Enduring Hunger and Repression: Food Scarcity, Internal Displacement, and the Continued Use of Forced Labour in Toungoo District

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Enduring Hunger and Repression: Food Scarcity, Internal Displacement, and the Continued Use of Forced Labour in Toungoo District

Published date:
Friday, September 24, 2004

The SPDC's continued efforts to remove all traces of resistance from the hills of Toungoo District have resulted in a wide range of human rights abuses. In order to gain complete control over the region, the SPDC is continuing with its road construction projects, increasing its military presence and establishing more Army camps across the district. There are now few areas which SPDC Army columns cannot reach. Villagers living under SPDC control are constantly called upon to construct and maintain these roads and to porter supplies and munitions along them to outlying SPDC Army camps. The relentless demands for forced labour, materials, food, and money have resulted in severe food shortages. Many villagers in the district have chosen to live internally displaced hiding in the forest rather than live under the SPDC. Several thousand villagers are now living in hiding. Large numbers of landmines continue to be sown throughout the district, posing a very real threat which will remain in place for years to come.

Nyein Chan Yay Villages

"Even though they call them 'Nyein Chan Yay' ['Peace Villages'], they [the villagers] can't live in peace."

"Saw Eh Doh" (M, 25), KHRG field researcher (Interview #1, 2/01)

"The civilians who stay under the control of the SPDC have no rights."

"Saw Zaw Oo" (M, 47), forcibly relocated villager from xxxx village, Than Daung township (Interview #103, 3/02)

The SPDC consolidated their control over the plains of the Sittaung River basin in the west of the district in the 1990s and are now determined to extend that control to cover the hills as well. Villages that lie within the areas of SPDC control have been dubbed 'Nyein Chan Yay' ('Peace') villages by the SPDC Army commanders and authorities. This, however, is something of a misnomer; there is very little peace in these villages. The term Nyein Chan Yay refers to an arrangement that has been reached between the local SPDC Army battalions and the village elders, in which the villagers promise to not have any contact with the resistance and to comply with the SPDC's demands in exchange for being exempted from forced relocation or from having their homes burned down. The demands that the Nyein Chan Yay villagers must comply with include being forced to work as forced labour for the SPDC, paying large sums of money through extortion, giving food to SPDC military units without compensation and facing travel restrictions. The concept of the Nyein Chan Yay villages appears to have originated with Kler Lah village, but has since spread to many other villages across the district.

"They [SPDC] forced us to sign [a document], saying that nothing will happen in the village [that the villagers will not help the KNU]. If something should occur in the village they will kill us. The Operations Commander in Kler Lah told us this. "

"Saw Maw Thee" (M, 18), villager from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #77, 5/02)

Most of the Nyein Chan Yay villages are located along the road between Toungoo and Kler Lah, the two roads which fork from there to Bu Sah Kee and to Mawchi in Karenni State, the area surrounding Than Daung Gyi, the Maw Nay Pwa area to the south of Klaw Mi Der, and the area around Htee Tha Saw and Thauk Yay Ka in the northeast of the district. Most Nyein Chan Yay villages are located either adjacent or close to SPDC Army camps. Villages that are located much farther afield have been relocated to new locations close to camps or along the car roads where the SPDC may more easily watch over them and exploit them as a ready source of forced labour.

"If they live with the Burmese [soldiers] they have to help the Burmese, but they don't want to. If we look at the people who live in the Nyein Chan Yay areas, [we see that] they have to help in many ways. They have to face many problems in many ways. They have to give money for porters; they have to go for loh ah pay; sometimes, they have to go and carry loads; sometimes they have to go and build the roads; or they have to go and build their Army camps. Sometimes the soldiers who are active in the area demand to eat rice. Some of them also demand salt. Some of them demand pigs and chickens to eat. ... When the Burmese [soldiers] come, they let the women and children stay in the village. The men and the boys of about fourteen or fifteen years old and up have to flee when the Burmese soldiers come, because they are afraid that if they do not run away the Burmese will capture them and force them to carry [a load for them]."

"Saw Eh Doh" (M, 25), KHRG field researcher (Interview #1, 2/01)

 Forced Relocation

"They gave us two weeks to leave. We didn't dare to stay in the village anymore. They said that if they saw anyone staying in the village, they would shoot them dead. When they first sent us to the relocation site, I thought that they were going to give us food, and wood and bamboo to build our houses, but when we arrived there they only gave us two or three pieces of bamboo. We thought that they would give us one or two sacks of rice, but they didn't give us [anything]; not even one milk tin of rice. We had to find everything ourselves."

"Saw Pa Heh" (M, 47), internally displaced villager from xxxx village, Than Daung township (Interview #104, 3/02)

The SPDC, and the SLORC before them, has long used the forced relocation of villages as a part of its counter-insurgency strategy. The SPDC believes that distancing the villagers from the KNU/KNLA will cut their lines of supply and thus undermine the resistance. The relocation sites which the villagers are ordered to move to have typically been located close to SPDC Army camps along the few roads that penetrate the hills. Relocating the villagers there allows them to be more easily used as a ready source of forced labour to build and repair the roads, maintain the Army's camps, and to porter supplies to the camps along the roads and into the mountains. This strategy may most clearly be seen by looking at Kler Lah village [see Map 3 of Toungoo District], strategically located at the junction of the two most important roads in the district. With over 300 households, Kler Lah is the largest relocation site in Toungoo District. Villagers from this relocation site are often forced to carry supplies for the SPDC to the outlying military camps in groups of one hundred or more, especially down the road to Bu Sah Kee. They are also often called upon to repair both the Toungoo-Mawchi road and the Kler Lah-Bu Sah Kee road.

Villages are rarely given much notice when they are relocated. Some villagers have told KHRG field researchers that they were given two weeks notice prior to being relocated, while others have claimed that they were forced to move immediately, being given no notice whatsoever. Most of their belongings must be left behind because they are unable to carry them to the relocation sites. Much of what is left behind is later looted or destroyed by SPDC Army patrols who sweep through the area to check for anyone who attempted to remain behind. Any food left behind is commonly eaten by SPDC Army soldiers. Whatever cannot be eaten is usually destroyed or rendered inedible. Rice and paddy is poured out onto the ground or mixed with sand, while livestock is shot and either eaten or left to rot.

"They wrote a letter [ordering their relocation] and they also came to the village. If we didn't go, they would have driven us out. We were afraid, so we went just like that. All of the villagers went. If they hadn't gone, they [SPDC] would have killed them. When they forced us to move, they said to not take our things. We took whatever we could, but the rest of the things that we couldn't take, they came and ate. We couldn't take all of our chickens and pigs; they ate and destroyed the rest of them when they came to the village. After we went there [to the relocation site], they went to our village and took all of our belongings that we left behind. They took our pigs, chickens, pots, everything. When we went back there nothing was left. When we arrived there [at the relocation site], they didn't come and help us with anything. What is more, they came and threatened us. Some people fled to sleep in the jungle and hid in their cardamom plantations. They [SPDC] tried to arrest people."

"Saw Soe Tint" (M, 60), internally displaced villager from xxxx village, Than Daung township (Interview #174, 3/02)

"All of the people had to go. They do not dare to stay and not go [to the relocation site]. We had to go. We had to go, because it is the Army's law. If we did not go, they would have killed us. They only gave us six days [in which to move]. The time was too short. We lost all of our belongings. They took them and ate or destroyed them. Our rice, fishpaste, salt, pots, and many other things in the house; all of them were lost."

"Saw Zaw Oo" (M, 47), forcibly relocated villager from xxxx village, Than Daung township (Interview #103, 3/02)

"When the Burmese [soldiers] drove us to xxxx [relocation site], it was very difficult; it was during the harvest. They said that on the 18 th , all of the villagers must go [to the relocation site]; if they didn't go, they [SPDC] would come and hit them. We couldn't take our belongings; we just had to go like that. When we were staying there, we didn't have enough food to eat. They wouldn't allow us to come back and get our things. They let their soldiers come to our village. They came here and destroyed all of our things."

"Naw Thet Wah" (F, 58), forcibly relocated villager from P– village, Than Daung township (Interview #165, 3/02)

Upon arriving at the relocation site, the villagers are not provided with anything by the SPDC. Not being able to dismantle their homes prior to being relocated, the villagers arrive with no wood or bamboo with which to construct their new homes, a task that they must complete themselves. They must go out and cut the bamboo themselves from the surrounding forests that are already depleted of much of their bamboo due to the large number of people who must build new houses in the relocation sites. In some cases, when the new arrivals to the relocation site have gone out and cut the bamboo to build their homes, tensions have developed between these new arrivals and the original inhabitants of the village as less bamboo is then left for everyone else. As more and more villagers are ordered to move to the already overcrowded relocation sites, the dwindling supplies of bamboo around those sites become further diminished, until such time as there will be no more bamboo growing on the hills around the relocation sites. Those who are unable to acquire enough bamboo will be vulnerable to illness when the monsoon rains pour into their homes [see the 'Health and Education']. One villager commented to a KHRG researcher that at least ten people died within the first year of being relocated to Kler Lah due to poor sanitation at the site.

"We were not happy to stay at the relocation site. It was very difficult for us to stay there. It was very crowded with people; they had to eat, urinate, and shit there. It was too difficult. No one wants to stay there. They would force us to go for loh ah pay; we couldn't stay without going. If we didn't go they would come and threaten us. The people were afraid, so they had to go very often. The Burmese would threaten us, force us to work, and revile us, so we were afraid and fled back to our place and stayed in the jungle."

"Saw Soe Tint" (M, 60), internally displaced villager from xxxx village, Than Daung township (Interview #174, 3/02)

"They [SPDC] didn't look after us. We had to buy everything. They allowed us to build our houses, but we had to cut the wood and the bamboo. This caused problems for the other villagers."

"Naw Da" (F, 43), internally displaced villager from K– village, Than Daung township (Interview #179, 3/02)

"There were a lot of problems. We had to build our house but we didn't have our own wood or bamboo. We had to go and cut other people's wood and bamboo. Some of the villagers understood, but some of the villagers did not understand and said bad things to us. It made us unhappy. When we first arrived there, it was not easy for us. We had to make our house with bamboo and the roof as well. It was very difficult during the raining season. When it was raining and there was also wind, we couldn't sleep. Sometimes we couldn't sleep at night; we had to sit there like that the whole night. We would get sick. During the first year when we went to stay [at the Kler Lah relocation site], about ten people died because they got sick; they were old people and children."

"Saw Doh" (M, 50), internally displaced villager from P– village, Than Daung township (Interview #177, 3/02)

"They allowed us [to build homes], but we had to cut the trees and bamboo of the people in Kler Lah, so the people from Kler Lah hated us. They [SPDC] are the people who have the power, so whatever they do, they do it with power. Even if we dare not to do something, we have to do it."

"Saw Zaw Oo" (M, 47), internally displaced villager from xxxx village, Than Daung township (Interview #103, 3/02)

Many villagers arrive at the relocation sites with little or no food, only to find it very difficult to obtain any more. Having forced the villagers to move into areas where they can keep a close eye on them, the SPDC is reluctant to allow the villagers to return to their villages to tend their fields. Some relocation sites forbid the villagers from returning to their fields at all; while others allow them to return, albeit for brief periods of time and only in the possession of a travel pass, which they must pay for [see the 'Restrictions' section]. In many cases, the villagers are not able to clear a field at the relocation sites either. The overcrowding of the relocations sites usually means that most, if not all of the available arable land has already been taken, leaving no more land to cultivate. In order to then acquire any food, the villagers must buy rice from traders who bring it in from the plains in the west of the district. Villagers often pay for extra rice from the produce of their betel trees, cardamom bushes and other cash crops which they grow in small plots. Without access to their villages, villagers are unable to take care of their plots, harvest them and sell the produce to raise money with which to buy rice. The only other option for the villagers is to work as day labourers for other villagers in the relocation site. This gives them a small amount of money or some rice for the day, but the work is not regular and many families go hungry when no work is available.

"Since we have had to go and stay at the other village [relocation site], our villagers can't live well anymore. We can't cut enough bamboo to build our houses. We have to carry water, but we don't have enough water. We have to cook with firewood, [but they don't have enough firewood]. It causes problems for us. We have to buy rice to eat, but the price of rice is high."

"Saw Htoo Klih" (M, 48), forcibly relocated village head from K– village, Than Daung township (Interview #180, 3/02)

Some villages have been ordered to relocate several times; they relocate and are later allowed to return to the villages, only to be ordered to relocate again. A document obtained by a KHRG field researcher states that on July 27 2001, villagers from Peh Kaw Der, Maw Ko Der, and Der Doh were yet again ordered to relocate to Kler Lah. All three of these villages have been ordered to move numerous times in the past.

The relocation of villages in Toungoo District has not occurred as often in the past few years as in the past. This is in part due to an increase in the SPDC military presence and control. Many villagers, however, continue to flee from the relocation sites back into the forest when the conditions in the sites become intolerable and the rice runs out. When enough villagers have fled and the SPDC decides it is time, there will likely be another round of relocations.

"Including this time, my village has had to move four times. This time is the longest. This time we have stayed [in the relocation site] for over three years already. We could only come back and work in our village. I came back to repair part of my house. Some of the bamboo and the wood has rotted, so I must cut new ones and repair it. "

"Saw Po Htun" (M, 78), internally displaced former village head from P– village, Than Daung township (Interview #175, 3/02)

"We have had to relocate twice. ... The Burmese [soldiers] said that we had to relocate to Kler Lah. ... We all had to leave. ... After one year, we asked them [if they could return to the village] and we came back to stay. When we came back, the SPDC told us not to allow any battles to occur near the village, not to welcome the Karen resistance [KNU], and that if they [SPDC] chase the Karen resistance into our village, or if any battles occur in our village, we will have to relocate. If a battle occurs in xxxx [village], xxxx must relocate. If a battle occurs in Kler Lah, then Kler Lah must relocate. There was the sound of a landmine exploding close to Kler Lah, so Kler Lah was ordered to relocate. But [the villagers from] Kler Lah went to report the news to their Bo Choke [Major General] that the sound was close to xxxx, so xxxx had to relocate instead. Xxxx relocated and went to stay in Kler Lah for two years again. After two years they [SPDC] allowed us to come back and stay in our village. ... We relocated the second time in November 1998."

"Saw K'Baw" (M, 43), villager from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #16, 4/01)

Destruction of Property

"We planted cardamom. They burned them. They are demanding taxes; we don't have the money, but we must still pay it."

"Naw Paw Eh" (F, 22), villager from K– village, Tantabin township (Interview #81, 4/01)

Whenever the SPDC relocates a village, they generally burn it down so that the villagers cannot return and resettle in it.  Dozens of villages across Toungoo District have been destroyed for this reason.  A burned village leaves behind a lot of physical evidence, so rather than burning the villages after relocating its inhabitants, the SPDC now appears to be favouring leaving the jungle to do the work for them.  The bamboo in time rots, which if left untended for long enough, renders the house uninhabitable.  The village then appears as though it has simply been abandoned, leaving no evidence which points to the SPDC.  Some battalions have planted landmines in villages as a deterrent to keep the villagers from returning while the jungle slowly reclaims the village.  The fear of stepping on a mine that may be planted in their village keeps most villagers away.  Other villagers have had their houses destroyed, food eaten and belongings looted even though their village is technically a Nyein Chan Yay village.  At Kaw Thay Der village in Tantabin township, SPDC soldiers of LIB #117 came to the village on January 27 2004.  They destroyed 48 houses in the village and then looted the villagers' food and belongings.  Even the villagers' cats were killed and eaten and their skulls left in the villagers' houses.  The soldiers also shat in the villagers' houses.  When the soldiers left they threatened the villagers to not tell anyone about what they had done.

"They did not give them any time [notice]. They sent seven families each day until they had finished sending everyone. Before they had finished sending all of the villagers, they burned four houses. After they had finished [relocating everyone], they burned it all. All of their belongings were lost. They relocated the villagers and they did not have enough time to look after their houses or [to gather] any of their things. Everything was destroyed."

"Saw Mu Wah" (M, ?), forcibly relocated villager from S– village, Tantabin township (Interview #76, 10/00)

The SPDC is destroying the fields and plantations of the Nyein Chan Yay villagers. Villagers who already find it difficult to find enough time to work in their fields have told KHRG that SPDC troops have come through and burned their fields or torched their cardamom or betelnut plantations. During the betelnut harvest in December 2000, and also in the cardamom harvest in March 2001, soldiers from IB #26 stole some of the harvest from villagers living in Tantabin township so that they could sell the crop at the markets in Toungoo and keep the profits for themselves. Then the soldiers came back and burned the cardamom and betelnut plantations. In March 2004, SPDC troops from IB #124 burned down 10 cardamom plantations in Naw Thay Der and Der Doh villages. The destruction of the plantation s means that the villagers will not be able to buy any rice to make up for shortfalls in their rice harvest caused by not having enough time to work their fields.

"When they [IB #124] came here, they cut and destroyed many plantations belonging to the villagers. In particular, they destroyed many cardamom plantations. There were about twenty people's plantations [which were destroyed]."

"Saw Pee Ghaw" (M, 48), villager from K– village, Than Daung township (Interview #157, 2/02)

"They [IB #26] demanded the villagers' cardamom so that they could sell it in town [Toungoo]. Then they burned the cardamom plantations. When it was the betelnut harvest [December], they demanded the people's betelnut and burned their betelnut plantations."

"Naw Paw Eh" (F, 18), villager from K– village, Tantabin township (Interview #81, 4/01)

In April 2002, IB's #26, #48, #53, and #73 began work on burning back the brush flanking the car road between Pa Leh Wah and Bu Sah K ee [see Map 3] in order to clear a killing zone along its length. Being at the height of summer, the fire rapidly burned out of control, destroying vast tracts of land. A wide swath of destruction was left in the fire's wake. On the southern side of the road, the forest fire continued to burn until it reached the banks of the Yaw Loh River. This area contained many plantations, many of which were destroyed. A KHRG field researcher estimated that over 2,000 acres (810 hectares) of land were destroyed in the blaze. An estimated 250 viss (408 kgs. / 900 lbs.) of cardamom was destroyed in Kaw So Ko village alone. This quantity of cardamom would have been valued at approximately 750,000 Kyat. This estimate is for the cardamom harvest alone; the value of the betelnut, dog fruit, mangosteen, and durian plantations that were also destroyed in the fire were not included in these estimates. The values of the durian and mangosteen harvests would likely have been higher as both of these crops fetch higher prices in the markets than does cardamom. It is difficult to ascertain whether this fire was allowed to burn out of control deliberately, or if it genuinely was an accident. Either way, this provides little consolation to the villagers who lost what was most likely their primary, if not only source of income. Cardamom trees are slow to regenerate and do not bear fruit for up to four years following a fire. No compensation was paid to the villagers for the destroyed plantations. These villagers are now left without any income until such time when whatever surviving trees are able to become productive again. Without the money that the sale of these crops would have brought the villagers, they are left without the cash to buy rice and pay the regular system of fees imposed upon them. On March 13 2004, SPDC soldiers from IB #124 set fire to the forest along the Toungoo-Mawchi road in the area of Klay Soe Kee, Gher Mu Der, Ko Day and Tha Aye Hta villages. Again many of the villagers' plantations were burned and destroyed.

"This year, the army came and burned [the vegetation growing] beside the car road from Pa Leh Wah to Kler Lah, Kaw So Ko, and Bu Sah Kee. There were many plantations that were ruined. The commander who ordered this was Strategic Operations Command #3 Operations Commander Captain Thet Oo. He ordered many battalions to go and burn it. They started on April 4 [2002]. They burn like this every year, but it has not been as bad as this year. Other years there were only a few people [soldiers] who came to burn it, but this year all of the battalions who are under the control of the Operations Command, such as IB #48, IB #53, IB #73, and IB #26 came to burn [beside the road]. The people couldn't put the fire out and a lot of villagers' plantations were burned. There was 250 viss [408 kgs. / 900 lbs.] of cardamom burned in Kaw So Ko village. In that area, the price of cardamom for one viss [1.6 kgs. / 3.6 lbs.] is 3,000 Kyat, so they lost a lot. All of the cardamom that was burned would have been worth 750,000 Kyat. That was only the cardamom; it does not include the durian and mangosteen. Durian and mangosteen are both more expensive than cardamom. I would guess that there were over 2,000 acres [of plantations] which were burned. It was all burned all the way to Bu Sah Kee. The people couldn't stop the fires anymore and it became a forest fire. It burned until it reached the Yaw Loh River."

"Saw Htoo Say" (M, 38), KHRG field researcher (Interview #3, 8/02)

"During summer [March-April 2002], they [SPDC] burned people's plantations. They burned my plantation. It [usually] yields 30 viss [49 kgs. / 108 lbs.] of cardamom. Now it won't be able to yield again for another two or three years."

"Saw Htay Mu" (M, 34), villager from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #66, 7/02)

"This year they destroyed many plantations. They burned cardamom plantations, betelnut plantations, and some plantations of vegetables. They did this in many places. The cardamom plantations that they destroyed won't be able to yield again for another four years. The cardamom farmers are now faced with a food shortage. They have to starve."

"Naw Hsa Maw" (F, 48), villager from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #67, 7/02)

On April 9 2002, five days after the start of the blaze, the Myawaddy Township Peace and Development Council (TPDC) issued the order document shown below, demanding money and goods to be 'donated' to "the fire refugees in Pya Sakan village". Pya Sakan is located some distance from where local sources state the fire occurred [see Map 3 ] , and no mention is made of any of the villages along the stretch of road between Pa Leh Wah and Bu Sah Kee where the fire actually took place. Pya Sakan is a Nyein Chan Yay village under heavy SPDC control and home to the SPDC-allied 'Peace Group' [refer to 'Peace Groups and the People's Militia' ], but it is unlikely that this marginalised group had any involvement with this order. It is more likely that this order was simply another excuse for extracting money from the already impoverished villagers, with none of it ever being distributed to any of the 69 alleged fire refugees. Myawaddy township, corresponds roughly to south-eastern Pa'an District [see Map 2] , lying approximately 300 kil ometres (180 miles) south-east of Pya Sakan. It is highly improbable that little, if any, of this money was ever even sent to Pya Sakan.

Stamp:                                                              Township Peace and Development Council 
  Township Peace and Development Council                                  Myawaddy town 
[Illegible]                                                             Letter No / xxx / Yay 
                                                                                                     Date: Year 2002, April 9 th

To: 
      (All) the departments concerned 
      _______________________________ Myawaddy town 
      Chairperson 
xxxx  - yyyy       Section / Village Tract Peace and 
      Development Council, Myawaddy township 

Subject:          The matter of donating donation money / goods for the fire refugees

Reference:      The Karen State Peace and Development Council sent Telegram # Htought, Ya on (2002 April 091330 o'clock time [April 9 th 2002, 13:30 hours] )

1.  The forest burned in a Peace village in Karen State - Than Daung township, the fire spread and burned the houses.  Because of the fire 17 houses were burned and 16 families, 69 people, suffered from the fire, so for those fire refugees, every township is to donate the donation money/ goods at [your] pleasure, [you are] informed by the included reference telegram. 

2.  Therefore, for the fire refugees in Pya Sakan village in Than Daung township, donate and send the donation money/ goods to Myawaddy Township Peace and Development Council at [your] pleasure, you are informed.

[Sd.]

                                                                                                             Chairperson 
                                                                                                (Kyi 16530, Captain Ni Aung) 
[Sd.]

Copies to: 
            - Chairperson, Myawaddy District Peace and Development Council, Myawaddy town 
            - File/ Receipt 

Order #2: A translation of a typewritten order sent to several villages in the area.  The reference telegram was not included in the order which KHRG obtained.

Restrictions

"When we go [to our hill fields], we must get a letter of recommendation. If we don't get a letter of recommendation, they will accuse us of being bad people [helping the resistance]. They say silly things. Whenever we go out to get food, we have to have a letter of recommendation. If we go out without a letter of recommendation when they [SPDC] come here, they will force us to follow them for a very long way [forced to be porters]. They would not release us. We have to get a letter of recommendation. When we are looking for food without a letter of recommendation, they arrest us, they beat us and sometimes they kill us."

"Saw Thay Myo" (M, 48), villager from Y– village, Tantabin township (Interview #80, 4/01)

The SPDC keeps the villagers who live in the Nyein Chan Yay villages in check by enforcing a wide range of authoritarian restrictions upon them. All of these restrictions are imposed by the SPDC in order to make it difficult for the villagers to have any contact with the resistance, regardless of whether they have any intention to do so or not.

Movement into and out of villages in the SPDC controlled areas is heavily regimented. Should Nyein Chan Yay villagers wish to travel outside of their village, they must be in possession of a travel pass, or a 'letter of recommendation'. These passes are issued by the village head who has been given a stamp by the local Army camp. The costs of the letters of recommendation are sometimes set by the local military unit and sometimes by the village head. If the village head sets the cost, then the money is usually used within the village, often to cover costs for things like giving pork to the Army camp. The limits to the amount of time granted for each pass are set by the local military unit. The fees demanded for these letters of recommendation vary widely from village to village. Some villagers have reported paying only 20 Kyat for a letter of recommendation, while others claim to have paid as much as 200 Kyat; though the standard rate for most areas in Toungoo District seems to be around 50 Kyat. A village may find that it enjoys relative freedom one month; only to have those freedoms abolished the next, when the battalions rotate and the new battalion sets its own rules for the letters of recommendation.

