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

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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.

Ywa Bone Villages

"The SPDC came and oppressed us, so our villagers had to flee and stay in the jungle. I have stayed here [in the jungle] for one year already. We can't work very well because the Burmese Army comes and disturbs us so we can't work. We can plant only one or two big tins of [paddy] seeds. ... We have had to flee and stay in the jungle every year. We can't work. We don't have any food anymore. We owe people money. We are sick and it causes problem for us. We have to stay in the jungle. We can have a hill field, but we can only make a small hill field. When they [SPDC] come here they disturb us and destroy our things so we can't make our hill field very well. This is a big problem for us. We have to stay in the jungle and we don't have a house to stay in. We have to flee and stay like the birds and the chickens. We have to move our place every day."

"Saw A'La Chit" (M, 45), internally displaced villager from K– village, Than Daung township (Interview #188, 11/02)

The villagers who do not live in the SPDC controlled areas are known in Burmese as Ywa Bone or 'Hiding' villagers. No longer able to withstand the demands forced upon them by the SPDC or unwilling to move to a relocation site when ordered to, many villagers have chosen a life of flight and live nomadically in the dense forests which cling to the steep hillsides. By living outside of the zone of SPDC control, these villagers are viewed by the SPDC as enemies who are aiding the KNU/ KNLA. They must constantly live in fear of SPDC military units that are sent periodically into the mountains to hunt them down. Whenever an SPDC patrol draws near, they must gather what they can of their few meagre possessions and literally run for their lives. Most of the internally displaced villagers live in the area between the Kler Lah-Bu Sah Kee road and the Toungoo-Mawchi road, west of the Yaw Loh River in Tantabin township, and the area to the east of the Day Loh and Klay Loh rivers in Than Daung township.

"I have to suffer many things. I don't have enough food, my children can't learn, our fruit plantations were destroyed and we can't look after them. The SPDC government are not good people. The SPDC always says that they are good people and that they are doing good things for development, but they are not good. They oppress the civilians, they kill the civilians, and they do many things to the civilians. They don't fight their enemies [KNU], they fight their own civilians. They think that if our people can't stay [in their homes], then they will be lost [destroyed]. Whatever they do, our people will never be lost."

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

"They are not Nyein Chan Yay [Peace] villagers, just Ywa Bone [Hiding] villagers. They always have to flee and stay like that [in hiding]. ... If they don't face the SPDC troops, the SPDC Army will shoot them if they see them. They have fled to stay in the jungle, so if the Burmese [troops] see them, they will not let them live. ... They always have to be ready. If there is any fighting they have to take their things and flee. This is why they must always be ready. They always have to be aware."

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

Q: "Why have you fled from your village to live in the jungle?" 
A: 
"Because of the SPDC. When they see us, they will shoot us dead. They beat and torture us, so we dare not to stay."

"Saw Po Thu" (M, 37), internally displaced villager from K– village, Tantabin township (Interview #86, 7/01)

Karen relief organisations that provide relief to the internally displaced villagers estimate that there are between 5,000 and 6,000 internally displaced villagers hiding in each of Toungoo District's two townships. Many of the villagers fled their villages when SPDC forces moved into their area because they did not dare to face the soldiers. Others who were ordered to move to relocation sites, fled to live in the forest near the villages. Still others went to the relocation sites and then fled when the lack of adequate food and the constant forced labour became too much for them [see 'Forced Relocation' in the 'Nyein Chan Yay Villages' section] .

"In that area, I guess that there would be over 5,000 people. This is only from the villages which were destroyed. This is only from Tantabin township; over 5,000 people."

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

"For the whole district there might be 9,000 or 10,000 IDPs. There might even be more than that. There are about 6,000 IDPs in Tantabin township, and another 6,000 in Than Daung township. We can get to the people in Tantabin township, but we cannot get to everyone in Than Daung township [to provide them with aid]. We cannot get in to the people who live to the west of the Day Loh River who stay near the SPDC, nor can we get in to the villages near Ler Ker Der Koh, Wah Baw Day or Wah Soe."

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

"[We have to stay in the jungle], because they [SPDC] ordered us to carry loads for them and they ordered us to stay in the place that they nominated [in the relocation site]. They [SPDC] ordered us to relocate often, but we didn't want to relocate, so [now] we try and live in the jungle."

"Saw Kloh Law" (M, 45), internally displaced villager from K– village, Than Daung township (Interview #144, 11/00)

"[In] 1997, the Burmese Army came and burned our village. We couldn't stay in our village anymore. We had to stay in the jungle. We had to run up and down [to avoid SPDC patrols]. Our villagers need peace in our country. I have already stayed in the jungle for three [five] years. We are faced with illnesses and we don't have enough food. I have to go to Than Daung Gyi to buy food. I have to walk for two days [in order to do so]."

"Saw Kaw Po" (M, 30), internally displaced villager from M– village, Than Daung township (Interview #151, 1/02)

Most internally displaced villagers live in groups of two to four families in hiding places in the forest. The small groups make it more difficult for the SPDC soldiers to find them. When the villagers first flee their villages they build tent-like shelters of sticks or bamboo and leaves to live in. If they are able to stay in one place long enough, they build more permanent shelters with bamboo walls and leaf or cut bamboo roofs. In a few sites the KNLA is able to provide some small measure of security, but in most it is the villagers who post lookouts to watch out for approaching SPDC columns. If a column is sighted, the lookouts will run back and warn the villagers. Most lookouts are unarmed and many have been shot dead by the SPDC troops. No matter what kinds of provisions are made for their security, the internally displaced villagers must be ready to run at any time. SPDC soldiers routinely shoot at internally displaced villagers, so villagers do not wait for the soldiers to arrive, but flee as soon as they hear a gunshot or a landmine explode, nearby or not.

"We have to stay in the jungle. We have to move from place to place often. I have had to do this for many years."

"Saw Eh Law Kaw Ko" (M, 53), internally displaced villager from D– village, Than Daung township (Interview #147, 3/01)

"The villagers who don't face the SPDC don't gather together and go back to stay in their village as they did before. Right now they are staying in their betelnut plantations. One family stays here, and one family stays there. They have separated and don't all stay together. If they all go back and stay together in their village, when the SPDC Army comes and sees that, they are going to burn it [the village] again. The villagers have this problem. If they [SPDC] know that the villagers have gone back to stay in their village, you have to understand that they [SPDC] will come and burn it again. If they [the villagers] go back and rebuild their houses, and then the SPDC comes and burns it again, after that they will rebuild it again and the SPDC will come and burn it again. ... The villagers can't go back and work as they did before. They have to flee and stay over here and over there. Four or five families stay together. They are scattered like that."

