When Burma’s SLORC junta mounted its biggest ever offensive against the headquarters of Karen and democratic forces in Manerplaw in 1992, it was universally condemned for the swath of destruction and terror its Army cut through the country. This year, the SLORC claims to have ceased all such offensives, and is busily trying to repair its international image. However, it continues to mount smaller offensives, and in SLORC-controlled areas of Karen State, it has unleashed a major military offensive against Karen civilians, a campaign of terror and forced relocation which is now taking place out of sight of the world community. Fresh SLORC troops have been sent in, particularly 99 Light Infantry Division, with orders to systematically subjugate the Karen civilian population through terror and forced relocation. Entire regions of western Karen State are being declared free-fire zones, while civilian populations are being driven into relocation camps and garrison villages, where they form a pool of slave labour and porters for future offensives.
The campaign is spread throughout Papun District in the north, through central Thaton District, to Pa’an District in the south. It is a large region about 200 km. from north to south, forming a large crescent behind SLORC lines directly west of Manerplaw. This indicates that this strategy is largely aimed at preparing for a fresh large-scale offensive on Manerplaw, by preventing the civilian population from helping the opposition in any way, making their home areas free-fire zones to allow SLORC troops unrestricted movement, and setting them up as easily accessible slaves for when the offensive comes.
Several thousand refugees from this campaign of terror have already arrived at the Thai border, and hundreds more are now arriving every week. However, the vast majority are still inside, hiding in the jungle or fleeing from village to village, preparing to become refugees in the near future.
The following statements were made by people from villages spread throughout Pa’an, Thaton, and Papun Districts. The similarity of their stories shows that these are not isolated incidents, but systematic policy being directed from Rangoon. Their stories have been transcribed from recorded interviews in Karen, and represent a random sampling of recent arrivals; the people still arriving could easily fill several reports like this every week with their horrific stories of abuse.
Some of these statements were given by refugees now in Thai border camps, others by displaced people still hiding inside Burma, and others by people still living in their home villages. For tbis reason, the names of those interviewed have been changed, and the names of their villages omitted. All names mentioned in their accounts are real, although these have been blanked out where necessary. In the accounts, Burmese soldiers often call people "Kaw Thoo Lei" and "Ringworm". Both of these are terms used by Burmese troops to refer to Karen soldiers. "Kaw Thoo Lei" is the name of the Karen homeland, while the derogatory "Ringworm" refers to a parasite common to people who ride elephants.
Please feel free to use this information in any way which may help end the suffering which these people describe.
NAME: Naw Htoo Say SEX: F AGE: 30
ADDRESS: Papun District
The Burmese soldiers abuse us so much we can’t even describe it. Whenever they see any villager, the soldiers do whatever they want to them before they even interrogate them. They torture people, and no one can vouch or plead for their freedom. They say, "If we find anyone outside the village that person must be our enemy. If they were civilians they would stay in the village." Now they’ve given an order that we’re not even allowed outside the village without a special paper. If we want to go out, we have to ask their permission and pay them 1 Kyat for each person who’s going, and they give us a paper that’s only good until sundown. If they catch us outside without a paper or if we’re absent from the village at any time, then they do whatever they want to us.
They torture people in many ways. Sometimes they slash people’s skin and put salt and chillies in the wounds - I saw them do this to 7 men one time. They make people go without food, and another time they took out a villager’s eye. We often find the bodies of villagers the soldiers have killed. They never bury them, just strip them naked and leave them laying there. Usually they accuse people of being Karen soldiers before they kill them, and if the village headman tries to plead for them then they beat him too. We can barely survive in the village anymore.
They also order porters from every village based on its size. My village has 50 houses, so they order at least 10 porters every time, usually once a month, and they have to go for the whole month. It’s terrible as a porter. They give out just rotten rice, once or twice a day depending on the situation, but never enough. They take women as porters many, many times. They say, "The men are not enough for us, so we have to take women porters". They think if they have women porters, then the Karen soldiers won’t shoot at them, so they go behind the women. They send 5 women in front of each soldier. They send men and women porters out in front of their column without heavy loads to carry, mainly to find the landmines. When that happens, the porters are wounded by landmines. A great many porters are wounded by landmines.
The soldiers always take women now, because all the men have fled the village. In the village the soldiers call the women, and if they like a girl they ask for her love. When she refuses they force her and rape her. I have two friends to whom they’ve done this: Naw L--- and Naw M---. The soldiers were terrible to them. We want to report it to their officer, but the soldiers say, "If you go and report it then you must be a Karen soldier". They just want to rape women and then disappear.
The soldiers also demand money to buy themselves a volleyball or whatever else they want. Our village has 2 headmen, and they have to alternate days going to the army camp to report. One time when the soldiers demanded money for their personal things we refused to pay, but when they didn't get their money and the headman didn't go and report, they fired a mortarr shell at our villagee Luckily it hit outside the village and no one was hurt, but 2 cows were killed.
They take our livestock so often we can't even describe it. They point their guns at us and say, "Which is more valuable - your life or your livestock?", so we can't stop them. Sometimes they shoot our cows, take just a little meat and then leave the rest laying there. Sometimes they want to drink coconut milk but they're too lazy to climb the tree to get the coconuts, so they just cut down the tree and take them. Another time a group of soldiers ordered some families to go with them, then while they were gone another group of soldiers came and looted everything they had.
We always have to be ready to go and work for them. Usually they make us go cut bamboo, build fences, dig bunkers and other work at their military headquarters. We have to work for them so much, I can't count the times. If we don't go one time, they make us pay 32 kg. of beef or pork, or sometimes 64 kg., and then they interrogate us. When we go, we have to take all our own food. Worst of all, when we build a fence, if they decide they don't like it they force us to tear it down and build it again. This happens all the time.
They all wear a badge that says 99 [Light Infantry Division], and underneath there's a picture of a coffin on one side and a dog on the other. They never tell us their names - they just say, "We're 99".
NAME: Pa Ka Baw SEX: M AGE: 29
ADDRESS: Papun District
When I went to cut my sugarcane I met with the Burmese and they caught me. I told them I have children and a wife, that we don't have much rice at our house and that I must work in our fields so we can survive, so I can't go as a porter. I thought the Burmese would have mercy on me but they didn't free me - instead they made me go as a porter. They made me start carrying. If we got enough food to eat we could carry, but they gave us almost nothing, so I couldn't keep carrying the whole day. I saw the soldiers beat my friend in his back until he couldn't walk, just because he couldn't carry
Another time Maung Bu and his wife went to get betelnut leaves, and on their way back they met some Burmese along the path and the Burmese killed them. They don't even ask any questions before they kill the villagers. What will become of the children? The children become orphans. No matter what we tell them, they have no mercy. When they come to the village they act like robbers. Now I have no money, but before I had a shop. Then Burmese 301 Battalion came - their commander is Mm La Aung.
They came in my house and ate whatever they want. They took many things from my shop but never paid me. Finally I had no more rice, and what could I do? My friend had to give me food to live. They took the chickens I was keeping for my daughter and everything in my shop, so I had nothing. I said, "Please don't", but they said, "Please? I don't know that word."
The villagers have no place to go. If they go stay in the jungle the Burmese kill them. If they stay in the village the Burmese catch them and force them to be porters. They have no mercy. As porters, they only give us 3 spoonfuls of rice three times a day, and the rice is rotten but we have to eat it all or we’ll die. They follow us with guns everywhere, even when we go to the toilet.
I lived in N--- village for 3 years, and I also saw the hard life of the villagers there. There were many orphans because the Burmese had killed their parents. They killed Naw Di Yah, Maung Lway, Pa Poh, Maw Pye Ya's mother-in-law, and Ma Thay's grandfather. When the villagers worked in the fields the Burmese came and shot them, even though they're all just civilians. If they keep doing this the people of Burma will be lost and Burma will be destroyed.
If they order us to go as porters for 10 or 15 days we can go, but now they order us to go for 5 or 6 months, so how can I care for my family?
They took all the animals in our village and also went to the monastery and robbed the monks' servant. They said he was a Karen soldier pretending to be a monks' servant. Whenever they steal anything they say it belongs to Karen soldiers, and the villagers can’t stop them because they’re so afraid.
When I went to K--- village I saw an old man sitting with tears dropping from his eyes. I asked him why he was crying. He looked at my face and asked where I was from so I told him I'd just been a porter but ran away because I couldn't carry anymore. He said, "But if you run away the Burmese will kill you", but I told him I didn't care because I must get back to my family. I asked again why he was crying, and he said, "Look at my sugar cane - the Burmese cut it all down, so I can do nothing. I had two cows but the Burmese killed them, and my two buffalos as well." I asked if he was sure the Burmese had cut all his sugar cane, and he said "Ba Du La's servants came here." He said "Ba Du La's servants" had been here for 30 or 40 years, and if you see them you must run. I told him I didn’t understand, so he told me "Ba Du La's servants" are the Burmese soldiers. [Ba Du La was an ancient Burmese king.]
