PEACE VILLAGES AND HIDING VILLAGES: Roads, Relocations, and the Campaign for Control in Toungoo District

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Published date:
Sunday, October 15, 2000

This report describes the current situation for rural Karen villagers in Toungoo District (known in Karen as Taw Oo), which is the northernmost region of Karen State in Burma. The western part of the district forms part of the Sittaung River valley in Pegu (Bago) Division, and this region is strongly controlled by the State Peace & Development Council (SPDC) military junta which rules Burma. Further east, the District is made up of steep and forested hills penetrated by only a few roads and dotted with small Karen villages; in this region the SPDC is struggling to strengthen its control in the face of armed resistance by the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA). In the strongly SPDC-controlled areas, the villagers suffer from constant demands for forced labour and money from all of the SPDC military units based there, and from the constant threat of punishments should their village fail to comply with any order of the military. In the eastern hills, many villages have been forcibly relocated and partly burned as part of the SPDC’s program of attempting to undermine the resistance by attacking the civilian villagers. Here people are suffering all forms of serious human rights abuses committed by SPDC troops, including random killings, burning of homes, the systematic destruction of crops and food supplies, forced labour, looting and extortion. The SPDC now designates villages throughout Toungoo District as either ‘Peace’ (‘Nyein Chan Yay’) Villages - meaning they are under direct military control and village elders are severely punished for any failure to obey orders - or ‘Hiding’ (‘Ywa Bone’) Villages, where homes and crops are systematically destroyed and villagers are shot on sight.

This report describes the current situation for rural Karen villagers in Toungoo District (known in Karen as Taw Oo), which is the northernmost region of Karen State in Burma. The western part of the district forms part of the Sittaung River valley in Pegu (Bago) Division, and this region is strongly controlled by the State Peace & Development Council (SPDC) military junta which rules Burma. Further east, the District is made up of steep and forested hills penetrated by only a few roads and dotted with small Karen villages; in this region the SPDC is struggling to strengthen its control in the face of armed resistance by the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA). In the strongly SPDC-controlled areas, the villagers suffer from constant demands for forced labour and money from all of the SPDC military units based there, and from the constant threat of punishments should their village fail to comply with any order of the military. In the eastern hills, many villages have been forcibly relocated and partly burned as part of the SPDC’s program of attempting to undermine the resistance by attacking the civilian villagers. Here people are suffering all forms of serious human rights abuses committed by SPDC troops, including random killings, burning of homes, the systematic destruction of crops and food supplies, forced labour, looting and extortion. The SPDC now designates villages throughout Toungoo District as either ‘Peace’ (‘Nyein Chan Yay’) Villages - meaning they are under direct military control and village elders are severely punished for any failure to obey orders - or ‘Hiding’ (‘Ywa Bone’) Villages, where homes and crops are systematically destroyed and villagers are shot on sight.

In order to produce this report, KHRG human rights monitors have interviewed villagers in the SPDC-controlled areas, in the hill villages and the relocation sites, as well as those hiding in the forests. Their testimonies are augmented by incident reports and field reports gathered by KHRG human rights monitors and Karen relief workers in the region, and by SPDC order documents which have been sent to village elders. To see more order documents and photos which relate to the abuses documented in this report, readers should see the KHRG reports "SPDC & DKBA Orders to Villages: Set 2000-A" (KHRG #2000-01, 29/2/00), SPDC & DKBA Orders to Villagers: Set 2000-B" (KHRG #2000-04, 12/10/00) and KHRG Photo Set 2000-A(31/5/00).  Additional background on the situation in Toungoo District can be found in the KHRG report "False Peace: Increasing SPDC Military Repression in Toungoo District of Northern Karen State" (KHRG #99-02, 25/3/00).

This report consists of several parts: this preface, an introduction and executive summary, a detailed description of the situation including quotes from interviews, an index of field reports and interviews, and an appendix containing translations of SPDC order documents which are referred to in the text. The interviews and field reports have been published in a separate interview annex which is available from KHRG upon approved request, as are copies of the original order documents in Burmese.

Notes on the Text

In the interviews and the situation report, all names of those interviewed have been changed and some details have been omitted where necessary to protect people from retaliation. False names are shown in double quotes. The captions under the quotes in the situation report include the interviewee’s (changed) name, gender, age and village, and a reference to the interview or field report number. These numbers can be used to find the full text of the interview or field report in the interview annex. All SPDC order documents which are duplicated or quoted here can be found in the KHRG reports "SPDC & DKBA Orders to Villages: Set 2000-A" (KHRG #2000-01, 29/2/00) and "SPDC & DKBA Orders to Villagers: Set 2000-B"(KHRG #2000-04, 12/10/00).

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; for example, Kler Lah village tract has over 10 villages and its administration is in Kler Lah (Baw Ga Li Gyi) village, which has over 600 households. A township is a much larger area, administered from a central town. The Karen National Union (KNU) divides Toungoo District into two townships: Taw Ta Tu in the south and Daw Pa Kho in the north. In Burmese, Taw Ta Tu is called Tantabin and Daw Pa Kho is called Than Daung. The official townships used by the SPDC do not correspond to the Karen townships; in this report we have used the townships as defined by the Karen, though usually referring to them by their more familiar Burmese names. In this region most villages and towns have both a Karen and a Burmese name, and both appear in this report depending on which are used by the villagers. Some examples are shown below.

Burmese              Karen                                    Burmese                  Karen

Toungoo               Taw Oo                                   Yay Dta Gone            Klaw Mi Der
Tantabin               Taw Ta Tu                               Maung Nweh Gyi       Ker Weh
Than Daung           Daw Pa Kho                             Taw Bya Gyi             Pa Li Kee
Baw Ga Li Gyi       Kler Lah                                  Taw Bya Ka Lay         K’Thwee Dee
Baw Ga Li Lay       Wah Tho Ko                             Si Keh Doh              Si Kheh Der
Yay Tho Gyi          Kaw Thay Der                          Saw Wah Doh           Hsaw Wah Der
Yay Tho Lay          Klay Soe Kee                            Kyaut Pon                Ler Ko
Yay Shan               Per Htoo                                 Dtay Sein Taung        Kaw Soh Ko
Loe Pu                  Swa Loh

Than Daung Gyi is used in this report to distinguish it (the Than Daung found on most maps) from New Than Daung (a.k.a. Than Daung Myothit), which is where the township offices are located.

In the interviews villagers often refer to ‘loh ah pay’; literally this is the traditional Burmese form of voluntary labour for the community, but the SPDC uses this name in most cases of forced labour, and to the villagers it has come to mean most forms of forced labour with the exception of long-term portering. The villagers also often mention ‘last year’; if the interview occurred in late 1999, this means prior to the rainy season, or October 1998 to May 1999. All numeric dates in this report are in dd/mm/yy format.

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 the SPDC until Nov. 1997
KNU         Karen National Union, main Karen opposition group
KNLA       Karen National Liberation Army, army of the KNU
DKBA       Democratic Karen Buddhist Army, Karen group allied with SLORC/SPDC
IB             Infantry Battalion (SLORC/SPDC), usually about 500 soldiers fighting strength
LIB           Light Infantry Battalion (SLORC/SPDC), usually about 500 soldiers fighting strength
Ta Pa Ka   Abbreviation for SPDC’s Southern Regional Military Command
Na Pa Ka   Abbreviation for SPDC’s Western Military Command from Rakhine State
Sa Ka Ka   Abbreviation for SPDC’s Military Operations Commands, for offensive operations
Viss          Unit of weight measure; one viss is 1.6 kilograms or 3.5 pounds
Bowl/Pyi   Volume of rice equal to 8 small condensed milk tins; 
                about 2 kilograms / 4.4 pounds
Kyat          Burmese currency; US$1=6 Kyat at official rate, 300+ Kyat at current market rate
loh ah pay Forced labour; literally it means traditional voluntary labour, but not under SP

 

Introduction / Executive Summary

Toungoo District (or Taw Oo in Karen) forms the northern tip of Karen State, sandwiched between Karenni State to the east, Shan State to the north, and Pegu Division to the west. The district is divided into two townships with the Toungoo-Kler Lah car road acting as the boundary between them. Than Daung (Daw Pa Ko) township lies to the north of the road and Tantabin (Taw Ta Tu) township to the south. The vast majority of villagers in the area are Karen. Many live in small, isolated villages in the very steep and forested hills which cover most of the district. To the west, the hills drop off to the gentler terrain of the Sittaung River valley and Toungoo town.

The villagers in the western plains of the district have for the past three to four years faced heavy demands for forced labour on roads and at army camps. Things have been even worse for the villagers to the east. The area has long been a stronghold for the KNU, however the SLORC/SPDC has managed to steadily increase its military presence in the area over the past four years. In the areas to the east of the Day Loh and the Yaw Loh Rivers, which cannot be effectively controlled by the SPDC, the villagers have all been forced into living in the forest. The past four years have seen the military pursue a sustained campaign to drive out these villagers by burning their homes, destroying their crops and shooting them on sight. Villages have been forcibly relocated two and sometimes three times to gain control of areas. The situation is not much better for the villagers in SPDC controlled areas. They have to constantly face demands from the Army for money, materials and forced labour while struggling to earn a living at the same time.

There are six or more battalions from the Southern Regional Military Command, headquartered in Toungoo, regularly stationed in the district. Battalions from the Western Regional Military Command have also been present in the area for a number of years now. The district is roughly divided with the Western Command units operating in Than Daung township and the Southern Command units operating in Tantabin township. In the southwest of Tantabin township, the Sa Thon Lon Guerrilla Retaliation units operate. These execution squads were set up by the SPDC in 1998 to find and execute any villagers who have ever had any contact with the KNU/KNLA. A new group calling itself the Nyein Chan Yay A’Pweh (Peace Group) appeared in late 1997. It is made up of soldiers from the KNLA’s 2nd Brigade who surrendered in the far north of the district. The group has only a few soldiers and has not been afforded any special advantages nor been given any organising power by the SPDC. The Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), a Karen group allied with the SPDC which operates in the southern districts, is not present in Toungoo District. The Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) operates in the hill areas of much of the district, conducting guerrilla operations against SPDC columns and camps.

The larger villages along the car road such as Kler Lah (Baw Ga Li Gyi), Kaw Thay Der (Yay Tho Gyi) and Naw Soe are under tight SPDC control and have Army camps adjacent to them. Kler Lah has become a relocation site, with all the villages to the north and east of it forcibly relocated there in 1998. These villages are known as Nyein Chan Yay (‘Peace’) villages in reference to an informal agreement between the village leaders and the local military that the villagers will cooperate with SPDC demands and in return will not be forcibly relocated or have their houses burned down. The leaders of these villages still receive regular demands for "porter fees" and other extortion money and material. The Army also sends regular demands for porters, and it is to avoid sending people for this that the villagers pool their money together to hire itinerant labourers through labour agents in Toungoo. Despite paying the money, the villagers still have to periodically go as porters to carry rations to outlying camps. While portering they are usually sent in front of the soldiers to act as human minesweepers. It is often the women who go as porters, as the men are afraid of being taken for several months if they go. The villagers also have to supply forced labourers on a rotating basis for labour at the Army camps and as messengers. In addition they must go to work building or repairing the Kler Lah-Bu Sah Kee and Kler Lah-Mawchi car roads. The forced relocation of many of the villages to Kler Lah has turned it into a pool of readily exploitable labour.

Villages in the hills to the south of the Kler Lah-Bu Sah Kee car road and around Than Daung have been joining the Nyein Chan Yay scheme. While most do not have Army camps next to them they do have to respond to the demands from the nearest camp for "porter fees", extortion money, food, materials, and forced labour porters. These villages are closer to the frontline, so the SPDC columns often come through them. When battles occur with the KNLA it is these villages which suffer, despite their Nyein Chan Yay status.

The villages in the eastern part of the district have been dubbed Ywa Bone (‘Hiding’) villages. The villagers here are all internally displaced and scratch out a living by staying in the forest, planting small fields nearby and running whenever SPDC units come. SPDC columns shoot them on sight, burn their houses and paddy barns, uproot their crops, and destroy their fields. This is to force the villagers to come down to the SPDC relocation sites. Many of the villagers in the forest originally went to the sites but fled into the forest to escape the constant demands put on them for forced labour and money, preferring instead to live on the run.

Starting in 1995, villagers throughout Tantabin township were forced to construct a road from Kaw Thay Der to Bu Sah Kee to facilitate the SPDC’s control over that area. Several Army camps have been established along the road at Kaw Thay Der, Naw Soe, Si Kheh Der, K’Law Soe and Bu Sah Kee. Although completed in 1998, the road is not yet passable in the rainy season, making it necessary to conscript large numbers of villagers to carry supplies to these camps and to repair the road when the rains finish. Another new road building project was begun in 1998 to rebuild an old colonial road from Kler Lah to the mines at Mawchi in southwestern Karenni (Kayah) State. By the end of the 2000 dry season the road had been completed as far as Sho Ser near the border with Karenni State, but is also not passable in the rainy season. To secure the area, the Army has built camps along the road at Koh Day, Tha Aye Hta and Wah Baw Day. The heavy military presence and forced labour demands that came with the two road projects have displaced all of the villagers in the area. The work on the roads and all the portering for the Army camps along them is done by villagers taken from Kler Lah and Kaw Thay Der, as the villagers along the roads have all fled into the forest. A new road construction project from Bu Sah Kee southwest to Ma La Daw in Nyaunglebin (Kler Lweh Htoo) District and another one from Than Daung to Ker Weh village have caused increases in forced labour and portering along their routes. To facilitate a tourism project in Than Daung Gyi, villagers have been forced out of their homes, their plantations have been confiscated and they have been forced to work on the project. A dam building project on the Day Loh River at Pa Leh Wah is also reportedly using forced labour.

The continually deteriorating situation in the district is severely impoverishing the villagers. For the villagers in the relocation sites and the Nyein Chan Yay villages, doing the forced labour and finding money to pay all the ‘fees’ demanded by the military leaves them not enough time to work in their fields. Their attempts at business and commercial agriculture are destroyed. The prices of commodity goods, food and rice are very high due to the bribes which traders must pay at the Army checkpoints along the route up from Toungoo. Some items like batteries and medicine are either prohibited or closely regulated in an attempt to keep them from the KNLA. For the internally displaced villagers, bad weather and the military’s campaign to destroy their crops has left them with very little to eat and no chance to make any money. While the Nyein Chan Yay villagers do have some access to very poor quality educational and health facilities, high prices and a lack of income keeps even these out of reach for most villagers. For the villagers in the forest there is virtually no access at all to medicine or schools. Many of them are dying, and a whole generation is growing up malnourished and uneducated, on the run.

The Military Situation

"The KNU soldiers also stay here and do their work. When they [KNLA] see us they don’t shoot us and when we see them we don’t shoot them, but when the SPDC soldiers and the KNU soldiers see each other there is shooting. If the KNLA see the SPDC soldiers first, they avoid them and if the SPDC soldiers see them first, they avoid the KNLA. … If the SPDC soldiers met the KNU they would torture the villagers and the village headman. They said if the KNU shoot and kill them, they will kill the whole village. I told them that they came to fight the KNU and not the villagers, but they didn’t like that." - "Saw Ghay Po" (M, 45), village headman from xxxx village (Interview #3, 10/99)

Since the late 1960’s successive Burmese military governments have had a policy of undermining resistance groups by attacking the civilian populations who support them. The area of the district to the west of the Sittaung River is strongly SPDC controlled and KNLA forces do not operate there. The plains to the east of the Sittaung River do not see much KNLA activity, but the villages in the area have been repeatedly relocated by the military. At one point in 1999 all trade and travel was prohibited between the plains and the mountains.

In Than Daung township, the area north of the Toungoo-Kler Lah car road up to around Than Daung Gyi is an area of relocation sites and Nyein Chan Yay (‘Peace’) villages. SPDC control of this area is tenuous, but road building projects and plans to make Than Daung Gyi a tourist resort (see below under ‘Than Daung Gyi and Tourism’) will probably result in stronger efforts to gain total control over the area. Further east, the area north of the Kler Lah-Mawchi car road and east of the Day Loh River is not under direct SPDC control, but the military’s targeting of villagers and their crops in that area has forced all the villagers to flee into the forest. The Toungoo-Mawchi car road and the camps being built along it will bring a much greater SPDC military presence to the area and provide secure bases to further extend SPDC control. Already the villagers along the road have fled into the forest.

To the south in Tantabin township, the area around Klaw Mi Der is known as a Nyein Chan Yay area, but both the SPDC and the KNLA operate here. The building of the Kler Lah to Bu Sah Kee car road has given the SPDC much greater access to the southeast portion of this township. All of the villages on or near this road, and those in the triangle between it and the Kler Lah-Mawchi road, have fled into the forest. A new military access road starting from Bu Sah Kee and going southwest to Ma La Daw in Nyaunglebin (Kler Lweh Htoo) District will surely mean a heavier SPDC military presence in that area as well.

"They have also stationed soldiers along the road. The soldiers’ bunkers are everywhere along the road to Kler Lah, which the Burmese call Baw Ga Li Gyi. The soldiers are staying at Baw Ga Li Gyi camp. They also have camps at Kaw Thay Der, Naw Soe, Ta Kwih Soe and Bu Sah Kee. The strategic commander stays at Bu Sah Kee. The Army also stays at Koh Day, Tha Aye Hta, there are many soldiers at Tha Aye Hta, and Wah Baw Day." - "Saw Ghaw" (M), KHRG field researcher (Interview #1, 8/00)

Toungoo District comes under the area responsibility of the Southern Regional Military Command (abbreviated ‘Ta Pa Ka’) headquartered in Toungoo. The command is divided into three Strategic Operations Commands, each of which has 3 to 4 battalions. The Strategic Operations Commands are each responsible for an area, and their soldiers are deployed at camps and patrol the surrounding terrain. The commands and their battalions rotate in and out of the area every four months. The SPDC battalions operating in the area are Infantry Battalions (IB) #26, 30, 35, 39, 48, 53, 59, 73, and 92, and Light Infantry Battalions (LIB) #349 and 439. The Southern Command units operate along the Toungoo-Mawchi car road and in Tantabin township with one of their Strategic Operations Commands headquartered at Bu Sah Kee.

For the past few years the Western Regional Command (‘Na Pa Ka’), with its headquarters at Sittwe in Arakan (Rakhine) State, has always stationed at least one Strategic Operations Command in Toungoo District. Currently, their Strategic Operations Commands #1, 2 and 3 rotate through the district on the same 4 month schedule. Their battalions include IB’s #20, 34, 55, 60, 124, 232, and 234 and LIB’s #344, 354 and 538. The Western Command units are stationed in Than Daung township and take their orders from Southern Command headquarters in Toungoo. Occasionally units from other regions are also brought in to the district for offensive or ‘special’ operations. Military Operations Command (‘Sa Ka Ka’) #6 was brought in to the area around Than Daung Gyi from January 2000 until the end of March to secure the area for the construction of a tourist resort there. Sa Ka Ka commands, which comprise up to 10 Battalions, can be equivalent in strength to Light Infantry Divisions but are not tied to any particular region, and are becoming more prevalent in Burma. Sa Ka Ka #6, with LIB’s #19, 306, 412 and 414 assigned to it, is headquartered in Pyinmana (in southern Mandalay Division) and comes under the Central Regional Command in Mandalay.

"The units of Ta Pa Ka [Southern Military Command] are IB #53, 26, 59, and 48. They are the most active in the area. IB #30 and 35 are also units of ‘Ta Pa Ka’, ‘Toung Bine Sit Hta Na Choke’ [Southern Command Headquarters] but stay at Taw Oo central. The one who gives the orders is the ‘Ta Pa Ka Tine Mu’ [Southern Command Commander]. Right now he is ‘Tine Mu’ Major General Tin Aye. … The Western Command is in Than Daung township, but their headquarters is at Sittwe [in Arakan State]. They are staying to the east of the Day Loh Kloh [Day Loh River]." - "Saw Ghaw" (M), KHRG field researcher (Interview #1, 8/00)

"There is always an army unit in Kler Lah. These units are always rotating and moving up and down. They have a camp there and the battalions at Kler Lah are mostly under the Southern Command Headquarters. IB #39 comes to stay sometimes, IB #48, 53 and 26 also come to stay. The units under Southern Command Headquarters are mostly infantry battalions [garrison units]. Each unit comes to stay there for 4 months. IB #26 just rotated in at the beginning of June, so I think they haven’t rotated yet." - "Saw Ghaw" (M), KHRG field researcher (Interview #1, 8/00)

Heavily fortified army camps have been built along the Kler Lah to Bu Sah Kee car road at Kaw Thay Der, K’Law Soe, Naw Soe, Si Kheh Der and Bu Sah Kee, and along the Kler Lah to Mawchi car road at Koh Day, Tha Aye Hta, and Wah Baw Day, to secure the roads and extend control over the surrounding areas. While the SPDC units in the area are numerous, their discipline is often lax and morale very low. There have been many desertions in the area and at least one killing of an officer by his own men. The decision to desert is not made lightly, as the penalty is death.