Letters of recommendation issued in some villages only authorise the villager to be away from the relocation site during the hours of daylight; a villager is not permitted to leave before 6 a.m. and must return by 6 p.m. the same day. This is a significant problem for those villagers residing in relocation sites whose fields are some distance away from the relocation site. Some of these villagers must walk for two or three hours to and from their fields, leaving only a few hours in which they can tend to their crops. Furthermore, by not being permitted to spend the night in their fields they are unable to watch over their crops and scare away any wild animals. The villagers need to spend much of their time in the fields to protect their crops from wild animals and insects as the paddy ripens. By not being permitted to do so much of their crop is then lost after being eaten or destroyed by the animals.

"We have to get a letter of recommendation. If we don't get a letter of recommendation we don't dare to go out [of the village]. We only dare to go when we get a letter of recommendation."

"Saw Maw Shwe" (M, 39), village head from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #14, 4/01)

"When the villagers go to their betelnut plantations or their hill fields, they have to get a letter of recommendation. If they don't get a letter of recommendation and they [SPDC] see them, they say that they are going to take action [against them]. They can go out at six o'clock in the morning and they have to arrive back at six o'clock in the evening."

"Naw Hser Lay" (F, 52) villager from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #15, 4/01)

Other villagers have spoken of being able to obtain letters of recommendation which allow them to be away from their village for up to one week. Upon expiry, the villagers must return to the village where they can renew the pass and then return to their fields. In mid-2004, SPDC units in the plains of western Tantabin township ordered the villagers in Pyin Gan and Taw Ma Inn villages to get two recommendation letters a week. Each letter cost 200 Kyat. Villages in the Shan See Boh area, also in the plains, were ordered by IB #60 to get one recommendation letter per week at 100 Kyat each. Remaining away from the village after the expiry of the letter of recommendation can lead to serious repercussions; in which case arrests and beatings usually ensue. However, not all Nyein Chan Yay villages are able to obtain a letter of recommendation that allows them to travel outside the confines of their village. Those who find themselves in this situation must either remain in the village without any food or attempt to sneak out. The risks of doing this are high as the penalties of being caught by the SPDC are severe. Villagers without passes may be accused of helping the resistance, arrested and tortured, and sometimes summarily executed. In mid-2004, IB #92 decreed that all the villagers to the north of the Day Loh River were not to cross to the south side of the river. They did not want the villagers to stay in Swa Loh, Bo Daing or Tha Yay Bah villages which have been relocated. The villagers were told that if the soldiers saw any villagers, they would all be shot dead, and if the soldiers saw any boats travelling on the river, they would also shoot the boat drivers dead.

"We have to get a letter of recommendation. We have to get a letter of recommendation for one week. When it is finished after one week, we have to get another letter. They demand fifty Kyat for one letter of recommendation. We have to go back after the letter of recommendation is finished. If we don't get a letter of recommendation, when they see us on the way, they take us back [they are arrested]. They call us back to the village and then we have to go and porter loads to Naw Soe and Bu Sah Kee."

"Saw K'Baw" (M, 43), villager from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #16, 4/01)

"He saw me and asked me about my letter of recommendation. My letter of recommendation was overdue by two days. I was sick and couldn't go back [to the village]. He hit me six times with a cane. He also hit my son."

"Saw Kler Paw" (M, 38), villager from xxxx village, Than Daung township (Interview #98, 3/01)

"I was the village head in the past [in October, 2000] when they came to Y–. I had to go and meet them and they told me, 'The villagers must get a pass if they want to go somewhere. If we see the people travelling without a pass we will treat them as our enemies. If we see them like that, we will kill them.' I told him, 'Sometimes our villagers do not have a pass, but they are really our villagers.' They didn't agree with me."

"Saw Bway Htoo" (M, 32), former village head from Y– village, Tantabin township (Interview #91, 1/02)

"When we stayed at the relocation site, the SPDC didn't give us any rights. They wouldn't allow us to come back and work. The enemy [SPDC] wouldn't allow us to come back home, but we couldn't find any food, so we had to come back secretly. Some people could stay, but we didn't have any food, so we couldn't stay there [within the relocation site] any longer. If the enemies [SPDC] saw us when we fled back [into the jungle], they would have hit us. We had to stay as quietly as we could. They would told us, 'Don't go back [to the village]. If you go back, you will meet the rebels and you might feed them. None of you can go back. If you go back, we will kill all of you'."

"Saw Soe Tint" (M, 60), internally displaced villager from xxxx village, Than Daung township (Interview #174, 3/02)

Villagers living close to Than Daung Gyi must report to IB #124 at the Bayinnaung Army camp in Than Daung Gyi for their letters of recommendation. While these passes allow the villagers to remain away from the village for one week, they stipulate that they are only permitted to take two bowls (2.5 kgs. / 7 lbs.) of rice with them for that period. This small amount of rice would only last a villager for half of that period, forcing the villagers to return to the village at least once during the week so that they can get more rice before returning to the fields. The SPDC believes that should a villager take more rice than this, they are giving it to the KNU/KNLA. 

"If we don't have the recommendation card, they will create big problems for us. We have to go and get the recommendation card from Than Daung Gyi. They give us one week, [after that] we have to get a new one. On the recommendation card they only allow us to take two bowls [2.5 kgs. / 7 lbs.] of rice, so we have to go back and buy rice twice a week."

"Saw La Bo" (M, 46), internally displaced villager from xxxx village, Than Daung township Interview #131, 11/02)

The villagers need to go to their fields to tend their crops so that they will have enough food to see them through until the next harvest. By not being allowed to return to their fields and plantations, or by not being able to harvest all of their crops in the brief time that some of them are permitted, many villagers must supplement their rice supply by buying rice from traders who bring rice up from the plains. The shipment of rice from the plains is fundamentally controlled by the SPDC, who can close the roads into the hills and not allow the rice shipments to pass through the many checkpoints along those roads. Through their control of the roads, the SPDC can effectively halt the flow of rice into the hills, which then leaves the villagers, who are dependant upon those deliveries, with almost nothing to eat when their rice runs out. Even when rice is brought up to the markets in the larger villages and towns in the hills, villagers cannot buy the rice unless they have been granted permission to do so. This permission comes in the form of yet another permit that the villagers must buy from the SPDC's authorities. A KHRG field researcher maintains that these rice permits can cost as much as 10,000 Kyat each, depending on the amount of rice that a villager wishes to buy. Some villagers grow cash crops to sell so that they can get enough money to buy more rice or other foodstuffs to supplement their diet, or to pay the various forced labour and extortion fees.

"Now they block us from buying food and rice; they do not allow us to buy it. They do not allow the trucks to come and carry the rice to the hill area [from the plains]."

"Saw Ghee Soe" (M, 35), villager from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #54, 4/02)

"Sometimes when our rice is gone and when we want to buy some more, they block the road and don't allow people [from the plains] to sell their rice. They don't allow us to buy rice because they don't give us permission. We can't buy rice if they don't give us permission."

"Naw Po Ka Bla" (F, 40), villager from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #68, 7/02)

"The villagers who live in Kler Lah have to get a permit to buy rice. They can only buy as much rice as they are allowed. The amount depends on the SPDC; if they like the people, then they will give them a pass, and if they don't like the people, then they won't give them a pass. The passes are very expensive; they cost about 10,000 Kyat. It depends upon the amount of rice that people want to buy. Even if they have a rice permit, when they come back on the path, they have to pay [bribes] at the checkpoints on the way."

"Saw Ku Lu" (M, 26), KHRG field researcher (Interview #4, 8/03)

Many villagers are limited in the amount of rice that they are allowed to buy. Villagers who go to buy their rice in Than Daung Gyi are only permitted to purchase four bowls (6.3 kgs. / 14 lbs.) of rice at any one time. Some of them have claimed that upon returning to their village, they are then forced to store their rice at the local Army camp who then return it to them in a ration of only two milk tins (390 grams / 14 ozs.) of rice per person per day. Any rice left over at the end of the week is then eaten by the soldiers. This re-rationing of the rice after the villagers have already paid for it results in each person receiving only about half as much rice as is necessary for an adult living in the hills to eat. This amount of rice is not sufficient enough to provide them with adequate calories to satisfy the rigours of life in the hills. This proves to be quite a problem, especially for those villagers who must travel any distance in order to buy rice, as they must repeat the journey again in as little as three or four days as their rice supply runs out. For some villagers it takes an entire day or longer to complete the round trip, so they barely arrive home before having to leave again [see also 'Food Security' ] .

"If we go to buy rice from Than Daung Gyi, they only allow us to take four bowls [6.5 kgs. / 14 lbs.] of rice. When we bring it back to them [to the Army camp], they restrict us; they give us only two milk tins [390 grams / 14 ozs.] of rice [per person] per day. We are the people from the mountains, two milk tins are not enough for us; some people eat four or five milk tins [per day]. They give us only ten [sic: fourteen] milk tins of rice per week; they take the rest of the rice to Kyo Ta Tan Army camp."

"Saw Ler Kee" (M, 35), internally displaced villager from P– village, Than Daung township (Interview #187, 11/02)

Medicines also have restrictions placed upon them. Special permission must be sought before attempting to buy any medications in much the same way as when buying rice. The logic is the same as that for the restrictions on rice: the SPDC believes that any medicine that the villagers buy will be given to the KNU. The prohibitions placed on medications have serious implications on the health of those living in Nyein Chan Yay villages. Many villagers suffering from serious, but treatable, illnesses die because they are unable to purchase the medications to treat themselves [see 'Health and Education' later in this section] . Villagers who are unable to buy medicines must rely on traditional cures made from roots and vegetable found in the forest.

"In our village, the villagers are faced with a problem when they want to buy medicine or rice. We must ask for permission from them [SPDC]. They control us and restrict us in many ways."

"Thra Po Lah" (M, 38), pastor from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #69, 7/02)

"When we want to buy things, we can only buy them if they [SPDC] allow us. If we want to buy a sack of rice, we have to pay them 300 to 400 Kyat and they will then allow us to buy it. Now they do not let us carry medicine. Whatever we carry, we carry only because they have allowed us; especially rice and medicine _ we can't carry them if we don't get permission."

"Saw Ba Aye" (M, 47), pastor from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #55, 4/02)

Prohibitions have also been imposed on the possession of batteries. The majority of villagers buy batteries for use in torchlights or for the few who have small transistor radios. The SPDC has prohibited them from buying batteries because they believe that the villagers may then give them to the KNLA soldiers who will in turn use them in their walkie-talkies or in the detonators of their homemade landmines. Villagers caught carrying batteries have been arrested by SPDC soldiers and beaten.

"We have to buy batteries and use torchlights so we can travel in the night time. When we [started] doing this, they stopped us buying batteries. We don't have any light anymore. We don't even have any kerosene or any candles. The situation isn't good for us. We can only walk in the day time, we can't walk in the night time."

"Saw Y'Gaw Ko" (M, 35), village head from xxxx village, Than Daung township (Interview #132, 12/02)

Karen villagers in the hills have traditionally kept musket-like percussion lock firearms that they have used to protect their crops from wild animals and to hunt small game to supplement their diets. However, the Than Daung Township Peace and Development Council (TPDC) prohibited the villagers from keeping these weapons in 2000. Those villagers who were known to be in possession of these weapons had them confiscated and their names recorded. These weapons have almost no military value whatsoever, but the SPDC seems to think that villages holding these weapons may try to take a shot at the soldiers. Some villagers in other parts of the district have been allowed to retain these weapons if they register them and pay a regular monthly registration fee [see 'Other Fees' in ' Fees, Extortion and Looting' ].

"The Ma Ya Ka [Township Peace and Development Council] chairpersons have declared it illegal to have Tu Mi Thay Na [percussion lock firearms] under the law for keeping weapons. It is part of the culture of the villagers to have Tu Mi Thay Na to shoot wild animals for the protection of their crops. They have ordered each Village Tract Peace and Development Council and Village Peace and Development Council chairperson to carry out this order. They do not allow the village tracts to have Tu Mi Thay Na or gunpowder. Anyone who has them will have action taken against them according to the law. The names of the villagers who have Tu Mi Thay Na or gunpowder were registered and given to the Township Peace and Development Council on July 25, 2000."

Field report from an anonymous Karen villager, Than Daung township (FR2, 7/00)

"They took my two Shay Toe [musket-like percussion lock firearms]; those two guns would have been worth 30,000 Kyat."

"Saw Ti Ki'Daw" (M, 55), internally displaced villager from B– village, Than Daung township (Interview #154, 1/02)

Forced Labour

"The SPDC forced one of the villagers to carry their things. He had to carry their rice, fishpaste, and other things. He had to carry about 30 viss [49 kgs. / 108 lbs.]. They forced him to carry a very heavy load. Even though he couldn't carry it, he had to. As they ate, it became a little lighter, but then they would put more in. When he arrived home he was sick. He fell very hard so he had to go to Taw Oo for treatment. He had to go on January 27 th 2002, and didn't come back until February 9 th . ... Some of the villagers who have to go with the SPDC catch colds and are sick when they come back. There is no medicine and they don't have any money to go and buy medicine. "

"Saw Hser Paw" (M, 25), forcibly relocated village head from xxxx village, Than Daung township (Interview #165, 3/02)

The omnipresent use of forced labour is arguably the most serious human rights violation taking place in Toungoo District. Almost every villager in villages under SPDC control who was interviewed by KHRG stated that they have had to go for forced labour. Villagers who must report for forced labour for the SPDC are unable to spend enough time in their fields and plantations. Villagers who must go as porters or are ordered to clear the brush from alongside the roads are also exposed to the threat of the many landmines planted throughout the region. The fear of having to go for forced labour has resulted in a system wherein large sums of money are extorted from the villagers who hope that by paying the money they will not have to go for the labour. The SPDC claims that the money is given to the porters and other forced labourers, but very little of it ever is [see 'Forced Labour Fees' in the 'Fees, Extortion and Looting' section] .

After years of pressure by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), on May 14th 1999, the SPDC released Order 1/99 banning some types of forced labour throughout the country. Forced labour continued, however, and the SPDC was told by the ILO to put a stop to it or there would be consequences. Due to a lack of progress on the part of the SPDC, in June 2000 the ILO voted to take measures in accordance with Article 33 of its Constitution. This article had never been applied to any country in the ILO's 84-year history. When nothing had changed after a six month grace period, the ILO enacted Article 33 stopping all technical cooperation with the SPDC and asking its member nations, trade unions and employers' organisations to review their relations with the Burmese regime to ensure that nothing they were doing would contribute to the continuation of forced labour. The SPDC then, at the last moment, claimed to have issued 'Supplementary Order to Order 1/99' on October 27 th 2000. This order supposedly imposed a broader ban on forced labour and prescribed punishment for anyone demanding it. The order was followed on November 1 st by a similar, and in some ways stronger, order issued by Lieutenant General Khin Nyunt, Secretary-1 of the SPDC. The SPDC claimed that every township, village tract and village head in the country had been told about the order, and that they could complain to the appropriate authorities if anyone demanded forced labour from them, and that person would be arrested. The ILO followed this up in 2001 by sending a High Level Team (HLT) to investigate whether the SPDC claims were true and whether this had done anything to reduce the amount of forced labour. The HLT determined in its report that while the orders had been distributed widely, they had not gone to every village and that forced labour was still ongoing [copies of the English language versions of the above orders may be found in "SPDC & DKBA Orders to Villages: Set 2003" (KHRG #2003-01, 22/8/2003)] .

Q: Have you ever heard about [Order] 1/99? 
A: No, I have never heard [of that].

"Saw Luh Kyi" (M, 34), forcibly relocated village head from xxxx village, Than Daung township (Interview #120, 3/02)

"The SPDC has proclaimed [Order] 1/99, and we showed it to them, but they didn't like this. They just keep using forced labour."

"Saw Pah Baw" (M, 48), village head from xxxx village, Than Daung township (Interview #121, 3/02)

Villagers interviewed by KHRG indicated that forced labour did decrease prior to and during the HLT's visit, but then increased again afterward. Both villagers and KHRG researchers report that forced labour is now somewhat less than it was in past years, but they say that it is still at unacceptable levels [see "Forced Labour Orders Since the Ban: A Compendium of SPDC Order Documents Demanding Forced Labour Since November 2000" (KHRG #2002-01, 8/2/2002), and "SPDC and DKBA Orders to Villages: Set 2003-A" (KHRG #2003-01, 22/8/2003)] . Many village heads have also told KHRG researchers that they have not received a copy of any of the orders, some claim to have not even heard of it. Instead of halting the use of forced labour and punishing people for demanding it, the SPDC has been trying to cover it up. Written orders demanding forced labour are becoming increasingly uncommon. Many SPDC Army officers and authorities instead summon the village heads to meetings and dictate their demands verbally. Some SPDC officers call the villagers to 'discussions' to talk about the forced labour first before simply ordering the villagers to go and do it. Other SPDC officers have summoned villagers to meetings where they force the villagers to sign statements that they are contributing their labour voluntarily. It is understood by the village heads that if they do not sign the statement they are risking having their village relocated or some other retribution from the Army, as well as having to go for the forced labour anyway. For example, on July 15 th 2004, a company commander from IB #73 at Shan See Boh in Tantabin township ordered the villagers from Shan See Boh, Yay Shan, Taw Gone and Zee Pyu Gone to go to a meeting the next day at Shan See Boh. The villagers were ordered at the meeting to build a camp for the soldiers at Tha Ya Wa. The villagers had to build the soldiers' barracks and a warehouse. On the next day, the villagers had to go again to continue building the camp and to make three fences in concentric circles around the camp. They were also ordered to clear the brush from around the camp.

"We have heard about [Order] 1/99, and we thought that when they now come to our area they would be better, but it is not like that. Now when they come to stay at the frontline, they force us to work as their commander demands them to."

"Saw Htun Aye" (M, 40), forcibly relocated villager from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #50, 3/02)

"In the past, they said that they would deal with the villagers nicely and that they wouldn't force the villagers [to do things for them]. But they are doing just that and they are forcing the villagers, and demanding porter fees."

"Saw Htoo Kwee" (M, 47), village head from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #13, 4/01)

"We have had to carry their loads all the time, but beginning in 2001 they have reduced how often they demand the porters to carry the loads. Before they demanded 10,000 to 12,000 [Kyat] each month [in porter fees], but from the beginning of July or August, they have reduced it a little."

"Saw Way K'Lu Say" (M, 50), village head from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #38, 1/02)

"Before, it [the amount of forced labour] was worse, but beginning in August or September [2001] it has been reduced a little bit."

"Saw Baw Koh" (M, 30), village head from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #45, 1/02)

"Before, there was IB #92, and then there was IB #73. After that IB #73 left and IB #92 came back again. The first time when they came they were very bad, but later when they came again they reduced it a little because they were restricted. It is a little better because of this restriction. Before they did as they wanted."

"Saw Maw Htoo" (M, 46), village tract head, xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #32, 7/01)

"They are afraid of Order 1/99 regarding forced labour so they use the soft way and say, 'Before we force you, we have to discuss it with you first.' They don't use as much forced labour [now] and before they force us they hold a discussion. It is not possible for us [not to go for portering] because we live in the frontline area so we have to deal with people from the left arm and the right arm [both the SPDC and the KNU]. If we don't help them we will be faced with a problem. They are the armed forces so killing is not difficult for them."

"Saw Bo Kee" (M, 50), village head from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #75, 7/02)

"In 2001 and 2002, the SPDC commanders summoned the village heads to a meeting where they forced the village heads to sign [a document] saying that the SPDC did not force the villagers to do portering and loh ah pay, but really they use forced labour. They did that in case they had to deny it. The village heads are afraid of them so they had to sign it. The SPDC tells the villagers in the Kaw Thay Der area not to say that the SPDC forces them to do labour. The villagers have to say that they are volunteers."

"Saw Ku Lu" (M, 26), KHRG field researcher (Interview #4, 8/03)

Another tactic which the SPDC is using is to redefine the terms used for forced labour. This has been done to put a better 'face' on the forced labour and make it appear better internationally. Successive Burmese regimes have used the state-controlled media to present the labour of the villagers as completely voluntary and performed out of their love for the country. To get this across, the old Pali term, loh ah pay , is often used. This term is normally used when talking about the traditional voluntary labour that villagers perform to gain merit, typically by maintaining the temple or clearing the path to the next village. Burmese regimes, however, have used the term when demanding labour at Army camps and for other short-term forced labour, so this is what it has also come to mean for villagers, although the labour is never voluntary. Long-term or heavier forced labour such as portering or road-building was never referred to as loh ah pay by the villagers, but in the past couple of years SPDC soldiers have been using the term when ordering villagers to go for portering. This has had the effect of confusing the issue and the SPDC hopes making portering sound 'nicer' to foreigners. It is also a way of tricking the villagers to go as porters when they thought that they were going to do easier work in the Army camp.

"Before, we had to go regularly. Five people had to go each month. Sometimes they would demand that eight or nine people go. Now they don't tell us to go and porter anymore. They tell us to go and do loh ah pay. We still have to go for that [portering].  It is not any different, we still have to carry just the same.  It is not any different; they just call it by a different name."

"Saw Doh" (M, 50), forcibly relocated villager from xxxx village, Than Daung township (Interview #177, 3/02)

Portering

"Their [the SPDC's] behaviour is not like ours. They think that they have a lot of power. Whenever they come here, they oppress every vi llage. When they speak to us, their faces are not good. The SPDC has more power than the villagers. They want to oppress the civilians. When they see people, they force them to go to Bu Sah Kee or Naw Soe; they force the people to work. If we do not go, they go and arrest people to go and porter. They arrest the people at midnight. Some of those people have to go for a month. Some of them come back sick, and some of them die. Some of them who are lucky can go back to their village, and some of them who are not lucky die on the way."

"Saw Hser Paw" (M, 25), forcibly relocated village head from xxxx village, Than Daung township (Interview #165, 3/02)

In the mountains of Toungoo District where roads are rare, and the ones that do exist are only usable in the dry season, thousands of porters are used by the SPDC to keep its camps supplied and to carry supplies for its operational columns. Most of the porters are demanded through written orders sent out by officers at Army camps or at meetings organised by SPDC officers. Porters demanded in this way are most often for the specific purpose of carrying rations and other supplies to the various camps along the roads or to camps up in the hills. The monthly or bimonthly rations are brought up as far as the Army camps at Kler Lah, Kaw Thay Der or Than Daung Gyi by truck. The rations are then put into baskets and villagers are forced to carry them to the camps. In the dry season, the trucks may go as far as Bu Sah Kee on the Kler Lah-Bu Sah Kee road or to the border with Karenni State on the Kler Lah-Mawchi road, but villagers are still forced to go with the trucks to load and unload them. In the rainy season the SPDC Army relies almost entirely on villagers carrying its supplies on their backs. Resupplying the camps often requires large numbers of porters. Sometimes as many as one hundred or more villagers are forced to carry supplies down the Bu Sah Kee and Mawchi roads. The frequency at which the villagers are forced to porter loads for the SPDC makes it exceedingly difficult for many of them to tend to the daily needs of their families. While the majority of villages are required to send porters on an average of once a month, there are some villages that must go as often as two or three times a month. Many villagers have spoken of returning from portering one day, only to have to go again on the following day, and yet again a few days after that. There have been cases where villagers have returned home from an extended stint of portering only to find their families, dependant upon them for food, in poor health or in some cases, already dead.

"I have been to carry a load many times. There has not been less than twenty times. I have gone to carry a load everywhere to the east of the Khoh Loh [River]. If they came to a village, they would threaten the villagers and torture the villagers. I have seen them shoot some of the villagers dead, and sometimes if they could arrest people, they would wrap their heads [with a tarpaulin] and torture them by pouring water on them [on their heads]. Some of them [SPDC] would steal or destroy the people's things. If they were injured or if their porters were injured, they would force the people [villagers] to carry the victim and swear at and hit those people with a stick. All of these things stick in my brain. I can never forget about these things. "

"Saw Moo" (M, 60), pastor from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #71, 7/02)

"In the beginning of 2002, the Deputy Battalion Commander of Infantry Battalion #264, Min Thaw, told us [to go and porter] for the first time [that year] on March 10 th 2002. We had to carry our loads to Tha Aye Hta. On the 11 th of March 2002, they told us to go and carry to Tha Aye Hta again. There were eighteen people who had to go and carry. Also on March 12 th 2002, they told us to carry to Tha Aye Hta. There were eleven people who had to carry. On March 14 th 2002, they told us to go and carry to Tha Aye Hta again. They demanded six people from xxxx [village]. On March 15 th 2002, they told us to go and carry to Tha Aye Hta again. [This time] there were twelve people who had to go and carry. Then on April 8 th 2002, they told the xxxx villagers to go and cut the bushes [from beside the road] between Kaw Thay Der and Klay Soe Kee. There were 25 people who had to go."

"Saw Ka Neh" (M, 46), village head from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #61, 4/02)

"We have to go [as porters] two or three times per month. Sometimes they demand five or six people and sometimes two or three people. We always have to go. I had to go and carry in July [2002]. I had to go on the 17 th , on the 19 th , and on the 20 th ."