The Burmese go around all our fields and say it's "food for Ringworms". When the rice is growing they walk on it instead of the path, and at harvest time they pull up the paddy and sit on it. They know it's bad but they still do it. If children are bad it's the parents' fault, and if the leades are bad then the troops will be too. They couldn't do such things without their leaders approval. They're more like animals than people. No - animals are better than them. They are the fathers of robbers.
When I was sick I cut my hair like a monk and stayed at home. The soldiers came to the village, caught me and accused me of being a "Ringworm". I told them about my family and the village headman vouched for me but they wouldn't free me. They tied me like an animal with very thick rope. Then they dragged me onto the road and beat me with a gun. They took me to L--- monastery and put me under the building all night. They'd caught me at 10 a.m. , and I only got a little food the next morning. Later that day I was starving so I asked for food, but a soldier said, "This man is a Ringworm - don't give him food". I asked for water and one soldier who was Karen said, "We are all the same, so I can give him some water", but when he went to get it the officer stopped him.
They made me follow them, and we walked the whole day. When I saw a river I asked for a drink but they wouldn't let me. For two days they gave me nothing. The friendly soldier gave my friend some water, but the officer saw and yelled, "Who told you to give him water?" He also tried to give me some but I couldn't take it because my hands were still tied.
Then we moved again to L--- camp. I got no food for a week so I got sick, and the only water I got was from the friendly soldier, who hid water and then gave it to me. I said to the officer, "You don't give me any food. You don't give me anything." He got angry and beat me the whole night, slapped my face and spat in my face. The village headman kept pleading for me but still they wouldn't free me. Later the officer ordered them to give me one cup of water each day, so they put some in a milk tin and gave it to me, but the friendly soldier warned me to drink only a sip at a time to make it last.
Then the Burmese caught 3 more villagers. There was a 78 year old man, and they tied him up along with two girls. They untied me, but I was too weak to stand so I could only lie down. Then Karen soldiers attacked the Burmese with guns and 3 RPG's [Rocket-Propelled Grenades], and the Burmese officer was killed. When the RPG's exploded, the old man told me to untie the girls because we had a chance to run. I went and untied them, but I couldn't walk so they lifted me by my arms and carried me. The old man was too old to carry me, so the girls told him to go ahead, they carried me and we got away. When we were away from the camp, one girl stayed with me while the others went to get help. The villagers came and carried me away. When I arrived at the village I was starving, but whenever I ate anything I got great pain in my abdomen. A man said I should only eat boiled rice, so I did and I got better. Now I'm getting stronger.
When I arrived at my home some villagers and one Burmese villager visited me. The Burmese man said, "Why did they treat you like this? Now I don't dare stay here." I said, "But why? You are Burmese", and he said, "I'm Burmese but not like them. I'm a civilian." Later, many villagers all told me that he was dead.
After a month, I went to a monastery where there was a feast. I helped carry water and wash the plates. The Burmese knew about the feast, so they came to catch porters. Other people thought they wouldn't because we're the same religion as them and it's a Buddhist feast, but they took porters anyway. They also looked for me everywhere and caught me. Then they drove us on, and sometimes we went a whole day with no food. Some people only had on very thin clothes when we were caught, but when it rained we had to sleep in the rain. I ate "po thwe daw" leaves and forest vegetables because otherwise I would have died. We had to eat like buffaloes. Some people stole the soldiers’ rice to survive. Once I heard a shout so I looked, and saw that the Burmese had caught some people stealing just a little rice, but they were beating them very badly. They beat one boy very hard on his chest, and later he always had chest pains. They beat another in his back until he couldn't walk or stand. They ordered him to carry a load but he couldn't, so they beat him more and then left him behind when we moved on. I thought he would die for sure, but some villagers came and carried him away later and saved his life. I was near death too, but I survived.
NAME: Saw Pa Thu SEX: M AGE: 18
ADDRESS: Papun District
The Burmese come to the village and make me go as a porter. They always make me carry very heavy bullets. Then I can't carry them, and they beat me. They give me just a little rice, but it's rotten. There's never enough food.
During the Sleeping Dog Mountain fighting we had to carry a lot. I saw two women die, and the Burmese dumped their bodies in the river. My tears were falling. The Burmese asked me, "Is that your wife?", and I said, "No, just my friend". Then he said, "I'll kill you and the others too." We had to carry bullets and shells 5 times a day up the mountain. It's very high, but we had to climb it every day without a rest. Some of us got sick but they gave us no medicine. The Burmese leaders in the city sent many Burmese women to encourage their soldiers, and when they came the soldiers were very happy. They didn't make the Burmese women carry anything, but the Karen women still had to carry. They always guarded the Karen women, and never freed them. I was there for 1 month, then I ran away.
Then we were back in our village for months before 99 Division came. They came to the village and caught many people, including me. They called me a Karen soldier, and I said I'm not. They asked, "What's your commander's name?", and I said, "I have no commander. I'm a villager." They beat me, tied me up and took me to T---, but then some of us hid and ran away. We went back to our village, but so did they. They caught me and made me point out my house and my parents' house. They said to my parents, "Your son is a Karen soldier", and beat my old father twice, until my father was almost dying. We had many animals, but then they took them all. They ate my father's cow and 3 pigs, and they said, "We'll burn all the houses here. If we see men here, we’ll kill them." Then the women didn't dare live in the village anymore either, and everyone ran away. I came here with my parents, but I wanted to get my two cows so I went back. I was pulling my cows away but the Burmese saw me and shot at me, so I had to run away without my cows. We couldn't carry anything with us, and we came here to stay with my relatives instead of going to the refugee camp. Many villagers went to the refugee camp or to other villages, because the Burmese said they’ll kill everyone in our village.
Since then I went to visit my Aunt in H--- village, but the Burmese caught me there and accused me of being a Karen soldier again. They tied me up and dragged me to the officer, and I was very afraid because they'd caught me so many times already. I thought this time I would die for sure. The officer said, "You see this?" and showed me his gun. Then they put a cloth around my head so I couldn't see, and stabbed my skin with a knife until I couldn't bear it. My aunt came and pleaded for me, and they told her "You must give us one cow". She gave them her cow, and then they beat me some more and dragged me along the road to P---, interrogating me all the way, before they freed me.
NAME: Saw Tee Ler SEX: M AGE: 60+
ADDRESS: Papun District
I want to know why the Burmese torture people like this. They asked me questions and I told them I didn't know, but then they pulled my hair, beat me and stabbed me. They did this until I was almost dying. I told them I wasn't afraid of death, and that if they killed me that would be good for me because I couldn't suffer their torture anymore. We are all people on this earth, but they have no mercy on other people. Karen people have mercy, so we don't go and kill Burmese people. I don't understand it. I’ve seen this happen for 40 years. I'm very old now, and I still think some day it will be better, but the Burmese are even stronger now than before.
They force all the men and women to work. Even if women are pregnant they must go and carry heavy things, so they have miscarriages and lose their babies. Why do they oppress us like this? We are all the same, all people. We feel great sorrow in our hearts but we can't change it. We speak to them but they don't care what we say. They just oppress all the women and men, and we must suffer it. We never have happy times anymore because the Burmese Nation is always oppressing us. We can't stay near them. We're very sad to live in this country with the Burmese. To tell you the truth, it makes me very sad, but I'll never find a place to stay in another country. I have no education, so I must stay here.
NAME: Eh Htoo Pa SEX: M AGE:40
ADDRESS: Papun District
Many groups of Burmese soldiers come to our village, but especially 99 Division. On January 16 they came and took 30 baskets of paddy. They didn't pay anything so the headman asked them and they said "We'll pay you later". But they never did. Istead, a few days later they came and caught porters and killed our cows and ate them.
Sometimes their trucks come, and on January 25 the Karen soldiers shot at their truck, so the next day the Burmese collected the villagers, including women, and ordered them to find the landmines on the road. They also forced us to pay 25,000 Kyat, and they only gave us 3 days to find the money.
In March one time they told us not to go to work the next day. Then they came, collected the men and asked us, "Where are your guns?" We told them we have no guns. Then they took one man and interrogated him while they beat him, kicked him and scared him with fire in his eyes and mouth. He couldn't suffer it anymore, so he broke down and said "Yes, I'm a soldier" even though he wasn't. Then the Burmese killed him. They also treat many other villagers the same way as that man, villagers who are 50, 60, even 68 years old. Another man named Pa K--- was a village leader. The Burmese accused him of having a gun and a radio. They tortured him, and they told the women to go find the gun and radio. They said, "If you can't find them we'll burn your houses." Then on January 28 those troops had to move out, and they took Pa K--- and many other villagers with them. Only some of the villagers came back, so people went to plead for the others but the Burmese wouldn't free them. They demanded money. We gave them 5,000 Kyat, and then the other villagers came back, carrying the body of Pa K--- with them. The soldiers had beaten and kicked him to death. One of the women they'd kept with them and used as a porter was Naw G---. She was very afraid when she was a porter because she saw may soldiers coming back wounded. When she got home, she was very sick, and she died on April 2.
This 99 Division is very bad, The officer who stays around my village and all the other leaders are all very bad. Now they take porters, and while the porters are still gone they come and demand more porters. Then when two of the porters ran away, they fined our village 2 goats.