"Security is very important for building these things so in March of this year [2000], Sa Ka Ka [Military Operations Command] #6, LIB #19, 306 and 412 came up to control the places. LIB #349, 439, and 344 and IB #34, 20, 55, and 124 came with them. There were a lot of battalions so there was also a lot of forced labour as porters." - security for Than Daung Gyi tourism project; field report from KHRG field researcher (FR #1, 8/00)

"The opportunities for SPDC private soldiers and their commanders are so uneven. For one, the officers use a lot of power on the private soldiers and increasingly force them to loot things from the villagers." - field report from KHRG field researcher (FR, 1/00-8/00)

"After that the soldiers captured the deserters in xxxx village. The villagers from xxxx came and told us that after the soldiers captured the two deserters they beat, kicked and tortured them until they bled and their faces became swollen until they couldn’t see, then the soldiers killed them." - field report from KHRG field researcher (FR #1, 8/00)

Since early 1999, the Sa Thon Lon Dam Byan Byaut Kya (Bureau of Special Investigations Guerrilla Retaliation Units) have been active in the plains of southwestern Tantabin township. The villagers also refer to them as Guerrilla units, Baw Bi Doh (‘Short Pants’, in reference to the civilian clothing they wear), and a few other names. The Sa Thon Lon units enter villages and summarily execute villagers for any past or present association with any opposition group. The soldiers in the Sa Thon Lon units are Non-Commissioned Officers hand-picked from the battalions in the Southern Command and given special training, and they report to Military Intelligence in Toungoo. Their total number is estimated at about 200. In the field they operate in sections of 5 to 10 men and usually independently of the regular SPDC units; SPDC Army commanders have often told villagers that they have no control over the Sa Thon Lon units. They usually wear civilian clothing, carry non-standard weapons and move by night. They operate covertly but speak openly to villagers of their purpose, and their methods are deliberately brutal in order to intimidate the villagers; they usually cut the throats of their victims, then often behead them. They are also notorious for rape, sexual harassment and abuse of women, and in Nyaunglebin District several of them have forced young women to marry them by threatening their families and villages. Their main area of operation is just south of Tantabin township, in the plains west of the Sittaung River in Nyaunglebin District, where villagers estimate that they have executed 100 or more people since their inception in late 1998.

"In 1999, the Southern Regional Command deputy commander, Thu Ra Maung Ni, organised the ‘Dam Byan Byaut Kya’ [Guerrilla Retaliation] unit with 180 men in Zayatkyi ‘Dine Nay’ [a grouping of villages for the purpose of revenue collection], Tantabin township. They accused the villagers of carrying weapons in the jungle [being KNLA] and in the area where the ‘Byaut Kya’ operated, they caused the deaths of 106 innocent villagers." - written report received from a villager in Than Daung township (FR #2, 8/00)

So far the Sa Thon Lon have only a limited presence in Toungoo district and do not operate in the hills. The Sa Thon Lon do not actively engage the KNLA and function more as a "clean up" crew to eliminate any lingering support for the KNU in areas which are already under firm SPDC control. One villager from Toungoo District reported that the Sa Thon Lon had killed over 100 villagers in Tantabin township since the beginning of 1999. During 1999 the Sa Thon Lon prohibited trade and travel between the plains and the mountains in Tantabin township and executed anyone they saw violating the order, stole their goods, and even burned their villages. This campaign was directed at Burmans as well as Karen and effectively cut the mountain villages off from the plains. In the year 2000 many villagers have said the Sa Thon Lon are not killing as much, but they are demanding food and alcohol. They were involved in the relocation of the villagers in the Swa Loh area and in hunting down any villagers who tried to avoid the relocations. [For more information on the Sa Thon Lon units see"Death Squads and Displacement: Systematic Executions, Destruction of Villages and the Flight of Villagers in Nyaunglebin District" (KHRG #99-04, 24/4/99).]

"Battalion #26 and some guerrillas [‘Sa Thon Lon’] came in April [1999] and tortured 3 villagers. They killed all three people. The soldiers came to kill them, but I don’t know why they killed them."- "Saw Lah Thaw" (M, 32), village headman from xxxx village (Interview #6, 10/99)

"There is always one person from the ‘Sa Thon Lon’ in each column. … The infantry battalions wear uniforms when they come, but the ‘Sa Thon Lon’ do not wear uniforms. They wear the same clothes as the civilians but with short pants and guns. The ‘Sa Thon Lon’ come to investigate whether the villagers are contacting the outside people or not [with KNU/KNLA]. If any of the villagers have contact with the outside people, the ‘Sa Thon Lon’ kill them." - "Saw Wah" (M), KHRG field researcher (Interview #2, 12/99)

"The guerrillas of the SPDC army [Sa Thon Lon] from the plains area have now gone around to clean the area of Swa Loh, Day Loh and the area at the bottom of the mountains in many steps. They are also demanding food, rice and many kinds of things from the villagers." - field report form KHRG field researcher and KNU intelligence (FR, 1/00-8/00)

Compared to other districts further south, the SPDC has not been very successful at establishing Karen splinter groups in Toungoo District. The DKBA has never operated in Toungoo District. However, in September 1997 two KNLA officers, Saw Peh Ree Moe and Saw Kweh Moo, and about 30 of their men surrendered to the SPDC in Than Daung township. Both men had been recalled to KNU headquarters after reports that they were embezzling logging profits, but rather than face punishment they chose to surrender to the SPDC. Both were welcomed by the SPDC and praised in the SPDC’s main newspaper, The New Light of Myanmar, for ‘exchanging arms for peace.’ To give the impression of a major surrender, villagers were made to wear military uniforms at the surrender ceremony. The two surrendered groups are not allowed to stay near each other. Saw Peh Ree Moe and his men stay at Leit Tho in the north of Than Daung township and Saw Kweh Moo was moved to Pya Sakan. At Pya Sakan, the SPDC confiscated the villagers’ betelnut plantations and houses and gave them to Kweh Moo’s group. A second surrender took place in October of 1999, after the surrender of Peh Ree Moe and Kweh Moo left only 2nd Lieutenant Kyaw Pwa and 8 soldiers in the KNU-designated Leit Tho Special Area in the far north of Than Daung township near the Toungoo-Loikaw car road. The SPDC units in the area were very active, and also enlisted the help of a Roman Catholic priest, Father Thein Maung, to pressure the villagers into persuading Kyaw Pwa to surrender. Under this pressure Kyaw Pwa surrendered. Over 200 villagers were reportedly forced to wear military uniforms for the surrender ceremony held in Toungoo, as Kyaw Pwa only had 8 soldiers. All three of these groups have been allowed to retain their weapons, but they are closely watched. The three groups are now collectively calling themselves the Nyein Chan Yay A’Pweh(‘Peace Group’). They have been allowed to set up business offices in Toungoo and even as far south as Myawaddy on the Thai-Burma border across from Mae Sot. They have also been allowed to conduct logging in the Men Haw Reserve Forest. This forest reserve was set up by the KNU in the Leit Tho Special Area and logging was forbidden there, but now the SPDC and the Peace Group have begun cutting. The Peace Group has also put out propaganda letters encouraging villagers and KNU/KNLA members to join them. The following is a typical excerpt from one such letter that they widely distributed in 1999:

"[We are] Talking to you about the light. Come back to peace along the path strewn with flowers. Our National Government [SPDC], people, and Tatmadaw [Military] will welcome you just as parents welcome their children. They are arranging everything for our living even though we don’t need it. We are also getting a chance to develop our lands and our Karen nationals in a good way. We also want you to taste and feel peace like us. You will see the truth and leave the darkness, and you will stay in the light." [The full statement is published as Order #292 in "SPDC & DKBA Orders to Villages: Set 2000-A" (KHRG #2000-01, 29/2/00)]

They have not, however, been given any power to represent the people in their areas. Very few people want to work with them and they have not actively recruited any soldiers. Forced labour and other abuses have continued in their areas, and in early 2000 the villages in the Leit Tho area were forcibly relocated to Leit Tho village. They have reportedly had some contact with P’Doh Aung San, a formerly high-ranking KNU member who surrendered in 1998 and lives near Pa’an in central Karen State; he reportedly keeps in contact with these groups by radio. The Peace Group in Toungoo District is completely separate from another group in Dooplaya District which also calls itself ‘Nyein Chan Yay A’Pweh’; this latter group, also known as the Karen Peace Army (KPA), was formed much farther south in 1997 by former KNLA officer Thu Mu Heh. The name ‘Peace Group’ also bears no relation to the so-called ‘Peace Villages’ in Toungoo District. Since 1997, the SPDC has been using the name ‘peace’ for everything, as an attempt to show that it is creating peace; hence ‘Peace Group’, ‘Peace Village’, ‘exchanging arms for peace’, and ‘State Peace and Development Council’.

"They don’t have any special power to represent the civilians. They can’t do it. They can only work for themselves. We see that they are doing business." - "Saw Ghaw" (M), KHRG field researcher (Interview #1, 8/00)

"They were welcomed in Leit Tho and guaranteed that there would be no more fighting in the villages and that the villagers would be able to work freely for their living. In reality, portering and ‘loh ah pay’ still occur continuously in the Than Daung and Leit Tho areas." - field report from KHRG field researcher (FR#1, 8/00)

"There were only 8 soldiers, so the SPDC made over 200 villagers wear soldier uniforms and a celebration was held in Taw Oo town’s football field." - field report from KHRG field researcher (FR #1, 8/00)

Although the northern part of the district around Leit Tho was lost to them when Kyaw Pwa surrendered in October 1999, the KNLA is still very active in the rest of the district ambushing SPDC columns and attacking small outposts. The mountains and forests of most of Toungoo District make ideal terrain for guerrilla warfare and the KNLA is able to contest much of the district with small numbers of soldiers. They have been able to mount ambushes around the big SPDC bases at Kler Lah and Than Daung Gyi as well as along the car roads. In May 2000 the KNLA was able to penetrate Than Daung Gyi and blow up part of the road there. The SPDC response to these attacks is increased repression of the civilian population. In retaliation for the Than Daung Gyi attack the town section heads were beaten and tortured, and all the villages in the surrounding area were threatened that their villages would be burned down if there was any sound of gunshots or if a landmine exploded. Whenever SPDC troops are attacked or step on landmines and suffer casualties, they often retaliate against the nearest village. Village elders are arrested, cash compensation is demanded, villagers are executed, and sometimes the villages are burned. The KNLA is a guerrilla army, so most of its soldiers have family in the villages of the area. In early 2000, two KNLA officers were forced to surrender after heavy pressure was put on their families in Kler Lah. In the Nyein Chan Yay villages, the village elders can still be arrested and tortured and large cash payments are demanded. Sometimes guns or walkie-talkies are demanded. The villagers are often threatened with having their homes burned or being killed if anything should happen to the soldiers. Villagers have on occasion been rounded up and forced to walk between the soldiers in the hope that the KNLA won’t ambush them if they see the civilians.

"On 2/5/2000 at 12:00, KNLA troops entered Than Daung [Gyi] town and detonated a bomb which destroyed more than half of the car road. Immediately after the explosion, a unit of the SPDC in Than Daung town shelled the area around Than Daung with their big guns and Naw M---- [a woman] was injured." - field report from KHRG field researcher and KNU intelligence (FR, 1/00-8/00)

"If the resistance people go to plant landmines or shoot at them near the village, the soldiers [SPDC] will shoot at the villagers. The commander told me he would shoot and burn the houses." - "Saw Tha Muh Htoo" (M, 45), headman from xxxx village (Interview #4, 10/99)

"After the battle ended, they wanted to send their soldiers back because many of them were injured and a commander with 3 stars [a Captain] had serious injuries. They wanted to send him to Than Daung, but they dared not because they were worried that the KNLA would ambush them again on the way, so they called all the villagers and children from that village. There were about 60 or 70 people. When the people [KNU] collected the register, there were about 62 women. They forced all the villagers to go between the soldiers, one or two between each soldier." - "Saw Ghaw" (M), KHRG field researcher (Interview #1, 8/00)

Landmines are becoming an increasingly serious problem throughout Burma and Toungoo District is no exception. Both sides lay landmines, and it is often the villagers who are the victims. Many villagers have been maimed or killed after stepping on them while walking on trails or working in their fields. SPDC military units sometimes leave them in the fields or near the houses in villages that they have ordered to relocate, or in villages where the villagers have run away. This is to keep the villagers from returning to their villages or to work in their fields. Villagers taken as porters are often forced to walk in front of the soldiers as human minesweepers. This happens regularly along the Kler Lah-Bu Sah Kee car road. According to the KNU, in the beginning of June the SPDC’s Southern Regional Commander, Major General Tin Aye, ordered his units in Than Daung and Tantabin townships to lay more landmines. The order originated at Army Headquarters, Rangoon. Other reports indicate that more landmines have been laid in June 2000. When the road building was temporarily halted at the beginning of the rainy season on the Mawchi road, many landmines were left in the Sho Ser area where the SPDC had not yet built a camp to secure the area.

"When we were travelling in the jungle, they planted landmines. Right now they are planting landmines and our children are being hurt by the landmines. The buffaloes are being hurt by the landmines." - "Saw Ner Muh" (M, xx), internally displaced villager from xxxx village (Interview #8, 11/99)

"They planted landmines near the army camps and close to the villages, in the jungle. They plant them around the hills in the places which they want to defend. They also plant them near the villages and on the paths that the villagers travel on and can’t avoid. Sometimes when the villagers are travelling they step on them and die." - "Saw Ghaw" (M), KHRG field researcher (Interview #1, 8/00)

 Nyein Chan Yay Villages and Relocation Sites

 

"We are suffering from many kinds of problems. The people who have some belongings are better off, but the people who have nothing are in bad shape. As I see it, there is no comfort in our houses and we have only a little bit of time to sleep and eat. We can’t live like this… I am sure the villagers are not happy, they cannot earn a living easily and they are poor." - "Saw Eh Doh" (M, 45), Kler Lah relocation site (Interview #7, 11/99)

 

The decades old policy of attacking the armed opposition groups through their civilian populations has been in effect in Toungoo District for some time now. The villages in the hills within reach of Army bases have long been subject to heavy demands for forced labour and extortion by the military. If the demands are not met, the village elders can be arrested and executed and the villagers’ homes burned. In order to deny support to the resistance, villages have been relocated to bigger villages which lie along the car road or adjacent to Army camps. The houses of the villagers are then burned and their crops destroyed. This happened in the Kler Lah area in 1991, 1997 and 1998, in the Klaw Mi Der area in 1991, 1996 and 1997, and in the Yay Shan area in 1992 and 1993. After years of enduring these conditions, it was in the hope of curbing some of the abuses that the elders of some villages came to an informal understanding with the military. These villagers have given promises to cut off all contact with opposition groups, to report on all movements and activities of the resistance forces, and to fully and completely comply with any demands or orders from the SPDC Army. In return, the military has given assurances that the villagers will not be arrested, tortured or executed, their villages will not be forced to move, and their homes will not be burned. The villages which have agreed to this arrangement have been dubbed ‘Nyein Chan Yay’ (‘Peace’) villages by the SPDC commanders. This scheme appears to have started with Kler Lah and the villages along the Toungoo-Kler Lah car road, but has now expanded to include villages south of the car road near Klaw Mi Der Army camp and west of the Day Loh River near Than Daung Gyi. These villages include Kheh Der, Mwee Loh, Swa Loh, Meh Pyaw Der, Klaw Mi Der, Hu Mu Der, Plaw Baw Der, Ler Kla Der and Play Hsa Loh. The Nyein Chan Yay villages of Kler Lah and Kaw Thay Der include large numbers of forcibly relocated villagers. The villages around Klaw Mi Der, while less tightly controlled, must still comply with all the military’s demands.

 

"I live in a ‘Nyein Chan Yay’ area. There are 6 villages in this area. The Burmese called the other villages to join ‘Nyein Chan Yay’ but the villagers didn’t come." - "Saw Ghay Po" (M, 45), village headman from xxxx village (Interview #3, 10/99)

 

"They don’t burn the houses in the Nyein Chan Yay area, but they do burn the villages outside [the ‘Ywa Bone’ villages]. Recently, in August, #59 [IB] burned down 5 houses from Ko Lu village." - "Saw Wah" (M), KHRG field researcher (Interview #2, 12/99)

 

Forcible village relocations can and still do occur, from outlying villages and even on occasion from Nyein Chan Yay villages. In mid-2000 the villages around Leit Tho, in northern Than Daung township, were forcibly relocated to Leit Tho village. Many stayed there for only a short time before fleeing into the forest. In early April 2000, two SPDC soldiers deserted with their weapons near Swa Loh village, Tantabin township. Although they never reached Swa Loh village and were later recaptured and executed, their weapons were never found. The SPDC Army’s response was to punish the villagers, so all of the villages in the Swa Loh area were relocated to Ta See Kwee Milah (‘19-Mile’) along the Toungoo-Kler Lah car road, and their villages were burned down. This is in spite of the fact that Swa Loh was previously considered a Nyein Chan Yay village. Another Nyein Chan Yay village in the south of the district received the order document below in July 2000. When the village still hadn’t moved 4 weeks later, the local military commander threatened to shoot the village head (see Order #2 in the Orders Appendix).

 

                 Stamp:
Frontline #xx Infantry Battalion

To:     Chairperson U xxxx                                                Date: 21-7-2000
          xxxx village

The higher authorities have ordered that your village be relocated. Important. Bring the family list of the village and report to yyyy [camp] as soon as you receive this letter, you are informed.

                                                                               [Sd.] 21-7-2000
                                                                            Column Commander

[This order was also published as Order #1 in "SPDC & DKBA Orders to Villages: Set 2000-B" (KHRG #2000-04, 12/10/00).]

"Although they had caught the two SPDC deserters at xxxx, the Ta Pa Ka [Southern Regional Command] ordered all of the columns from IB #39, 53, 73, and 92 to find the guns of the two deserters. To get the guns they arrested, tortured and beat all of the male or female or children villagers that they saw. On 11/4/2000, they beat and tortured a lot of Swa Loh villagers including men, women, children and old people. Then they drove all the villagers they could capture together into the church and tortured them in many ways and killed some of them. They demanded the villagers look for the guns until they found them, and said that if they could not find them, the soldiers would torture and kill more villagers and burn down the whole village. The villagers knew nothing about the 3 guns that the deserters carried with them because the deserters had already gone to the place where Company #1 [KNLA] was. The villagers were still tortured in many ways and as ordered from above, they burned down all of the houses and belongings in Swa Loh village. … Then they drove all of the Swa Loh villagers to 19-Mile, on the car road. There were 35 families in Swa Loh, 89 males and 73 females including children for a total of 162 people. They did not have clothing, food or houses [at the new place]. They had to build all of their houses and shelters themselves. While they were moving they could not carry their food with them and the SPDC did not provide them with any food, so they had to face a very difficult problem about food. … The columns destroyed and burned the Swa Loh villagers’ betelnut crops and banana crops. As per their orders from higher up, they had to torture the villagers until they got back their guns." - field report from KHRG field researcher and KNU intelligence (FR, 1/00-8/00)

In 1998 the villages of Maw Ko Der, Peh Kaw Der, Der Doh, Naw Thay Der, Klay Soe Kee, Thay Kaw Der and Ku Pler Der were forcibly relocated to Kler Lah and not allowed to return home. These villages each now occupy their own ground around the perimeter of Kler Lah village and keep their own headmen, but are often referred to by the SPDC simply as sections of Kler Lah village, and both the original inhabitants and the relocated villagers are now considered as Nyein Chan Yay villagers. Relocated villagers are looked on by the military as a convenient pool of forced labour, and these relocations have turned Kler Lah and Kaw Thay Der into large forced labour camps. Villagers there are taken daily to carry supplies to the Army camps along the Kler Lah-Bu Sah Kee and Kler Lah-Mawchi car roads, and to work on these car roads in the dry season. A new dam project which has begun on the Day Loh River near Pa Leh Wah will probably result in the forcible relocation of more villages in the area. There are already reports that forced labour is being used on the project.

"They forced the villagers to move to the relocation site many times. They forced them to relocate one time in 1991. Then they forced them again in 1997, but the villagers went to stay there for only a short time. They went for a month and then they were allowed to go back and stay in their own villages. In 1998 they were forced to stay until now. The soldiers haven’t allowed them to come back. … Recently, they made many relocations in the Leit Tho area, but it didn’t work. The villagers went to stay for a while, but then they ran back and disappeared, so I can’t tell you which villages." - "Saw Ghaw" (M), KHRG field researcher (Interview #1, 8/00)

"I have come to stay in Kler Lah. The government tormented us and forced us to come stay here. They are keeping us like a group of insects. They don’t understand the difficulties we have in coming to stay in this village. They don’t take care of us or see whether we are getting food or not, the only thing they understand is that we must stay here. Some people are getting seriously sick. They are suffering from many different things." - "Pu Htaw Say" (M, 52), Kler Lah relocation site (Interview #15, 11/99)

Contrary to the informal agreement, the Nyein Chan Yay villages are still threatened with forced relocation or violence. They have been told that any contact with the resistance forces or skirmishes near their villages will result in the villages being burned and the villagers killed. This was borne out when Swa Loh village was relocated in mid-April, a move that was accompanied by the torture of villagers and imprisonment of the headman and his family (see above). In their day to day dealings with the military, the village headmen are regularly abused when demands for forced labourers, money, food and materials are not met quickly enough. In the Nyein Chan Yay villages, the Army deals through the village headmen and focuses all punishment on the headmen, knowing that if the entire population is abused then they may flee the village en masse. The end result is that the headmen have no choice but to press the villagers to respond to the SPDC demands, even when the villagers do not have the means to do so. The headmen must distribute the burden between the families of the village and the villagers try to comply in order to save their headmen and their village, but quarrels sometimes break out over how to share the burden of all the demands. People try to stay in the village, but in the end many see no option but to flee. At the end of 1999, the headman from Peh Kaw Der village, which is a part of the Kler Lah relocation site, committed suicide due to the pressure put on him to meet the continuous demands for forced labour, money, food, and porters. Order #12 in the Orders Appendix is a typical example of demands which village heads receive on a regular basis, while Order #3 shows the type of heavy-handed threats used to pressure the village head to comply.

