South of Kyauk Kyi Town
The following report was given by a Karen refugee from the area south of Kyauk Kyi Town in Kyauk Kyi Township, Nyaunglebin District, Pegu Division.
STATEMENT: In February this year many villages south of Kyauk Kyi Town were forced to move. Thaun Pu village, which has 70 or 80 houses, was forced to move to Nat Than Gwin, a big village with an Army camp on the Sittaung River, at the end of the car road from Kyauk Kyi. The SLORC said this was for security reasons, because they don't want the villagers to have any contact with Karen soldiers. First the villagers had to take all their rice to the Army camp, then the soldiers forced them to dismantle their houses, cross the Sittaung River and go 4 miles to Nat Than Gwin, where they had to build huts outside the village along the roadside.
Before February, Man Mayin, Tan Ta Bin and Dait Tu villages had been forced to take all their rice to the army camp at Kywetalin, but they didn't have to move. Then in February, the SLORC said they couldn't control Kywetalin anymore, so they ordered several villages to move to Nyaun Gone (the Burmese name for Noh Ku), on the Kyauk Kyi - Nat Than Gwin car road. Kywetalin village (70-80 houses, Karen name Thu Ke Bee), New Kywetalin village (30-40 houses, Karen name No Poh), and In Dam Gone village (about 55 houses) were all forced to move to Nyaun Gone between February 3 and February 8. Between those dates, the soldiers went to each village, told the villagers they would burn down the whole village if they refused to move, then surrounded the village and forced everyone to move out. At Nyaun Gone, the villagers had to build huts along the roadside.
The Army takes all of everyone's rice, then rations it back out once a month based on the number of people in each family. The ration is never enough for the family, but the people don't dare protest. People have been allowed to go back to their old villages to get their belongings, but no one is sure yet if they will be allowed to go and work their farms when the season comes. For now, they are surviving on the rationed rice together with other food they've brought from their villages.
In the area just south of Kyauk Kyi Town alone, about 10 villages have already been forced to move this year. Now everyone is forced to do a lot of work for the soldiers: maintain roads, build bridges along routes to the front line, cut bamboo all the time and maintain the Army camps, and go as porters. They have to work until the job is finished every time, 2 or 3 days or sometimes longer. As porters, they are forced to go for as long as the military operation lasts, sometimes even one or two months.
For slave labour, the SLORC demands a total number of people from each village every time - usually 10, 20, or 30 at a time. If they want a lot of people, the women must go too. Before they were forced to move, the villagers had to do this kind of labour sometimes, but now they're forced to do it almost all the time.
North of Kyauk Kyi Town
The Karen man who told the following story is a refugee from the SLORC's forced relocation camp at Thit Chat Seit, just east of the Sittaung River in Kyauk Kyi Township, Nyaunglebin District, Pegu Division. To protect his relatives inside Burma, his personal details cannot be revealed.
STATEMENT: I am from Nga Lauk Tet village in Kyauk Kyi Township. There were about 65 houses in my village. At the end of April 1992, SLORC soldiers came to our village and ordered us to move within 3 days. They told us, "The villagers here are not good - you give information to the Karen Army and then they attack our patrols, so you have to move". They ordered us to destroy our houses, came and watched us do it, then forced us to the new place at Thit Chat Seit. We couldn't take the parts of our houses with us. It was also very difficult for people to take their animals, but we all tried.
Thit Chat Seit is about 3 miles away, about 1 kilometer east of the Kyauk Kyi - Mone car road. When we got there, the SLORC assigned each family a place in a field between Thit Chat Seit village and the car road, separate from the village. They assigned some families to the high end of the field, but most were on very low ground. We all built simple shelters for our families, but rainy season was coming and a storm blew them all down, so we had to build them all again. The place is a ricefield, and in rainy season the whole field fills up with water. We had nowhere to tie up our livestock except a deep muddy place, so before long many of them got sick and died.
At the new place they still allowed us to go back to work our fields, but we had to get a pass from the SLORC-appointed village headman; he's the one they always order to give them information, to arrange porters for them, and other things. We could only get a pass for one day at a time to go to our fields; we always had to return the same evening. The whole family is not allowed to go, only those who are needed for the farm work. They say they don't want us to contact the Karen soldiers. SLORC troops guard the relocation camp all the time and they're always patrolling all around our old village. If they catch anyone outside the camp without a pass, they punish them.
The new place is too far to go back to work our fields every day. We have to plough our fields in the early morning because of the heat, but now we cannot get there early enough and we can't get all our ploughing done, so we can't plant all of our fields. Because of this, no one can grow enough food any more. To make it worse, the weather was bad last year, making our crop smaller. So now we all have to borrow food from our friends in villages which have not been moved. There's no way we can ask the SLORC for anything. The SLORC forced us to move, but they give us no food, no job, and no help. They just abuse us.