NAME: Eh Ser Mo SEX: F AGE: 50
ADDRESS: Papun District
Even old women have to go and work for the Burmese soldiers, because the majority of the men have to flee the village as soon as the Burmese are nearby. So the women get caught because we have to stay behind to care for the children and protect our property. All the single girls and widows also have to flee the Burmese to avoid being raped.
If Karen soldiers come to the village we don't report it to the Burmese, so they torture the headman. Many times they abuse the villagers and kill them outright for no reason. They use many kinds of torture. Sometimes they cut off people's ears, and they slice people's arms and bodies and then put salt in the wounds. They pour too much water in people's mouths. They torture people like this until they die.
They order us to send porters but we don't dare go because they'll send us to the frontline and make us walk in front to step on landmines. So we try to give the soldiers money instead, or we have to hire someone to go in our place. It's very hard to hire porters, and very costly - we have to give them at least 8,000 Kyat for a month. Most of the people who will go for money are Indians. They have no choice, because they have no other way to make a living, so they sell their lives for money. When they come back, they tell us that the Burmese only feed them their leftover rice, just once a day. Those who can't carry anymore are either left behind or kicked off the mountainside.
When the Burmese come to the village, they order all of us to go and stay by their headquarters for a few days. Then we have to stop all our work, even if it's planting time. At their camp, we stay in small lean-to's that we make, just a roof with no floor. We take as little as we can, because if the soldiers see anyone with good clothes or things, they take them. The soldiers must be very poor to do that.
Whatever they want us to do, we have to do. We have to dig, and if they want houses then we have to cut the bamboo and wood, get leaves for the roof, and build them. They do nothing except give orders. We also have to dig trenches all around their camp and make barriers out of sharpened bamboo sticks. We have to cut their firewood too, and many other jobs.
Whenever we want to go outside the village we have to buy a paper for 1 Kyat, which is only good for one day; 1 Kyat for each person. They only allow us to go work our fields 2 days a week. As for the men, whenever the soldiers call for labour they don't come, they stay hidden in the jungle. It's very bad for the men, because whenever the soldiers see people in the forest they shoot them. If the person gets away, he's okay. If not, he's killed. When the soldiers see people out working their farms they shoot at them too. They killed 3 people from my village that way.
They order labour again and again. We have to carry ammunition and supplies, usually for one day at a time. Every house has to rotate sending their cart and bullocks to do labour at the army camp. They built their camp near the village, and they come and take whatever they want. Once the villagers tried to stop them, but they just showed their guns to say "Here, you see?", and went on catching our livestock. They say, "Don't you know, haven't you heard about 99 Division? Don't make me kill you."
NAME: Po Tha Lay SEX: M AGE: 32
ADDRESS: Bu Tho Township, Papun District
FAMILY: Married with 1 child, age 7.
I left' my village and came to be a refugee after they killed my cousin. His name was Saw Cha Naw Ku, and he was 25 and single. The Burmese caught him and killed him for no reason, just because he was good-looking with fair skin, so they said he might be a Karen Officer.
In hot season the Burmese trucks came and the Karen soldiers shot at their truck, so the Burmese came to our village and killed 4 people, just outside the village, and they burned the houses. They ate many cows, including my mother's cow, and they burned our house so my mother, brothers and sisters also ran away. They don't dare stay there anymore, so they came out here. I didn't see the Burmese burn the houses, but my family and friends all saw it.
I just went back to visit my village, and I saw the Burmese still oppressing people. They can't oppress the Karen soldiers so they oppress only the villagers. They say we're all Kaw Thoo Lei and they can't kill Karen soldiers, so they kill civilian women and others. They kill porters because they can't carry anymore and try to run away. If the men run away, they catch the girls and take them as porters. The women must work like the men. They have to carry supplies to Sleeping Dog Mountain and any who can't carry are beaten to death. When they take porters they say they'll only be gone 10 days, but then they don't send them back until their family sends someone to replace them. My wife had to go as a porter and so did I. I had to carry 1,000 machine gun bullets, or sometimes 2 tins of rice. All the skin rubbed off my shoulders and I injured my head.
The Burmese always come to our village because it's on the supply line to Sleeping Dog Mountain. They come along the road, so we're all afraid to work in our fields because they' re alongside the road. Last month they caught a man who was working in his field and staying in his field hut. They took his rice and threw it away, then they tied him up, cut slices all up his arns, cut the skin on his neck and then killed him. A friend told me this story
In each village we have a leader. When the Burmese come they say, "You have guns." But the leaders say, "We have no guns." Then they hang the leader up by his wrists and beat him. When they come to the village all the villagers run away, but one time 2 people were on the roofs of their houses and couldn't come down, so the soldiers caught them. They beat them with big sticks and broke their legs, then they broke one person's arm and stabbed the other with a knife. They couldn't get away. Then the Burmese said, "You're Kaw Thoo Lei", and they called the village leader and said, "You have ten guns in the village. Give us five guns." The leader said, "We have no guns in this village." So they tied rope around his neck and hung him by another rope from a tree. They threw the rope over a branch and pulled him up. Later they untied him and freed him. Then he fled the village, and so did many of the villagers. Now everyone has fled my village - it's deserted. Some came here, and many have gone to other villages. We don't dare go back. If the Burmese don't kill at least 5 people in each village, they don't feel content.
NAME: Ma Shwe Myint SEX: F AGE: 26
ADDRESS: Leh Bleh Towhship, Pa’an District
FAMILY: Married with 3 children, aged 2, 6 and 7.
All the villagers are so afraid that they're fleeing our village. Me too; I'm afraid because the Burmese always come and murder villagers. They killed my uncle Maung. Keh Deh in May this year. He was a 39 year old widower with three children aged 5, 7, and 9. They caught him at his farm and ordered him to go and get information on Karen soldiers, but he wouldn't so they dragged him along the path and beat him to death with sticks. Now his children are orphans. They're staying with other people.
Many others have died as well, I can't tell you all of them. Two boys went as porters for over a month. They went to Meh Tha Wah and came back, then they went to Tay Htoo and didn't come home. They had to go a long time without enough food so they were very weak, and on their way back they died before they reached the village. Their names were Maung Shwe Oo and Pa De Ko, and they were only 19 and 15 years old. That happened this month.
I also had to go as a porter twice. The first time I had to go for four days with my aunt and my small children. My baby was too small to leave at home, so I had to carry my baby on my front and my load on my back. I had to carry a big soldier's bag over mountains, and there was very heavy rain so we got all soaked. They didn't even give us rice, just rotten beans. I saw them hitting men who couldn't carry with knives. There were many women too. They didn't hit the women, but we didn't get any food.
The Burmese always came and forced us to do work for them, getting vegetables for them, mending the roads and going as porters. We had to go at least 3 or 4 times in a month, sometimes constantly. We had no time to do our own work because we were always working for them. They are from 99 Division. Their camp is near the village and their Commander is Captain Myint Them. He gives the orders and the soldiers hurt the people.
We couldn't bear to stay in the village anymore, so we fled and came here. It took us one week. No one dares stay in our village anymore - they've gone to stay in the hills, where they have huts. On our way here we passed many villages. There were no people there either; they're all hiding in the forest.
NAME: Saw Tha Ghay SEX: M AGE: 37
ADDRESS: Leh Bleh Township, Pa'an District
FAMILY: Married with 5 children aged 1 month - 13 years
We came to be refugees because we couldn't stay - the Burmese always come to our village and murder people. This month they killed 5 men: Maung Keh Deh (age 39, widower with three children), Pa Taw Kloh (age 50, with wife and seven children), Dee Ha (age 18, single), Po No (age 20, single), and Pa Dee (age 19, single). The Burmese said they were Karen soldiers, but they weren t. The last three were taken outside the village and shot to death, Pa Taw Kloh was found beaten to death outside the village beside the path. They come and kill villagers every month like that.
There are 120 houses in our village. They always came and forced us to work for them, carrying big bags for them, digging bunkers and going as porters. If we don't do it, they kick and beat us. They took me as a porter several times. For two months they made me carry weapons and bullets. They gave me just a little rice to eat, beat me one time and did other bad things to me. When I was a porter I saw them kill two porters and they also caught two villagers and killed them. Many got sick, and if they couldn't carry they just hit them and left them. I saw two men left like that. I'got so sick I was almost dying, but they wouldn't free me. They ordered me to keep carrying as always. Finally I ran away. You must always run away, because they will never free you. Many people die as porters. At least 5 or 6 people from my village have died as porters this year. I can't remember all their names, but I remember Pa Kloh (age 40), Dee. Khay (age 40), Pa Waw Wah (age 39), Pa Pleh (age 40), and Maung Ohn Shwe. All of them died as porters this year. They take the women too - 60, 70, or 100 of them at once. Whether they called my wife in night or the day, she had to go. When we fled and came here we passed many villages, but there were no more people in them.