"The soldiers arrest the village headmen and demand things only from them, because they are worried that the news would spread everywhere [that they are abusing the villagers]. That is why they do not do it to the villagers. They only put the village headman under duress." - "Saw Ghay Po" (M., 45), village headman from xxxx village (Interview #3, 10/99)

"As soon as you receive this letter, Chairperson yourself must come to yyyy Army Camp. If not, [we] will fire a big weapon into the village." - text of Order #3 (Orders Appendix)

"As for crossing our ricefield and destroying many seedlings, if this matter occurs again I will take action on you. I will shoot your group…" - text from Order #12 (Orders Appendix)

"They had gone to where their enemies were staying in the ‘Nyein Chan Yay’ and the ‘Ywa Bone’ areas and a battle occurred, that is why they found fault with me [no one had told them the KNLA was nearby]. I don’t know if anyone was injured, but they said no one was. If someone had been injured, they would have killed all the people from the ‘Nyein Chan Yay’ village." - "Saw Ghay Po" (M, 45), village headman from xxxx village (Interview #3, 10/99)

The SPDC officers have said that they have come to ‘organise’ the villagers, but no real organising has taken place. No organisations have been set up in the villages to foster political, social or economic cooperation with the SPDC. While Nyein Chan Yay status conferred on a village does provide for a measure of stability, it is an informal arrangement and is not official SPDC policy, so many of the abuses still continue. In the beginning,Nyein Chan Yay status implied an informal agreement between the village elders and the military, but now it is more common for SPDC Army officers to simply decree that a village is Nyein Chan Yay and that elders and the village as a whole will be punished for any contact with the resistance, and the elders have little choice but to sit there and agree if they do not want to be arrested. Some villages are simply told that they are Nyein Chan Yay villages, without an agreement of any kind being discussed. The SPDC officers have told the villagers that one of their aims is to keep the villagers in the villages, but this is at odds with the system of forced labour, extortion, and material demands which are impoverishing the villagers to the point where they are considering fleeing.

"They want the villagers to stay. They didn’t say they would unite the villagers or destroy the KNU or fight the bad people. They said they would come to visit us." - "Saw Ghay Po" (M, 45), village headman from xxxx village (Inteview #3, 10/99)

"They said they must come to organise the villagers. The second thing they had come to do is to exchange the weapons for peace. They must call the outside people [the KNU/KNLA] back to work together with them. If the soldiers are unable to call them, then no one can contact the outside people." - "Tha Muh Htoo" (M, 45), village headman from xxxx village (Interview #4, 10/99)

Many of the villagers relocated to Kler Lah in recent years have already fled back to their villages due to the heavy demands for forced labour and extortion money imposed on them in Kler Lah. They must work at daily labour to get enough money to pay the fees, while still trying to find time to work a field so they will have enough rice to eat after harvest time. Travel outside the village is heavily restricted, villagers need passes to go anywhere and these often force them to be back by sunset, or at best within a few days. The villagers growing cash crops have seen their plantations looted and their produce sold for the soldiers’ profit. This is compounded by the rising prices of rice and commodities. Inflation has caused the prices of goods throughout Burma to rise, but in Toungoo District it is particularly bad because of the extortion ‘fees’ which traders must pay to every one of the many Army checkpoints on the road up from Toungoo to Kler Lah and beyond. Facing all of these problems, many of the relocated villagers felt that they could plant bigger plots if they stayed in hiding in the forest, and that they would be able to spend more time working in their fields without all the forced labour and movement restrictions they face in a Nyein Chan Yay village. Fear of forced labour on the roads to Mawchi and Bu Sah Kee is also a major factor in the decision to flee for many villagers.

People from other Nyein Chan Yay villages apart from Kler Lah are also considering fleeing into the forests to escape the regular shifts of forced labour as porters and the constant demands for porter fees, extortion money, food and materials from the SPDC battalions. The decision to flee to the forests is not one to be taken lightly. Once in the forests the villagers join the ‘Ywa Bone’ (‘Hiding Villages’), and SPDC troops are under standing orders to shoot them on sight and destroy their crops. Many have been killed, but this has not stopped a continuing exodus from the Nyein Chan Yay villages. A small minority of these people continue fleeing all the way to Thailand, but this is not an option for most because it involves weeks of travel without food through the free-fire zones of Papun District, where villagers are also being shot on sight, followed by the probability of being forced right back across the border at gunpoint by Thai troops.

"For most people there is not enough food because the price is now 6,000 Kyat for one sack. There are three big tins in one sack of rice [50 kg / 110.23 lb]. At xxxx [village] it is very bad. Some villagers have enough and some do not." - "Saw Wah" (M), KHRG field researcher (Interview #2, 12/99)

 

"The villagers don’t want to help, because they don’t want to stay in the village anymore. They must give money to the Burmese but they can’t give anymore. Each year they must pay nearly 1,000,000 Kyat. They want to flee also but they have no way to flee. They hope we will all have to flee together to a ‘Ywa Bone’ village. For this reason it is a big problem for the village headman; the villagers can’t give money anymore, and they want to flee, so they are not listening to me. … The soldiers know that because the villagers are not united, the village headmen can’t work properly. All of the headmen are not happy with their work, but we have our belongings and children so we have to work, but with a heavy heart." - "Saw Ghay Po" (M, 45), village headman from xxxx village (Interview #3, 10/99)

Ywa Bone Villages

"The people who are fleeing, the IDP’s, in our area number over 10,000. There are many villagers. From the east of the Day Loh and to the east of the Klay Loh [rivers] in Than Daung township, there were 30 or 31 IDP villages [villages which everyone has fled to become internally displaced]. There were about 4,000 or 5,000 people. There are also about 4,000 or 5,000 people in the Taw Ta Tu township area. There are 26 or 29 villages, nearly 30, IDP villages in the Taw Ta Tu area. We counted them exactly." - "Saw Ghaw" (M), KHRG field researcher (Interview #1, 8/00)

The villages in large areas of Toungoo District have been abandoned and their inhabitants have become internally displaced. In Than Daung township, the villagers north of the Kler Lah-Mawchi car road in the area east of the Day Loh River are all living in the forest; the villages north of Kler Lah as far as the Day Loh River were all originally relocated to Kler Lah, but many of them have fled back to their villages and are now living in the forest; and the villagers in northern Than Daung township who were relocated to Leit Tho have also fled back to their villages to live in the forest. Together, these areas comprise over half of Than Daung township. In Tantabin township, all of the villagers between the Kler Lah-Mawchi and Kler Lah-Bu Sah Kee car roads and many of the villages on both sides of the Yaw Loh River are displaced and living in the forest. The villages along the route of the new road construction project from Bu Sah Kee to Ma La Daw appear to still be staying in their villages and facing the soldiers, but increased portering, forced labour, and extortion payments will probably result in these villagers also fleeing into the forest. There is also an area of displaced villagers near Swa Loh village and the Day Loh River, however the SPDC battalions in the area are actively cleaning them out. In the hills which make up most of Toungoo District, any village which is not designated a ‘Nyein Chan Yay’ (‘Peace’) village is classified by the SPDC as a ‘Ywa Bone’ (‘Hiding’) village, and there are standing orders to destroy all such villages, the villagers who inhabit them, and their food supplies.

"The Ywa Bone [hiding] villages are up in the mountains. There are over 10 or 20 Ywa Bone villages. The Ywa Bone villages are Ko Lu, Saw Tay Der, Saw Mu Der, Pway Baw Der, Si Daw Koh, Bu Sah Kee, Ta Kwee Soe, Plaw Mu Der, Si Kheh Der, Khaw Toh Htoe, May Daw Ko, Per Loh, Naw Thay Der, Maw Thay Der, Hu Ler Der, Hsaw Wah Der, Pa Htoe Der, Thay Ko Der, Kho Kee, Hee Daw Khaw, Sho Ser, Wah Soe, Tha Aye Kee, Bu Kee and Klay Kee. They are all ‘Ywa Bone’ villages and do not face the Burmese." - listing just some of the Ywa Bone villages in Tantabin township; "Saw Wah" (M), KHRG field researcher (Interview #2, 12/99)

"There were 6 houses in Ko Lu village and they burned them all. I saw them burn three houses with my own eyes. They burned Pa D----’s house, P----’s house, and M----’s house." - "Saw San Htay" (M, 39), xxxx village (Interview #9, 10/99)

The villages in the triangle between the Kler Lah-Mawchi and Kler Lah-Bu Sah Kee car roads are in an especially difficult situation. Most of the villages near the Kler Lah-Bu Sah Kee car road have been displaced since the project began in 1995. Now with the ongoing rebuilding of the Kler Lah-Mawchi car road, these villagers are sandwiched between the camps along the two roads. The villagers in Hsaw Wah Der, Ha Toh Per, Kho Kee, Hee Daw Khaw, Thay Ghee Lah, Sho Ser and Wah Soe have not been able to plant crops in the year 2000 because of the close proximity of the new Army camps. Hsaw Wah Der and Ha Toh Per are only 30 minutes’ walk from the nearest Army camp. This has caused a food shortage among these villagers.

"The villagers have had to run as displaced people for many years already so it is very difficult for them to work. They don’t have enough rice and paddy and some of them are faced with starvation. The place where they live is between the SPDC army’s camps so it is difficult for them to travel. The SPDC have also planted a lot of landmines everywhere, so they don’t dare to travel very far." - field report from KHRG field researcher (FR #1, 8/00)

"When we went to Bu Sah Kee and Kheh Der, the soldiers were cutting the villagers’ betelnut trees. They were destroying the people’s things. When the soldiers saw us they didn’t question us about anything, they saw us and shot at us. If they had seen us and asked us, ‘Where is your village?’, we would have said, ‘We are civilians’, however, they saw us and shot at us. It is senseless." - "Saw Nay Kaw" (M, xx), xxxx village (Interview #5, 11/99)

The villagers in the forest live in small groups of one to seven families. Smaller numbers of people in one place means it is easier for them to hide when SPDC troops come near. Villagers are shot on sight if they are seen by the soldiers, so the villagers run whenever Burmese patrols come near. The SPDC’s campaign against the villagers in the area began in earnest in the dry season of 1997 when the SPDC units were ordered to burn the villages east of the Day Loh River and north of the Kler Lah-Bu Sah Kee car road. Having done that, the battalions were ordered in 1998 to destroy the fields. This was to deny the villagers still hiding near their villages any means of growing food. The soldiers continued to destroy the fields in 1999, and they were assisted by early rains in April (before the fields have been properly prepared for planting) which did not stop until November, and strong winds which then blew down and destroyed much of the paddy when it grew tall. The result has been a desperate shortage of rice over the past year. In 2000 the SPDC troops have used a new tactic, burning off the fields early before all the cut brush and trees have properly dried. In the Karen system of rotating hill fields, the scrub and trees which have grown since the field was last used are cut in January/February and are then left for 2 or 3 months to dry before burning; this ensures that the fields burn off evenly and the whole field can be used, and the new ash also provides protection for the seeds which are planted with the first rains. By searching out fields which the villagers have cut and burning them early, the soldiers have prevented the villagers from being able to properly burn off their whole fields, and have thereby ensured that there will be a bad harvest in 2000 and continued hunger in 2001. According to the KNU, orders have been given to the units in Tantabin township to find the hill fields and huts and burn them all as well as to plant landmines in the hill fields and shoot dead any villagers they see. The military wants to force the villagers to come down out of the mountains to the relocation sites in order to deny the KNU a support base, while also bringing the civilians under direct control and making them available for forced labour. However, most of the villagers have already lived in the relocation sites or have heard about conditions there, so they are determined to hold out in the hills.

"This year I made a hill field, but I didn’t get any paddy. When the Burmese came and saw that we were harvesting the paddy, they came to watch and kill us. We dared not harvest the paddy. They shot to kill us, but we dared not complain." - "Saw Ner Muh" (M, xx), internally displaced villager from xxxx village (Interview #8)

"The price of paddy is getting higher and higher. One [50 kg.] sack of rice is 10,000 Kyat when you buy it here [in the hills]. The people dare not carry it and bring it here for you. When we go ourselves to buy it, one sack is 8,000 to 9,000 Kyat, but we dare not go to carry it. When we do go and the soldiers see us, they arrest us." - "Saw Ner Muh" (M, xx), internally displaced villager from xxxxvillage (Interview #8)

Aid is occasionally brought in from Thailand to the internally displaced villagers, but as the area is so remote and there are so many people, the aid is never enough and the problems are only getting worse. Each aid trip from Thailand requires a month or more of difficult and extremely dangerous hiking through landmine-infested areas avoiding SPDC patrols, and can only bring in enough supplies for 2 months for a small number of people. Only the villagers to the east of the Day Loh and Klay Loh Rivers can be reached with such aid.

There is no other place for the villagers to run to. In the other districts to the south there is the possibility of fleeing to Thailand, but the distance is just too far from Toungoo District and there are too many soldiers along the way. If the villagers flee westward to bigger villages or the plains they are at high risk of being caught along the way, and even if they make it they face arrest if the authorities find out they are from the hills [as an example,Order #4 was issued after the SPDC caught a Ywa Bone villager in a Nyein Chan Yay village]. Some villagers who have fled to Toungoo town found that their relatives could not feed or protect them there, so they eventually fled back up into the mountains. As of July 2000 the number of internally displaced people (IDPs) in the district was estimated by a KHRG researcher at over 10,000. The researcher reported that in Than Daung township, from the Day Loh River to the Klay Loh River, there were more than 30 villages now abandoned with 4-5,000 villagers becoming IDPs, and in Tantabin township, there were nearly 30 such villages with another 4-5,000 villagers displaced. These are only the villagers that could be reached and counted. The villagers in the Leit Tho and Swa Loh areas, as well as those from relocation sites west of the Day Loh River and along the Toungoo-Kler Lah car road who have fled back to the area around their villages, were not counted and would add substantially to these figures.

"It is not easy to get support for that number of people. To bring support one time, they can take only enough emergency supplies for two months, but the area is wide and the people are so many that we can only give it one time in one small place. Many places remain without support and that is why the situation is so terrible and they need support. When we look at the support, it is getting smaller and smaller so the villagers’ problems are becoming more serious. When the villagers do get support, it is very helpful for them, but they need more." - "Saw Ghaw" (M), KHRG field researcher (Interview #1, 8/00)

Killings, Arrests and Torture

"They killed one man. He was single. They arrested him in a hill field and said he was a Tha Bone [rebel]. Nobody went to guarantee him. They arrested him in the morning and killed him in the afternoon." - "Saw Thaw Thi Wah" (M, 48), Kler Lah relocation site (Interview #13, 11/99)

In the Nyein Chan Yay villages the villagers are not supposed to be arrested or tortured, but they are, and the village leaders in particular are regularly abused by the authorities. Much of the abuse stems from lateness or failure to meet the military’s demands. The late payment of porter fees or inability to provide requested food often result in the headman being summoned by the authorities, berated by them and then beaten. Failure to report the movements of the opposition forces can result in much harsher treatment. The abuse is usually confined to the village headman or other village elders in an attempt to keep the news of the abuses from spreading. Following the KNLA sabotage attack in Than Daung Gyi (see above under ‘The Military Situation’), all of the village heads were called to a meeting and then beaten.

"One time, #xx [IB] tortured me. They punched me hard and deliberately and demanded things. They did this to me because I was having difficulty getting things from the villagers. They would have killed me if I couldn’t get anything from the villagers. The soldiers said, ‘They are your villagers. If you can’t control them, hand them over to me. I will come myself and control them.’" - "Saw Ghay Po" (M, 45), village headman from xxxx village (Interview #3, 10/99)

"They kicked me two times and punched my face. I don’t know the person who punched me or his battalion number. They questioned me about whether I had seen the KNLA soldiers or not. They tied my hands behind my back and kicked me two times in my back." - "Saw Nya Thu" (M, 25), xxxx village (Interview #10, 10/99)

"The soldiers asked him if the headman had sent information to the Karen [KNU]. The secretary was afraid and told them the headman had sent information and that the Karen had come to my house. Then they cut the hand of my secretary. They cut one inch of skin off of his left hand and knocked three of his teeth out. They didn’t torture any other villagers, only the secretary. His hand is better now." - "Saw Ghay Po" (M, 45), village headman from xxxx village (Interview #3, 10/99)

Villagers are often accused of contacting and helping the KNU and then arrested and beaten. The other villagers are then made to pay large sums of money for their release. Sometimes the arrested villager is not even from the village where the money is being demanded. Often this is just another way of extorting money from the villagers, and the grounds for the arrest are trivial if not completely trumped up. This usually happens when the villagers arrested are from a Ywa Bone village or are Nyein Chan Yay villagers caught outside their village without a pass. If the soldiers really believe a villager is KNU or has helped the KNU, the villager is usually tortured and then summarily executed; in these cases, when village heads or others try to intervene on the villager’s behalf or offer the usual money, they are brushed off and told to go home. This is especially so in the case of the Sa Thon Lon Guerrilla Retaliation units in Tantabin township (see above under ‘The Military Situation’), who are known to have executed villagers even for association with the resistance long in the past.

"They had accused him of going to find his cow and sending information to the resistance area. When they asked him if they were right, he said he had to answer with yes. They then demanded money. He gave them 10,000 Kyat. If the villager had contacted the KNLA, he would have been killed. If they didn’t kill him, they would have reported him to the higher authorities, and if they didn’t report it, they would have demanded money from him." - "Tha Muh Htoo" (M, 45), village headman from xxxx village (Interview #4, 10/99)

"The officers told the village headman to bribe them with money and we would be released. If the headman didn’t pay the bribe, they would kill us. He had to pay 163,000 Kyat for the 5 people. The village headman said it cost 100,000 Kyat for my nephew and I. If he hadn’t paid, they wouldn’t have released us. The operations commander from above ordered it and his lower officer made money out of it from the headman." - "Saw San Htay" (M, 39), xxxx village ( Interview #9, 10/99)

"[T]hey tortured 3 people. The soldiers said they had contacted outside people like the KNU. Deputy Company Commander xxxx had them tied up and guarded by the soldiers. They were beaten about 20 times each." - "Saw Lah Thaw" (M, 32), village headman from xxxx village (Interview #6, 10/99)

Sometimes villagers are also killed in retaliation for SPDC casualties caused by ambushes or landmines. Following the KNLA sabotage of the road in Than Daung Gyi in May 2000, an artillery unit in the town began shelling the countryside indiscriminately and wounded a woman from a nearby village. On another occasion in June, SPDC soldiers returning to Than Daung with their wounded shot and killed a female villager, Naw Kee Keh, from K’Thwee Dee village when they saw her in her field. Many villagers have also been killed by landmines and booby-traps. In June 2000, some villagers went back to retrieve some baskets they had left along a trail when they fled an SPDC patrol, and when they picked up one of the baskets a landmine booby-trap which had been placed under it exploded, killing villagers Saw Aye Kler and Saw Kri Lay immediately and wounding a woman who was with them.

"On June 28th a skirmish occurred in the K’Thwee Dee area when they were sending their soldiers to Than Daung Gyi. When they came back on the path, they met a village woman at K’Thwee Dee village. That village woman was working in her betelnut plantation. She was weeding the grass and cleaning. They shot her and it hit her body and then she was dead. Her name was Naw Kee Keh. She was over 40 years old. I don’t know if she had children or not, I only know her name. They were IB #55 and the name of their column commander was Tin Myo Kaing." - "Saw Ghaw" (M), KHRG field researcher (Interview #1, 8/00)

"On 10/6/2000 Ler Ker Der Koh villagers Saw Aye Kler, Saw Kri Lay and one woman saw soldiers from IB #20 on the path so they dropped their baskets and ran to hide themselves. When they saw that the Burmese soldiers had left, they came to get their baskets. The Burmese had planted a landmine under one of their baskets which exploded. Both Saw Aye Kler and Saw Kri Lay died right away and the woman was wounded." - field report from KHRG field researcher and KNU intelligence (FR, 1/00-8/00)

"On November 23rd [1999], they killed W---- from xxxx village. The people from outside [KNLA] had come and planted landmines in the area. When some of the Burmese were wounded by the landmines, they arrested W---- and accused him of contacting the rebels and planting the landmines … The soldiers interrogated them all, but they suspected W---- because he was a village elder. Then they killed him." - "Saw Wah" (M), KHRG field researcher (Interview #2, 12/99)

The displaced villagers living in the forest are routinely shot on sight by SPDC patrols. The areas where villages have been relocated, remote parts of the hills, and areas along and between the Kler Lah-Mawchi and Kler Lah-Bu Sah Kee car roads are ‘free-fire’ areas, meaning that any villager sighted can be shot with complete impunity. The villagers in hiding pass news about approaching SPDC columns along to the next group of villagers when they can, so usually the villagers are able to escape. Sometimes there is no warning and the villagers are still in their fields, their field huts, their villages or forest shelters when the soldiers arrive. The soldiers usually call out to the villagers and then open fire on them, usually without waiting for a response. The villagers never respond to the call as they know it will mean arrest and being taken along by the soldiers as frontline porters, sometimes for many months. Villagers caught along the paths, even when travelling to Kler Lah or other bigger villages to sell their crops, are often taken as porters, arrested and tortured, or executed and their belongings stolen.

