This report presents direct translations of 568 order documents and letters, selected from a total of 735 such documents. They dictate demands for forced labour, money, food and materials, place restrictions on the movements and activities of villagers, and make threats to arrest village elders or destroy the villages of those who fail to obey. Almost all of them were sent from SPDC military units and local SPDC authorities to village elders in Papun, Nyaunglebin, Pa’an, Thaton, Toungoo and Dooplaya Districts, which together cover almost all of Karen State and part of eastern Pegu Division. The remainder were sent by the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), a Karen group allied with the SPDC, or were sent back and forth between village elders. All but a few of them were issued between January 2000 and January 2001, with the majority of them dated in the latter half of this period.
Villages in Karen areas receive a constant stream of order documents such as these almost every day, from all SPDC Army camps near their village as well as the various levels of SPDC authorities, commanding them to provide people for forced labour, materials and supplies for the Army, extortion money, food, crop quotas, intelligence and other forms of support for the military. Many of the orders simply command village elders to rush to Army camps for ‘meetings’ at which military officers dictate lists of demands and threaten them with punishment for any failure to comply. The orders translated in this report should be seen as only a small representative sample of the thousands of orders issued to villages in these areas during this time period. For every order reproduced here, hundreds more are issued every week. This report does not aim to provide a comprehensive picture of the human rights situation in these areas, but to provide a reference containing examples of several kinds of orders received by villages in several different regions. More information on the human rights situation in each District is available in other existing KHRG reports. Additional information on the structure and details of the SPDC and DKBA Armies can be found in "Abuse Under Orders: The SPDC & DKBA Armies through the Eyes of their Soldiers" (KHRG #2001-01, 27/3/01).
Over 300 of the orders in this report contain demands for unpaid forced labour placed on villages by SPDC authorities (this includes orders in the sections ‘General Forced Labour’, ‘Forced Labour Supplying Materials’, and many of the orders in the ‘Set to a Village’ sections). All of the orders demanding forced labour were issued well after May 14th 1999, which is when the SPDC leadership claims to have issued ‘Order 1/99’ to all of their military and administrative units to halt conscription of forced labour under the Villages Act and the Towns Act, colonial-era laws which allow authorities to press-gang labour under certain circumstances. In practice, most of the demands made by the military and SPDC authorities violate the conditions of these Acts (for example, that only able-bodied and unemployed men be conscripted and that conscripted labour should be paid), and when demanding forced labour the authorities almost never even make reference to the Acts. Since May 1999 there has been no abatement in orders issued demanding forced labour, and the fact that those included below were issued by many different SPDC battalions and authorities in several different regions shows that such demands are not isolated incidents. In June 2000 the International Labour Organisation (ILO) gave the SPDC until November to take measures to bring an end to forced labour; when the deadline passed with no sign of positive reform, they voted to enact ILO Article 33 for the first time in the Organisation’s 83-year history. Under this Article, the ILO presses its member governments, workers’ organisations and employers’ organisations, as well as other United Nations agencies and bodies, to review their relations with the SPDC to ensure that they are not contributing to the continuation of forced labour in Burma.
The orders in this report demanding forced labour dated right up to January 2001 tend to support the ILO conclusion that the SPDC has taken no concrete action to reduce or eliminate forced labour. According to testimony gathered by KHRG from SPDC deserters, villagers, and some of the orders below, it appears that some sort of ‘window-dressing’ is occurring in the form of orders from higher authorities telling local authorities to tone down their use of forced labour (see for example Order #151 in the section ‘General Forced Labour’ below and Order #18 in "SPDC & DKBA Orders to Villages: Set 2000-B" [KHRG #2000-04, 12/10/2000]); however, as can be seen in Order #151 below, it appears that these orders only tell local civilian authorities not to use forced labour for their personal gain, while forced labour for the military and the State are still to be used as before. It even appears that these orders are increasing the use of forced labour by telling local authorities that they must no longer accept money from villagers to avoid forced labour, that people must come for the labour without exemptions. Further discussion on this subject is included in the introduction to the ‘General Forced Labour’ section below.
Originals of most of these orders were obtained by KHRG researchers in each region, while some were gathered by field researchers for the field offices of the Federated Trade Unions of Burma (FTUB) and the Karen Office for Relief and Development (KORD). KHRG would like to thank the field researchers of the FTUB and KORD for their extensive help in gathering these orders, and for working with KHRG to translate many of them.
Where necessary to protect people from retaliation, village names, people’s names and some other details have been blanked out in the order translations below. Additional details have been blanked out for this Internet version of the report. The print version of the report and the full set of copies of the original orders (blacked out where necessary) are available subject to approved request submitted to KHRG. Additional orders can be found in previously published KHRG reports, including "SPDC & DKBA Orders to Villages: Set 2000-B" (KHRG #2000-04, 12/10/00) and "SPDC & DKBA Orders to Villages: Set 2000-A" (KHRG #2000-01, 29/2/00).