"Saw Maung" (M, 26), villager from xxxx village, Than Daung township (Interview #135, 12/02)

"I had to go and carry a load on March 12 th , 2002 and again on March 18 th , 2002. I had to carry their rice; it weighed about 15 viss [25 kgs. / 54 lbs.]. We had to carry our own food. There were 175 people who had to go. "

"Saw Eh K aw Htoo" (M, 25), villager from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #74, 7/02)

"On March 18 th 2002, I had to carry a load from Kler Lah to Naw Soe. They forced us to carry their rice. They wanted everybody [from the village] to go, but we only went if we could. In fact, they wanted everyone in the house to go. If there were two people in the house, then those two people had to go; if there were three people in the house, then all three people had to go. After I came back from carrying the load for the SPDC, I saw that my family faced a food problem. They were sick and moaning on the bed."

"Saw Ghee Soe" (M, 35), villager from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #54, 4/02)

"I do not know how many times I have had to carry over the last two years. I have had to carry all year, including during the rainy season."

"Naw Than Wah" (F, 38), villager from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #9, 11/00)

"In 2000 we had to go and carry many times. [In 2001] we had to carry about four or five times. In 2002 we haven't had to go and carry yet. ... Sometimes we had to walk in the dark, so sometimes we laughed and sometimes we cried."

"Naw Si Si Paw" (F, 65), villager from xxxx village, Than Daung township (Interview #99, 1/02)

In Kler Lah village tract (which includes Kler Lah village, a relocation site around it and several villages) there has developed a system wherein porter fees 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. The Army issues demands to the Kler Lah Village Tract Peace and Development Council (PDC) every month stipulating how many villagers they need to go for portering and other forms of forced labour. The village tract authorities are then given the task of recruiting villagers for the work. The village tract authorities, however, know that the villagers do not want to go and will be slow in complying, so they pay labour agents in Toungoo town to provide people to fill the demands. The Village Tract PDC then sends out monthly orders to the villages to pay their share of the costs [see Order #22 in Appendix C]. Although no one asks how the labour agents get these people, interviews by KHRG in the past have indicated that while some may be itinerant labourers, others are travellers who have been 'shanghaied' or young men who have been promised jobs and are then handed over to the police or the Army for money. The Village Tract PDC officials are not above inflating the fees to enrich themselves. The village heads then divide the amount of money assigned to them among the households in the village. Villagers who are unable to pay the fees, must go themselves. Other villages outside Kler Lah village tract are not a part of this system, although many of them also try to hire itinerant labourers to go in their place. This allows the villagers to avoid the dangers associated with portering and to spend more time in their fields and hopefully produce more food for their families. The labourers that the villagers hire are commonly Burmese civilians from the larger villages and towns such as Toungoo and Zayatkyi in the west of the district. The price for hiring these labourers, like everything else in Toungoo District, is increasing. The costs associated with this are approaching the point where the villagers will no longer be able to afford hiring itinerant labourers, at which time the villagers must go themselves and porter.

"They called for porters, but we did not dare to go. We had to hire [the labourers to go in our place], but they [the villagers] couldn't pay the money. This is a heavy thing [problem] for the village head. We hired the people, but afterwards, they [hired labourers] came back to ask for their money. It is difficult. We don't know what we are going to do in the future."

"Saw Htoo Kwee" (M, 47), village head from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #13, 4/01)

"If we couldn't go [for portering], we would have to hire people. Before, we had to pay 5,000 Kyat, but now we have to pay 7,000 Kyat."

"Saw Hser Moo" (M, 29), internally displaced villager from xxxx village, Than Daung township (Interview #51, 3/02)

"This year, in 2002, the SPDC told us that they weren't going to tell us to go and porter anymore, but they only say that. They still force us to work. They still order us. If we don't go, they say that we must either hire people [to go in their place] or give them money. They demand money from us like that. They said that we have to help them, and if we don't help them, they will not allow us to work in our own place [fields and plantations] anymore."

"Saw No Poh" (M, 49), village head from M– village, Than Daung township (Interview #159, 3/02)

Villagers who must go to carry rations or other supplies to the various Army camps usually have to go for one or two days. Village heads send villagers to go as porters by rotation so that the labour is spread throughout the village. They are usually expected to bring their own food for this period. It is usually men who go as porters, but sometimes when a husband is not free, his wife will have to go. In smaller villages the elderly and children also have to go because there are not enough people to make up the rotation. Women are less likely to be beaten by the soldiers while portering, but there is the serious risk of rape if the portering lasts for longer than a day. When women must go as porters they must also make a decision as to whether to take their children along or to leave them at home where they may go hungry. Some women have been forced to go while being pregnant or to leave children behind who are still breast feeding. Elderly villagers as old as seventy years of age have also been taken as porters by the SPDC.

"They forced us on the 15 th [of July, 2002]. They told everyone to go. There are only nine families and we all had to go. We have to go to Than Daung Gyi and come back; we have to go to Day Loh [Toh] and come back. Even if it is dark we have to go. We can't take a rest; we have to come back and go again. We don't even have time to eat rice. The two oldest people who had to go were both 70 years old. The youngest person was eight years old; the other [one] was nine years old."

"Saw A'Pay Wah" (M, 38), villager from xxxx village, Than Daung township (Interview #129, 7/02)

"Even when you are fifty or sixty years old you must still carry. If we say that we can't carry, the SPDC threatens us. I am old, but they still demand that I must carry a load for them. My health is not so good now."

"Naw Mu Ko" (F, 60), forcibly relocated villager from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #8, 11/00)

Q:"Have you ever seen any pregnant women who had to go and carry a load?"
A:"Yes, I have seen it once. It was in 1999."

"Saw Poh Law" (M, 36), villager from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #42, 1/02)

Children as young as eight, boys and girls, are forced to porter loads for the SPDC, especially along the Bu Sah Kee road. Most children are forced to carry loads of about 10 viss (16 kgs. / 36 lbs.). Some villagers, however, claim that they have seen children as young as 15 years old carry loads up to 20 viss (33 kgs. / 72 lbs.). It can take several days, especially in the rainy season, to walk to Bu Sah Kee. During that time, the children must endure the cold, insects, rain and poor food just as the adults do. Children are also not excepted when the porters are forced to walk in front of the soldiers as human minesweepers. Villagers have told KHRG researchers that they have seen children as young as twelve having to do this. Many SPDC officers do not want children as porters, but this is usually more because a child cannot carry as much as an adult than out of concern for the child's welfare. Most officers have to get somewhere by a certain time and do not care how it is done. When there are not enough able-bodied adults available, then children will do. Some parents are forced to send their children when they are already busy doing other forced labour, or have to spend the time in the fields.

"The youngest people [who were forced to porter] were about twelve or thirteen years old."

"Saw Poh Law" (M, 36), villager from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #42, 1/02)

"My son goes to porter; he is fifteen years old. He has to start at Kler Lah and then go to Naw Soe. He has to carry their rice; it weighs 20 viss [33 kgs. / 72 lbs.]."

"Naw Mu Ha" (F, 46), villager from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #62, 4/02)

"I am thirteen years old. I had to go and carry [a load] to Day Loh Toh. I had to carry a very heavy load. I had to carry one big tin of rice [13 kgs. / 28 lbs.]."

"Saw Peh Yah" (M, 13), villager from xxxx village, Than Daung township (Interview #101, 1/02)

"[The youngest was] about thirteen or fourteen years old. When they forced them to carry [their loads], the children couldn't walk."

"Naw Wee Wee" (F, 51), villager from H– village, Tantabin township (Interview #79, 4/01)

"I had to go and carry a load on March 18 th 2002. They forced us to carry their rice. I had to carry ten viss [16 kgs. / 36 lbs.] of rice. The youngest person who had to carry a load was twelve years old. We began to carry our loads from Kler Lah [and took them] to Naw Soe [Army] camp. It took us three days to go there. We had to take our own food, and we couldn't sleep well because it was cold and the insects were biting us."

"Naw Meh Nay Say" (F, 17), villager from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #63, 4/02)

"On March 12 th 2002 I had to carry rice. They forced everyone in the village. It weighed ten viss [16 kgs. / 36 lbs.]. I had to carry it from Kler Lah to Naw Soe; it took me three days. We couldn't sleep well; the insects were biting us. When we were carrying the loads, the SPDC forced me to walk in the front [of the soldiers] where it is dangerous. I was not happy and I was crying. I have been to carry five times now. "

"Naw Kyi Koh" (F, 12), villager from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #64, 4/02)

"Some [of the porters] were as young as thirteen year old. My daughter is thirteen and she had to go. If there were not enough people, they would have to go and fill the [empty] places."

"Naw Than Wah" (F, 38), villager from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #9, 11/00)

When the SPDC wants porters the villagers have no choice but to send people. The SPDC uses the threat of relocation to guarantee that the villagers will comply [ see Order #3]. Villagers often say that they 'cannot stay without going' to porter, which means that their village will be relocated if they do not go. Other threats imply that the soldiers will come to the village and burn it down or shoot small arms or mortars into the village. Village heads are sent orders containing bullets, chillies or charcoal when demands for porters have gone unanswered. These symbolise that the soldiers will either shoot the villagers, make things 'hot', or burn down the village if the porters are not sent. While this does not happen often, it has happened often enough that villagers know it is a possibility.

"We have to go and porter regularly. They wrote a letter to us, but the people didn't dare to go. Then they wrote another letter and sent it with two chillies [symbolising that the SPDC will 'heat things up' if their demands are not met]. They said that if we didn't go to porter, they would not allow us to stay in xxxx [village] or Kler Lah; they would not allow us to go and buy food in Kler Lah. They told us that we would have to go and stay very far away. They threaten us with many things. They said that they would come and [plant] landmines in the village, around the village, and on the main path. We were very afraid, so we had to go and carry. We had to go and carry 30 sacks of rice. There were over 70 people who had to go and carry them from our village; even the children, women, and old people had to go. ... We have to go and carry two or three times per month. Last month [February, 2002] we had to go on the 19 th or the 20 th . Recently, we also had to go and carry on March 18 th [2002]."

"Saw Pa Thaw" (M, 30), villager from xxxx village, Than Daung township (Interview #114, 3/02)

              To:                                                                                                 Date: 12-3-02 
                   Chairperson 
                   xxxx village

Subject: Informing [you] to carry rations

            Regarding the above subject, village females/ village males from the Elder's village must take responsibility for transporting 30 sacks of rice, and must finishing carrying and delivering [them] on 15-3-02. If [they] don't come to carry by 15-3-02, the village females/ village males from the Elder's village are not allowed to come to Bawgali and must move quickly from the villages where [they] are now staying, you are hereby warned and informed.

                                                                                                              [Sd.]

Order #3: This order carries a clear threat that if the porters are not sent, the village will be relocated and the villagers will no longer be allowed to come to the main market village of the region.

"We can't stay without going. We live under their control. If we don't go or if they have a problem we are afraid that they will make problems for us. We do not go willingly."

"Saw Dah Dah" (M, 68), forcibly relocated former village head from xxxx village, Than Daung township (Interview #115, 3/02)

"There is no one who is willing to go and carry. We get tired when we have to go and carry. We have to go and carry even though we don't want to, because they overpower us. We can't stay [in the village] without going. We have to give them whatever they want."

"Saw Htun Aye" (M, 40), forcibly relocated villager from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #50, 3/02)

Civilians who own vehicles in some of the bigger villages and towns in Toungoo District, such as Kler Lah, New Than Daung, Than Daung Gyi and Leit Tho act as a taxi service by transporting people and goods along the roads in the area in their 2-ton trucks or pickup trucks. Many of these owners have formed 'vehicle associations' to better organise their services. In the dry season the SPDC often orders these vehicle associations to haul supplies to SPDC Army camps along the roads. The road to Bu Sah Kee is particularly treacherous and several trucks have overturned on the road, killing or injuring the driver and passengers. The SPDC rarely provides compensation for the owner/driver, the passengers, who are often villagers conscripted by the SPDC to load and unload the truck, or for the cost of repairs to the vehicle. On April 10 th and 14 th 2004, the SPDC Operations Commander at Kler Lah ordered the villagers' trucks to carry supplies for the Army to the camps along the Kler Lah-Bu Sah Kee road. On both dates trucks overturned along the way. One villager was injured and two were killed in these accidents. Some vehicle owners have had to haul things for the Army for two or three weeks at a time, during which time the owners received no income from their usual routes. Vehicle owners who do not comply with the demands of the SPDC risk having their driver's license or their vehicle permits taken away, effectively taking their livelihood away from them.

"I drive from xxxx to Kler Lah and Kaw Thay Der. On the way, I would often see trouble; sometimes IB #30 would requisition my car to carry soldiers from Pa Leh Wah to Kler Lah. ... I have had to use my car to carry for them sometimes from Kler Lah to Bu Sah Kee. They would make me take their rations for them. Yesterday I had to carry rations to Pa Leh Wah for them. ... Sometimes they would pay the fare, but most of the time they didn't."

"Saw Tha Say" (M, 59), villager from xxxx (Interview #11, 11/00)

"The Burmese Army from Kler Lah, Kaw Thay Der, 13 Miles camp, and Pya Sakan usually use the villagers' cars. They don't use their own cars. If they need a car, they use the villagers' cars. They demand one car for two weeks or three weeks. During the hot season when they repair the car road, they tell the cars to follow the bulldozer."

"Saw Eh Doh" (M, 25), KHRG field researcher (Interview #1, 2/01)

On occasion, the villagers are still forced to porter loads for the SPDC regardless of whether they have paid the fees or not. Regularly paying the fees allows the villagers to avoid the customary monthly portering, however, from time to time the SPDC calls the villagers to perform what they refer to as 'emergency' portering. This is basically ad hoc portering demanded by the SPDC as the situation commands. An example of this would be the villagers being ordered to carry a stated amount of rice to a local SPDC Army camp so as to create a stockpile prior to the commencement of the wet season. On December 20 th 2003, Operations Command #1, Southern Command, Commander Khin Maung Oo at Kler Lah ordered 200 villagers from Kler Lah, 70 from Kaw Soe Koh, 20 from Wa Tho Koh, 15 from Ler Koh, 20 from Maw Pa Der, 20 from Ku Plaw Der, 60 from Peh Kaw Der, 20 from Maw Ko Der, and 20 villagers from Der Doh to carry rations from Kler Lah to Tha Aye Hta and then to Pi Mu Koh. In all, 445 villagers had to porter along the Toungoo-Mawchi road on this occasion. In January 2004, IB #92 ordered villagers from five villages to carry rations from Ker Weh village to Ler Ghee Koh Der Kah village. On another occasion during January, the same battalion rounded up 75 villagers from two other villages and forced them to porter Army rations from Than Daung town to Kler Per Hti village. On April 19 th 2004, SPDC soldiers from LIB #439 ordered 25 men and 65 women from Klaw Mi Der village to carry rations from Pa Leh Wah village to Klaw Mi Der. The next day another 60 villagers from the same village were ordered to carry supplies along the same route.

"They demand 1,200 Kyat each month from each house for the porter fees. They are demanding but we still have to go [and carry their loads]. We have to send the porter fees to Kler Lah. If we do not pay, they said that they would move our village."

"Saw Su Wah Lay" (M, 40), villager from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #28, 7/01)

"It is worse now in 2002, because even though we have to go for loh ah pay, we also have to pay money. When they demand the money they don't say that it is for loh ah pay, they say that it is for the porters. If they can't call us [to go and porter], they just come and arrest us by force."

"Saw Nay Paw Bee" (M, 28), forcibly relocated villager from xxxx village, Than Daung township (Interview #108, 3/02)

The form of portering which villagers fear most is called 'operations portering'. Villagers cannot pay their way out of this form of portering. This type of portering often involves villagers carrying supplies for SPDC soldiers involved in operations in the area. Sometimes the operation may be a simple patrol through the area lasting a day or two and where the soldiers often release the villagers at the next village, or it may be a sweep through an area and taking up to several weeks. Demands for villagers to go for this type of portering happen once a month or so, but may happen at any time. Orders for this type of portering usually go through the village head, but if the Army cannot get enough people this way, or if they need them immediately, they go and capture villagers in the village and in the surrounding fields and plantations. If villagers find out that the Army is coming to take them for this kind of portering, they often flee to avoid having to go. Villagers have been shot for fleeing soldiers ordered to round up the villagers. Villagers who come in reply to a written order are told to bring their own food and have time to prepare, but villagers who are captured in the village or in the fields are usually taken as is, without the opportunity to take any food or change their clothes. Either way, the villagers are often taken for longer than they were originally told, so they run out of rice and must either go hungry or beg for some rotten rice from the soldiers.

"Whenever they are travelling [going to the frontline], they [the porters] have to carry a long way. One time when IB #75 was travelling, they took the porters for two months."

"Saw Keh Su" (M, 50), villager from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #30, 4/02)

"When they forced us, they didn't tell us how many days we had to go for. Sometimes they told us, 'Come with us for a little while', but we had to go for many days until we ran out of food and were starving. They didn't like to give us rice and if they did give any to us, they would give us the rotten rice."

"Naw Paw Eh" (F, 18), villager from K– village, Tantabin township (Interview #81, 4/01)

"They told us that we only had to go for two or three days, so we only took enough food for two or three days. Sometimes we would have to go for more than twenty days. When we didn't have any more food they wouldn't let us come back [to the village]. They didn't give us any food and we had to suffer like that."

"Naw Paw Eh" (F, 18), villager from K– village, Tantabin township (Interview #81, 4/01)

"If they [SPDC] travel for longer, they feed the people [porters] once a day. If the situation [the terrain over which they must carry their loads] is bad, they will let us drink, but if the situation is good, they will not give us a drink. The water is not clean."

"Saw Htoo Klih" (M, 48), forcibly relocated village head from K– village, Than Daung township (Interview #180, 3/02)

The conditions which villagers experience while portering very much depends on the commander of the unit they have to porter for and on the type of portering they are being forced to perform. Some of the more humane commanders may actually look after the porters and see that they are given some food and are not beaten. This is, however, the exception; most commanders do not care what happens to the porters as long as they reach their objective at the right time. Villagers who must carry the monthly rations up to the Army camps often only have to go for a day or two. The soldiers are not under as much pressure to get where they need to go and so the villagers are not forced to move as quick nor are they beaten as often for not being able to keep up. The loads are also often not as heavy as for 'operations porters'. The 'operations porters' must carry heavier loads over much longer distances for longer periods of time. They are often fed very little food and must sleep out in the open with only the clothes on their backs for protection, even in the rainy season. The bamboo or rattan straps dig into their shoulders and the bottoms of the baskets cause open wounds from rubbing against their lower backs. This debilitates the porters who find it more and more difficult to carry their loads. Rather than receive sympathy from the soldiers, they are often beaten with fists and rifle butts, and kicked for not being able to keep up. Because they are on a military operation, the soldiers are more on edge and are often under pressure to get to the right place at the right time, so the porters must walk faster and are rarely given any rest during the day and very little food or water. Villagers who have been forced to porter loads for the SPDC told KHRG researchers that on one occasion soldiers from LIB #439 threatened to inject them with an overdose of methamphetamines should they be unable to carry their loads or if they delayed the column. At night the villagers are allowed to sleep, although they are usually kept together in one place and guarded so that they will not try to escape.

"In the wet season, they forced the villagers to carry their loads in the rain. The women and children also had to go. They didn't give us any rice to eat and sometimes we had to sleep on the road where the insects would bite and sting us. They didn't come and look for us to bring us rice to eat. ... Sometimes we could not eat rice so we were hungry and thirsty and we had many tears."

"Naw Paw Eh" (F, 18), villager from K– village, Tantabin township (Interview #81, 4/01)

"We have to go and carry, and we have to go and sleep in the rain a lot. We can't eat very well; we only have fishpaste to eat, but they [SPDC] still come and demand food from us. "

"Naw Da" (F, 43), forcibly relocated villager from K– village, Than Daung township (Interview #179, 3/02)

"When we go to carry, if we ask for something to eat then they will feed us. If we do not ask, then they will not feed us. Their [the porters] stomachs are in pain and they are hungry. Some of the porters dare to ask them for food, so they feed them, but it is never enough. We cannot eat enough like we eat at home. For water, they cut the bamboo to make a cup and give us one cup each. It is only a small cup."

"Saw Hser Paw" (M, 25), forcibly relocated village head from xxxx village, Than Daung township (Interview #165, 3/02)

"They weren't nice to us. Sometimes they caused us pain. I remember when Major Ngai Htun, Major Thein Htway Aung, and Sergeant Zaw Yeh from IB #26 beat me at Mwee Loh village. I couldn't count how many times. My whole body hurt. They beat us because we couldn't walk [any further]."

"Saw Maung Gyi" (M, 43), villager from P– village, Tantabin township (Interview #94, 4/01)

"They forced me to go with them to Si Kheh Der and then Play Hsa Loh. I have had to go with them many times. I have had to carry a load six or seven times. They didn't pay me. If we got tired and could not walk they would hit us. They punched people and kicked people in the buttocks. We took our own food for three days, but sometimes we have to carry the loads for the whole week. When we have no more food, they give us some, but it is never enough."

"Saw Aung Htwe" (M, 41), villager from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #44, 1/02)

"They hit the people who we hired to go and carry [itinerant labourers]. If they couldn't keep up, they were hit. They [SPDC] would hit their calves with a cane and pound their heads with a G2 [assault rifle] in front of me."

"Saw Htoo Klih" (M, 48), internally displaced villager from K– village, Than Daung township (Interview #180, 3/02)

"I went to carry to Bu Sah Kee. I started from Kaw Thay Der. I had to carry about 15 viss [25 kgs. / 54 lbs.]. I had to take my own food. I took enough for three days, but sometimes it takes six days, so we didn't have enough food and they didn't feed us. We had to stay hungry. If we couldn't climb the mountain, they  kicked our buttocks and hit us with their guns. ... They even forced us to walk in front."

"Saw K'Paw" (M, 46), forcibly relocated villager from xxxx village, Than Daung township (Interview #106, 3/02)

"When I portered to Bu Sah Kee with LIB #439, I was sick on the way so they [SPDC] said to me, 'If you make problems for us on the way, we will inject you with the medicine [methamphetamines] to kill you. We must continue our journey, so we will kill you if we have to wait for you.'"

"Naw Nay Moo" (F, 30), internally displaced villager from P– village, Than Daung township (Interview #146, 11/00)

"If we could not carry the load, they would scold us and call us 'dogs' and 'pigs' and slap our faces and punch people. We could not carry the load, but they forced us to carry the load. Some of the old people could not carry the load, but they had to carry the load. If they could not carry the load, the SPDC slapped the sides of their heads and called them dogs or pigs. Then they forced them to carry [their loads] even though they could not carry [them]. They slapped one of the women in the side of the head. She was seventy years old. Some people had to carry loads that weighed more than 20 viss [32 kgs. / 72 lbs.]. If those people could not carry their loads, they [SPDC] would hit them with the butts of their guns."

"Naw Pu Htoo Po" (F, 18), villager from K– village, Tantabin township (Interview #95, 4/01)

"They didn't feed us; we had to take our own food. If they [SPDC] didn't have any food, they would come and eat our food. We did not dare to say anything when they ate our food. When we didn't have any more food, we would have to go and ask them for some food, but when we would go and ask them, they would hit us."

"Saw Pa Thaw" (M, 30), villager from xxxx village, Than Daung township (Interview #114, 3/02)

The loads in the baskets which villagers are forced to carry vary, but they can include rations for the soldiers, cooking pots, small arms ammunition, mortar shells and medicine. Along the way, soldiers sometimes add their backpacks and boots to the loads. Chickens, rice, vegetables, fruit or whatever else the soldiers loot from villages and fields are also added to the baskets. The loads which the villagers are forced to carry are often very heavy, especially when carried over long distances. In some cases villagers have said that men have been forced to carry weights of up to 30 viss (49 kgs. / 108 lbs.), while the women have been required to carry as much as 20 viss (33 kgs. / 72 lbs.). Loads of this weight, however, are rare, more commonly the average weight that the men are forced to carry is closer to 20 viss (33 kgs. / 72 lbs.). The baskets in which the loads are carried in are usually made of woven bamboo or cane with straps of shaved bamboo or rough burlap.  Villagers often arrive back in their villages with bruises, abrasions and festering open wounds from where the straps dug into their shoulders or where the bottoms of the baskets rubbed against their lower backs.

"Each man had to carry twenty to thirty viss [33 _ 49 kgs. / 72 _ 108 lbs.]. They would tell the women to carry eighteen to twenty viss [29 - 33 kgs. / 65 - 72 lbs.]."

"Saw Ler Thoo" (M, 30), villager from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #10, 11/00)

"The heaviest loads that I had to carry were seventeen to twenty viss [28 _ 33 kgs. / 61 _ 72 lbs.]."

"Naw Than Wah" (F, 38), villager from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #9, 11/00)

"The SPDC forces us to carry their loads, so we have to carry them. If we don't they will oppress us. We have to carry their rice, bread, cigars, and shrimp paste. Some people have to carry as much as 15 viss [25 kgs. / 54 lbs.]."

"Saw Hser Paw" (M, 25), forcibly relocated village head from xxxx village, Than Daung township (Interview #165, 3/02)

"We had to carry from xxxx [village] to zzzz [village], then to the Klay Loh River, and to yyyy [village]. We had to go for two weeks. Sometimes it weighed 20 viss [32 kgs. / 72 lbs.], and sometimes it weighed over 20 viss, but the usual weight was 18 viss [29 kgs. / 65 lbs.]."