"They arrested one of the ‘Ywa Bone’ villagers named Saw K----. He was from xxxx village. They tied him up, but they didn’t torture him. They asked him where the landmines and Karen soldiers were in this area. If the soldiers know that the Karen soldiers are nearby, they avoid them." - "Saw Ghay Po" (M, 45), village headman from xxxx village (Interview #3, 10/99)

"They hurt one man from xxxx village. His name is T----. They beat him too much. The Burmese tortured him again and again. They hit my nephew 3 or 4 times… His face didn’t swell, but T----’s did. They didn’t hurt the women or tie them up. They just tied the three men. … They punched me many times. I didn’t look at them when they did it. I was worried that if I looked at them they would beat me more. They asked me many questions at xxxx." - "Saw San Htay" (M, 39), xxxx village (Interview #9, 10/99)

"We are not soldiers, but when they see us they shoot to kill us. We don’t carry guns, but they shoot to kill us. When they shoot people and they don’t die [immediately], the soldiers cut off their ears and kill them. They kicked and slapped the faces [of some people]. Their feet were broken. The soldiers searched in their bags and when they saw money, they took it." - "Saw Ner Muh" (M, xx), internally displaced villager from xxxx village (Interview #8, 11/99)

Forced Labour On Road Projects

"They were forcing the villagers to build it. When they were building it the soldiers brought one bulldozer, but the villagers had to cut the brush and trees and do other things. They were forcing the villagers all the time. During the last hot season they even forced the village women to build the car road." – conditions on the Kler Lah-Mawchi road; "Saw Ghaw" (M), KHRG field researcher (Interview #1, 8/00)

The SPDC is presently expanding its road network in the district to support its increased military presence. The main road is the all-season dirt car road from Toungoo to Kler Lah, a distance of 37 miles (60 km). A second all-weather road turns off from this main road at the 7-Mile junction (7 miles/11 kilometres east of Toungoo), cuts across the top of the district and goes up to Loikaw, the capital of Karenni State. The third road branches off the Toungoo-Kler Lah road at 13-Mile (13 miles/20 kilometres from Toungoo), also known as Than Daung Myo Thit (New Thandaung), and goes up to Than Daung Gyi. During a high-level inspection tour of the Than Daung Gyi tourism resort project (see below under ‘Than Daung Gyi and Tourism’) in February 2000, Construction Minister General Saw Htun said arrangements had been made to improve the Than Daung Gyi-Than Daung Myo Thit car road. This would ostensibly be to handle the increased traffic that would result from the tourism project. As a part of this project another 5-6 kilometer road is being constructed from Than Daung Gyi to a hot spring at Ker Weh village using forced labour.

"They called a meeting, but there was no village head or security so most people didn’t go. I didn’t go either, but other people said the soldiers told them to build a road. The villagers from our village don’t have to go to build the road now. The soldiers forced the villages that have not relocated yet, Kler Lah, Kaw Soe Ko, Htaw Der, Ler Ghoh. The soldiers have been forcing them to work for the last 3 days, starting on the 9th [November 1999]. Today, they are still working." - the villagers had gone to work on the Kler Lah-Mawchi car road; "Saw Eh Doh" (M, 45), Kler Lah relocation site (Interview #7, 11/99)

"In Kler Lah they mostly have to do ‘loh ah pay’ for the car road. That car road is never good. It is destroyed often and they force the villagers to go and fill the holes in the road. To dig the earth and fill, dig the earth and fill. The government doesn’t repair anything." - "Saw Ghaw" (M), KHRG field researcher (Interview #1, 8/00)

Heading further east toward Kler Lah, a rough dirt road branches off at Pa Leh Wah and goes a short distance south to the SPDC Army’s Yay Dta Gone camp at Klaw Mi Der village. Though this rough track is not very passable to vehicles, villagers still receive orders to maintain the road surface and bridges on a regular basis. Going further east along the rough main road, just east of Kler Lah at Klay Soe Kee the road forks into a road heading southeast to Bu Sah Kee and the old colonial-era road eastward to Mawchi in Karenni (Kayah) State. The road to Bu Sah Kee was constructed between 1995 and 1998 in order to improve military access to the southeastern part of the district. It was built entirely with the forced labour of villagers in the area, and once completed SPDC Army camps were set up all along its winding length of at least 45 kilometres (28 miles). Although completed 2 years ago, it cannot be used in the rainy season. There are no bridges along its route and sections of it are washed away by the rains, so every dry season (November to May) the villagers are forced to rebuild the road. During the dry season, civilian vehicle owners from Kler Lah and Than Daung Gyi are forced to haul supplies to the camps along the road, and in rainy season the villagers are forced to haul the supplies on their backs from Kaw Thay Der. In the year 2000 another new road was begun from Bu Sah Kee that heads southwest to link up with a road already under construction which comes northeast from Ma La Daw, which is just south of Tantabin township in Nyaunglebin (Kler Lweh Htoo) District. Villages are presently receiving orders to do forced labour on this road as well. Although the straight-line distance is about 30 kilometres (19 miles), the road will be about 50 kilometres long or more due to the rough terrain it must pass through. There is reportedly yet another road being planned from Bu Sah Kee southeastward to Kay Pu village in Papun District. Most of the work on all of these roads has been and is being done by the forced labour of villagers.

Back at Klay Soe Kee, while one fork heads down to Bu Sah Kee, the other fork heads eastward toward Mawchi, which is 96 miles (150 km) east of Toungoo in southern Karenni (Kayah) State. In 1998 the SPDC began work rebuilding this old colonial-era road, and construction is also reportedly being done from the Mawchi end to connect. Mawchi is about 50 kilometers east of Klay Soe Kee, though the road will be 2 or 3 times that length because of the difficult terrain it passes through. Work began in 1998 and by the end of the dry season in June 2000 the road had reached Sho Ser village, almost at the Karenni State border. Previous attempts to rebuild the road failed due to lack of security, so the SPDC has stationed two full battalions, Infantry Battalions #232 and 53, along the road and have been establishing heavily fortified camps along its route. The villagers from the relocation site at Kler Lah have been forced to come and work on the road on a rotating basis, partly because all of the villages along the road route have already fled into the forest. The road is being dug with bulldozers, but the villagers have to clear the route and dig out big stones as well as carry rice for the soldiers. The villagers are given no salaries or food and have to sleep on the road since it is too far from Kler Lah to go back in the evening. The villagers have also been forced to give money to pay for ‘hiring the bulldozers’ to come to dig the road, though it is almost certain that the SPDC is providing the bulldozer and the local SPDC officers are simply pocketing this money. Civilian vehicle owners in Kler Lah and Than Daung Gyi are also being forced to haul construction supplies to the worksites on a rotating basis.

Although the villagers do not want to pay or do the labour, some of them see the completion of the road as a good thing because it would allow the SPDC to truck in their supplies rather than rely on porters, and thus lighten the burden of the villagers. The example of the Kler Lah-Bu Sah Kee car road, however, has shown that even after it is finished the villagers will still have to porter along it in the rainy season and repair it in the dry season, as well as accompany the trucks to load and off-load them. These trucks and their drivers have also been ordered to provide their services by the SPDC. In early 1999, the vehicle associations (groups of vehicle owners who act as a taxi service for people and goods along the major roads in the area) in Than Daung Gyi, Leit Tho and Kler Lah were ordered to assist in the Mawchi road construction by providing either one 2-ton truck or two pickup trucks on a rotating basis. They were threatened with having their driver’s licenses or vehicle permits taken away if they failed to comply, in effect robbing them of their livelihood. 

"They were forcing the villagers to build it. When they were building it the soldiers brought one bulldozer, but the villagers had to cut the brush and trees and do other things. They were forcing the villagers all the time. During the last hot season they even forced the village women to build the car road. … The villagers from Sho Ser and Wa Soe have never faced the SPDC soldiers, they are living in the jungle, so the villagers from Kler Lah village had to come and work in the Sho Ser area. It is very far, a one or two day walk. They couldn’t come back, they had to sleep in the jungle. The villagers who came and built the car road have to stay on the car road and sleep on the car road. They worked on it for one or two months until the rainy season started." - "Saw Ghaw" (M), KHRG field researcher (Interview #1, 8/00)

"If there is a car road, it would be easier for us, however, we have to buy the car road. They divide the expenses among the villages to get a bulldozer. They came and collected the money from Kaw Thay Der and Kler Lah, then gave the money to the bulldozer owners to come and dig the road. It is better when people go to do ‘loh ah pay’ than when the soldiers demand money. … When we can’t pay, they say many things like, ‘When you can’t pay you must sell your things.’" - "Saw Nay Kaw" (M, xx), xxxx village (Interview #5, 11/99)

In February of 2000 a new road was begun from Bu Sah Kee southwestward to Tha Pyay Nyunt Army camp in the south of Tantabin township near the border with Nyaunglebin (Kler Lweh Htoo) District. The road will connect with another road already being constructed coming up from Ma La Daw. Villagers have been ordered to stand guard over the road building equipment and carry supplies for the soldiers. They have had to bring their own food. This road will connect the two districts and may become a barrier to the movement of refugees from Tantabin township toward Papun District and the Thai border. The following is a translation of an order demanding forced labourers to work on the Bu Sah Kee-Ma La Daw road. [This order was also published as Order #34 in "SPDC & DKBA Orders to Villages: Set 2000-B" (KHRG #2000-04, 12/10/00)]

 

          Stamp:
#xx [IB], Company x                                                              7/3/2000

    Date: 7/3/2000                         To: [blank]
      xxxx [camp]

Subject:     Calling for loh ah pay

Regarding the above subject, Gentleman’s village must send 4 people to build on Ka Na Soe Bin road construction, come to xxxx Camp on 10/3/2000 at 10 o’clock in the morning with 3 days of supplies and mattocks and machetes. Be informed that if [you] fail, it will be the Gentleman’s responsibility.

                                                                                 [Sd.]
                                                                  (for) Camp Commander

                                                                             xxxx Camp

[Mattocks are large hoes used for digging. On the back this order is marked "Urgent" and "Send this quickly". The stamp has a blank unit number which the officer has written in by hand.]

In Than Daung township, a new road is also being built from Than Daung Gyi to the village of Ker Weh. While this road will be for military access, it will also be used to get to the hot spring at Ker Weh which is to be a part of the new tourism project at Than Daung Gyi. There is also a plan to build a car road from Kler Lah to Than Daung Gyi. There is an old car road there already which was built during the 1950’s, but it has fallen into disrepair and is unusable. If this project is carried out, it will mean more forced labour for the villagers in Kler Lah and the Than Daung area.

Even the villages on the main car road between Toungoo and Kler Lah are not exempt from the road work, as the car road needs constant maintenance, bridges need to be repaired, and the SPDC orders killing fields cut clear along both sides of the road. The following is a translation of an order demanding unpaid labour to repair the Pa Leh Wah-Kler Lah car road. [This order was also published as Order #120 in "SPDC & DKBA Orders to Villages: Set 2000-A" (KHRG #2000-01, 29/2/00)]:


                 Stamp: 
         xxxx Village Tract
Peace & Development Council               To:
     Than Daung Township                            Chairperson / Secretary

The condition of the Pa Leh Wah - Baw Ga Li Gyi [Kler Lah] vehicle road is no good at all. Therefore, as a show of public strength, one person per house with mattock [large hoe], machete and food for 3 days must come without fail from Gentleman’s [your] village to the Ya Ya Ka[VPDC] office tomorrow at 6:30 a.m.

                                                                     [Sd.] 
                                                                Chairperson
                                         Village Tract Peace & Development Council 
                                           xxxx Village Tract, Than Daung Township

 

"We have to go to weed the road and pick the cardamom. We have to cut the weeds beside the road in a very wide space. We have to do this for two weeks each time. They don’t give us any money or food, we have to bring our own. They don’t support us with anything. They take from us. They are forcing us to do their work." - "Naw Chit Chit" (F, 17), Kler Lah relocation site (Interview #16, 11/99)

"They called the headmen from 6 villages to go to a meeting and told us 10 villagers from each village must go to build a bridge at xxxx. I told them the villagers [from his village] do not have the time to go. The soldiers didn’t say anything to me, but the other villages each sent 10 villagers." - "Saw Ghay Po" (M, 45), village headman from xxxx village (Interview #3, 10/99)

Adding to and compounding the problems created by all of the road projects, a new dam is to be built on the Day Loh River at Pa Leh Wah. The planning was reportedly done earlier this year by three Japanese engineers, and a lot of villagers have already been demanded to work on the project.

Porters, ‘Servants’ and Porter Fees

"We have to go [to porter] to Bu Sah Kee and Kwih Soe. Only the women go, because when the men go, the soldiers keep them for a week or a whole month. As I am talking now, 10 or 20 villagers have gone. They haven’t come back yet and it has already been over two weeks. Some have small babies and they are crying. … They force us to carry salt, fish paste, and rice. Right now the people have gone to carry beans and cooking oil. … The Burmese don’t dare to go alone, so they call the women and force them to go in front. We see that it is very terrible for the women sometimes, but we can’t do anything." - "Saw Nay Kaw" (M, xx), xxxx village (Interview #5, 11/99)

A complex system of porters and ‘porter fees’ has developed in Toungoo District. Some of the ‘fees’ which the villagers have to pay are called ‘porter fees’ when in fact they are just extortion payments and have nothing to do with porters. All the money is taken by the military officers with very little given to the private soldiers. The headman usually arranges for the villagers to pool their money to pay the fees, but many times the headman and the more prosperous villagers have to cover for the poorer ones. This is not always well received by the villagers, especially the more well-off ones, who after years of paying these fees would like everyone to pay the same.

"We have had to go as porters and pay porter fees. They demand the porters directly from us when the column comes to the village. The soldiers haven’t come to xxxx village yet, but they wrote me a letter ordering me to arrange porter fees. They said that if we don’t go as porters, we would have to pay money. They want 1,000 Kyat per day. We have to give it, but not everyone can, so we have to borrow money from each other." - "Saw Lah Thaw" (M, 32), village headman from xxxx village (Interview #6, 10/99)

"We must understand the villagers who cannot give and help each other. There are big villagers and small villagers here. The big villagers have to pay big and help the small villagers who can’t give, so the villagers are not satisfied with each other and look unfavourably on the village headman. The villagers don’t want it like this, they said we all must pay the same. It is a problem for the village head." - "Saw Ghay Po" (M, 45), village headman from xxxx village (Interview #3, 10/99)

In Kler Lah village tract (which includes Kler Lah and the surrounding 7 or 8 smaller villages; known as Baw Ga Li Gyi in Burmese) there is another form of ‘porter fees’ which are paid to the village tract authorities to hire people to go for portering and other forced labour in place of the villagers demanded by the Army. Each month, all of the local Army units give demands to the Kler Lah Village Tract Peace and Development Council specifying how many ‘permanent porters’ they want, meaning villagers to do rotating multi-day shifts of portering and forced labour based at the Army camp. The village tract authorities are then supposed to recruit this forced labour from the villages. However, knowing that the villagers don’t want to go for the forced labour and will be slow to comply, the village tract Peace and Development Council (PDC) avoids being punished by paying labour agents in Toungoo to provide people to fill the demands, and then sends out orders to the villages in the tract to pay for their share of the cost. No one asks how the labour agents obtain these people; some of them may be itinerant labourers hired for the purpose, but recent interviews by KHRG with escaped porters in Papun District indicate that these labour agents also make money by ‘shanghai-ing’ travellers from Toungoo train station and tricking young men with promises of a job, then handing them over to the police or the Army for money. The Village Tract PDC usually pays the labour agent 4,000 Kyat for each porter and 250 Kyat or more for the transportation costs up from Toungoo to the Army camp, and then the total cost for the month is divided among the villages based on the number of households in the village. Often extra demands are tacked on to the orders by the village tract PDC officials to enrich themselves. If the villagers cannot pay, they must go themselves. Some of the villages are hundreds of thousands of Kyat in arrears in their payments. Some villages which have fallen a few months behind in payments have been told by the village tract PDC that the village tract will no longer take responsibility for them, and will report the village to the military for failure to ‘perform their duty.’ A column may then storm the village to round up porters by force, and loot and burn houses as punishment while they are at it. Order #11 was sent out by the village tract, stipulating how much money the villages owe for September 1999 and how much they are in arrears.

"I took the train from Rangoon to Toungoo, and when I got off the train, I met a porter broker [someone who provides forced porters to the authorities for a price]. His name was Kyaw Tint and he was about 35 years old. He’d lost one of his legs and said he had resigned from the military. … Then I followed him. He took me to his house, and I slept there. The next morning he told me that he would take me to a workshop. … He took me to Nyaunglebin. When I got to Nyaunglebin, Sayet Gyi, he didn’t send me to a brokers’ sales center. He sent me to the Sayet Gyi police station. When I arrived in the police station there were many people, the same as me. The porter broker sold us for 4,500 Kyat each. The police gave money to the porter broker, and then he gave money to us - 1,000 Kyat each. He said it was ‘part payment in advance’. I spent one night in the police station. When the total reached 15 people, they sent us in a group by truck. … We spent the night in the truck, then the next morning they sent us across the river in a small boat. When we arrived on the other side, there was a military camp there. The soldiers were waiting for us. After we were handed over to the soldiers, they sent us at once." - "Ko San Aung" (M, 19), xxxx town, Rangoon Division, who was then forced to porter into the hills of Nyaunglebin District and later escaped (This interview will be in an upcoming KHRG report on Nyaunglebin and Papun Districts)

"I went to visit my Aunt in Pyu [central Pegu Division, west of the Sittaung River]. When I got off the train, the soldiers asked for my nationality card [National Identity Card, which he didn’t have] and then arrested me. They arrested 3 others together with me. Now the others are still back there, at Sakan Gone. The soldiers arrested us and asked us if we would join the Army. We said we wouldn’t join. Then they sent us to the porter broker’s house - his name is U Tin Maung. … I slept there for 10 days. He didn’t ask us to do anything, but we couldn’t go out of the house. He kept us in a room. Then when there were 10 of us, they sent us to Kyauk Kyi police station. … When they were putting us in the prison cell at Kyauk Kyi, he [the porter broker] gave us 1,000 Kyat. He said it was money for rice. … I had to stay there for 4 days. After that, the Army troops came to collect the porters, and they took us by truck." - "Ko Zaw Thein" (M, 15), xxxx village, Nyaunglebin township, who was then forced to porter into the hills of Nyaunglebin District and later escaped (This interview will be in an upcoming report on Nyaunglebin and Papun Districts)

The Nyein Chan Yay villages outside of Kler Lah village tract are not part of this scheme. If they can hire fellow villagers or itinerant labourers from elsewhere to go for them, they hire them directly and not through the village tract authorities. The rate for one porter per day is 500 Kyat; sometimes this is used to hire a replacement, sometimes it is simply handed over to the soldiers as a bribe to avoid the labour. The number of porters demanded from each village depends on the size of the village. Usually up to half of the needed porter quota for the village is met by the villagers going themselves. This ratio will probably increase both for these villages and in Kler Lah as the villagers become more impoverished and can no longer pay to avoid the labour. In addition to portering, villages also receive direct orders from the SPDC battalions to provide forced labourers at the Army camps. The villagers are used by the soldiers for general labour around the camps such as digging and maintaining trenches, bunkers and booby-traps, standing as unarmed sentries, building huts, cooking, cutting firewood and fetching water for the soldiers when necessary. Villagers are also forced to go on rotating shifts for ‘messenger’ (‘set tha’) duty, which involves running messages between camps, delivering written orders to villages and other odd jobs around the camp. Order #9 gives an example of a written demand to a village for forced labourers (referred to as ‘servants’) and forced labour fees, and threatens to shell the village for failure to send them.

"Battalion #xx mostly demands our betelnut and porters. They call ‘Poh Ta, Poh Ta’ [‘porters’], and the people run. After the people run, the soldiers come and demand them from the village headman, so the village headman has to ask [the villagers] until he gets it. They say ‘If you can’t ask it, I will put you in prison or kill you’. The Burmese told the headmen that. The village headman faces a big problem. … We must understand the villagers who cannot give and help each other. There are big villagers and small villagers here. The big villagers have to pay big and help the small villagers who can’t give, so the villagers are not satisfied with each other and look unfavourably on the village headman. The villagers don’t want it like this, they said we all must pay the same. It is a problem for the village head." - "Saw Ghay Po" (M, 45), village headman from xxxx village (Interview #3, 10/99)

"They also demand porter fees as well as other fees. We have to pay 15,000 Kyat for each porter per month, 30,000 Kyat for 2 porters. xxxx is a big village so they demand 4 porters, so we must give 60,000 Kyat per month. It is not just one unit that demands this, the other units like #xx or #xx [Infantry Battalions] also demand this. They do not go anywhere, they just take porter fees and keep the money." - "Tha Muh Htoo" (M, 45), village headman from xxxx village (Interview #4, 10/99)

"Most of the villagers don’t go, they give money. The soldiers demand 500 Kyat per day for each porter, so for 5 days it is 2,500 Kyat. The villagers find the money themselves. Any coins that they can find they have to give to the Burmese. They have to feed their children, but their children do not get food to eat." - "Saw Ghay Po" (M, 45), village headman from xxxx village (Interview #3, 10/99)

"The Burmese demand 2 ‘Wontan’ porters [literally ‘servant porters’, they are also called permanent porters] from each village. In xxxx village, one person has to go there every day. In the large villages they demand 3 to 5 porters. For example, they demand 5 porters from xxxx village. The soldiers don’t come to collect the people, the villages must send them. … The villagers have to fetch water and cut firewood depending on the soldiers’ needs. If the soldiers want to go to the frontline, the porters go too, however, sometimes when the villagers went [to the camp], the soldiers didn’t go anywhere. Every day the villagers have to go and stay in their camp. ... If the villagers don’t go, they have to give money to the soldiers each month. The villagers regularly have to pay 20,000 Kyat a month." - "Saw Wah" (M), KHRG field researcher (Interview #2, 12/99)

"We must go to be porters, but they don’t feed us enough rice. They even eat ours when we bring our own food. … The Burmese force me to go and carry and to do ‘loh ah pay’. They also force me to pay them porter fees. They need porter fees. We have to pay 1,200 Kyat a month for porter fees. Sometimes we also have to pay 200 or 300 Kyat for ‘loh ah pay’ fees. We couldn’t pay anymore when it became 2,000 Kyat per month, so we couldn’t stay in the village and we left." - "Saw Ghay Hser" (M, xx), Kler Lah village (Interview #12, 11/99)

‘Emergency porters’ are one form of forced labour that the villagers cannot escape. This form of labour is demanded from the villagers whenever a unit has an ‘emergency’ or an ‘urgent need’, such as hauling rations to outlying camps, or must go to the frontline. This usually happens once a month or so, but can happen at any time. These porters are usually taken for only a few days. In Kler Lah, the ‘emergency porters’ are kept at the Army camp on a rotating basis to carry equipment and supplies that come up from Toungoo for the military. It is seldom possible to pay money to get out of this type of forced labour. The porters are usually demanded through the headmen, but when the military can’t get enough this way, they go around and capture villagers both in the village and in the surrounding fields and plantations. Villagers have been shot for running away even though this goes against the Nyein Chan Yay agreement. Porters conscripted by written order from the villages are told to bring their own food, but then they are often forced to porter for much longer than the day or two they were told would be required, so people run out of food and either go hungry or have to survive on a little rotten rice from the soldiers.