NAME: Klo Wah Mo SEX: F AGE: 43
ADDRESS: Pa'an Township, Thaton District
FAMILY: Married with 7 children aged 2-20
I was a village leader. Sometimes the Burmese ordered me to follow them, even though my baby was still young and needed milk. They also took my husband as a porter, and ate all my rice. My mother bought me 6 blankets but the Burmese soldiers took them all. Twice they took all my blankets, and they took all our clothes, even my daughter's sarong. They beat my eldest daughter until her face became bruised, and then she came home sick, and it cost us 8,000 Kyat to get her better. My daughter was a porter for two months, and I had to go as a porter too. They took everything in our house and we became poorer and poorer. They forced us to sleep on the road and guard it all the time. The Burmese put a bomb on the road, it exploded on them, and then they fined us and beat us for it. They tortured me by pouring hot water in my mouth. I couldn't sleep well or eat well anymore, so we came here. There we were only getting poorer and poorer.
The Burmese catch the villagers in the hill rice fields. The villagers can't tell them anything but they slap their faces and pour hot water in their mouths. We're not Karen soldiers, but they say, "You are Karen soldiers, you have a gun." They catch women and men too. When I left they were doing this to many people. We couldn't bear it.
They forced me to work for them, and to give them 10 baskets of paddy. We also had to give them 600 Kyat for "emergencies". When they order labour, the women must go and work very hard for them. They catch many people because there are so many Burmese troops. We work for them very hard, then they leave and another group comes, and we must work for them too. I can't work for so many people.
They force us to work at the army camps and to cut bamboo for them, but most of all they make us sweep the road. We have to sweep it whenever Army trucks are going to come along. They tell us to find the land mines but we don't know how to, so we only sweep. Then they come along to take away any mines. The mines are very big. They also force us to sleep on the road at night to guard it. Each person has to sleep there for three nights whether we dare to or not. We have to take our mats and all our food and sleep there, and during the day we have to drive carts up and, down the road and sweep it for mines. We have to rotate in three day shifts. When a mine explodes we have to pay a fine to the soldiers and they order us to show them all the other mines. We can never find them, and when we can't they torture us and say they'll kill us.
They take our livestock and whatever they want, and if they see vilagers they slap them, especially the young men, so the young men can't stay in the village anymore. They even accuse the school kids of being Karen soldiers. A 13 year old school girl who was looking for her buffalo was taken by the soldiers and they didn't set her free for 5 or 10 days; they didn't let her go until her parents hired someone else to go and replace her. They took my 20 year old daughter, so as village head I went to plead for her but 318 Infantry wouldn't release her. They said they'd call for me but they didn't; it seemed like forever. My husband said, "You're the village leader - what are you going to do?" I could do nothing. As for rich people, they can sell paddy to get 800 Kyat to pay a ransom to the soldiers to free their children. But I have no money, so I could only stay at home waiting for my daughter, and I got sick.
We always have to send them porters and labourers, and we have to hire elephants to drag logs for the army camp. The soldiers came and demanded money to build a clinic but their truck just took away all the money and nothing was built. We could only watch. It was the same when they demanded money for the school. No one can stop them. They just do whatever they want. The soldiers are always changing - sometimes they're from 83 Battalion, or 317 or 318 Infantry, or 99 Division. I only knew Captain Htun Nyunt from 83 Battalion, and Lt. Bo Lay and Lt. Soc Oo.
They didn't force our village to move, but they forced all the villages around us, like H---, L---, H---, and all the others. And they told our village, "Don’t make any trouble or we'll drive you out." Everyone there is suffering as I've suffered, but they are deeply rooted in their village and don't want to leave. I'm glad I came here, because here the leaders care for the villagers, and the villagers all help each other. If we'd known this before we would have come earlier.
NAME: Naw Htoo Say SEX: F AGE: 30
ADDRESS: Pa'an Township, Thaton District
FAMILY: Married with 3 children
Even though our village has only 15 houses, the Burmese demand 10 porters at a time from us. Then if we can't supply the full number they say we're being unhelpful. They demand labour, bamboo, and many other things. We tell them, "We have only 10 people and you ask us for hundreds of bamboo trees. How are we supposed to do that?" But they say, "You refuse to help us because you only help Kaw Thoo Lei."
They make us send a go-between who has to interpret, report if any Karen soldiers are around, do their errands, clean the compound and do whatever else the soldiers request. No man would dare go and married women can't go, so it must be a single girl. Our go-between was N---, who is about 20 years old; now she is a refugee. She had to sleep at the army camp. She thought that as a go-between they would not mistreat her, but the Commander tried to embrace her and kiss her. She refused but she said it was very hard to escape, and when she returned she told the village head that she didn't dare go back. He told her, "Then you'd better not go back, or something may happen which would ruin your life." So she didn't go again. Then the Burmese commander was afraid that the villagers might go and report him to higher authorities, so he forced our village to move. He said our village helps Kaw Thoo Lei and drove us out in Wa Soe month. He said, "You can go wherever you want, but I don't want to see any of you in this village again." At that time ours was the only village forced out. The commander hoped that if he drove us out we wouldn't be able to report him.
In our new places we couldn't grow our own food. We all had to work day by day, pounding rice for others and getting paid 4 or 5 little milktins of rice per day. When people couldn't suffer it any longer they moved back to our own village, but then 99 Division forced us to move again after only one month. They gave us only 5 days to move, and said if we didn't leave then even the smallest baby would be shot. So some people moved to N---, and others were arrested by the soldiers. They forced us to hurry.
A man named H---, who was being used as a porter by the soldiers, was tied up, beaten, and abused. They said he was a Karen soldier but he told them he wasn't. They came and tied him up in front of my house, tied a woman's sarong around his head, then beat and kicked him. Then they dragged him to two other villages. The headman tried to plead for him but they said, "You can't vouch for Ringworm. We won't free him." After many days of this, he escaped from the soldiers.
While they were torturing him, they called the whole village together, then went into our empty houses and took everything, even the spoons. My niece had 600 Kyat stolen - she was hoping to save it to go to the full moon celebration in Wa Soe Lah month. They even took her sarong. They found my small son in my house and drove him out. He walked around the village crying and crying, then he went and stayed outside the village in the forest and got sick with malaria.
The village men are afraid to meet the soldiers because they'll be tied up and taken as porters. Whenever the soldiers see people running they shoot at them. One woman was shot in the arm by the soldiers. We have no doctor so we had to take her to the Army camp. The doctor there asked who shot her and we said "the Burmese soldiers". He said he wouldn't treat her if she said that; he said she must say it was a Karen soldier. So she said it was Karen soldiers, he treated her and she was better after 10 days.
A few days later the Burmese were patrolling near the village when Karen soldiers shot one of them. They were very angry, so when they saw 2 villagers they shot one dead and dragged the other to their camp. The wounded soldier said that one of the Karen soldiers who shot him had a red shirt, and the other a black shirt. This villager had a black shirt on, so they beat him terribly until he passed out. Even then they, didn't free him, but dragged him to the forest. He died on the way. They let the other villagers come and collect the body. I think the two villagers' names were Pleh Way and Bo Po.
When the SLORC forced us to move, Naw A--- and her stepfather gathered their possessions and left for the farm. Her stepfather went ahead and she followed. On the way she met soldiers from 99 Division and they caught her. Her stepfather turned back to help her, and the soldiers aimed to shoot him but Naw A--- pleaded with them, so they said they wouldn't shoot if he came forward. He came and they tied him up, put a uniform and cap on him, punched and beat him and accused him of being a Karen soldier. He told them he was a civilian, but they said, "You are young, you must be Kaw Thoo Lei." Naw A--- is very young so the soldiers like her, and one of them slapped her and said, "W"e'll release your father if you love me." She said, "You slap me then you ask me to love you? I don't love you. I could never love you. I'd die before I'd love you." Then they freed Naw A---, but not her stepfather. They dragged him away. Nearby they saw some other SLORC soldiers and shot at each other by mistake. But they said to Naw A---'s stepfather, "See - you attacked us. You are Kaw Thoo Lei" and they shot him dead. Then the villagers came, collected his body, and held a funeral. Naw A--- is only 17 years old, and her stepfather was only about 25.
NAME: Saw Nyi Hla SEX: M AGE: 40
ADDRESS: Pa'an District
FAMILY: Married with 3 children
The Burmese tortured my cousin. They captured him in the forest, took his two woodcutting machetes, and made him a porter for 3 days. When they freed him he had to ask more than once for his machetes back. They eventually gave them, but then they didn't free him. That night they tortured him. They put a cloth around his head, punched and beat him, then they cut the muscle on his thigh and also cut his penis with a knife. After 3 days they realised he's not a Karen soldier, but he was very sick so they treated him and let him go. But he's still very sick.
They raped Naw M---, my friend H---'s wife. She was coming home one night not far from her house when they caught her and raped her in a standing position. When she tried to scream they put their hands on her mouth. Her husband was very angry and upset, but he could do nothing. It was very horrible.
When some Karen soldiers were active in the area the Burmese got very angry, so they killed one villager. They caught him in his betelnut plantation and killed him. They also saw a big house there, destroyed it and stole everything. About that time, M--' s husband heard shooting and went to hide in a bunker. They found him there, beat him to death and buried his body. Another time there was shooting not far from my village and the Burmese got angry, so then whenever they saw a buffalo they shot it. They killed 28 in all, and didn't even take the meat. They just shot them and left them there. Whenever they see people or animals they shoot at them. They also take our small livestock; if we tried to stop them they'd kill us. It was terrible.