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

Karen villagers have very strong ties to their land and prefer to live on the run in the forest nearby their village rather than move to a relocation site. Internally displaced villagers usually flee to places within walking distance of their old village so that they can go back and work at least a part of their fields. Rice is stored in hidden caches in the forest. If the SPDC military presence becomes too heavy in the area of their original village, the villagers move to an area farther away and try to start new fields. Flight to a refugee camp in Thailand is not a real option because of the distance to the Thai border and the many landmines and SPDC columns that have to be avoided on the way. Some villagers are eventually able to rebuild their villages and begin living in them again, although they still have to run from SPDC soldiers when they come. Eventually the village becomes more stable and the SPDC may start treating it as a village again and issuing orders to it rather than hunting down the inhabitants. This, however, usually only lasts until the next relocation campaign when the villagers again have to chose whether to move or flee into the forest. This cycle has happened many times over the years for the villages in the area to the north and northeast of Kler Lah.

"We have to face a lot of problems in our lives. We have to go and stay in the jungle; we can't stay in our village. Before, we had our village, but they came and demanded food. Now if they came to the village they would demand food and then arrest us. We have to avoid them. If we don't avoid them they threaten our villagers in many ways."

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

"Everyone knows that if you stay in the jungle, it is not an easy life. We have to face a lot of problems. We want to go back and stay in our village. If they [SPDC] knew that we went back to stay in the village, they would come back again. They would torture us again, and we would have to stay like this [back in the jungle], so we do not dare to go back and stay in the village."

"Saw Pee Thay" (M, 33), internally displaced villager from K– village, Than Daung township (Interview #160, 3/02)

"The place where we stay is not stable. Sometimes we can eat and sometimes we don't have any food to eat. We can't work well. We have to take care of our own security as well. We have to move very often. This is why we can't work very well. ... It is very difficult to stay in this area because we don't have any security. It causes problems for the villagers. The children can't learn. We see that in every corner of our lives, we are sloping down [getting worse] in everything. We are in need. We are poor in [terms of] education, health, economy, and social duties and obligations. If this area has peace, we will have to find a way for our children to learn. If we do this the civilians will have knowledge and they will open their eyes. Right now, because the civilians have to stay like this, the civilians don't have any knowledge. There is no unity anymore. My objective is to light the wick that is in the hearts of the civilians who stay in the dark."

"Naw Ta Ta" (F, 26), internally displaced villager from D– village, Than Daung township (Interview #189, 11/02) 

"I pity my children because I cannot look after them well..."

"I don't get enough food from my work. I don't have enough food for my children. I want to send my eldest child to school but I can't, so I had to ask him to leave school. We have to live and work day by day and we don't get enough food. I owe money to other people. This is why my family is faced with a lot of problems. In the past I sent my son and my daughter to school in Taw Oo [Toungoo], but now I can't send them there anymore. I have called all of them to the jungle. My husband is already dead. The Burmese [soldiers] killed my husband and now I am a widow and I have to stay with my children. The soldier who killed my husband was one of the guerrilla troops [Dam Byan Byaut Kya]. My husband died because of the SPDC. I have to work for the food for my children. I can't do anything and I have had to ask my son to leave school. He wants to go to school but I can't do anything. My younger children want to go to Taw Oo to learn, but I can't send them to school. It is because I have to be both their mother and their father. I pity my children because I cannot look after them well."

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

 Destruction of Property and Looting

"Ever since our parents', and grandmothers' and grandfathers' time, they have been coming here and torturing us. Now we do not dare to stay in the village. We have had to flee and stay here [in the jungle]. When they [SPDC] see us, they will kill us. ... If we stayed in our village, they would tie us up, torture us, and beat us until they killed us. We can't suffer like that so we must flee. Whenever they arrive at a village, they take everything that they see. They take the pigs and chickens. They carry it with them. If they can't carry it, they destroy it. All of the food that they see, they destroy. They burn down the houses. They have destroyed the villagers' belongings."

"Saw Tay Kee" (M, 55), internally displaced villager from P– village, Tantabin Township (Interview #83, 6/01)

The SPDC has routinely used the destruction of villages in its ongoing effort to flush the villagers out of the hills and into the areas under their control. The idea appears to be that if the villagers do not have a house to return to, they will then come down to live in the relocation sites and villages under SPDC control. Villages that have been moved to relocation sites are usually looted and burned after the villagers have left. Other villages in areas which the SPDC has little or no control over are burned when SPDC columns pass through the area. Sometimes SPDC military units place landmines in the deserted villages to keep the villagers from coming back and living in them [see 'Landmines' ] . An added reason for the landmining of the villages is that it does not produce as much evidence for human rights researchers to take photographs of. Whether the SPDC burns the villages or keeps the villagers out with landmines, it only has the effect of further terrorising the villagers. Most villagers would rather live in a small bamboo and leaf shelter than go down to live under the SPDC.

"The Burmese burned the house and it felt like the fire burned my heart. I couldn't sleep that night. We had to run from place to place. I [only] took one bowl [1.6 kgs. / 3.5 lbs.] of rice with us. We ate it all, but then where could we go? We did not dare to go back and get more food."

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

"In places like Saw Tay Der, Pway Baw Der, and up to Hi Daw Kaw, all of those villages have been destroyed a long time ago. The people left and went to stay in the jungle. They go to stay among the bushes and in their hill fields. All of the villagers there don't go back to stay in their villages anymore."

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

Villagers living along the route of the Kler Lah-Bu Sah Kee road were forced to flee their villages in 1995 when the then-SLORC took control of the area and began building the road. After the villagers fled, the soldiers went through the area and burned the villages in 1995, 1996 and 1997. The villagers were first forced to flee their villages to the east of the Yaw Loh River in the area between the road route and the old Kler Lah-Mawchi road. The soldiers then began burning the villages to the west of the Yaw Loh River. The villagers on both sides of the Yaw Loh River have been living on the run in the forest ever since. In March 1997, the SPDC launched a campaign of village destruction to the east of the Day Loh and Yaw Loh rivers. Sixteen villages in the area were relocated, most of which were then destroyed. Many of these villagers later escaped from the relocation sites and fled back into the forests. While there have not been any major village destruction campaigns in the district since 1997, SPDC military units still burn down the villages of villagers who do not live under SPDC control, and the hiding sites of internally displaced villagers when they make their periodic sweeps through the hills.