"The soldiers forced them to carry rice, beans, and milk that the army sends monthly as rations. The villagers had to carry it by foot from Pa Leh Wah to Klaw Mi Der. It takes three hours to walk there and three hours to walk back. In all it takes 7 hours. … They didn’t feed them. The porters had to bring their own food. When the villagers went as porters, they had to bring and carry their own rice."- "Saw Wah" (M), KHRG field researcher (Interview #2, 12/99)

"We are not cows and horses. They are walking slowly but the soldiers do not allow them to walk like that. The soldiers kick their buttocks and force the people to walk like them. Each person’s energy is not the same. They are treating us terribly like that. We aren’t exaggerating, this is true. … They do not feed them. When the villagers go, they bring their own rations and food. They pack their own rice. Sometimes the soldiers don’t say anything to us, only that the villagers are going for just one day. The villagers pack rice for only one or two days, but they have to go and stay there for a week. They had to eat decomposing rice because the soldiers didn’t tell them correctly." - "Saw Nay Kaw (M, xx), xxxx village (Interview #5, 11/99)

During the rainy season the Kler Lah-Bu Sah Kee road is never passable beyond Kaw Thay Der, and the Kler Lah-Mawchi road is not passable beyond Klay Soe Kee. To get supplies to their camps along these two roads in the rainy season, the military keeps a supply warehouse at Kaw Thay Der and places heavy demands on the Kaw Thay Der and Kler Lah villagers to carry supplies. The number of porters taken can be anywhere from 20 to 80 at any one time. It is usually the women who go, as the men are afraid of being taken for weeks or months. Some of the women are forced to leave their young children behind in the care of their fathers. The porters are usually forced to walk in front of the soldiers to act as human minesweepers and as a deterrent against ambush by the KNLA. Villagers have lost legs and been killed as a result. It can take a week or longer to carry the heavy loads over the steep, muddy and slippery mountain paths while enduring the often brutal treatment of the soldiers. The coming of the dry season does not see the end of portering along the roads. The villagers are still required to carry rice along the road and must go with the trucks to load and off-load supplies and equipment at the camps. The trucks that take these supplies have also been demanded by the SPDC as a form of loh ah pay from the vehicle associations in Leit Tho, Than Daung Gyi and Kler Lah. These associations are informal taxi cooperatives, taking people and goods along the roads from Toungoo to Leit Tho, Than Daung Gyi and Kler Lah. They are not paid for what they transport for the SPDC, nor are they reimbursed for gasoline or maintenance costs. [For more on these vehicle associations and the demands placed on them, see Order #8 and Order #17 in the Orders Appendix .]

"When they can’t find people to be porters they take all the villagers from Kler Lah and Kaw Thay Der. They don’t mind if they are male or female, they take them. The villages which were forced to relocate to Kler Lah are Thay Kaw Der, Maw Ko Der, Der Doh, Klay Soe Kee, Naw Thay Der and Ku Pler Der. The SPDC forced them to relocate there in 1998. That is why it is very easy to force them to do ‘loh ah pay’ or to porter [since they are all in one place]. As porters they mostly have to go along the Bu Sah Kee car road. … They had to carry very heavy things. Some people had to carry over 10 viss [16 kg/35 lb]. They had to carry rice. …The villagers also had to carry beans and bullets in the rainy season, sometimes they forced the villagers to carry shells." - "Saw Ghaw" (M), KHRG field researcher (Interview #1, 8/00)

"… the xxxx vehicle [association] chairperson indicated that vehicle owners have to work through the whole dry season sending supplies to Bu Sah Kee and have to assist with the Mawchi road construction as ‘loh ah pay’, so they are facing many problems…" - text of Order #18, wherein SPDC regional authorities mention the problems of forced labour faced by civilian vehicle owners (Orders Appendix)

Villagers are especially worried about being taken by the mobile columns going on long patrols to the frontline, as these can sometimes last as long as 2 or 3 months. There is also the additional worry of poor treatment and landmines. Villagers are always afraid of being taken while working in their fields and flee if they can from any troops they see. Porters have died and lost legs from landmines or been killed in ambushes, but compensation is almost never given. When it is, it is extorted from the other villagers. Women and children as young as 12 or 13 have been taken.

"One of the villagers from Kler Lah village died from stepping on a landmine. It was in May. I can’t remember the name of the villager, but he died from injuries from a landmine. He was going to porter for the Burmese and he stepped on a landmine." - "Saw Ghaw" (M), KHRG field researcher (Interview #1, 8/00)

The following is a translation of a typical written order demanding ‘emergency’ forced labourers in Toungoo District. It was written in red ink, as an implied threat as well as to convey a sense of urgency. The money for food is really extortion money, as the villagers are never given food and always have to take their own. [This order was also published as Order #46 in "SPDC & DKBA Orders to Villages: Set 2000-A" (KHRG #2000-01, 29/2/00)]:

  

 

To:     Chairperson, Secretary                                                   24-6-99

Subject:     To buy and carry rice

Regarding the above subject, 15 loh ah pay servants from Chairperson’s village must come to xxxxvillage tomorrow at 7 o’clock. [You] must report information to the Camp. [You] must give 1,500 Kyats cash to the Column for the servants’ food every 15 days. Therefore, send 1,500 Kyat in cash with the servants tomorrow. [I am] writing this letter to inform you.

                                                              [Sd.] 24-6-99
                                                               Chairperson

                                        Village Tract Peace & Development Council 
                                         xxxx Village Tract, Than Daung Township

"[T]here are also emergency porters. The soldiers don’t demand money for the emergency porters, they demand people. When they need two you have to give two, when they need 3 you have to give 3, and when they need 5 you have to give 5. Their columns come every 4 months and when the columns come, the porters have to go with them to the frontline." - "Saw Wah" (M), KHRG field researcher (Interview #2, 12/99)

"They call 2 villagers from each village to go for 5 days. The villagers have to go every day. If they don’t go they have to pay money for the porters’ rations. We have to pay the cost of the food for 8 prison convicts who have to carry for the soldiers. … They demanded 4 porters. Two people went and we paid money for the other 2 porters. One porter costs 600 Kyat a day so it is 1,200 Kyat per day for the two porters, and they had to go for 4 months. It was about 144,000 Kyat for the two porters. We usually hire porters to go for us. When we don’t hire them, we go ourselves." - "Saw Lah Thaw" (M, 32), village headman at xxxx village (Interview #6, 10/99)

"[T]here were two villagers from Maw Ko Der named Saw Kri Htoo and Saw K’Lay Paw. It was not so long ago, just in the last dry season in March or February [2000]. The SPDC were chasing people to arrest for porters and two of them fled. When they fled, the SPDC shot them. Saw Kri Htoo was 22 years old and married. …The other one, Saw K’Lay Paw was a youth and only 17 years old and a student at Kler Lah school. … After they were shot dead, they didn’t take any action. They reported that these two villagers were contacting the resistance people [KNU/KNLA] and had a walkie-talkie. Their superior officer didn’t take any action and covered it up." - "Saw Ghaw" (M), KHRG field researcher (Interview #1, 8/00)

 

Extortion and Looting

"I met with the xxxx village headman, Saw xxxx. He is married, and has been the village headman for 2 years. The villagers elected him. When the SPDC soldiers come and demand betelnut, meat and porters, he must welcome them. If the Burmese demand money, they demand it through him. The villagers have to get letters of recommendation from him." - "Saw Wah" (M), KHRG field researcher (Interview #2, 12/99)

In Ywa Bone (‘Hiding’) villages and in the hills and forests, villagers flee with whatever they can carry whenever SPDC patrols come near. The troops then ransack their homes or shelters for whatever they want, and burn or destroy the rest. In the Nyein Chan Yay villages, the village heads receive a steady stream of demands from Army officers and SPDC authorities for money, food, building materials and other items, and they also have to deal with rank-and-file SPDC soldiers who sometimes come into the village to loot food and valuables. Villagers are told to bring chicken or pork along with them when they come to do forced labour at the Army camps. The villages near the Army camps are also ordered to cook curry for the soldiers on a regular basis. At one of the Army camps there is a system whereby the surrounding villages rotate the responsibility for providing the soldiers with a pig once a week. The villagers must also provide the soldiers with betelnut whenever they demand it. When columns pass through the villages they demand chickens and pigs to eat without paying for them.[For a translation of an order demanding supplies and betelnut see Order #9 in the Orders Appendix, which threatens to 'call with the big gun' if the village head fails to comply.]

"They have ordered me to get them food. Once a week we have to find a pig for them. I could not find one in xxxx. They told me to look until I found one, so I have come to xxxx. Battalion #xx didn’t give me any money to get the pig and if I go back empty handed, they would hurt or kick me. I can’t find one, but I must look until I find one. The officer told me, ‘You must look until you get one.’ If I can’t get a pig and then go back, he will scold me and beat me. They forced me to ask for the money to buy the pig from the villagers." - "Tha Mu Htoo" (M, 45), village headman from xxxx village (Interview #4, 10/99)

"They are forcing us to be porters, to build fences, and to cook curry for them. They are forcing us to do everything. The soldiers are especially forcing us to make curry for them. If we must tell about it, we are unable to tell about all of it [there is too much]." - "Saw Nay Kaw" (M, xx), xxxx village (Interview #5, 11/99)

"Each village has to give pork or betelnut once a week by rotation. The villagers have to give the soldiers the betelnut whenever they demand it, but they give the pork by rotation. Each village has to give 15 viss [24 kg / 52.5 lb] of pork once a week. … The villagers who have a lot of food must give more [to the Burmese], and the villagers who do not have much food must give less. The villagers collect the food because they do not want the village to be relocated, they are looking for peace." - "Saw Wah" (M), KHRG field researcher (Interview #2, 12/99)

"They can’t not give anything. He has threatened them in many ways. He sent word that if the villagers didn’t give, he would force them to carry as porters every day for a whole month. The villagers have to do it." - "Saw Ghaw" (M), KHRG field researcher (Interview #1, 8/00)

Money is often demanded from the villagers for various reasons or as compensation for some perceived mistake by the village. The money is used by the officers during their time in camp and for their ‘support’ when they rotate back to their home bases. Army officers in a Nyein Chan Yay area can make as much as several million Kyat in a year from extortion, forced labour fees, and using villagers and soldiers for forced labour on money-making projects; in addition, most officers steal a large portion of the salaries of their men, sell some of the rations, and leave their men to survive by looting the villages. When a high level officer, like an operations commander, comes for a visit, the villagers have to pay for his bed, beer, and curry as well as pay as much as 100,000 or 200,000 Kyat to him when he leaves. When a skirmish occurs near a village, the local SPDC officers demand monetary compensation. In March, the villagers in Kler Lah had to pay 500,000 Kyat to reimburse the cost of a car that had been shot at and damaged on the car road. Guns and walkie-talkies are also demanded from villagers so a commander can prove to his superiors his ‘victory’ in battle and thus gain a step towards promotion or other rewards.

"The unit which demanded the most money was #48 [IB], Htun Kyaw Pyu’s unit. Htun Kyaw Pyu took over 600,000 Kyat from the villagers and he took 200,000 or 300,000 Kyat of that for himself. … When the soldiers rotated back recently, the xxxx villagers gave them 20,000 Kyat, xxxx village gave them 9,000 Kyat, and xxxx and xxxx villages gave them 20,000 Kyat. The soldiers demanded the money for their support." - "Saw Wah" (M), KHRG field researcher (Interview #2, 12/99)

"When one of the operations commanders comes, we have to pay for his pillow and curry. We also have to pay for beer for them. When the operations commanders go back, they demand money. Sometimes they demand as much as 100,000 to 200,000 Kyat, so when they go back their wives and children are happy." - "Saw Ghay Hser" (M, xx), Kler Lah village (Interview #12, 11/99)

"They didn’t demand any money, they just came to find people’s mistakes. They told us to give them a gun. I told them, ‘You are the ones holding the weapons, but you can’t find a gun. Do you think I can find one because I am a villager? I will give you money.’ They said, ‘I don’t want 100,000 or 200,000 Kyat. I want a gun.’ If I couldn’t find a gun, I had to give them a walkie-talkie. I told them if they didn’t want money, I would come back and ask the villagers for a gun. They demanded money from other villages, but in our village they demanded a gun." - "Saw Ghay Po" (M, 45), village headman from xxxx village (Interview #3, 10/99)

"They were threatening the villagers from xxxx village. They threatened the whole village. A battle occurred when they went to the frontline between xxxx and xxxx. When the soldiers came back, they pointed to xxxx village and said the villagers from that village had contact with the outside people [KNU/KNLA]. They tortured the village headman from xxxx village and cut his secretary’s hand with a knife. Later, they said they did this because the villagers had had contact with the outside people, so the soldiers told the villagers to go and get them one gun and a walkie-talkie. The soldiers threatened that if the villagers couldn’t get them, the soldiers would kill them. Afterwards, the soldiers demanded money and xxxx village paid 100,000 Kyat." - "Tha Muh Htoo" (M, 45), village headman from xxxx village (Interview #4, 10/99)

"They demanded to eat pigs and chickens. We also lost about 200,000 Kyat [to them]. Some villagers could not give all of it, but we dared not make the soldiers wait. We borrowed from the other villagers for the rest. This is a big problem for the village headman." - "Saw Ghay Po" (M, 45), village headman from xxxx village (Interview #3, 10/99)

While villagers are allowed to travel to Toungoo and to transport goods along the road, the price can be high. At each checkpoint (and there are many) the drivers must pay a fee and sometimes give fish and chickens too. Villagers who are able to sell their crops or who have set up small shops end up having to pay a part of their profits to the soldiers. Landmines are sometimes planted by the KNLA along the roads and drivers have been killed and their cars destroyed as a result. These factors cause each sack of rice to cost at least 1,000 Kyat more in Kler Lah than it does in Toungoo - a 50 percent increase in price. Other commodities carry similar price differences.

"The soldiers make trouble along it [the road]. They allow you to go when you pay them money. They force the drivers to bring fish for them. There is not only one checkpoint, and at every checkpoint they force the drivers to bring fish and chickens. It is very difficult to travel on this road." - "Saw Ghay Hser" (M, xx), Kler Lah village (Interview #12, 11/99)

"When we are going to Taw Oo, they order us to bring things [back for them], but they don’t give us a single coin of money. Sometimes, they force us to go there [to Taw Oo] and then demand money from us for going." - "Saw Nay Kaw" (M, xx), xxxx village (Interview #5, 11/99)

"If you sell anything, they say they have to go to attend a training and demand the money you made from the sale [for travel expenses]. Now it is camp commander xxxx who is demanding the money."- "Tha Muh Htoo" (M, 45), village headman from xxxx village (Interview #4, 10/99)

Almost all of the extortion money, ‘porter fees’, and food demanded from the villagers stays in the hands of the officers and does not trickle down to the private soldiers. This combined with their already low pay and the stealing of supplies by the officers to sell for a profit has led to the stealing of food and other things by the privates in order to survive. Villagers near the Army camps have had their fruit and other cash crops like betelnut and cardamom stolen and sold by the privates. The car gates along the Kler Lah-Toungoo road regularly order the cars travelling on the road to provide them with curry. When confronted with this, some privates say to the villagers that while the officers can demand money and food from the villagers, the privates aren’t given any of it nor do they have the authority to demand it, so they must resort to stealing in order to eat.

"The officers come and demand money. They take the money and they can eat. The soldiers do not act the same as the officers. The soldiers say, "The officers can demand money and they can eat. We can’t do that, so we are going to steal [from the villagers]." The soldiers are stealing crazily. One unit came and behaved like that and when they went back they told #xx [Infantry Battalion], so now #xx is doing the same." - "Tha Muh Htoo" (M, 45), village headman from xxxx village (Interview #4, 10/99)

 Restrictions

 

"We have to get a letter of recommendation. We give 50 Kyat for one letter. The soldiers give them for only one day and we can’t sleep there [in their fields]. The soldiers make problems for us if we don’t get one. One of my uncles went without one and they arrested him on the path. They hurt him and they would have killed him but the elders went to guarantee him and he was released." - "Naw Chit Chit" (F, 17), Kler Lah relocation site (Interview #16, 11/99)

 

Villagers in the Nyein Chan Yay villages are required to get letters of recommendation whenever they want to go out of the village. These are usually written by the village headman who has been given a stamp by the local military unit, however in some places it is the soldiers who write the letters. Each letter costs 50 Kyat. The money is collected by the village headman and sometimes put into a fund to be used for the village. In Kler Lah, where many people from outlying villages now live after being forced to move, the letters allow the villagers to go back to work in their fields; however, many of their fields are two or more hours away and the passes are usually only good for one day, or at best a few days. This has a direct effect on their crops, because the amount of time to plant large plots or to properly care for their crops is severely restricted. The time the villagers can spend in their fields is further limited by all the time they have to spend doing forced labour, or doing local wage labour just to raise money to pay all the SPDC extortion fees.

 

For some villagers this all adds up to too much, and they sneak back to their fields to work without the letters. This is very risky, because villagers caught in the fields without passes are usually beaten, interrogated, and sometimes executed as suspected rebels. Having a pass gives some protection, but even villagers with passes are sometimes beaten or taken as porters, particularly if the patrol is short of porters. Because of this, villagers often run if they see an approaching patrol, particularly if they have no pass, and SPDC soldiers instinctively open fire on villagers seen running. Occasionally the soldiers refuse to issue passes as a way of punishing the village for failure to fully comply with demands, block the villagers from leaving and even threaten to ignore valid passes outside the village. In the past, SPDC forces have also threatened to punish Kler Lah village by blocking all transport of goods to and from Toungoo. However, the Kler Lah villagers are usually allowed to go to Pa Leh Wah and Toungoo to buy rice, trade goods and to go to the hospital. The permit for this is 250 Kyat, exclusive of the car fare and any other ‘fees’ along the way.

 

"We also have to get a letter of recommendation whenever we want to go some place. Wherever we go, to Taw Oo or to work, we have to get one. One letter of recommendation costs 50 Kyat and a permit costs 250 Kyat. If you go into town, you must pay 250 Kyat for the letter of recommendation. They don’t arrest us if we have a permit." - "Saw Lah Thaw" (M, 32), village headman from xxxx village (Interview #6, 10/99)

 

"We go back to work in our betelnut plantation. It is 2 miles or a 2 hour walk. We get letters of recommendation written once a week. The village headman asks 50 Kyat for a letter of recommendation. He keeps the money in a fund, and when he needs it for the village, he uses it. … We get letters of recommendation, but we have to watch the soldiers. We don’t dare go out of the village [Kler Lah]. The Burmese unit that came up recently does not allow us to go. If we know they are coming, we have to run back." - "Saw Thaw Thi Wah" (M, 48), Kler Lah relocation site (Interview #13, 11/99)

 

"Regarding this call for family photographs, the Gentleman’s village is informed to send 5 families each day to xxxx Army Camp to be photographed." - text of an SPDC written order to villages in Tantabin township in February 2000 (Order #7 in "SPDC and DKBA Orders to Villages: Set 2000-B" [KHRG #2000-04, 12/10/00])

 

"A meeting for security/regional control and operational matters will be held with the villages, so bring the list of families and population and come and meet…" - text of an SPDC written order to village heads in Tantabin township in June 2000 (Order #216 in "SPDC and DKBA Orders to Villages: Set 2000-B" [KHRG #2000-04, 12/10/00])

 

The following is a translation of a typical permit. [This order was also published as Order #17 in "SPDC & DKBA Orders to Villages: Set 2000-A" (KHRG #2000-01, 29/2/00)]:

Recommendation

 


  Stamp:
xxxx Village Tract Peace & Development Council 

                Than Daung Township

From xxxx village, Naw aaaa , father’s name bbbb , age ( 20 ) years, is permitted to go to yyyy village , the surrounding hill fields, cardamom gardens and betelnut gardens, from 23/8/99 to 28/8/99.  Nawaaaa is permitted to take with her ([blank]) milk-tins of rice and ([blank]) packets of [cooked] rice to eat.

Name Naw aaaa is permitted only for the day / to sleep overnight.
Place to sleep overnight: ( yyyy village, near the peanut plantation )

                                                                         [Sd.] xxxx
                                                                   (for) Chairperson

                                               Village Tract Peace & Development Council 
                                                xxxx Village Tract, Than Daung Township

 

All Nyein Chan Yay villages are supposed to provide the local military units with regular reports on any KNU/KNLA movements or activities in their area. Most village heads are loath to provide such information for various reasons: they sympathise with the KNLA; some of the villagers have relatives in the KNLA units and could face harassment, arrest or execution by the SPDC; the headman could face punishment by the KNLA for giving information; or the intelligence could result in a skirmish near their village, and the SPDC will retaliate against the village if they happen to get the worst of it. For whatever combination of these reasons, most village heads either withhold information, give the minimum possible information only when directly threatened, or even give false information. Whenever SPDC units find out that information has been withheld or when they are ambushed due to lack of intelligence, the village elders are arrested and tortured and the villagers threatened. In at least one village the soldiers have ordered the headman to make a register of everyone who has ever worked for the KNU or KNLA. Similar registers taken in other areas have been used to persecute or threaten the relatives of KNU/KNLA members and as a means of squeezing money out of the villagers. The families of the villagers listed, and sometimes the village leaders, are arrested and tortured until money is paid for their release. People are afraid to report the families of KNLA members, particularly where the Sa Thon Lon execution units are now active in Tantabin township; but if they report nothing, they risk having the whole village labelled as a ‘tha bone’ [‘rebel’] village. This puts the headman into a very difficult position as he either has to report on his villagers, face arrest for not reporting them, or flee the village. In April 2000, pressure was put on the families of KNLA soldiers in Kler Lah until two of them surrendered with their families. Money was then extorted from the villagers to provide for them. The two soldiers were then taken to the headquarters in Toungoo and have not returned yet. Following is the translation of an order to a village head in Toungoo District in late 1999 [This order was also published as Order #135 in "SPDC & DKBA Orders to Villages: Set 2000-A" (KHRG #2000-01, 29/2/2000)]:

 
                Stamp:
Frontline #xx Infantry Battalion                To:

            Date: 21-9-99                                    Chairperson
            Company #x                                       xxxx village

Subject:     To report any unusual information every day

(1) Starting right now when [you] get this letter, every day report any unusual information by messenger.

