REPORT FROM THATON DISTRICT

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REPORT FROM THATON DISTRICT

Published date:
Wednesday, March 10, 1993

The following accounts were given by new refugees from Thaton District, in western central Karen State, where the SLORC has recently escalated its attacks on villagers. The villagers' names have been changed and some details omitted to protect them. However, all names of villagers, soldiers and places given in their stories are real.

"My husband died 3 years ago of sickness. I have been the head of our village since 1970, because no man dares to be head of the village anymore. They know that the enemy will come and oppress and torture them if they become headman. Even 20 years ago the men were already too afraid of the Burmese. The soldiers always tie up and beat the headman, but not usually if it is a woman. Even so, I left my village about 8 days ago and came here to be a refugee. It took us 4 nights and 5 days to get here. I left because the Burmese were coming more and more to take our money and food and killing people, until I couldn't bear it anymore. This has been happening the whole time I have been head of the village, but now they oppress us more than ever before."

The following accounts were given by new refugees from Thaton District, in western central Karen State, where the SLORC has recently escalated its attacks on villagers. The villagers' names have been changed and some details omitted to protect them. However, all names of villagers, soldiers and places given in their stories are real.

Please use this information in any way which may help stop the suffering of these people.

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Name: Pi Sah Lwe                 Sex: F                     Age: 68
Address: Thaton district                                         ETHNICITY/RELIGION: Karen Buddhist
Family: Widow, 3 children and 1 grandchild

My husband died 3 years ago of sickness. I have been the head of our village since 1970, because no man dares to be head of the village anymore. They know that the enemy will come and oppress and torture them if they become headman. Even 20 years ago the men were already too afraid of the Burmese. The soldiers always tie up and beat the headman, but not usually if it is a woman.

Even so, I left my village about 8 days ago and came here to be a refugee. It took us 4 nights and 5 days to get here. I left because the Burmese were coming more and more to take our money and food and killing people, until I couldn't bear it anymore. This has been happening the whole time I have been head of the village, but now they oppress us more than ever before.

They take our bullocks, chickens, buffaloes, and all our livestock. Since 84 Battalion of 99 Division came to our area, they oppress us in every way more than before. That is why I had to leave.

Last month a mine exploded and destroyed their trucks. The SLORC soldiers came to the village and asked me, "Why didn't you tell us the Karen Army mined the road?" They demanded 70,000 Kyat from us for the trucks. I said we don't have enough money to pay; some people in the village have some money, but most are very poor. I said we could only pay 20,000 Kyat, but the soldiers said, "If you can't pay 70,000, then you have to pay 50,000". I told them we couldn't and went back to talk to the villagers. The soldiers left because they had to go back to their camp. When I talked to the village, everyone said that there was no way we could pay so much, and we decided to wait until the soldiers came back so we could plead with them.

A few days later the soldiers came back to the village. But before they arrived, they fired 3 mortar shells right into the village. Two of them exploded, and they killed one man and injured a woman and a young girl. The man’s name was Maung Hla Shwe. He was 35 years old with a wife and 4 children, the eldest about 11, and the youngest only 2 years old. He was sitting in his house eating when a shell hit his house and exploded, killing him. Pi Thu Meh is 75 years old. She was sitting by a fire outside to keep warm with her 10 year old granddaughter Naw Kaw Soe when the shells landed. Pi Thu Meh was hit in the foot, and Naw Kaw Soe had a piece of shrapnel go right through the calf of her leg. They are getting a bit better now, but they have no medicine. They are only using magic to get better.

After firing the shells the SLORC soldiers came into the village. I said "Why did you attack our village?", and they said "It was the Karen Army, not us." Then I showed them the unexploded shell and the pieces as evidence, because they were Burmese Army shells. Then the soldiers just tried to blame it on another unit. There was nothing we could do. They often shell villages when they are coming.

Then they demanded the money for their trucks again. We had to collect all the money we could between us, and gave them about 20,000 Kyat. Then they gave us a signed receipt.

This 84 Battalion is the worst of all in the whole time I have been head of the village. Some of their officers' names, are Captain Aung Nai, Major Kyaw Shin, and Captain Myint Myint Oo. They are company commanders. There are 5 companies altogether in 84 Battalion. Usually 70 or 80 soldiers at a time come to our village. They come through on patrol once or twice every week and loot our property and food.

It would take two or three days for me to describe everything they make us do. The Burmese make us sweep the roads for mines, poke the road with sticks for mines, and walk in front of them to clear mines. Sometimes they make us cover the whole road with bamboo branches to protect them from mines.