"Saw Pa Thaw" (M, 30), villager from xxxx village, Than Daung township (Interview #114, 3/02)

Many villagers become ill as a direct result of the conditions that they confront while portering. The combination of the lack of food, shelter, and healthcare, along with the beatings dealt out by the soldiers accompanying them, and the sheer exhaustion from hauling such heavy loads all take their toll on the bodies of those subjected to such conditions and makes them very prone to illness. Porters are rarely given medicine by the soldiers when they become ill. The soldiers either claim that there is no medicine, or that the medicine that they have is for use by the soldiers only. The villagers must simply continue on and suffer in silence. The alternative would be to be left behind to fend for themselves in the forest. Some porters have been left behind, alone beside the path when they are too weak to continue on. In their weakened state, many porters die after being left like this. Many villagers arrive back from long periods of portering too exhausted or ill to work their fields for days afterward.

"I couldn't climb the mountain anymore. They [SPDC] told me, 'You can't stop, you have to keep going. If you don't climb the mountain, I will kill you'. [Then] they threatened me with a knife. If the porters can't carry anymore, they [SPDC] don't want to give them medicine. [The soldiers told them], 'If you are going to die, then die; if you are going to live, then live. That is your duty.' They don't release them [the sick porters], they still make them carry. They force them to carry at least one backpack or other things [that they are still able to carry]."

"Saw Heh Kay Law" (M, 32), village secretary from xxxx village, Than Daung township (Interview #134, 12/02)

"Before, there have been some people who have been injured. Some of them got sick and died. There have been one or two women who had little babies who died [because their mothers were forced to go and porter]. I [also] know some of them [villagers] who have had their legs blown off."

"Saw Hser Moo" (M, 29), forcibly relocated villager from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #51, 3/02)

"I can't count anymore. There must have been 100 times. In the past, I followed IB #59. I followed them for nearly one month. I couldn't walk anymore. They didn't feed me and they didn't give me any water to drink. I was sick and I had to try to come back [to the village] on my hands and knees. I had to walk like a cow. When I arrived back home, I was sick and I had to treat myself for three months. "

"Saw Zaw Oo" (M, 47), forcibly relocated villager from xxxx village, Than Daung township (Interview #103, 3/02)

"They didn't look after us. When we would ask them for medicine, they would tell us, 'There is no medicine'. They would say, 'We cannot give it to you.' When we came back, we were only skin and bone. Our clothes looked old [torn and dirty]; it looked like we had come out of the ground."

"Saw Than Htoo" (M, 37), villager from xxxx village, Than Daung township (Interview #116, 3/02)

"When we go to porter, they guard us with their guns, and when we go to the toilet, they guard us with their guns. They don't allow the villagers to take a rest if they get tired. Some people get sick; sometimes they give them medicine and sometimes they don't give them medicine. If the people get really sick, they leave them on the path."

"Saw Htoo Wee" (M, 52), forcibly relocated village head from L– village, Than Daung township (Interview #186, 10/02)

They were afraid that we would step on a landmine ...

"During 2001 when I went to porter, they came and arrested us by force. They came and arrested the whole village by force. There were 23 people who had to go and carry. They took us for the whole week. [We had to carry] about 15 viss [25 kgs. / 54 lbs.]. They said that two men would carry one sack of rice [50 kgs / 110 lbs], but in the end one man had to carry a sack of rice [on his own]. When we went to carry to Bu Sah Kee, we had no rice to eat. Even though we walked in the water, we couldn't drink the water. We carried rice, but we couldn't eat any rice. We walked in the water, but we couldn't drink any. They told us not to walk on the riverbank. They were afraid that we would step on a landmine, so they told us to walk in the water. They only fed us when we arrived at their Army camp, but they didn't feed us enough. When we were walking, we had to walk for the whole day. We couldn't eat, so we couldn't carry anymore [they were too weak to carry any longer]. They would say to us, 'My penis weighs this much, why can't you carry it?' They don't talk to us well. They wanted to hit us with a stick. They wouldn't give any medicine. They would say, 'You are lazy. You are just pretending to be like that.' They wanted to hit us; they accused us [of lying]. One time in the past when I was the village head, I got an injury on my leg [when he was forced to porter to Bu Sah Kee]. When we arrived to Kaw Thay Der I asked permission to take a rest. At the same time a Burmese porter escaped. They [SPDC] said 'This is happening because of you. This time we will be lenient towards you, but if it happens again, we will shoot you dead'. They wanted to hit me with a stick."

"Saw Pa Tray" (M, 52), internally displaced villager from xxxx village, Than Daung township (Interview #111, 3/02)

"There are some people who get sick. Some of them can't suffer anymore and escape; some of them can't walk anymore and they are left behind. "

"Saw Ba Kyu" (M, ?), internally displaced villager from M– village, Than Daung township (Interview #143, 10/00)

SPDC soldiers usually force the porters to walk at intervals between every few soldiers on the paths. One reason for this is because it makes it difficult for the porters to flee. Porters have been shot by the soldiers while trying to flee. The other reason is that because the villagers are interspersed among the soldiers, it makes it difficult for the KNLA to ambush the column without hitting the villagers. Porters have also been forced to walk in front of the soldiers to act as human m inesweepers. Many porters have lost their limbs or their lives from landmines intended for the SPDC soldiers [see 'Landmines']. This is especially true of villagers forced to porter supplies down the Kler Lah-Bu Sah Kee road. This road has been h eavily mined for years. The SPDC knows this, but they continue to send villagers down the road in front of their own troops. Many villagers have been killed or maimed while portering along this road. Porters are often caught in the middle when ambushes occur and some have been cut down in the crossfire. Some porters have been wounded and killed during ambushes by stepping on landmines placed beside the path while seeking cover from the gunfire. Wounded porters are sometimes left behind by the soldiers. The porter's family is almost never offered compensation when he or she dies or is wounded while portering for the SPDC. Some SPDC units have ordered villagers to carry supplies to their camps without soldiers accompanying them. If the villagers do not arrive with the proper loads, they will be accused of giving the missing items to the KNU and probably arrested and beaten as well as fined for the missing items. In this way the soldiers still get the supplies sent, but they do not have to risk being ambushed or stepping on any landmines.

"I have had to carry for IB #59 since 1986. I had to carry from Kler Lah to Bu Sah Kee. We had to carry about 20 viss [33 kgs. / 72 lbs.]. If we were tired we would ask for water and then they would point the barrels of their guns at us. They drove us to walk quickly. If we could not keep up, they would kick us. They didn't treat us well. When we had to go and carry, we didn't have a place to sleep. It would rain and we would not be able to sleep well. The porters who had to go were Karen people. They [SPDC] hit them. They forced us to walk in front. They arrested the villagers in Bu Sah Kee, dug a hole and kept us in the hole. They tortured us in many ways. They tortured us and hit us. We were afraid of them. We had to be afraid of them when we stayed in the village and when we travelled on the paths. Sometimes they took us for a week, sometimes they took us for a month."

"Saw Ti Mi" (M, 30), internally displaced villager from K– village, Than Daung township (Interview #161, 3/02)

"When they come here they force us to go and carry [their loads]. There have been some of the people who have died on the way. There are some of the people who have had their legs blown off.  Some of the people have to face a problem with food. They don't have enough food. Sometimes they force us to go and carry even on Sundays so that we can't worship. They force us to do their work and they bully us. We have to go even though we don't dare to go, and we have to do [it] even though we do not dare to do [it]. Before they have forced me to go and build the road; they forced me to walk in front. We had to go in front and the car would follow us. It was only the villagers who would hit the landmines and only the villagers who would face the problems. One of my brothers went to carry because I couldn't go to carry. He hit a landmine when he went to porter and it blew his leg off."

"Naw Paw Eh" (F, 19), forcibly relocated villager from K– village, Tantabin township (Interview #81, 3/02)

Stamp:                                      To: 
Village Peace and Development Council                   Chairperson/ secretary 
                   yyyy tract                                                      xxxx    village 
                                                                                                                              Date: 16-8-01

Subject: To pay donation money for the matter of the injured and dead servants that were hired

       The villages from yyyy village tract hired 2 servant people whose names are included below. One died and one stepped on a landmine and was injured, so the villagers from every village are to give donation money commensurate with your goodwill and the fund money that can be collected. Come to pay it to yyyy VPDC, you are informed.

(1) Soe Tin, Father: U Aung Shein - Dead 
(2) Aung Gu, Father U Nyunt - Stepped on landmine

                                                                                                     [Sd.] 
(for) Stamp: Chairperson 
                                                                           Village Peace and Development Council 
                                                                                                 yyyy tract 

Order #4: When itinerant labourers are wounded/ killed while performing forced labour, it is the villagers, not the SPDC who are expected to compensate their families.

"The people have had to carry for them and the people have had to guide them. They forced people to guide them to P– village. When the fighting occurred, they drove all of the people to the battle. We had to carry their rice and their shells and bullets. When we had to carry the loads for them, they didn't give us food or water. They gave us nothing to eat. Sometimes [we had to go for] two days, and sometimes three days, and sometimes one month."

"Saw Khaw" (M, 45), villager from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #35, 1/02)

"They [IB #124] forced us to carry and I was wounded on January 8 [2002]. I was injured on my calf, my heel, a little bit on my head and on my arm. I can't work anymore; people have to carry me. They sent me [to the hospital] with their own car, but they didn't pay for anything, we had to look after ourselves."

"Saw San Pweh" (M, 45), villager from xxxx village, Than Daung township (Interview #117, 3/02)

"I was injured in March 2001; I forget the date. At that time there were nine people who went to carry. There were eight people who were injured out of those nine people. Among those eight people, one of them died. There is also one person who is still in hospital now. I was wounded on my hand, on my leg, and on my buttocks. The people who got small injuries were sent to Taw Oo, and the two or three people who were injured badly were sent to Mingaladon [Hospital in Rangoon]. They sent us to Than Daung Hospital, and after that they sent us to Mingaladon. They didn't look after us very well, but they did give us 3,000 Kyat each. They didn't take care of us, we had to look after ourselves."

"Saw Htaw Saw" (M, 58), villager from xxxx village, Than Daung township (Interview #118, 3/02)

"My husband was injured. He was wounded on his hand, his buttocks, and his leg. His leg was broken. He was sent directly to the hospital. They sent him to Than Daung Hospital; they took care of him well. The SPDC said that he got a serious injury, so they gave him 4,035 Kyat. He hasn't healed yet; he can only walk around the house. He can't go far. "

"Naw Kloh" (F, 40), villager from xxxx village, Than Daung township (Interview #119, 3/02)

"There was fighting one time in yyyy [village]. When there was fighting, each soldier stayed close to a porter."

"Saw Heh Kay Law" (M, 32), village secretary from xxxx village, Than Daung township (Interview #134, 12/02)

"One of my aunts got a landmine injury; there were no soldiers with her. We are still forced to go [and porter] even when the soldiers do not dare to."

"Naw Paw Htoo Mu" (F, 25), villager from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #12, 11/00)

"I had to go and carry for IB #233. We had to go and carry to yyyy [village]. When we arrived there, they tied us up. They were afraid that we would run away. When we arrived there, we didn't have enough food. We had to starve for two days. If we couldn't carry the loads they kicked us. They forced us to go before them to wipe out the mines in front. They forced us to do many things."

"Saw Pa Thaw" (M, 30), villager from xxxx village, Than Daung township (Interview #114, 3/02)

Burmese regimes have used convict porters for military operations for many years. In the last five years the use of convict porters has grown rapidly. As the Army has expanded it needs more and more porters to keep its frontline camps and units supplied, but in many areas there are not enough villagers to meet the demand. The use of convict porters also helps the SPDC to avoid some of the international criticism against it for its use of forced labour. Many governments look upon convict labour more favourably than civilian forced labour. Anecdotal evidence from convict porters interviewed by KHRG suggests that the SPDC is arresting some people simply to get them into the prisons from where they can be taken to the frontline as porters. Many of the people interviewed have been arrested for very trivial offenses such as possesing illegal lottery tickets, failure to meet crop quotas, or 'hiding in the dark' (a form of conspiracy charge which can be applied to anyone out after dark, or even in broad daylight). Other people have been arrested for theft or drug offenses, although no evidence was presented against them. The accused are quickly convicted by the SPDC courts and sent to prisons, where they often only spend a few days before being taken out and handed over to the Army. Most of the prisoners are from central Burma. Guilty of their crimes or not, the convicts are still civilians who are being exposed to the dangers of the frontline.

Convicts are treated especially brutally by the SPDC soldiers. The loads that they are forced to carry are often twice the weight that villagers would be forced to carry. Many convicts have said that the loads were so heavy that they needed assistance to stand up with them. Convicts who are unable to carry the loads are beaten and kicked by the soldiers along the way. Sometimes they have been beaten to death. The SPDC soldiers usually only provide the convicts with a little rice and a thin broth made of beans. Medical help is almost never given to sick or injured convicts. In between portering supplies for the soldiers, the convicts are also forced to work at the Army camps digging trenches, fetching water or making fences around the camp. In Toungoo District they have also been forced to work on the roads, especially the Toungoo-Mawchi road. Convicts have said that they were promised in the prison that their sentences would be reduced or that they would be released if they went as porters. After portering for the Army for a few weeks, it becomes apparent to the porters that they will instead be worked to death, so many flee [For more information see 'Convict Porters: The Brutal Abuse of Prisoners on Burma's Frontlines' (KHRG 2000-06, 20-12-2000] 

When they could not suffer any longer, they died ...

"I hit my friend and had to stay [in prison] for two years and six months. They forced me to be a porter. ... I had to carry their shells and a sack of rice. It weighed about 20 viss [33 kgs. / 72 lbs.]. If we could not carry the load, they hit us with the butts of their guns on the backs of our shoulders and our necks. They would not allow us to take a rest. They hit me about seven or eight times. I was sick; I got malaria and gastritis, but they didn't give me any medicine. [I saw] three people die from diseases. They were prisoners. They would say to us, 'you are not sick; you have to carry the load', and they would hit us. Some people died because they were sick and their wounds were inflamed and they had diarrhoea and dysentery. When they could not suffer any longer, they died. ... They only gave us a thin blanket, but we could not sleep properly because it was too cold. We were not allowed to light a fire. There were 150 prisoners from Mandalay prison, and fifty from Myingyan and Meiktila [both in Mandalay Division]. ... They said that [if we ran away] they would give us only rice water to drink if they met us again. They would not give us rice to eat and they would kill us. They would threaten us and say that. I fled on February 2 nd 2002, and I arrived here on the 8 th . [When I ran away] I took some chick peas and dried fish with me. My legs and my body had become swollen. The malaria that I had was getting worse. If I didn't flee I would have died of disease because they didn't give us any medicine and they forced us unfairly."

"Ko Khin Thein" (M, 20), escaped Burman convict porter from Mandalay, Mandalay Division (Interview #193, 2/02)

Road Projects

"If they are going to repair the Bu Sah Kee road from Kaw Thay Der to Naw Soe, they force the villagers to do the work. The villagers have to go in the morning to clear the road. The villagers have to walk in front, while they [SPDC] walk behind the villagers. They force the villagers to walk on the road and clear it first and later they follow the villagers after they have cleared the landmines."

"Saw Ku Lu" (M, 26), KHRG field researcher (Interview #4, 8/03)

Lack of development, coupled with the mountainous terrain has left most parts of Toungoo District accessible only by footpaths. In order to support its increased military presence and to better facilitate its attempts to increase its control over the district as well as southern Karenni State the SPDC has expanded its road network in the district over the past ten years. The roads also function as barriers to the movement of the KNU and KNLA as well as internally displaced villagers. The SPDC plans to connect the roads in Toungoo District with roads in other districts in the near future and construction on some of these roads has already begun. At present there are three main roads that cut through Toungoo District. The main road in the district is the 37 mile (60 km.) all season dirt road from Toungoo to Kler Lah [see Map 3]. At the seven mile point along this road from Toungoo a second all-weather road turns off and heads northeast across the northern part of the district through Leit Tho village to Loikaw in Karenni State. A third all-weather road branches off at the 13 Mile marker at New Than Daung and heads northeast to Than Daung Gyi. A 5-6 kilometre spur of this road continues on up to Ker Weh village. Farther east on the main road, a rough dirt road branches off at Pa Leh Wah and heads south to the village and SPDC Army camp at Klaw Mi Der. Although this road is not very passable to vehicles, the SPDC still insists that the villagers maintain it and the bridges along it on a regular basis. A few kilometres past Kler Lah the road forks with the main road continuing on to the east to Mawchi in Karenni State, and a southern fork winds 28 miles (45 km.) southeast to Bu Sah Kee village. The Bu Sah Kee road was built b etween 1995 and 1998 to improve military access to the southeastern part of the district. The road was built entirely by the forced labour of villagers in the area and once it was completed the SPDC set up Army camps all along its length. This road is impassable in the rainy season. There are no bridges along its route and sections of it are washed away every rainy season, so every dry season the villagers must perform forced labour rebuilding the road. In the dry season the Army forces the vehicle owners from Kler Lah and Than Daung Gyi to haul supplies to the camps along the road. The villagers must accompany the trucks to load and off-load the supplies. In the rainy season the villagers must haul the supplies on their backs from Kaw Thay Der to the same camps.

The SPDC plans to connect the road to Bu Sah Kee with two others coming north from Papun and Nyaunglebin Districts. One road branches off the Kyauk Kyi-Saw Hta road and heads north to Ler Mu Plaw in Papun District. From there, the SPDC plans to drive the road north to Bu Sah Kee. The other road is intended to come northeast from Ma La Daw in Nyaunglebin District and cut across southeastern Toungoo District to Bu Sah Kee. Most of the work on these roads has been from the south to the north. Progress on both the roads has been slow. The road from Papun District does not go much past Ler Mu Plaw and the road from Ma La Daw in Nyaunglebin District does not extend much past the Nyaunglebin-Toungoo District border.

"[They will build a road] from Bu Sah Kee to Mu Theh and Pwa Ghaw. From what we know, they are going to start building it from there and will build it so that it comes to here [Bu Sah Kee].  From that side it will come from Pwa Ghaw to P'Nah Ay Per Ko and build it step by step. Maybe it will pass through Kay Pu and Si Day."

"Saw Eh Doh" (M, 25), KHRG field researcher (Interview #1, 2/01)

The SPDC's road building strategy is to create a network of roads and Army camps from which they can better control the surrounding area. The roads allow the SPDC to better supply its soldiers and to create stockpiles which will keep the soldiers in more remote camps supplied throughout the rainy season. This makes it possible for the SPDC to keep troops stationed in areas which it previously had to withdraw from at the beginning of the rainy season due to the difficulty of keeping them supplied. The roads also enable the SPDC to more rapidly move troops across longer distances as seen by the SPDC offensive along the Karen-Karenni State border at the beginning of 2004. With more and better supplied camps, the SPDC will be able to base more troops in the district and mount more sweeps through the area to hunt down the KNU and the internally displaced villagers hiding there. The camps along the roads and the patrols which the SPDC conducts between the camps make the roads effective barriers to the movement of the KNU and KNLA. They also make it more difficult for internally displaced villagers to flee or to receive assistance. If the SPDC follows the same tactic that it has used on the Kyauk Kyi-Saw Hta road in Papun District to the south, they will likely landmine the areas along the roads to make them even more difficult to cross.

Much of the SPDC's attention since 1998 has been focused on rebuilding the old colonial-era road from Kler Lah to Mawchi in Karenni State 96 miles (150 km.) away. Construction began on the roads from both ends in 1998 with the intention of meeting at the Karen State_Karenni State border. Every dry season for four years the SPDC would push the road farther using villagers from Kler Lah as forced labour. Convicts from prisons in central Burma were also brought up to supplement the villagers working on the road. The SPDC did this because the villagers in the villages along the route of the road had all fled to avoid having to work on it. Every rainy season the SPDC would pull back to their camps and wait for the dry season to begin construction again. Previous attempts to build the road had failed due to security problems due to KNLA and Karenni Army (KA) soldiers in the area. To counteract this and consolidate control over the route, the SPDC established camps at regular intervals along the route of the completed stretches of the road. The two halves of the road were finally connected during 2002, although the road did not see much service for the rest of the year. The SPDC Army units on the Karen-Karenni State border that had been overseeing the road construction then pulled back into Tha Aye Hta Army camp for the rainy season. When the rains finished the Army moved back into the area in 2003 and established permanent camps at Wa Baw Day, Kler Htoo Day and Ler Wah Mu Thwa Koh between Tha Aye Hta and the Karen State border. According to a KHRG field researcher, there are approximately 30 SPDC Army soldiers in each of these camps. This road was used extensively by the SPDC to move troops through the area in its 2003-2004 offensive against the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP) and simultaneous relocation campaign against the villagers in the southern part of Karenni State. 

"Ever since 1999 and 2000, they have been building the [Mawchi] road to the border [of Karenni State]. They went back after they finished building it [sections of it]. They would do that every year. On the Mawchi side, they also worked on it every year. This year, as they were building it [from the Karenni side], coming up step by step, they arrived at the border. The road that they were building from Kler Lah connected with it there. They were going to come and work on it until April [2002], but they couldn't settle their Army there. They all went back. They even took apart their bridge and took it back with them. They built it with iron [steel]. I don't understand why they did this. It is strange; they never use that road. They have finished making it but they did not settle down [make a camp] there. They settled down near Tha Aye Hta. This year, when they came in the summer, they came and built the bridge, and when they went back they took it with them. They only made the bridge temporarily. They did not make it with concrete. I think that next year they will come and build the road again. When they come they will also build the bridge again, and when they leave they will take it with them again."

"Saw Htoo Say" (M, 38), KHRG field researcher (Interview #3, 8/02)

"Before, they [SPDC] used to go back to stay in Tha Aye Hta during the raining season, but now because the KnSO [Karenni National Solidarity Organisation] soldiers stay in the Kwa Kee area [in Karenni State], they [SPDC] stay in Wa Baw Day, Ler Wah Moo Thwa Koh, and Kler Htoo Day [in Karen State]. They have only been doing that this year [in 2003]."

"Saw Ku Lu" (M, 26), KHRG field researcher (Interview #4, 8/03)

"They hope to build the car road from Kler Lah and Klay Soe Kee to Mawchi [in Karenni State]. It has arrived to Wa Soe; it has arrived to the border of Kawthoolei and Karenni State. But the road is only passable in the hot season. The cars cannot run in the raining season; they have built it [the road] to be passable only in the hot season. ... They have been building this road since the hot season in 2000. Last year [2000], during the month of May, they were still building the road."

"Saw Eh Doh" (M, 25), KHRG field researcher (Interview #1, 2/01)

The bridge at Ler Wah Mu Thwa Koh has been constructed of steel rather than the usual wood and the SPDC dismantled the bridge and took it back with them to Tha Aye Hta. A number of convict porters who had been forced to carry loads along the then-incomplete Toungoo-Mawchi road on the Karenni side escaped to KNU held territory in early 2002 and were interviewed by a KHRG researcher. They stated that they had seen three other bridges on the Karenni side of the border, one of which had been constructed of steel and is located about 14 miles from Mawchi. It is possible that the construction of the road from Toungoo to Mawchi is not only to support the SPDC's military presence but to also haul ore extracted from the wolfram (tungsten ore) mines around Mawchi. This would be a more direct route to central Burma than the other option which would entail going north to Loikaw and then through Shan State first. The use of steel bridges rather than the usual wooden ones seems to support this because they would be better able to support the heavy weight of the trucks transporting the ore. The section of the road between Mawchi and Kler Lah is still only passable in the dry season, however, and would need to be much improved to enable heavy trucks to use it year-round. 

To:                                                                                                          Date: 2-4-2001 
[Village] Secretary

          Send 5 loh ah pay people from Saw aaaa 's village to yyyy [Army] Camp tomorrow on 3-4-2001 to arrive at 6 o'clock in the morning. [They are] for building the Mawchi vehicle road, to clear the bushes and trees.

                       * (reply by letter that this has been received)

[Sd.] 2-4-2001
                                                                                  Bo [Commander] bbbb 
                                                                                           ( yyyy camp) 

Order #5: A translation of an order demanding forced labour for the construction of the Toungoo-Mawchi car road.

"I started to escape at the iron bridge below Mawchi at 14 Miles [in Karenni State]. I only saw one bridge; it is finished."

"Ko Khin Thein" (M, 20), escaped Burman convict porter from Mandalay, Mandalay Division (Interview #193, 2/02)

"[I fled from] between Mawchi and 14 Miles [in Karenni State] on January 5 2002. There is a bridge there. It is now finished. There are three bridges in all."

"Zaw Aung" (M, 30), escaped Lisu convict porter from xxxx , Kachin State (Interview #194, 2/02)

"I started to flee above Mawchi at 14 Miles [Karenni State] on January 5 th 2002. They have finished building the bridge there and now they are continuing to construct the road."