(2) Even if [you] do not get any unusual information, send at least 1 piece of information every day. One piece of information about the enemy, or the people who come and go in the village, a register of peddlars, number of plantations, hill fields, etc. Write one piece of information. It must tell all that they [the people reported on] are doing.

(3) Send information about health, education, social obligations and occupations in the village with the messenger.

(4) Starting right now when [you] receive this letter, send a messenger every day, you are hereby informed. The Chairperson must not fail to do this, you are informed. If [you] don’t do it serious action will be taken, you are hereby informed.

Note:     Send a messenger every day. Even if [you] do not have any unusual information, [you]must send at least one piece of information. The xx families of xxxx village must each send firewood to the ground beneath the Church on 22-9-99, to arrive by 1000 hours.

Chairperson:

1. On 25-9-99 send 15 viss [24 kg / 52.5 lb] of pork to the camp.
2. Send 2 bottles of honey, as I ordered, and one monkey on 23-9-99.
3. If the Chairperson gets well, come to meet [me] on 24-9-99.
4. Send a messenger every day.

                                                                   [Sd.] 21-9-99
                                                               Camp Commander

                                                                    yyyy Camp
                                                             Company Commander
                                                                    #x Company
                                                             #xx Infantry Battalion 

 

"The villagers also have to send information. xxxx village has to send information every two days." - "Saw Wah" (M), KHRG field researcher (Interview #2, 12/99)

"[W]e do have to report to them about the KNU. The soldiers tell us that if the KNU does something to them, they are going to do something to us. They said, ‘Don’t do anything to us. If they [KNLA] do anything to us, you [the villagers] will know it.’" - "Saw Eh Doh" (M, 45), Kler Lah relocation site (Interview #7, 11/99)

"[C]ome from the Chairperson’s village to the camp to send any unusual information about the region every day on time at 8 o’clock in the morning. … If you fail, action will be taken." - text of an order issued to a village in Toungoo District in late 1999 [Order #136 in "SPDC & DKBA Orders to Villages: Set 2000-A" (KHRG #2000-01, 29/2/2000)]

"Right now, the Burmese are making a register of all the people who were in the resistance in the past. The soldiers came to order me to make the register, but the people here aren’t in the resistance, they are just working for a living. There are no resistance people in my village. Two or three of the villagers have gone to take up the responsibility of joining the KNU/KNLA, but we don’t say that in front of the SPDC. If we told them, they would arrest their parents and the village headman, torture them and demand money. We could put up a case for them, but the letter would be lost by the higher authorities." - "Tha Muh Htoo" (M, 45), village headman from xxxx village (Interview #4, 10/99)

In an attempt to block a perceived source of KNU supplies, the villagers have been restricted in the amounts of rice which they can carry and are prohibited from carrying medicine, batteries and using torches. Order #16in the Orders Appendix states this clearly, and though issued in mid-1998, the testimonies of villagers in the area indicate that it remains in effect. The order, which is labelled ‘Secret’ and makes reference to ‘Southern Command telegram number 3 Oo 1 dated 6-7-98 at 1230 hours’, states that all vehicles going into the mountains to Kler Lah, Than Daung Gyi, or Leit Tho, or southward to Tantabin and Zayatkyi, must stop and be searched for "supplies, medicines, and batteries" at the 4-Mile checkpoint. While acknowledging that villagers need these things, it stipulates that villagers must get "recommendation letters from the Ward/Village PDC’s and Township PDC’s concerned, recommendations from local operational and control troops, family registration lists, and a list specifying the period during which all of the goods will be consumed" (emphasis added) before being allowed to transport them; otherwise "legal action will be taken". [For a full translation of this order, see Order #16 in the Orders Appendix.] If the villagers are caught with these things they are confiscated, and the villagers may be accused of being rebels, arrested and possibly executed; however, the soldiers do not usually report it if they are given money. In one of the villages near an SPDC Army camp, the shopkeepers have been ordered to write down for each sale whether it was to villagers, soldiers, or rebels. They have been threatened with arrest and possible execution if they do not comply. Some of the shops have been ransacked and inventories taken by the soldiers, who then demand money before giving the merchandise back and allowing it to be sold.

"In that area they are allowed to carry 4 bowls of rice [6.25 kg / 13.78 lb] per person. The villagers can’t carry more than 4 bowls and the soldiers don’t allow them to carry batteries or medicine. If they see villagers carrying them, the soldiers make problems and kill them." - "Saw Wah" (M), KHRG field researcher (Interview #2, 12/99)

"He said the higher officers ordered him to prohibit batteries and medicine and to take them all. If he sees that villagers have them, he will report it to the higher officers or put them in prison. That is why they take action if they see a bit of medicine. They don’t allow us to use torchlights. If you turned on a torchlight, they would shoot you. They make orders like this and we have to follow their orders. … In the past, The Burmese gave us medicine to take. Now they demand it from us. If they see one battery, they demand money. If we don’t give the money, they say they will report it to the higher authorities, arrest us, and send us to prison. If you give them money, they don’t do anything. … The shopkeepers have to write down if they sell to the villagers, or if they sell to the soldiers, or if they sell to the outside people [KNU/KNLA]. If the shopkeepers do not write it down, the soldiers will take action, report it, put them into prison, and kill them. After they threaten us with that, they decide how much money we have to pay and demand it." - "Tha Muh Htoo" (M, 45), village headman from xxxx village (Interview #4, 10/99)

"By the above reference telegram, it was instructed to check supplies, medicines, and batteries at 4-Mile checkpoint to prevent them from reaching the insurgent destructive elements. … People from townships will need supplies, medicines and batteries for their own consumption, so if they are really needed, recommendation letters from the Ward/Village Peace and Development Councils and Township Peace and Development Councils concerned, recommendations from local operational and control troops, family registration lists, and a list specifying the period during which all of the goods will be consumed, are required to be allowed to transport them." - text of SPDC order document placing restrictions on batteries, medicines and other goods; Order #16 (Orders Appendix)

Destruction of Crops and Economic Repression

"The villages like Kler Lah, Kaw Thay Der and other villages had very good produce from their fields like durian, mangosteen, dogfruit, tea leaves, coffee and cardamom, so the SPDC army demanded things from them quite often and now the villagers get only 20 percent of the produce from their fields. Eighty percent of the produce is given to the SPDC army." - field report from KHRG field researcher

Away from the car roads and the Nyein Chan Yay villages, the Ywa Bone areas in the hills are free-fire zones, and the SPDC soldiers are under orders to destroy any crops, livestock or houses they see. The SPDC considers any food or valuables in the hills to be sustenance for rebels, and began systematic efforts in 1998 to starve everyone in the hills. Crops in the fields are burned, beaten or trampled down, and rice stockpiles are plundered with whatever is left being dumped on the ground or burned. Livestock is shot, some of it eaten and the remainder left to rot. The soldiers take any valuables, clothing and household utensils they find, and pile them onto the backs of their porters along with the looted rice. The situation for the villagers hiding in the hills is becoming increasingly desperate, with so little rice available that most of them are surviving on thin rice gruel made from whatever rice they can salvage, mixed with whatever vegetables they can gather in the forest.

While this is standard SPDC practice in the Ywa Bone areas of the hills, even the Nyein Chan Yay villages are sometimes looted by passing columns. The private soldiers, with most of their rations and pay stolen by their officers, support themselves largely by taking the cardamom, betelnut, and rice from the villagers and killing and eating their livestock.

"When we are planting the soldiers come to eat. They cut down the branches and eat everything. When they see the owner, they kill him. When we plant cardamom, they demand to eat it. … The soldiers came and saw the paddy, then burned the paddy. When they saw the buffaloes and cows, they shot them dead. When the soldiers saw the owners, they shot them dead. Ah, this is not easy. We have to do our work. If we don’t go to work, we can’t eat." - "Saw Ner Muh" (M, xx), internally displaced villager from xxxx village (Interview #8, 11/99)

"Some of the Burmese soldiers don’t have any food, so they go to our plantations, pick the fruit and sell it. They are coming to our plantation and frightening us. They are taking durian and selling it." - "Saw Nay Kaw" (M, xx), xxxx village (Interview #5, 11/99)

Despite all the fees and forced labour the villagers are still trying to make a living. They are often frustrated in their efforts by the SPDC soldiers. The villagers in Toungoo District are predominantly subsistence farmers. The steep mountains do not lend themselves to large-scale commercial rice farming. This forces the villagers into growing hillside rice which has a low yield and can only be grown once a year, in rainy season. The SPDC demands for money and forced labour force the villagers to use much of their time in search of money or in working on projects which only benefit the military. For the villagers in the relocation sites, there is even less time due to the amount of time wasted in travelling back and forth to their fields. The result is that the farmers cannot plant large enough plots, nor do they have enough time to watch over and care for the crop they plant. The harvests are then very small and do not last through the entire year. This necessitates another search for work to get money to buy rice to make up the differences.

"The villagers had to come back and sleep in the camp [the relocation site], the place where the SPDC relocated them. The villagers went to work their hill fields, but because they had to work like that and waste time, the villagers couldn’t work their hill fields as they needed to. They could only make small fields and the villagers had a big problem due to the lack of a supply of food." - "Saw Ghaw" (M), KHRG field researcher (Interview #1, 8/00)

"We are civilians and we are working day and night to eat. They see that we are making a plantation, and we had planned to make this plantation [a betelnut plantation] to improve our economic situation and develop the village, however, the Burmese are making it worse and cutting the betelnut trees." - "Saw Nay Kaw" (M, xx), xxxx village (Interview #5, 11/99)

"The villagers grow the betelnut trees for a profit and sell it to people from Taw Oo. On October 9th 1999 the soldiers demanded 10 viss [16 kg / 35 lb] of betelnut. We carried the betelnut for them and they sold it. They said they wanted it to chew, but they sold it. I don’t know where they sold it." - "Saw Ghay Po" (M, 45), village headman from xxxx village (Interview #3, 10/99)

Some villagers have begun growing cash crops on a small scale so that they will have something to sell to get enough money to buy rice to last until the next harvest. Other villagers have been cultivating larger plantations for a long time and rely more heavily on the sale of these cash crops to buy rice. The villages in Toungoo District previously grew durian, mangosteen, dogfruit, tea, coffee, cardamom, and betelnut. The district is especially known in Burma for its betelnut. In the villages which have been relocated or in villages where the villagers have fled into the forest, the soldiers have eaten or stolen all the fruit and betelnut. The fruit trees which the soldiers could not climb, they cut down. Since August 1999 the betelnut trees, which take decades to grow, were cut down and the pulpy inside of the trunks eaten by the soldiers in the Peh Kaw Der relocation area (Than Daung township) and in the villages along the Kler Lah-Bu Sah Kee car road. According to a KHRG field researcher, since all of the villages in the Peh Kaw Der area were relocated to Kler Lah, the value of the fruit which has been stolen and damaged there comes to 420,000 Kyat, and the value of the trees which have been destroyed is 1,500,000 Kyat. Such destruction has not been limited to the abandoned villages, but has also occurred in villages like Kler Lah and Kaw Thay Der. Many of the trees like durian, mangosteen and betelnut take 10 years to produce fruit, so if the destruction continues, this area once known for its fruit and betelnut could take decades to recover.

"Because they had to come and stay in the relocation site, the SPDC soldiers were able to go in the plantations which had fruit to eat and destroyed them. They went and destroyed them very often and that is why many things were destroyed. In August 1999 we saw them destroy the durian and betelnut trees in the villages in the Peh Kaw Der area. It was in the rainy season and the betelnuts were not in season yet, so they cut down the trees and ate the inside pulp of the trunk. They also destroyed the dogfruit trees and cut down and destroyed the big bamboo trees." - "Saw Ghaw" (M), KHRG field researcher (Interview #1, 8/00)

"Because the villagers were driven to Kler Lah, the vegetables and fruit like betelnuts, mangosteen, cardamom and durian were eaten by the soldiers whenever they wanted. The fruit trees that they could not climb up, they cut down. They split open the betelnut trees and ate the inside of the trunk, so the trees were destroyed. All of the fruit which was taken by them and damaged was worth 420,000 Kyat, but the cost of the trees which they destroyed is 1,500,000 Kyat. 3,360 baskets of paddy were damaged and they are worth 3,360,000 Kyat. The trees like durian, mangosteen and betelnut take ten years before they can produce fruit so the villagers will be faced with this problem for ten years. This is because the Burmese did not let them come back to their villages." - field report from KHRG field researcher (FR #1, 8/00)

The villagers have been ordered to collect registers of all the betelnut trees and cardamom bushes they have. This will be used as the basis for crop quotas such as those paid by villagers in the plains. The quotas paid by the villagers in the plains are very heavy, averaging 12-15 baskets of paddy per acre for rice farmers. The quotas are handed over to the Army or to SPDC ‘buying’ officials, either for nothing or at 20-25% of the market value (the price is supposed to be about half of market value, but after official corruption the farmers receive less than 25% of market value). Quotas are based on the acreage which the SPDC says a farmer could and should plant, not on what he/she can actually plant, and no exemptions are granted for failed crops or natural disasters, so sometimes the quotas exceed the amount that the villager could possibly produce. In the mountains any quota would be especially hard to meet, as the mountains are too steep for anything but subsistence agriculture. In addition to the quotas, much of the produce is simply demanded directly by the military and sold for their own profit. The demands for cash crops have been as high as 80% of the crop, leaving the villagers only 20% to sell to make enough money to pay fees and to buy rice.

In order to transport their goods to the markets in Toungoo, the villagers must also pay the ‘fees’ on the Kler Lah-Toungoo car road. In mid-1999, a ‘tax’ on seasonal produce was declared by the Than Daung Township PDC on all the vehicles travelling along the Than Daung-Than Daung Gyi road and on the Toungoo-Kler Lah road. The rationale given for it in the order was that the "Than Daung Township PDC team has to work on township administration duties and there are many expenses, therefore the raising of funds is greatly required." Some vehicle owners tried to complain to authorities, pointing out that they already have to do forced labour with their vehicles on the Kler Lah-Mawchi road construction and transporting supplies to Bu Sah Kee, but were told in response to collect the money from the plantation owners [see Order #17 in the Orders Appendix]. For many of the villagers these cash crops have become their only source of income and without them they will find it very difficult to pay the various fees and to buy enough rice to eat. The following order demands a large amount of betelnut, too much for personal consumption. The market price for betelnut is 400 Kyat per viss, but the officer is paying the villagers only 70 Kyat per viss, less than 20% of its value. He probably intends to sell it for a large personal profit. [This order was also published as Order #188 in "SPDC & DKBA Orders to Villages: Set 2000-A" (KHRG #2000-01, 29/2/00)]

                           Stamp:      
Village Tract Peace & Development Council 
                   yyyy Village Tract

To:    Chairperson, Secretary
          xxxx [village]

Chairperson, right now [we] must get 75 viss [120 kg / 262 lb] of betelnut for the Deputy Battalion Commander. Chairperson’s village must collect 20 viss of betelnut and send it to yyyyvillage to arrive on Wednesday, the Camp Commander has asked for it. [We] will give 1,400[Kyat].

                                                                     [Sd.] 2-3-99
                                                                     Chairperson

                                               Village Tract Peace & Development Council 
                                                 yyyy Village Tract, Than Daung Township

"The villagers said they have to give cardamom. The Burmese are collecting a register of the cardamom bushes. The villagers have to register how many cardamom bushes and betelnut trees they have." - "Saw Wah" (M), KHRG field researcher (Interview #2, 12/99)

"One of the company commanders dictated that he would stay here and tax the betelnut. We have to pick the betelnut for him, write down how much betelnut we get each month, and report it to him."- "Tha Muh Htoo" (M, 45), village headman from xxxx village (Interview #4, 10/99)

Attempts by people to trade goods between the villages in the mountains and the villages and towns of the plains are also difficult and costly. The ‘fees’ which must be paid at the various car road checkpoints have already been noted. In addition, plains traders using footpaths and other routes to carry goods to Nyein Chan Yay and other villages in the hills are often accused of smuggling goods to the villagers in hiding or the resistance forces. In 1999 the Sa Thon Lon issued orders to villages in the plains of southwestern Tantabin township prohibiting trade with the mountains. They also executed villagers they caught still trading and burned down their villages. At the beginning of 1999, two villagers from Shwe Kyaung Gone, a Burman village in the plains, were caught by the Sa Thon Lon carrying rice into the mountains. They were tortured and killed, and all their belongings stolen. When the Sa Thon Lon came to Shwe Kyaung Gone village, they burned it down for trading with the mountain villages. Villagers have also been killed in the mountains for carrying goods for trade with the surrounding villages. This makes it very difficult for villagers in the Nyein Chan Yay villages to make a living, and for villagers in Ywa Bone areas to get any food at all. The shopkeepers in the bigger villages also have a hard time. They have to pay extortion money to the military in order to keep their shops open and they must register who their customers are. This does not keep the soldiers from just going in and looting the marketplace, which happened in Kler Lah in April 2000. When this happened, some of the shopkeepers were also arrested and taken to the Army camp.

"In the beginning of 1999 they cut off the villagers staying at the foot of the mountains in Taw Ta Tu [Tantabin] township, Taw Oo District. The villagers staying in the plains couldn’t come up and carry food into the mountains and the villagers from the mountains couldn’t go to the plains villages. They had cut them off. They said they wouldn’t allow the people to go. If the Sa Thon Lon saw people going up and down from the mountains, they killed them all and stole all of their things." - "Saw Ghaw" (M), KHRG field researcher (Interview #1, 8/00)

"I was carrying medicine, tea leaves, kerosene, tobacco, soap, blankets, 3 sets of children’s clothes, torchlights, soap, sickles, sugar, milk, and sarongs. I had gone with my nephew, H---. He was carrying the same things as I was. Everything together was worth 25,000 Kyat. Just for the medicine that I bought yesterday, it was 8,975 Kyat. The soldiers arrested us, took all our things, and sent us to their commander, deputy battalion commander xxxx." - "Saw San Htay" (M, 39), xxxx village (Interview #9, 10/99)

"On 19/4/2000 IB #48 Battalion Commander Kin Maung Sin and LIB #538 Battalion Commander Kyaw Win and their soldiers entered and looted things from the market. They looked for all of the sellers who had shops in Kler Lah and took the shopkeepers to the Army Camp." - field report from KHRG field researcher and KNU intelligence (FR, 1/00-8/00)

The Ywa Bone villagers have almost no opportunity to make money. By constantly being on the run, they are not stable enough to set up any business or to have large plantations. Some of these villagers have tried to grow cardamom and other cash crops in small clearings in the forest to get enough money to buy rice and other things to partially replace those which have been destroyed by the soldiers. These fields are destroyed if found by the soldiers, so they are usually kept small and hidden. Taking their produce to the bigger villages like Kler Lah is very difficult because the Ywa Bone villagers cannot get letters of recommendation, so if found on the path or in the village they can be arrested, tortured and possibly killed. Even if they manage to escape this fate, they often lose all their produce in the process. The SPDC order below was issued to the headman of a Nyein Chan Yay village where the troops had caught a Ywa Bone villager. The troops had most likely interrogated the villager under torture and decided to release him once they realised he was harmless - however, there is a clear implication that the headman must pay a ransom for his release, and "If not…", they will kill the prisoner. 

 

To:     U xxxx 
          Chairperson, xxxx village                                            19-7-2000

xxxx! Your Ywa Bone [‘hiding village’] villager is to be released. Come and meet as soon as you receive this letter. If not, ……

                                                                                [Sd.]

Education and Health

"Now our children can’t write or speak their language because they don’t have a chance to learn at school. Our literature has disappeared and is destroyed. The Burmese are fighting us this way." - "Saw Ghay Hser" (M, xx), Kler Lah relocation site (Interview #12, 11/99)

The health and education facilities in the district are minimal. In Kler Lah, Than Daung Gyi, and Leit Tho there are high schools and in some of the bigger villages and along Toungoo-Kler Lah car road there are some primary schools and a few middle schools. These schools are run by the SPDC, but the resources are minimal, the teachers are underpaid, and the curriculum is strictly Burman. The high school in Kler Lah has only three teachers. Often the teachers’ salaries, while officially paid by the SPDC, really come from money demanded by the authorities. Because the schools are understaffed, the villagers often hire better educated people from within the village to teach in the schools alongside the SPDC teachers. All of the students’ school supplies and textbooks have to be bought and school fees have to be paid by the parents. Faced with forced labour, extortion and all the other problems in the region, most families don’t have enough money left to pay the costs of sending their children to school. The unstable situation also forces many parents to keep their children at home or to send them to work in the fields. Enrolment at Kler Lah school has dropped because many of the students have fled into the forest with their parents.