"Between Kaw Thay Der and Bu Sah Kee, the villages [which have been forced to flee] are Ku Lu Der, Hsaw Wah Der, Maw Thay Der, Law Bee Ler, Per Loh, Khaw Du Htoe, Si Kheh Der, Plaw Mu Der, Ta Kwee Soe, Bu Sah Kee, Tha Aye Kee, Ha Toh Per, Thay Ku Der, Wa Soe, Sho Ser, Hi Daw Kaw, Kho Kee, Klay Kee, Thay Kee, and Bu Kee. Then they [SPDC] came up along the Western side of the car road beyond the Yaw Loh River to Si Daw Ko, Pway Baw Der, Saw Mu Der, Ko Lu, Saw Tay Der, and S'Wah Daw Koh. These villages have all been destroyed since the SPDC started building the [Kaw Thay Der to Bu Sah Kee] car road in 1995. ... They were destroyed in 1995, 1996, and 1997. It was during these three years that all of these villages were destroyed. They went and burned them again and again."

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

"In the area to the east of the Day Loh [River] and the east of the Klay Loh [River], most of the villages have been destroyed."

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

"In 1997, the SPDC came to the east of the Day Loh River and burned the houses. They burned all of the huts, rice barns, hill fields, and plantations. They burned everything that they saw. We have no house to stay in."

"Naw Ta Ta" (F, 26), internally displaced villager from D– village, Than Daung township (Interview #189, 11/02)

"There is no one who stays there anymore [in his village]. It is not only our village that has had to flee; there are 16 villages to the east of the Day Loh [River] that have had to flee and stay in the jungle. The villages from the east of the Day Loh [River] who have fled to stay [in the jungle] are: K'Ter Kee, Saw Law Ko, Th'Kaw Soh, Pa Weh Daw Koh, Ler Ker Der Tha, Thay Yah Yuh, Kaw Mi Koh, Ler Ker Der Kah, Way Lah Kaw, Dee Dah Ko, K'Mu Doh, Kay Law Kee, Ma Pweh Ko, Ler Ker Der Ko, Ma Wa Kaw, and Pah Der Ka. Our civilians have had to flee and stay in the jungle. We have to face problems and some of us have died. We have no house; we have to stay in the jungle."

"Saw A'La Chit" (M, 45), internally displaced villager from K– village, Than Daung township (Interview #188, 11/02)

"Since 1997, the Burmese Army has arranged their military operations on the east side [of the Day Loh River] and have come to burn our villages. This is why we have had to flee and stay in the jungle. This causes big problems for us."

"Thra Dah Moo" (M, 45), internally displaced pastor from W– village, Than Daung township (Interview #153, 1/02)

SPDC columns periodically make sweeps through the areas where the internally displaced villagers are hiding. Whenever the columns find the hiding places of the villagers the soldiers often launch military-style assaults on the sites, shooting at any villagers who are still left in the sites when the soldiers arrive. After the soldiers have cleared the area, they loot or destroy anything which has been left behind. Shelters are burned down, clothes and blankets are stolen, pots are stabbed with bayonets to make them unusable, poultry and livestock are shot and any food is either eaten, taken or destroyed. Rice caches that are found in the forest are routinely looted, burned, or the rice is thrown on the ground. On January 27 th 2004, soldiers from IB #94 came to a site where internally displaced villagers were hiding near Sho Ser village in Than Daung township. The villagers were able to flee, but the soldiers looted the items that they were forced to leave behind.

"They tried to look for us, but we were afraid of the sound of shooting and ran away. We had to sleep in the jungle for one or two days and then come back into the village. We did not see our belongings anymore. They ate all of our pigs and chickens. I was really upset that they were oppressing us like this. I went into my house to look at my basket. I still had my rice, but they mixed it with sand. I couldn't eat my rice anymore; there was a lot of sand."

"Naw Thet Wah" (F, 58), internally displaced villager from P– village, Than Daung township (Interview #164, 3/02)

"The SPDC Army came and ... destroyed our plantations, ate our food, and killed the people's buffaloes and ate them o r left them to rot. They have destroyed everything."

"Saw Kyu Heh Law" (M, 45), internally displaced villager from K– village, Than Daung township (Interview #152, 1/02)

If the SPDC cannot find the villagers themselves, they will target their food supplies in an effort to starve them out of the hills and down into the SPDC controlled areas. Crops that are still in the fields are trampled, burned or uprooted. Sometimes the crops are left intact, but landmines are placed in the fields [see 'Food Security']. The small plots where displaced villagers grow cash crops are also destroyed. On numerous occasions, SPDC soldiers have cut down whole betelnut and coconut plantations just so that they may eat the soft pith inside the trunks. Betelnut trees are extremely slow growing, not becoming productive until after a decade of growth. Villagers often sell or barter the betelnut, cardamom or fruit to get rice or other foodstuffs for their families. 

"They [SPDC] went into the hill fields and burned the Karen's paddy and rice. They destroyed all of the people's belongings when they saw them. They destroyed it all. If they saw something that they liked, they took it and sent it to Kler Lah [to their camp]."

"Saw Day Maw" (M, 45), internally displaced villager from D– village, Than Daung township (Interview #145, 11/00)

"They [SPDC] destroyed all of the cardamom, coffee, and betelnut plantations and all of the people's hill fields. They also destroyed the rice barns. They destroyed about ten or twenty rice barns. It was in 1998 or 1999. They saw the villagers' things, such as their clothes, food, and rice. They took it all."

"Saw Bway Htoo Lay" (M, 24), internally displaced villager from H– village, Than Daung township (Interview #150, 7/01)

"We cannot grow any more cardamom because the enemy [SPDC] burned it. We have to sleep like wild chickens, staying in one place one day, and in another place on another night."

