdon to their camp. Then you have to go back and take it from there, and if you have 2 tins worth, they give you 2 tins of rice. It depends on how many people you have in your family. And each day you have to go and take it twice, once for the morning meal and the other in the afternoon.

Q: Where do you get other food supplies besides rice?
A: Now we have salt, Ajinomoto [MSG powder], and chillies, but we do not have fish or shrimp paste. Some people still have money from selling cattle, so with the money they have they buy things in Kyaikdon. For people who don’t have money it is very difficult; they don’t have anything to eat. But to get there you need to buy a pass for 90 Kyat, and when you arrive at P’Ya Daung you have to give your pass, then you can get it back on the way back. In the early morning 4 or 5 people in the same house have to leave the village together and then all of them come back around 3:00 [p.m.]. If you don’t come back they will clean everyone.

Q: What do you mean by "clean"?
A: "Clean" means kill them all. They do not leave even one [villager] alive, and you dare not disappear. People dare not go in and out [of the village], so most fled here.

Q: How much longer do you think people with some money will be able to last?
A: I think that the longest time will be 3 years, and after 3 years their money will be gone because they only eat [they have no income; they are only decreasing their food supplies].

Q: What are the prices of food in your village?
A: 1 viss of salt is 80 Kyat and 1 viss of shrimp paste is 500 Kyat. 1 viss of chillies is 500 Kyat, too.

Q: Do you think that because of the lack of food, many other villagers want to come here?
A: A lot of people want to run to escape, but they cannot come because many places are guarded by Burmese soldiers. And if they come and face the Burmese, problems might occur for them, so they dare not come and they stay like that. If people here dare to go back and bring them here, a lot of them would come here, but now they fear the Burmese troops and don’t come.

Q: What would happen if they captured people who fled?
A: If they capture a whole family who is fleeing to come here, they kill them all, even boys and girls, old and young.

Q: What kind of problems did you face on the way here?
A: We had to avoid the Burmese, and we didn’t have food along the way, so we had to ask it from some people because we couldn’t find or buy it. If we had 1 or 2 milk tins of rice we boiled rice and shared it among 10 or more people [this quantity would normally be a meal for one]. When we arrived at a village we couldn’t find any huts to get rice, but we tried and tried to find rice. We had two milk tins of rice left, so we boiled it and ate. We heard that in L--- [on the Thai side of the border] there is rice for people on their way travelling like us. So we had enough rice to eat after we arrived in L---. Then we came here on the path among the bushes, and after we arrived xxxx told us to go back among the new arrivals at xxxx. After we had gone to stay there for 3 or 4 days, he came and picked us up in a car.

Q: How long do you expect to stay here?
A: I think just 2 or 3 years. If it is more than that, how could we stand it?

Q: After you left your village, did you hear that any Burmese troops came up?
A: We heard that LID #88, Battalion #210 under Major Tin Maung Aye came and stayed in Kyaikdon. But in Wah Lu camp IB #13, Column 1 under Lt. Colonel Myo That Aung has 3 companies and they are an active troop. The troop that went to set up in Wah Lu camp is controlled by Tin Maung Aye.

Q: Have you heard if these troops are making people suffer like they did in the past?
A: We heard that the troops that arrived next are driving the villagers together to the same place and then gathering the paddy. And we heard that they gathered 40 girls aged 14 or 15 and forced them to go in front of them wherever they wanted to go. During the night they slept with them and around midnight all of the girls were screaming. We don’t know what they did to them, but they surely did something to them, because I don’t think that all of them were bitten by insects or scorpions to make them yell like that. So I think that they did something to them.

Q: Where did they force the villagers to go?
A: They forced people to Meh Gu village. They will do it in every township and village, and they will take all the paddy. They will do this to stop our Karen [KNLA] from having rice to eat, because if they don’t do it like this they cannot restrict them. So they do it to control them; when they gather people and paddy, I think their aim is to capture and control the Karen.

 

#17.

NAME:         "Pa Weh Muh"          SEX: M          AGE: 32          Karen Christian farmer
FAMILY:       Married, children          
ADDRESS:     Dta Broh village, Kawkareik township                INTERVIEWED: 11/99

["Pa Weh Muh" fled to a refugee camp with 3 families with a total of 14 people. They were guided by KNLA soldiers along the way.]

Q: Why did you flee to Thailand?
A: We left our village because the Burmese oppressed us. When we stayed in the villages and they patrolled near us, we had to carry loads for them. I left the village on November 15th.

Q: Which Burmese troops came to your village?
A: LIB #283. Commander Hti Lwin. I think it was Column 2.

Q: What did they do?
A: When they entered the village they demanded we carry for them, and some soldiers asked for chickens from the owners, but others stole them. So it was as though we bred chickens for the Burmese, and we had no time to eat them. If they come, they say "A’Mo [mother], give me a chicken, or A’Pa [father] give me a chicken", so our chickens were gone. One by one our chickens were gone, and later we had nothing to eat even if we had bred a lot. And when we had pigs, each time they came they ate a pig.

Q: Didn’t you tell the commander about the soldiers who stole from you?
A: We dared not complain because he is in the same group with them, so they are the same. The Burmese proverb says, "Obedient pupils, full teacher." [Meaning that the soldiers have been well trained to steal food for their commanders.]Every troop that enters our village does the same thing, and we don’t know what to do because we fear them. And we dare not tell because if we do they show us their knives and other things. And if you tell their commander to make them aware of it, you have to worry about seeing them [the soldiers] on the path when they could make problems for you. They could kill or beat you.

Q: Did you see any villagers get beaten?
A: Yes, I saw it. At the time when people went to carry for them and couldn’t walk or carry loads, they kicked and stepped on them.

Q: Are these the problems that made you flee here?
A: The problems were that we feared the Burmese and we couldn’t tolerate the suffering anymore. We think that they came to stay in the camp for a while, but after the situation gets better we will go back and stay in our village.

Q: Did you finish gathering your paddy before you came here?
A: In some places the paddy was already gathered, but not in all. For the places that we didn’t reap but had to leave, it becomes food for the outside people [KNLA], and they reap it. Three hill fields are left from 3 families. I think each hill field provides 50 or 60 baskets of paddy. We didn’t thresh it, we just kept the paddy on the stalks.

Q: How many families are left in the village?
A: There are 3 houses. If they can’t stand the suffering, they will flee here too.

Q: Did you hear about any other abuses by the Burmese soldiers?
A: We heard that they will come and gather the rice and paddy. They have arrived at Saw Hta: LID #88, IB #106 under Commander Aung Gyi Plaw. They have already arrived at Dta Broh, and we heard that they gather the paddy together. If they see people in the jungle, they call them and ask them to show the way. Even if people dare not go, they have to go because they fear them. If you did not go they would kick and beat you. It is half a day’s walk from Dta Broh to the SPDC army camp. We had to go quite often. We had to go to Htee Hta Baw village 2 or 3 times a month.

Q: When you fled here, did you have any problems?
A: It took time because the little children had to sleep among the bushes, so some got a runny nose and fever. We did not have medicine along the way and we couldn’t find any, either. Also we had to cross many rivers. Our friends [KNLA soldiers]saw our problems and pitied us, so they guided us.

 

#18.

NAME:         "Pa Bway"               SEX: M          AGE: 15           Karen Buddhist farmer
FAMILY:        Single          
ADDRESS:     Yaw K’Daw village, Kya In township                    INTERVIEWED: 11/99

["Pa Bway" often served as a porter along with other children. He arrived in Thailand on January 1, 2000.]

Q: Why did you come here?
A: I didn’t want to carry for the Burmese anymore, so I was afraid of them and fled here. I had already gone 3 times for them.

Q: How many times did you have to go per month?
A: We had to go 3 times per month, my brother, father, and I. It took 5 days per time. Each time they collect 5 porters from the village.

Q: If you didn’t want to go, could you pay them?
A: Yes, you can. I don’t know how much money but it costs 10 baskets of paddy. It is 50 [Thai] Baht for a basket of paddy. The village head collects it, then they come to collect from him.

Q: What did they force you to carry?
A: They forced us to carry rice, and we had to go and get it from Kyaw Paw and carry it to Htee Hta Baw village. It is a 3 hour walk. To carry rice it is only for one day, but to be a porter we had to stay 5 days in Htee Hta Baw village. We stayed 5 days in Htee Hta Baw, and if they patrolled you had to follow them, but if they stayed, you also had to stay.

We had to carry bullets. Some loads are 10 viss, some are 20 viss [16 kg/35 lb to 32 kg/70 lb]. I had to carry rice to Htee Hta Baw and the other times I carried a basket of pots. I never carried the soldiers’ equipment.

Let me tell you that sometimes even if we told them we couldn’t carry it, they still ordered us to carry it. If we told them that we couldn’t carry it, they put more backpacks and boots in the baskets. But we had a commander who took pity on us and told his privates that it is heavy already, so they took it out.

Q: Did they feed you?
A: They fed us rice, but not enough. They fed each porter one plate each of rice. It is not so much, just a small bowl, and some people came back and got sick. The Burmese fed them some extra rice, and sometimes the rice smelled bad already, so some porters got stomach aches and fevers. They [the soldiers] did not eat smelly rice like us, they ate good rice. They didn’t give us water to drink.

Q: How many villagers had to go for loh ah pay?
A: To carry rice for loh ah pay, 5, 6, or 7 villagers had to go depending on their needs.

Q: Did they ever collect children who are 12 or 13 years old?
A: Yes, they called them to go, and children the same age as me have to go also.

Q: Did you ever see any porters beaten by the Burmese?
A: Yes, they beat them with the butts of their guns and slapped their faces. The villagers are from Yaw K’Daw. B--- was slapped on his face, and they beat K--- with the butt of the gun, and they slapped W---’s face also.

Q: Why did they beat these villagers?
A: Der! They couldn’t walk, because they [the soldiers] walked very fast. But they didn’t beat me at all.

Q: Since the Burmese demand so much work from the villagers, do people have time to do their own work?
A: They do not have time to work. They don’t have enough food. They have to eat roots and bamboo shoots. We had to eat roots this year, and we carried the roots until P--- [during their flight to Thailand]. Sometimes we had rice but we had to eat klee [taro] roots and carry them with us.

Q: Did other villagers have to eat klee roots also?
A: Yes, there were a lot of other houses.

Q: What is the price of a big tin of rice?
A: One big tin of rice is 100 [Thai] Baht. We went to buy it at L---, about a 1 or 2 hour walk to go and return.

Q: How long ago did you have to start loh ah pay and portering?
A: Since the Burmese arrived there, I don’t know how many years already, but it was the year when [LID] #44 troops arrived[1997]. They have already gone back, though. I don’t know which troops [stay in the village now] because after a troop has gone, another troop replaces them. If they have to go to the front line we are not strong enough to follow them, because they don’t allow us to shine a torch in the night, so we can’t see anything. If we trip on something and fall down they kick us a lot. They didn’t kick me, but I saw my friends get kicked.

Q: Did any porters run to escape?
A: Yes, we had some people who ran to escape.

Q: Were any porters killed?
A: One porter died when they went to clear landmines because he went in front of them and the other one went behind [the porter served as a human minesweeper while the soldier followed him]. When they came near the landmine, he detonated the landmine and the porter flew up. He [the soldier] did not get hurt.

Q: Do you mean that they use porters as human minesweepers?
A: Yes, they let them go like that [in front of the soldiers]. They let some go ahead and some behind and some between them.

Q: What kind of other forced labour do you have to do?
A: We had to go to Kyaw Paw and carry things to Htee Hta Baw. We had to build places for them at Htee Hta Baw, but we don’t have to build the car road yet.

Q: Are other villages suffering like yours? What happens to them?
A: My village is near K’Yeh Theh village. After people [KNLA] went to fight the Burmese, all the K’Yeh Theh villagers ran away. Now it is still a village but nobody stays there. They ran to many places; some have gone to stay in the jungle and 2 or 3 households came to stay in Yaw K’Daw.

Q: Did a battle occur near K’Yeh Theh village?
A: No, the soldiers [KNLA] went and shot them, just 3 or 4 shots. They [the Burmese] had come to stay in Yeh Theh village. The Burmese didn’t beat them, but they ordered the villagers to carry Burmese; some [soldiers] got wounded when people shot them. Later villagers left their villages and they dared not stay in that area, so they came to stay in Yaw K’Daw. The Burmese didn’t ask them to leave their village, but they did it because they dared not stay there anymore.

Q: When did you leave your village?
A: I left Yaw K’Daw 20 days ago. I came here with my family [6 people].

Q: Do the Burmese know you left the village?
A: I left secretly. People in the village knew about it, but the Burmese didn’t know about it. They have told us before we fled here that if they saw us leaving the village, they would kill us. They would kill us all.

Q: Will you go back again?
A: No, I don’t think I will go back to Yaw K’Daw again.

Q: Why not?
A: Because I fear the Burmese and if they don’t leave, I can never go back.

 

#19.

NAME:         "Pa Ler Thu"               SEX: M     AGE: xx          Karen Buddhist farmer
FAMILY:       Married, 2 children aged 3, 14
ADDRESS:     Hter Klah village, Kaw Te Hgah township          INTERVIEWED: 10/99

[When Hter Klah village was relocated 2 years ago, "Pa Ler Thu" moved to Kleh Maw Law. He and his family arrived in a refugee camp in Thailand camp in August 1999.]

Q: Where did you stay before you came to xxxx [refugee camp]?
A: Before we stayed in Hter Klah, but after the Burmese drove us out, we went back to stay at Kleh Maw Law. It is more than one hour’s walk.

Q: When did the Burmese drive you out of Hter Klah?
A: It was two years ago in the dry season. We went to stay there [at Kleh Maw Law] after people gathered their paddy in the early part of the dry season. Then after the rainy season this year, we tried to find the way to flee here.

Q: Do you know the number of the troops who drove you to Kleh Maw Law?
A: It was [LID] #22, because after Aung Kaing [the commander of the Division #44 troops] had gone they came up. I don’t know his [the commander’s] real name, but people call him Pa Aye Nay. At that time Hter Klah village was well known, and sometimes people from here went back and passed through it. They drove us away, then we went back and they allowed us to stay for one week. They sent a letter to the village head. They ordered us: "If within a week you haven’t left yet, you will know about it." [A threat to the villagers that they will face consequences if they do not comply with the relocation order.] So people scattered within a week.

Q: How long have you been in xxxx [refugee camp]?
A: I think it’s been 2 months already. I came with my whole family. We couldn’t tolerate the Burmese torture anymore so we came here. Before I crossed the border I slept for 6 nights on the way to my brother’s house. I slept 9 days in M--- village, then I entered K--- and after nearly a month people went to meet us.

Q: Did you flee secretly?
A: Before I left the village I was a liar because I told them that I would go to help my brother plant paddy. If I told the truth to the villagers, anyone could make problems and the Burmese would follow us. So I lied to them about going to help my brother, and I fled. Halfway here, I met with one of the village elders from the village and I told him, "I don’t know if I will go back or not, but go back and warn the village chairperson, and if the Burmese arrive and ask about my house, explain to them for me. I warn you to be wise and use your brain when you talk to the Burmese. But I cannot tell you exactly if I will come back to the village or not."

Q: How did they torture you?
A: They demanded we go for loh ah pay and carry loads, but we couldn’t speak Burmese. And if they ordered us to do something, we couldn’t understand it, so they swore at us like "Ngah lee ngah toe!" ["My cock!"]. So we fled here.

Q: Did they force you to porter?
A: We had to carry more and more often, and they became ruder and ruder. When they arrived in the village, if you stayed in your house they called you down and interrogated you. At that time they got the porters they demanded, so they did not take us. They just ran around carrying their guns, then went and captured somebody. At that time there were 10 soldiers who came, including a Nyein Chan Yay Sit [‘Peace Army’, i.e. KPA] soldier.

Q: Did they capture porters?
A: They demanded 2 porters but when they arrived in the village they didn’t see anyone. Then they captured two villagers since they couldn’t find 2 people, so they [the two villagers] had to go. After they arrived in T’Nay Pya they ordered the village head to go himself and replace people if it wasn’t the right time for them to go [if villagers weren’t free to leave their own work]. So the village head had to go and replace them.

Q: How many days did you have to carry each time, and how many times did you go in a month?
A: Usually once a month. They told us 3 days, but if the village head doesn’t help you come back, you have to stay for 6 or 7 days. I went with them for 6 days and the village head didn’t follow me, and so the Burmese didn’t allow me to come back. So I ran to escape to Saw Hta, then went back to Kleh Maw Law.

Q: Did you see the soldiers steal food from villagers while you portered for them?
A: They never paid us, and sometimes they stole chickens and other things, and they fed us only one or two pieces. When I portered for [LIB] #108 they stole, and at that time they patrolled near our areas, then went back to take their rations to Noh Kway Hta. Then the privates sold all of their rice, and when they entered villages they asked for rice. They bought alcohol for themselves, and if they patrolled and the owners weren’t in their houses, they took and ate all the rice, and took pots and other things.

Q: How many porters were with you at the time?
A: There were 100 soldiers in that troop [#108] and nearly 100 porters with them. There were a lot of people, because each soldier followed each porter when we walked. You have to show the way for them, but you are not allowed to go on the path. You have to go through the bushes and they didn’t like you to walk on the path.

Q: What if some porters couldn’t carry their loads?
A: At that time many porters’ backs were already gashed [open wounds created from the rubbing of the baskets], but they still had to carry. People dared not tell the commander because he was always angry. One villager from Saw Hta named M---, who is Toh Thu [a different ethnic group within the Karen], had a gashed back with 2 or 3 open sores in it, and his foot was in pain, but he had to keep going.

Q: If you don’t want to go can you hire people?
A: Yes, you can hire people instead. For three days people usually pay 6,000 Kyat.