There are so many things I could tell you that I can't even remember them all. A villager from Kyaw Ay Kee was going home with his rice cart when the Burmese grabbed him, tied him up, beat him to death and buried him in the forest. Whenever they meet people on the path they tie them up and beat them. They tie a cloth around your head, punch you 4 or 5 times and beat you 5 or 6 times before they even ask any questions. No one can even plead for you, even the village headman. The soldiers just say, "Don't bother vouching for him. We have to do this." Because of this, no one dares to walk outside the village, but if you stay in the village you must always listen for word of the soldiers - if they come you must run, or you face the consequences. Then if they see you running or in the forest, they shoot at you. This 99 Division is terrible; this year they're making war on all Karen people, and life is very hard. About 100 families from my village have already come here, but 200 or 300 families are still there.
NAME: Eh Ghay Pa SEX: M AGE: 30
ADDRESS: Pa'an Township, Thaton District
FAMILY: Married with 3 children aged 6, 4, and 1
I came here because the Burmese oppress us. They ordered me to be a porter; they also ordered me to go get information about Karen soldiers for them, but I only went part way to the place, then I stayed at a house. The Burmese soldiers came and found me there and said, "You must be Kaw Thoo Lei. You are not even just a relative of Kaw Thoo Lei, you are one yourself!"
I pleaded that I was not a Kaw Thoo Lei soldier, and said that I had gone to the place they sent me and come back. After they asked me one or two questions, they started to hit me. One of the Second Lieutenants with one star, named Myint Them, hit me with a carbine rifle butt twice in my chest, and I couldn't breathe for a few minutes, which was terrible. The officer then ordered the soldiers to tie me up. After a few minutes I told the officer that I had gone to the place they asked, and I said "Anyway how could I be Kaw Thoo Lei? If I was, I could never go as a porter for you."
The villagers couldn't see what was happening to me. The soldiers untied me, and I asked permission to cook. While I was cooking I heard two soldiers talking - they said, "Be careful of this man - he might try to run, because this evening we'll take him and maybe kill him." I was listening closely to them. So I decided to run away. I walked to the river bank, looked around to see that no one was looking, and ran.
I ran to my house and told my wife what happened, and that we should leave before the soldiers came to bother her. Later I heard that the soldiers came that evening and asked the villagers where my wife's house was; but my wife had already left the village. I ran from village to village trying to find my wife and children, but I never found them until I finally saw them here at the refugee camp.
Another time, 107 Battalion came and raped a girl. She shouted loudly but the soldier slapped her face. We went and told the Burmese commander about it because he had said, "If my soldiers do something bad to the villagers, come and tell me." But when we told him the commander just said, "Do you have more girls? If you do, bring some for me".
They come in the village, catch the women and kill the animals, so we don't have any animals there. Nothing at all. If we had pigs, they ate them all. The women dare not sleep alone at night. In a house even if there are 3 women and one man the soldiers don't care. They don't fear the man. "They rape the women, and when the women shout they slap their faces and pull their hair. In a village named Kyone Weh there was a woman who was friendly with the Burmese but one night they went and raped her. She shouted loudly and yelled, "He's come to rape me", so the Burmese soldier hit her with his rifle butt here, on her head. Someone went and told the commander but he just said, "If you have another woman, tell that soldier to rape her too".
Two of us were cooking sugarcane when 3 soldiers from 103 Battalion came and called us. They caught several of us and dragged us to the forest. We slept there, and the next morning they took us to the village but didn't feed us. Then they drove many of us through the forest with no food except a handful of rice a day. They made us cut and sliver bamboo and make a fence, and then they made all 70 or 80 of us stay in that fence, men and women. The commander said, "You have to suffer like this because you help Kaw Thoo Lei to survive". The next morning the Karen soldiers attacked them, and they drove us into the hills. We went two days with no food before they drove us to a village, and the villagers gave us food. Then we left again, and a porter from B--- stepped on a booby trap. 8 villagers were wounded, and the rest of us had to carry them. One Pwo Karen man had a huge hole in his hip. Then the soldiers captured many women from all the villages around there. There were so many captives, old, young, women and men. The woman all carried loads on their heads, and the men had loads on their shoulders. Our shoulders were cut open from the weight, but we dared not tell the soldiers. We had no choice. Finally, after they caught another 15 people and we couldn't bear it anymore, I ran away with a friend.
Karen soldiers came and fought, and the Burmese lost their post. Then the Burmese called all the village elders around to come to their camp. No one dared to go, but Pa Lu the village headman said, "I'll die for my village." He said to the villagers, "Please come and plead for me", and went. When he got to the camp they didn't even ask him any questions, just started punching and beating him until his face was so badly bruised we couldn't recognise him any more. Then the Burmese said, "We caught a ringworm - a Karen soldier". Then they took some villagers to their camp and asked them, "Do you know him?" When the villagers saw him they didn't even recognise him because his face was so badly beaten. His face and his whole body were covered in blood. The soldiers asked, "Do you recognise him? If you're sure you do, say yes". One villager said, "I think I know him". The soldiers said, "You'd better be sure. If you're not sure but you say you recognise him, you'll go the same way as him". Then no one dared vouch for him, and they came back to the village.
After the villagers left, the soldiers said to Pa Lu, "No one vouched for you". They took him to a field just beside the village, where there's a pond, and they cut his throat. They left the body there beside the village, where it would smell very bad. The villagers asked permission to bury him. When they saw his body they realised it was Pa Lu. So an old woman went to the soldiers to protest. The soldiers just said, "Don't be silly." They hit the old woman, and she ran back to the village.
NAME: Pi Paw Lah SEX: F AGE: 60
ADDRESS: Papun District
When I was only 25 the Burmese came and started oppressing the people in my village. Whenever they're in the area, none of the villagers can take a rest. They force every woman and man to work for them. When the Burmese first came they couldn't force my daughter to work because she was still a baby. But ever since she grew up enough to work, they've forced her to work for them all the time right up until now, while her parents are getting old. The villagers all have to help them and whenever they want something we have to give them all of it. If we worked building houses for ourselves rather than for them, each one of us could have 3 or 4 houses to live in. I must have spent 14 or 15 whole years of my life just working for Burmese soldiers.
Recently when they started to build another camp I had to go to them because I can speak a little Burmese. When I got there they said, "Are you the village leader? Get ready to go to heaven." I asked them what they were going to do to me, and then they put me in jail with 3 other people. I was very afraid.
Then they were driving out all the villagers, but I pleaded with them because we have so many families in our village, with many animals and ricefields. I convinced the higher authorities to let us stay, but then they ordered us to send porters. We sent the porters because they said it would just be for 2 days, but then they kept them for 2 months. They killed some of the porters because they were exhausted and couldn't carry anymore. Then a new division of Burmese soldiers came. I thought this had to be a good thing, but someone told me that these troops are even worse, and they are. They come and take many girls, they take all of our things, our rice, clothes and animals, and all of our money and gold. Whatever they see, they take it all. Did the leaders in Burma send these men to do this to us? Who can finally give us peace from them?
When I was making my fence they came and fired off their guns. They don't even ask us any questions, they just rape many girls and kill people. They only ask us about "Ringworm" [Karen soldiers], and oppress us. If they want to find Karen soldiers they should look in the jungle, not in the village. Karen soldiers don't live in the villages. But instead of fighting the Karen soldiers, they fight the civilians. They catch villagers and accuse us of being "Ringworm", even though they know we' re not. If we were soldiers we would carry guns. The Burmese caught my brother and tied him up but he didn't know anything. The village leader went to vouch for him and said many good things about him, but the Burmese killed him anyway. They oppress the women too. I was in my house and they called me out. I went out, and my children started crying for me. The Burmese called me a relative of Karen soldiers, and they went up into my house and stole everything. They took all my money, my earrings, and my chickens as well.
The Burmese don't care whether people are old, young, or even children. When they come to our village, if they don't see any men they shoot our buffalos and eat them. The Burmese leaders send them to fight Karen soldiers but now they don't fight Karen soldiers. They come and fight the civilians. They torture villagers, men and women. If they've come to fight Karen soldiers they should go to Sleeping Dog Mountain - that's where the Karen soldiers are. In our area there are only one or two. But I think the Burmese soldiers are afraid to fight Karen soldiers, so they don't go there. They stop here instead and oppress civilians. When they tie us up, slap our faces, and ask about Karen soldiers, I tell them, "Go look in the jungle. Don't ask village women about Karen soldiers. How should we know anything?" Then they just accuse us of hiding Karen soldiers. How can we fight them?
If you want to eat some pigs or chickens, you must ask the owner of the animals. If you can't ask, then don't take them. My father had to work for the Burmese, but he got 3 Kyat per day for it. Now we still have to work for them but we get nothing. Now we have to give them money! The Burmese soldiers force people to follow them, and then they won't let them come home until we pay 7,000, 8,000, or 10,000 Kyat. We don't even dare work in our fields or sleep in our field huts anymore. Whenever they see us, they shoot us and kill us. We're not their enemies, but they kill us anyway. The troops never stop coming. They started coming when my daughter was a child, and now she's a lady. We can't do anything about it.