When we were first forced to move, the soldiers made us put all our rice in a fenced enclosure, each family's rice kept separate in our own baskets. Then the Burmese SLORC clerk in Thit Chat Seit would only ration it back out to us 3 days at a time. The ration was never enough, so we had to cheat; if he said we could take 3 milktins full, then when he wasn't looking we took 4 or 5. This year, they said we could keep our food in our own houses, but then after we'd finished the harvest in February or March, they ordered us to move all our rice to the SLORC camp at Au Law See village. We had to put it in a fenced enclosure guarded by SLORC troops. We didn't want to, so we took only some of our rice instead of all of it. When the SLORC realised their plan wasn't working, they announced that we could go and get all of our rice back - but then when we got there they made us pay 30 Kyat per basket, to buy back our own rice! One man from Myow Yo Gyi village, which had also been relocated, had cheated by giving them a basket of rice husks instead of rice. When he went to get his rice back, the SLORC accused him of cheating and made him pay 1,000 Kyat.
All the Karen villages in the area have been forced to move. Tha Htay Gone village, which has 80 houses, was forced to move to Thit Chat Seit together with us. Po Thaun Zu, Dtain Bin, and Myeh Yeh villages were forced to move to Noh Ku on the Kyauk Kyi - Nat Than Gwin car road. Many other Karen villages were also forced to move there. There are also some Burmese villages around, but none of them were forced to move. The people there are just villagers like us, and they are also angry that the Karen villages are all being forced to move, but like us they dare not say anything. I don't know why the SLORC forced us to move - they just always force villagers to move here and there, just to oppress us.
They also call us to go as porters, build fences, dig trenches, and build their camp at Au Law See. We have to go for 2 or 3 days or more at a time, depending on the job that needs doing. They also make us provide all the wood, bamboo, leaf roofing, and whatever else they need. Even if their fence gets broken, they call us to go and fix it. The soldiers never do any physical work, they only supervise and inspect. They order one village to build an office, another village to make the fence, another village to dig trenches, and so on.
Even in the village, if a soldier walks by and sees you cooking a curry, he comes and eats it with you without being invited. They have rations, but they just go from village to village and force everyone to give them food. I think they send their rations home to their families. If they want money, they capture people in the villages and hold them for ransom. This is their main job - to make money.
This April, I got special permission to sleep in my field to protect my peanut crop from wild animals. I was sleeping in my shelter at 4 a.m. when SLORC soldiers came and ordered me to go with them as a "reserve porter". They only released me that evening, and when I got back to my shelter I found that even my pots, pans, and knives had been stolen by soldiers.
Another man recently arrived from Kyauk Kyi Township reported the following:
People in the area try to do their work but they are in constant fear of SLORC troops coming to their village. Whenever SLORC troops enter the area, all men in the village flee to avoid being tortured or taken as porters, while the women stay to protect their belongings. First some of the soldiers surround the village to prevent anyone escaping, then the other soldiers enter the village. They call all the villagers together, then separate all the men who are there and interrogate them one by one, deciding if each man is a villager or a rebel. If they decide a man is a rebel, he faces torture and death.
In April 1993, #73 Battalion replaced #48 Battalion in the area. Shortly before that, 48 Battalion troops commanded by Major Toe Aung captured Nyi Lay from Myow Oo village, Than Nyin from Aung Kyan Tha village, and the son of Mahn Nyunt Than from Kyaun Zu village. The troops accused the three men of having had contact with rebels, and demanded 10,000 Kyat for their release. The villagers raised the money and the men were released.
On 10 April 1993, troops from 73 Battalion came to Nga Tway Saut village. All the men escaped, and only the women were left. The soldiers captured over 20 women and said they would be made into porters unless the villagers paid 2,000 Kyat for each woman. The villagers paid and the women were released.
On 21 April 1993, troops from 73 Battalion entered Maw Ker Tha Ber Ko village and forced all the villagers to go with them to Kyauk Ker Ba. The villagers were then left to wait there all day. At sunset, one of the headmen went back to their village and found it clear of soldiers, so all the villagers returned. They found that many of their houses had been looted by the soldiers while they were gone.
Translation of a Sample SLORC Relocation Order
Following is the direct translation of the typed, stamped and signed SLORC order sent to several villages in Kyauk Kyi Township in February 1993, ordering them to move. A photocopy of the order itself is attached as page 6 of this report (Available upon request).
"Exactly, Right, & quick; Township LORC
Be Simple, Be Honest, Try Hard Kyauk Kyi Township
to Build Up the Country;
All Government Servants
Must Stay Clear of Politics"
(To Village Head, Thaun Pu)
Township Law & Order Restoration Council
Kyauk Kyi Township
Date: 3 February 1993
Kywetalin & Kyauk Sayit Village Groups;
Heads of Villages,
Kywetalin main village, New Kywetalin, In Dain Gone, and Thaun Pu villages
Subject: Moving the Villages
1) Concerning the subject above, due to security reasons villages mentioned below are instructed to move into one combined location.
Kywetalin main village and New Kywetalin village, from In Net village group, to Nyaun Gone village. In Dain Gone and Thaun Pu villages, from Kyauk Sayit village group, to Nat Than Gwin village. They must completely move between 4 February 1993 and 8 February 1993.
2) Therefore, since the above villages must move all paddy, people and property between the specified dates and to the specified places, everyone must send a family registration list to the Township Law & Order Restoration Council committee, in order that housing plots can be allocated.
U Maung Maung Oo
Township officer #2
Southern Division Front Headquarters, Kyauk Kyi
No. 351 Light Infantry Battalion, Kyauk Kyi N
No. 60 Infantry Battalion, Kyauk Kyi