Q: Did they give you enough rice?
A: We had enough until their rice was gone, but then we didn’t have enough. After they picked up their rations at Noh Kwih Hta they sold them all and came up to sleep at Htee Wah Klay. Then they heard that the KNU soldiers arrived somewhere, so they rushed to find them, but they couldn’t. Then they went back to sleep in Htee Wah Klay and asked me, "Uncle, how many tins of rice did you bring with you?", and I told him, "People asked me to bring 5 tins for 5 days." Then he told me, "Now your rice is gone, so you have to find it", and I asked him, "How can I find it?" and he said, "Ngah lee ngah toe!" [‘My cock!’]. They asked me to find rice and he told me, "Your rice is gone so if we don’t feed you, where are you going to eat?" Then I told him, "I came to carry for you, and if you don’t feed me, you can’t expect me to carry for you." Then the next morning I decided that it wouldn’t be easy for me, so I ran to escape.

Q: How many days did you stay with them?
A: For 6 days before I ran, but if the village head had replaced me, they would have released me after I carried for 4 days. But they didn’t let us go back after 4, 5, then 6 days, and on that day I requested to be let go. I said, "Major, it is 6 days already, won’t you let me go?", then he told me, "Your village head does not replace you, so you have to keep carrying." I thought that the village head would have come to replace me, and if I didn’t run I would have to go further, so I ran to escape.

Q: Did you run alone?
A: Yes, I ran alone. He told the village head that it wasn’t good, so they fined him 2 packs of cheroots. He said that I had carried for 3 days already and the village head hadn’t come to replace me, so they fined him. Some porters ran before me, but they [the Burmese] hadn’t told us any rules, but after I ran they set the rules and the porters who ran after me were charged 1,000 Kyat and a basket of rice. Some villagers from Leh T’Ree and T’Nay Pya had to pay them. They captured a porter who ran to T’Ree Khee, but they saw him while they were patrolling after he had run back to his house, and they fined him 1,000 Kyat to buy milk and sugar.

Q: Did you go often to porter?
A: I am not the kind of person who walks on the path [i.e. he disobeys the Burmese], but since the Burmese attacked, mostly I went to do loh ah pay, building and serving as a sentry guard. I didn’t want to carry loads, though, and I always avoided them and stayed in the jungle most of the time.

Q: Where did you do loh ah pay?
A: Sometimes at Saw Hta when LID #44 arrived, but before we mostly went to Meh T’Ler, Po Hsi Mu, and Kwih Kler villages. At that time they had their Army camp there. It started 2 years ago and since then we’ve always had to do it. We had to dig small canals for irrigation, also fence the camp and make baskets for carrying loads. They demanded cane from Hter Klah, then 5 or 6 people had to make 3 or 4 baskets each day. Then they sent these kinds of baskets to town, but we didn’t know what they were for.

Q: With all the forced labour, do villagers still have the time to work for themselves?
A: They still have time to work for themselves, but not full-time. In the beginning they came to organise us and told us to come back [to the village after all the villagers had fled], and they didn’t do anything to us. But later they started to demand more and more people, so only the families with a lot of people living in their house still have time to do their work. If you are alone, though, I don’t think you would have time to work, and if they see you in the jungle looking for food, they touch you with their guns. It was very difficult for us.

Q: Do the villagers have enough rice to eat, then?
A: No, they don’t have enough rice. In the dry season [early 1999] the Burmese soldiers burned down some villagers’ paddy fields in Kleh Maw Law, near the coconut plantation. They burned down that area and most of the paddy fields were destroyed, and one of my fields that I work with my brother was also burned.

Q: How much is a basket of rice in your village?
A: A basket of rice is 2,000 Kyat now. A big tin [about 16-17 kilos] of rice is 1,000 Kyat. Before they [the Burmese soldiers] go to the front line they sell their rice, and then while they’re out on patrol they take rice from other villages. They always sell their rice in Saw Hta, and if they don’t have rice to cook they go into someone’s house and say, "Mo [Mother], Mo, a bowl of rice." The villagers fear them, so they give them a bowl of rice and they do it the same way the next time in a different house. Every time they enter T’Nay Pya village, they eat a lot of rice by asking villagers.

Q: With all these problems, do you think that other villagers would like to come here?
A: There are a lot of families who want to come here but some could not afford to leave their fields. Before I left, there was a family who fled here, and then I thought to myself and told my wife that if we kept staying there we would die from portering. Some people who live there can stay alive, but we thought if we died from illness or fever it would be better than from portering. Now they make more and more demands. If you can’t carry they beat and kick you, so we didn’t want to die like that and had to leave.

 

#20.

NAME:         "Saw Shwe Than"          SEX: M          AGE: 37        Karen Buddhist farmer
FAMILY:       Married, 5 children aged 5-15
ADDRESS:     Hter Klah village, Kaw Te Hgah township               INTERVIEWED: 10/99

["Saw Shwe Than" fled his village 2 years ago and lived in the jungle until crossing to Thailand in October 1999 with his family. One of his children died en route to Thailand.]

Q: Why did you come to xxxx [refugee camp]?
A: I dared not stay in the village because I fear them and I couldn’t meet their demands. I went to the jungle to hide, but with the Burmese patrolling a lot, I couldn’t stand it. I heard that they met a villager in Toh Kee and killed him. They saw him in a hut and demanded, "If you are a good person come back here, don’t run away." The villager came near them and they ordered him to open his mouth. He opened his mouth and they put their pistol in it, then fired it to kill him. I heard many things like that, so I dared not stay there. They didn’t have a reason [to kill the villager], but as for me I dared not stay because people told them that I was living in the jungle and working for the Kaw Thoo Lei. I am a villager, but they see that I don’t help the Burmese.

Q: Do you refuse to serve as a porter?
A: I don’t need to go because the people [KNLA] come back to stay with us and keep our place secure. They do not collect taxes from us. If they are tired they come back and stay with us so they don’t need to collect, but if they need food they get it from the village. We aren’t taxed by the KNU but we don’t help the Burmese, so they dislike us and think we are cheating. I never went [portering] for them because I ran to hide. In the past we had a lot [of people forced to porter for the Burmese], but now people are scattered and nobody stays in Hter Klah.

Q: Why did people scatter?
A: People couldn’t tolerate it anymore when the Burmese came to torture us. Also Kaw Thoo Lei came back to the village, so the Burmese came and beat the village head. After that the village head dared not stay, and some villagers went to T’Nay Pya and K’Neh Kaw Hser, and others fled into the jungle. So we don’t have a village now.

Q: How did the villagers who fled to the jungle survive?
A: As far as I knew before coming here, it was very difficult for them to eat. I don’t know about right now, but at that time they had one pot of rice left to eat and had to find something to eat for the next meal [i.e. villagers were living hand to mouth, foraging for their next meal because they had no extra food]. Sometimes they had to go find it in Mawn village and sometimes in Kwih Kler village.

Q: Do you know the number of the Burmese troops who came to your village?
A: I don’t know, but I think that it was #22 [Light Infantry Division]. I remember that the troops who came to destroy our village were commanded by Aung Kaing.

Q: Did they make you do loh ah pay?
A: I never had to porter for them, but when [LID] #44 came up I had to go to work a lot. We had to do loh ah pay, build fences and dig a car road. When #44 came up here they started to collect porters and I went to stay in the jungle. I can’t carry heavy things, so I tried to find a friend who stayed in the jungle [KNU]. So the village leaders didn’t like me, and they harrassed me in many ways, but they dared not send me to the Burmese. They thought that I joined Kaw Thoo Lei and I didn’t obey rules and laws [because he was staying with the KNLA he didn’t contribute to the SPDC taxes, which the other villagers had to compensate for], so they resented me. Then I dared not stay there, so I fled here.

Q: When you stayed in the jungle did you go back to your village often?
A: Yes, I went back sometimes to find food and listen to the news to know whether the Burmese were stronger or weaker [in numbers, i.e. their presence in the area]. Based on the information I heard [about the villager being shot in the mouth], I knew that they were becoming worse and I already had people resenting me, so I dared not stay there. I knew that the way they treat the villagers would become worse, but that didn’t necessarily mean they would come with a lot of soldiers.

Q: Do you mean that the forced labour became worse?
A: Yes. They didn’t pay us, and what’s more we had to take along our own rice, too. Sometimes we ate Burmese rice, but it was extra rice or cold rice, and we never had hot rice for any meal [they ate leftover rice from the day before].

Q: Do you think that other villagers want to come here too?
A: According to what I’ve heard a lot of people want to come here, but some have already planted their big fields that can provide a lot of paddy, so they don’t want to lose it. They remain there with their eyes open, and if they really can’t stay there they will come here. They told us, "When you arrive there keep listening for us because probably we will follow you, too."

Q: When the Burmese entered your village, did they rape any women?
A: We didn’t have that, but if the women cared for them, maybe they would. In Hter Klah village we didn’t have any women who could speak Burmese very well, and they didn’t care for them either.

Q: How long ago was it that your village was destroyed?
A: It’s been two years already, because after [LID] #44 had gone, then [LID] #22 arrived and the village was destroyed. I thought that I would go back again, but now I don’t think that I can go back until after the situation becomes better.

Q: So the villagers dared not stay in the village for 2 years?
A: Yes, two years already.

Q: How long did it take you to come to the refugee camp from where you were hiding?
A: It took more than a month. The problem was that the day after I left I arrived in M--- village, and my 11-month old child died. Then I asked my daughter who stays in the [refugee] camp to come and fetch me, but she told me that she couldn’t go then because one of her friends named S--- had gone to the jungle and hadn’t come back yet. So they asked me to wait for him, and it took time.

Q: Did anyone harass you on the way here?
A: Yes, because of my problems it took a lot of time… we couldn’t carry any belongings like pots and bowls with us because my wife and I each had to carry one child on our backs... Before we left [Burma] we came and stayed near the border at Mawn village. Then I talked with the Mawn village secretary and investigated the situation. After the Burmese troops had gone to send their sick and wounded from those areas, we fled right away.

 

#21.

NAME:         "Naw Blu Paw"          SEX: F          AGE: 20          Karen Buddhist farmer
ADDRESS:    Hter Klah village, Kaw Te Hgah township             INTERVIEWED: 10/99

["Naw Blu Paw" was internally displaced for 2 months before arriving in Thailand 2 weeks prior to her interview.]

Q: Did you come from your village straight to here?
A: We were afraid of the Burmese so we left our village. We moved and stayed in K---. It is not a village, it is in the jungle. We ran to escape from the Burmese. They tortured us. They ordered us to porter.

Q: How long did you stay in the jungle?
A: For 2 months. They hadn’t come yet. There were 6 houses there. Some went to stay in K’Neh Kaw Hser and T’Nay Pya villages.

Q: Did you have rice there? 
A: People didn’t have enough food so they had to buy rice for themselves. They can buy it in Saw Hta; it costs 3,000 Kyat.

Q: When did you arrive here?
A: I came with my husband 2 weeks ago. If the situation becomes better, we will go back to my village.

 

#22.

NAME:         "Pu Tha Mu Heh"        SEX: M          AGE: 57         Karen Buddhist farmer
FAMILY:       Married, 4 children aged 5-23
ADDRESS:     Yaw K’Daw village, Kya In township                    INTERVIEWED: 9/99

["Pu Tha Mu Heh" arrived at a refugee camp in Thailand in July 1999 after fleeing his village with his family. Soon after, they discovered that his wife was sick.]

Q: Why did you leave your village?
A: We fled here because we couldn’t tolerate the Burmese anymore, so we came to stay here and discovered that my wife is sick, too.

Q: Did you have to porter?
A: They collected 2 people for 5 day shifts [of portering], but they did not pay us. We each had to go once a month. I had to carry 6 or 7 times. We had to go for Tin Lan. He is the commander of #22 [of the local LID 22 troops]. I am not sure if they combined with IB #24 or not, because #24 arrived in the village later. They combined #22, #24, and the other troops called Nyein Chan Yay Sit [‘Peace Army’; KPA]. But the Ko Per Baw [DKBA] were not involved.

Q: Did everyone have to carry, even women, children, and the elderly?
A: An old man from Kyaw Ba and 2 old men from Lay Po Hta. They were so old that all of their teeth fell out already. I didn’t see any women, but I saw a young man 15 years old.

Q: What about loh ah pay?
A: For loh ah pay we had to carry from Kwih Ler Taw to Htee Hta Baw. We carried rice for them. One time we had to cut bamboo to build their small huts.

Q: When soldiers sleep in the village, did you hear of any who tried to sleep with women or rape women?
A: I didn’t hear that they raped women, but I know the wife of T--- from T--- village who wasn’t raped, but he [the Burmese soldier] likes her in that way. His wife slept with the Burmese and everybody saw it. She is Toe Thu [a subgroup within the Karen].

 

#23.

NAME:         "Saw Tee Doh"          SEX: M          AGE: 18          Karen Buddhist farmer
FAMILY:       Single
ADDRESS:     Meh Toh village, Kaw Te Hgah township              INTERVIEWED: 9/99

["Saw Tee Doh" had been in Thailand for 2 months as a refugee when he was interviewed.]

Q: How long have you been here?
A: Two months already.

Q: Why did you come here?
A: I had problems there so I fled here. I had to carry loads and do loh ah pay. I went twice [as a porter] and there were troubles along the way. When you go with them and the people are waiting to shoot them [i.e. when the KNLA ambushes the column], it means trouble. We had some porters who died like that.

Q: Did you see any porters who died? 
A: Yes, I saw it. It was during the second time that I went, 6 or 7 months ago. His name was Saw Thu Lay and he was my friend. I had never been in that area before in the lower part, and we had to go through the jungle on the way to Seik Gyi. My friend and 1 or 2 soldiers died. There was 15 minutes [of fighting], then we had to carry the people who got wounded.

We had to face it [sickness] because they do not have medicine, and we couldn’t get medicine until we arrived at a hospital. Some troops let sick porters come back, but some porters died in the jungle. A Klay villager who had gone to porter got sick on the way and they left him to die. The village head told me; his name is T---.

Q: Did you also have to do loh ah pay?
A: For loh ah pay we had to build pagodas at P’Ya Daung, Po Yay, and Kyaikdon. One or two pagodas and some small pagodas also. There was a big pagoda that was crumbling that we had to rebuild also. I had to pick up stones and saw firewood for them. They didn’t pay us or give us rice, and we ate our own rice that we’d brought. [We went] at 6:00 a.m. and they let us go back after 4 or 5:00 p.m. For loh ah pay we went at least 3 or 4 times a month. Some days you don’t finish that day, so you have to come back the next day until you finish it.

Q: Did the villagers have time to work for themselves?
A: Some villagers have time to work because they divide the work into groups [i.e. the villagers rotate the shifts of forced labour so that some of them have time to work their own fields].

Q: How did the Burmese come and demand people?
A: They came and organised us. If we went and stayed at their place they said it would be good for us, but we never did it because we knew. We had gone to porter for them and we knew what kind of attitude they had. So we dared not go.

Q: Did you have any problems getting here?
A: I didn’t have any. We went to to ask permisson from the village head. I told him I was going to visit B---.

Q: Do you think that you will go back some day?
A: No, I don’t want to go back. If I went back there, some people would punch my face, so I dare not go back.

 

#24.

NAME:         "Naw Wah Wah"          SEX: F     AGE: 20              Karen Christian farmer
FAMILY:       Married, one child
ADDRESS:     xxxx village, Kaw Te Hgah township                     INTERVIEWED: 9/99

["Naw Wah Wah" left her village with her husband, a former KNLA soldier. She was interviewed in a refugee camp in Thailand two weeks after her arrival.]

Q: Why did you leave your village?
A: I dared not stay there because they came to make trouble with my husband. They came and told me that he belongs to Kaw Thoo Lei [KNU/KNLA]. Before he was in Kaw Thoo Lei but he was not when he married me. The Burmese always came to ask me about him: "Where is your husband? Is your husband Kaw Thoo Lei?" They came 5 or 6 times and if they didn’t see my husband they asked about him.

Q: Where was your husband during this time?
A: He stayed in our farmfield hut. They came to interrogate him in the house and they always questioned and checked him when he came and went [to and from the village].

Q: Did they ever do anything else?
A: They were watching to see if my husband separated from his friends and went alone, then they would do it. According to what they said, they would do something in the future. We worried that they would do it [kill him], so we fled here.

Q: Did many people in your village have to porter or suffer other forms of abuse?
A: A lot of people had to carry and if people couldn’t, they beat and kicked them. Sometimes they demanded people go with bullock carts, and if the mud became deep along the way, they beat people until their chins bled.

The villagers have no time to rest. They pulled things [in bullock carts] up to Kyaikdon. They beat the drivers and my cousin was put in the lock cell because he came back late while doing loh ah pay for them. His name is T---. We saw it happen and went to vouch for him. The main problem was that the path was not passable, and the Burmese in Saw Hta disturbed him by wasting his time. The same group of Burmese punished him by locking him in a cell. He had gone to take rations from Saw Hta when they tried to find fault with him. The Burmese who stay in K--- accused him of making contact with outsiders[KNLA soldiers], then they locked him in the cell for 3 hours.

Q: Do people in your village have to do loh ah pay?
A: Yes, we have to go every week on Saturday. They don’t hire us, they just collect us. Villagers always have to do it, and they have no time to rest. The other villagers who stay in the village do their work for them. If people don’t go, they punish them. One man didn’t go for a day to guard [serve sentry duty] as they had ordered, because that day he went to get rice since he didn’t have rice to eat. He couldn’t go, so they punished him. His name is Pa M---. His liver and spleen were in pain, but he went to find rice for his family. They punished him for 7 days and didn’t allow him to come back and eat at his house [in the evenings].

Q: What was the number of the Burmese troop that punished him?
A: The number of the troop is #22 [Light Infantry Division]. They stay at K---. He had to go and guard there and always stay near the Burmese. If they needed anything, they ordered him to go everywhere for them.

Q: Did the Burmese beat or harm any of the villagers?
A: Yes, they beat the villagers.