The SLORC sometimes uses cars and carts that belong to villagers or townspeople, and if they break down they just leave them, and don't care. They demand one or two big tins of rice from each villager, and then if we can't send it, they come to the village and take all the rice they find. They make us guide them between villages. Even if they’re going by night, they force people to guide them at night. If they go in the day, we also have to go. Even if you have small children, they don't care. You still have to go and help them.

Things are getting worse and worse. 84 Battalion is also forcing all the small villages to relocate. They order them all to move to Army camps or big villages like Ka Ma Maung, but nobody wants to go so they run to other villages. They lose their farms, and they must do day labour to survive. I don't know about other villages, but more people are coming from my village now to be refugees. 84 Battalion has killed 2 villagers in my village just recently: Maung Hla Shwe, and Pa Taw. They took Pa Taw as a porter. He couldn't carry their loads so he escaped. But then they came to his house in the village, captured him and accused him of being a Karen soldier. Before they killed him they tortured him. They burned him with their cheroots all over his upper body, smoked them to make them bright red and then put them on him. They poked him with bayonets in the chest, neck, face and all over. They poked his face with bayonets until it didn't even look like a man's face anymore. It looked more like cooked sticky rice pounded flat.

I went with two monks to beg for his freedom, and saw him. If I were him I would have died because I wouldn't be able to breathe. They had tied rope around his neck and wrists like a bound pig. The rope around his neck was so tight I don't think he could have swallowed rice or water at all. They didn't free him. They untied his hands but left his neck and waist tied and put a military pack on his back. From in front you couldn't see he was tied up, only from behind.

Then they took him to May Na Kee as a porter, and tortured him there for another 7 or 10 days. They brought him back through the village once, and we saw all the torture marks. Then they took him away again, and killed him in the forest at Tee Suh mountain. Some villagers found his body and told his parents. They went there and cremated him.

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Note: Some of the details of the following story duplicate the preceding story and are left out of this account.

Name: Klo Doh Htoo                     Sex: M                     Age: 24
Address: Thaton District                                             ETHNICITY/RELIGION: Karen Buddhist
Family: Married, one 3 month old baby

We left the village on February 24, because we can't bear to stay under the SLORC anymore. In February, two mines exploded not too far away and destroyed two SLORC trucks. On February 16, the SLORC demanded 70,000 Kyat compensation from our village, but we couldn't pay. They then ordered us to guard the road for them. On February 18 they came with 90 trucks, and we weren’t guarding the road. So on February 19 they fired three 81 mm mortars into the village, causing one death and two injuries. Maung Hla Shwe was killed. He was 35, married with 3 young daughters and one son. Pi Thu Meh and her 10 year old granddaughter Naw Kaw Soe were wounded, Pi Thu Meh in the foot and Naw Kaw Soe had shrapnel go right through her leg.

Then the troops came to the village and demanded 70,000 Kyat for their trucks again. The villagers collected all they could and gave them 23,000 Kyat. The SLORC saw that the whole village was crying, so they were satisfied with the 23,000 and left. But then they went to Pwa Ghaw, No Aw Lah, Law Plaw and Ha Da Reh villages and demanded 20,000 Kyat from each village. Ha Da Reh village could not pay, so they were all forced out of their village and driven to another place.

Fifteen villages just in our area have been forced to relocate recently: Kyaun Zeit (30 houses), Da Thu Kee (50), May Gana Kee (30), Tee Kyaw Kee (40), No Ka Deh (25), Tee Pa Do Kee (20), Kway Lay (50), Ma Ku Taw (30), Ha Da Reh (20), Lay Ko (15), Ka Maw Ter (15), Kyaw Kay Kee (40), Naw Da Reh (60), Gela Gone (20), and Tee Suh (20). All the small villages are being forced to go to big villages. Even in villages which aren't relocated, the SLORC tells everyone if they hear the sound of a gun anywhere in the area then they will force all the villagers to relocate. We can only hunt with bows and arrows. Some villagers are coming here, but many, many more are fleeing to other villages or the forest.

Every village also has to sweep a stretch of road for mines. They must send 10, 20 or 30 people to take turns for 4 days at a time. Most are women, because the men know they will be tortured by the soldiers or made into porters. They have to sweep with branch brooms, villagers aged from 12 to over 70.

Since November the SLORC has killed 22 villagers from our local area. One from Kyaw Kay Kee, 1 from Tee Po Neh, 1 from Tee Suh, 3 from Pwa Ghaw, 5 from No Aw Lah, 2 from Kyaun Sein, 1 from Ga Meh, 3 from No La Plaw, 2 from Yu Heh, 3 from Baw The Pru and a few from other villages. All of this has been done by 84 Battalion of 99 Division, commanded by Major San Lin.

In January in Ga Meh village, Maw Kyaw was in his house eating and the soldiers called him out and shot him dead. I don't know why. He was 30, married with children.

