Attacks on Villages and Village Destruction

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Attacks on Villages and Village Destruction

Published date:
Thursday, December 19, 2002

This brief report and accompanying photo set details the destruction and attacks on villages in Karen State, Easter Pegu Division and Tenasserim Division in 2001 and 2002.

Hundreds of villages throughout the Karen areas of Karen State, eastern Pegu Division and Tenasserim Division lie deserted or burned to the ground, their populations having fled to the forest. In regions where resistance forces are believed to be active, it has become routine SPDC policy to burn and destroy villages and food supplies and to try to force villagers to relocation sites and garrisoned villages where they can be tightly controlled.  Many villagers have been forcibly relocated several times in the past 20 years and would rather live in the forest than go again. They know that they can expect to find no food or assistance of any kind, no paid labour, no land to work and plenty of forced labour in the relocation sites, and that the conditions will eventually force them to flee into the forest anyway. After a while the villagers reestablish their villages, only for them to be burned when they are ordered to relocate once more. In Papun and eastern Nyaunglebin districts the SPDC has not even bothered to issue relocation orders to many villages, but has shelled and burned without warning over 200 villages since 1997.  Hundreds more have been destroyed in other regions, displacing at least one to two hundred thousand people.  Many of them are still in hiding in the forests, where columns come to burn their shelters and destroy their food supplies.

To force the villagers to come down out of the mountains and come under SPDC control, the army is actively pursuing a campaign  of burning and destroying houses (see Photos #B5 through B67), destroying crops and food supplies and shooting displaced villagers on sight.  The soldiers destroy the villager's crops before they can harvest them by trampling, uprooting or burning them.  Landmines are also laid in the fields to keep the villagers away.  Fields are also burned off too early before planting season to prevent the villagers from planting a crop (see Photos #I10 through 19).  The villagers' rice storage barns are specifically targeted by the soldiers who carry off whatever they can and dump on the ground or burn what is left (see Photos #I21 through 26). 

Villages under SPDC control are also subject to attacks by SPDC troops.  Houses are looted and villagers' livestock and poultry taken (see Photos #B68 and 69, B71 through 73).  Columns also  'punish' villages by shelling or shooting into them after a skirmish with resistance forces, or come to a village and shoot it up if the village head has failed to send the requested number of porters.  Villagers have been killed and wounded by these attacks.  Photos #D4 through D7 show the effects after an SPDC column opened fire on a group of villagers in a field hut, and Photos #D21 through D25 were taken after SPDC troops opened fire on a Christian worship service.  Occasionally, villagers are caught in the crossfire when SPDC and resistance troops encounter each other in or around the same village.  Many villagers build bunkers beside their houses and schools in case of fighting or random shooting and shelling by SPDC troops (see Photos #B1 through B4, B76).