NAME: Naw Htoo Baw SEX: F
ADDRESS: Papun District
We couldn't tell you about all the things the Burmese do to us even if we talked the whole night. I will tell you only a few things. I'll tell you about Pi M---, who is a village leader. She is 70 years old. The Burmese came and ordered her to find porters for them, but she couldn't because all the men in the village had already fled the Burmese. So the soldiers put a nylon cloth over her head and poured kerosone on it. Then they lit a flame and put it near her head. She cried out, but she couldn't speak Burmese, so she pleaded in Karen, "My son, don't do like that!" The soldier said, "Why can't you find us porters? We'll put the flame on you." She cried out again and again "My son, don't do this!" I went to them to save her because I can speak Burmese, and I said to the officer, "No Captain, this woman is very old, don't do this to her." But the Burmese had been drinking and he told me, "This is between her and us. Don't bother, me." But I said again, "This woman is very old and you put fire on her. Imagine what she must feel. Think how you would feel yourself." The Burmese said, "I didn't put fire on her - I was just scaring her with it." I told them that she could feel its heat, so it's no different.
Another time the Burmese caught Saw M---- and said, "You must have a gun." He said he didn't, but the Burmese said, "If you give us your gun you'll live, but if not we’ll kill you." He doesn't have a gun so he could only deny it. Then they put him in a pig-stall, tied him up, beat him and burned off his pubic hair. They threatened him with burning things all over his body, and boxed and kicked his face until it was all swollen, and around his eyes were all red. He asked for water, so they gave him salt water and water with chillies in it. The next morning his wife came to me and said, "You must come help me talk to the Burmese soldiers. We're very poor and if they kill my husband I'll have no food for my children." So I went and told them the truth, that he is just a villager. They brought him out and said, "So you swear that he is not a Karen soldier?" We all said, "Yes, he is a civilian and works with us in the fields. If he wasn't we'd be afraid to vouch for him." Then they untied him, but still dragged him and yelled, "Hey where's your gun?" He said he had no gun, and they said, "If you have no gun how did you shoot at us? If you attack us again we'll kill you. From now on you can't walk anywhere. You must stay inside the village." Saw H--- said, "I don't want to go anywhere. I'll stay in the village. I'm just a civilian so I'll stay in the village." So they freed him.
Another time they caught him again and he had three bullets, so they called all the villagers out of their houses and said, "He has three bullets so you must have a gun." The people told them we have no gun, but they asked, "Then where did you get the bullets?" The villagers said, "We found them on the road and kept them for talismans." But the Burmese interrogated four men, and beat, kicked and slapped them until their faces became swollen, and asked Saw M---, "Where is your gun?" One villager tried to save him by saying, "He has only part of a gun - just the barrel." But then the Burmese said he must have a gun for sure. They took a photo of Saw M---'s family and asked his wife's name. Then they yelled at me, "You vouched for a Karen soldier!" They all yelled at me at once so I couldn't understand them. I said, "I vouched for a good man. If you watch him for a year you'll find out he's just a good man. If you find out he's a bad man you can say anything you want." I said, "If you think I vouched for a Karen soldier then you can kill me. A person is born just once, with blood, and can die just once, with blood." I was very angry. I wasn't afraid to die.
I will tell you about Pa Wah Wah, another man in our village. He was keeping 500 bullets because the Karen soldiers asked him to. The SLORC found out and came looking for him. They called all the village men together and asked each of them their names. Pa Wah Wah called out a different name, but another man falsely called out his own name as Pa Wah Wah, so the soldiers took him. They put plastic around his head so he couldn't breathe and kicked him. He tried to run but he couldn't. Then they took the plastic off and asked him for the bullets, but he didn't know anything. They put the plastic around his face three or four times and told him, "Go and get us many guns, otherwise you will die." They dragged him to the river and put his head in the water until he couldn't bear it. He thought he was going to die for sure because he had no bullets.
The real Pa Wah Wah knew this, so he went and told the Burmese who he was. They kicked him, whipped him with sticks, and held his head underwater until he almost drowned. Then they dragged him to the village and he couldn't suffer it any more so he showed them the bullets. Then they told him to find his gun. They said to me, "If he doesn't get his gun we'll kill you too. What do you say, woman?" I said he's a villager so he has no gun. He was only keeping the bullets because he was asked to. All the villagers supported me so I said, "If you don't believe that, you'll have to kill him. You can kill all of us." Then the Burmese said if we didn't give them a gun by the next week, we'd all be driven out of the village.
We all discussed it and agreed that there was no way we could get a gun, so we would offer them money. But the Captain refused, and demanded a gun. I asked for more time and he gave us just three days. After two days another Captain came and asked if we had a gun yet. I told him "No, we can't get one. You must help us figure out how to get a gun. How can we? We can't buy one in town and we can't go to Thailand. Tell me where we can buy a gun and we'll go get one." Then I had an idea. I said, "I saw some children in a nearby village with a toy gun. Is that good enough for you? If so I will buy it." But he just smiled and sent me to see another Captain. I told him, "If you want to kill all the villagers, you can, but we can't get a gun. Show me where we can get one." He said, "Then you must find a pig for me. A big pig - not a small one. It must weigh at least 48 kg." So we went and killed a pig for them, but the biggest we had was only 45 kg. We gave it to them and begged them to free Pa Wah Wah, but they killed him. They never admitted it. They said they'd freed him, but he never came back to the village. I searched for news of him for three days, to see if he'd gone somewhere else, but he'd disappeared. Then I went back to the army camp but the soldiers there had rotated.
On December 30th 1992, they forced all the villagers in every village to move. The Burmese officer said, "If you don't move I'll come to the village myself and give you trouble. I'll burn your village and kill the villagers." We were very sad, but we couldn't all die like this, so we moved. They made us move to S----, which is a place for cows and buffaloes. If we'd stayed they would have killed us. I don't know what happened after we left. We couldn't go back. We had crops and vegetables but they wouldn't let us go back to get them. I heard that the Burmese soldiers went to our village and took the coconuts and other things and ate some but just threw the rest away. Then after a month some soldiers told me, "This week we will go and destroy your houses." I went to town to plead with the authorities, and finally they agreed to leave our houses alone.
NAME: Me Cho Mo SEX: F
ADDRESS: Thaton District
Now in our area we have 84 Battalion [of 99 Division]. They are the worst we've ever seen. When they first arrived last year, they killed many people, and they raped a girl from Pwa Ghaw. Now they still do these things. About a month ago, a man and his son and son-in-law were going out to get some rice and the Burmese caught them along the road and killed all three of them. They were just villagers. 84 Battalion is terrible so we're all afraid. They make us take pork to their camp - three of us have to carry it there each time. I've begged with them with all my heart not to come and torture the villagers; but they still come many times, and if they catch anyone along the road or the path, they call them over and beat and rape them. The villagers aren’t their enemies but they do it anyway.
The men and women must always go to work for them, for one or two days at a time. Even the village headman must go. We have to do many jobs for them, so many that we never even get time for a rest. Every day in the hot season we have to go and cut bamboo and bring it back for them. They demand leaves for their roof, and firewood too, and when we go to work for them we have to take our own food. If we ask them for a pot of rice they won't give it to us. Some people can't grow enough rice for themselves anymore, so they have to borrow it from other families.
They also order messengers who must go and spend the night at their camp. If you can't work for them they make you pay a fine. They take our pork and our chicken. When all our big chickens are gone they take the small ones. We must take them to the army camp.
Now we all want to stop working for them and run away. We just want a rest. There are so many problems in our village because of them. We can't do anything. If other countries can help us, then please help us. I will say "Thank you very much".
NAME: Naw Ser Eh SEX: F
ADDRESS: Papun District
My husband had to flee the village to avoid being a porter. I was 8 or 9 months pregnant, and I had nothing. Then the Burmese came and saw me like that and said, "Your husband must be a Karen soldier." Then I didn't dare stay in my own house anymore, so I had to go stay in another house. Two Burmese soldiers came down to my empty house and asked my neighbours, "Where has this family gone?" They said we had run away. Then the same evening they came back and said, "So the man has run away? Surely if he has gone, then his wife must still be staying here with the house." I could hear them and I was so afraid that I ran to the jungle. The Burmese didn't leave our village so I ran to M--- village and spent a night there, then to L--- for a night. Then I arrived at K---, but the Burmese who were looking for me were already there. I had to go stay in a shelter in the forest. Then the Burmese drove everyone out of that village so what could I do? I couldn't go anywhere because I was pregnant, and I couldn't find my husband and children. I stayed in the shelter and after the Burmese had gone I went back to my own village.
After 3 or 4 months, the Burmese came looking for my family again. I'd had my baby, but when it was 1 or 2 months old I asked my brother to take care, of it, while I hid from the Burmese at a friend's house. The Burmese came and caught another woman named M---. Her baby was not even a month old, but they took her away and put her in the jail at L---. She was in jail for three months.' They came again and found me at my house and said, "Where is, your husband?" I said he had run away, though that time he was in the village. The Burmese caught me and my children and held us. I said, "You caught M--- and put her in jail. Now you catch us and you'll put us in jail too. Don't you fear your own sins?" They make so many problems for the women and children.