"Saw Nu Pweh Koh" (M, 27), villager from M– village, Tantabin township (Interview #78, 4/01)

"We lost our bean and cardamom crops. They [SPDC] cut down the betelnut trees and ate the young part [pith] of the trees. The trees were [just] starting to get fruit. They [also] cut down the coconut trees and took the young part [pith] of the trees to eat. They destroyed a lot if you go and look at the betelnut trees and betelnut leaves in their [villagers] plantations. A lot of betelnut trees were destroyed. The people [SPDC] cut down a lot of the coconut trees also. All are lost."

"Saw Day Maw" (M, 45), internally displaced villager from D– village, Than Daung township (Interview #145, 11/00)

"When they come here, they destroy and burn everything. They take the villagers' belongings by force. When they go to the people's betelnut plantations, they peel off the bark and destroy the trees and eat them [the pith inside the tree]. We have to go and cut the grass around our betelnuts in fear. Instead of getting a lot, we can only get a little."

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

"We have to flee and stay in the jungle. If the SPDC sees us, they will destroy us, they will destroy our paddy and our rice, our plantations and all of our food. We have to take it [a supply of food] and keep it in the jungle."

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

Returning to their hiding sites after the soldiers have left, the displaced villagers often find that they have nothing left. They must start over with nothing but a machete and whatever clothes, pots and food they were able to take with them when they fled. Tarpaulins and plastic sheeting are rare, so most internally displaced villagers have to sleep out in the rain in the cold nights in the mountains until they can build new shelters. This has obvious detrimental effects on their health.

"There were only the house posts left. Now I have to wear other peoples' shirts. I don't even have my own shirts to wear."

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

"It is because of the SPDC's oppression that we can't learn. We have to flee and stay in the jungle. It is very hard. Recently they came here. They burn all day and all night. All of our belongings were burned. We can't go and see our belongings, because if they see us they will kill us."

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

"We always have to flee into the jungle, at least three or four times this year. We stay at the foot of the trees or the bamboo. We stay beside the river on the rocks. ... We have to flee quickly so we can't carry our belongings with us. We have to leave many things behind. We do not have time to carry them. If they [SPDC] come, they will eat it or destroy it. We have to flee and stay like this. We face many problems and we do not have enough food. In the rainy season, we have to stay under the trees and the bamboo. We don't have enough tarpaulins. We don't have enough food. Our children are sick. Some of the old people are not strong. We get diseases and we die. There are many problems for us."

"Saw Tay Kee" (M, 55), internally displaced villager from P– village, Tantabin township (Interview #83, 6/01) 

Killings and Shootings

"I have suffered a lot over the last twenty years. There was no one [killed] in 2001, but in October 2000, they killed five people. They were from the guerrilla unit [Dam Byan Byaut Kya]. They are the same soldiers who came here recently. They stabbed them and beat them to death. They tortured them before they killed them. They even cut off one of their heads."

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

The SPDC considers anyone who does not live under its control either in one of the relocation sites or in one of the Nyein Chan Yay villages to be its enemy. Internally displaced villagers are routinely shot dead by SPDC soldiers on sweeps through the hills. Villagers have been shot in their fields, on paths and at their hiding sites. The SPDC hopes that by shooting villagers, the other villagers will become so afraid that they will come down out of the mountains. The result, however, is the opposite with villagers fleeing farther into the mountains in an attempt to escape the SPDC Army. Villagers flee approaching SPDC columns when they come close because they know that they will be shot at on sight.

"If they see them, they [SPDC soldiers] just shoot at them. They don't have to ask any questions or interrogate them. They shoot whoever they see. Even the old people and the children, if they [SPDC] see them, they shoot them all."

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

"If they see the villagers they will kill them, and if they can arrest the villagers they are going to kill them. In the past they have shot many villagers dead. In the past, when IB #39 came, they killed Naw aaaa's father, Naw Ta Ru, and Saw Taw Ni."

"Saw Per" (M, ?), internally displaced villager from K– village, Tantabin township (Interview #84, 6/01)

"They shot them on November 11 th , 2000 at 2:50 pm. I was in the jungle when I heard the gunshots. I didn't go at once; I waited for the SPDC to go back. When I arrived there, they were both dead. My brother was shot eight times and my cousin was shot six times."

"Saw Maw Thee" (M, 23), internally displaced villager from xxxx village, Tantabin township Interview #77, 12/00)

Villagers are rarely given a chance to plead with the soldiers, even if they wanted to come down out of the mountains. The soldiers usually open fire as soon as they see the villagers. Even when the soldiers call out to them, the villagers say it is at the same time as they shoot and the villagers are given no time to respond. Most villagers run as soon as they see the soldiers. Attacks on the hiding places of the internally displaced villagers resemble military assaults. Many times SPDC troops open fire at ranges where it is easy to tell that the target is a villager and not a uniformed, armed KNLA soldier. Men, women, children and the elderly have all been shot and killed by SPDC soldiers. On June 8 th 2001, nine year old Naw Pa Leh was gunned down by a platoon of soldiers from IB #75. The soldiers who at the time were based at Klaw Mi Der, entered a betelnut plantation in Tantabin township, and opened fire on the girl simply so that they could steal the betelnut leaves that she had collected from a betelnut plantation.

"She left the house and went to the betelnut plantation. When she was coming back, the enemy [SPDC] saw her. When they saw her, they shouted out to her and shot her dead straight away. They then took the betelnut leaves that she was carrying. They were from IB #75. Their commander is Commander Win Naung. It happened at nine o'clock on June 8 th 2001 at xxxx [village]. Her name was Naw Pa Leh and she was my daughter. She was only nine years old, she studied in Kindergarten B."

"Saw Per" (M, ?), internally displaced villager from K– village, Tantabin township (Interview #84, 6/01)

"Since January 2001, the SPDC have only entered the village once. When they came here they shot a little girl dead. She was only eight [sic: nine] years old. They came on the 9 th or 10 th [sic: 8 th ] of June [2001]. It was at the time when she went to climb up and get the betelnut leaves from the betelnut plantation. Her name was Naw Pa Leh. ... Those troops came from Klaw Mi Der. There were more than twenty of them. ... Later, the people went to bury their younger sister, but when they went they met with the Burmese [soldiers] so they had to flee. The villagers then had to go back and bury her the next day. She wasn't buried until three days after she died."