Q: Did any of the soldiers try to rape women in the village?
A: One of my older sisters and my cousin are teachers in the village and they are very proper. But the Burmese said that they are proud, so in the night they tried to climb up into the house to sleep with them, but they couldn’t because my uncle had fenced his walls very well, and they couldn’t climb up the walls. This was last year. My sister is a Bible school teacher and every time they walked past the house they joked to them, but the girls didn’t respond. So they thought that they were proud and they tried to sleep with them. They couldn’t sleep with them because every door in the house was locked.

Q: Do they take any of the villagers’ livestock?
A: They go and capture the villagers who stay in their huts, then call them back to the village and ask them for pigs at their houses. And they try to find fault with them, but after villagers feed them pork, they release them. They go and capture them and accuse them of staying outside the village, sheltering Kaw Thoo Lei [KNU/KNLA]. So they capture them and ask for pigs. Sometimes they walk beside someone’s house and shoot their chickens and livestock and demand vegetables and fruit, not only in xxxx [her village] but in every village. In the future it will only get worse and worse. Whenever a new group arrives they are worse than the one before. The current group came to stay for 5 months and now they have already stayed for 4 months.

Before I left my village they ordered Po S--- to go and pull [by bullock cart] for them to Meh Naw Ah, but the bullocks couldn’t pull because they carried a lot of weight, so they beat the owner of the bullocks and said he is stupid. They beat him with their belts and kicked and slapped him, and he got wounds and bruises. I didn’t see it, but the owner of the bullocks came back and slept at my uncle’s house. They beat his waist with their belts and slapped his face. It was a week ago.

Q: Do people have enough food to eat in your village after all of this forced labour? 
A: The villagers do not have enough food, and a lot of people have to eat klee roots. In xxxx [her village] village people mostly dig for klee roots to eat. Just a few people can eat rice, and some people who guarded for the Burmese do not have food to eat. The Burmese don’t feed them and some people who went to porter for them are fed rotten, soggy rice. We saw them when they [the soldiers and the porters] arrived and stayed in our houses.

Q: Did you give them food?
A: We did, and if they saw that there is good food in the house, they went in and ate it themselves. I took pity on the porters and fed them if I had food. I saw that some porters were sick and cold in the rainy season, but they had to sleep on the floor. If you gave them mats they [Burmese soldiers] took them and slept on them. They let their commander sleep in a good place. It wasn’t a long time ago because the Burmese always stop there on patrol, since my house is on the way. I don’t have chickens, but my aunt has hens with chicks, and they stole all the hens. In that area nobody has chickens because they steal them, and now people don’t breed chickens anymore.

 

#25.

NAME:         "Pa Htoo Pa"          SEX: M          AGE: 24               Karen Christian farmer
FAMILY:       Married, one child aged 1½ years
ADDRESS:     xxxx village, Kaw Te Hgah township                      INTERVIEWED: 9/99

["Pa Htoo Pa" was interviewed in a refugee camp one month after his arrival. He arrived before his wife because they had to flee separately.]

Q: Why did you come here?
A: I dared not stay because of the accusations [of being a KNLA soldier], and I didn’t want to be a Burmese porter, so I fled here. We had to haul things [with carts] for them and go for loh ah pay and do many other kinds of work for them.

Q: How many days did you usually have to go as a porter?
A: I have never been to porter for them; I just had to go twice with my bullock cart. Sometimes 3 days, sometimes 7 days. We went 3 times [per month] because there were not so many houses [in his village to rotate the labour], and sometimes 4 times. They did not pay us. There are not many houses so we could not hire people, but when one of the villagers’ turn arrives and s/he can’t go [due to illness or obligation], another villager will go instead. If that person’s turn then comes and the other is healed, he goes for him instead.

Q: Where did you go?
A: We patrolled around those areas [the surrounding villages] and if we had to go to Seik Gyi, we did. We had to go where they asked us to.

Q: What happened when you entered other villages?
A: They entered villages to loot and beat villagers if the village didn’t give to them. They took things without paying and beat the owners and went to sleep with married women. It was in Kyaw Kee and Saw Hta villages that they went to sleep with married women.

Q: Soldiers from which unit number were sleeping with the women?
A: [LID] #22. It was during the same month that I fled. I don’t know the name of the commander because I wasn’t involved with them and dared not go near them. The private soldiers did it. When they try to sleep with women like that, you can’t do anything about it. The villagers do not allow the women to go [on portering shifts] because they [the Burmese soldiers]meet them outside the village and rape them.

Q: Have you seen them do that?
A: It was in Saw Hta. In the same month [that he fled, in July 1999]. I don’t know her name, but when M--- came back [from portering], he told me. The woman is married and he [Burmese soldier] went up to sleep with her. M--- knew about it because they were sleeping in the same house and he [Burmese soldier] touched her husband with a knife, then slept with his wife.

Q: How many soldiers were involved?
A: Two Burmese. They are in the same unit.

Q: Where is M--- now?
A: He joined the Ko Per Baw [DKBA] because he has not been happy since the Burmese beat him. He dares not be a villager. Mostly villagers join the Ko Per Baw. Then they don’t need to porter and the Burmese dare not ask them to.

Q: Where do the villagers go to join the Ko Per Baw?
A: Tha Der Ko.

Q: Do villagers have enough food in your village?
A: There is not enough food there. A villager from Saw Hta went to find rice in K’Mah Kler and got a big tin, but on the way back people killed her. She was pregnant. I don’t know who killed her because there was no eyewitness. It was because there is not enough food.

Q: When did this happen?
A: When my wife fled here. She arrived here two weeks ago. After I fled here she followed me because we dared not flee together.

Q: Do you think a lot of villagers want to come here?
A: A lot of villagers want to come but it is not easy. It took a day to arrive here. I fled secretly. I dared not go ask permission. After I fled here they went to ask for me many times. My wife told me because they went to ask her. She told them, "He has gone visiting, but when he arrived there he got sick so he went to the hospital."

Q: Do they restrict the village head?
A: Sometimes they give orders to the village head and sometimes they beat him and the pastors too. Sometimes they are suspicious of them and try to find fault with them.

Q: Did you see them beat the pastor?
A: Yes. His name is Thra Z---, the one who fled here. It was a year ago already.

Q: Do you have any other stories to tell?
A: Two months ago the Burmese went to ask a villager for a chicken. The owner captured his chicken under the house. His name is T---. He stepped up on the ladder [the house steps] while the Burmese were under the house. His foot itched and he bent down to scratch it. Then the Burmese shot him. If he had moved up onto the next step it would have hit him. Because he scratched his foot the bullet passed above his belly. The Burmese shot to kill him but it didn’t hurt him. He knew that the Burmese had shot at him. Sometimes they steal people’s things, like betelnut, and then cut down the whole tree. T---’s son was locked in a cell, too.

Q: Do you think you will go back to your village?
A: I will never go back. I will stay here always because I dare not go back. I will stay here forever. If I go back the Burmese will kill me. I did something before which T--- from Nyein Chan Yay Sit [‘Peace Army’, Thu Mu Heh’s group] knows about; he is one of the democracy students who was a servant of M---, and now he went back and stays with Nyein Chan Yay Sit. He knows I was a soldier. I left [the KNLA] 4 years ago.

 

#26.

NAME:         "Pati Tha Ghay"          SEX: M          AGE: 47        Karen Buddhist farmer
FAMILY:       Married, 3 children between 6 and 12 years old
ADDRESS:     Yaw K’Daw village, Kya In township                    INTERVIEWED: 9/99

["Pati Tha Ghay" arrived at a refugee camp in Thailand two weeks prior to being interviewed. He fled his village secretly with his family.]

Q: Why did you flee to Thailand?
A: We had to porter for the Burmese and we didn’t want to do it anymore, so I fled here. These past 3 years I had to porter around 100 times. Since [LID] #44 came up, we’ve had to porter continuously. I always had to porter. Now that they’ve decreased the demand for porters and they only need 2 at a time, we go once a month for five days.

Q: When was the last time that you had to porter for the Burmese?
A: It was 3 months ago for Commander Aung Zaw Oo. He has between 40 and 50 soldiers.

Q: If you couldn’t go, how much of a fine did you have to pay?
A: I never saw people give money, but I saw people give paddy—10 baskets for 5 days. It costs 50 Baht per basket [500 Baht for 10 baskets, or 5 days of portering].

Q: You said that now they decreased the demand, but what was it like before they did that?
A: In the past we could come back and sleep in our houses for a week at a time, then we had to go stay there [at the SPDC camp] for a week. We did not have enough time to work, so my wife had to work a lot.

Q: How many days did you have to carry the last time you went?
A: For 5 days. I had to carry from Yaw K’Daw to Dta Broh. We didn’t sleep until we arrived at Htee Hta Baw. They’ve set up an Army camp there. We slept there 1 or 2 nights, then went on to Dta Broh. It took over an hour to get there. Then people arrived to replace us and we could go back.

Q: Did they ever beat any of the porters?
A: They beat me once. He said, "The people will follow behind us", but I didn’t understand what he meant because other troops never told us this. We had to reply but we didn’t understand, so he slapped my face and explained to me. It was very painful. I didn’t think that I needed to answer so I stayed quiet. We didn’t need to answer the other troops in the past. He told me, "If I ask you, you have to answer me every time." This was during the night.

Q: Did the soldiers allow you to rest if you were tired?
A: They walk without taking a rest, and if they take a break they talk on their walkie-talkies only for a moment, then go again. They ordered us to sleep among them. They slept in groups in different corners and told us to sleep in the centre of them. They did not guard us. We couldn’t do as we like [go to the toilet, etc.]. We had to go with a soldier because otherwise we worried that the guards would shoot at us by mistake [the soldiers might shoot the porters, thinking they were escaping]. Some porters who’d had to carry more than they could manage ran to escape. They didn’t get captured, but they[Burmese] ordered the village head to discipline the porters who escaped so they wouldn’t run again. They didn’t charge the village head, but they fined the porters who ran. They usually fined 2 viss of chicken if you had it, but always at least 1 viss [1.6 kg/3.5 lb]. You must try to find it until you get it. We had some people who couldn’t find it, and the village head had to pay for those people.

Q: What did you have to carry?
A: Sometimes we had to carry bullets, rations, and food for their commander. Each porter had to carry 15 viss [24 kg/52 lb]; it was not too light and not too heavy, but a normal weight. It was at least 15 viss but behind their commander’s back they always threw in boots and a backpack too. They didn’t beat us, but they still ordered porters to carry whether they could or not. The village head talked to their Major, who talked to his soldiers, but he said that he didn’t see it happen[the soldiers throwing their packs into the porters’ baskets] because each porter has to follow his own team.

Q: How many houses are in Yaw K’Daw?
A: Before we left there were more than 20 houses, but since we left there are only 10. After we didn’t want to porter anymore, we separated and went wherever we could think to go. We fled here secretly with 3 households, and 3 other families went to H---.

Q: Have the Burmese threatened to do anything to the people they catch fleeing?
A: They will do something to the people they capture. I don’t know what, because we have never seen them arrest people who fled from the village. They haven’t told us anything, but we must be wise and plan ahead. Some people fled, but the village head doesn’t know anything about it. But some people could not do it [leave the village secretly] so the village head became aware of it.

Q: Did you face any problems along the way?
A: The problem on the way was that we dared not carry pots with us because if the Burmese found us along the way they would have detained us [if the Burmese see villagers carrying their belongings, they know that they are fleeing their villages]. So we dared not carry them, and when we arrived here we had to apply to our camp leaders to help us.

Q: How long ago was it that you fled?
A: It is quite long ago now; we fled on a Wednesday less than two months ago. It took a lot of time in B--- to make the camp leaders recognise us. We came by ourselves and told the camp leaders, then they asked me to go back and stay at B--- to answer questions and to check us. After they interrogated us, they sent us rations and since it was not possible for us to come yet, they ordered us to stay there. We were there more than a month.

Q: After living here, do you think you will ever return to your village?
A: If I think carefully, I don’t want to go back to my village unless the Burmese leave. I will stay here and live. I don’t want to say anything else.

Q: Do you think that the people who stay will have to porter as much as before?
A: They always have to porter and I don’t think they will have the chance to stop. Since there are fewer households the turns might come more often now, maybe twice per month.

Q: Did you also have to do loh ah pay in your village?
A: Some people had to go if they have 2 people in their family. They had to start carrying rice from Kyaw Paw to Htee Hta Baw, and then build small huts for the soldiers to come back and take a rest at Kyaw Paw.

Q: Where is their army camp?
A: At Htee Hta Baw. It is quite far, but when I went there I didn’t ask who had a watch, so I don’t know exactly how many hours it takes, but it’s about a 5 hour walk.

 

#27.

NAME:         "Saw Bee"               SEX: M          AGE: 17            Karen Buddhist Farmer
FAMILY:        Single          
ADDRESS:     xxxx village, Waw Raw township                         INTERVIEWED: 9/99

["Saw Bee" managed to flee to a refugee camp after being arrested in his village and beaten for information about the KNLA.]

Q: When the Burmese entered your village, what did they do to you?
A: On May 26th Infantry Battalion #32 commanded by Nyi Nyi Lwin and Sergeant Zaw Min Nyaing came to my house and called me, then they beat me. They beat me three times and slapped me once on the face. They demanded information about Kaw Thoo Lei. "Did you hear any information?" I told them no. "Did you see them enter [the village]?" I said, "No, I didn’t see anything. I stayed in the fields."

Q: Did they arrest you after that?
A: They arrested me at my house. They beat me with a bamboo stick. After that they kicked me, so I tried to run back. Another one of their friends ordered me to squat, so I did.

Q: Did you see them arrest any other villagers?
A: Yes, I saw one villager named S--- who they beat with a gun twice. It was Nyi Nyi Lwin’s troops. S--- said that he wasn’t free to go [for forced labour]. They said, "We can’t call you then?" [This was clearly a threat, because after that he went.] My friend told them that he was going to defecate and after he finished, he went. They also ordered me to go and bring them a man [for forced labour]. I went to call a man, so I left there. My friend asked me to go see Kaw Thoo Lei. I told him I would not go, then I fled.

Q: Did your two friends also flee?
A: No, they didn’t.

Q: When the Burmese entered the village, did they eat the villagers’ food?
A: They demanded chickens and cats to eat, but they didn’t go into the houses. We didn’t give them anything.

Q: When the Burmese came, did they have many porters with them?
A: I saw only one porter. He carried ammunition.

Q: Now that you have fled from your village, will you dare to go back?
A: Yes, I dare to go back. If I meet with them, I won’t be able to do anything. I don’t think they will beat me again though, because I won’t see them [he will avoid them].

 

#28.

NAME:         "Saw Po Thu"               SEX: M          AGE: 35        Karen Buddhist farmer
FAMILY:       Married, one child aged 6 months
ADDRESS:     Yaw K’Daw village, Kya In township                     INTERVIEWED: 9/99

["Saw Po Thu" fled to Thailand to seek medical care after an accident left him half-blind. He then returned to his village, but fled three months later. He was interviewed 10 days after arriving in a refugee camp.]

Q: Why did you come here?
A: I didn’t want to porter for the Burmese any more because of my weak eyes.

Q: Since 1997 when the Burmese operations intensified, have you had to porter?
A: I had to find someone to porter for me 5 days out of every month. It cost 100 Baht per day, or 1,000 Kyat per day. The village headman collected us. One day I went to porter and the next morning I had an eye accident. I decided to build a house and went to cut bamboo, and it hit my eye. Then I came to Mae Sot hospital [in Thailand] for one month, and then I went back. That was about 3 months ago.

Q: What was the name of the Burmese Battalion you went to porter for?
A: It may be #24, but I’m not sure because I can’t read. The commander’s name is Aung Kyaw Oo.

Q: How long did you have to porter for?
A: Sometimes 5 or 6 or even 10 days, and 7 days the last time. There were over 40 soldiers, and they collected porters from many different places. They collected 2 porters from Yaw K’Daw village. I went with P---. 3 or 4 soldiers went in front and forced 2 porters to go between them.

Q: How did you sleep at night?
A: They didn’t guard us; they trust us because the village head collects for them. If the porters flee, the village head has to send them a chicken.

Q: So some porters do manage to escape?
A: Yes, some porters do. They had told the village head to fine 2-5 viss of chicken for each porter [who escapes]. I didn’t flee. They released me.

Q: Did any porters get sick?
A: Yes. If you go to ask them [for medicine], they give it to you. Those who were very sick were released to go home.

Q: Did they feed you enough?
A: The Burmese soldiers are not the same from troop to troop. Some troops fed us enough and some troops didn’t feed us enough.

Q: What did you have to carry?
A: Rice, bullets, pots, and whatever else they forced us to carry. They forced us to carry backpacks with their boots, and they put them on the baskets that we carried. I had to carry one basket of rice all day.

Q: If you told them that it was too much weight for you, what happened?
A: They didn’t scold us. You had to tell their commander, and then he would ask the soldiers to come and take it back. I didn’t see the troops [beat porters] when I went to porter. But the other troops were doing it and beating some porters. In the past when [LID] #44 came, they beat us once or twice.

Q: When you were portering, did the Burmese enter villages and do anything to the villagers?
A: Yes, they ate the villagers’ chickens, but they didn’t do anything to the women. They demanded [livestock] until they got it.

Q: Do you think villagers in your village are still going to porter?
A: Yes, they are still portering. The Burmese don’t care if they go at night, that’s why I don’t continue going because of my eye.

Q: Did villagers have to do loh ah pay?
A: There is no loh ah pay for us, only portering. But sometimes the other villagers had to go to Yaw K’Daw and Kyaw Plaw to build their houses, huts, and fences. They went and came back in the same day. They fed the villagers, but sometimes it was enough and sometimes not.

Q: Where do the Burmese have their camp?
A: They camp at P’Ya Daung. When they patrol they sometimes come back to rest at Kyaw Plaw. Sometimes they stay for 5 or 6 days and sometimes for only 2 or 3 days.