After that time, they came and looked for another woman, named S---. They called together all the women in the village - we couldn't get away. Then they forced us up to the upper part of the village, but I hid and ran away. The Burmese stayed in the village that night so I couldn't go back and see my baby. The Burmese kept all the women in the field that night, sleeping on the paddy. I couldn't sleep because I worried about my baby. She was only 6 months old and needed milk. The next morning I came back and asked who had fed my baby, and my friends said K--- took care of her.
They always come and catch people. These troops are very bad so I'm very afraid. When they come I go and sleep with my mother-in-law and three children, but the soldiers come one by one to sleep in the women’s houses. They are like animals. They came to my mother-in-law's house because they know I am young. One night I woke up and saw a soldier. I said, "What are you doing?" He said, "I'm looking around the village". So I said, "If you're looking around the village, what are you doing in this house?" He said he came in because it was raining, but it wasn't. Then he saw my children and said I must be the wife of a Karen soldier, and he looked at my younger sister. He sat down by the kitchen. I had a knife and a light so I decided if he came for me. I would cut him. He had a gun on his side and I thought, "If I cut him he'll shoot me", but I wasn't afraid to die. Then he ordered my mother-in-law to go make hot water for him even though she is very old. She went and he came for me, so I cut him in the leg. My knife wasn't sharp and I was holding my baby, but he got wounded and ran away. They are like animals.
They always go to many houses, asking women if they have daughters and trying to rape the girls. They force the men to be porters, and ask the women to be their wives. They rape the girls like animals. They keep doing these things until we can't bear it. They're not honest. Even though we help them when they order us to, it doesn't matter. When they come they still beat and torture people. They order us to go work for them day or night. They shoot at people who run, and one villager got hit in his thigh. They do whatever they want, and they kill many of us, as though we were ants.
NAME: Htoo Htoo Say SEX: F AGE: 48
ADDRESS: Papun District
I'll tell you how the Burmese oppress us. All the villages in our area have been oppressed by 83 Battalion. They take all our chickens and eat them, and all our rice. In Shwe Oo village they took all the food in the village. They take all the animals they see, and the rice, and they never pay anything. When we protest they just show us their gun, their knife, or their fist. One time when they were just passing by Kwi Lay village, they took over 30 chickens. They took all the hens and small chickens, and just killed and threw away the small ones.
In December they came and caught 5 men and 5 women, including myself. They made us go and work at their camp. The men had to sleep there for 5 days, the women for 10 days, and they kept one woman for 20 days. Her name was Naw T---, and we worried about her a lot. Now 84 Battalion always makes us go, both men and women. We have to send them two labourers all the time, to build their fences and their camp. They have to cut down trees and bamboo and do all the work, and we have to send replacements twice a week. Also, the women have had to go and work almost every day for the last 4 months. Whenever the soldiers need something they send a letter to our headman and we must go, night or day. In December they ordered us to send vegetables, and I sent along a letter saying "Please wait one or two days without making us work. Please, I beg you." But when the workers didn't come they took the two people who brought the vegetables and put them in jail, then in the afternoon they tied them up in the hot sun before freeing them. After that when workers went, they interrogated them, slapped their faces, beat and kicked them.
Now everyone is very tired all the time, and we can't do our own work anymore. Also, a man named T--- was planting paddy in his field, and they saw him and caught him, but his friend ran away. They took T--- back, put him in jail and stabbed and kicked him. They said, "We heard some Kaw Thoo Lei troops are coming. You must know, so tell us. If you don't, you must be Kaw Thoo Lei". He said he's not a Karen soldier, and they said, "You're not, but your friend is. If you don't tell us anything, you are our enemy." He's just a good man and they knew it, but they demanded 6,000 Kyat to release him. He could only pay them 5,000, and they let him go.
NAME: Naw Ku Shee SEX: F AGE: 33
ADDRESS: Papun District
When the Burmese come, they kill people and do many bad things to the villagers. If we tell them not to do it they say, "This is not Kaw Thoo Lei. This is our Burmese nation." They show us their guns so we're very afraid. A soldier came to my house and said "Give me 2 tins of rice, quickly!" so I had to get it and give it to him. Then they went and took all my hens and small chickens, all of them. They took all the eggs and just threw them away. I said, "Don't do that." He stopped, stared in my face, and then he showed me his stIck. Then one of them shot me with a slingshot. He asked, "Where is your husband?" and I said he was working in the field. He said, "No he's not. He's a Karen soldier. Everyone here is a Karen soldier." Then he said, "Please, give me this hen", and he killed it and put it in his bag. They killed all the ducks and animals under my house. I said, "No, don't do that to my animals! I need them", but they didn't listen. They said, "When Karen soldiers come you feed them very well, but you give us nothing. This is a Kaw Thoo Lei village." I said it isn't, and he said, "Then why did I see many people run away from us when we came?" I said, "They're afraid because you'll take them as porters and they can't' bear it." He said, "We come to set you right, because you people are no good. We don't need your food. We brought lots of good food, sugar and oil for ourselves." So I asked them why they come and steal our food, and he said their leaders don't send them, any anymore, so they have to borrow ours. But they never pay it back. They just do what they want.
When they forced me to be a porter they made me go ahead of them. I said I was afraid so I couldn't. Then they kicked me and I fell down together with my heavy load, and I was hurt. Along the way whenever we saw a person they asked me who it was and then kicked me again. I said, "Kill me. If I die I'll be happy." Then we stopped, and all the women could only sit and urinate right in front of them. Later they kicked my back and my head, which made my neck very sore. Later when we arrived at M--- they kicked me two more times because they heard a gunshot. I said, "I’ve been with you all the time - how should I know about the gunshot?", but they accused me of knowing. They said, "We told you to go ahead - why don't you?" I said, "You have the guns so you should go ahead. If I had a gun I would go first." Then they slapped my face hard and it swelled up. I could only think about my children back in my house. I was sure they'd be crying because they're just babies.
The Burmese make me go with them all the time. My children must have milk but they can't because I must always leave them to go work for the soldiers. Once I got home in the middle of the night and my neighbour said, "Where were you lost? Your babies needed milk and they were crying." But the Burmese don't care about anyone’s babies. They say, "Your babies won't die". One soldier said, "My mother threw me away when I was a baby. I'll eat your babies, Mother". I said he couldn't dare, because my babies are very beautiful. But he said he'd dare to eat it
NAME: Shwe Hla Mo SEX: F AGE: 30
ADDRESS: Papun District
The Burmese came and caught my brother. He is blind, but they tied him up and kicked him the whole night. In the morning I told the village head to go and vouch for my brother, but he said I should go myself. The Burmese said, "Your brother tried to take my gun and run away." I said, "But my brother is blind. How could he run away with your gun?" They said, "Your brother's not blind." They stared in his eyes and scared him with fire. I said, "Don't do that! He can't see!" Finally they untied him and freed him.
That same group of soldiers came back many times after that, and every time they punched my head or kicked me until my whole body hurt, and tried to take all my chickens.
NAME: Po Ba Lah SEX: M
ADDRESS: Thaton District
The Burmese always force us to work for them like animals, and torture us. One time they caught me along the road, tied me up, kicked and beat me and punched my head the whole night. They tied up my neck, my hands and my legs, so I couldn’t do anything.
They catch people in the fields and force us to work for them. We have to build fences in the hot sun. Then when we finish sometimes they say it's not good enough, and we must destroy it and start all over again. They took me as a porter, and when I said the load was too heavy they just looked at me, then kicked my face hard. That was terrible. As porters, they give us a little food but it's no good. At night they guard us and we can't go anywhere, not even to the toilet. If we try to go they yell at us.
Another time I went as a porter we tried to run away but they saw us and opened fire on us, so we had to stop. We can't run away, so we're very afraid to be porters. Another time I was coming back from fishing when they caught me. They took all my fish and threw my basket away, and then they took me as a porter. We went and spent a night in the jungle, and had to sleep in the mud and the rain. The next afternoon they gave us some rice but it was already rotten. I ate just a little and we had to move again. They made us carry heavy boxes and rice, and every time we fell down they kicked us. Many mosquitos and insects bit us every night in the jungle, because we had no blanket or change of clothes. They wouldn't even let us smoke to keep the insects away.
NAME: Htoo Wah Mo SEX: F AGE: 60
ADDRESS: Papun District
The Burmese came and asked for my chickens, but I told them, "Son, I have no chickens. I have to eat my rice with nothing." Then he demanded a chicken and I was afraid, so I told them I can't speak Burmese. I had only one chicken, but they found it and took it. When I tried to take it back they grabbed a stick and were going to beat me. Then my friend called me and I said I had to go. The soldier said, "Go ahead, I'll stay here. Your house is like my house, your things are like my things." I was worried and told them to stay peacefully and honestly, but then they told me to go so I had to. Then when I came back they'd taken all of my fishpaste and eaten it, and my small plate was missing. I asked who took my plate and he denied it. I said, "I didn't,want to leave but you made me go, and now you’ve stolen my plate." Then another Burmese soldier arrived carrying a piece of bamboo and many coconuts, and he started throwing the coconuts at me. The Burmese said "Mom, you speak very badly to me. This woman talks too much". It would be very hard for me to buy a new plate, but I gave up because I feared them. I also had a new cup I'd bought for 45 Kyat, and I was saving it to give to the monks. But when a soldier saw it, he just switched it for his old wornout cup. Now I don't have money to buy another one.