In February, they killed Po Saw Geh from Tee Po Neh village. He was 50 with a wife, 2 daughters and 1 son. They accused him of being a Karen soldier but he was just a villager. I saw his body out near a field. The soldiers had covered the head with a blanket, but they hadn't even covered the rest. It was already decomposing and smelled very bad. I saw rope marks on his wrists. and there was a big stick beside the body.

In Kyaw Kay Kee, they arrested a 16 year old boy, took him to Yay Pyone and killed him there. I don't know his name.

In November, 3 men from Baw The Pru village were harvesting rice. The SLORC captured them, bound their hands, and tortured them brutally. The SLORC accused them of being rebels, even though they were farmers, and ordered them to confess. Maybe they confessed, because then the soldiers killed all three of them.

In December the Karen Army had wounded a SLORC soldier in the leg during a fight. The SLORC was very angry. The troops saw one villager from Noh Lah Plaw threshing his paddy and shot him dead on the spot. Then they captured another villager from Noh Lah Plaw who was coming back from watching his buffalo. They beat and tortured him in the village, then killed him with a knife the next day.

Then 2 days later another SLORC soldier was killed in fighting, so the troops stole everything in part of Pwa Ghaw village, and whatever they couldn't take they broke and destroyed. Everyone ran away, but Maung Hla Thein couldn't because he was too ill. He hid in a hole in the ground. The SLORC dragged him out and accused him of shooting their soldier. They bound his hands, beat him and forced him to walk to Kyaun Sein, even though he could hardly stand. While he was walking one soldier went on each side of him. The soldier on his right poked him in the side with his bayonet and when he fell to the left the other soldier poked him with his bayonet, then back on to the other soldier's bayonet, back and forth like that all the way to Kyaun Sein. When they got there they stabbed him to death, cut his head almost completely off and buried him. Later the villagers dug him up and gave him a proper funeral. He was 30, with a wife and no children.

About February 10, the troops came to Pwa Ghaw village and said the villagers weren't guarding the road like they'd been ordered to. They took Naw Ye Thu, age 24, with 2 children, to a secluded place behind her house where a drunken soldier raped her. She was even holding her baby son on her hip at the time. The soldier put his gun barrel against her, clamped shut the baby's mouth with his hand and raped her. At the time, they were holding the other villagers under arrest.

On February 20, the soldiers in the SLORC camp started shelling No Aw Lah village with mortars. The troops followed and immediately entered the village, saw the villagers running away and opened fire on them. Naw Muh was shot in the upper left arm breaking her arm. She is only 12 years old. I saw her broken arm myself. At the same time they shot one cow and 2 buffaloes.

On February 21 the troops saw a man digging for frogs and shot him in the side of the belly. The bullet went right through but he is still alive. I saw the wound. He is 26 years old, and his name is Maung Cher. He was not doing anything suspicious, but the troops are on operation so they can shoot whomever they like.

At night on February 21, the troops found an old woman sleeping in her shelter in her field. They shot her dead on the spot. She was over 50 years old, from Yu Heh village. One of her grandchildren was in the shelter with her, but was unhurt when saved .by the villagers later.

In Tee Suh village the troops murdered one man in his forties in November. I don’t know the details because I didn’t see it, but I’ve heard of many killings like this from the relatives or parents of the villagers killed.

Many villagers are fleeing their homes now because we can’t bear the persecution anymore.

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Name: Maung Soe Aung                 Sex: M                 Age: 50           ETHNICITY/RELIGION: Karen Buddhist
Address: Ha De Leit village, Pa'an Township, Thaton District
Family: Widower, no children

I left my village on February 25. Now everyone has fled the village. Only a few monks still stay there. We can't stay anymore because the Burmese are always oppressing, killing, and punishing us for everything. We are too afraid to stay. Six days ago, we heard many SLORC troops were coming so we all fled for good.

The troops tell the villagers not to run away, but they come to the village, gather them together and interrogate then. If they suspect you they bind and torture you. They lay you down and pour so much water down your throat that you can't bear it. If you don't give the right answers they kill you. They beat you all over with sticks or guns until your whole body is crushed, then sometimes they cut your throat.

They also often came and forced us to build the car road or sweep it for mines. Every rainy season the road from Thein Zeit to Naw Deh Plaw [near Sleeping Dog Mountain] washes out, and they force us to remake it every October. We had to send 5 or 10 people at a time for 5 day shifts, and we had to take all our own food. Mostly women go, because only they dare face the soldiers. The men are treated much worse if they go, or they are made into porters.

Even if the guards aren't watching we have to work hard. If we don't work well the village is punished. This happened frequently. The soldiers come and bind and beat the villagers, sometimes until they are unconscious, and some have been beaten to death in other villages nearby.