"Saw Pa Kay Lah" (M, 45), internally displaced villager from P– village, Tantabin township (Interview #85, 7/01)

"They [SPDC] shot a villager during February [2002]. I forget his name, but they shot him in the betelnut plantation at xxxx near yyyy and zzzz [villages in Tantabin township]. They were Captain San Aung's troops, they were from Infantry Battalion #92. I don't know why. They [SPDC] walk and walk and if they want to shoot someone dead, they just shoot them dead, there is no reason. Also, on April 24 th [2002], they shot one of the villagers from Kaw Thay Der. His name was Saw Ah Myat. They shot him dead below Kaw Thay Der on the way to the plains."

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

"They hurt me one time. They shot me in the hand with their gun. It was when I was coming back from my hill field where I was cutting grass. I was staying in my field hut. They [SPDC] went to stay in the village, and they shot me when I was coming back. They were the 'short pants' [Dam Byan Byaut Kya]. They came from xxxx. There were more than ten of them. [The commander's] name was Cheh Tee. It happened on November 14 th , last year [2000]."

"Saw Tha Way" (M, 20), internally displaced villager from K– village, Than Daung township (Interview #166, 3/02)

On occasion the SPDC soldiers are able to capture internally displaced villagers. Sometimes the villagers are accused of helping the resistance, arrested and taken to an Army camp and later sent to a relocation site [see 'Arrest and Torture' ] . At other times the villagers are tortured and summarily executed by the SPDC troops. This happened on October 27 th 2000, five displaced villagers, Saw Do Gay, Pah Maung Roh, Saw Pah Gaw, Saw Heh Doh Htoo, and Saw Kwa Poe were arrested and killed by soldiers from the Ba La Guerrilla Retaliation Unit as they were returning to their village after buying rice in the western plains. Two of them were killed with bayonets, while the other three were beaten to death with a stick. One of them was beheaded and all five bodies were buried in a mass grave along with the stick that they were beaten to death with. Villagers caught carrying rice in the forest are accused of supplying it to the KNU and can be executed for helping the resistance. In reality, the villagers are carrying the rice back to their families who are starving because the SPDC has destroyed their rice crop or they were unable to get a large enough harvest that year.

"On December 20 th [2003], SPDC troops seized S– villager Saw Ka Paw, aged 50, and killed him. On December 20 th [2003], at 16:00 hours [4 pm], the same troops seized and killed 22 year old M– villager Saw Kaw Lar Thoo."

_ (FR6, 12/03)

"I had nine children, but some of them have died. I don't know why [my son] was killed. I only know that he went to get some food. At that time we didn't have any rice, so he went to buy some rice and kerosene from the plains area. When he was coming back with the food, he met the guerrilla group [Dam Byan Byaut Kya] on the way. It was Commander Tin Hla. They arrested him at xxxx [village] and the Burmese [soldiers] killed him at Peh Taw Day. He was 28 years old when he was killed. He was my second child."

"Naw Mu Kaw" (F, 54), internally displaced villager from Y– village, Tantabin township (Interview #89, 1/02)

"I have no husband; he died a long time ago. When he went to buy food from the plains area, the Burmese guerrilla group [Dam Byan Byaut Kya] saw him and arrested him. They killed him later with a bayonet on October 27 th [2000]. I don't know why. They killed him and four of his friends at Peh Taw Day."

"Naw Mi Mu Wah" (F, 40), internally displaced villager from Y– village, Tantabin township (Interview #87, 1/02)

"We didn't have any food, so when he went to buy food from the plains area, the Burmese saw him on the way and arrested and [later] killed him. It was on October 27 th 2000. He was killed in Peh Taw Day. I don't know why the Burmese [soldiers] killed him. The commander who killed my husband was Bo Tin Hla."

"Naw Thay Paw" (F, 45), internally displaced villager from Y– village, Tantabin township (Interview #88, 1/02)

"I don't have a hill field. I have small children so I don't have time to work in a hill field. I don't have a husband, he has already died. He died because the guerrilla group [Dam Byan Byaut Kya] killed him. At that time I didn't have any more rice, so I asked him to go and buy some. When he came back the Burmese guerrilla soldiers saw him carrying the rice and they killed him. They arrested him at xxxx [village], and took him to Peh Taw Day to kill him."

"Naw Lay Mo" (F, 33), internally displaced villager from Y– village, Tantabin township (Interview #90, 1/02)

"When my villagers went to the plain area to buy food, they met with the guerrilla troops [Dam Byan Byaut Kya] on the way back. It was on October 25 th [2000]. They took those people to yyyy [village] and slept there for two nights. On the 27 th they arrived at Peh Taw Day and they killed those people. Their names were Saw Do Gay, Pah Maung Roh, Saw Pah Gaw, Saw Heh Doh Htoo, and Saw Kwa Poe. They didn't shoot them; they beat them to death - every one of them. They killed Saw Heh Doh Htoo with a bayonet. They cut Saw Kwa Poe's throat and poked his belly with their bayonets four or five times. They buried them all in the same pit with the stick that they beat them to death with. It was Lieutenant [Colonel] Tin Hla who did that."

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

Some of the SPDC Army battalions are particularly brutal in their methods of torture and killing, sometimes mutilating the bodies of their victims. On March 20 th 2001, soldiers from IB #234 entered a village in Than Daung township and killed two of the villagers. Pi Day Pu was sitting in her field hut when the soldiers saw her. She was stabbed four times before having her throat slashed. On the same day, the same group of soldiers also killed Saw Htaw Thay. He was shot in the wrist, blowing off his hand, as well as in the ankle, before being fatally shot in the head. The soldiers then proceeded to cut off his nose, his ears, and his head. In 1999, soldiers from IB #26 killed two men after pursuing them into the jungle in Tantabin township. The soldiers then saw an old deaf woman, Naw Lay sitting in her field hut. The soldiers entered the hut and cut off her hands and legs before burning the hut with Naw Lay still alive inside it.

"They [SPDC] killed two people. They killed Pi Day Pu and Saw Htaw Thay. ... She [Pi Day Pu] was more than sixty years old. They stabbed her to death with a knife. She was in her cardamom plantation and they [SPDC] saw her in her hut. They didn't come to arrest her; they came and searched through her things. They took the things and killed the owner. They cut her throat.  This happened on March 20 th , 2001. She was stabbed four times. She was stabbed in the right side, in her stomach, and in her back. They cut off his [Saw Htaw Thay's] ears, his tongue, his nose, and his head. He was also shot three times. He was shot in the left wrist and his wrist was blown off. He was shot in the right ankle, and he was also shot in the head. He was twenty years old. He was killed on the same day [as Pi Day Pu]. They shot him with a G3 [standard assault rifle of the SPDC Army]. They were from [IB] #234. There were over 120 soldiers; they were from Taw Oo, and they came directly to xxxx [village]."