Q: Do the villagers have time to do their fields if the Burmese are forcing them to do forced labour all the time?
A: Yes, they have time to do it because if the Burmese patrol and see the villagers working, they don’t arrest them.

 

#29.

NAME:         "Saw Lay Doh Htoo"          SEX: M     AGE: 27           Karen Buddhist farmer
FAMILY:       Married, 2 children aged 7 months and 4 years 
ADDRESS:     Saw Hta village, Kaw Te Hgah township                  INTERVIEWED: 9/99

["Saw Lay Doh Htoo" was forced to work for SPDC troops over a period of 3 years before fleeing to a refugee camp in Thailand, where he was interviewed in September 1999.]

Q: Why did you come here?
A: Because I could not porter anymore. I had to do loh ah pay 3 times a week at the Burmese camp in Saw Hta. We also had to porter sometimes when they carried rations and changed their troops.

Q: How long have the Burmese been making you do forced labour?
A: Since they first arrived in our village, about 3 years ago. They are still regularly forcing us to work.

Q: For loh ah pay what did you have to do?
A: We had to build a road, serve as sentry guards, and fetch water for them. They built a road in the village and forced us to carry and break stones. After we finished laying the stones on the road, cars could go through the village in the rainy season. For sentry duty, 2 villagers had to go to their Strategic Command camp by rotation with one bullock cart plus the driver. Then we had to cut bamboo, slice it and weave baskets for them. The villagers who could not go were still forced to go. Now they are not forcing children because they said nothing gets done when the children work, but they are forcing people older than 50. They force women to pull out grass around Pyi Kya In Pyo office and Ba Yint Naung office.

Q: During loh ah pay, did the Burmese feed the villagers?
A: No, they didn’t. They let us come back [to eat at their homes]. We started working at 6 a.m. and came back after 10 a.m.

Q: How many times did you go to porter?
A: I went to porter about 10 times. Eight days ago, before I came here, I had to porter for 2 days to P’Ya Daung. I portered for 15 or 20 days at a time.

Q: Did they pay you?
A: No, we didn’t even get rice to eat. In the morning they didn’t feed us. They fed us at 10 p.m., but the next morning we didn’t get rice to eat. They fed us in the afternoon again. In 2 days we got rice to eat only twice.

Q: Was anyone tired or sick?
A: When we went to porter there were porters who could not carry but were forced to continue. They didn’t get medicine. At night if we went to urinate we had to tell them. We had to sleep in the same group, even if we were sweating through our clothes.

Q: What did you have to carry?
A: We had to carry their boots and socks, and I carried sugar, milk, clothes, pots, rice, and bullets. I had to carry things that were as heavy as one big tin of rice [about 16 kg/35 lb]. When I came back it was as heavy as almost 3 big tins of rice. They changed the troops and we had to carry back to our village again.

Q: Did any porters flee?
A: We didn’t flee. If porters flee they fine them, so the porters dare not flee. They didn’t guard us but they forced us to walk in between them. There were about 70 or 80 soldiers and 40 or 50 porters. They collected from everywhere, some from Saw Hta, some from Meh K’Dtee and other places. They wrote down our names, addresses, and my parents’ full names when they collected us. One porter fled and escaped though, and the Burmese went to call his parents. I don’t know what happened because we didn’t see it. We had to continue on. When we arrived back in Saw Hta, they changed to another group. There were over 20 porters who went out the next time.

Q: Did they ever beat porters if they had trouble carrying?
A: They did. If they didn’t rest, you dared not rest either.

Q: Did they arrest you or collect you from the village head?
A: The village head collects us. If we are not strong enough, the village head doesn’t allow us to go.

Q: How did you feel when you returned from portering?
A: After I came back from portering, I was tired and sick. There was no one to give medicine to me or help cure me. Medicine is very expensive, and I had to buy it with my own money. I couldn’t suffer anymore so I fled here.

Q: What is the name of the battalion that you portered for?
A: They are [Light Infantry] Division #22, but I don’t know the name of their commander. They settled down at Saw Hta and K’Mah Kler. I only knew one or two soldiers. One was named Major Soe Nyunt, but he already went back. [Another time] I portered for them for only one day. I started from Saw Hta. In the evening they called us and forced us to go and sleep in their camp. In the morning they forced us to carry to Meh Naw Ah, then they changed troops. It takes over 3 hours to walk there, and we just followed the path. We left at half past six in the morning. They didn’t feed us. We had to wait till we could come back and eat in our houses. If we knew any friends [along the way], they fed us.

Q: When they entered your village, did they sleep there?
A: They didn’t sleep in Saw Hta village, but in the monastery. Last year at Christmas time a soldier from Battalion #62 commanded by Bo Aung Kyaing went to rape the wife of W---. Her husband went to cook for Christmas, and while his wife slept the soldier pointed at her with a hand grenade and then he raped her. Her sarong was dirty and she had to show people. We stay in the same village so we know about it.

Q: Now where are your wife and children?
A: They are still in xxxx because I dare not call them. They are staying with my parents-in-law. I fled alone and took the path that the black market dealers use. If the Burmese knew, they would accuse them of making contact with the outside. Then they would put us all in jail. Many people want to come here, but it isn’t easy to get out. It would be difficult for them to come here. I can’t do anything. One day when the country is peaceful, I will go back.

 

#30.

NAME:         "Saw Hsah Htoo"          SEX: M          AGE: 34        Karen Buddhist Farmer
FAMILY:       Married, 4 children
ADDRESS:     Kyaung Ywa village, Waw Raw township               INTERVIEWED: 8/99

["Saw Hsah Htoo"’s village is on the Atayan River in southern Dooplaya District.]

Q: What does the SPDC Army do when it comes to your village?
A: Every time the SPDC Army arrives in the village, the villagers have to replenish their rations depending on what they need. The villagers also have to give them porters if they need them. Now in Kyaung village Infantry Battalion #61 has set up a camp. According to what our ancestors told us, Kyaung Ywa camp was set up in 1958, and the first camp commander who set it up was named Bo Myint Sein. It was LIB #28. The second was commanded by Major Hai. The third camp commander was Bo Din. Now the camp commander is Second Lieutenant Kyaw Win Tin from IB #61.

Q: How does it benefit the villagers to have a camp set up in their village?
A: They said that by building a camp in the village, they would increase security for the villagers. But the situation right now is that the villagers have to give them 10 sentry guards every day. If the villagers can’t send guards, they have to pay 500 Kyat per person.

Q: Do they demand that villagers go for loh ah pay and portering?
A: For loh ah pay they demand villagers as they need them, but always 10 people have to go to work at the camp daily [there is a daily rotation as well as periodic calls for extra labourers]. When they go, they [the SPDC soldiers] order them to fix everything that’s broken in the camp and force them to dig trenches and bunkers. If they don’t have any other work that needs doing, they order them to carry water and break firewood for them. When the women go to work for them, they order them to pound paddy and cook for them. They don’t feed us rice, and sometimes they ask us to work until 10 or 12, then we go back to our houses to eat. Each time we have to start at 6:00 in the morning and work until 11:00. In the afternoon we work from 1:00 until 4:00 or 4:30. They never pay us money for that. In one month, all of the villagers go weekly on Saturdays for loh ah pay. Then we go by turn once a month as sentry guards. The people who dare not go have to hire someone, and it costs 500 Kyat per person per time.

Q: Do they collect ‘emergency porters’ when their columns move?
A: They collect them, and just recently in Kyaung Ywa, LIB #343 collected 5 villagers as porters. One of them was shot dead. He had been called by #343, so people went to them asking for [compensation] money. They [the soldiers from #343] said that #284 was also involved and that #284 would resolve it. They said this as they were playing volleyball and smashed the ball out of the court. We don’t know the name of the commander [of #284], but we heard that they are from Kya In Seik Gyi.

Q: When he was killed, were other people also hurt?
A: According to the porter who told us, a lot of people were wounded from the Burmese side, and they had to run in separate directions. Some people got wounded, but we didn’t see them. He saw people die in front of his eyes. He said that one messenger who showed the way was killed. They were attacked by the Nga Pway [KNLA] while he was guiding them, so the Army shot him [the Burmese shot the porter because he led them into a KNLA ambush]. The people who ran and escaped from them told me that, too. The dead man was named Win Tin. He was from Pa Goh and was 32 years old. His wife and children are working day labour jobs, like boiling bamboo shoots to sell. We haven’t seen them [the SPDC] do anything to help his family.

Q: How many days do you have to go every time you porter?
A: I portered for nearly a whole month. We had to carry bullets, radios, and bags filled with landmines. It was over 10viss [16 kg/35 lb]. They collected [porters] from all over Kya In township and there were more than 30 porters. For the sick porters, they treated them as they could, but they didn’t feed them enough. They guarded the places where the porters slept because they worried that the porters would run to escape. So they surrounded them and made them sleep among the soldiers, and if they ran, they shot them. There were people who ran to escape.

Q: What if people couldn’t continue to carry for them?
A: If porters couldn’t continue, they beat, hit, and punched them, then forced them to walk and carry the loads. Some porters were left on the path. One porter who was left had to sleep at the monastery for one or two nights. After that the monks and someone from A’Nan Gwin helped him and took him back to A’Nan Gwin. Once he arrived there, they sent him directly to Tha Muh Sa Ya.

Q: During the time you were portering and entered villages with the soldiers, did you see them beat any villagers, or loot and eat their livestock?
A: Yes, if they arrived at a villager’s house they called down the owner from the house. One of them interrogated the owner while the other soldier looted the belongings in the house and caught the livestock. If the villager complained to them, they beat him and sent him to their commander.

Q: Did you ever hear of them abusing or raping women?
A: The last time they came we didn’t hear of that, but in the past when other columns wandered through, we heard that this happened.

Q: Since the SPDC Army set up a camp in your village, can you describe their demands for food, forced labour, and taxes?
A: Now for boats coming in or going out they set up gates and check all boats; if they have equipment or rice, they tax it. When logs or bamboo arrive, they tax it. If you want to send one tonne of logs from Kyaung village to Kya In, they tax you 5,600 Kyat. For 100 pieces of bamboo you have to pay 500 Kyat in taxes to send it to Kya In. They are not the only ones who tax in Kyaung village; the militia from Kyaut Myint Kyaw village also collect taxes. Then at Ta Da Gyi [‘the big bridge’]there are many kinds of soldiers, foresters [collect tax only on logs], and SPDC Intelligence, and all of them co-operate to collect money. From Kyaut village to Kya In village there are 3 gates for taxes: in Kyaut, Kyaut Myint Kyaw, and Kya In. The gate officers collect in turns by day. They work like that, but then they divide it between them and collect their profit. The foresters also collect taxes in turn, but the name of the chief forester who taxes logs in Kya In township is U Win Mya Thin.

Q: What do they collect for education?
A: The student entrance fee now is 1,500 Kyat for each primary school student, not including the cost of books, which is around 1,000 Kyat per set. The parents who do not have 1,500 Kyat can’t send their children to school. For middle school and high school, each student has to pay 3,000 Kyat for one year and 3,000 for one set [of reading books]. The students have to buy all their supplies with their own money. There are about 250 students in the village. The subjects that they teach in school are English, Burmese, and math. They don’t allow the teaching of ethnic groups’ languages. In our village there are both Karen and Mon people, and both groups want to teach their own language. But the Burmese do not allow the children to learn it. In my opinion this is one of their ethnic cleansing policies.

Q: Are the teachers hired by the government or by the villagers?
A: In all there are 15 teachers in the village. Twelve of them belong to the government, and 5 were hired by the village because there weren’t enough teachers. The villagers pay 2,000 Kyat a month for each teacher they hire. The other teachers receive a salary from the government, between 1,000 and 1,200 Kyat. They pay a different salary to the teachers who don’t receive a pork ration.

Q: What do they do with the money they collect when students enter school?
A: They rebuild tables and spend it on a roof and fence for the school.

Q: If some students want to go to school but their parents cannot afford to send them, what can they do?
A: The children cannot go to school if their parents cannot afford to send them. The monks from the village have to send some of the students to school. Now the government is sponsoring one student, but the government won’t support all of them. Some are being supported by the health co-ordinator and by other villagers.

Q: What kind of health services do you have in the village?
A: When the villagers are sick, they have to buy their own medicine to treat themselves. The patients who cannot buy medicine have no way to survive. There are 4 nurses in Kyaung Ywa village, but they don’t have enough medicine to treat everyone. That’s why when we get sick we buy medicine from outside, and the nurses inject it for us.

Q: Do the villagers benefit by keeping a health worker in the village?
A: They support a health worker in the village, so we don’t need to go to town unless it [their illness] gets serious. They teach us health education. They organise and develop strong groups [i.e. general community support networks], and they co-ordinate social events in the village on occasions when we celebrate or mourn. Every full moon and new moon day they cook food for the monks. They divide into groups and clean the village. They helped build a bridge.

Q: What is their intent?
A: I didn’t hear them talk about a strategy. As far as I know, it is a political party organisation. They also give trainings to young people who are interested in shooting guns.

Q: Do they provide help and support to the sick or the poor?
A: I didn’t see them support like that, for young people who are poor and have problems buying books to study, they gather and help. This organisation also collects donations [i.e. mandatory taxes] when the boats travel. They collect 50 Kyat per boat.

Q: When you become the member of a development group, do you have to pay an admission fee?
A: No, we can stay [in the village] without joining the organisation. As far as I know, the village head from our village didn’t join, but there are 70 young people in it.

Q: How many villages have to do loh ah pay at Kyaung Ywa camp?
A: There are 17 villages in all. I heard that the Burmese camp asks for rice sometimes from the villages. In addition they also ask for chickens.

Q: In what way do they benefit the villagers?
A: They said they would give us a secretary in the village, but in the current situation the villagers have to fence 4 sides [of the camp] and dig bunkers for them. They force the villagers to do sentry duty at their camp. When they collect the 10 villagers for sentry duty and to cut bamboo for them, they each have to take one bundle of firewood with them. They collect 100 to 200 pieces of bamboo from each village, depending on the size of the village. If the villagers kill a pig, we have to send 1 viss of pork to them. When the villagers kill a cow, we have to send 1 viss of beef. Not all the villages have to pay, only Kyaung Ywa village. If we don’t do this when the column comes to the village, they torture and oppress the villagers. They accuse us of being a rebel village and doing as we like. They beat and arrest the villagers, then they take us to Kyaung Ywa camp and force us to work.

Q: Did you ever have a battle in Kyaung Ywa village?
A: No, but in the past, New Mon State Party [NMSP] troops entered the village and aimed at the village head with a gun, and took him outside the village. Now the SPDC said that if the peace troops [NMSP, who have a ceasefire with the SPDC] enter the village, we have to send a message to them. [This would violate the terms of the ceasefire agreement, which prohibits contact between the NMSP and Karen villages]. If we don’t send that message and they see them [NMSP] aim guns, they will shoot first and clear up the problem later. He [the Burmese commander] ordered his soldiers, "Don’t have slow hands."

Q: Do they force the villagers from other villages to do things under duress?
A: Last week they forced them to sell tickets to fundraise for their Army camp. They held a boxing tournament to fundraise for the troops’ families. They forced the villagers to buy the tickets. Some didn’t buy any, but we still had to pay the full price for the tickets anyway. They didn’t allow the villagers to give back the tickets if they couldn’t sell them. They sell one ticket for 300 or 500 Kyat. They only need to get money. They are doing things to the villagers under duress. They are also collecting the seeds of coconuts, lemon, and betelnut to plant in the Division and Battalion camps.

 

#31.

NAME:         "Saw Say Lweh"          SEX: M          AGE: 47        Karen Buddhist farmer
ADDRESS:    Klay Hta village, Waw Raw township                    INTERVIEWED: 8/99

["Saw Say Lweh" was interviewed shortly after his arrival in a refugee camp in Thailand.]

Q: Did the SPDC Army enter your village?
A: When the SPDC entered our village, they tortured us. I don’t remember which month they came. In 1998 it was Battalion #343, and then Mo Tin Lyaing’s troops came up to the village once. They said they were coming back from Thay Keh village. They engaged in battle once at Wih Ta Gaw Hta village. Both the porters and the Burmese soldiers were injured. They were carrying the injured back to our village, but our village had to send them to Kyaung Ywa, which is where our village monastery is. Then the rest of the Burmese soldiers came back to our village and interrogated us: "Where do the people stay who hold weapons?" Then they collected the villagers to serve as guides and porters. The villagers from Klay Hta had to follow them. They arrived at the place called Wih Ta Gaw Hta, where the battle had occurred. After that they went to Wah Bway Kee village. When they arrived there, they ordered a meeting with the village headmen from Wah Bway Kee and Klih Tu villages. Then they [Burmese] questioned them about their enemy [KNU]. The village heads told them things, but they didn’t believe them. That’s why the Burmese tortured the village heads there. They arrested them and forced them to dig holes, and they were going to beat them to death in the holes. At that time the villagers from Wah Bway Kee didn’t like to see what they were doing to the headmen, so they went to guarantee them [‘to guarantee’ someone means to vouch for his/her integrity with one’s own life forfeit if it turns out not to be true; usually a large bribe is also required]. Then they released them.

Q: When the villagers went to guarantee them, did they have to pay money?
A: No, they didn’t. The villagers said they would be responsible for the village heads and it wouldn’t happen again. After that they released them. The Burmese also shot their guns between the thighs of the headman from Klih Tu, and the bullet passed very near his leg. His name is U P--- and he is 44 years old, the same age as me. After they tortured them, they also punched them. Then when they came back to Klay Hta village, the Burmese Battalion #343 had to leave the village. The commander [of #343] is Major Tin Lyaing. The commander who tortured the village headmen is Captain Han Myaing. I don’t remember the date but it was at the end of 1998. After they left the village, IB #61 came up again in May 1999. That commander’s name is Aung San Win.