"U Maung Shwe" (M, 28), escaped Burman convict porter from Mandalay, Mandalay Division (Interview #195, 2/02)

Most of the roads in Toungoo District are dry season roads, so at the beginning of each dry season the SPDC forces the villagers in the vicinity to repair the damage done to the roads during the wet season. Even the all-weather road from Toungoo to Kler Lah needs to be maintained. Road repair entails filling in potholes with stones or gravel, rebuilding washed out sections and repairing the bridges. The Operations Command at Kler Lah sends out frequent orders to the villages around Kler Lah to send people to repair sections of the road. The villagers sometimes have to go for several days at a time, during which they must bring their own food and tools. For example, on January 12 th 2004, 89 villagers from Kler Lah, Ku Plaw Der, Ler Koh, Wah Toh Koh and Maw Pa Der villages were ordered by the Operations Commander at Kler Lah to repair the Toungoo-Mawchi road. The same officer also ordered another 55 villagers from Peh Kaw Der, Kaw So Ko, Der Doh and Maw Koh Der villages to repair the Kler Lah-Bu Sah Kee road between Naw Soe and Bu Sah Kee. On March 17 th 2004, Operations Commander Khin Soe at Kler Lah ordered 102 villagers from Kler Lah, Ler Koh, Ku Plaw Der, Peh Kaw Der, Kaw So Ko, Der Doh and Maw Pah Der villages to work on the Kler Lah-Bu Sah Kee road.

"Since 1995, they have been making the car road from Kaw Thay Der to Bu Sah Kee. They have been making the car road for five or six years already. They repair the car road every year; they repair the road in the dry season. After they finish repairing the car road, they send the rations and military supplies. They send the Army's food, drinks, army supplies, and bullets every year. ... From Ma La Daw [in Nyaunglebin District] they will build a road up to Bu Sah Kee, but it is not finished yet."

"Saw Eh Doh" (M, 25), KHRG field researcher (Interview #1, 2/01)

Stamp:                                               Southern Command Headquarters 
     #2 Strategic Operations Command Group                  #2 Strategic Operations Command Group 
          Southern Command Headquarters                         Letter # xxxx xx / Oo 
                                                                                       Date: Year 2002, March 16th

     To: 
           Chairperson/Secretary 
 xxxx village

Subject: To help, support and fulfil

          The people's construction business, Than Daung Thit Group, is right now resurfacing and repairing the vehicle road between Pa Leh Wah and Bawgali Gyi. The villages concerned have to help, support and fulfil their needs, you are hereby informed

[Sd.] 
                                                       (for) Stamp: Temporary Strategic Operations Commander 
                                                                      #2 Strategic Operations Command Group 

Order #6: This order demands that the villagers provide forced labour to assist a 'private' construction company with building the road; in effect, this order gives the company the authority to demand forced labour directly from villages, with the backing of the Army.

Villagers are also ordered to clear the brush from alongside the sides of the roads. This is done to create 'killing zones' along the sides of the roads to make it difficult for the KNLA to stage ambushes or to lay landmines on the roads. Villagers are also ordered to sweep the roads to detect any landmines that may have been placed there. Villagers have been maimed or killed while clearing the brush or sweeping the roads from the landmines. On April 2 nd 2002, a 25 year old female villager was a part of a group that had been ordered by an SPDC deputy battalion commander to cut the brush along a stretch of the Kler Lah-Bu Sah Kee road. While doing this, she stepped on one of the landmines just before noon. Her lower left leg was blown off, her right one was mangled, her hands were injured and she was blinded by shrapnel. She died later that day at 2 o'clock in the afternoon. On January 12 th 2004, Operations Commander Khin Soe ordered villagers in the Kler Lah area to clear the Toungoo-Mawchi road from Tha Aye Hta to Pi Mu Koh for seven days. Altogether, 176 villagers from Kler Lah, Kaw So Ko, Peh Kaw Der, Maw Ko Der, Der Doh, Maw Pa Der, Ka Plaw Der, Ler Kho and Wah Tho Koh villages had to go. On the same day, SPDC soldiers from IB #124 went to Der Doh village and ordered 12 villagers to clear the road between Tha Aye Hta and Pi Mu Koh. The soldiers threatened to burn down the village and behead the villagers if they did not go. The troops then went to Maw Ko Der and Peh Kaw Der villages and repeated the order. On March 15 th 2004, 150 villagers were rounded up in Kler Lah and forced by the Operations Commander in Kler Lah to clear the brush and any landmines along the Kler Lah-Bu Sah Kee road. The villagers had to bring their own tools and food. Luckily, on this occasion no one was killed or injured.

"On April 8 th 2002, they ordered us to go and cut the bushes [from beside the car road]. We had to cut the bushes from Kler Lah to Klay Soe Kee. There were 32 people who had to go and cut the bushes. They didn't pay us any wages; we had to work for free."

"Saw Yaw" (M, 25), internally displaced villager from P– village, Than Daung township (Interview #183, 4/02)

"When they forced the Kaw Thay Der villagers to go and cut and clear [the bushes from beside] the road, some people struck [the landmines]. Naw L– was injured by the landmine and she died the following day. She died after the people took her back to the village."

"Saw Pwih" (M, 37), villager from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #52, 4/02)

"Since the SPDC built the road from Bu Sah Kee to Kler Lah, a lot of people have hit the landmines. Their hands and legs have been blown off. Some of them have died."

"Naw Hser Lay" (F, 55), villager from xxxx village, Than Daung township (Interview #15, 4/02)

The SPDC sometimes uses bulldozers to repair the roads and the KNLA often targets the bulldozers to disrupt the SPDC road repair activities. In an effort to deter the KNLA from destroying its bulldozers the SPDC orders villagers to accompany the bulldozers. The people are forced to ride on the bulldozers to keep the KNLA from planting mines to destroy them or to shoot at them. In some instances villagers have been forced to sleep on or beside the vehicles to keep the KNLA from attacking them in the night. This has not stopped the KNLA, however, and on February 29 th 2004, KNLA soldiers attacked the SPDC at Haw Sha Day and destroyed one of their bulldozers. Two SPDC soldiers were wounded as well as two Klay Soe Kee villagers who had been forced to go along to protect the bulldozer. After the fight, the Klay Soe Kee village head, who had also accompanied the bulldozer, was beaten by the SPDC troops. 

Stamp:                                              To: 
    Village Peace and Development Council                         Chairperson/Secretary 
                 Than Daung township                                        xxxx village 
                    Bawgali Gyi tract                                                                                  Date: 20-1-02

Subject: Must send loh ah pay to follow the bulldozer

       In accordance with the letter of Sergeant aaaa , assistant to the IB #39 Deputy Battalion Commander at Bawgali Gyi Army Camp, the Chairperson/Secretary yourself must bring 1 loh ah pay person from the Elder's village to Bawgali Gyi monastery for the bulldozer on 21-1-02, at 7 o'clock Monday morning. If [you] want to know everything, quickly contact Sergeant aaaa at the monastery, you are informed.

[Sd.] 
Stamp: (for) Chairperson 
                                                                     Village Peace and Development Council 
                                                                     Bawgali Gyi tract, Than Daung township 

Order #7: To 'follow the bulldozer' means to ride along on the bulldozer in order to deter the KNLA from laying landmines to destroy it.

"When they go with the bulldozer, we have to go with them. They force the villagers who can work, like the young men from Kler Lah and Kaw So Ko to go in front. They have to scrape and plough in front of the bulldozer. There are a lot of people who hit the mines. They force people to go in front and those people get injuries."

"Saw Koh Gyi" (M, 40), village head from K– village, Tantabin township (Interview #53, 4/02)

"When we went [to porter], they told us to sit down beside the machine [bulldozer or truck]. Two people had to sit on either side. The people [villagers] did not dare to go, so they went to hire Burmese [labourers] from Taw Oo. We had to pay them 20,000 Kyat each month. We have to collect 700 Kyat from each house. Since [the beginning of] 2002, we have already had to collect money three times."

"Saw Hser Moo" (M, 29), internally displaced villager from xxxx village, Than Daung township (Interview #51, 3/02)

"They [SPDC] park their trucks on the road and force the villagers to sleep around the truck. It is the villagers from Kaw Thay Der who have to go and guard the trucks the most often. They have to clear the road in the daytime and guard the trucks in the night time."

"Saw Ku Lu" (M, 26), KHRG field researcher (Interview #4, 8/03)

Tourism Projects

"If we look back at 1999, we see that there was one group of troops who entered [the area]. They were from Infantry Battalion #124 and came to settle down at Than Daung Gyi. They settled down their battalion there and their aim was to build a resort for the tourists to come and visit. This is why they came and repaired [that place]."

"Saw Htoo Say" (M, 38), KHRG Field Researcher (Interview 3, 8/02)

During the colonial period, Than Daung Gyi was a hill station used by the British to escape from the heat of the plains in central Burma. It has also become known for the tea leaves that are grown there. Although the township offices were moved to Than Daung Myo Thit (New Than Daung) on the main road long ago, it still remains a reasonable-sized town. The town is only 28 miles from Toungoo and sits atop a 4,000 foot mountain with cool weather all year. The SLORC decided that it would make a good tourist destination and intended to have it ready by Visit Myanmar Year 1996-97. However, the security for the site could not be guaranteed, so the plan had to be shelved. At the beginning of 2000 the plan was revived. In February 2000, Lt. General Win Myint, then Secretary-3 of the SPDC went to Than Daung Gyi along with Hotels and Tourism Minister Major General Saw Lwin and other officials to plan the project. The original goal was to make Than Daung Gyi a tourist destination within one year.

After Win Myint's visit work on the project went ahead, much of it involving the use of forced labour and the relocation of villagers. A new battalion, IB #124, was brought in and set up its headquarters in Than Daung Gyi in 1999. The battalion was assigned the responsibility for securing the area for the project. The then-Southern Regional Command Commander, Major General Tin Aye [now SPDC member and Director of the Military Ordnance Department] ordered the IB #124 Battalion Commander on February 3 rd 2000 to relocate the civilians in Sections One, Two, Three, Four and Five of Than Daung Gyi town. IB #124 was to then raze the orchards, plantations and houses in the vacated area so that they could build a new military camp. This camp was named 'Bayinnaung Army Camp'. In addition to being used as a base for IB #124 the camp is a military training school for SPDC officers. No compensation was given to the townspeople for their destroyed orchards, plantations or houses. Instead they were forced to build the Army's camp on the site and housing for the wives and children of the soldiers.

"Before the Bayinnaung Army camp was built, the Ta Pa Ka [Southern Command Headquarters] Commander, Major General Tin Aye, spoke to the IB #124 Battalion Commander at the Than Daung Gyi Army base on February 13, 2000. He ordered that Than Daung Gyi [town] and the area surrounding it that belonged to the villagers, like the orchards and plantations, were to be destroyed. The Ta Pa Ka Commander, Tin Aye, ordered that the civilians must relocate so that the Army could build their camp; a camp for IB #124 and their families. Sections One, Two, Three, Four, and Five had to relocate, and their land, plants, and tea [plantations] were all destroyed. In Section xx, Saw aaaa had 1,000 acres of his tea plantation destroyed. There was also another 1,500 acres more [that was destroyed]. When he [Saw aaaa] went to report this to Ta Pa Ka Commander Tin Aye, Tin Aye told him,'I don't know anything about it. It was the people under me who did it.' He [Tin Aye] has not taken any responsibility. Now they [SPDC] have built their Army camp and the homes for their children and wives, and all of the villagers have had to flee or were relocated."

- Field report from a KHRG researcher (FR1, 2/00)

In addition to the Army camp, the SPDC wanted to remake the town so that it would be more appealing to foreign visitors. The SPDC ordered the widening of the main road through the town, the construction of a hotel for foreigners and even an amusement park was slated for construction. Rather than provide more opportunities for the townspeople and surrounding villagers, the tourism project brought only more forced labour, poverty and hardship. In addition to having their land confiscated, the townspeople had to contribute their labour to the building of the hotel and other structures in the town. The surrounding villages such as Ker Weh, Kaw Law Kah, Ler Ker Der Koh, Ler Ker Der Kah and several others, had to send forced labourers. The new Army camp also meant that more forced labourers were required to maintain the camp, act as messengers and perform general labour around the camp. Villagers are also forced to porter supplies up to outlying camps in the surrounding hills which act as security for the town.

"They are building in Than Daung Gyi. They made a hotel for the foreigners to come and stay. In Than Daung, they built their Army camp and called it Bayinnaung Army camp. The villagers who stay close to them are called to go and do 'loh ah pay', so the villagers have to go and work for them. The villages that are there are Ker Weh, Kaw Law Kah, Ler Kler Der Koh, Ler Ker Der Tha. There are many villages; I can't name all of them. They have had to go and make the hotel and Bayinnaung Army camp."

"Saw Eh Doh" (M, 25), KHRG field researcher (Interview #1, 2/01)

"They want to make Than Daung Gyi a tourist resort, so they have to rebuild [the town]. It is not getting better for the civilians; it is getting worse and worse because they always have to carry [loads for the SPDC]. They have to carry from Than Daung Gyi to Day Loh Toh. They have to go and carry rice. All of the villages have to go and carry. There are not any villages who can avoid carrying."

"Saw Htoo Say" (M, 38), KHRG Field Researcher (Interview #3, 8/02)

Currently, possibly because of the SPDC's continued inability to provide enough security to the area, the town is empty of tourists. Although it appears on many maps, including one that lists it as a tourist destination, and on the websites of several Burmese tourism companies, Than Daung Gyi remains off-limits to foreigners. The buildings that were constructed for the tourists remain closed and it is unclear whether the hotel receives any visitors at all.

"They have made many new buildings in Than Daung Gyi. They built them for tourists, so they built them very well and quite big, but now they have closed them because people don't go there."

"Saw Ku Lu" (M, 26), KHRG field researcher (Interview #4, 8/03)

Other Forms of Forced Labour

"When they call upon us, we have to go. When they demand that we work, we must go. If we do not go, they will shell the village with their big weapon [mortar]. So we have to go and work."

"Saw Th'Kee Soe" (M, 50), village head from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #17, 4/01)

As well as shuttling rations and munitions between Army camps and working on the roads, villagers are also forced to perform a number of other duties for the SPDC. These tasks include building and maintaining Army camps, cutting firewood, fetching water, cutting wood and bamboo, making thatch, serving as set tha ('messengers'), constructing and repairing fences, acting as guides for SPDC Army columns, and standing on sentry duty around strategic points such as roads and bridges. Whenever the SPDC orders the villagers to report for forced labour, they must comply with whatever demands are issued. If they are told to build a fence then they must build a fence, if they are told to cut bamboo then they must cut bamboo. Villagers are never paid for the work; instead they must bring their own tools as well as their own food and water. Whatever the villagers are ordered to do must be completed. The villagers cannot go home early and villagers who become ill must continue working because the SPDC soldiers will not allow them to return home. Answering the SPDC's demands for the various forms of forced labour severely limits the amount of time that villagers are able to spend working in their fields. The time spent working for the SPDC equates to less time that the villagers have to work for themselves, and ultimately less food for their families.

"There are many different things that we have to do for them for loh ah pay. We have to repair their camp, and cut bamboo and small logs. We have to go for loh ah pay every month. Sometimes we have to cut our own bamboo. If we don't have any bamboo, then we have to go and cut it in the jungle. When they force us, there are about twenty or thirty people who have to go. They don't give us food; we have to take our own food. They don't pay us. We also have to go for set tha ['messenger']. They said that if we get a special message [information on KNLA movements]; we have to go and tell them. Even if there is no special message, we have to go and see them."

"Naw Hsa Maw" (F, 48), villager from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #67, 7/02)

"They have used forced labour four times already this year. They don't feed us any food and they don't give us any water to drink. Sometimes if they want to feed us, they feed us, but they don't always feed us; [sometimes] they don't give us anything."

"Saw Ni Ko Win" (M, 44), village head from xxxx village, Than Daung township (Interview #136, 12/02)

"Sometimes we can finish quickly and we can go home in the evening. They tell us 'you can't go home if you don't finish your work. If you finish quickly, you can go home quickly'. I remember the last time that they forced the villagers; it was on December 12 th 2002."

"Saw Ni Ko Win" (M, 44), village head from xxxx village, Than Daung township (Interview #136, 12/02)

"One person had to go from each house. It was on December 8 th 2002. They were from Infantry Battalion #73. We had to take our own food. We had to take our own tools. Sometimes we can't go home if we don't finish. Sometimes if we ask [for medicine] they give it to us, but they don't allow them [the sick villagers] to go home."

"Saw Heh Kay Law" (M, 32), village secretary from xxxx village, Than Daung township (Interview #134, 12/02)

The SPDC Army constantly sends out orders demanding wood, bamboo and thatch. Some of the materials are used to build and maintain the Army's camps; the rest are taken and sold for a profit by the officers. The villagers must go and cut the specified lengths of bamboo in the forest and then carry the poles to whichever camp demanded them. Thatch is even more time consuming because the villagers must first find the leaves in the forest, then build bamboo frames, insert the leaves and finally carry the completed thatch shingles to the Army camp. This often takes several weeks for the villagers to complete. Once the materials have been brought to the camp, either the same villagers or people from another village will have to perform more forced labour constructing whatever the SPDC wants built.

"When they called for loh ah pay, they demanded 50 [lengths of] bamboo from each village. We had to pack our own rice and go and cut the bamboo. After that, we had to send it to their Army camp; it takes six hours. That was on December 7 th 2002. Sometimes we even have to go and make the fence for them."

"Saw L'Paw Wah" (M, 42), village secretary from xxxx village, Than Daung township (Interview #137, 12/02)

Village heads receive almost constant demands from Army camps for the villagers to perform various types of forced labour at the Army camps. Villagers are ordered to repair the roofs of the barracks, build new barracks, dig wells, fetch firewood or water, and cut the brush around the camp. All of the wood and bamboo used in the construction of the barracks, bunkers and fences around the camps are cut and carried to the camps by the villagers. Villagers have sometimes been ordered to construct the defensive bunkers and trenches in the Army camps. In October 2002, an entire village in the far north of Than Daung township was forced to build a fence around a hill field belonging to SPDC Army soldiers based nearby. This case is unusual in as much that ordinarily, not all villagers from the one village are required to report for forced labour at the same time, but in this case, the job needed to be completed within a time span of only two or three days, requiring all villagers, the able, the young, the elderly, and the infirm to help complete the task in the allotted time.

"When they call for wontan [servants], I have to go and work. We had to go and make a fence for them. They ordered one person from each house to go. We had to go. We didn't have any wood or bamboo so we had to search for it. We had to go and cut down bamboo and trees. Every different group [military unit] which comes here forces us to do this. There are no trees and no bamboo left for us to cut. They [SPDC] are cutting and destroying the bamboo. We had to make a fence for them. After that, we had to build houses and roof their houses. We are afraid of them. We have our own work to do, but we have to leave it and go to help them with their work. If we don't work [for them], they come and get angry with us so we have to work for them."

"Naw Paw Eh" (F, 22), villager from K– village, Tantabin township (Interview #81, 4/01)

To:                                                          Stamp:                                               Date: 25-3-2002 
     Chairperson              # Strategic Operations Command Group 
     xxxx village                    Southern Command Headquarters

Subject: Gather and send split bamboo

         Regarding the above subject, at xxxx village split 50 pieces of 10 feet long wa bo [species of giant bamboo] bamboo for making floors. Send them to arrive at the Sa Ba Ha [Strategic Operations Command] on the 26 th of March, you are informed.

[Sd.] 

Order #8: A translation of an order sent to a village demanding building materials.

"They forced us to carry their loads, fence their plantations, and dig if they [SPDC] told us to dig. We all have to do what we are told to do."

"Naw Mu Ko" (F, 60), forcibly relocated villager from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #8, 11/00)

"We have to cut firewood for the soldiers. They come and take it everyday. They take one or two baskets. They also force the people to cut bamboo and make the fence for their Army camp. They [the villagers] have to cut one or two truck [loads] each time. Sometimes they order [the villagers] to cut about 500 pieces of wood and a thousand pieces of bamboo. If they [SPDC] tell us to go and make the fence at the place where they live [Army camp], we have to go and cut the wood and the bamboo. Sometimes it is not far, but sometimes it is about four or five miles away. We have to take our own food, baskets, and machetes."

"Saw Htoo Klih" (M, 48), forcibly relocated village head from K– village, Than Daung township (Interview #180, 3/02)

"Sometimes we had to go for emergency [loh ah pay] and sometimes we had to go for regular [loh ah pay]. They had emergency [loh ah pay] once a month. We had to go and cut the bushes from beside the car road, we had to go and build their huts, and we had to go and build their warehouses at Bu Sah Kee."

"Saw Ta Pla" (M, 21), forcibly relocated Village Secretary from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #27, 7/01)

"Our villagers don't have to go for loh ah pay to build the fence [at the Army camp]. We only have to make the fence for their hill field. The last time when we had to go and make the fence was in October 2002. ... We had to build it within two or three days, so the whole village had to go."

"Saw Mya Thu" (M, 45), village secretary from xxxx village, Than Daung township (Interview #138, 12/02)

Men, women, children and the elderly all go for forced labour at the Army camps. The work at the Army camps is usually easier than portering, so many times it is the women and children who go. This also allows the men to have time to go to work in the fields. Most village heads send villagers in rotating shifts varying from one to ten days. If the camp is far from the village, the villagers must sometimes sleep at the camp. The number of villagers demanded from each village is usually dependent on the size of the village. Some Army camps rotate the work from village to village. Villagers who go must bring their own tools and food, because these are almost never provided by the soldiers. There is also never any payment for the work.

"If we need a machete, then we have to take our own machete. We have to take our own tools. We go early in the morning and cut bamboo on the way [to the Army camp]. When we arrive at the camp, we have to work there."

"Saw Ni Ko Win" (M, 44), village head from xxxx village, Than Daung township (Interview #136, 12/02)

To:                                                                                                                              19-3-2001 
     Chairperson

[We] Called for 7 loh ah pay people but only 3 people arrived, so send the remaining 4 people to arrive tonight. Bring along mattocks [large hoes] , shovels, and food for 5 days. The Chairperson and Secretary are also to come. If [you] do not come, it will be the Chairperson's responsibility.

[Sd.] 
                                                                                          (Camp Commander) 
 yyyy Camp 

Order #9: A translation of an SPDC order, clearly stipulating that the villagers are to bring their own food and tools for use in performing forced labour at the SPDC camp.

The term set tha translates as 'messenger' in English and is most commonly used, as the name implies, for errand runners and messengers. The SPDC officers, when issuing their demands to villages, usually do so through the set tha . The SPDC order documents, like those reproduced throughout this report as well as in numerous previously published KHRG reports [see "SPDC and DKBA Orders to Villages: Set 2003-A; Papun, Pa'an, Thaton, Nyaunglebin, Toungoo, and Dooplaya Districts" (KHRG #2003-01, 22/8/2003),] are hand delivered to the village heads by these set tha . Villagers go for work as set tha in rotating shifts, usually of two to three days at a time. When there are no letters to send, the set tha also perform menial work around the camps. In order to show the way, SPDC Army columns often take people from villages along their route of march to serve as guides. Guides are usually taken from one village until the next, where they are released and another villager is ordered to guide the soldiers on to their next destination. Some villagers however, are taken along by the SPDC columns for much longer. In January 2002, KHRG interviewed a villager from Tantabin township who had been repeatedly called upon time and time again to guide SPDC soldiers for long distances over the past four years. Each journey lasted from one day to two or three weeks. Being forced to do this over and over again has made it very difficult, if not impossible for this villager to grow food for himself and his family. During this time, he has had to resort to begging his friends and family for food.

"They often arrested me. They ordered me to guide for them. I had to go with them every day and every night. Sometimes they forced me to guide them to Bu Sah Kee, and sometimes to Maw Thay Der, and sometimes to Saw Tay Der. They have ordered me to guide for them for nearly four years. I am tired in my heart as well as physically. I can't do anything. Living is difficult. My parents, grandparents, and my friends have to give me food. ... I guided them the wrong way once and they hit me. They hit me in the head four or five times. The person who hit me was a Major, his name is Thein Win."

"Saw Aung Htwe" (M, 41), villager from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #44, 1/02)

... they just force the villagers to do it

"When I went to help them at Tha Aye Hta, they forced me to make a bridge across the Tha Aye Hta River for them. I told them that I couldn't do it, but they told me that I had to do it anyway. It was during the rainy season. The river was flooded. We were faced with a problem. The SPDC orders us like this, but they don't do it themselves. They just force the villagers to do the work. They oppress the villagers. We had to make it [the bridge] with bamboo. We had to go and cut down the trees and split the bamboo into thin strips to make the bridge for them. They couldn't make the bridge, so they forced us to do it. They said to us 'You are villagers, why can't you make the bridge?' When we finished, they forced us to carry their food for them. When we go to do set tha ['messenger'] we have to do whatever they tell us to do. We have to cut bamboo for them. We have to go and work in fear. We have to go and cut the bamboo over here and over there. They just sit down and watch us. They don't do it, they just force the villagers to do it. They order us to work, so we have to work because they are the SPDC. We start work at seven o'clock in the morning and work until four o'clock [in the afternoon]. At first, they tell us to take a rest for a little bit and then they force us to dig their place and make their huts for them. They allow us to take a rest for one hour from eleven o'clock until twelve o'clock. They guard us. They think that we will run away. They stand beside us with their guns and guard us. They ask us 'How much food did you bring?' We tell them that we only brought a little bit of food. We say,'We don't have as much as you, so you have to feed us'.  But they never feed us enough. We even have to take our own machetes and crowbars."