"Saw Bway Htoo Lay" (M, 24), internally displaced villager from H– village, Than Daung township (Interview #150, 7/01)

"They [IB #26] saw two men, so they killed them. Then they saw one old person who was deaf. They went into the hut and cut of that person's hands and legs. After that, they burned the house with the woman still alive inside it. ... That happened in xxxx village. I don't know the names of the two men who were shot, but the old deaf woman's name was Naw Lay... It was two or three years ago."

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

Arrest and Torture

"They built a fence around us so that it was like a cell. ... With all of the other villagers there were 24 of us. It was very crowded. We could not go outside the fence; we had to sleep there, eat and drink there, and shit and piss there. ... They locked us in the cell and wouldn't let us go outside. If we asked permission to go outside to pass stool or urine they shot at us. ... There was no shade so we had to stay in the sun all day. They would also force us to carry water for them and to cook rice for them on the riverside. ... Each day someone else got ill. When we arrived three people were already ill, but later more people got sick each day until there were about eight people sick. They [SPDC] would only give one tablet of medicine to each sick person."

"Saw Ba Htoo" (M, 40), villager from L– village, Than Daung township (Interview #148, 3/01)

The SPDC soldiers are occasionally able to capture villagers who they have either surprised and are unable to run away or have been wounded. Captured villagers are usually tied up and taken back to an Army camp or a relocation site. Wounded villagers are rarely given much medical treatment by the soldiers. If they are badly injured, they will usually be simply left by the soldiers to die. Often the villagers are forced to guide the soldiers or carry loads as porters first. The villagers are captured while the soldiers are on an operation so they often have to go for long periods of time. Some of the captured villagers are forced to walk in front of the soldiers as human minesweepers

"When we went to harvest our crops, they [SPDC] were waiting for us but we didn't know. They pointed their guns at us and arrested us. We could not go back to our village [hiding site]. They arrested us and forced us to carry their loads."

"Saw Eh Law Kaw Ko" (M, 53), internally displaced villager from D– village, Than Daung township (Interview #147, 3/01)

"The villagers that they [SPDC] arrest are forced to carry rations. They force them to cut their firewood and carry their water. The SPDC forces the villagers to carry very heavy loads even though they can't carry them. They force them to walk in front to clear the mines. If they cannot carry and fall down, they will hit them, punch them and kick them. Sometimes they shoot them dead. They keep the villagers for a month and use them to carry [their supplies]. They don't release them, because they use them to carry like cattle. They use them however they want to use them. The villagers are afraid of the power of the guns, so they are used like cattle. When they [SPDC] are active here, they use the villagers to carry their rations for them. The villagers must look for opportunities and escape."

"Naw Ta Ta" (F, 26), internally displaced villager from D– village, Than Daung township (Interview #189, 11/02)

"They took me to Mawchi [in Karenni State] for one week. They arrested two of us, they also arrested my son. They arrested us in my plantation. They didn't feed us enough. They didn't give us any water, and they only gave us rice once a day without any salt. They tied my hands in front of me, but they forced him [his son] to carry [a load]. He had to carry about five or six viss [8_10 kgs. / 18_22 lbs.]. They hit me and forced me to walk in front of them."

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

Villagers who are captured by the soldiers are usually beaten before being tied up. This is often done with a large stick or length of bamboo, or with the soldiers' rifle butts. Adults as well as children have been beaten by the soldiers. Some villagers who the soldiers suspect of being KNU or KNLA are tortured and then summarily executed by the soldiers. Evidence is never presented to prove the accusation and the villager is never taken for a trial. They are executed in the forest and simply left to rot [see 'Killings and Shootings' ] .

"They [SPDC] met me one time when I was coming back from the Sheh Loh River and they hit me three times with a piece of bamboo."

"Saw Sa Min" (M, 35), internally displaced villager from P– village, Than Daung township (Interview #169, 3/02)

"Last year I saw them [SPDC] pound one of the children's heads with the butt of their gun."

"Saw Doh Dee" (M, 40), internally displaced villager from M– village, Than Daung township (Interview #170, 3/02)

When villagers are captured they are not usually handed over to the other villagers in the relocation sites or villages and allowed to live there. They are first held as prisoners in the Army camps under deplorable conditions. Many villagers say they were held in crowded pits in the ground. Often the person held in the pit is not let out to relieve themselves; instead they must relieve themselves in the pit. The pits are out in the open with no covers, exposing the villagers to the sun or rain. When they are allowed out, it is to do labour for the soldiers such as carrying water or cooking rice. Many villagers become sick from the conditions in the pits. On February 27 th 2001, six villagers from L– village in Than Daung township were arrested by soldiers from IB #34 and forced to carry loads of rations and munitions weighing as much as 18 viss (30 kgs. / 65 lbs.). They were then detained at Keh Koh Army camp in an enclosed pit along with 18 other villagers until March 10 th . By the time they were released, eight of the captives had fallen ill. Three of the villagers were already sick when they were put in the pit and their conditions deteriorated over the period of detention owing to the unsanitary conditions and the fact that the soldiers neglected to provide adequate medical treatment. When the villagers asked to be let out so that they could go to the toilet, the soldiers would fire their rifles to frighten the villagers out of asking a second time. On April 15 th 2002, a group of approximately fifteen villagers were also arrested by soldiers from IB #34 and detained in the same enclosure at Keh Koh Army camp in Than Daung township. This group was held within the enclosure for over three months before being released.

"On February 28 th 2001 they [SPDC] came to the place where we live and took 23 villagers. Then on March 1 st [2001], they sent us to the top of Keh Koh Mountain [to the Army camp located there] and put us inside their fence [an enclosure]. They didn't feed us enough. We had to sleep there, eat there, and urinate there."

"Saw Eh Law Kaw Ko" (M, 53), internally displaced villager from D– village, Than Daung township (Interview #147, 3/02)

"When we arrived [at the camp] they tied us up and kept us in a pit and built a fence around us. ... We had to stay there for two weeks. We slept there and we had to shit and urinate there."