The schools in smaller Nyein Chan Yay villages are usually set up and run by the villagers themselves. They usually only go up to the 2nd standard (Grade 2), or, in rare and exceptional cases, to 4th standard (Grade 4). They lack almost all resources and the teachers themselves are villagers who usually only have a 4th or 5th standard education. Many of these teachers can only teach part-time, because they only receive a few sacks of rice for the job and have to farm or do other work on the side. All support for these schools is provided by the villagers themselves. It is difficult to keep these schools running after paying all the extortion money and fees. The teachers, being villagers, are also not exempt from the fees and forced labour. In some of the villages there used to be schools run by the KNU, but due to the military situation and a lack of funds they are no longer administered by the KNU. The village schools are not recognised or supported by the SPDC, they stem from a desire on the part of the villagers to see their children get some sort of an education. When one of the schools, which despite having a large military camp nearby is not a recognised SPDC school, asked for support for their school, they were given zinc roofing sheets looted from one of the Ywa Bone villages. In other Karen districts further south, the SPDC has been actively forcing village-run schools to close, stating that no education is allowed except under the direct control of the state.

"There is a school in xxxx, but only up to 4th standard. It is not a government school [it is a school run by the villagers]. At xxxx there is a government school up to 4th standard and there are two teachers at the school. They stay in xxxx and are villagers there. The villagers usually go to Taw Oo to study and come back to teach in the school. At xxxx the government gives them a salary, but in the other villages, the villagers pay their salary. The government gives them 900 Kyat per month. In the higher standards they will get over 1,000 Kyat. It will be 1,100 or 1,200 Kyat. It is not enough for them because it costs over 6,000 Kyat for one [50 kg.] sack of rice." - "Saw Wah" (M), KHRG field researcher (Interview #2, 12/99)

"There are 10 standards, but I don’t know how many teachers. The SPDC supports the school, the villagers don’t need to." - "Saw Thaw Thi Wah" (M, 48), Kler Lah relocation site (Interview #13, 11/99)

"We are staying at xxxx village and the SPDC doesn’t support our primary school with anything. We need education for our children, so our villagers try with their own energy. When we asked for support from the Burmese, they gave us a few zinc sheets. They had taken them from Hsaw Wah Der, one of the hiding villages, and gave them to us. The soldiers said that because they had donated them to us, we must use them to build xxxx School." - "Saw Nay Kaw" (M, xx), xxxx village (Interview #5, 11/99)

The SPDC plans to construct computer training facilities in the high schools in Than Daung Gyi and Leit Tho areas. Letters announcing the training have been sent to all the villages in the district. Orders have also been given to every village in Than Daung and Tantabin township to give money for the project. It is claimed that each school needs 8,500,000 Kyat and a total of 35,000,000 Kyat (just under US$100,000 at current black market exchange rates, US$5,833,333 at the official exchange rate) has been demanded for the whole project. Not every village is required to pay the same amount. Kler Lah was ordered to pay 599,814 Kyat and Kaw Thay Der to give 150,000 Kyat. After such projects are initiated, not only do villagers have to pay up to 10 times the actual cost, but in addition all of the local Army units and officials usually begin demanding extortion money everywhere for themselves simply by saying it’s "for the computers".

"This year they are going to build a computer training centre in the high schools at Than Daung and Leit Tho, so they are demanding money from each village, but they are not demanding the same amount from each village. They demanded 35 million Kyat from the whole township of Than Daung. Kler Lah and Kaw Thay Der villages also have to pay." - "Saw Ghaw" (M), KHRG field researcher (Interview #1, 8/00)

"The SPDC started to distribute letters about setting up a higher education level training so they [the learners] can compare themselves with other international countries. They will set up computer training for every high school in the area of Than Daung and Leit Tho. To have buildings for this training, they gave orders to every village in Than Daung and Taw Ta Tu townships. Every village has to give and donate money as ordered. Each school needs 8,500,000 Kyat and there are a lot of schools in Than Daung town and in the area of Leit Tho." - field report from KHRG field researcher and KNU intelligence (FR, 1/00-8/00)

Education for most of the Ywa Bone villagers is non-existent. In the villages closer to the Army camps, the villagers must be constantly ready to run and it isn’t possible to set up a permanent school. Most of the Ywa Bonevillagers live in small groups of from 1 to 7 families so a formal school isn’t possible. At best, when there is some free time and the situation is relatively calm, some of the better educated parents gather the children in one of the houses or a forest clearing and teach them there.

"They don’t have a school because it isn’t even easy for them to eat every day. For some of the children, they can study at home if their parents have some free time, but we can’t call it a school. They just gather 4 or 5 children and their parents teach them." - "Saw Ghaw" (M), KHRG field researcher (Interview #1, 8/00)

The health situation is even worse. There is a clinic and medicines can be purchased at high prices in Kler Lah, but in smaller Nyein Chan Yay villages, medicine largely consists of traditional medicines made from roots and herbs. The prohibition on carrying medicine means that it must be bought and carried secretly to the villages. The carrier risks being accused of supplying medicine to the resistance and probable execution. There are no clinics in these villages, so the only access to medical care is in Kler Lah or Toungoo. The hospital in Kler Lah is called the "Tine Ni Say Yone" (Township Hospital) and has been actively promoted by the authorities. It has one doctor, a head nurse, and some nurses, but no medicine. The villagers who go to the hospital are asked to give a ‘donation’ and then allowed to buy medicine. What little medicine the hospital has is sold at the market price, but most medicines have to be bought outside and then brought back in to be administered. Most of the villagers are not able to buy medicines due to their lack of income. Seriously ill villagers, if they can afford it, are taken by their family or friends to Toungoo to the Pyithu Sit (Militia) Hospital. This hospital doesn’t have much medicine either, and the villagers have to pay for service or they will not even be admitted. It is common in Burma for patients to have to pay to be seen by the doctors as well as for the medicine, and to be ejected from hospitals when they run out of funds even if they have not fully recovered.

"There is no medicine in the hospital. The soldiers prohibit the people to go to buy medicine from outside the village, we have to buy it secretly. We haven’t gone to the hospital now for a long time, because there is no medicine. When people get serious diseases we must send them to [Toungoo] town." - "Saw Ghay Hser" (M, xx), Kler Lah village (Interview #12, 11/99)

"There is a hospital and there are 3 medics working there. They get over 1,000 Kyat for their salary, but it is not enough for them. They are selected by the government… I do not buy medicine. The people who can buy, buy and the people who can’t buy, they suffer with their disease." - "Pu Htaw Say" (M, 52), Kler Lah relocation site (Interview #15, 11/99)

"They told us to go to the hospital and they welcomed us with sweet sounds, but when we went there was nothing. At the checkpoint, when they saw people taking a little bit of medicine, they demanded money from them and confiscated the medicine. This is senseless. … When we get seriously ill, we have to carry each other down to Taw Oo or Kler Lah. If there is no medicine we have to go to Taw Oo. In Taw Oo there is the ‘Pyi Thu Sit’ [Militia] hospital, but they don’t have enough medicine, and we have to pay ourselves. The churches support the people who don’t have money, because the hospital doesn’t take care of them. The members of our church have to take care of each other, so we take out donations." - "Saw Nay Kaw" (M, xx), xxxx village (Interview #5, 11/99)

"We dare not go to buy medicine. We go to buy Loke Tha Maung [a type of Burmese medicine] from Kler Lah and Pa Leh Wah, but the soldiers don’t like us to carry it. They kill us when they see it. We treat villagers with traditional medicine. We can’t do it any other way." - "Saw Ner Muh" (M, xx), internally displaced villager from xxxx village (Interview #8, 11/99)

"The villagers go to the hospital but have to buy the medicine from outside. The villagers who went to stay there felt that they couldn’t buy medicine because they didn’t have an income." - "Saw Ghaw" (M), KHRG field researcher (Interview #1, 8/00)

Villagers who were relocated to Kler Lah in 1998 have reported that many of the old people have died since being relocated and many of the other villagers are sick. There is an increased health risk in Kler Lah and the other relocation sites due to the relocation of so many people to one place. There is also a higher chance of contracting malaria or diseases and infections related to poor sanitation and a general lack of basic health education. Older people who have lived their whole lives higher in the cold of the hills cannot adapt to the different climate and diseases of lower areas, and once displaced in a relocation site people no longer know which sources of water are good and which are contaminated. Many of the villagers don’t have enough rice or other foods to eat, so there are high rates of malnutrition and vitamin deficiency. The heavy labour demands levied by the military do not give the villagers much of a chance to rest.

"When we got sick and asked for medicine, we had to go and buy a ticket, they call it a donation. They gave us the ticket and then we could ask for medicine. We have to buy medicine from them. They sell the medicine to us at the civilian price [this is a higher price than the government price], but there is not enough medicine in the hospital. When the villagers get a serious disease, they mostly go to [Toungoo] town. I don’t buy medicine, but there are villagers selling injections in Kler Lah. … All the old villagers have died since they were moved to stay here in the lower place. Only the young people are still alive. The villagers who are still alive are healthy. None of them get sick, but the villagers from the other villages are getting sick." - "Saw Eh Doh" (M, 45), Kler Lah relocation site (Interview #7, 11/99)

The health situation for the internally displaced villagers is very serious. There is no medicine in the Ywa Bone villages and they are completely dependent on traditional medicines made from roots and leaves. Without letters of recommendation it is impossible to send people to Kler Lah or Toungoo for treatment. Twenty displaced people from Ha Toh Per village died from diarrhoea in 1999, simply due to a lack of basic medicines. The campaign by the military to destroy the Ywa Bone villagers’ crops and fields combined with rains that came too early and continued for too long last year has left the villagers with very little rice. Being constantly on the run has also made it difficult for the villagers to raise livestock or grow vegetables with which to supplement their diets. Foraging in the forest is often their only choice. There is a real chance that the already serious malnutrition among these people will worsen into widespread starvation.

Than Daung Gyi and Tourism

"They plan to make Than Daung Gyi a resort for tourists, then they will get money from Than Daung Gyi. They are also going to keep their units and their families there. They are going to rebuild that place thoroughly. That is why they have moved the villagers and forced them to relocate somewhere else. They also took the villagers’ land and places like their tea leaf plantations. I didn’t get an exact register so I can’t tell you the exact numbers. They think this town should have good communications so they want to set up a communications centre, an email place." - "Saw Ghaw" (M), KHRG field researcher (Interview #1, 8/00)

Than Daung Gyi was once a hill station used by the British to escape the heat of the plains of central Burma. The township offices have long been moved to Than Daung Myothit (New Than Daung Town) on the Toungoo-Kler Lah car road, but Than Daung Gyi is still a reasonable-sized town. The town is 28 miles from Toungoo and atop a 4,000 foot mountain with cool weather all year. It is also known for the tea leaves which are produced there. The SLORC had planned to make Than Daung Gyi a tourist destination in time for Visit Myanmar Year in 1996. Lt. General Khin Nyunt, Secretary-1 of the SLORC (and still Secretary-1 of the SPDC), came in person to inspect the project, but security could not be guaranteed so the project was halted. In the beginning of 2000 the project was revived. Lt. General Win Myint, Secretary-3 of the SPDC, came to Than Daung Gyi along with Hotels and Tourism Minister Major General Saw Lwin and other officials in February 2000 to plan the project. According to the Burmese language newspaper ‘The Mirror’ dated 12/2/2000, Major General Saw Lwin remarked in his speech during the visit on the "need to carry out the Taung Sakan Myo (Hill Camp Town) project to make it interesting for international tourists." A day after Win Myint and Saw Lwin’s visit, Colonel Myo Myint was ordered by the Southern Regional Command commander, Major General Tin Aye, to move the markets in the town and told where to house the soldiers’ families, how to build the roads, how to use the bulldozers to dig the roads and where to build a communications centre. Following the visit, the military confiscated the land, including the tea, coffee and dogfruit crops of the villagers, relocated the villagers, and began construction on new buildings. They have also started digging the town road.

"At the beginning of 2000 they restarted their old project again. First, General Tin Oo [SPDC Secretary-2] came and planned the project, then they started to confiscate villagers’ land, tea crops, coffee crops, relocated the villagers and built buildings." - field report from KHRG field researcher (FR #1, 8/00)

The plan is to make Than Daung Gyi a tourist destination within one year. The Burmese press (see The Mirror, 12/2/00, and The New Light of Myanmar, 12/2/00) has reported that eighteen (unnamed) ‘private’ Burmese companies have invested in the project. A new hotel is being built for the tourists. According to the plan, the communication centre will even have e-mail, an odd feature when even the internet cafés in Rangoon don’t have email or internet access. Forced labour is being used for the construction of the buildings. The nearby Maw Koh hot springs in Ker Weh and another hot springs at Taw Bya Gyi village are also to be part of the project. Taw Bya Gyi is along the New Than Daung-Than Daung Gyi road, but a new road is being constructed to Ker Weh. Villagers in the Ker Weh area have been forced to clear the way for the bulldozers and to dig out any big stones. They are not paid for the work, nor are they given any food.

"Now the SPDC are building Bayinnaung Town in Than Daung. They are also building a camp for the army, a Hotel and using forced labour in many ways. They took a lot of females from Rangoon and other towns. Some of them were forced to do ‘loh ah pay’ and some to sleep with the soldiers." - field report from KHRG field researcher and KNU intelligence (FR, 1/00-8/00)

"In Than Daung the SPDC is building Bayinnaung [town]. To do it they have confiscated all of the land for 4 miles around the place and a lot of the villagers’ coffee, tea and dogfruit plantations have been lost." - field report from KHRG field researcher and KNU intelligence (FR, 1/00-8/00)

A new battalion, Infantry Battalion #124, set up its headquarters in Than Daung Gyi for the purpose of securing the town for the project. A large new camp, which the SPDC is calling ‘Bayinnaung Town’, is being built in the town to house the soldiers and their families. The military has confiscated the land for four miles around it to build on. This land included the tea, coffee and dogfruit plantations of many villagers. Security for the project has been deemed very important. Light Infantry Battalions #344, 349, and 439 and Infantry Battalions #20, 34, and 55 have been sent to the area around the town to maintain security. At least four battalions from Sa Ka Ka #6 were also sent to the area in January and stayed until the end of March for the purpose of guaranteeing security for the project [‘Sa Ka Ka’ is an abbreviation for Military Operations Command; these commands, which comprise up to 10 Battalions and are not tied to any particular region, are becoming more prevalent in Burma]. The increased military presence has meant that the villagers are often called to work at loh ah pay and to porter for the soldiers. Although Sa Ka Ka #6 rotated back in March, the other battalions continued to operate in the area. Despite these measures, attacks have been carried out both in Than Daung Gyi and in the surrounding area by the KNLA. This lack of security has made the progress of the work very slow and it is unlikely that the project will be finished soon.

Future of the Area

"In this emergency situation we must say they need food the most, but in the long term what they need is security. If there is peace and security, other things will come more smoothly. We understand it like this. That is why we need peace soon so we can get security and we can work for a living. This is a very important thing." - "Saw Ghaw" (M), KHRG field researcher (Interview #1, 8/00)

The SPDC military presence and its control over the district, while growing, will not be absolute for some time. The KNLA is still very able to operate in the area and has been able to inflict significant numbers of casualties as well as make raids on roads, villages and even Than Daung Gyi town. The villagers in the mountains help the KNLA when they can, and the KNLA, for its part, helps to bring in whatever small amounts of aid can be provided from outside organisations for the internally displaced villagers. Both the villagers and the KNLA warn each other of approaching columns when they can. The new road building projects in the district could be a prelude to an even larger SPDC troop presence, and also function to cut up the district and make it more difficult for KNLA units to move undetected. However, the terrain in the district is ideal for guerrilla warfare and the KNLA is adept at exploiting that advantage, so they will be able to continue their operations in this district for the foreseeable future.

The villagers are much more vulnerable. The SPDC Army is able and has already demonstrated its willingness to destroy the villagers’ ability to produce food. Most of the SPDC’s military operations since 1997 have been directed against the villagers along and between the Kler Lah-Mawchi and Kler Lah-Bu Sah Kee car roads rather than against the KNLA. Although the villagers have seen their crops destroyed over and over again, most of them are firmly rooted in their land and see nowhere else to go, so they will continue to live in hiding in the hills for as long as possible. Very few of them are willing to go down to the forced labour and the impoverishing extortion ‘fees’ of the relocation sites and Nyein Chan Yay villages. They are also aware that flight to Thailand is too difficult and dangerous to contemplate, and are afraid of what would await them there even if they could make the journey. They see their only option being to continue growing rice and cash crops, like betel, cardamom or durian, in small plots in the forest and trying to sell their produce in the Nyein Chan Yay villages to buy more rice. The military’s campaign to destroy the fields, restrictions on the movement of people and goods, and poor weather for crops have combined to create very serious food shortages for the internally displaced villagers, with starvation looming for some. Easily treatable diseases are also killing many due to the lack of available medicines.

The SPDC’s campaign to force the villagers out of the hills is not working. Instead, the heavy demands for forced labour and extortion money in the Nyein Chan Yay villages are having the opposite effect, with many villagers opting to flee into the jungle. The villagers who remain in the relocation sites and Nyein Chan Yay villages are running out of money as they struggle to pay ‘fees’, do their turn at forced labour and still find time to work in their fields. Each new Battalion sent in to increase SPDC control only burdens these villagers with even more demands for forced labour, food and money. Their attempts to grow cash crops or to trade with the villages and towns in the plains often prove futile because the soldiers demand or steal almost all of the produce or profits. Prices for basic commodities are also rising quickly, becoming beyond the means of most villagers. The stability gained by staying in a village does allow for schools and hospitals, but the lack of money and freedom to earn a living forces many villagers to pull their children out of school and makes medicine unaffordable. As more battalions move in and the villagers become poorer and poorer, they have to spend more and more of their time at forced labour because they cannot pay the fees to avoid it - which in turn drives them further into poverty because they have less time to work for themselves. There is no sign that this vicious spiral is going to end any time soon, so it is difficult to know what the villagers will do to survive. In interviews, they usually say that they themselves don’t know what to do.

"There are the refugee villages of Der Doh, Maw Ko Der, Thay Kaw Der and Klay Soe Kee [villages that have been relocated to Kler Lah]. The villagers [from these villages] are going back to work, but when the Burmese see them, they arrest them and force them to porter. We can’t work for a living. When we don’t work, sometimes we don’t have any salt to eat, so we go to carry it. We have to pick cardamom, but when the soldiers saw us picking it, they arrested us. We must go to work in fear. The Burmese are the SPDC." - "Saw Ghay Hser" (M, xx), Kler Lah relocation site (Interview #12, 11/99)

The various road, dam and tourism projects as well as the heavy military presence in the region guarantee that forced labour will continue in the district. Every new Battalion and Army Camp means more forced portering, and villagers in the Nyein Chan Yay villages are very afraid of forced labour on all of the roads and infrastructure projects ongoing and planned in the region. The fear of being captured for forced labour and the growing militarisation along the Kler Lah-Mawchi and Kler Lah-Bu Sah Kee roads has already forced thousands of villagers along the road routes to leave their homes and flee into the hills. The new road from Bu Sah Kee to Ma La Daw and the Army camps that are sure to be built along it will likely result in the displacement of the villagers in that region also. If construction on the planned road from Kler Lah to Than Daung Gyi begins, then much of central Than Daung township will certainly see increased demands for forced labour along its route. The tourism project in Than Daung Gyi has already forced many villagers out of their homes and destroyed their plantations and fields. Although it is unlikely that the area around Than Daung Gyi will be secure enough for tourists in the near future, the SPDC seems determined to continue the project. Forced labour will continue to be used to clear the site, to build the access roads and to construct the buildings. The dam at Pa Leh Wah, in addition to using forced labour for its construction, will also result in the forced relocation without compensation of the villagers in the area of its reservoir. For all of these projects the orders come from the military and the State and Township level Peace and Development Councils.

"They don’t have any place to run to so they run into the jungle. It is not easy to run to Thailand because it is very far and they have to cross the area [the area from Toungoo District to the border with Thailand]. If they come, they do not come in ones and twos, they have to come in large numbers. When they come, the SPDC soldiers are on the paths everywhere. If they can arrest the villagers, they kill them. That is why it is not easy to come that way. It is not easy to come to the refugee camps because it is too far. They can’t think about coming to Thailand. Sometimes when they are fleeing, they don’t know where they will flee to, so if they know people who live in town, then they run there. They have escaped once, but they can’t stay there for long. They don’t have any food and there is nobody there to feed them. They all have to flee back to the mountains again. There is no place to escape to in the town and also no place in the mountains. They can only flee to live in the jungle." - "Saw Ghaw" (M), KHRG field researcher (Interview #1, 8/00)

The people in Toungoo District will continue to endure forced labour, pay extortion fees, see their crops and livelihoods destroyed, and be shot dead in their fields. Positive change in Toungoo District can only come with significant change in the way that Burma is governed.

"We can’t do anything with this stupid government. They are holding guns, so we have to stay quietly. … Groups of the SPDC are not making things easy for us. They are finding our faults, and if we have faults they call us and demand things." - "Saw Nay Kaw" (M, xx), xxxx village (Interview #5, 11/99)

 

Index of Interviews and Field Reports

This index summarises the interviews and field reports quoted within this report, using the numbers which also appear in the quote captions. All names of those interviewed have been changed. In the summaries below, FL = Forced Labour, FR = Forced Relocation, RS = Relocation Site, LR = Letters of Recommendation, and SSS = Sa Thon Lon. Under ‘Twp.’ (Township), D = Than Daung, T = Tantabin. All interviewees are of Karen nationality.

 

#

Date

Name

Sex

Age

Village

Twp.

