The following account was given by a Karen schoolteacher from Mudraw (Papun) District in northern Karen State. His name has been changed. In the area where he lives, the Karen National Union controls most of the forest and valleys, while the SLORC army is positioned on several strategic hilltops, resulting in a situation where SLORC troops often look down on villages, fields and forests which they do not control. Their troop strength in the area is currently not enough for a major attack, so they focus on trying to destroy life for the villagers, as in other parts of the country. Karen troop strength in the area is also spread thinly; none of the villages which are being attacked are military positions.
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NAME: Saw Day Htoo SEX: M AGE: 25
FAMILY: Married with one infant son
ADDRESS: Lu Thaw Township, Mudraw District
This year in Mudraw District, Lu Thaw Township, Burmese troops came to the villages of Lu Thaw Ko, Paw Day Ko, Tee Moo Khee, Plah Ko, and Hsay Day. Some villages near these places [in the Karen-controlled area] are Ler Mu Plaw, Saw Mu Plaw, and Thay Day.
These villagers are now facing very serious problems. While they're working in the fields, the Burmese troops on the hilltops look down on them, and fire shells at them. So they dare not work their fields in the daytime; they have to work at night. On September 15 some villagers in the area were working in their field, and the Burmese saw them and fired shells at them, 81 millimetre mortars. They killed two villagers. One was hit in the chest, and the other in the belly. The first man's name was Hser La Aye Pa. He was 42 with 5 children, all very small. Now his wife and children are left alone, and they can't provide themselves with enough food anymore. His wife has to take care of all her children and work in the fields too, so her children face a very hard future. The other man killed was Saw Kyo, 22 years old, who was Hser La Aye Pa's nephew. He was single and lived with his mother. He looked after her by working in the fields and providing for her. Now no one can take care of her because Saw Kyo had no brothers or sisters. His mother's left alone with a great many difficulties.
In 1993 the Burmese troops have shelled Saw Mu Plaw and Ler Mu Plaw 3 times already. Also, in Thay Po Klaw village, some of the villagers were out watching their buffalos, and the Burmese troops came and shot at them. One man was shot in the forehead and died instantly. Another man was shot in the leg - it broke his leg, but he wasn't dead. So the Burmese came up to him and cut his throat with a machete, and he died. In the same village, last year the villagers could work in their fields, but this year they can't anymore; it's too dangerous. So many people had to abandon their fields, and the Burmese came as the crops were getting ripe, stole whatever they could for themselves and destroyed the rest. It's very hard. In earlier years it was easy for people to provide for themselves, but this year they can't. For the whole coming year they won't have any food because the Burmese troops have destroyed their crops, killed their animals and eaten all their food. So they can't feed themselves anymore.
We who live in the area have to face this danger every day and night, and we have to be careful all the time. Eventually you get careless and think that the Burmese are unlikely to come if you're out in the field for a short time, but if you're wrong and they happen to be nearby, they come and kill you. Now the Burmese have a plan to come and look for all the villagers in the area and kill them, all of them. But in our own faith we pray to God to help us, to save us from all their evil plans. If God doesn't help us then we can't protect ourselves, because we are just villagers and we don't have any weapons. We can't provide for ourselves if going to our fields means going to our deaths.
Meanwhile further south in Thaton and Pa'an Districts, the SLORC's offensive against civilians appears to have quietened down slightly through the latter part of rainy season. However, farmers from the area are now trying to survive day to day by foraging for roots or buying rice by the handful, because the SLORC has stolen or destroyed all of last year's crop and wiped out all their belongings. It is now harvest time for many of them, but most of them believe that the SLORC is only waiting until the harvest is mostly finished, and will then swoop on their villages to steal or destroy it all once again. As much as possible, they are hiding the harvest in miniature rice barns they construct deep in the forest; however, patrolling SLORC troops often find such caches, declare them "rebel supplies", steal what they want and destroy the rest. Those living in flat open areas cannot even try to hide their rice. They all face very probable starvation over the next year.
Things have now dried out enough for the SLORC to begin rebuilding the seasonal roads which are washed out in rainy season. They have already begun using villagers as slaves to remake their military supply road from Thaton to Papun; so far they are only remaking the southern stretch around Kyaik Kaw, but villagers will be forced to start the northern part any time now. The slave labour to remake this road will probably last at least a month, and then the regular slave labour to "guard" it and sweep it for mines will begin. Minesweeping involves villagers driving their carts along the road, either filled with stones or dragging logs, then women and children sweeping with branches, and then when the SLORC thinks the road may be "clean" they fill one truck with villagers for weight and drive it slowly along the road. This happens every time a military convoy is to pass.
The SLORC is also planning a new military supply road from the western bank of the Salween River, directly opposite Pa'an, up to Ka Ma Maung, to strengthen their supply line for attacks on the Manerplaw area. They have already ordered all villagers along the riverbank to hurry up and cut all their sugarcane. These fields will be confiscated without compensation and the road is to be built entirely with slave labour. Many villagers will probably flee the area. This road could be completed within a couple of months if the KNLA does not attack.