My son and a friend came back with a bottle of alcohol. I told him to hide it very well in his house because I was afraid. He said "No problem", and went to hide the bottle in the paddy. Then the Burmese came and asked for alcohol. I said we don't have any, so they said, "If I find any, I'll burn down your house." The Burmese already knew about the bottle, but I asked my son and he said he hadn't shown it to them. They said, "Mom, you lied to us. You have alcohol", so I admitted that sometimes we do, because that is part of Karen culture. Then they said they would kill me. I was very afraid, because I can't speak much Burmese. I said, "Kill me if you want, because I can't speak Burmese." Later my friend came over and I said, "Why didn't you come and help me? You can speak Burmese". But she said, "We can't understand them either, because they speak too fast"
Another time a soldier came up into my house at night, so I said, "How did you get in? The ladder was pulled up." He told me to shut up and got ready to beat me with his gun, but I said, "I don't fear you this time. Go ahead and steal my things. I don't go to your village and eat your rice, but you treat me like this. One day you will face your punishment".
NAME: Saw Ler Gay SEX: M AGE: 29
ADDRESS: Papun District
The Burmese always come and oppress us. They ask us about Karen soldiers, and then they order us to go with them. Some troops come and don't ask us anything, they just take all our chickens and eat them. This year the Burmese caught me and before they even asked me any questions they beat me with their guns three times. Then they tied up my neck so I couldn't breathe. Later the village leader came and told them I'm a good man, and they untied my neck. Then the Burmese started poking my cousin with a knife and beating my friend. I ran away, but I heard that they then tortured them many ways.
The Burmese came and told the village headman, "Everyone must get out of your village." But we didn't move, so they sent a written order to us saying "Don't stay there", Still we didn't move. Then they sent us a second order, and this time it was written in red ink, so we all started to move. After we'd all moved, the Burmese came up and stayed at our new place. I thought they would go to our old village, but they didn't.
NAME: Naw Paw Eh SEX: F
ADDRESS: Papun District
The Burmese came, looked around the village and caught Saw S---. They put a gun in his mouth to shoot him, but he shouted that he's just a villager and workman, and they freed him. They always force the women to work, and they came and took all my chickens. I said, "Just yesterday another group came and took a chicken, now you come and take them too. What can I do? I only have 3 chickens." But we can only watch them. If we protest they beat us. Then they ordered us all to move and everyone moved, but I couldn't bear living in the new place because there was no water, so I came back to hide in our own village.
NAME: Say Say Mo SEX: F AGE: 53
ADDRESS: Thaton District
This year the Burmese come and force us to guard the road for them in the hot sun. We get very hungry but they give us no food, and we get very thirsty but they refuse us water. They ordered us to find a gun to give them, but I told them we couldn't find one, so then they said we must buy a gun. I said we have no money, and the Burmese asked me, "Don't you have a bank?" They kept demanding a gun, so Saw P--- had to take some cows and go far away to try to buy a gun for them.
At night they come to steal the animals and rape the girls. We tell the commander but he doesn't care. They take all the men from the houses to do labour or go as porters, so there are no men left and we're all very afraid every night the Burmese are around the village.
NAME: Paw Thu Pa SEX: M AGE: 71
ADDRESS: Papun District
I'm 71 years old but they took me as a porter. We had to live in the jungle, and they gave me a heavy load so I fell down trying to carry it. I'm too old now to carry. We went to B--- and then to N---, and kept moving. Then the Burmese killed a woman porter. They kicked her and slapped her face, then they stabbed her to death. When we arrived at P---, they collected 20 villagers and beat them terribly. The whole time they only gave us very little food. I could never trust the Burmese again.
NAME: Saw Shwe Aung SEX: M
ADDRESS: Papun District
The Burinese come and tell me to get pigs and chickens for them or they'll kill me. If we have 2 tins of rice they demand one tin because they say, "When Karen soldiers come you give them food." They also make me go as a porter.
One night they called a man down out of his house and beat him. They called down many other villagers and tied them up, and then they said to the man they were beating, "You're a bad man so you must die", and they killed him. They called down another villager named M---, and said "Your family communicates with the KNU" [Karen National Union]. They took everything from their house, and then they tied them up hanging from a tree, the whole family. I said, "Why are you doing this? They're a good family". The Burmese said, "Because they communicate with the KNU." But they' re just villagers.
They also tied up Naw M---, and her children were crying because they needed milk. The Burmese said to her, "Your husband laid the landmine that destroyed our truck." They forced her to give them 5 baskets of rice, but she didn't have that much so other villagers had to give her some.
They stabbed a villager named Po Dweh Nya and killed him. They called his wife and said, "Come and see your husband." She wanted to see him very much, but they just kept her waiting there and she saw nothing, because they'd killed him and she didn't know.
They force us to go and cut down the "lo" trees for them, which is very hard work, but we have to go even when we're sick, and the women too. We can't say anything because they have weapons. Now I'm so afraid, I can't sleep at night anymore in my village.
NAME: Paw Ghay Mo SEX: F AGE: 40
ADDRESS: Papun District
Burmese 307 Battalion comes and does very bad things in our village. They always ask us, "How many people here work for Kaw Thoo Lei?", and we’re very afraid so we just say we don't know. Then they tie cloth around our heads, beat and kick us. They say, "I saw someone in the forest, so it must be a Karen soldier. Good villagers just stay in their houses." They tortured Saw P---, and they tortured Pati M--- until he died, because they said his son is a Karen soldier. They caught a villager named Saw E--- and put him in jail, and he's still there, even though we go and plead for him every day. The men can't go outside around the village anymore. The Burmese call them all together and interrogate them, and they force the women to go get food for their rations. They take everything we have, and they tell us to go and buy guns to give them. These 307 troops are very bad
NAME: Daw Aye Naing SEX: F
ADDRESS: Pa'an Township, Thaton District
I'll tell you about a man named Pa Keh from our village. The SLORC accused him of being a Karen soldier. They tortured and interrogated him for 2 whole days before they killed him. They kept saying to him, "You are a Karen soldier so give us your gun", and they beat him again and again. But Pa Keh had no gun because he was a civilian, not a Karen soldier. We know because we knew him well. Finally the torture was so bad that he said "Okay, I'm a Karen soldier - but I have no gun", and he told them to go ahead and kill him. He couldn't bear their beatings any longer, so he told them that if he had to be killed, he just wanted to die right away. He only said he was a Karen soldier because he couldn't suffer their torture any more.
Then the soldiers beat on both of his shins until they broke, poked him with knives and cut open the skin on his stomach, but they wouldn't stab him and let him die. They just kept him alive and tortured him. Then they killed him the next morning out in the forest. We never found the body, but he must have been killed because even if they'd freed him there's no way he would have survived.
NAME: Naw Say K’Baw SEX: F
ADDRESS: Pa'an Township, Thaton District
None of the villagers dare to go outside our village any more, especially the girls. If they see a soldier, they run all the way back to the village. If the soldiers see anyone working at our farms, they always beat and torture them for no reason. We don't know why; they just say you are a member of Kaw Thoo Lei and that you are helping Kaw Thoo Lei to survive. But Kaw Thoo Lei people don’t even come to our village. As for our livestock, it's as if we breed them only for the SLORC. They take them whenever they want and never pay, only threaten us. No one dares to stop them. Even if we ask them to leave one or two of our chickens, they take them all. They threaten us and take whatever they like.
One day they went to the house of a woman who has a 4-month old baby. Her husband wasn't at home, so they ordered her to carry their loads. She asked to take her baby along with her but they refused. They forced her to go and carry for them and leave her baby behind. No one knew, so the baby was alone for 3 days with no breast to feed it. Most of the porters they use are women, because most of the men have already run away from them to hide in the forest. This is because they know men porters are treated even worse than women. The women have to stay in the village to protect their belongings. The SLORC troops take girls as young as 15, and also women over 60 as porters. When they took my husband as a porter, I got money and bought his freedom by selling our pig and some other livestock. The soldiers treated us terribly before we finally left our village.
NAME: Htoo Htoo Mo SEX: F
ADDRESS: Pa'an Township, Thaton District
The SLORC soldiers killed my son and his 3 friends, Maung Tun, Myint Thein, and Myint Aung. They had no reason. My son and his friends just disappeared. We couldn't dare ask the soldiers, and we don't know what happened. One day they also shot dead a man from our village in the forest, who was just out hunting.
They treat us so horribly we cannot describe it. They forced us to work many, many times, so much that we had no time left to work for our own survival. So we couldn't bear to stay anymore, and we left our village.