PORTERS: SLORC'S BU SAH KEE OPERATION

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PORTERS: SLORC'S BU SAH KEE OPERATION

Published date:
Sunday, November 14, 1993

On August 18, 1993, SLORC launched an operation in Toungoo District which was intended to capture Bu Sah Kee, a Karen trading gateway and headquarters of the Karen National Defence Organization's 4th Brigade. The SLORC troops involved were #34, 232, and 233 Light Infantry Battalions (LIB), commanded by Lt. Col. Htin Kyaw Thu. These troops are originally from Western Command (Arakan State), but are now based at Kaw Thay Der, in Toungoo District.

The following information, except where noted, has been obtained and confirmed separately from several unconnected sources, including villagers from the area.

On August 18, 1993, SLORC launched an operation in Toungoo District which was intended to capture Bu Sah Kee, a Karen trading gateway and headquarters of the Karen National Defence Organization's 4th Brigade. The SLORC troops involved were #34, 232, and 233 Light Infantry Battalions (LIB), commanded by Lt. Col. Htin Kyaw Thu. These troops are originally from Western Command (Arakan State), but are now based at Kaw Thay Der, in Toungoo District. For the operation, they were divided into 6 columns of 180 to 200 men each.

The troops passed through Baw Galee Gyi, Kaw Thay Der, Saw Wah Der, Thay Ay Kee, Ha Hto Ber, Si Gher Der, and Plo Mu Doh. However, as it was still rainy season, they quickly ran into problems with heavy rain, as well as being severely harassed by Karen army remote-control mines. Before long, nearly half their troops were inactive from malaria or Karen attack. Two soldiers died of malaria. The troops had brought about 300 Burmese porters with them from the towns. Of these, ten died of malaria, and estimates are that at least 15 were beaten to death by the troops for becoming too weak to carry their loads. Others were also killed, and many escaped. The rains were so heavy that rivers became impassable; the troops could not reach Bu Sah Kee, and began to retreat.

Because of the number of sick and wounded and Karen attacks, the troops became pinned down on a hilltop, ran out of supplies, and radioed for supplies. In order to resupply the main force, Maj. Toe Myint, #2 column commander of 232 LIB, went and took 60 porters by force from Kaw Thay Der village on August 29. On the same day, Capt. Zaw Myint, 2nd company commander of #34 LIB, took 70 porters from Baw Galee Gyi village, including women, the elderly, primary and middle school children, and pregnant women. On August 30, #2 column of #34 LIB, commanded by Maj. Mya Han, saw a Karen village elder named Saw Du Ro, age 54, and his eldest daughter, Naw Pu Pu, age 27, married with I infant child, on the bank of the Yo Sah Kloh river between Saw Wali Der and Ku Ler Der villages. The troops called them over, but they didn't hear because of the river noise, so the troops immediately opened fire. Naw Pu Pu was shot dead on the riverbank, and her father was shot dead in the river. His body floated away downstream.

The troops also went to take porters from Baw Galee village, but all the villagers fled. Only the students in Paw Galee high school were left, so the troops took all students and teachers from 6th standard to 10th standard as porters. Many managed to escape, but about 100 were caught, boys and girls aged from 12 to 20 along with their teachers. As one woman from the village says, "The students are just small, because they're jungle kids" [i.e., their diet is limited]. The SLORC troops forced the students to carry supplies, but one day along the way they encountered Karen troops and fighting began. As a result, some of the boys managed to run away. After that, the SLORC troops stopped giving any food to the porters, except a small handful of rice to the smaller schoolgirls. The boys had to cut banana trees to eat the stems when they could. It took 4 or 5 days for them to reach the main Burmese force, and then they let the students and teachers go back. There are reliable reports that the SLORC also took students and teachers from Than Daung high school, Pa Thee Chaung high school, and Twenty-Mile middle school as porters, although the Karen Human Rights Group has not yet been able to get details on this directly from villagers affected. Like Baw Galee, all of these schools are on the car road not too far from Toungoo.

The operation ended with a complete retreat on September 10. When the SLORC troops got back, they camped all around the small villages in the area near Baw Galee, so now most of the villagers are hiding in the forest, not daring to return to their villages.