"Saw Hser Paw" (M, 25), internally displaced village head from xxxx village, Than Daung township (Interview #165, 3/02)

Killings, Arrests and Torture

"In the past, they tortured and killed my brother-in-law Saw Maung San Khin. They have also killed another one of my brothers-in-law and my nephew. They were Saw Aung Nay Kyaw and Saw Kin Maung Si [respectively]. They have killed three people [from his family]. ... They shot them dead."

"Saw Soe Win" (M, 55), deputy secretary from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #18, 4/01)

Villagers living in SPDC controlled areas can be arbitrarily arrested and tortured by SPDC soldiers for minor infringements as well or for no reason whatsoever. Much of the violence is directed against the village heads because they are the people who the SPDC holds accountable if anything goes wrong. Reasons for being arrested and subjected to torture can range from being too slow to respond to a summons to a meeting, not having a letter of recommendation, retaliation for an SPDC Army soldier being wounded, or being suspected of being KNLA. SPDC soldiers sometimes beat villagers when they are unable to understand the demands the soldiers give them in Burmese. Most villagers in the mountains only speak Karen. Only a few of the better educated villagers, who have often spent some time in the plains, are able to speak Burmese.

"They [Dam Byan Byaut Kya] have tortured people. When they arrived at Play Hsa Loh they ordered us to go and see them, so the villagers who were responsible [the village heads] went to see them. They arrived late and the guerrilla troops hit them. They hit them with a stick. They hit one person five times and the other person three times. One of them was Saw aaaa; he is 35 years old. The other one was Saw bbbb; he is 20 years old. They had to be treated for one week."

"Saw Bway Htoo" (M, 32), former village head from Y– village, Tantabin township (Interview #91, 1/02)

"When they [SPDC] came here, they forced me to go with them to Pa Leh Wah. When I was coming back from Pa Leh Wah, I wanted to go to the toilet, but when I was going to the toilet, the soldiers came along and kicked me. I sat down and they kicked me until I fell down. I stood up and they kicked me again and I fell down again. They kicked me more than ten times. They said, 'Who do you think I am?' and then they kicked me. They kicked and kicked and kicked me more than ten times. I sat down on the road and they walked away. They came back again and asked me, 'Who do you think I am?' I told them, 'Nobody'. Then he slapped my face and kicked me. Ah Lah! They kicked me about 20 or 30 times. That was during 2000."

"Saw Pa Tray" (M, 52), internally displaced villager from xxxx village, Than Daung township (Interview #111, 3/02)

"If we couldn't speak Burmese they [SPDC] hit us."

"Naw Der Ler" (F, 21), internally displaced villager from xxxx village, Than Daung township (Interview #128, 4/02)

"When they speak to the villagers and if the villagers can't speak Burmese, they sometimes hit them."

"Saw Pa Thaw" (M, 30), villager from xxxx village, Than Daung township (Interview #114, 3/02)

"They [Dam Byan Byaut Kya] ordered me to send the villagers to them, but the villagers were afraid of them and didn't dare to go to them. When the villagers didn't go, he got angry with me and beat me. They punched me twice in the chest and once in my mouth. They told me to give them 3,000 Kyat or they would beat me again. That was in December [2001]. It was Myint Zaw's soldiers who beat me."

"Saw Nu Ku" (M, 38), villager from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #48, 1/02)

SPDC military units that have suffered casualties due to KNLA ambushes or landmines, often take out their revenge on the villagers. After the KNLA has ambushed an SPDC unit, the SPDC will often go to the nearest village and punish them for 'allowing' the attack to take place. Villagers are expected to report any KNLA movements that they are aware of to the local SPDC battalion. Whenever an attack occurs, the SPDC deems that the villagers failed to perform their duty and punish them for it. In December 2000, "Saw Maung Gyi" was ordered to serve as a porter and guide for the Ba La Guerrilla Retaliation Unit, at which time, one of the soldiers was wounded by the KNLA in an ambush. The commanding officer, Major Myint Zaw, accused "Saw Maung Gyi" of informing the KNU/ KNLA of their movements and therefore being responsible for the attack. He was then beaten severely before having 70 viss (114 kgs. / 252 lbs.) of betelnut demanded from him in order for the beatings to stop. This amount of betelnut would have been valued at approximately 42,000 Kyat - money that he was obliged to borrow from friends, and thus accrue a substantial debt, which in all probability he will not be able to repay. Occasionally the SPDC goes even further and kills villagers when their soldiers are wounded or killed by KNLA landmines or in ambushes. Some SPDC units have gone to the nearest village and opened fire on it indiscriminately with small arms or fired several mortar shells into the village.

"They took me with them as a porter and a guide. When we were half way [to where they were going], one of them was injured. He stepped on a landmine. We went back to the village. When we arrived back in the village that evening, they beat me. They beat me four times with [the butts of] their guns, once on my cheek, once in my stomach, and twice on my back. They hit my head. It hurt my face and my whole body. ... He beat me with a length of bamboo [as well as with the butt of his rifle]. It was as big [around] as my wrist. They hit me in the head three or four times. I fell unconscious. They beat my head. They hit me once under my eye, and twice on top of my head. I know that they hit me three times. I don't know if they hit me more than that because I was unconscious. ... They demanded money. They demanded the money after they beat me. If I didn't pay them the money, they were going to beat me again. I had to pay them 7,000 Kyat. ... After they beat me, my face was blue [bruised]. It didn't cure quickly. It took a very long time."

"Saw Maung Gyi" (M, 43), villager from P– village, Tantabin township (Interview #94, 4/01)

"They have tortured me. In 2000, the guerrilla group [Dam Byan Byaut Kya] entered P– village on December 15. Their Commander is Major Myint Zaw. He came and stayed in our village. While he was in the village, he forced me to go with them on the 19 th [December, 2000]. He forced me to carry a load and be a guide. When I went with them, one of their soldiers was wounded. After the incident happened they came back [to the village] and he hit me. I could not count how many times they hit me. They hit me in the belly with the butts of their guns twice and on my back once. They hit me with a piece of bamboo two or three times. They also punched me about twenty or thirty times. It was so painful. I thought that I would go blind because they punched my eyes and they were bruised. I am not blind, but I still have the scars. He [Myint Zaw] accused me of being in contact with the outside people [KNU]. I told him that I didn't know that it was going to happen, but he said, 'Impossible, you must have had contact with them. I must do something to you.'  Saya [Corporal] Thein Ngai, who is subordinate to him, is the one who hit me. ... He demanded 70 viss [114 kgs. / 252 lbs.] of betelnut. If I didn't give him the 70 viss of betelnut he would have killed me. I didn't have any money [to buy the betelnut] so I had to borrow some from my friends."

"Saw Maung Gyi" (M, 43), villager from P– village, Tantabin township (Interview #94, 4/01)

"They did it after a fight [with the KNLA] occurred. They slapped Saw aaaa's face three times. He is the same age as me; he is about 38 years old. A fight occurred, so they came back and punished the villagers."

"Saw Aye Min" (M, 38), villager from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #10, 4/01)

"The Karen [KNLA] planted some landmines which killed three SPDC soldiers, so they [SPDC] blamed the villagers. They searched and interrogated the people. They arrested three of the villagers and accused them of planting the landmines. ... They arrested the three villagers and beat them like you would beat a dog or a pig. They beat one of them to death and sent the others to be porters. They then fled and are still alive. ... They covered him with a tarpaulin and stomped and beat him until he was dead. ... They beat him with a crowbar, wrapped his head in a tarpaulin and poured water over his head. They [bound their hands and] hung them from a tree and interrogated them. They beat all three of them; the other two people got a few wounds. They almost beat them to death as well; they beat them until they were unconscious. ... They said that they would not allow anything to happen, and if something did happen they would kill the villagers. They killed the villager."

"Saw Htoo Kwee" (M, 47), village head from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #13, 4/01)

"After they [SPDC] fought with the KNU, they came to us and arrested and tortured the villagers. They arrested Saw aaaa, Saw bbbb, Saw cccc, and dddd [as well as the interviewee himself]. That happened in 2000 at T–. I don't remember the date. They were from IB #124. They tied us with rope and then they interrogated us about the fighting that had occurred. They blamed us and interrogated, hit, poked [with their rifle barrels], and punched us until they got the result that they wanted. They said that we were helping the KNU and welcoming the KNU to come and sleep in our homes. [They said] 'You help them and then they come and fight us'. We said that we don't do that and that we don't help them. When we said this, they didn't believe us. They said, 'You feed them. If you didn't feed them, this would not have happened.' They spoke to us like that and beat us with their guns and hit us. They hit my head and my body. They hit me so many times that I couldn't count. They didn't like it when we looked at their faces. If we looked at their faces, they would slap us in the face. They said that they would release us, but we had to take responsibility that no more fighting occurred. They said this to us, but I told them that I didn't agree with them; that we cannot take that responsibility. I told them that it was not my job to do that and I did not dare to take that responsibility."

"Saw Nay Htoo" (M, 48), internally displaced villager from P– village, Than Daung township (Interview #191, 11/02)

"One of their soldiers was injured by a landmine. They buried him beside aaaa's house in xxxx [village]. They said that it was not their fault; that it was the villagers' fault. Then they fired their guns and shelled the village."

"Saw Way K'Lu Say" (M, 50), village head from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #38, 1/02)

"When they went out on patrol, they were hurt by a landmine. They came back [to the village] in the evening and fired their guns. The villagers were afraid."

"Saw Ek K'Mu" (M, 51), village secretary from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #22, 4/01)

One of the more common allegations that many villagers are arrested and beaten for is aiding the resistance. Although in the majority of these cases, the charges are false or are based on insubstantial evidence, the accused villager may be subjected to various types of torture before being released. Often the villager is taken back to the Army camp and the village head must vouch for the villager and a ransom paid before the villager will be released. Arrests are often just another way of extorting money out of the villagers, because if the SPDC knows for sure that a villager is KNU or KNLA, the person is usually executed on the spot. Soldiers from IB #39 attempted to arrest "Saw Plaw Kee" from Tantabin township in 2000 under the accusation that he worked with the KNU. Being unable to arrest him, they instead arrested his wife and his twenty year old son. His son was released the following day only for them to then arrest another of his children, this time a seven year old boy. The SPDC then began demanding that he pay them for their release. He was originally only required to pay 4-5,000 Kyat per installment, but as time progressed, the greed of the soldiers grew. On his last payment, his fourteenth, he was forced to pay 30,000 Kyat for each his wife and his son and then they were to finally be released. However, the greed of the soldiers had not yet been satisfied, and they instead demanded one more payment (which was due to be paid shortly after the time of his interview), which had now increased to 60,000 Kyat each for the release of his wife and his son.

"They arrested me on the 7 th of July [2002]. They asked me about my job and they accused me [of aiding the KNU]. I told them that ever since I started [working as a village head] I have only worked for their government [SPDC]. I told them that I don't belong to the other side [KNU], but they didn't believe me. They told me that they know everything I do; that I helped the other side [KNU]. They accused me of cooperating with them [KNU]. They locked my hands behind me with handcuffs. They also arrested my son and tortured him. I don't know where my son is now. I don't know if he is still alive or not."

"Saw Ree Ko Tha" (M, 59), village head from xxxx village, Than Daung township (Interview #130, 7/02)

"On January 11 th 1999 they accused me [of being in the KNU] and showed me a [KNLA] soldier's uniform. They didn't find it in my house; when I arrived at their place they showed me the uniform and accused me of owning the uniform. I don't know where they got it from. They said, 'You have that kind of uniform, so you must be one of our enemies.' I replied to them, saying that I was not one of their enemies; that I was just a villager who was trying to grow a hill field. They said, 'Sure, you have that uniform, so you are our enemy.'  They interrogated me and kept me there for one day and one night."

"Saw Nay Lay" (M, 49), villager from xxxx village, Than Daung township (Interview #125, 3/02)

"They accused me [of being in the KNU] one time. They arrested me when I went to buy cardamom and they forced me to walk with them [porter] for six months."

"Saw Aung Htwe" (M, 41), villager from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #44, 1/02)

"I have been arrested by the SPDC once or twice. The first time that I was arrested, it was by LIB #701. They accused me of being in contact with the revolutionaries [KNU]. The SPDC tied me up and tortured me for two hours before they released me."

"Saw Plaw Kee" (M, 40), villager from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #21, 10/00)

"My name is on their list. They said that I have had contact with the outside people [KNU]. They arrested my children and my wife, but I got away. My son is twenty years old. They tied him up for one day and one night and then they released him. Then, they arrested another one of my children. He is only seven years old. They took him to xxxx [Army camp]. They didn't let him see his mother. They put him in a cell and demanded money [for his release]. In the beginning they demanded 4,000 to 5,000 Kyat each time. They have demanded again and again. They have demanded fourteen times now. The last time, they demanded 30,000 Kyat. [Now] they are asking for more money. They want 60,000 Kyat for each person. If I can pay 60,000 Kyat for each one, they will be released. They said that they would set them free. I owe people money. I have had to borrow 70,000 Kyat from people, with the interest it will be over 100,000 Kyat."

"Saw Plaw Kee" (M, ?), villager from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #21, 10/00)

On other occasions, the soldiers order the arrested villager to provide them with a walkie-talkie or a gun. The villagers then have to search for them. Usually they are unable to find the items and the KNLA are not willing to give up their precious weapons and communications equipment, so the villager will be told by the SPDC soldiers to give a sum of money instead. If the villager is able to get a gun or a walkie-talkie, the soldiers go back to their superiors and claim that they captured them in combat and hopefully receive a reward or a promotion. Prior to the relocation and destruction of S– village in Tantabin township in April 2000, Soldiers from IB #92 threatened to kill the villagers with an overdose of methamphetamines if they failed to locate the weapons that were taken by two SPDC deserters. Fortunately for the villagers, this was only a hollow threat and no one was injected even after being unable to find the weapons after searching for them for a week.

"They arrested me in my village and interrogated me in Ku Thay Der village. They accused me and said that I was collecting Karen intelligence. [They were from] Infantry Battalion #232. Their Battalion Commander is Major Kyi Myint and their Company Commander is Lieutenant Than Oo. They said, 'You are Karen Intelligence and you should give us information so that we can find them [KNLA]. They gave you a walkie-talkie and a small gun [pistol]. You always warn the villagers and give the information [to the KNLA], so we can never find them.' They told me to find one walkie-talkie and one pistol and give them to them. I told them that I was a villager and that I didn't do that sort of thing. Then they tortured me. They punched me in the face. I don't remember how many times they hit me. They interrogated me the whole night and when they didn't get any answers they wrapped my head in a tarpaulin. I don't know how long [they left me like that]. They kept me wrapped up until I was unconscious. After that, they still couldn't get any answers so they tied my hands and my legs behind me and then tied me to the wall [for] the whole night. ... They arrested me on March 7 th 1999. They kept me for a week. Even when they took me back to yyyy [village] they hurt me. They tied me up under a house and beat my head against a post. I don't know [how many times they did this], I was unconscious. When I woke up my head was in pain."

"Saw Kaw Kwee" (M, 26), villager from xxxx village, Than Daung township (Interview #102, 1/02)

"They forced the people to search [for the guns] until they got them back. If they could not find them, they [SPDC] would kill the villagers. ... They would inject us with crazy medicine [methamphetamines]. They threatened us like this. The villagers could do nothing."

"Saw Mu Wah" (M, ?), forcibly relocated villager from S– village, Tantabin township (Interview #76, 10/00)

The methods of torture used by the SPDC are just as inventive as they are barbaric. Some villagers have spoken of having had molten plastic dripped onto their bare skin, or having being branded with a hot iron much the same as livestock. Another method of torture is to scrape a piece of wood or a mortar shell back and forth along their shins, abrading the skin on the victim's legs and thus causing it to flay off. Other villagers have been bound and had water poured up their nose. A more common form of this torture is for the soldiers to wrap the villager's head in a piece of tarpaulin and then pour water over the victim's head. This clogs the holes in the fabric, temporarily suffocating the person until the water runs off and the holes open again. Many of the various forms of torture utilised by the SPDC are continued until the victim loses consciousness; in which case they are revived and the torture repeated. Most SPDC Army camps contain a set of medieval-style stocks which are used to lock a villager's legs in. Villagers are often left in the stocks out in the sun or rain for hours and sometimes days at a time as punishment for various offences.

"When they [Dam Byan Byaut Kya] entered K– and saw Pastor aaaa and Saw bbbb, he [an SPDC officer] called to them. They hadn't done anything wrong, but they ordered them to lie down and beat them until they were not moving anymore [until they were unconscious]. He almost killed them."

"Saw Ba Htee" (M, 40) villager from xxxx village, Than Daung township (Interview #97, 11/00)

"I have been arrested. I think that it was in March 1999. It was a column of troops from IB #26 with Major Ngai Tun, Major Theh Pyo Aung, and guerrilla [Dam Byan Byaut Kya] NCO Zaw Yeh. They called a meeting so we went to it. They said that we were hiding our Karen people [KNU]. Then they hit us. At that time, we said nothing and they beat us a lot. They tied us up. They tied our arms behind our backs. They [also] tied our legs, and our necks. They beat us with a stick until the stick broke. I don't know [how many times] but it was painful and burning all over my whole body. We had to crawl [back to the village] on all fours. ... They beat us at Mwee Loh."

"Saw Thay Pa Doh" (M, 49), villager from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #47, 1/02)

"In the past they arrested me and mistook me for one of the outsider people [KNLA]. They hit me and wrapped me in a tarpaulin [and subjected him to water torture] and put me in a hole. They kept me in that cell for one or two months. They tortured me in many ways. They wanted to kill me, but I am just a villager. I am only alive now because God helped me."

"Saw Toh Lay" (M, 30), villager from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #59, 4/02)

"I didn't have a letter of recommendation and they arrested me at Shan See Boh. I went there to get some food. They arrested me and took me to the camp in Yay Shan and locked me in the stocks for over a month. They locked my legs in the stocks and tied my hands. They poured water on me. They took a pot of water and poured water in my nose. They also dripped [molten] plastic on my chest and back. It was the worst on my arms."

"Saw Kweh Pa" (M, 52), village head from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #46, 1/02)

SPDC soldiers have on occasion shot villagers in their fields or on the paths. The soldiers claim that they thought the villagers were KNU. When the soldiers see the villagers they often call out to the villagers to come to them, but the villagers, believing they will be taken as porters, run away. The soldiers then open fire on the villagers. Many villagers, however, have said that the soldiers often call out and open fire at the same time, without waiting for the villagers to respond. In this way, on July 14 th 2001, Saw Ah B'Doh and Saw Htoo Maw were shot dead by soldiers from IB #30 as they were returning to their village from their plantation. On another occasion, in March 2000, SPDC soldiers caught two teenage boys hiding to avoid forced labour. One was shot in the bladder by the soldiers and the other was stabbed twice with a knife, killing him. In June 2003, a group of 300-400 villagers were ordered to carry rations for the regular SPDC Army battalions along the Toungoo to Mawchi motor road to the newly established camps on the road close to the border with Karenni State. As they were returning from Ler Wah Moo Thwa Koh Army camp to Tha Aye Hta for the second time, they were ambushed by one of the Dam Byan Byaut Kya units which was laying in wait for them. As the soldiers opened fire, the villagers fled, leaving their loads strewn across the road. At least one villager was reported to have been killed in the attack. It is not clear why the Dam Byan Byaut Kya did this, but it would have been obvious to them that it was villager porters and not gun-carrying soldiers that they were shooting at.

"They killed Saw Ah B'Doh. He was my husband. They shot him dead on July 14 th [2001] near K– when he was coming back from the plantation. They also shot Saw Htoo Maw; he was only 20 years old."

"Naw Paw Soh" (F, 22), villager from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #65, 4/02)

"In the past our villagers were afraid [of going to] porter and do loh ah pay, so we would flee and hide. One of the SPDC troops arrested two boys and killed both of them. That was in March, 2000. They arrested the two boys in the night and they shot one of them dead, and stabbed the other one to death with a knife. The one who they shot dead was Saw Ku Htoo. He was nineteen years old. They shot him once under his bladder with a G3 [assault rifle of the SPDC Army]. The other one was Saw Klay Paw. He was sixteen years old. They stabbed him twice with a knife. They stabbed him once in his side and once in his heart."

"Saw No Poh" (M, 49), village head from M– village, Than Daung township (Interview #159, 3/02)

"In June 2003, IB #124 and IB #26 built their camps on the Taw Oo to Mawchi car road and forced about 300 or 400 villagers to carry rice to them. The SPDC forced them to go back and carry the rations from Tha Aye Hta to Ler Wah Moo Thwa Koh camp again. When the villagers were coming back one of the guerrilla units ambushed them and shot at them. The villagers all ran away, leaving their rice bags and shrimp paste scattered on the road. I know that one of the villagers from Der Doh named Saw Ku Thu was killed."

"Saw Ku Lu" (M, 26), KHRG field researcher (Interview #4, 8/03)

Some SPDC soldiers demand alcohol from the villagers whenever they stay in a village, and once drunk, fire off their weapons in the air. This further terrorises the villagers who do not know if an attack has taken place or if the soldiers have begun to shoot at the villagers. In January 2002, a drunken SPDC commander, staying in one of the villages near Kler Lah, became enraged when the village heads had dared to talk back to him over the tying up of a sick elderly man. He then stormed out of the house in a fit of rage. He then went to where a mortar was positioned between some houses and ordered his men to fire three mortar rounds at the village. Luckily no one was injured; all three of the shells fell in an area between the village and another village. Only two of the shells actually exploded.

"[Sometimes] they drink alcohol and get drunk. When they get drunk they shoot their guns in the village. [One time] they shot their big gun [mortar] three times in the village, but no one was injured. Only two shells exploded."

"Saw K'Paw" (M, 46), internally displaced villager from xxxx village, Than Daung township (Interview #106, 3/02)

"About one month ago, in January [2002], they [SPDC] entered our village. One of the commanders came and slept in my house. ... He said, 'I don't want to see the Kler Lah villagers' faces anymore.' He said to his soldier, 'If you see any Kler Lah villagers, just shoot all of them dead. I don't want to see their faces.' He then said that he was going to bind one of the village elders and me. The chairperson and the secretary told him that he [the elder] was very sick. He [the commander] said, 'He may be sick, but I don't care'. Then he got angry and went outside between the houses and fired the mortar. He fired three shells, but only two of them exploded. They landed between the two villages, so no one was injured. "

"Naw Eh Kri Mu" (F, 50), villager from xxxx village, Than Daung township (Interview #112, 3/02)

SPDC soldiers, especially officers, have occasionally tried to rape village women in Toungoo District. Some SPDC officers have tried to force themselves on women after drinking alcohol. Women who are forced to go as porters for several days are especially susceptible to rape. The Dam Byan Byaut Kya have built up something of a reputation for harassing women and rape. On February 25 th 2002, five soldiers from the Wei Za Guerrilla Retaliation Unit entered a village in Than Daung township to demand food from the villagers. While in the village, Captain Aung Kaing Win, their commanding officer, tried to rape one of the women from whom he had just demanded rice and tea. She narrowly escaped after fighting off all five of them with a stick before running away. The soldiers then beat one of the village elders in retaliation for her defiance. On January 7 th 2004, Major Kyaw Zaya and Captain Aung Naing Oo and Sergeant Tint Shwe, all from IB #124, raped Naw Bay Po of Kaw Soe Koh village. The soldiers took the 30 year old woman and her 1-year and 3-month old baby at 9 p.m. They raped her twice and then released her. The village head had been following them and took her home at 1 a.m. Following the rape, she was unable to speak. On February 5 th 2004, Company Commander Aung Naing Oo forced the village head, a pastor and the woman's husband to sign their names to a document stating that Sergeant Tint Shwe did not have a weapon with him that night, that he only took Naw Bay Po as a guide and that he did not rape her.

"They [SPDC] come to the village very often. When they come, they do whatever they want. They even rape the women. It is very dangerous."

"Saw Pa Thaw" (M, 30), villager from xxxx village, Than Daung township (Interview #114, 3/02)

"When they [the Wei Za Guerrilla Retaliation Unit] came here ... on February 25 th [2002], they asked for tea to drink. There were five of them who came. Their commander also came. The name of the commander is Captain Aung Kaing Win. The commander also wanted to come and make trouble for me [to rape her]. All five of them came around me and I got angry and picked up a stick and hit them. After that I ran away. My uncle [a village elder] had to suffer [was beaten] because of me. They came to demand rice and we gave it to them, but they were not satisfied and they wanted something more."

"Naw Ka Ya" (F, 21), villager from xxxx village, Than Daung township (Interview #127, 3/02)

There have also been cases of officers, particularly among those from the Dam Byan Byaut Kya , attempting to coerce village women into marrying them. One such case occured in Than Daung township in 2000. Captain Cheh Tee (a.k.a. Win Myint), a Company Commander with the Wei Za Guerrilla Retaliation Unit, harassed a woman in an attempt to get her to marry him. He offered to keep her in a town and told her she would not have to work. He also offered to buy her betelnut plantation and give her the money immediately if she would go and live with him. When she refused, telling him that she had already been widowed and so could not remarry, he attempted to rape her. She was saved only when his soldiers came to investigate her screams. In a separate incident within the same village, Captain Cheh Tee was reported to have harassed yet another woman. When Cheh Tee learned that this second woman had a boyfriend to whom she was soon to be married, he went looking for him in a fit of jealousy to kill him. In a sick twist of fate, the boyfriend was later killed on June 20 th 2000 after stepping on a landmine while returning to the village.