"Saw Gri Wah" (M, 59), internally displaced villager from D– village, Than Daung township (Interview #149, 3/01)

"They came here on April 15 th [2002]. When they came to the village [hiding site] they arrested over fifteen villagers. They took us to the upper place [Keh Koh Army camp] and put us together inside the fence [enclosure]. They fed us, but it was not enough. Sometimes we could drink, but sometimes we couldn't drink, because the place was far away from the water. We had to stay there for over three months. They told us to dig a hole for the toilet in the place where we had to sleep. We had to pass urine and shit there. We had to sleep there, eat there, pass urine, and shit there."

"Saw Khaw Myo" (M, 53), internally displaced villager from D– village, Than Daung township (Interview #190, 11/02)

Similar makeshift holding centres reportedly exist at the Bawgali Gyi Army camp at Kler Lah. One villager described being imprisoned in an enclosed hole measuring 4.5 metres (15 feet) deep with sides 3.6 metres (12 feet) long. He was arrested by troops from IB #39 for being suspected of supplying money to the KNU, while visiting his mother-in-law in a neighbouring village. During his incarceration, he was subjected to various forms of torture by the SPDC. The soldiers locked his legs in a set of medieval-style stocks and rolled a mortar barrel back and forth along his shins. This bruises the bone, causing the skin on the shins to scuff off, as well as causing a great deal of pain. After being kept in the hole for two months, he was then forced to serve as a porter for three weeks to Zayatkyi.

"I went to visit my mother-in-law and they arrested me. They put my legs in the stocks and rolled a mortar tube on my legs. They punched me and hit me. They hit me hard. They put me into a hole. The hole was ten cubits [4.5 metres / 15 feet] deep and eight cubits along the walls [3.6 metres / 12 feet]. They closed it over. I could still breathe. They kept me there for two months. I also had to suffer when I went to porter for Major Aung Kaing and Captain Thaing Win from Infantry Battalion #39 to Zayatkyi. One of my legs was not good and I couldn't keep up, but they forced me to follow them. It took me three weeks to get to Zayatkyi."

"Saw Htay Moo" (M, 52), internally displaced former village head from M– village, Than Daung township (Interview #168, 3/02) 

Health and Education

"The SPDC came to our place and it caused problems for us. We had to flee to live in the jungle. We also have problems with our school. Some of the children are sick and can't learn. We can't feed the children enough and we don't have enough materials. There are many things that we need for the school. This year I have only been able to teach for three months."

"Thramu Plo Maw" (F, 32), internally displaced teacher from T– village, Than Daung township (Interview #155, 1/02)

Villagers living on the run in the hills of Toungoo District have very little access to medicines and even less access to people trained in how to administer the medicine. Most internally displaced villagers do not dare to go to the Nyein Chan Yay villages to buy medicine. They are afraid of being recognised as not from the village or of being caught by SPDC troops along the way. Either way they would be accused of aiding the KNU by buying and carrying the medicine. This would surely result in their being beaten and possibly executed. Most of the medicines available in the bigger villages are low quality Burmese over the counter drugs. Injections and other high quality medicines are very expensive and difficult to obtain. Some villagers do manage to carry medicine back to their hiding sites, but it is often in small amounts to avoid detection and not enough. Without access to medicine, the villagers rely on traditional medicines made from tree bark, roots or leaves which can be foraged in the forest. Many of these traditional remedies are inadequate or simply do not work. Many villagers have died from diseases that are easily treatable because they could not get the proper medicines. Gunshot and landmine wounds are particularly bad because there are almost no medicines or medical training to treat them. Wounded villagers have to be carried to a mobile medical team or a mobile clinic. Many villagers die from their wounds before they can reach help.

Q: "Has there been anyone who has died from diarrhoea, stomach pains, or vomiting?" 
A: "Yes, because they didn't have the medicine to treat it. Some of them got the medicine and they were healed, but some of them didn't get any medicine and died. Some of them didn't have the money [to buy medicine] and died."

"Saw Po Thu" (M, 37), internally displaced villager from K– village, Tantabin township (Interview #86, 7/01)

"If we get sick when we flee into the jungle, we don't have any medicine. We just go and get the tree bark and drink it with fishpaste like that. There is no clinic close to us. The only one is in Kler Lah, but we dare not to go. We want to go, but we dare not to. We are afraid that the SPDC will see us."

"Saw Law Ko" (M, 57), internally displaced former village head from N– village, Than Daung township (Interview #162, 3/02)

"We fled to stay in the jungle and some of the villagers have became sick. It is very difficult to find medicine. We have to send one of the women secretly. They can only carry a little bit back. If they carried too much, they would be killed. Some people die because they do not get enough medicine. For those people who are close to the medicine, they can buy one or two injections so they can be healed. "

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

"One of my sons died at Yaw Loh. He died in the jungle. I was alone _ just my children and I. There were a lot of diseases. It is a big problem."

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

"I have to face a lot of problems. In the rainy season my children and my friends were sick. We have to go over here and over there to find food. Some people have died. There are a lot of problems."

"Saw Ku Lay Thaw" (M, 42), internally displaced villager from P– village, Than Daung township (Interview #176, 3/02)

The conditions in which the internally displaced villagers are forced to live make them very susceptible to illnesses. Many of the villagers do not have much more than the clothes on their backs. Many have only a couple of blankets to keep them warm. The villagers have to sleep without adequate shelter from the cold and rain before they can build shelters. The majority of the hills in Toungoo District have an elevation in excess of 900 metres / 3,000 feet, the highest of which has a maximum altitude of approximately 2,600 metres / 8,600 feet. The cool mountain air brings ill health to those who do not have enough blankets or warm clothing to combat the cold season from December to February. Those who flee without mosquito nets must contend with the increased risk of contracting potentially life-threatening diseases such as malaria and dengue fever, which are both endemic to the area. Malaria is by far the most prevalent disease contracted by internally displaced villagers in Toungoo District. Interviewees have often spoken of villagers displaying the common symptoms of malaria: being stricken with fever and distended spleens.

"There are a lot of problems. Right now it is winter and we do not have enough clothes, blankets, or mosquito nets. The insects [mosquitoes] bite us and we get sick."

"Thra Dah Moo" (M, 45), internally displaced pastor from W– village, Than Daung township (Interview #153, 1/02)

"We don't have our house anymore, so we have to flee and stay in the jungle. It causes us a lot of problems. We need peace. We have to live with illnesses because we don't have a house. We can't sleep well. We have to move our place very often and we can't build a hut. We have to stay on the ground. There are a lot of people who are sick and who die. There are no medicines for us."