Q: What did they do when they came to the village?
A: When they came to the village, they said that one of the KNLA commanders named Bo Lee Shwe went to rob a car on the road, then came back to Klay Hta village. That meant that he was losing, so he might be staying near Klay Hta. That’s why the Burmese asked us, "Where is he? Tell us." The villagers said he came back once to the village, but the next morning we didn’t see where he went. We also didn’t know where he was staying. Then they restricted us to the village and said, "You villagers are hiding him, so you have to give us one gun. If you don’t give it to us, we won’t release you." The next morning they went to the other side of the river and searched one sawmill. When Battalion Commander Kyi Lwin Oo arrived at Klay Kee, he saw the sawmill there. After he finished interrogating people, he said that this one was not the sawmill he wanted. He didn’t destroy it because he said that it wasn’t the one he wanted; the sawmill he wanted is in the lower place. Instead they took one chicken from the owner of the house. The owner of the first sawmill is U W---. The owner of the second sawmill is Naw K---. They are both villagers.

Q: Did they injure anyone there?
A: They didn’t hurt anyone. They then forced the people to guide them to the sawmill in the lower place. When they arrived there, they entered the mill and searched for guns and rice. They didn’t see any, but they did see that all of the villagers were hiding pots, machetes, sickles, axes, and other things there, and they carried them away. What’s more, they untied the wire of the mill and took it back with them [the Burmese disabled the mill by removing the electrical wire from the generator to the saw]. Then they destroyed the second sawmill. He [the Burmese commander] heard that before when the enemy [KNLA] came back to get rice, they stayed there. He thought that this was the place where the enemy worked, so they destroyed it. After they finished destroying it, they didn’t have time to carry it all away. They took some parts of the mill, but they put ash, salt, and dirt inside the rest of it.

When they came back to Klay Hta, they slept one night there. From what I know, they called the village leaders together and asked, "How many villagers were holding guns before? Don’t lie to me. I have all their names." Before the village head could tell him, he [the Burmese commander] showed him a list and asked where their houses were. Then they went to arrest U K---, U B---, and U S---. U B--- is 42 years old and the other two are about 40 years old. He [the Burmese commander] said, "I will take these 3 people if you can’t give us a gun." They were going to put the 3 in jail. Then he told the village leaders, "You have been hiding these 3 people, so if we arrest them, they must stay in prison 5 years according to the law. That’s why you must find one gun for us. If you give us a gun, we won’t do anything to you. We will release these 3 and give them an official card to stay in the village and travel outside." After they said this, they slept one night there. The next morning the whole column went back and stayed at Nya Paw Law one night. They also called the village head and ordered him to go find a gun, then come back to Nya Paw Law. He said he would wait until 1:00 p.m. for the village head to return. I heard the village head tell him, "You ask me to go and find a gun, but we cannot find one." The village head is from Klay Hta village. He said, "We are villagers, so how can you expect to find a gun here?" The commander said, "You will get a gun when you go back to see them [the KNLA, who he presumes are near the village and in contact with the villagers]. Try to ask from them." The village head went to ask for a gun from the KNLA, but they didn’t give him one. They said, "You are villagers, so do not concern yourselves with guns. They are our enemy, so if they need a gun, let them come and take it from us. We have guns." When the village head couldn’t get a gun from the KNLA, he came back to the SPDC commander Aung San Win and gave one chicken instead. [Most SPDC officers are afraid to seek out and engage the KNLA and would rather abuse villagers, so they often try to force villagers to obtain and hand over weapons, then report these weapons to their superiors as having been ‘captured from the KNLA’; pictures of such weapons are often shown in the New Light of Myanmar newspaper. Similarly, villagers killed are usually reported to headquarters as ‘KNLA casualties’. For further cases of demands for guns, see for example "Clampdown in Southern Dooplaya" (KHRG #97-11, 18/9/97)]

As far as I know, in the night the Second Commander named Aung San Win went himself to ask the Mon troops if he could buy some guns. He said that if he couldn’t get a gun, he couldn’t go back to the battalion. As I heard it, he lost some guns and that’s why if he couldn’t find a gun, he couldn’t go back to the battalion camp. Whether he received the gun from the enemy or bought it, even if it was broken and couldn’t shoot, it would be good enough. He said if he got one gun, he could go back. That’s why one gun was very important to him. He went to buy it from the Mon Army, but they didn’t co-operate with him.

Q: Did some villagers used to be KNLA soldiers?
A: Some resigned from the KNLA 3 years ago, and some 4-5 years ago. They were soldiers then and didn’t do other things. Fighting between the Karen and Mon was occurring then so they became soldiers, but after the fighting stopped they quit. That’s why we as the village leaders guaranteed them. We said, "They didn’t want to be soldiers, but because of fighting between the Karen and Mon, they had to. When the Karen and Mon called a truce, they left the army. When the SPDC came to ask them to porter, they went often. They don’t do anything with the soldiers now." The Burmese commander said, "They are not working with soldiers, but they never came back and cleared it with us. That’s why I can arrest them and claim that they are rebels. But I won’t do this if you give me the gun." They threatened us. The village head couldn’t find a gun, so the commander contacted the Mon troops. He asked one of the Mon from Klay Hta village to ask for a gun from H---, a village west of the car road. The commander said that there are guns in Major Plone’s troop [NMSP]. He said that in the past he worked with the Mon troops, so he has guns there. He asked the people [Mon villagers] to get it, but they couldn’t get the gun. He said they would only give a short gun [a pistol], and he came to ask the commander if he would take it or not. The commander said that he would take the short gun, so the Mon villager went to get it again. When he went the village head had to pay 2,000 Kyat in travel expenses each time.

Then the Burmese troops took our 3 villagers to Kyaung Ywa village, but they didn’t guard them in the camp; they kept them in the monastery. The commander ordered them, "Don’t run. Now we have asked the villagers to go and get a gun. When they bring the gun, we will release you officially." That was on 8/7/99. But then he said that the gun wasn’t a soldier’s gun and was made in Burma [it was a non-military model]. It was a short gun [pistol], so he ordered us to find another gun. But the villagers couldn’t find another one. Then he said that if we couldn’t give him a gun, we must pay him 30,000 Kyat. Then the village head came back to the village and told the parents of the 3 villagers. The families asked the headman if the Burmese would officially release them if they paid 30,000 Kyat. The village head went down to ask the SPDC commander again, and he said, "We can’t release them officially. You can pay if you want, and if you don’t want to, don’t pay."[Releasing them "officially" implies also declaring their innocence.] Since the time he said that, the villagers have paid him nothing.

Q: Did Battalion #343 also destroy things or harm the villagers when they came to your village after #61?
A: Troops from #343 came up at the end of 1998. The Commander is Major Tin Lyaing. The Burmese who destroyed things is named Captain Han Myaing. He went to Wa Bway Kee village. At that time I heard they asked the village head from Klih Tu for one pig to eat. The village head couldn’t give him one, so he had to give him 10,000 Kyat instead. What’s more, they burned down one house near Wah Bway Kee village. I don’t know the name of the owner, but they accused the owner of allowing the enemy [KNLA troops] to stay in his house; that’s why they burned it. It was a bamboo house, but the other house that they burned down in Wih Ta Gaw Hta was built with wood. They burned that house at the time the battle occurred [near Wih Ta Gaw Hta], so they didn’t have time to take anything. That house cost about 500,000 or 600,000 Kyat.

Q: What other things happened in the village?
A: In May the Burmese built a new battalion camp at Set Ta Mine, about 20 miles from my village. They wrote down on the paper that it was Battalion #299. The commander is very new to us and hasn’t worked with us yet, so I don’t know his name. They came to collect money, so the villagers from our village had to pay 5,000 Kyat. As far as I know, there are 17 villages in the Kyaung Ywa village tract, and all had to pay them [to cover the cost of building the new camp].

Q: Do you know why they came to build the camp?
A: Our village is not a very big village, so they didn’t tell us. They have one camp already at Kyaung Ywa village 5 miles from us: Infantry Battalion #61 under commander Kyaw Win Tin. They have over 10 or 20 soldiers.

Q: Do they call villagers to do loh ah pay?
A: They are always forcing us to go, but we worry that if our people [KNLA] know about it, they won’t like it, so we don’t go to loh ah pay or porter. We always have to pay them money, so we try to. In May we paid 5,000 Kyat to [IB] #299, and in June, we had to send wood to them at Kyaung Ywa because they fenced the camp. Then once they asked for a hole[materials to make booby traps]. We had to pay 7,000 Kyat and send 80 bamboo spikes and sticks. We made the bamboo spikes and sticks for booby traps ourselves, then sent them by boat. As for digging the hole, we paid them [instead of working].

Q: Why did they build the hole?
A: Their aim is to protect themselves from the enemy when they come. Building the fence had many steps. Inside the fence they dug holes. In the holes, they lay sticks [bamboo spikes designed to cause severe injury], and they also lay sticks around the fence.

Q: Did they also plant landmines?
A: Yes, they planted them in 3 steps [3 rings around the camp].

Q: When they forced the villagers to build the holes, did they give them any salary?
A: They gave nothing to the villagers. They didn’t even give them any food. They divided the work between each village and while the villagers worked, the soldiers guarded them with guns. They forced the villagers to build until they finished it. If you couldn’t work one day, you might continue working for 2 days. After you finished, you could come back.

Q: When they came to stay there, did their presence benefit the villagers at all?
A: We didn’t receive any benefit from them. They told us that they came to protect us from the enemy, but they have never protected us. They asked money from us and we always have to pay them. When we send food outside the village, we have to pay them money. They tax us along the way when we carry food from Klay Hta to town [to sell]. We can’t pass without paying taxes to them. They give us no security.

Q: Do they force other villages near yours to do loh ah pay?
A: They don’t force villagers from our village, but they are forcing the villagers from the villages around Kyaung Ywa village all the time. If they have no work to do, they force them to go to the camp. You have to go back a long time to think about that. The Karen resistance is over 40 years old, and the Burmese soldiers have also been forcing us for over 40 years. They never stop forcing us. Even if they have no work to do, the villagers have to work the whole day. The villagers who cannot work have to borrow money for the Burmese to use for their own benefit [i.e. bribe money to get out of doing forced labour goes straight into the pocket of military officials]. There is no benefit for the villagers.

Q: Did they ask the villagers for other things?
A: Sometimes they demand chickens. Sometimes they said they would work with the township or district agriculture program. They demanded seeds for lemons, coconut, and betelnut. When we had them we gave them, but we didn’t give any when we didn’t have them. They didn’t pay anything for the seeds; they forced us to give them all. They ordered us to send them 5 papayas. Sometimes they ordered many times per month, sometimes they didn’t. The last dry season they didn’t ask from us, but in the rainy season they asked us many times.

Q: Do they also ask the villagers for rice? 
A: They said the KNU is asking for a yearly donation of emergency rice. The Burmese said, "When the KNU asks you, you give it to them. We also have no food and not enough to eat. You villagers have to give to us." In August they demanded one basket of rice. They tax some villages and demand rubber, too. Villagers have to give once a year, depending on the yield of their fields. The other villages who grow rubber also have to pay. In the past when a Burmese column came up the Burmese staying in the camp said, "Our military [another column] is coming up and we will guarantee you." [i.e. new troops are coming to replace the current unit, and the old one will vouch to the new ones that these villagers are civilians, not KNLA soldiers, if they pay the troops a bribe.] They asked us for 10,000 and sometimes 20,000 Kyat. When they entered the village they asked for livestock but they didn’t do anything bad to the villagers because our village is close to their region. They organise us [get them working for the SPDC military] instead of raping and robbing us. They dare not do those things[for fear of KNLA retaliations]. But when #61 came up, they captured all the chickens belonging to the women staying near the river; they didn’t leave any chickens. It was one hen with her small chickens and one rooster; it weighed 3 viss. The women had to go back and sleep in the village; they took all of their things to the village. In the daytime the Burmese couldn’t carry off the chickens, so at night they came and captured all of their chickens. This happened on July 7th[1999]. The Burmese asked for food from the village head, so the villagers had to buy it and give it to them. It cost 9,000 Kyat.

Q: Did the Burmese ever call the villagers to porter?
A: If the Burmese column didn’t come up to the village, they didn’t call for porters. But when the Burmese column came up, we villagers always had to go. Sometimes they collected 5 or 6 porters, depending on the number of troops. If they needed more they demanded many, and if they needed a few they asked for fewer. They always called the village head to serve as a guide, to show the way and go in front of the troops. When the battle occurred, the village head had to face it in front. The porters had to carry ammunition, machinery, and food. It weighed over 10 viss [16 kg/35 lb]. They didn’t pay the porters any money. In 1998 when #343 came to the village, they forced porters to go for one week. They didn’t treat the porters who got sick. There were about 209 porters, and the oldest was 50 years old. If they couldn’t walk, they cursed them like, "Your mother’s vagina!! I will beat you to death. You are not useful." They threatened porters like this. Porters who couldn’t carry were afraid, so they did [carry]. When they got to another village and got another person to porter instead, they released the porters. But if they couldn’t get a replacement, they didn’t release them.

They fed the porters. When they got enough food for themselves, they also fed enough to the porters. They have no good food. If you saw their rice, you couldn’t swallow it. When they slept in the jungle, we also had to sleep in the jungle near the loads. While we slept, they guarded us. They didn’t allow us to run. They said if we ran they would shoot us. When we went to porter around the village, nobody fled from portering. I heard that the porters who went for a long time sometimes fled. When the Burmese recaptured them, they gathered them together and tied their necks and hands. When they portered, they also tied them.

Q: Do you see any benefit that the villagers receive from the Burmese camping near them?
A: They can’t give any security to us, as far as I know, because we don’t have an enemy for them to protect us from. They said they come to give us security but if we look closely, they are our enemy. We stay in the hands of the Karen. They[KNLA] don’t force us like the Burmese force us. Also they don’t demand like the Burmese demand. We have to be afraid of them because sometimes when the Karen soldiers come to ask, the Burmese accuse us of feeding Karen soldiers and they take action against us. We have to be afraid of them more than anyone else.

Q: Did they give you any benefit while they stayed in the village?
A: The only benefit was to improve our village. The Burmese took control. There was no school in our village, so they gave us a school. There was no house for medics, so they gave us a place for the medics. According to the ‘Na Ta La’ [Burmese initials for the ‘Program for the Development of Border Areas and National Races’, known in short as the ‘Border Areas Development Program’] plan, they allot us 350,000 Kyat for a school. For the clinic they gave us 250,000 Kyat. The one who took responsibility for building the school and clinic was the monk from Kyaung Ywa village. The monk had to buy bamboo and wood with his money. He went to buy from the villagers who were logging and cutting bamboo. A monk and his novices built the school. In our village we had to find and hire teachers ourselves. They [Burmese] didn’t give anything to us. We had to give 70 baskets of paddy to each teacher. But we didn’t give paddy to them [because they didn’t have enough paddy]. That’s why we had to pay them 400 Kyat for one basket of paddy. We had to pay 20,000 Kyat to each teacher. We had 4 standards and 2 teachers. We can teach them only English and the Burmese language. They do not allow us to teach Karen. They don’t allow the teaching of the Mon language either. If we want to teach Karen and Mon, we have to arrange a special time to teach it by ourselves. They do not allow them [the teachers] to teach it in their classes; we have to teach them in the summer time.

Q: How much does it cost for one student to enter school?
A: The village elder limited it to 300 Kyat per student. All books for one student cost 800-1,000 Kyat.

Q: How many medics do they send to the village?
A: Our villagers went to be trained. The medics had to pay for themselves to go. They sent back one of the medics named K---. The government didn’t pay for medicine, either. They just paid for some tablets and asked the medics to open the clinic. The medics have to buy medicine themselves, then the patients buy it from the medics. There was only one medic but now they are sending one from Kyaung Ywa village. The medics are Karen, so if the patients who don’t have money get sick, they still take care of them.

Q: If the Burmese hadn’t built the school, would the villagers have built it themselves?
A: We could have built a clinic and a school, but we dared not because they wouldn’t allow us to build them. When we develop an organisation, they don’t allow us to follow through with the plan. They told us not to develop a children’s or women’s organisation. They don’t allow us to; they are stopping everything. They give us no chance.

Q: Do you want to say anything else?
A: I would like to tell you that we have to pay 150 Kyat for one bowl of rice. It costs 2,500 Kyat for one basket of rice. If the cost increases any more, our villagers will suffer problems. After people come and question us and we answer them, they go back and report it, so if they can give us a chance, it will benefit us. That’s why I want to tell people in other countries that now we do not get along as far as food and everything else. So I need them to support us. This is why I thank them.

 

#32.

NAME:        "Saw Toh Wah"          SEX: M          AGE: 34          Karen Buddhist farmer
ADDRESS:   xxxx village, Waw Raw township                          INTERVIEWED: 8/99

["Saw Toh Wah", a village secretary, was tortured with other village leaders when the Burmese found that he had lied to protect the KNLA. He narrowly escaped death, then fled to Thailand.]

Q: Is it true you are the village secretary? Who elected you?
A: The villagers elected me.

Q: Did the SPDC soldiers ever come to your village?
A: On 23/2/99, 30 SPDC soldiers from LIB #343 commanded by Captain Han Myaing entered xxxx and ordered the people to call me. Then I went to see him and he asked me, "Did you see KNLA soldiers enter xxxx village?" I said, "They came." He asked me, "What kind of troops were they?" I said, "They were [KNLA Commander] Law Pet’s troops." He asked me, "How many were they?" I said, "They were not so many, about 10 soldiers. Some were going back the other way." After that he said "Good" and let me go back. Then I went back to my house, and after a little while he asked his soldiers to call me again. When I went to see him he asked me, "Is there no [PDC] village chairperson?" I said, "We do have a village chairperson". He asked, "Where is he?" and I said, "He is working on his hill field". He told me to ask a villager to go and call the village chairman. Then I went to ask a woman to go and call him. The woman’s name is K---. Before she went to call him, I told her that when he came back to the village he should answer the Burmese: "The KNLA soldiers didn’t all come to the village. We saw some of them and the other ones went the other way."

