TORTURE OF KAREN WOMEN BY SLORC

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TORTURE OF KAREN WOMEN BY SLORC

Published date:
Tuesday, February 16, 1993

"The SLORC always comes to our village to take our rice, meat, and fruit. They also order us to send them porters, but nobody dares go so every house has to pay 30 Kyat every month to hire people from inside Burma to go instead. Whenever the SLORC soldiers are coming all of the men in the village run to the forest to hide so they won't be taken away. Only the women are left, and we just give the soldiers whatever they want so they'll go away. A few months ago the soldiers came to the village and accused us of helping the Kawthoolei [Karen] Army. Only some women were left in the village. They ordered us all to come out into a common place. They burned down 11 houses, including all three of ours. We lost everything. We tried to get our belongings out but the soldiers threw them back into the burning houses. Then they dragged us away from our houses. The soldiers surrounded us so we couldn't escape?. They tied up 8 of us by the hands and took us away outside the village. The officer shot a pistol near our ears and I was very afraid."

The following three women gave accounts of how they were tortured by SLORC troops who entered their village in the latter half of 1992. They bear scars all over their bodies to prove their story. In particular, the flesh on the back of Naw May Paw's legs has been burned completely off in large patches.

The women's names have been changed and several details of their stories are omitted from this report in order to prevent SLORC reprisals against villagers in their area. Please use this information in any way which can help put a stop to this kind of barbarism by the SLORC.

Notes:
Longyi - a Burmese sarong
Kyat - Burmese currency. At the official rate, US$1 = 6 Kyat. On the black market,US$1 = 120 Kyat (at the time of printing). These villagers are subsistence farmers, and would never have access to more than a few hundred Kyat without selling livestock and belongings.

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1) NAME: Maw Wah        AGE: 40
2) NAME: Maw Lah        AGE: 26
3) NAME: Naw May Paw AGE: 55

NAW WAH: The SLORC always comes to our village to take our rice, meat, and fruit. They also order us to send them porters, but nobody dares go so every house has to pay 30 Kyat every month to hire people from inside Burma to go instead. Whenever the SLORC soldiers are coming all of the men in the village run to the forest to hide so they won't be taken away. Only the women are left, and we just give the soldiers whatever they want so they'll go away.

A few months ago the soldiers came to the village and accused us of helping the Kawthoolei [Karen] army. Only some women were left in the village. They ordered us all to come out into a common place. They burned down 11 houses, including all three of ours. We lost everything. We tried to get our belongings out but the soldiers threw them back into the burning houses. Then they dragged us away from our houses. The soldiers surrounded us so we couldn't escape. They tied up 8 of us by the hands and took us away outside the village. The officer shot a pistol near our ears and I was very afraid.

First the soldiers hung us by our hands with rope, so that our feet weren't touching the ground. They left us hanging like that for one hour. Then they laid us all on the ground on our backs, tied our hands behind our backs and tied our legs up to the tree branch so they were pointing straight up.

NAW MAY PAW: Our longyis were falling down, down, down! Until you could see all of our thighs. We had to stop them falling somehow - we were so ashamed.

NAW WAH: Then when we were laying like that, they walked across our chests in their army boots. They stepped from one of us to the other, like they were walking across logs. Each time they stepped on my chest, I felt like I was going to die. I couldn't breathe. They kept doing this for an hour.

NAW LAH: We couldn't breathe! Then they took 2 or 3 women, and piled us on top of an old woman, over 50 years old. I was on the top, and then the soldier walked on top of me in his Army boots. I was screaming loudly, and crying and crying.

NAW MAY PAW: Sometimes they even stepped on our throats.

NAW WAH: And they struck me in my eyes 3 times, so hard that my eyes got very red, and I could hardly see any more.

NAW LAH: We were all going unconscious. We didn't even know what was happening anymore.

NAW MAY PAW: It was like being in a dream. We were fainting. They kept torturing us for an hour one way, then changing to another torture, then another, again and again and again. Even though we were fainting, we could never fall asleep because we were all tied up in horrible positions.

NAW WAH: Then they had a fire. They heated the candle-oil we make from tree bark, and when it was burning they dripped it on our chests. Once they dripped burning plastic on my shoulder, and it gave me this big scar. They put their knives in the fire, and then put them on our bare arms and legs. They rubbed them back and forth up and down our legs, burning us. They flicked the blades so they cut us. I was screaming and crying. But none of the villagers hiding in the forest dared come back; they thought the soldiers were killing us all.

NAW LAH: They tortured us like this the whole night, till morning.

NAW WAH: They hung us up by our hands for an hour, and then laid us down and walked on our chests with their boots for an hour, then dripped burning oil and hot coals on our bodies for an hour, then burned us and poked and cut us with burning knives for an hour. And then all over again. When we were hanging straight up, they slapped and slapped us in the face, and took a stick of green bamboo and kept poking us hard in the chest, around the heart.