"I know one of the Company Commanders called Cheh Tee; most of the people [villagers] are afraid of him. Whenever he speaks [to the villagers], he hits them. He liked one of the women who lives in K–, named Naw aaaa. She was about thirty years old; maybe a little older. She didn't have a husband anymore [widowed], and it was in the evening when he [Cheh Tee] went to speak with her. He said, 'Wouldn't you like to be with [married to] a commander? If you would like I will take you with me when I leave and keep you in town. You will never have to work hard ever again. You can live [easily]. I will also sell your betelnut plantation for you if you would like to come and live with me. I will give you the money now.' She then said to him, 'I am a widow. My husband died and I live with my brother and sister, so I cannot remarry.' She thought that this would stop him, but then he extinguished the light and started to rape her. She tried to escape and shouted out. Cheh Tee's soldiers came running over and asked what was happening, so he stopped. I know of other stories. He wrote a [love] letter to one of the [other] women. Some of the villagers said to him, 'This woman has a boyfriend, and she will be getting married soon. Maybe tomorrow or maybe the next day, so please don't make any trouble for her.' Cheh Tee and his soldiers then went back to the village head's house and demanded that they tell him where he [the boyfriend] lived. They [soldiers] then went looking for him so that they could kill him. He had to run for his life. On June 10 th 2000, IB #20 had laid six landmines on the path, and when he came back to the village, he took a rest on the path. He put down his bamboo basket, but when he sat down, one of the landmines [exploded and] killed him."

"Saw Ba Htee" (M, 40), villager from xxxx village, Than Daung township (Interview #97, 11/00)

Fees, Extortion and Looting

Perhaps the greatest vocation of the SPDC soldiers based within Toungoo District is the extortion of money, food, and goods from the civilian population. There is little in the lives of the villagers that does not attract some form of fee or tax. The myriad fees imposed upon the villagers range from the mundane to the ridiculous. Village heads are often ordered to provide the soldiers with rice, curries, cheroots, alcohol and whatever else the SPDC officers might want. Army columns often loot the villagers' rice, pigs and poultry when they pass through villages. Many villagers are living in abject poverty because of the constant demands for money and having to provide whatever the soldiers want. Many are in unrecoverable debt as a direct result of having to constantly borrow money to pay the soldiers or to contribute to buying pigs or chickens to give to the soldiers. As a result, many are unable to provide enough food for their own families.  In addition to the regular SPDC units, the Dam Byan Byaut Kya units are also demanding fees from the villagers.

Forced Labour Fees

"We have to pay [porter fees]. Each house has to give 1,000 Kyat per month. They [SPDC] said that if we don't pay them, we will have to relocate."

"Saw Min Htoo" (M, 30), villager from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #56, 4/02)

Most of the fees which the villagers have to pay in Toungoo District are related to forced labour. The SPDC often collects the fees under the pretext that they are then given to those villagers who are forced to work by the SPDC as a method of payment for services rendered. A different fee is demanded by the SPDC for each of the various forms of forced labour. Some of the fees enable the villagers to avoid having to go for forced labour, while others are simply extortion money. The usual pattern is that an SPDC officer sends out an order to a village for forced labour and states how much money can be paid to avoid the work. The villagers pay the money and the officer than orders another village to do the work. They also pay, and so the order goes around all the villages in the area. Sometimes the order may go around the villages several times. Eventually the labour will have to be done and the officer will finally send out an order telling the villagers that they have to come to do the work and no money will be accepted. By this point the officers have already received tens of thousands of Kya t from the villagers. Some villages must pay fees to two or more Army camps at the same time.

"The villagers are not united because the Burmese [Army] is demanding so much [from them]. They are demanding every day; they demand thousands of Kyat every day, so much that we cannot pay them."

"Saw Th'Kee Soe" (M, 50), village head from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #17, 4/01)

"We have to pay them every month. There are many kinds of porter fees. We have to pay emergency [ad hoc] porter fees, loh ah pay fees, and also pay for simple [regular monthly] portering; there are three kinds of porter fees."

"Saw Koh Gyi" (M, 40), village head from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #53, 4/02)

"One time they demanded 6,000 Kyat from each village; 6,000 Kyat one time, 4,000 Kyat one time, 5,000 Kyat one time, and 7,000 Kyat one time. This time they demanded 7,000 Kyat. This was all in 2001."

"Saw Soe Win" (M, 55), deputy secretary from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #18, 4/01)

Although the SPDC sometimes claims that these fees are to pay the workers, the porters and labourers rarely see any of this money. Most of the money ends up lining the pockets of SPDC Army officers [for a few cases of porters being paid, see 'Portering']. The amount that the villagers must pay may vary widely from month to month. SPDC Army units generally remain posted in the same area for three to four months before rotating out to another area and different units can sometimes demand different amounts from the villagers. The fees are usually demanded regularly on a monthly basis. Typically each house within the village pays a fixed amount determined by the SPDC, or alternatively with a total is set for the entire village and the village head determines how much each house must pay. Most villagers are required to pay an average of 1-2,000 Kyat each month, depending on the size of the village and the greed of the local SPDC Army officers. Villagers who cannot pay the required fees must report for the shift of forced labour [see Order #10].

"They demanded money to pay the porters. Our villagers sometimes have had to pay 30,000 Kyat and sometimes we have had to pay 40,000 Kyat. Each house has to pay 1,000 Kyat [per month]. They have also demanded food worth 10,000"

"I get 3,500 Kyat each month. I then have to give money for the loh ah pay fees and the porter fees. I must give 1,200 Kyat [each]. I have only 1,000 Kyat or just a little more than 1,000 Kyat each month [to live on]."

"Saw Htay Mu" (M, 34), villager from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #66, 7/02)

"If we don't go for loh ah pay [forced labour], we have to pay money; if we don't pay the money, we have to go for loh ah pay."

"Saw K'Paw" (M, 46), forcibly relocated villager from xxxx village, Than Daung township (Interview #106, 3/02)

"If I have to go for loh ah pay but do not have time to go, then I have to pay 2,000 [Kyat]. If I don't pay, then there will be big problems."

"Saw Pu Ko Wah" (M, 35), forcibly relocated villager from xxxx village, Than Daung township (Interview #96, 10/00)

"The average price is 1,200 Kyat from each house every month. They are going to move our village [if they do not pay], or they are going to burn our village."

"Saw Su Wah Lay" (M, 40), villager from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #28, 7/01)

"We have to pay once a month. There are many different prices. Sometimes we have to pay 700 Kyat, sometimes we have to pay 800 Kyat, or 1,000 Kyat, or 500 Kyat."

"Saw Myo" (M, 40), forcibly relocated villager from xxxx village, Than Daung township (Interview #110, 3/02)

"We must give them [SPDC] the wontan fees. They don't call them wontan fees, they call it loh ah pay. Sometimes we have to give them 600 Kyat and sometimes 15,000 Kyat."

"Saw Kaw Kwee" (M, 26), villager from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #102, 1/02)

"We have to pay porter fees. We have to pay 1,000 Kyat per month. One house has to pay 1,000 Kyat, but some people cannot pay. Some people can only pay 500 Kyat and some pay only 700 Kyat."

"Naw Hser Lay" (F, 52) villager from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #15, 4/01)

In many cases across Toungoo District, the SPDC has specifically told the villagers not to report for forced labour each month, but instead to send the relevant fees. In some of these instances, those villagers who have reported to the SPDC Army camp because they are unable to pay the fees, have been told to return to their villages and send the money instead. The vast majority of SPDC Army commanders are more concerned with making themselves rich at the expense of the villagers than fighting the KNLA. These commanders use their positions to extract as much money as possible from the villagers. Some villagers have told KHRG researchers that they must pay porter or loh ah pay fees to the Dam Byan Byaut Kya units in addition to those that they must pay to the regular SPDC Army battalions in the area.

"They only demand money. At first, the people would go to sentry because the people didn't have any money to pay them, but they [SPDC] didn't like that. They demanded that we give them the money. We have to give the fees for six porters and two set tha [messengers] each month. They demand only the fees. Each month we have to give 27,000 Kyat. Each of the other [nearby] villages has to give 12,000 Kyat per month."

"Saw Htoo Kwee" (M, 46), village tract head, xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #32, 7/01)

"Major Win Naing [from IB #75] demanded two porters from each village, but they demanded 700 Kyat each day for each person [instead of sending the porters]. Each month we have to pay them 42,000 Kyat for the two porters."

"Saw Kya Leh" (M, 25), villager from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #29, 7/01)

Stamp:                                                                        Date: 19-2-2001 
     Frontline #75 Infantry Battalion                      To: 
           # [unclear] Company                                   xxxx [village] Chairperson

Come to report information to the yyyy Village Chairperson's house on 19-2-2001. 
Bring the servant fees at the same time. 
If [you] can't pay the servant fees, send the people to be servants.

[Sd.]

                                                                                 Deputy Warrant Officer bbbb 
                                                                                        Camp Commander 

yyyy Camp 

Order #10: This order states clearly that if the fees are not paid, the villagers must go for forced labour. 'Come to report information' means to report intelligence on everything happening in and around the village.

Villages that do not pay the fees on time will often receive another order to remind them to pay with an attached threat. If the fees are still not paid, then another order letter may arrive with a piece of charcoal, a bullet or a chilli included in the envelope. The charcoal symbolises that the village will be burned down, the bullet that the soldiers will kill them, and the chilli that the soldiers are going to make the situation 'hot'. By this point, most villages pay the required fees. If they do not, the soldiers may carry out the threats. In March 2001, a commander from IB #75 ordered K– village in Tantabin township to report to the local SPDC Army camp to pay their monthly quota of porter fees. The villagers were too afraid of what the soldiers might do to them upon arriving there, and consequently nobody from the village went to pay the fees. Then, on March 25 th , the commander gave the order to shell the village and the soldiers fired two 60mm mortar shells into the village. More often the soldiers will come to the village and beat the village head as punishment for not getting enough money together.

"They ordered that the villagers from K– come to see them [and pay the porter fees], so they demanded that the villagers from xxxx to go and get them. They [the villagers from K–] didn't come, so they [SPDC] shelled K–. They fired their two-and-a-half inch [mortar] twice. This happened on March 25, 2001."

"Saw Th'Kee Soe" (M, 50), village head from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #17, 4/01)

Villagers struggle to pay the fees on time, but are often in arrears. Most have to borrow money from each other or sell off their possessions or livestock. Others try to get some extra money by selling their small cash crops of cardamom, betelnut or fruit, or by working as day labourers for other villagers. In many villages it is the village headman who often has to make up the difference with his own money. The struggle to find enough money to pay the fees often results in the villagers not having enough time to work their fields. This will mean a much smaller harvest than is necessary to feed their families. The need to pay the fees also means that the villagers do not have enough money to buy food with which to supplement their diets. When the money and the food run out, many villagers have no other choice than to flee their villages and live in the forest.

"We needed to come back [to her village] and find a little bit of food to eat. That was at the time when the people were harvesting their cardamom. We thought that we would be able to come back and work so that we could get some food, but they wouldn't allow us to come back. We had to come back secretly to find food. We came back and got our cardamom. If we could get one basket of cardamom, we could take it back and sell it and buy some rice to eat. We had to find some food. They [SPDC] still demanded that we pay the porter fees. If we didn't have any money, they said that we must find it so we could pay them. We have had to borrow money from the villagers who stay in Kler Lah. We had to pay them back, but we couldn't pay them back for a whole year. We are still paying the money that we owe to people. When they called for people to go [to porter] to Bu Sah Kee, we had to go even though we didn't want to."

"Naw Thet Wah" (F, 58), internally displaced villager from P– village, Than Daung township (Interview #165, 3/02)

"We don't want to but they demand it from us, so we have to borrow from other people so that we can pay. When we pay them [SPDC] the money, we pay it with tears. There is no food for our children, but we still have to pay them even though we don't have it. We can't feed our children enough, but they still demand it from us. "

"Naw Paw Htoo Htoo" (F, 40), villager from xxxx village, Than Daung township (Interview #163, 3/02)

To:                                                                  Stamp: 
     Chairperson                         Village Peace and Development Council 
xxxx [village]                                       Date: 2-6-02 
                                                                Bawgali Gyi tract

[You] have to hand over loh ah pay servant fees of 15,000 [Kyat] to the Byaut Kya [Guerrilla] Captain, you are informed.

 [Sd.] 2-6-02 
Stamp: Chairperson 
                                                                       Village Peace and Development Council 
                                                                      Bawgali Gyi tract - Than Daung township 

Order #11: A translation of an order issued by the village tract chairperson, requesting money from a village head on behalf of a Dam Byan Byaut Kya officer. This money is in addition to the normal fees paid for loh ah pay to the regular Army units.

"Because they [villagers] are poor, it is difficult for them to earn a living. Even though they have a shortage of food they still have to pay the porter fees. They have to work hard and they have many tears. When I see their tears I sympathise with them, but I can do nothing to help them. We are under the government's control so we can do nothing. I have faced many problems. I have a food shortage and I still have to pay the porter fees. I sympathise with other people who face more difficulties than I do."

"Saw Moo" (M, 60), pastor from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #71, 7/02)

"Now they are demanding two people to go for loh ah pay, but we [the whole village] have to pay 15,000 Kyat for one person for each month. Each month we have to pay 30,000 Kyat. Every family in the village has to give money for this; each house has to give 500 Kyat, but some houses cannot afford this so they only give 100 or 200 Kyat [per month]."

"Saw Ghay Hser" (M, 52), pastor from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview # 70, 7/02)

Other Fees

In addition to the regular forced labour fees, a number of other fees are also demanded from the villagers. Some villages are required to record the names of any outsiders who come to their village in a 'guest register'. Fifty Kyat is collected from each 'visitor' and given to the SPDC on a weekly basis along with the list of names. In this way the SPDC is able to keep track of the movements of the villagers as well as to make a little money on the side. In one village, each house is expected to pay 50 Kyat each month, or 10,000 Kyat from the whole village, for the petrol needed to run a generator at the adjacent SPDC Army camp. The villagers were forced to buy the generator in the first place. The electricity is only for the Army camp. Some villagers have had their right to keep their traditional percussion-lock firearms taken away [see 'Restrictions'], but other villagers have been forced to register their guns and pay a fee. Each month they must go and pay 200 Kyat at the local SPDC Army camp.

"Whenever a visitor comes to the village, we have to collect money for the guest register. Each person [visitor] must pay 50 Kyat. They force us to take it to them once a week."

"Saw Toh Wah" (M, 30), villager from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #23, 6/01)

"They demand the money for themselves. That money goes into their bellies."

"Saw Hla Min" (M, 40), village head fro m xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #40, 1/02)

"The Operations Commander demanded that we send him a generator, so we had to send him a generator. ... Later, they [SPDC] had a problem with petrol, so they demanded 10,000 Kyat to buy petrol. This makes it very expensive for us because we have to pay 40,000 Kyat each month [for the various demands forced upon them]. It is a big problem for us. It is not only that, every month each house has to also give them 1,200 Kyat for the porter fees and 50 Kyat each month for the petrol [for the generator]."

- "Thra Po Lah" (M, 38), pastor from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #69, 7/02)

"They demanded that we go and pay for our gun licences [for their percussion-lock weapons]. They demand that we pay 200 Kyat for one license. They demand that we pay the 200 Kyat every month."

"Saw Kya Leh" (M, 25), villager from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #29, 7/01)

SPDC Army units sometimes organise celebrations and sports tournaments. Although these would seem to be attempts to win over the hearts of the villagers, they are in reality simply attempts to exact more money out of the villagers. Villages are sent orders to come to the celebrations or to assemble teams to compete in the competitions. The villagers are not given the choice of whether to attend or not, they must go. Demands for fees to pay for the cost of having the celebration or competition usually accompany the 'invitation'. These 'fees' are often much more than what the cost of the celebration or competition should be, with the SPDC officers simply pocketing the rest. On December 25 th 2000, the Ba La Guerrilla Retaliation Unit based in Play Hsa Loh ordered all of the villages in the area to come to their camp to compete in a volleyball tournament to entertain the soldiers stationed there. Villages were told that they would be fined 5,000 Kyat if they did not attend. Villages that did attend, but could not organise a team would also be fined 5,000 Kyat. However, those who did attend and participated in the tournament were still expected to give a 1,000 Kyat entry fee. Many of the villagers in the area are Christian and were thus unable to worship on Christmas day. Furthermore, in 2000, the Karen New Year fell on the same day. There is little chance that the significance of this day would have been lost on the SPDC. Those who did not compete were fined, while those who did compete were fined less, but were denied the freedom to celebrate religiously and culturally.

"They demanded every village [from that area] go. The people had to go and bet on the volleyball game. It was during [Karen] New Year. If a village didn't go, they were fined 5,000 Kyat. If you went, but could not play volleyball you still had to pay them 5,000 Kyat. If you went [to play] you had to pay them 1,000 Kyat. At first they had Christmas at Mwee Loh, and then they had the volleyball game at Play Hsa Loh."

"Saw Way K'Lu Say" (M, 50), village head from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #38, 1/02)

"One time, they [Dam Byan Byaut Kya] had Christmas at Play Hsa Loh. They told the villagers from each village in that area to come for games. If the people didn't go they must pay 5,000 Kyat. Even if the people went, they had to give 1,000 Kyat."

"Saw Khaw" (M, 45), villager from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #35, 1/02)

"They invited us to go and play volleyball, but if we didn't go we had to give them 5,000 Kyat. It was every village from K– up to here. It was at the time of [Karen] New Year [2000]."

"Saw Kweh Pa" (M, 41), villager from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #46, 1/02)

Villagers must also pay to travel within the district and to go to Toungoo town. At each checkpoint the villagers have to pay a 'toll' to the soldiers manning it before being permitted to pass. Villagers in the far north of Than Daung township say that they should be able to earn twice as much if they sell their cardamom in town compared to selling it in their own village. However, whatever profits they make are lost through extortion at the many checkpoints, Army camps, and roving SPDC patrols that they encounter on the way to the market or during their return to the village. Travelling to Toungoo by car can be very expensive due to the many checkpoints along the way. Each checkpoint that the cars pass through extorts what they can from the driver in a system of road tolls. The driver, in turn, then passes these expenses on to the passengers, raising the fare to around 1,000 Kyat to travel the 37 miles from Toungoo to Kler Lah. In contrast, the ride to Rangoon from Toungoo, which is almost five times farther, only costs half that price. The high costs incurred by having to pay 'tolls' at each of the checkpoints have kept many villagers from taking family members to the hospital there. Some villagers have died from their illnesses as a result [see 'Health and Education'later in this section]. Villagers who are transporting goods along the road often have to give some of their goods such as betelnut or cardamom to the soldiers at the checkpoints. Other villagers give the soldiers chickens or bottles of alcohol to get themselves and their goods through the checkpoints. This raises the transportation costs of any goods along the road. This in turn makes items that come up from the plains like pots and plates and cups, clothes, food and rice very expensive for the already impoverished villagers in the mountains who come down to buy them in the markets of Than Daung or Kler Lah. It also makes it too expensive for many villagers to transport goods down to Toungoo and the plains to sell. This makes economic development of the region virtually impossible. 

Subject: Celebration of the Strategic Operations Commander's Trophy Cane Ball Competition

1. #1 Strategic Operations Command Military Operations Command Group, Strategic Operations Commander's Trophy Cane Ball Competition will be celebrated and held on year 2002, September 28 th .

2. Therefore, the cane ball sport players in the villages of Bawgali Gyi region who want to enter the competition organize by club, then the list of the names must be sent to Bawgali Gyi [Army] Camp on October 26 th .

3. No limit for the quantity of clubs in each village. Organize the groups as you like, and submit the list of the names, you are informed.

Stamp: [Sd.] 22/10 
#1 Strategic Operations Command Group       (For) Temporary Strategic Operations Commander 

Ta Pa Ka

Letter # xxxx xx / Oo 
Date: Year 2002, October 22 nd

Distribution 
Chairperson, xxxx village 
Chairperson, yyyy village 
Chairperson, zzzz village 
Chairperson, wwww village 
Chairperson, vvvv uuuu tttt su see village [relocation village] 
Chairperson, ssss village 

Chairperson, rrrr village 
Chairperson, qqqq su see village [relocation village] 
Chairperson, pppp village 

Chairperson, oooo village 
School Headmaster, Combined Basic Education High School / mmmm 
Office receipt. 

File Letter 
xxx xx *** 

Order #12: A translation of an order instructing the villagers to attend a cane ball competition. The villagers would have likely had to pay for setting up the competition and for the prizes awarded to the winners.

"A problem that we face is that the SPDC disturbs us when we go to sell our cardamom in the town. We could sell one viss [1.6 kgs. / 3.6 lbs.] of cardamom in the town for 5,000 Kyat, but we can sell it in our village for only 2,000 or 2,100 Kyat. If we can go and sell it in town, we will also only get about 1,000 or 2,000 Kyat because we have to pay taxes to the soldiers on the way."

"Saw Bee L'Koh" (M, 35), villager from xxxx village, Than Daung township (Interview #133, 12/02)

"There are checkpoints at 13 Miles [Army camp], IB #73's checkpoint at 18 Miles [Army camp], 20 Miles [Army camp], Pa Leh Wah, Kler Lah, and Kaw Thay Der. The villagers have to give them 2-300 Kyat and buy alcohol for them [the soldiers manning the checkpoints]."

"Saw Ku Lu" (M, 26), KHRG field researcher (Interview #4, 8/03)

"From here to Taw Oo, it is only 39 miles, but the car fare is over 1,000 Kyat. Every gate [checkpoint] asks for a lot of money from the driver. The driver must then take the money back from the passengers. The distance from Taw Oo to Rangoon is 175 miles, but the car fee is only 500 Kyat."

"Saw Ba Aye" (M, 47), pastor from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #55, 4/02)

The Ba La Guerrilla Retaliation Unit is particularly dictatorial in their demands and fines. According to some villagers, even the innocent act of singing attracts a 5,000 Kyat fine. The Ba La unit has even declared a fine for dog bites in order to extort money from the villagers. The villagers must pay if their dogs bite one of the Ba La soldiers. If the dogs fight each other and bite one another, the villagers must pay 5,000 Kyat for each dog involved in the fight.

"When the dogs bite them [Dam Byan Byaut Kya], they demand money from us. If the dogs bite each other, they demand 5,000 Kyat for each dog [in the fight]. If we sing a song, they demand 5,000 Kyat."

"Saw Khaw" (M, 45), villager from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #35, 1/02)

Demands for Materials, Food and Money

"The SPDC's plan is to oppress our nationality [the Karen]. All of our belongings or money becomes theirs. We have to feed them anything they demand. We have to give it to them. We have to carry loads for them. At the moment they are holding the guns and they are oppressing the villagers. If we look at their plans, we see that it is not a government's planning; it is [the plan of] beggars and thieves."

"Saw Keh Su" (M, 50), villager from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #30, 4/02)

In addition to the SPDC Army soldiers' regular demands for extortion money through the regular system of fees that were discussed in the previous sections, villagers in Toungoo District must also supply them with food, money, building materials, and various other items whenever they are demanded. These demands may come either through written order letters from one of the many Army camps [see "SPDC and DKBA Orders to Villages, Set 2003-A; Toungoo, Papun, Nyaunglebin, Thaton, Pa'an, and Dooplaya Districts"(KHRG #2003-01, 22/8/03)], or verbally when SPDC soldiers enter a village. The extortion of money, food, building materials and other items by SPDC military units has become so pervasive in Toungoo District that it has become common operating procedure. Soldiers commonly demand rice, chickens and other foodstuffs from villagers when they enter villages. Army camps send orders telling villagers to cook meat curries for the officers and bring them to the camp. Usually nothing is paid for the rice, chickens or pigs that the soldiers eat. Soldiers enter village shops and markets and take what they want without paying. Whenever money is given, it is less than the real market price. Villagers are usually too afraid to report this to the soldiers' superiors.

"They [SPDC] come here very often. When they come, they demand food. They call themselves the government, but they look like robbers. When they come here they steal our pigs and chickens; they shoot their guns and they threaten our children."

"Saw Toh Lay" (M, 30), villager from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #59, 4/02)

"They are like the children of beggars. Every group [military unit] that comes here asks for food."

"Saw Sa Min" (M, 35), forcibly relocated villager from xxxx village, Than Daung township (Interview #169, 3/02)

SPDC units have been ordered to be largely self-sufficient in their food needs. In the field this has meant that they then demand whatever food they do not have enough of from the villagers. The heavy demands for food from local SPDC units have left many villagers without enough food for themselves. Many villages no longer have pigs and chickens to give the soldiers. When rice has to be sent to the soldiers, it must come from the villagers' already inadequate supply. If the villagers do not have enough rice, chickens or pigs, they must buy more to give to the SPDC soldiers. A village head, for instance, might be ordered to provide pork to a nearby Army camp. He will then search the village for a pig which he will then have to buy from the owner. Sometimes the villagers are able to pool their money together to buy the pig, other times the village head will have to pay for it himself. If there are not any pigs left in the village, the village head will have to go around to the other villages in the area in search of a pig. Once a pig is found the village head must buy it either with his own money or with the money collected from the villagers. Collecting the money from the villagers is the preferred way because the loss is then incurred by everyone and not by one person alone. However, often the villagers are so impoverished that the money can only be collected from some of the houses, and this creates tensions in the village. In May 2002, one of the Dam Byan Byaut Kya commanders entered a village in Tantabin township and demanded to eat a pig. A suitable 'small' pig which would have been worth 30,000 Kyat in the local markets at that time was then slaughtered and prepared for the soldiers. Afterwards, the rest of the village contributed and the collected money was given to the owner of the pig so as to soften the blow of the loss.