She promised me that she would tell him, but then she dared not go to the village chairman’s hill field. She met U T--- on the way, and asked him to go and call him instead. When U T--- went to the village chairman, he brought him from a very far away place. He told him, "Many soldiers have come to the village, so you should come back. The people asked me to call you." Then the village chairman came back to the village, but the messengers didn’t tell him the words that I asked him to say to the Burmese. When Major Han Myaing asked him, "Did you see the enemy come to the village?" the village chairman said, "Yes, they came". He asked, "Whose troops were they?" And he said, "Law Pet’s". He asked, "Were there many soldiers?" and the village chairman said, "Over 20 soldiers". He asked, "Did they come all at once or were some going the other way?" and the village chairman said, "They all came".

After the village chairman answered that way, the commander asked the people to go and call me. When I came, he asked me, "Did you lie to me?" I said, "How did I lie to you?" At that time he started to kick and torture me. He told his soldiers, "This man is really the enemy. He is not a good person. He is our enemy. Tie him." Then his soldiers tied me and he told me, "You are not on my side. You are on the side of Kaw Thoo Lei [KNU/KNLA]. When they shot at me near the bank of the Ghaw Hta river, you were also with them. I saw you." I said, "I didn’t". He said, "You did. Don’t talk too much. Don’t say anything. If you talk too much, you will hurt more." Then he ordered his soldiers to drag me under the house and they tied me to the betelnut tree. They tied my hands behind my back. They didn’t beat me with a stick, just with their hands and legs. The village chairman told them the truth and I didn’t tell the truth, that’s why they beat me. The commander called their porters and told them to dig a hole and said, "We can’t release him. He is really the enemy. Now we will arrest him. Go and dig the hole. I will clear him myself. I won’t release him. If he escapes, you must die instead of him." Then the porters who came from Saw Hta found a mattock and dug the hole. He asked, "Are you finished digging the hole yet?" The porters said, "Finished". He said, "If it is finished, drag him to the hole. Don’t clear him. I will go to clear him myself. We will do it in front of the villagers. He is a secretary in the village and works for the villagers, but he is a liar and was not honest with me. Now I will call all the villagers to gather before I clear him."

Q: What did he mean by ‘clear’ you?
A: He was going to kill me. Then his soldiers dragged me to the top of the hole. One of his soldiers told me, "Brother, it is not yet time for you to die, but you must die now. When I look at you, you are not old. But you must die because of this. It is not acceptable to look at you."

Q: Were they Captain Han Myaing’s soldiers?
A: Yes. He [a soldier] told me, "You will die soon. What do you want to eat? Ask if you want to eat." I said, "I don’t want to eat anything". He said, "Are you afraid?" I said, "If I am afraid, they will kill me. I cannot escape. Whether I’m afraid or not, I can’t escape. I can’t do it. Look at my luck." He kept me tied up for nearly half an hour. Then he [the commander] called all the men and women in the village to come and see me. All the villagers came in front of the house. There were over 30 villagers, and some were trying to run away. He asked the villagers, "Do you guarantee your secretary? We know that he isn’t on our side. If you all guarantee him, I will release him. If you don’t all say that, I will kill him today." The villagers said they would vouch for me. Then he ordered his soldiers to come and untie me. Then he drew me in front of the crowd and said, "Just now you were almost dead, but your villagers guaranteed you, so I won’t kill you. Do you want to die?" I told him, "I don’t want to die, but if it’s time for me to die, then I must die. If I should keep living, I will keep on living." He asked the villagers impatiently, "Do you guarantee your secretary?" The villagers said, "Yes, we guarantee him". He said, "You guarantee him. Look here, I don’t like that answer." Then he held up his carbine and fired it near my head. I don’t know if it hurt me, but my hair stood up. He threatened me and then fired a second time. None of the villagers dared to look. He said that I was dead. He called back the villagers and said, "You all see? I just did a small thing." The villagers looked at me and saw that I wasn’t dead because he hadn’t shot me. The villagers answered, "We see". He asked the villagers again, "If you all honestly guarantee him, I won’t kill him". The villagers said they would. Then he said, "You can all go back" and they all went back.

Then he ordered his soldiers to untie the ropes on my hands and he called me back to the house. He said, "Now, you made a very big mistake. You have to give me one pig. It must weigh 20 viss." Then I went to find one pig. The owner of the pig was H---. I bought it for 12,000 Kyat. I said, "Major, I have a pig now". He said, "Bring it to my soldiers". While his soldiers killed the pig, I went up into the house. At that time, he was interrogating a village head from K--- village. I went to stay in U D---’s house. I heard the sound of him beating the village chairman from K---: ‘Baw, baw, pra, pra!’. His name is B---. He said that the village chairman had lied to him when he called him to come and he didn’t come. I stayed far from them and I didn’t hear it clearly. He said to him, "Do you think I’m a cock?" He tortured and shot him. He shot his thigh and it became dark blue. He tortured him very badly on that day. He could do it because he was in control. They beat the 3 of them: B--- the village chairman [from K--- village], U N--- the secretary of the village, and one villager named P---. The commander said he [P---] was acting wise because he could speak Burmese. They didn’t beat P--- many times, just 2 or 3. They broke his jawbone. They punched the three of them. When he [the commander] couldn’t punch anymore because his hands were in pain, he asked one of his soldiers to punch. He was lying around and laughing. He bandaged his hands and looked at his soldier and said, "Do it, punch, punch!" When his soldier punched, he laughed a lot. He tortured them between half an hour and two hours. Their lips were busted open. We didn’t know if they got any injections [medical treatment] or not. He tortured them very badly, but they suffered through it. After he finished torturing U N---, he asked them for one pig, at least 20 viss of pork, but the village chairman couldn’t find a pig. He paid 10,000 Kyat instead. We could die when the Burmese torture us like that. After they couldn’t punch anymore, he told us, "Don’t do this again. If I call you, you must come. Don’t refuse me." He didn’t like people to complain to him. He beat us and if we complained to him, he said, "Don’t talk, I don’t believe you." He tortured us and also drank alcohol, so his legs and hands were quick to torture us.

Q: After they tortured them, did they give any medicine?
A: They didn’t give anything. They just tortured them.

Q: How many soldiers tortured them? 
A: Han Myaing and one of his soldiers, but I don’t know his name. It looked like he has 3 chevrons [a Sergeant]. After he tortured them, he ordered them to give him one pig. They gave him 10,000 Kyat because they couldn’t find one. After that they left from that place. Before they left, he told me, "Secretary from xxxx [village], come here, you must guide me". I said, "I will guide you". They were all preparing their guns [to leave], and he shouted at them all to stop and fired at least 10 or 20 rounds from his carbine [M1 rifle], ‘Pra-pra-pra-pra!!’

Q: What was he shooting at?
A: He was just shooting to frighten people. Three minutes later he called me again, "Where has the secretary of xxxx[village] gone? Tell him to come to me." When I came, he said, "Did you bring the pig?" I said "Yes, Major". Then he asked his soldiers, "Did the village elder from xxxx give me a pig?" His soldiers said, "Yes, he gave it". "How much did it weigh?" "20 viss, Major." Then he said, "So then, the village elder from xxxx can stay here."

 

#33.

NAME:         "Pi Thu Paw"               SEX: F     AGE: 56       Karen Buddhist/Animist farmer
FAMILY:       Widow, children and grandchildren
ADDRESS:     Pa Nweh Pu village, Kawkareik township       INTERVIEWED: 7/99

["Pi Thu Paw" fled her village after SPDC troops burned her village and fields for the second time. After a dangerous flight, she arrived in a refugee camp in Thailand with her family.]

Q: Why did you flee your village?
A: We dared not stay there, that’s why we fled. We were afraid of the Burmese because they always pointed at us with guns when we were going to get betelnut. They cut off the top of the betelnut tree and they burned down our plantation and village. They burned it twice; the last time was 2 years ago.

Q: The first time they burned your village, where did you flee?
A: We are mountain villagers. We stayed around there [in the jungle] and then built houses and stayed in the village again.

Q: What about the last time?
A: We fled from the village during the water festival [in April 1999] and came to stay in K’Neh Kler Kee. It is very far. For young people it is a 3 day walk. We dared not stay there because we were also afraid of the Burmese there. The Burmese came close. They arrived at the foot of the mountain, and K’Neh Kler Kee is at the top. We had even gone down to fish at Plaw Hta in Myint Kler Kloh, but we dared not stay any longer.

Q: How many villagers from Plaw Hta were staying in K’Neh Kler Kee after the village was burned?
A: The other villagers went to stay in their own villages, like Ta Oo Hta and Kwih Kler Shu. Before there were one or two families staying in K’Neh Kler Kee, but now no houses are there. The villagers went back when the Burmese started to burn Plaw Hta, but we stayed on until we dared not stay anymore, then we left too. While we staying there they pointed at us with their guns and shouted, so we were afraid of them.

Q: Did they ever beat any villagers?
A: They did while we were staying in Pa Nweh Pu.

Q: Before the Burmese burned your village, had they ever threatened you?
A: Yes, it was nearly 2 years ago. We went to our plantation and were harvesting the paddy. We heard them come close to us.

Q: When they entered other villages, did they catch the villagers’ livestock?
A: When they entered Pa Nweh Pu village, we had no more chickens left in our village because they had eaten all of our livestock. When I left my village, there were only 4 or 5 small pigs left—they had eaten them all. I don’t think they asked; they just shot them. They didn’t give us any money. There are no small chickens or pigs in Pa Nweh Pu village.

The people who have children fled from the village because they had to carry things [as porters] and they got bruises on their backs. The villagers from our village who have small babies couldn’t carry other things. Even the villagers from Law Pa who have small babies have to go and carry things for the Burmese.

Q: Have you gone back to your village since you fled?
A: No, I have never gone back since I left my village. I just heard about it from my siblings. They went separate ways to other villages. Some fled and stay in the mountains. One of my brothers went to stay with his son at L---. Another one went to stay at T---. My youngest brother and I fled here. When he arrived to T---, he married and stayed there. I left K’Neh Kler Kee and slept at K---. Along the way, my daughter was not well and my grandchildren are small. That’s why we slept one night at K---, and one night at T--- on the way. We met the Burmese at the gate of T---, but they didn’t bother us because we followed a soldier named P---, who is with the DKBA and knows my siblings. We rode in a car at T--- on the other side of the river. I had never been here, so the people sent us by the car road. The one who sent us is a black market dealer. Then we arrived at K--- [a Karen village in Thailand] and slept there 16 days. When we got to K---, my daughter had a miscarriage. Then we went to xxxx [refugee camp].

Q: Before you left, did you think about where you would go?
A: We came here because we couldn’t go anywhere else. We had no more paddy or rice left. If the situation improves, we will go back to see our plantation and garden. If we have peace, we will go back to see the betelnut and durian. Now they are still forcing the villagers to work, because people are still fleeing and coming here separately. One of my cousins followed me here. If it is possible he will stay with me.

Q: Now where is he staying?
A: I don’t know. He stays among the big mountains. Before he lived in Pa Nweh Pu, but he went back because his wife is staying among the mountains near H--- and K---. He stays in the jungle because he has a little rice and he can stay there. They also work a hill field. As for us, we didn’t have anything because it was all burned down. After we finished harvesting the rice and stored it in the barn, the Burmese burned it all down. They went under the house and shot our livestock, then ate it all. We could not get food to eat. We dared not complain to them, because if we did they clucked at us and pointed with their guns. We were afraid of dying.

 

#34.

NAME:         "Saw Ler Doh"     SEX: M          AGE: 30                 Karen Christian farmer
FAMILY:       Married, 3 children aged 5 months to 7 years old
ADDRESS:     Plaw Hta village, Kawkareik township                   INTERVIEWED: 7/99

["Saw Ler Doh"’s family was internally displaced for 5 months after SPDC troops burned their village down.]

Q: Why did you flee your village?
A: We faced terrible consequences of the Burmese torturing. We couldn’t stay anymore because they burned our house down.

Q: Did the Burmese burn down your whole village?
A: Yes, about 5 months ago. The villagers went down to T---, then only my family came here.

Q: Did they burn only your house, or your food as well?
A: 30 baskets of paddy, 4 baskets of rice, and all of my clothes. I could only take one pair of clothes and one sarong. Also our pots, plates, and other things were burned.

Q: How many houses in Plaw Hta village burned down?
A: I will count them… 10 houses.

Q: Do you know why they burned the village?
A: One of the people from outside [a KNLA soldier] married a woman from our village. She sewed his clothes with a [KNLA soldier’s] badge. At that time her husband had gone to the front line. We didn’t know that the Burmese had entered the village and seen the piece of clothing with the badge. They said we were feeding Nga Pway, but we told them that we weren’t feeding them. They said that if [the KNLA] came again, they would kill all of us. At that time we fled and the village was burned the same day.

Q: Did they torture the man whose badge they found?
A: They could not arrest him. They saw it but they didn’t do anything because other Burmese troops were coming. At first he was found by Division #44. Later Division #22 came to look for the one who wore the badge on his clothes. After they burned the village, they had to change their troops and went down, and #44 came to stay. [Villagers have testified that #44 first occupied their villages but were replaced by #22 in mid to late 1997. It is possible that they have since been replaced again by #44, as SPDC troops rotate quite often.]

Q: Was the village destroyed? 
A: Yes. Nobody stays there now.

Q: In the past, did the Burmese ever come to your village?
A: Yes, they came but they didn’t do anything.

Q: After the village was burned, where did you go?
A: I went to stay in T--- for 2 months, but I was not happy there because we had no money for food. I thought if we came to stay here, it would be better.

Q: Did the Burmese arrive at T--- village also?
A: Yes, they arrived. Now they [the villagers] are always afraid.

 

#35.

NAME:        "Naw Paw Si"          SEX: F          AGE: 16       Pwo Karen Buddhist farmer
FAMILY:      Married with children
ADDRESS:    Meh Naw Ah village, Kya In township              INTERVIEWED: 6/99

["Naw Paw Si" was a porter for the SPDC before fleeing to Thailand. She was interviewed in a refugee camp.]

Q: Did you come here with your husband?
A: No, only me. He went to find a job and I have not seen him.

Q: Why did you come here?
A: Because the Burmese are forcing us to do loh ah pay and porter. We went every day to build the road. We had to build houses for them and they forced us to cut firewood. Sometimes we went for 3 days. I went twice. Everyone must go. If we can’t pay them money, we have to go ourselves. It costs 500 Kyat per day.

Q: Did they force children to work also?
A: Both young boys and girls over 10 years old.

Q: If you were gone for 3 days at a time, where did you sleep?
A: In the monastery.

Q: Did they guard you?
A: Yes.

Q: If people were tired or sick, did they give them medicine?
A: No, we had to buy it with our own money.

Q: How many times did the porters have to carry per month?
A: They forced us to go 3 days each time, then we would rotate. They forced us to carry ammunition. They said it would be only 3 days, but sometimes we had to go for 4 days. We could hire someone to go for us, but we didn’t have money to pay the Burmese. It costs 500 Kyat per day. I went twice, once last year in the rainy season, because they asked the village head[for porters]. I went for Division #22. The Commander’s name was Na Kan Mway and I met two soldiers whose names were Kan Kong and Maung Soe Oo. I had to carry 3 days to Kyo G’Lee. There were over 30 soldiers, 7 women porters, and 5 male porters. One of my cousins named M--- went, and the others were Ma S---, Naw M---, and M---. We saw other women [from other villages] briefly, but didn’t know their names. They didn’t feed us enough rice. They fed us only rice and salt, but they ate curry [meat dishes].

Q: Did they give the porters any medicine if they needed it?
A: No, I never saw that. They left the porters who couldn’t carry on the path. If the porters couldn’t come back, they were left there.

Q: How did you sleep?
A: We had to sleep in the rain. They made a shelter with a plastic tarp and let us sleep under it. They guarded us and made us sleep in the centre of them. They separated men and women.

Q: Did you bring a blanket with you?
A: How could I bring one with me? It was enough for me to carry with all their heavy things.

Q: What did you have to carry?
A: Ammunition. They called it "banana bud" [Rocket-propelled grenades (RPG), the same size and shape as a banana flower], but I couldn’t tell what kind. They forced women to carry 3 shells and men carried 5 shells. The men could carry more, but the women couldn’t. They had to carry rice, too.

Q: What about things like pots and jungle boots?
A: Yes.

Q: Did any porters flee?
A: Yes, so they ordered the village head to send replacements. They didn’t [beat the porters who fled], but they punished the villagers by forcing them to rebuild the old pagoda for 3 days. We didn’t flee.

Q: When you crossed other villages, did the troops take any livestock or belongings?
A: Yes. I can’t recall the name of the village. They didn’t ask the owner, they just took it for themselves.

Q: Are they still forcing women to porter?
A: Yes, I think they are still forcing [them] because of the uprising [probably a reference to 1988]. I want to go back [to the village], but I can’t because I am afraid the Burmese soldiers will come back also.

Q: How many days did you go each time you portered?
A: First it was for half a month, but the last time it was for only three days. The second time I went to carry rice to Kya In Seik Gyi. Each of us had to carry one big tin of rice. There were over 10 women. I knew three of them: Naw P---, H---, and I forget the last one’s name. They were all villagers from Saw Hta.

Q: Were you allowed to rest?
A: No, we dared not ask to take a rest. We had to go both day and night. They beat both men and women if we couldn’t carry the rice.

Q: Which Division of Burmese soldiers did you carry for that time?
A: [LID] #44. Their camp is at Ah Gya [in Karen, Saw Hta; in Burmese, Azin].

 

#36.

NAME:         "Saw Muh Lah"          SEX: M          AGE: xx           Karen farmer
ADDRESS:    Saw Hta village, Kaw Te Hgah township                 INTERVIEWED: 6/99

["Saw Muh Lah" was interviewed at a refugee camp in Thailand after a one month journey to the border.]