NAW LAH: None of us knew anything anymore, we were half fainted. I was screaming "Help me, help me", but the others could only answer "I can't, I'm the same", We were all crying "Mother, Mother", but then the soldiers just said "Shut up! Stop calling! Be quiet!"

NAW MAY PAW: I was the worst. My whole legs were horribly burned by the hot dagger being drawn up and down many times. I was crying - I couldn't bear to look at the knife when they brought it again and again. They cut my wrist, and when I struggled they knocked out my tooth. They tied me with my legs pointing straight up like an animal for 3 hours, and beat on my legs with the blades of their bayonets. I was shaking, shaking so much. Then they tied me standing up with my hands behind my back and a rope tight around my chest holding me just off the ground, and they beat me around the hips with a big bamboo pole. I was screaming, "I'm going to die, I'm going to die". They struck me in the front and back with a [carbine] rifle barrel often, and they grabbed my head and twisted it, and slapped my cheeks until they were bleeding. The whole time they never even gave us any water. They shouted at us, "Tell us about the rebels!" But we're just village women, we don't know anything about that.

While they did this they poured. water over our heads, and then while we were on the ground they put cloth like silk over our faces and poured buckets of water on it. We couldn't breathe! They asked us if we were ready to die. I was afraid to die, but they said none of us could go free unless the villagers paid 130,000 Kyat for all of us. I said I have no money. They really expected us to die, but we survived.

My scars are terrible. It makes me so ashamed just to show them to you.

NAW LAH: They said if they don't get the money then we will die. They just kept us hanging up with rope, and kept hitting us with a big bamboo pole on the hips and shoulders.

NAW WAH: They tortured us like this for 3 days and nights, hanging us up all day long and then torturing us with fire and knives all night. Then the captain and the others took us to their camp. I was separated from the rest. They tied my hands and put a blindfold on my eyes, and took me up a small hill. While the soldiers walked behind me, they yelled "I'm going to kill you!", and they fired their guns in the air twice. We got to the top of the hill, and the soldiers there were digging my grave. I pleaded with them not to kill me. I told them I don't understand their problem, killing me will not help them; my life can mean nothing to them. They kept me tied up, put me in a rice sack with my head sticking out, and just kept me laying there on the ground in that sack for 3 more days and nights, beside my grave.

NAW LAH: At the camp they kept all the rest of us tied up for the fourth day, then they released us. But we knew they still had Naw Wah and we felt so much pity for her. There was nothing we could do. No one was allowed to go to her.

NAW WAH: The three days and nights they were torturing us and burning our whole bodies, they never once gave us food or water. Then the three days I was kept in the rice sack they only gave me very little water to drink, and a handful of rice to eat, twice a day. I couldn’t move with all the pain and swelling from my wounds, and the soldiers were guarding me with guns, ready to shoot.

NAW MAY PAW: All the villagers pitied us and wanted to save us, but the soldiers demanded money before they would release us. They demanded 130,000 Kyat to release all of us. They said none of us could go free until they got the money for all of us.

NAW WAH: One woman had been tortured worse than all of us, because the soldiers said her husband helped the rebels, even though he's just a farmer. They kept her tied up naked and tortured her whole body all the time. When her husband came to the village with money to try to rescue her, the soldiers were burning his rice barn. He ran to try to put out the fire, and they captured him. They bound him like an animal, his hands to his feet. They cut his flesh all over and then built a fire and put him over it naked. They let him lay on the ground in the cold the rest of the night then the next morning they put a plastic bag over his head and poured hot water over it. He couldn't stand up, so they pushed and dragged him up the hill, threw him in a pit and shot him in the head.

There were about 60 soldiers, and they were in our village for 6 days. They burned down 11 houses and looted our clothes, blankets and everything. If they saw a girl wearing earrings, they forced her to take them out and give them. They also tied up all of our bullocks, 20 of them, and forced us to pay 1,000 Kyat for each bullock before they would give them back.

They took 130,000 Kyat for our freedom, they got 17,000 Kyat for our bullocks, and all our belongings. We had nothing left. Those of us whose homes they'd burned had to go stay with friends who still had their homes.

Now I can't do any work, my hands are still numb after being tortured for so long. The soldiers were trying to kill us - they tortured us until we urinated and defecated all over ourselves.

NAW MAY PAW: After I was released my legs and my whole body were all swollen from the wounds. I couldn't walk, and I still can't walk properly. I just want to lie down all the time. I still have pain in my chest where they poked me with the green bamboo. They poked and poked until my chest felt broken.

For days after I got home I couldn't even move my arms at all. My whole family was crying for days. Everyone in the village was crying for us. They thought we would all die.

NAW LAH: The whole village suffered and cried for us. No one even cooked or ate anything for days, they were so sad.

NAW MAY PAW: My burns got all infected, with a lot of pus and a bad smell for 2 or 3 months. We had no medicine. I couldn't move, and I could hardly even lie down.

We have to tell you this, because in Burma we can't even tell anyone our story. These scars will always remind us of what they did to us.