The following accounts were given by two men who escaped to Karen territory after 3 months as porters for the SLORC Army ending in January 1993. Their stories prove that the SLORC is still rounding up porters from city streets as well as remote villages, and that Army treatment of civilians has not improved whatsoever since the Manerplaw offensive of early 1992.
The names of these men have been changed and certain details of their stories omitted to protect their families from retaliation by SLORC. Please use this information in any way which may help stop such horrendous abuses of human life by the SLORC.
NAME: Thein Myint SEX: M AGE: 43
ADDRESS: Moulmein city DESCRIPTION: Burman Buddhist, Food Peddler
FAMILY: Wife and two daughters aged 7 and 9
NAME: Maung Hla SEX: M AGE: 40
ADDRESS: Moulmein city DESCRIPTION: Burman Buddhist, Foodshop worker
FAMILY: Wife and two children aged 14 and 10
THEIN MYINT: I was arrested in October while selling food on a boat, and Maung Hla was captured by soldiers in the marketplace. We had done nothing wrong, they just wanted us as porters. We both ended up on the same truck that took us to a small jail in Moulmein. They kept us there for three or four days together with over 1,000 other men.
MAUNG HLA: About 600 of those men went free when their relatives came and paid the soldiers 3,000 or 4,000 Kyat. Their families knew they were in the jail because they'd called out to friends from the truck as it was taking us there. But I only had 12 Kyat, and my family is very poor. Poor people like us don't go free.
They took us to Pa'an by boat. There were 11 boats, with about 200 porters on each boat - altogether I think about 3,000 porters
THEIN MYINT: Then they took us to one of their Army headquarters, and made us work for 5 days there. From there they gave us loads of shells or rice to carry. Both of us had to carry food for the soldiers. I had to carry two big tins of rice in a basket. It weighed about 30 viss [48 kg.]
From then on we were always carrying things from one place to another. We had to carry shells and other things to the front line, and carry the wounded back. We had to work all the time except for a rest from about 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. At 3 a.m. the soldiers always woke us up. We slept on the ground. Some men had a rice bag to sleep on, but most of us just had to wrap ourselves in our longyis [Burmese sarongs] and suffer the cold. The soldiers guarded us, or we would have run away for sure. Sometimes they gave us a handful of rice and salt to eat, and sometimes with a few yellow beans. But sometimes we got no food all day. They never let us get water for ourselves. We had to wait for the soldiers to send us for some, or ask special permission. They always guarded us, even to go to the toilet.
There was never enough food or water, and we never got to have a bath. We all got skin diseases. I still have a rash all over my chest, and it itches badly.
We carried for them for three months. When we were too weak to carry they pushed, kicked, and beat us with guns or big sticks in our sides, in the back or on the back of our necks.
MAUNG HLA: I was beaten on the head and the back, kicked with boots and beaten with a gun. Both of us were punched in the face until we were bleeding from the mouth, and then they pushed us on. One porter in our group was kicked so badly that he died from it the next day. Many got sick and were given no medicine so they died. The soldiers told us, "There's no medicine for porters." Along the way I saw over 100 porters killed or dead of sickness, just in our group of 200. The soldiers made me bury the bodies 11 times.
THEIN MYINT: Every time someone died the Captain ordered two or three of us to bury the body. I had to help bury 2 dead porters. I saw 50 men die from beatings and abuse, but there must have been more I didn't see. And many more than that died of disease. At least 50 men who were too weak to carry anymore were kicked and left behind in the forest, or kicked down the mountainside. That was in our group, and other groups were the same. Many of the men were left behind unconscious. The soldiers often beat porters unconscious.
MAUNG HLA: They had medicine for themselves, but even some soldiers died of disease. There was also fighting near us sometimes, and some porters got wounded. Porters lost their legs from landmines, or got hit by shrapnel or bullets. The SLORC troops didn't even try to treat any of them, they just left them by the way to die. There were often shells coming in near us at the front line, and we weren’t allowed to hide. We tried to dive on the ground but the soldiers always forced us to get up and go on. One time at the front line I saw 30 wounded porters, and sometimes even more than that are wounded.
Near the front the soldiers made us go first because they were afraid of landmines. This made us hate them even more - we wanted to fight them, but we had no chance. There were 200 of us in front in our group, and 500 soldiers following.
Finally we escaped. I pretended I was going to a stream and ran away
THEIN MYINT: I said I was going to the forest to cut creepers to help me carry a big pot, and ran away. By the time we escaped, over 100 of our original group of 200 were dead, and many had tried to run away even though the soldiers shot at them. We don’t know if they got away or not. In the end, there were only seven of our original group left and we heard that we were going to be sent to the fighting again, so we ran. I got to a village, and a monk there led me to Thailand.
After all this time, I have no idea how my family could be surviving. They probably think I'm dead by now.