Q: Did you have enough food to eat in your village?
A: Now nobody has enough food because it is not easy to go and buy rice from other villages. We do not have a village head, so we don’t have [permission] letters to travel to buy rice. If they meet you they will interrogate you, asking "Where did you buy rice?" Then you tell them where you bought it from, and then they ask you, "Do you know the village head?" If you say yes, then they will ask you, "Do you have a permission letter?" So you have to lie to them and say, "We didn’t have time to get a permission letter because our children are very hungry", or "We forgot to get it", or "The village head was not in the village so we came to buy it anyway." Then after that they say, "If your village head doesn’t arrive, you can’t go back." So you have to run away from them secretly when they’re not looking.

Q: How much does it cost for one basket of rice?
A: It is 2,000 Kyat for one basket of rice. One viss [of chicken or pork] is 500 Kyat. The price went up last year, and I think it’s maybe more than that now.

Q: What do villagers do if they cannot get rice?
A: They try to borrow it from their friends who have some, and they share it with each other because they all live in the same place together. I think there are 10 families who don’t have enough food to eat there.

Q: How many houses were in your village?
A: In the past there were many houses. I heard there are a lot of people still there. Last year some people stayed in W--- forest, and I heard there were about 100 households. Some people carried some food with them, but it was very difficult for the people who left in the rainy season. They borrowed some food from their friends who planted some things there.

Q: Did you hear the rumour that the Burmese were selling fake rice to the villagers?
A: Yes, we heard about it. We hadn’t seen it yet. It came to Saw Hta village already; villagers from Saw Hta came here and told us. I heard about it last month [June 1999]. People who stayed in Kawkareik township at Kaw Sher Law Pah village have eaten it. I heard that you know it’s fake rice when you cook it in a pot and it crumbles and floats like plastic. Real rice just changes colour to yellow.

Q: Did you have to do forced labour in your village?
A: Yes, one person from each family. They never stopped demanding people, whether in the dry season or rainy season. We had to build a car road and carry stones.

Q: Where were they building the road?
A: At Saw Hta village. They use it to clear villages [i.e. relocate villages]. The cars can’t go on it in the rainy season. [They will build the road] until Kyaikdon. The car road has been built to Kawkareik already. [They use it] for travelling, and in the rainy season if they need emergency replacement troops, they can come easily by car. They haven’t finished building it yet, and people have to go build now. Villagers from Kyaikdon come up to build, and the villagers from Saw Hta go down to build there also. They didn’t give them any money; they just forced them to work and if they didn’t go, they fined them. They had to carry [rice] for themselves. Now they have started to demand women who don’t have sons or husbands to go for them. The children who don’t have parents have to go also. If children don’t have any adults to work for them, even if they are 10 years old, they have to go. If they can carry 1 viss they order them to carry.

 

#37.

NAME:         "Ko Myint Oo"          SEX: M          AGE: 34          Burmese Buddhist
FAMILY:       Single                    
ADDRESS:      Rangoon                                                           INTERVIEWED: 1/99

["Ko Myint Oo" was a prison convict brought to Dooplaya to do forced labour on roads, but he escaped when the KNLA attacked the SPDC camp where he was being held in late December 1998. He was interviewed in a KNLA camp where he and the others were staying. The following is excerpted from a longer interview with him. Photos of the group of 36 escaped prisoners can be seen in KHRG Photo Set 2000A, Photos #3-14 through 3-17.]

Q: Why were you imprisoned when you were a student?
A: I murdered someone on October 25th 1987, in the beginning of the dry season. They held a court case in Leh Gu township, Rangoon. Then I stayed in Insein prison. I had to go to court, then I went back to prison. After a long period of time, the uprising of 1988 happened and the prison burned down. They released us from prison. Later they said that we had been released illegally, and they recaptured us in October 1988. On July 23rd 1989 I was granted amnesty and released. Later the case opened again. They set up a military tribunal in Rangoon Division, and the military tribunal sentenced me to 4 years. They sent me back to Insein Prison.

Q: What were the conditions in the prison?
A: We had to stay in a cement building, and we slept on the cement floor. We had to lay a blanket or a gunny sack down and sleep on it. At the least there were 80 prisoners and sometimes over a hundred prisoners [in his room]. We could get medicine there, but money was very important. When we had money we could get all the medicine that we needed. In the morning they fed us beans and in the evening they fed us boiled rice soup. It wasn’t enough for all of us because they boiled only 3 or 4 milk tins of rice for 40 prisoners [only enough for 2 or 3 people]. We had to find vegetables or fruit on our own. They cooked it and mixed in morning glory leaves. Most of the prisoners didn’t eat in the evening. The other prisoners from other prisons were fed the same as us.

Prisoners died often due to malnutrition, and some died when they got serious diseases and had no money for treatment. At least 5 people died per month. There were many kinds of diseases. AIDS is spread a lot in Insein prison. At least 50% of the prisoners have AIDS. They used to keep us separately from those who had HIV, TB [tuberculosis], and skin diseases. In the past they gave a blood test and kept those with HIV separately. But now they don’t do that. They keep the prisoners together in the same place, so the prisoners are close together and sleep together in the same room.

Q: Did the UN or other human rights group come to visit Insein prison while you were there?
A: Before the UN came [United Nations Special Rapporteur on Burma, Yozo Yokota, who visited Insein Prison two or three times] they prepared everything in Insein prison to be the best quality living and food. After they went away, they made us stay the same as before. I never saw them allow the UN to meet with prisoners. When the UN came they sent them to the place they had prepared, and then they went away. I never saw them, but I know that they came.

Q: How many years did you stay in Insein prison?
A: I was in and out of Insein Prison for over 8 years. In 1989 [after being sent to Insein for the second time by the military tribunal], I had to go to a convict camp at Kawthaung [the southern tip of Burma]. They sent 500 prisoners to the camp in 1989 when the uprisings stopped. But many prisoners fled, more than the number who died. About 150 prisoners died and 200 fled from them. There are a few prisoners still there. Then [after his 4-year sentence] I went back to my house in Leh Gu, but the same thing happened again. I got drunk and fought in a bar with an Indian man, and I stabbed him 36 times. Then in January 1993 I was put in prison again forever, and they sent me to the convict camp at Taung Kyone. At least 2-300 prisoners were there. Then I escaped and returned to Leh Gu, and then they captured me again and sent me back to Insein prison. Then I had to stay there for 2 years, and they sent me to the convict camp again at Yin Nyein. We were 400 prisoners in Yin Nyein. Then I was brought to Maw La Myaing [Moulmein] prison on March 7th, 1995.

Q: What did the SPDC tell you when they took you from there?
A: They didn’t explain anything to us but we knew that we had to go work on road construction from Kyaikdon to Kyo G’Lee. They took 400 prisoners there. We were two hundred prisoners in Kyo G’Lee and another 200 were in Kyaikdon. We arrived there in January [1998]. There were 200 prisoners in Po Yay camp [near Kyaikdon]. They forced us to build a bridge and a road and fill the road with logs. First we dug the earth and cleared it for the road. Then we had to pick and break stones to lay the road. They forced us to carry the materials they used to build the road. Sometimes they forced us to pull big logs. Under duress they forced the prisoners to carry stones that were too heavy to carry, and then they beat the prisoners.

Q: What were other living conditions like in Po Yay?
A: All the prisoners lived very poorly. They didn’t feed us enough. In the morning they boiled 8 milk tins of beans and mixed it with water and salt for 200 prisoners. And the government said they would feed us meat, two times for one sack of meat [which the camp received for rations]. But the jailer only fed us that once a month, and it was not meat. They bought the skin of fish that nobody eats and fed us that instead. We were supposed to get chillies, cooking oil, salt, and onions but they didn’t feed us that. They used that for themselves and sold the rest. We picked vegetables and ate them, then we got diarrhoea and malaria. If the people got sick, they gave them penicillin. They gave you 2 tablets. Sometimes they treated you once or twice a day, sometimes they didn’t treat you. We had no medic to treat us. When the prisoners got sick or weak because of no food, they died. About 50 prisoners died in Po Yay camp. The others fled. There were only 100 of us prisoners left because the other 300 died from malnutrition or fled.

Q: Was there enough water to drink?
A: For one day, they filled 2 troughs with boiled water in the morning and 2 troughs with boiled water in the evening. Sometimes it had been boiled and sometimes not, so we got diarrhoea because of the water.

Q: You said that they sometimes beat the prisoners?
A: They beat many prisoners. They didn’t die immediately but they got wounded and then they died. Some had broken ribs, hips, and skulls.

Q: How did you escape?
A: We fled on the 28th of December when the KNU and ABSDF attacked the camp and released us. When I first heard shots I thought they [the SPDC troops] were shooting each other or that another group had attacked, and I tried to think how I could escape. After that I saw the KNU soldiers, and the ABSDF had opened the door, and we ran away. We all escaped together at the time, then later we separated into 2 groups in the jungle. Our group was led by the KNU and they sent us here.

Q: Now what will you do?
A: If I went back to my village, because of the poverty I would commit a crime and just get sent to prison again. I have decided to fight in the resistance to free Burma from bad rule.

 

#38.

NAME:         "Ko Than Aung"          SEX: M          AGE: 23       Burmese Muslim fisherman
FAMILY:       Single                    
ADDRESS:     Taw Oak township, Rangoon Division                INTERVIEWED: 1/99

["Ko Than Aung" was a prison convict brought to Dooplaya to do forced labour on roads, but he escaped when the KNLA attacked the SPDC camp where he was being held in late December 1998. He was interviewed in a KNLA camp where he and the others were staying. Photos of the group of 36 escaped prisoners can be seen in KHRG Photo Set 2000A, Photos #3-14 through 3-17.]

Q: What were you in prison for?
A: I was a robber. On June 24th 1996 they put me in for 7 years, under Act 394.

Q: How did they arrest you?
A: The police came to arrest us and took us to Taung Ta Gu police station. Then they beat us. They beat the top of my spine with a revolver, and then when my head was down another one who was in front of me hit me again, and I went unconscious. When I got to the Thu Wa Na police station I regained consciousness, and they interrogated us.

Q: Who was in charge of the police?
A: Saya Hla Oo. He beat me terribly with a steel chain. Even if people haven’t done anything wrong, they beat them until they must confess to doing something. They forced us to stand and sit on needles. We couldn’t feel them, and then we pressed our feet on them and the pins entered both of our feet. They put 10 pins under each foot. Then I fell down, and after that they took the pins out of my feet one by one. They tortured us in many ways, but I didn’t tell them anything. They tortured me for about 14 days, every day. They tortured me at least twice each day, sometimes 3 times.

Q: Did they do any psychological torture?
A: Yes, they dripped water on my head. One time they dripped it for one hour, and sometimes for an hour and a half. I couldn’t suffer it when they dripped the water or when they beat me with the steel chain.

Q: Was it the police who did that?
A: Yes, and later when I couldn’t suffer it any more I had to confess that I was a robber and sign it. Then they took me to the court in Seik Kam township. The judge was U Win Tin. They kept us there under ‘interrogation’ for 2 years, and then they put me in prison for 7 years. One of us got 23 years, and another got 14 years. As for the other two who arrived here with me, they got 7 years.

Q: Which prison did they send you to?
A: Insein. That was in 1996. [He had been arrested in 1994 and kept in Seik Kam lockup for 2 years before being sent to start his 7-year sentence in Insein.] When we entered the prison, the jailer’s name was U Kyaw Soe and the prison warden was U Thein Win. When we arrived, they taught us ‘prison initiation’. They taught us how to sit and stand [special ways to squat and stand, for example with head bowed and hands clasped when in the presence of a guard]. If we had money, they beat us and demanded it from us. We had to swallow our money. If you could give them money they wouldn’t beat you or make you do the initiation.

Q: What was the most common reason people were in the prison?
A: Theft - because of not having enough rice. Rice is very expensive. Everything is expensive. If you have a good job, you can eat but have no clothes to wear. So people do anything, and their lives are destroyed and some become convicts. Some didn’t steal but the authorities accused them of stealing. Then their wives marry second husbands, their parents die, without even seeing each other [while they’re in prison].

Q: How many prisoners are in there?
A: There were about 8,000 prisoners in that prison. The prisoners often fought each other.

Q: Were there women prisoners?
A: Yes, women too, some were pickpockets and some got into fights in the market and killed someone. Women also have their own robber groups. Some had gone to other countries to be prostitutes. Some did that because it is their work and some because of the difficulty of surviving.

Q: How long were you in Insein?
A: I had to stay in prison for one month, then I went to the Kyaut convict camp, Zin Kyait. Then I came from Zin Kyait to here [Po Yay road labour camp].

Q: Did you get food on the way?
A: No, but when we arrived at Kya In Seik Gyi we got rice packets and bread and plums from Uncle and Mother. Not SPDC, the SPDC were eating the food that was given to us too. [He doesn’t make it clear, but some group of civilians gave them food, possibly under SPDC orders to do so.]

Q: How many prisoners from Insein came to Po Yay?
A: We came as 200 prisoners with 12 of their personnel. We had to sleep in Kyaikdon [a large village in central Dooplaya]for one or two days, and build a camp for them [a military camp]. After that we arrived at Po Yay camp.

Q: How did you travel?
A: We came with the Army troops and rode in military trucks. When we arrived at Po Kwah mountain, the car couldn’t climb the hill so we convicts had to walk and they rode the truck.

Q: When did you arrive at Po Yay?
A: I arrived at Po Yay last year. Now it’s already been over one year. When we arrived at Po Yay we only had 199 prisoners left [one had died]. U Zin Po was the jailer there.

Q: Did they guard you at the road?
A: They kept sentries along the road. We had to sleep on the ground.

Q: When you were working on the road at Po Yay did they let you rest?
A: No, they didn’t. They don’t care if you have a headache or whatever. They force you to work until they want to stop. They only fed us when they wanted us to eat. When we took a bath, they forced us to come back before we were finished and quickly put on our clothes. We had not enough water to take a bath, not enough food to eat, and we worked very hard, so people died. There were over 50 prisoners who died. Many prisoners who couldn’t suffer it fled and escaped, about 20 or 25 of them. They fled and escaped while they were building the bridge near Po Yay, and we were left behind.

Q: Could you drink while you were working?
A: If the water was near you, you could drink. If the water was far, we couldn’t drink. We could only drink when many people needed to drink. While we were carrying stones, people got weak and couldn’t carry. We had to pick stones [from a stream] and carry enough stones to fill 6 holes. Sometimes we would stop but the holes weren’t yet full of stones, and they beat us and forced us to go on. They pushed us to do it quickly, just like in Kyaut camp near Rangoon.

Q: Was anyone beaten to death?
A: They didn’t kill, but they broke the crown of peoples’ heads and cut open their hands.

Q: Did they treat those people afterward?
A: They didn’t. We had to find medicine ourselves and apply it. Sometimes they gave us one tablet of penicillin, told us to pound it smooth and put it into the wounds. But mostly we had to find and apply the medicine. Then they allowed those people to rest.

Q: How was the food at Po Yay?
A: We didn’t get enough rice. They fed us a small plate. The boiled rice was like rice water. I never saw meat or fish, and they didn’t give us fishpaste either. In the morning they fed us yellow bean curry, but it was very watery, and they gave us a tiny baby spoon of salt. That was all. We had to eat like that. If we complained it didn’t help. Sometimes when we complained that we didn’t have enough rice, they beat us and locked us in the stocks [mediaeval-style leg stocks]. When we got sick, they usually didn’t treat us because they didn’t have enough medicine, so when we got dysentery they boiled the bark of a plum tree and gave it to us to drink. We couldn’t drink it because it was very bitter, but we had to drink it.

Slowly we got more and more malnourished because we didn’t get food like meat or fish or oil. We had to eat rice and salt. Then the prisoners were weak and diseases came. When they could not cure the disease, all of them died. When we arrived at Po Yay in 1998 we stayed there for one year and over 50 prisoners died [out of the 200 who came in his group]. They got dysentery, diarrhoea, and fever and then they died. Only one or two died due to fever. Many prisoners died because of dysentery and diarrhoea. When we went to bury one corpse, another one died right behind us. They died continuously. Sometimes there were two corpses a day. They got malnutrition until their bodies were nothing but bones. Once a patient is like that, how can you treat him? When patients got like that U Thein Win [one of the guards] fed them. He came to ask the patient, "Can you eat rice?" Sometimes the patient wanted to eat, and he fed them rice and curry but the patient could only eat one or two spoonfuls because they were so weak. He fed them one day, and the next day they died. We don’t know if he fed them with good intentions or not [whether the food was poisoned], because after he fed them they died.

Q: Did they allow the sick prisoners to rest?
A: Sometimes they allowed it and sometimes not. Usually if you were sick, they gave you a bit of medicine and forced you to carry on. They only gave medicine to the prisoners who were seriously ill, but it did not cure the disease. When we got dysentery they treated us with medicine for malaria, so it didn’t cure the disease. When patients were about to die they sent them to Kyaikdon clinic, but when the patients arrived there it was already hopeless, and they died.

Q: How were you freed?
A: One night at 11 p.m., the teachers [term of respect, not really teachers; here he means KNLA and ABSDF forces] who stay here came to release us. U K---, who is one of their leaders, came in front of us and told us, "Wake up, wake up". We heard shooting and we all sat up. He opened the door and told us, "Go out, we came to release all of you", and we ran, wone wone wone wone glone glone glone glone! through the dark. We were fleeing but we couldn’t see anything. Then we heard the sound of a 60 [60 mm mortar] so we were afraid and jumped down off the bridge into the water. Then we arrived at a hill and fled up the hill, and then we didn’t see the brothers who’d come to release us anymore. We were on the wrong path. We fled along the hills for the whole night, then we said to each other that we’d go down [to lower ground] because we were very hungry, and ask for some rice from Uncle and Mother [meaning the local villagers]. We walked along a bullock cart path, and we saw a village but we didn’t see any people. We saw a short coconut tree, so we knocked down 2 or 3 coconuts with a bamboo stick. We cut open and ate the coconuts because we were so hungry. Then we saw a girl named Ma N---, and she could speak Burmese. We told her that we were convicts and were in trouble, we said, "Last night people came to release us but we went the wrong way. Please send us to them." But she didn’t believe us and didn’t want to take us. We told her, "Trust us, we are convicts", and she saw our leg shackles and then she trusted us. She told us to wait a while and she would take us, so we told her we were hungry and she cooked rice for us. Then she contacted the people from here, and two of them came and brought us here.