"I know Captain Soe Myint from IB #30. In the past he told me to take him a pig. It weighed 28 viss [46 kgs. / 100 lbs.] and would have been worth more than 10,000 Kyat. They did not give me any money."

"Saw Nay Min" (M, 34), forcibly relocated village head from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #7, 11/00)

"We work for ourselves, but it is not for us, it all goes to them. We have to work for their food first, and then we must work for our food afterwards. ... If the villagers harvest 25 durians, the SPDC takes twelve durians. If we are going to eat a pig, we can only eat half and give them half. So, all of our things become their things."

"Saw Htoo Kwee" (M, 47), village head from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #13, 4/01)

"The last time that the guerrilla group [Dam Byan Byaut Kya] entered the village, they forced the village head to find one pig. The village head had to find one, but he couldn't. The village head told them that he couldn't find one, but they forced him to find one. The commander said, 'It is impossible for you not to give me a pig. Whenever I enter a village, the villagers must find some pork for me.' The villagers had to find him a small pig so that he would be satisfied. That pig weighed 20 viss [32 kgs. / 72 lbs.]. They didn't pay for it; we had to ask the villagers. We collected money from each house in the village and the village head then gave it to the owner of the pig. That was on May 19 th 2002."

"Naw Hsa Maw" (F, 48), villager from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #67, 7/02)

"We are afraid of them, so we try to give them what they demand. When they want pork, we arrange it for them. When they want chicken, we arrange it for them. When they want people [for forced labour], we give them to them. [That way] we can stay in the village."

"Saw Maw Shwe" (M, 39), village head from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #14, 4/01)

The villagers can do little but comply when the soldiers state their demands. Many villagers have told KHRG researchers that they fear they will be relocated if they do not fulfill the demands of the soldiers. Villagers who protest when the soldiers come to the village and take things are often threatened with direct bodily harm. Soldiers point at them with their rifles or show the villagers their knives or landmines in an obvious threat as to what will happen to them if they do not give what is demanded. Village heads and some villagers who have been unable to give the soldiers what they want have been arrested and beaten by the soldiers [see 'Killings, Arrests and Torture'].

"They demand betelnut during the betelnut harvest and they demand durian and mangoes during the durian and mango harvests. They demand food as they wish. They don't respect the civilians' belongings. They take them as though they were their own. They use whatever they want to use. All troops demand this. There are no troops who don't demand things. Their job is to demand and to use [the civilians]. They demand betelnut and durian. Whenever they want wood or bamboo, we must give it to them. If we don't give it to them, they will punish us. They shoot whatever they want to shoot, and they do whatever they want to do; they do not ask, they just shoot whatever they want to shoot. Whether the villagers agree or not is not important."

"Saw Ba Aye" (M, 47), pastor from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #55, 4/02)

"They demand food. Some of the troops demand nicely and some of the troops demand badly. They shoot their guns in the village. When they came to demand bread, cheroots, and tealeaves from the shop, he [the shop owner] didn't give it to them, so they fired their guns in front of his shop. 'Ta Ta Ta Ta Ta'. Then he was afraid and gave them the bread and cheroots."

"Saw K'Baw" (M, 43), villager from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #16, 4/01)

"They threatened the people when they demanded food. When the villagers didn't give them anything, they spoke to them very badly. They said that if the villagers did not give them [what they wanted], they were going to burn the house and kill the owner. They demanded [to eat] pork and chicken, and they also demanded alcohol, slippers, and shirts."

"Saw Thay Myo" (M, 48), villager from Y– village, Tantabin township (Interview #80, 4/01)

"They said that if the people could not give them [what they demanded], the villagers must leave the village. The people would not be able to work in their area or place [they would be forcibly relocated]."

"Saw Htoo Pa" (M, 35), villager from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #5, 10/00)

Much of the food that is demanded from the villagers goes to the officers' table. Very little of it is given to the private soldiers. Some corrupt officers and sergeants have even been known to sell off the soldiers' rations leaving them very little to eat. As a result, theft from the villagers by the privates is common. The officers rarely punish the soldiers, even if the villagers complain. Much of the theft occurs at night because the soldiers from the nearby camps are too embarrassed to steal from the villagers in daylight. When soldiers enter a village while on a patrol through the hills the situation can be and often is very different, especially among the more undisciplined units. Soldiers often loot the villagers' rice and poultry at gun point. At other times they order the villagers to cook curries for them. The villagers have little choice but to comply. Many officers exert little control over their soldiers at these times. The food is almost never paid for, and villagers have claimed that the soldiers even took the villagers' plates which they had just eaten off of with them. In an extreme incident in early 2001, a group of SPDC medics entered a village in Tantabin township under the premise that they were there to treat the villagers. The soldiers gave injections to a number of the villagers, claiming that they were there to help them. These injections however were not medications at all, but tranquilizers. Once the tranquilizers took effect and those who were injected lost consciousness, the soldiers returned and stole a sack of betelnut from their homes.

"The troops out on patrol come to our village very often. They demand to eat. They demand to eat rice, salt, fishpaste, and monosodium glutamate when they arrive here. When they ask for it, they say that they will pay, but they don't. When they go back, they take our plates. My niece had a bracelet and when they went back, they took it also. They steal our things. When they come here they steal our machetes, cups, pots, and plates. Every time that they come here, they steal a little bit when they go back. Every group [acts in this way]."

"Naw Eh Kri Mu" (F, 50), villager from xxxx village, Than Daung township (Interview #112, 3/02)

"When they come here, they demand to eat rice. They come here and eat our animals, and they demand things from the shops without paying any money. If we cannot answer them, they threaten us and show us their mines and their knives."

"Naw Paw Htoo" (F, 27), villager from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #60, 4/02)

"I don't know why, but they come to the village. What we have seen is that when they come to the village, they don't have their rations and they demand food from the villagers. We have to cook it for them. They demand chickens and they also go and kill the chickens; they don't pay for them _ after they eat, they just leave. They steal the chickens. Even though we give it to them, they go to the lower part of the village or under the houses and steal the pigs and chickens as well."

"Saw Y'Gaw Ko" (M, 35), village head from xxxx village, Than Daung township (Interview #132, 12/02)

"They demand food from the villagers. If they can't demand it, they take it by force. They took our chickens and ducks. They took about seventy or eighty [of them]."

"Saw Htoo Pa" (M, ?), villager from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #5, 10/00)

"In 2001 their [SPDC] medics came here to treat the villagers one night and gave my grandparents injections to make them sleep. When they were asleep, they went back and stole one bag of betelnut."

"Naw Paw Eh" (F, 19), internally displaced villager from K– village, Tantabin township (Interview #81, 4/01)

When SPDC units have been ambushed or suffered casualties because of KNLA landmines, the soldiers sometimes go to the nearest village and take everything that they can in revenge. They also shoot any of the poultry or livestock that they come across. To the soldiers, the ambush or the landmine explosion never would have happened if the villagers had told them about the danger, so the villagers must be working with the resistance and the looting is justified. SPDC Army deserters have told KHRG in the past that officers have told their soldiers that it is all right to loot the villagers' things because the villagers are helping the KNU and the KNU is their enemy, so the villagers are also their enemy.

"The people [KNLA] shot at them [SPDC] when we were in a hill field once. After this, they [SPDC] took all of the villagers' things from the hill field [as retaliation for the attack]. ... They took everything that they saw in the hut. ... When they see the villagers, they kill them, so the villagers flee and hide."

"Saw Htoo Kwee" (M, 47), village head from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #13, 4/01)

"The fighting occurred so we fled and stayed in the jungle for two weeks. They [SPDC] came in to our village and ate our livestock. They could not demand it from the villagers because we fled when the fighting began. "

"Saw Soe Win" (M, 30), villager from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #18, 1/02)

Villagers are sometimes forced to buy things from the soldiers. Some units sell off their inferior rice and other foodstuffs which they get from the Army as their rations and then demand better rice for free from the villagers. The officers dictate what prices are to be paid for the rice and other foodstuffs. The prices are often far higher than the local market rate. Villagers are forced to buy inferior rice at often grossly inflated prices. In April 2000, SPDC soldiers from IB #75 ordered villagers from a village in Tantabin township to carry rice to Pa Leh Wah where the soldiers would sell it at the market for their commanding officers. The rice was likely from the soldiers' own rations. The profiteering soldiers accompanying the villagers kept some of the money from the sale and blamed the villagers for the discrepancy, accusing them of stealing the rice and keeping the money for themselves. Those villagers were then forced to repay the money that the soldiers had in fact stolen from their commanding officers. Soldiers from IB #73, who man the checkpoint at 18 Miles on the Toungoo to Mawchi road, have forced villagers to buy noodles and alcohol before being permitted to pass. Each bottle of alcohol was sold for 500 Kyat and even villagers who did not drink still had to pay 300 Kyat before they were allowed to continue on their way. The villagers claimed to not even enjoy the noodles which they were forced to pay extortionately high prices for, but had to buy them nonetheless, owing to the fact that they were made by one of the commander's wives. Other officers, such as Major Shan Lwin of IB #264 have forced some of the villagers to buy items from him that have already exceeded their expiry dates. The officer who sent Order #13 below is probably selling off his battalion's rations and is in effect ordering the villagers to come and buy them.

"[In 2000], we carried rice to Pa Leh Wah where the soldiers and NCOs had to sell it [for the officers]. They took two sacks of rice [100 kgs. / 220 lbs.], three viss [5 kgs. / 11 lbs.] of sugar, and one tin of milk. They sold it [and kept the profits for themselves] and accused us of stealing it. Later, we had to pay them back for the two sacks of rice."

"Naw Wee Wee" (F, 51), villager from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #79, 4/01)

"At the IB #73 gate [checkpoint] they demand many things from us when we arrive at the gate. The commander's wife sells noodles there, and when we arrive there they force us to buy her noodles. Her noodles are expensive and we don't like them. Her noodles do not taste nice. ... They sell alcohol and the villagers have to buy it. If the villagers don't buy the alcohol, they [SPDC] get angry at the villagers. The villagers who don't drink alcohol have to pay 300 Kyat, and the villagers who do drink alcohol have to pay 500 Kyat."

"Naw Paw Eh" (F, 18), villager from K– village, Tantabin township (Interview #81, 4/01)

Villagers are also often ordered to buy items like alcohol, cheroots, sugar and tinned milk for the soldiers. Sometimes the soldiers give the village head money to do this with and other times they promise to pay, but when the items are delivered, no money is given. One of the Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs) from the Ba La Guerrilla Retaliation Unit named Thein Ngai has on a number of separate occasions instructed villagers to go to the market in a neighbouring village for him, giving them the money with which to buy the goods. Upon returning from the market, goods in hand, Thein Ngai then asks to have his money returned to him, effectively forcing the villagers to pay for the goods for him. 

To:                                                                                                                                    30-5-2002 
     U aaaa 
     Chairperson ( xxxx [village] )

       As soon as [you] receive this letter now, come to meet with the column commander at xxxx [camp] today morning to arrive at 09:30 hours. 
[We] Have rice / milk tins / beans / oil / sugar to sell, so the people who will buy it come with money. 
Wait at xxxx Hall.

[Sd.] 
                                                                                                     Major bbbb 

Order #13: A translation of an order demanding that the villagers purchase goods from the SPDC Army soldiers.

 

"They stay in their camp and we have to go and buy things for them from Kler Lah and bring them back for them. They don't give us any money. They give us their milk and we have to carry it back and sell it to the villagers. The villagers don't want it and say 'it is already out of date'. I tell them that they must buy it; if we don't buy it, it will be a problem for us. "

"Saw Hser Paw" (M, 25), forcibly relocated village head from xxxx village, Than Daung township (Interview #165, 3/02)

"Thein Ngai ordered me to buy some vegetables for him and gave me 1,500 Kyat. I bought it for him, but then he demanded the 1,500 Kyat [back]."

"Saw Kler Htoo" (M, 38), villager from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #41, 1/02)

"Thein Ngai then told me to go and get some things for him and he gave me 2,000 Kyat [with which to buy them]. I went to buy the things for him, such as duck eggs, long beans, eggplant, and a hat. When I got back, he asked for his 2,000 Kyat back. I didn't have any money ... but I [still] had to go back and see him. I searched for it and paid him back his 2,000 Kyat along with one viss [1.6 kgs. / 3.6 lbs.] of pork."

"Saw Aye Min" (M, 38), villager from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #19, 4/01)

These ad hoc demands end up costing the villagers a staggering amount of money; money that they simply do not have. Some of the demands exacted upon the villagers of Toungoo District amount to being more money that what an average villager, earning 300 Kyat a day, would make in months. In the cases described below, the two pigs demanded from "Saw Soe Win" and his son would have been worth 90,000 and 37,500 Kyat respectively at local market prices. "Saw Soe Win" alone would have lost the equivalent of ten months worth of wages in this single incident.

"They ate our chickens, pigs, and everything. They ate my pig. They ate one pig of mine and another one of my son's. My pig [would have] weighed sixty viss [98 kgs. / 216 lbs.]. They ate one pig and four chickens [from my son]. [His] pig would have weighed 25 viss [41 kgs. / 90 lbs.] ... They shot it and ate it. After they ate, they left."

"Saw Soe Win" (M, 55), deputy secretary from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #18, 4/01)

"When they came along the path, they saw my cows and then he fined me one cow. He [Major Myint Zaw] said, 'I must eat a cow.' My cow was a male bull and I didn't want to give it to him, so I told him that I would go and buy him a female cow from the plains area. He demanded to eat the bull. They wanted to eat the male. Then I went to the plains area and I bought a female cow for them. It cost 17,000 Kyat, and also ordered some other things as well. I also had to buy them oil, sticky rice, and cigarettes. The cow and the other things cost me 33,000 Kyat. They didn't give me any money for it. I had to borrow the money from other people because he did not even give me one Kyat."

"Saw Lu Mu" (M, 30), villager from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #39, 1/02)

"We have to go and borrow [money] from other people. We owe more and more each day. I can't pay them back. I still owe people [money] now."

"Saw Pa Thaw" (M, 30), villager from xxxx village, Than Daung township (Interview #114, 3/02)

Health and Education

"They [SPDC] don't do anything for us. We had to build the school ourselves. The SPDC Army camp is close to us and they came and saw that we were building the school ourselves, but they didn't do anything to help. They don't do anything for us. We have to rely on each other. We never have enough for our school. The SPDC knows that we need help, but they don't do anything for us."

"Saw Y'Gaw Ko" (M, 35), village head from xxxx village, Than Daung township (Interview #132, 12/02)

The SPDC provides very little for the health of the Nyein Chan Yay villagers. There is only one clinic in the mountains of Toungoo District at Kler Lah. There is a doctor there and some nurses, but very little medicine. The usual practice here is that the doctor will write up a prescription and the villagers must then go outside the clinic and buy the medicine at a shop and bring it back to be administered. There is also a hospital in Toungoo, but this is a much more expensive option. Villagers who want to go there must first travel down the road from Kler Lah to Toungoo, paying the fees demanded at each of the checkpoints along the way [see 'Other Fees' in 'Fees, Extortion and Looting']. Once they arrive at the 'People's Hospital' in Toungoo, they must pay for service or they will not even be admitted.

"The villagers who have money can send them [to Toungoo]. The villagers who do not have money, like us, suffer and die. [If you have] no money, you must wait and wait, and die. We can't send them [to Toungoo]."

"Saw Thay Myo" (M, 48), villager from Y– village, Tantabin township (Interview #80, 4/01)

"When they [the villagers] get sick, we have to send them to Taw Oo. Taking them to Taw Oo is difficult, as some of them may die on the way. We have to keep some of them in the hands of God. If they die, they die, and if they live, they live. Most of them die."

"Saw Htoo Kwee" (M, 47), village head from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #13, 4/01)

Villagers who cannot afford to seek treatment in Kler Lah or Toungoo must remain in their village and resort to using traditional herbal medicines from ingredients that are readily available to them in the jungle such as roots and various leaves. Many of these remedies prove to be inadequate and many villagers die due to inadequate treatment. Medicine is available in some of the bigger villages, but it is expensive. Even if villagers can afford it, the SPDC's prohibition on the carrying of medicine makes it dangerous to go and buy it and carry it back to the village [see 'Restrictions']. Villagers are usually unable to buy enough medicine to give a sick person a full course because they are afraid of carrying too much medicine in case they are stopped by SPDC soldiers.

The acute lack of food that is confronting the vast majority of villagers in Toungoo District is having serious implications upon their health [ see 'Food Security']. The amount of food which villagers are able to eat each day does not provide them with enough vitamins and nutrients to stave off infection. Diseases related to nutrition such as malnutrition, anaemia, diarrhoea, dysentery, and beriberi are common. All of these diseases are both easily preventable and treatable, but with no medical supplies, few trained medics and inadequate public health and sanitation knowledge, the villagers continue to be plagued by these diseases. Many villagers have died from diseases and infections that could easily have been cured.

"The most common diseases that the villagers there have to face are malaria, diarrhoea and dysentery, and the common cold. In June 2003 there was an epidemic of respiratory infection [influenza] and many children were coughing a lot. When we went to the church, we could not hear the pastor's speech because the children were coughing so much."

"Saw Ku Lu" (M, 26), KHRG field researcher (Interview #4, 8/03)

"The most common diseases that they face are respiratory infections [influenza], malnutrition, anaemia, malaria, diarrhoea, measles, and beriberi."

"Saw Thaw Kee" (M, 30), Karen relief worker (Interview #196, 8/03)

The geographic isolation of Toungoo District makes it very difficult for outside aid to reach the villagers. The trek from Thailand can take weeks to complete because the relief workers must traverse the free fire zones of southern Karenni State or those of northern Papun district. The length and difficulty of such a journey means that external assistance only arrives sporadically. Karen relief organisations are able to visit the area only once every six months to provide the villagers and IDPs with medicines and food. However, due to SPDC activity, these groups are unable to reach all of those in need. Furthermore, each of these organisations is only able to give a maximum of 25 kilograms (55 lbs.) of rice to each family for a six month period. While this is welcomed, it is only a small fraction of the total amount of rice that a family would eat in six months.

There are also several mobile medical teams in Toungoo District. Each of these teams must care for as many as 2,000 patients (villagers and IDPs). The teams travel into the area once every six months, treating those who they can get access to in the time that they are there. Prior to returning to Thailand, they leave behind stockpiles of medicines so that the villagers and IDPs can receive treatment in the time until the teams return. None of the relief organisations that work within Toungoo District are able to travel to all areas. In certain areas, the SPDC presence is so strong that they would be placing themselves at even greater risk if they were to attempt to travel into those areas. Should any of them be seen by the SPDC, they would be shot on site.

"The SPDC do not come and take care of the villagers. Sometimes if there is an emergency, the Karen side [KNU] will come."

"Saw Eh K'Mu" (M, 51), village secretary from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #22, 4/01)

"[The backpack medics] go there three times a year. They can go to almost every village in the district. They also go to the [internally] displaced villagers. At the beginning of the year they went to Maw Nay Pwa area, in the middle of the year they went to the Kho Kee area, and at the end of the year they will go to Than Daung township."

"Saw Ku Lu" (M, 26), KHRG field researcher (Interview #4, 8/03)

"One backpack [medic] team must take care of 2,000 patients. The backpack teams go in every six months ... and supply them with medicine so that the [healthcare] workers who work there can take care of the villagers. Sometimes if they don't have any more medicine they use herbal medicine and try to buy medicine from the town."

"Saw Thaw Kee" (M, 30), Karen relief worker (Interview #196, 8/03)

Most Nyein Chan Yay villages in Toungoo District have a small school where the villagers can at least obtain a primary education. Villagers who do not have a school in their own village send their children to the school in a neighbouring one. Few of these schools extend beyond Fourth Standard (Grade 4). All schools found in Toungoo District are understaffed, underfunded, and desperately short of resources. The teachers themselves are often poorly educated, with many of them only having a Fourth or Fifth Standard (Grade) education themselves. There are only a handful of schools in the district where students may complete Tenth Standard (Grade 10), although few villagers can afford to pursue such an education. The increasing costs of schooling are driving even an elementary education of Fourth Standard beyond the means of many.

The schools in many of the larger villages were established by the SPDC in the name of 'development', although most of the money used to build the schools was extorted from the villagers. Building materials are usually demanded from the villagers who are also ordered to build the schools. The SPDC pays for the salaries of the teachers they provide but very little else. Most of the smaller villages establish and administer their own schools so that they too can give an education to their children. The SPDC provides these schools with nothing. The villagers commonly supplement the teachers' salaries with rice and other crops because the majority of them are too impoverished to pay the wages of the teachers in addition to the regular system of fees that they are also expected to pay to the SPDC.

Education in the SPDC schools is heavily regimented and censored. The SPDC does not allow the teaching of Karen in its schools. Classes are conducted in Burmese, from Burmese-language textbooks. Often, the only way for a child to learn to read and write their native language is from their parents or private tuition. The study of politics, particularly the study of democracy, is strictly forbidden. Karen history is not allowed to be taught either. The students are only taught a much-distorted version of Burmese history, where Burma, under the rule of the SPDC has supposedly prospered. Only in the village-run schools are the children able to learn some Karen. These schools are set up and run by the villagers themselves, so the villagers decide what their children will study.

"They do not allow us to write about Karen history. They cannot teach about democracy. The people can only learn about their [SPDC] work. If we do not praise them, but instead say that they are wrong, we are sent to prison. Recently, they have paid a lot of attention to the children so that they can change their [the children's] opinion of the SPDC and so that they have to rely on them [SPDC]."

"Saw Htoo Kwee" (M, 47), village head from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #13, 4/01)

"There are no Karen text books. This school is a Burmese school, so they teach Burmese and English. They don't teach the Karen language."

"Saw Ta Pla" (M, 21), forcibly relocated village secretary from xxxx village (Interview #27, 7/01)

"They gave us permission to learn the Karen language before, but now they don't give us permission to learn Karen. The teachers can only teach the Burmese language. Now, children who grow up cannot read Karen, they can only read Burmese."

"Naw Paw Eh" (F, 18), villager from K– village (Interview #81, 4/01)

"The SPDC built our school. There are four standards. The SPDC assigned the teacher; [she] is from L–. They are allowed to learn Karen, but they don't. The teacher doesn't understand Karen very well so she cannot teach it."

"Saw Cho Htwe" (M, 32), village head from xxxx village, Than Daung township (#03-18-6, interviewed on 12/02)

The school year in most schools is limited, on average only three months per year. It is quite common for students to have classes for only one week out of every four. Many teachers are absent for much of the year, tending to other commitments such as cultivating their fields. At various times of the year, the students themselves are also unavailable to study because they must help out in the fields. During the harvest, everyone must pitch in and work alongside the rest of their family in the fields trying to harvest all of the food that they can in the limited time they have available to them.

"They [the students] can't learn well. The SPDC does not allow us to teach Karen. They can learn for only three months per year."

"Saw Say Neh" (M, 40), village secretary from xxxx village, Than Daung township (Interview #142, 12/02)

"They [the students] can't learn very well. They can learn only for three or four months a year."

"Saw Kar Wah" (M, 35), villager from xxxx village, Than Daung township (Interview #141, 12/02)

"They [the students] can only learn one week per month. The teacher doesn't teach very well. [The teacher] goes over here and over there, so the children can't learn very well."

"Saw Pa Say Lah" (M, 48), villager from L– village, Than Daung township (Interview #192, 12/02)

Few of the parents have aspirations that their children will become doctors, teachers, or other professionals; the vast majority are more concerned with trying to put enough food on their plates and raise enough money to pay the fees demanded by the SPDC. Even if they had such aspirations, there is very little chance that their children would be able to meet them within the present environment in Karen State under the SPDC. Some SPDC soldiers have told villagers that they will not amount to anything more than being a hill farmer regardless of whether they study or not. Regrettably, this is not too far from the reality in the current situation. Faced with the realities of this, most villagers no longer pursue a comprehensive education, concentrating instead on finding enough food for their next meal. Other villagers stop studying upon reaching an age when they are strong enough to work in the fields alongside their family members. For the Nyein Chan Yay villagers of Toungoo District, the need to eat supersedes the need for an education.

 

 

"Most of them [children] can learn, but most of the people don't go to school. Most of the children stop learning when they can read a little bit."

"Saw Htoo Say" (M, 38), KHRG field researcher (Interview #3, 8/02)

"They [SPDC] told them, 'If you study you will eat rice, and if you do not study you will still eat rice.' The people who get paid a salary cannot earn any more than a schoolteacher. As for me, I have passed tenth standard, [but] there are no chances for me. The only thing we have is to come back and work in our village. Yet, we cannot work freely because of the SPDC's oppression. We must stay under their hand."

"Saw Htoo Kwee" (M, 47), village head from xxxx village, Tantabin township (Interview #13, 4/01)