Summary

FR

1/00-8/00

Field Reports

        Incident reports submitted by KHRG field reporters and KNU intelligence. FL as porters, extortion, FL on Mawchi car road, human minesweepers, confiscation of land and plans for Than Daung Gyi tourism project, killing of villagers, landmines, arrest, beatings and FR for perceived help of deserters

FR1

8/00

Field Report 1

        August 2000 report of a KHRG field reporter; condition of IDP’s, landmines, FL porters, FL on Bu Sah Kee and Mawchi car roads, FR of villages, military units in the area, destruction of plantations, shooting of villagers, SPDC deserters, detention, torture, burning of Swa Loh village, Peace Group activities and description, confiscation of land and plantations and FL for tourism project

FR2

8/00

Field Report 2

        Report written by a villager in August 2000; portering,Sa Thon Lon activities, general situation in Than Daung area

FR3

12/99

Field Report 3

        Field report written by a KHRG field reporter in December 1999; wounding and killing of villagers in their field hut

FR4

7/00

Field Report 4

        Report written by a villager in July 2000; restrictions, portering

1

8/00

"Saw Ghaw"

M

      Interview with KHRG field reporter; FL as porters, FR of villages, military units in the area, FL at Army camps, Kler Lah RS villagers used as FL, capturing of porters in Kler Lah RS, killings, landmines, women and children as porters, portering conditions, conditions in Kler Lah RS, destruction of plantations, flight from Kler Lah RS, health situation, education situation, FL on Mawchi car road, new car road construction projects, FR and confiscation of land for tourism project, demands for money for computer training, human minesweepers, reprisals against villagers for KNLA ambushes, looting, Sa Sa Saactivities and description, condition of IDP’s, destruction of fields and food supplies, Peace Group activities, options for fleeing villagers

 


#

Date

Name

Sex

Age

Village

Twp.

Summary

2

12/99

"Saw Wah"

M

      Interview with KHRG field reporter; situation inNyein Chan Yayvillages, demands for food, letters of recommendation, FL at Army camps, porter fees, FL as porters, military units in the area, extortion, reprisals for KNLA attacks, burning of villages, destruction of food supplies, detention, Sa Sa Sa activities, worsening food situation forNyein Chan Yayvillages, schools

3

10/99

"Saw Ghay Po"

M

45

xxxx

T

Conditions ofNyein Chan Yayvillages, demands for money and food, abuse of headmen, beaten by SPDC, extortion, desire of villagers to flee, tortured by SPDC for not reporting on KNU activities, LR, selling of villagers betelnut for soldiers’ profit, FL portering, impoverishment, aims of SPDC

4

10/99

"Tha Muh Htoo"

M

45

xxxx

T

Demands for food, FL portering, porter fees, firearms tax, harassment of shopkeepers, prohibition of medicine and batteries, restrictions on shopkeepers, abuse of headmen and villagers for contact with KNU, threats to burn villages, stealing by privates and rationale for it, aims of SPDC, register of past and present KNU from village

5

11/99

"Saw Nay Kaw"

M

xx

xxxx

T

Kler Lah-Toungoo car road ‘fees’, looting of plantations, destruction of betelnut trees, demands for food, FL as porters on Bu Sah Kee car road, women porters, human minesweepers, conditions for porters, bulldozer ‘fees’, Kler Lah and Toungoo hospitals, confiscation of medicine, schools

6

10/99

"Saw Lah Thaw"

M

32

xxxx

T

FL portering, porter fees, reporting on opposition groups, LR, beating of 3 villagers by SPDC, SSS and killing

7

11/99

"Saw Eh Doh"

M

45

Kler Lah RS

D

Rationale for FR to Kler Lah, FL portering on Bu Sah Kee car road, threats to villagers for KNU actions, suffering of villagers in RS, rising prices, health situation, FL on car road
 

#

Date

Name

Sex

Age

Village

Twp.

Summary

8

11/99

"Saw Ner Muh"

M

xx

xxxx

T

Condition of IDP’s, didn’t dare harvest his crop because of presence of SPDC soldiers, landmines, destruction of fields and food supplies, shooting of villagers, rising price of rice, medicine for IDP’s

9

10/99

"Saw San Htay"

M

39

xxxx

T

Arrested and detained by SPDC, nephew and 3 villagers also arrested, beatings, demands for money for release, burning of houses and rice barns, looting

10

10/99

"Saw Nya Thu"

M

25

xxxx

T

Arrested and detained with "Saw San Htay", 3 other villagers arrested, village burnt, looting, destruction of paddy, beatings, demands for money for release

11

10/99

"Saw Tha Doh"

M

22

xxxx

D

Beating of 4 villagers by SPDC

12

11/99

"Saw Ghay Hser"

M

xx

Kler Lah

D

Porter fees, ability of villagers to pay fees, conditions in Kler Lah RS, finding time to work fields, extortion, demands on cars using Kler Lah-Toungoo car road, hospital in Kler Lah, lack of medicine, school in Kler Lah

13

11/99

"Saw Thaw Thi Wah"

M

48

Kler Lah RS

D

Conditions in Kler Lah RS, porter fees, ability to work in fields, LR, cost of medicine, school, killing of villager in his field

14

10/99

"Saw Tee Koh"

M

xx

xxxx

T

Demands for food and money, arrest and release by SPDC

15

11/99

"Pu Htaw Say"

M

52

Kler Lah RS

D

Conditions in Kler Lah RS, porter fees, FL as porters, impoverishment, hospital, price of rice

16

11/99

"Naw Chit Chit"

F

17

Kler Lah RS

D

Conditions in Kler Lah RS, LR, FL in Kler Lah RS, FL portering, school, cost of medicine, price of rice

Appendix:
Order Document Translations

 

[This section is best viewed with your browser window maximized, or you may have to scroll left and right to see the full text of the order translations.]

Order #1

 

                 Stamp:
Frontline #xx Infantry Battalion

To:     Chairperson U xxxx                                                Date: 21-7-2000
          xxxx village

The higher authorities have ordered that your village be relocated. Important. Bring the family list of the village and report to yyyy [camp] as soon as you receive this letter, you are informed.

                                                                               [Sd.] 21-7-2000
                                                                            Column Commander

This relocation order was followed by a sequence of orders as the Army tried to implement the relocation, including Order #2 below. It appears that the villagers may have tried to pay their way out of being relocated, but the officers became increasingly frustrated with the headman until they threatened to shoot him in Order #2

Order #2

 
To:    U xxxx                                                                       19-8-2000

You failed your promise to meet, so I will come when your village is holding the hill god ceremony. As compensation, a bullet will be received. Meet now.

                                                                                     [Sd.]
                                                                           Column Commander 

At this point it is clear that the village head is not planning to comply with the forced relocation order, and it is possible that he and many of the villagers have already fled into hiding. If the village tried to pay their way out of the forced relocation, it apparently has not worked.

Order #3


                Stamp:                              To:                             Date: 3-9-2000
Frontline #xx Infantry Battalion                  Chairperson
             Company #x                                 xxxx [village]

As soon as you receive this letter, Chairperson yourself must come to yyyy Army Camp. If not,[we] will fire a big weapon into the village.

                                                                           [Sd.] Capt.
                                                                              3-9-00

                                                                      Camp Commander
                                                                            yyyy camp

The term used for ‘big weapon’ clearly implies a mortar, because this term is not used for anything smaller such as a grenade or rocket-propelled grenade.

Order #4


To:     U xxxx 
          Chairperson, xxxx village                                            19-7-2000

xxxx! Your Ywa Bone [‘hiding village’] villager is to be released. Come and meet as soon as you receive this letter. If not, ……

                                                                                [Sd.]

‘If not, ......’ is exactly as it appears in the order, implying that if the headman doesn’t come they will probably execute the ‘hiding’ villager.

Order #5


          Stamp:
#xx [IB], Company x                                                              7/3/2000

    Date: 7/3/2000                         To: [blank]
      xxxx [camp]

Subject:     Calling for loh ah pay

Regarding the above subject, Gentleman’s village must send 4 people to build on Ka Na Soe Bin road construction, come to xxxx Camp on 10/3/2000 at 10 o’clock in the morning with 3 days of supplies and mattocks and machetes. Be informed that if [you] fail, it will be the Gentleman’s responsibility.

                                                                                 [Sd.]
                                                                  (for) Camp Commander

                                                                             xxxx Camp

Mattocks are large hoes used for digging. On the back this order is marked "Urgent" and "Send this quickly". The stamp has a blank unit number which the officer has written in by hand.

Order #6


          Stamp:                                                                    Date: 2-9-2000
#xx Infantry Battalion               To:  Chairperson
      Company #x                             xxxx village

To rebuild the bridge along the yyyy-zzzz road, Chairperson (or) Secretary must bring 10 loh ah pay persons and report to yyyy Army Camp on 3-9-2000 (Sunday) at 0600 hours without fail, you are informed.

                                                                      [Sd.] ‘Captain’
                                                                             2-9-00

                                                            yyyy Army Camp Commander 

There are SPDC camps at both yyyy and zzzz, and there is a partly-passable but very rough vehicle road that goes between them. Villagers in this area are always forced to rebuild the roads after every rainy season.

Order #7


                 Stamp: 
         xxxx Village Tract
Peace & Development Council               To:
     Than Daung Township                            Chairperson / Secretary

The condition of the Pa Leh Wah - Baw Ga Li Gyi [Kler Lah] vehicle road is no good at all. Therefore, as a show of public strength, one person per house with mattock [large hoe], machete and food for 3 days must come without fail from Gentleman’s [your] village to the Ya Ya Ka[VPDC] office tomorrow at 6:30 a.m.

                                                                     [Sd.] 
                                                                Chairperson
                                         Village Tract Peace & Development Council 
                                           xxxx Village Tract, Than Daung Township

Order #8


                           Stamp:                        Township Peace and Development Council
Township Peace and Development Council   Karen State - Than Daung town
              Than Daung township                   Letter number 5 / 3-19 / Oo 6
                                                               Date: Year 1999, February 24th

Subject:     Assigning duties for Baw Ga Li - Mawchi road construction

1)     Regarding the above subject, for the Baw Ga Li - Mawchi road construction, one 2-ton truck or two Hi-Lux [a brand of small Toyota pickup] from Than Daung township must be sent.

2)     For this assistance, vehicle associations operating around main Than Daung, Than Daung Gyi, and Leit Tho are assigned to assist cooperatively as below.

          (a)  From 26-2-99 to 7-3-99, 10 days
                Than Daung Gyi vehicle association to send one vehicle.
          (b)  From 8-3-99 to 17-3-99, 10 days
                Than Daung vehicle association to send one vehicle.
          (c)  From 18-3-99 to 27-3-99, 10 days
               Leit Tho vehicle association to send one vehicle.

3)     The vehicle owners who are assigned by the vehicle associations must do their duties diligently, and if for any reason they avoid their duty or fail to perform it, effective action will be taken by administrative means or under criminal law against the vehicle or the person.

                                                                                     [Sd.]
                                                                                ( Tint Swe )

                                                                                Chairperson

Distribution:
___xxxx____ vehicle association, Main Town/Than Daung Gyi/Leit Tho, Than Daung township
Copies to:
               - Strategic Commander, #1 Strategic Command, Leit Tho
               - Strategic Commander, #1 Strategic Command, Baw Ga Li
               - Battalion Commander, #35 Infantry Battalion, Baw Ga Li
               - Frontline Commander, #30 Infantry Battalion, Than Daung town
               - Chairperson, concerned Ward/Village Tract Peace and Development
                 Council,      xxxx      
               - Office Copy/Circulation

Ya Ba/xx

‘Effective action by administrative means’ implies that they will have their driver’s licence or vehicle permit cancelled, which would rob them of their livelihood.

Order #9


To:                                                                                   Date: 27-12-99
     Chairperson

-   As soon as you receive this letter, come to yyyy camp to clear the fees for hiring servants.

-   You are informed to come with 3 servants with 3 days of supplies, and 20 viss [32 kg/70 lb] of betelnut as a Christmas present.

* List the total of families in the village            [Sd.] Lieutenant, 27/12/99
     Males above 12 / under 12                                  Kyi xxxxx Lt. xxxx 

     Females above 12 / under 12                          yyyy Camp Commander 
     Prepare it and bring it.

[The following is written on the back:]

If you do not come, we will call with the big gun.     [Sd.]

The list of families in the village is used to allocate forced labour and extortion demands. The term used for ‘big gun’ implies a mortar which they will fire at the village.

Order #10


To:     Chairperson, Secretary                                                   24-6-99

Subject:     To buy and carry rice

Regarding the above subject, 15 loh ah pay servants from Chairperson’s village must come to xxxxvillage tomorrow at 7 o’clock. [You] must report information to the Camp. [You] must give 1,500 Kyats cash to the Column for the servants’ food every 15 days. Therefore, send 1,500 Kyat in cash with the servants tomorrow. [I am] writing this letter to inform you.

                                                              [Sd.] 24-6-99
                                                               Chairperson

                                        Village Tract Peace & Development Council 
                                         xxxx Village Tract, Than Daung Township

Order #11


                               Stamp:                                         Date: 15-10-99
xxxx Village Tract Peace & Development Council 
                   Than Daung Township

To:    Chairperson / Secretary ( xxxx [village] )

Subject:     The matter of collecting the monthly servants’ fees for 9/99

1. The register for sending servants and reserve Army servants in 9/99 is as follows:

                         (a)     Tactical Command     21 persons
                         (b)     IB #53                       12 persons
                         (c)     IB #35                       11 persons
                         (d)     IB #59                        9 persons
                         (e)     IB #39                       22 Persons
                                                         Total  75 Persons

2. Every village in xxxx Township [sic: village tract] has to pay their quota of servants’ fees, depending on their proportion of the [total] number of households.

(a) aaaa [village]                    43 x 4,000          = 172,000 [Kyat]
                                              1 x 4,250          =     4,250
                                                                       176,250

(b) bbbb [village]                    12 x 4,000          = 48,000
                                               1 x 4,250          =    4,250
                                                                       = 52,250

                                   Balance from 8/99          = 21,000
                                                     Total          = 73,250

(c) cccc [village]                         6 x 4,000          = 24,000
                                                 1 x 4,250          =  4,250
                                                                          28,250

                                    Balance from 8/99          = 90,800
                                                       Total          = 119,050

(d) dddd [village]                        5 x 4,000          = 20,000
                                                1 x 4,250          =    4,250
                                                                          24,250

                                     Balance from 8/99          = 62,250
                                                        Total            86,500

[page 2 of original starts here]

(e) eeee [village]                         5 x 4,000          = 20,000
                                                  1 x 4,250          =  4,250
                                                                            24,250

                                      Balance from 8/99         = 155,700
                                                        Total         = 179,950

(f) ffff [village]                             2 x 4,000         =  8,000
                                                   1 x 4,250        =   4,250
                                                                           12,250

                                      Balance from 8/99        = 32,125
                                                         Total        = 44,375

(g) gggg [village]                            2 x 4,000        =   8,000
                                                   1 x 4,250        =   4,250
                                                                            12,250

                                       Balance from 8/99        =  25,750
                                                         Total        = 38,000

                                                                   [Sd.] 
                                                             Chairperson
                                       Village Tract Peace & Development Council 
                                        xxxx Village Tract, Than Daung Township

This order was sent out by the village tract, stipulating how much money the villages owe for porter fees for September 1999 and how much they are in arrears.

Order #12


         Stamp:                                                                          Stamp: 
#xx Infantry Battalion         U aaaa, Chairperson                #xx Infantry Battalion 
  Company #[blank]            VPDC, xxxx village                       Date: 31-8-2000
                                        Tantabin township                    Company #[blank]
                                       Bago [Pegu] Division

aaaa, I have written lots of letters. Send fish with this messenger. I also forgot to include [a demand for] rice assistance in yesterday’s letter. Arrange to get 10 tins of rice from your village and send them with this messenger. I was also told that the traps prepared for our Camp’s food were emptied by your group [the fish were taken from them]. Therefore, return it to us and tell your group. As for crossing our ricefield and destroying many seedlings, if this matter occurs again I will take action on you. I will shoot your group… Arrange [to send] the things I have written with this messenger.

                                                  Xxxx                                       [Sd.]
                                                  Camp-In-Charge               Camp manager

The unit who sent this order is apparently based in a ricefield confiscated from the villagers where the Army now forces villagers to work growing rice for the Battalion. The fish traps mentioned were also probably set by the villagers as forced labour. ‘I will shoot your group…’ is reproduced here as it appears in the order; the ‘group’ means the villagers under the village head.

Order #13


                           Stamp:      
Village Tract Peace & Development Council 
                   yyyy Village Tract

To:    Chairperson, Secretary
          xxxx [village]

Chairperson, right now [we] must get 75 viss [120 kg / 262 lb] of betelnut for the Deputy Battalion Commander. Chairperson’s village must collect 20 viss of betelnut and send it to yyyyvillage to arrive on Wednesday, the Camp Commander has asked for it. [We] will give 1,400[Kyat].

                                                                     [Sd.] 2-3-99
                                                                     Chairperson

                                               Village Tract Peace & Development Council 
                                                 yyyy Village Tract, Than Daung Township

Order #14


Recommendation

                            Stamp:
xxxx Village Tract Peace & Development Council 

                Than Daung Township

From xxxx village, Naw aaaa , father’s name bbbb , age ( 20 ) years, is permitted to go to yyyyvillage , the surrounding hill fields, cardamom gardens and betelnut gardens, from 23/8/99 to 28/8/99.  Naw aaaa is permitted to take with her ([blank]) milk-tins of rice and ([blank]) packets of [cooked] rice to eat.

Name Naw aaaa is permitted only for the day / to sleep overnight.
Place to sleep overnight: ( yyyy village, near the peanut plantation )

                                                                         [Sd.] xxxx
                                                                   (for) Chairperson

                                               Village Tract Peace & Development Council 
                                                xxxx Village Tract, Than Daung Township

Order #15


                Stamp:
Frontline #xx Infantry Battalion                To:

            Date: 21-9-99                                    Chairperson
            Company #x                                       xxxx village

Subject:     To report any unusual information every day

(1) Starting right now when [you] get this letter, every day report any unusual information by messenger.

(2) Even if [you] do not get any unusual information, send at least 1 piece of information every day. One piece of information about the enemy, or the people who come and go in the village, a register of peddlars, number of plantations, hill fields, etc. Write one piece of information. It must tell all that they [the people reported on] are doing.

(3) Send information about health, education, social obligations and occupations in the village with the messenger.

(4) Starting right now when [you] receive this letter, send a messenger every day, you are hereby informed. The Chairperson must not fail to do this, you are informed. If [you] don’t do it serious action will be taken, you are hereby informed.

Note:     Send a messenger every day. Even if [you] do not have any unusual information, [you]must send at least one piece of information. The xx families of xxxx village must each send firewood to the ground beneath the Church on 22-9-99, to arrive by 1000 hours.

Chairperson:

1. On 25-9-99 send 15 viss [24 kg / 52.5 lb] of pork to the camp.
2. Send 2 bottles of honey, as I ordered, and one monkey on 23-9-99.
3. If the Chairperson gets well, come to meet [me] on 24-9-99.
4. Send a messenger every day.

                                                                   [Sd.] 21-9-99
                                                               Camp Commander

                                                                    yyyy Camp
                                                             Company Commander
                                                                    #x Company
                                                             #xx Infantry Battalion 

Order #16


Secret

          Stamp:                                                #39 Infantry Battalion 
Armed Forces (Army)                                       Toungoo
#39 Infantry Battalion                                       Letter number 1000 / 39 / Oo 1
                                                                     Date: Year 1998, July 10th

To:          Township Peace and Development Council, Than Daung town
               Township Peace and Development Council, Tantabin town

Subject:     Inspecting loads on vehicles

Reference: Southern Command telegram number 3 Oo 1 dated 6-7-98 at 1230 hours.

1)     By the above reference telegram, it was instructed to check supplies, medicines, and batteries at 4-Mile checkpoint to prevent them from reaching the insurgent destructive elements.

2)     Therefore, inspection teams will check and control supplies, medicines, and batteries not to pass through 4-Mile, where #39 Infantry Battalion is located. Vehicles departing daily from Toungoo for Dtan Thit (13-Mile), Tantabin, Zayat Kyi, Leit Tho, Than Daung town, Baw Ga Li, and Yay Tho Gyi areas will be checked.

3)     People from townships will need supplies, medicines and batteries for their own consumption, so if they are really needed, recommendation letters from the Ward/Village Peace and Development Councils and Township Peace and Development Councils concerned, recommendations from local operational and control troops, family registration lists, and a list specifying the period during which all of the goods will be consumed, are required to be allowed to transport them.

4)     The addressed townships and villages/village tracts within these townships are hereby notified about the situation and activities of the inspection group, and if [they] fail it is informed that legal action will be taken.

                                                                                     [Sd.]
                                                                      (for) Battalion Commander

Copies to:
               #1 Strategic Command, Western Command Headquarters (Leit Tho)
               Frontline #39 Infantry Battalion (Leit Tho)
               Village Peace and Development Councilxxxx 
               xxxx / yyyy / zzzz

Secret

Order #17


                          Stamp:                         Township Peace and Development Council
Township Peace and Development Council  Karen State - Than Daung town
               Than Daung township                 Letter number 5 / 3-19 / Oo 6
                                                              Date: Year 1999, June 12th

To:     Chairperson
          Ward Peace and Development Council
               xxxx      Ward/Village Tract

Subject:     The matter of collecting a Township Fund

1)     The Than Daung Township Peace and Development Council team has to work on township administration duties and there are many expenses, therefore the raising of funds is greatly required.

2)     Therefore, seasonal produce such as durians will be taxed at the rate of 2 Kyat apiece from vehicles travelling along the Than Daung - Than Daung Gyi road and the Than Daung - Baw Ga Li road in Than Daung township, so inform the vehicle owners again.

Note:     The collection will begin from 14-6-99.

                                                                                [Sd.]
                                                                           ( Tint Swe )

                                                                           Chairperson
Copies to:
- Police Chief, Myanmar Police Force, Than Daung town | Myanmar Police Force and
- Office Copy                                                             | general administration staff
- Circulation                                                               | will jointly collect it.

As this order shows, this corruption is not isolated to the checkpoints, but also exists at an official level.