Q: Did all of the prisoners escape?
A: The prisoners who couldn’t walk were left behind.

Q: What will you do now?
A: I will stay here for 6 months or a year and help our benefactors [the groups that released them]. I want to go and see my mother - I have only my mother still alive. If I go back and the situation isn’t good there, I will come back here.

 

#39.

NAME:         "Naw Paw Mo"          SEX: F          AGE: 23           Karen Christian farmer
FAMILY:       Married with two children 
ADDRESS:     xxxx village, Kaw Te Hgah township                    INTERVIEWED: 10/99

[The following interview was supplied to KHRG by the human rights section of the Federation of Trade Unions of Burma, Dooplaya District section. It is the translation of a transcribed interview with a newly arrived refugee in October 1999.]

There were about 25 families in my village, each family with about 4 to 6 members. In the village, the crops have been decreasing because the villagers are afraid to go to their farms and rice fields for fear that they would be shot by SPDC soldiers. Another reason is that we could not get enough time to work in our fields because instead we had to travel with SPDC soldiers to carry supplies and ammunition for them. Our area has had a lot of fighting between the KNLA and SPDC soldiers.

For porter service for the SPDC Army our village has to send 3-5 persons three to four times a month. It was for patrol units from Division #22. Whenever there was an operation the demand for porters increased to 20 persons, and the length of each trip was about one month long.

In 1999, I had to serve as a porter three times for the SPDC army. When my husband was not at home, I was called to serve as a porter. Each trip was one or two days long. The following event is my last porter experience with soldiers from Division #22.

In the beginning of August 1999 my husband and I decided to flee away from the SPDC. Before leaving, my husband went into the forest to find a place to stay. While he was gone an SPDC column arrived in the village and demanded porters. As with other villagers, I had no money to hire a substitute to porter in my place. If there were not enough porters the SPDC soldiers always beat the village head and the villagers. Thus I had to go to work for them as a porter, taking my youngest baby with me. He is only one year old.

I was ordered to carry four mortar shells [81 mm] with my baby wrapped at my front. The column went to Saw Hta which was about two and a half hours by foot. On the way the soldiers made the porters walk in front of them. Along the way I was so tired, and I asked permission for a rest. They refused, and one of them even kicked me. Despite being exhausted, I managed to reach Saw Hta. That night I was allowed to sleep the night at my friend’s house. The next morning I was told to go back to my village. My woman friend told me that on some trips some soldiers rape the female porters.

When I arrived home I started to collect rice and to prepare for leaving. In the middle of August my family left from the village. We had a small rice field still growing but we decided to leave anyway. On the way we came across some 30 villagers from Noh Kloh Hta, Wah Lu, and other villages who were also heading into the forest. My husband decided to go with them. It was very difficult to cross the Thai-Burma border, because SPDC soldiers are stationed along the border and do not allow any of the villagers to cross to Thailand. We spent nearly two months in the forest, and were faced with many difficulties. In the forest we had to stay like animals. When we walked, we covered our footsteps to prevent them from being seen by soldiers. After about 45 days some Karen guerrillas reached our hiding place and talked with us. Days later, some people arrived again with some medical supplies and showed us the way to cross the border. Our family and about 10 people were able to cross the border on October 10th, 1999. The other people are still hiding in the forest.

 

Field Reports

FR #1.

[The following report about human rights abuses by the SPDC Army in Waw Raw and Kya In townships was written by a KHRG field reporter in December 1999.]

On 25/11/99, the Strategic Command under Operation Commander Myint Thein called a public meeting in Kya In Seik Gyi, and in this meeting they said that separate villages must move to Kya In Seik Gyi. He said he would not give security to the villages that would not move. The villages around Ta Gay village in Kya In township must start to move on 1/12/99. After that date they said they would label any villages that did not move as Kaw Thoo Lei villages and would shoot to kill all the villagers they see.

On 11/11/99, troops from LIB #415 (Battalion Commander Nyunt Lin, 2nd in Command Mo Aung) Company #4, under Commander Aung Nyaing Oo, entered Lay Wah Ploh village in Kya In township. A battle with KNLA troops occurred at 11:00 a.m. After the battle the SPDC troops captured 2 innocent villagers named Uncle A’Yaung and Pa Tah Leh. They abused them several different ways, then killed them. The Burmese then took goods from the village shops with total value of 10,000 Kyat.

On 13/11/99 troops from the same Company #4 cut the ropes used to hold together the rafts of 4 floating bamboo shops on the Za Mi (Tha May) River at Kyun Chaung village [called Meh Ta Klay Hta in Karen], Kya In township. They offered no explanation. The Battalion Commander himself ordered his privates to burn down the rafts. The privates did not burn the raft shops, but they cut the ropes tying the rafts. After that the shopkeepers fled in separate directions. They [SPDC soldiers]threatened the shopkeepers who fled that the next time they saw them there, they would kill all of them. Then the column left the village. The names of the shopkeepers who lost their goods and money are:

1. M---               70,000 Kyat
2. Ma E---          10,000 Kyat
3. Ma T---          80,000 Kyat
4. U P---            70,000 Kyat

On 16/11/99 Strategic Command troops entered Kyat Chan village in Waw Raw township and arrested 3 innocent villagers: Saw M---, Maung S---, and K---. Then they beat and tortured them several different ways. They took 10,000 Thai Baht and 1 elephant tusk (2 feet long).

Report dated October 5th 1999: The SPDC has been forcing civilians to build a fence along the Tavoy - Thanbyuzayat - Moulmein vehicle road. The SPDC told the villagers that they do not want the KNLA to make trouble along the road and that therefore the villagers have to fence both sides of the road. Villagers from Lain Maw Chan, Peik Pu, and Bay La Mine villages had to go to fence the road. One person from each family had to go, and each person had to build 9 taun [cubits, i.e. a total of 14 feet] of fence along both sides of the road, then plant bamboo spikes and booby-trap sticks along the fence. The villagers have to build one sentry hut every mile along the road. Then each day the villages had to send two forced labourers, one to Camp Commander Ta Kee Paw and another to the sentry hut on the road. Any villager who failed to go had to pay 200 Kyat to the Camp Commander. The villagers didn’t dare do sentry duty at night in the sentry huts, so each family had to send 50 Kyat per month to the Camp Commander [to cover their turn]. The person ordering this is Battalion Second in Command Maung Nyunt from IB #31 Column 1, who is commander of security for the stretch of the vehicle road between Thanbyuzayat and Ta Leik Toke.

The villages also have to send 3-6 ‘emergency porters’ at a time, and those who go have to take their own food. Villagers who dare not go have to pay 2,000 Kyat. Sometimes the Column takes the porters on patrol around the surrounding villages, and sometimes they keep them for 7 days in the Army camp. When the patrols go, the porters have to carry bullets or a pack of rice weighing at least 25 viss [40 kg / 88 lb]. Sometimes after carrying for the designated time they are still not released. Some porters who ran to escape had to pay 2,000 Kyat to the village chairperson as a fine, and the money had to be sent to the Army camp.

In 9/99 Column #2 of IB #31, under Major Tin Maung Nyunt and Captain San Shwe, engaged in battle with KNLA troops in Waw Raw township near Thee Deh village. The Burmese then accused the Thee Deh villagers of contacting Kaw Thoo Lei and fined them 3,000 Kyat and 2 viss of chicken. The villagers had to send it to the SPDC Army camp.

In May 1999, Column #1 of LIB #310 under Major Htat Lwin entered Myaing Gone village in Waw Raw township and stole 5 chickens and 10 bowls of rice from civilians without asking permission, then took 13 villagers as porters.

On 26/5/99 Company #2, Column #1, of IB #32, entered Pah Pra village and called down 3 villagers: "Saw Bee" (17 years old; see Interview #27), U xxxx (25 years old), and Saw yyyy (35 years old), under their houses. Then Zaw Min Nyaing, the subordinate of Captain Nyi Nyi Lwin, beat and tortured these 3 villagers, no questions asked. They were blameless.

On 20/4/99, Column #2 of LIB #106, led by Deputy Major Myint Zaw, engaged in guerrilla warfare with KNLA troops. The SPDC Column shelled with big weapons into the village where many civilians were living, and a villager named K--- who is 17 years old was wounded in the right leg and stomach. He nearly died and his leg was broken. In the village they [the SPDC soldiers]accused the villagers of contacting KNLA soldiers, then immediately entered houses to search them and rob the villagers’ belongings.

When Column #2 of LIB #106, led by Deputy Major Myint Zaw, entered Na Aim village in Waw Raw township, they arrested two villagers: Saw A’Kwih, 17 years old, and S’Line Mine, 18 years old. They were arrested while they were taking care of their cattle at a field hut 400 yards from the village. They accused them of being Kaw Thoo Lei [KNLA] soldiers and beat, kicked, and pounded them with the butt of a gun. [The SPDC soldiers] untied the yokes of the cows, then tied the villagers’ hands behind their backs and dragged them. Then on 24/4/99, they killed both villagers near Pone P’Noh, between Taung Tee and Kyone Koh.

On 28/4/99 LIB #284, under Major Thein Win Htun, entered Lay Po village in Waw Raw township and told the village to relocate, stating that KNLA soldiers were sheltered in the village. The houses that were not relocated would be burned and the people would be killed. These villagers were frightened and went to stay temporarily at the monastery near S--- village. They were poor and tired, and some wandered aimlessly.

On 12/3/99, LIB #301 under Battalion Commander Gan Nyunt entered Meh T’Ree village, Kya In township, and took 6 cows from the villagers. They accused the villagers that the cows belonged to Kaw Thoo Lei, and the villagers had to pay 100,000 Kyat to get them back.

On 26/1/99, LIB #205 under Major Aung Gyi entered Owt Pa Ya village in Waw Raw township and demanded 2 tonnes of 4-foot ironwood planks from each village, with the explanation that it would be used to build a bridge. After sending the wood, it was not used to build the bridge after all. The soldiers took it and sold it in town. The villages which sent wood are A’Htat Pa Ya, Owt Pa Ya, Lu Shah, Htee Htoh, Kah K’Dtee, and Yeek Paw.

 

FR #2.

[This field report was written by a KHRG field reporter in June 1999 about the burning of Kyaw Plaw village, near the Thai border in southeastern Kawkareik Township.]

On April 12th 1999 at about 5 p.m. a battle occurred near Kyaw Plaw village. Then the next morning, April 13th, a column of about 60 soldiers from Infantry Battalion #62 under Battalion commander Than Win and Sergeant Major (Grade 1) Hla Win burned down Kyaw Plaw village. There were 20 houses in Kyaw Plaw; 18 houses were completely burned down and the sides of two houses were also burned. The villagers fled with only the one set of clothing on their backs. Some villagers arrived in Klaw Taw [a village just across the border in Thailand] the same evening. Some others remained hiding in the jungle.

 

FR #3.

[The following is an excerpt from a letter written by a KNU field officer on 15/7/99 documenting the human rights abuses committed by SPDC and DKBA soldiers in Kya In and Kawkareik townships.]

On June 24th at 7:00 a.m., under orders of Strategic Commander Hla Htun, SPDC soldiers entered villages in Kya In township including Paw Ner Mu, Htee Tha Blu, and Pa Deh Praw. These troops demanded 10,000 to 35,000 Kyat, 25 chickens, and 25 baskets of rice. They then captured 14 innocent villagers and shot a villager named K--- from Pa Deh Praw. He was seriously injured.

Beginning on June 16th, LIB #546 commanded by Battalion Commander Thura Maung Ni patrolled with 70 soldiers in Kawkareik township, around An Pa Gyi. On June 29th at 10:30 a.m. they entered An Kong village and took the villagers’ chickens and ducks, then confiscated 80 wooden posts that the villagers had planned to use to build a high school. On July 3rd at 7:30 p.m. they occupied one sawmill belonging to the school committee as well as the sawmills belonging to Ko C---, A---, and Ko H---.

On July 7th, DKBA Brigade #999 commanded by Bo Kyaw Gu Gaw (a.k.a. Bo Ga Dole) were going to Meh K’Neh village, Kawkareik township, and arrested six villagers [names and details omitted here for safety]. They released them when they arrived in Meh K’Neh village. They accused the villagers of helping DKBA soldiers who had deserted. On that day the following DKBA soldiers had fled their company: Pa Naw Pee, 38 years old, and Saw Baw Ko, 29 years old. On July 9th 1999, the DKBA troops captured Saw Baw Ko and killed him.

On July 11th LIB #210 troops commanded by Maung Maung Oo arrived at Shwe Mo Ma Ywa Thit in Kawkareik township, and threatened the innocent villagers with weapons. They robbed 5 baskets of rice and over 20 chickens from them.

 

FR #4.

[The following is an excerpt from a letter written by a KNU field officer on 7/7/99 documenting the human rights abuses committed by SPDC soldiers in Kawkareik township.]

Fifty soldiers from LIB #180 under LID #44, commanded by Commander Kyaw Soe, patrolled the Kyaik Region. On May 10th 1999 they arrived in Law Per village tract, Kawkareik township, and ordered the village heads from three villages to come and meet them. On May 11th two village heads went to meet them, but they didn’t see them. Then on June 4th, SPDC troops under commander Kyaw Soe were going to Meh Pleh village and found some villagers who had fled and were in hiding. They fired twice with M79 grenades and a few times with small guns, but it didn’t hurt the villagers. Then they demanded that the villagers reimburse them for the cost of their bullets: 1,500 Kyat, plus alcohol. Since the village head hadn’t seen them that day[May 11th], they demanded 70,000 Kyat, 30 viss [48 kg / 105 lb] of pork, and 3 baskets of rice. They demanded 5 viss of pork from each of the 4 sawmills at Ku Done and Pa Pya villages and from the 4 sawmills at Ah Kyu village.

LIB #526 under Commander Thura Maung Ni and about 70 of his soldiers patrolled around Ah Pah village tract collecting money. Each month the villagers from Aw Ler village have to pay 15,000 Kyat, and another 15,000 Kyat from Kya Ka Wah village. The villagers from Khoh Ther See [‘30 pagodas’] didn’t get a permit from them for their sawmill, so every month the Army collects 40,000 Kyat for the sawmill in their village. In June 1999 they also started collecting 45,000 Kyat from Meh Pleh village and 60,000 Kyat from Ah Kyu village every month. They also collect money from other villages, even though each village is forced to send 3 to 5 porters every month.

LIB #526 under Battalion Commander Thura Maung Ni patrolled with 70 soldiers to the Ah Pah Gyi area of Kawkareik township. On July 17th 1999 at 5:35 p.m., about 20 soldiers arrived outside of Ah Pah Gyi village. From the hilltop they fired twice with 80 millimetre mortars into the jungle near the village. They also fired twice into the fields of K---, and Maung K--- from Ah Pah Gyi village was seriously injured. After they stopped shooting, the troops entered Ah Pah Gyi village and camped there. [This is a typical SPDC Army method of approaching an undefended village; they position themselves on a hilltop just outside the village, shell the village, the surrounding forest and fields, then enter the village knowing no one will be there and loot.]

 

FR #5.

[This document was written by a KNU field officer in November 1999.]

In 1999 the SPDC Army tortured and oppressed villagers by arresting porters and forcing them to do forced labour every day. The camp commanders from all the SPDC Army camps in KNU’s 6th Brigade area [Dooplaya] collected porter fees totalling 300,000 Kyat per month. Including the other taxes the total is over 600,000 Kyat per month. The SPDC collects taxes with forged receipts. The villagers have to pay taxes if they have:

                        Item                           Tax

     1 sawmill             1,500 Kyat / month 
     1 rice mill            1,500 Kyat / month 
     1 VCR                   1,500 Kyat / month
     1 elephant            20,000-60,000 Kyat / year

According to the villagers the money they collect goes only to the Camp Commander, and lower- ranking soldiers receive no benefit from it.

Moreover, the villages have to send 1 basket of rice and 2 viss of meat per month to the SPDC Army camp. Additionally, when the villagers kill a buffalo, cow, sheep or goat, they must send one viss of meat to the camp. If the villagers don’t send it and if they [the SPDC commanders] find out about it later, they will fine them 2 to 5 times the amount. The villages have to go to the camp and clean (cut the bushes/clear the car road) every Saturday; one person must go per house, and s/he must pack his/her own rice. They do not give payment to the workers, but they punish the villagers who don’t go to forced labour by forcing them to work 3 extra days cooking rice and fetching water at the Army camp. Instead of this punishment, however, they can give 1,500 Kyat to the camp commander. The villagers have to send porters 3 days at a time on rotation to the camp. A village with 25 houses has to send 1 porter; larger villages have to send 5 or 6 porters. These porters have to bring their own food for 3 days. When they don’t go out on patrol the porters have to cook rice, fetch water and clean the camp. The villagers who do not want to porter each have to pay for 3 days worth of food, plus 20,000 Kyat to the camp commander.

They hire a special messenger, and to pay this messenger they collect 1,000 Kyat from the villages, but they really send the money to the camp commander [instead of paying the ‘hired’ messenger]. When the mobile column arrives the villagers have to send emergency porters along with them depending on what the column demands. If the villagers don’t pay, they arrest them and take all the villagers they see, including women and children. They also demand that the villagers give the column pigs, goats, sheep, chickens and ducks, as well as money for curry, alcohol, and cheroots.

Considering the above information, the SPDC troops are oppressing the villagers in the region in many different ways