"Saw Kyu Heh Law" (M, 45), internally displaced villager from K– village, Than Daung township (Interview #152, 1/02)

Internally displaced villagers rarely get enough food to eat. They cannot grow enough rice in their fields and foraging for food in the forest often turns up only a few edible roots and leaves. Meat is very rare since most villagers have had to leave their poultry and livestock behind. Most villagers end up eating a type of watery rice porridge in order to stretch the rice supply until the next harvest [see 'Food Security' ] . Malnutrition, especially among children, is common. The two forms of malnutrition, Kwashiorkor and Marasm us both exist in Toungoo District. Complications which almost invariably develop in those suffering from either form of the disease are pneumonia, diarrhoea, urinary tract infections, and sepsis; either separately or in combination. All of these symptoms have been observed in patients living in Toungoo District. The problem is further aggravated by the lack of essential vitamins and minerals in their diets. According to a number of different Karen healthcare workers, other diseases such as beriberi and dysentery are also extremely common among internally displaced villagers. Scores of displaced villagers have succumbed to easily treatable diseases.

"The biggest problem is that of food. They [IDPs] don't get enough food, so there are many kinds of diseases that they get. The food that they eat doesn't have [enough] protein. This is why there are more and more [cases of] diseases."

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

Very little outside assistance is able to reach the internally displaced villagers in Toungoo District. The district's geographic isolation makes the delivery of medical supplies both difficult and infrequent. The KNU and other organisations provide what medicines they can to the villagers, but this is usually only enough to last for about three months. A number of Karen organisations have 'backpack medical teams' that operate in the district. These teams are made up of trained medics who travel to as many internally displaced villager hiding sites as they can, treating the villagers with whatever medicines they can carry in their backpacks. A few mobile clinics also exist where villagers can go to seek treatment. The clinics only have a limited supply of medicines. Much of the medicine has to be rationed and sometimes villagers have to be turned away in order to help the more seriously ill. The medics and the clinics often do not have the medicines to deal with serious injuries such as serious gunshot wounds and landmine injuries. The medics do what they can, but many of the patients succumb to their wounds. Many others die before they can be reached by a backpack team or can be brought to a clinic. Taking the wounded villager to a hospital in Thailand is not an option due to the long distances involved. Neither is taking the villagers to a Burmese hospital. Villagers with gunshot or landmine injuries are often treated by the hospitals as though they must have received them because they are members of the resistance. Backpack medics have been shot by SPDC patrols and the mobile clinics are burned down if the SPDC finds them.

"The [KNU] health department can only open one clinic. They have to limit their time to three months. There is no medicine anymore. The other way they [villagers] can get help is from the backpack [medics]. They go into the area for six months at a time. There were five backpack medic [teams] who went to look after the patients. One of their backpacks contains the same amount of medicine as one clinic. They go around and help the IDPs who are sick, but it is not enough. They can only go for six months. If there are any sick people after those six months, they cannot get any medicine."

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

 

"One backpack team must take care of 2,000 patients. We now have five backpack teams, so we can take care of five different areas, two in Tantabin township and three in Than Daung township. 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)

Karen villagers hold education in very high regard. Internally displaced villagers try to give their children some sort of an education even while hiding in the forest. Teachers and books are hard to come by, but the villagers often try to find someone with some schooling who can teach their children. When not being chased by the SPDC Army, villagers send their children to learn from a better educated villager (who usually has had only three or four years of schooling). These classes are often held in one of the shelters or with the children sitting on the ground. There may be an improvised chalkboard of split bamboo and a piece of charcoal for chalk. Some of the larger IDP sites may have a temporary shelter that serves as a school and a couple of teachers. These schools rarely go beyond the fourth year. Whenever SPDC columns come close, the schools must close and the students flee to hide with their parents until the troops leave the area. The makeshift schools are usually burned to the ground by the soldiers when they find them. Sometimes the soldiers do not leave and the school must be moved to a new place where it is set up again. This severely disrupts the education of the students; some only get three months of school in a year. The school year is also disrupted by the necessity of the parents taking the children out of school to help them with their fields. 

"Our children can't learn and we have to stay in the dark. This also causes us problems. We want peace in our country in the future, so our country can improve. This is what we hope for our lives in the future."

"Thra Dah Moo" (M, 45), internally displaced pastor from W– village, Than Daung township (Interview #153, 1/02)

"We have not had a school since the Burmese [soldiers] built the [Kaw Thay Der to Bu Sah Kee] car road [in 1995]."

"Saw Meh Lah" (M, 27), villager from M– village, Tantabin township (Interview #82, 4/01)

"We have a school in the village. The villagers built the school, but we cannot teach Karen because we don't have any [Karen] text books and we cannot order the text books anywhere."

"Saw Pee Bee" (M, 35), internally displaced villager from P– village, Than Daung township (Interview #191, 11/02)

"There is no school in our village. We don't have a school in our village because the SPDC is oppressing us. The children can't learn. They can't even write their names. When we ask them to read, they say that they can't read. It is because the SPDC oppresses us, so the children can't learn. Some of them [villagers] send their children to Kler Lah, and some of them can't [afford to] send their children."

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

"Some of them want to go to school, but there is no school. Some of the children go to learn in other places. Some of their parents can't [afford to] send them to school anymore. They don't have enough food so they can't [afford to] send their children to school. This is why the children can't learn."

"Saw Po Thu" (M, 37), internally displaced villager from K– village, Tantabin township (Interview #86, 7/01)

"There is no school. We haven't had a school for a long time; because of the SPDC, we do not dare to have a school. The children can't learn and they have to stay like that [in hiding]. There are about twenty children, but right now they can't learn. Some of them are grown and they do not dare to learn anymore."

"Saw Po Thu" (M, 37), internally displaced villager from K– village, Tantabin township (Interview #86, 7/01)

"There are a lot of children everywhere. They have to flee and stay like that [hide] so they cannot learn. There is no choice and no time for them to learn. They have to stay like that; like crazy dumb people. ... They don't have any education anymore. The children can't learn anymore. They have to read and write, but they can't read and write anymore. If the people can't read and write there are going to be more and more problems in the future."

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