The following testimony was given by a Karen Christian man from Thay Nyaw Chee village in Tavoy District, in southern Burma’s Tenasserim Division, where the population is mainly Karen, Tavoyan, and Mon. His name and personal details are omitted to protect his family. Please feel free to use this information in any way which may help stop such actions by the SLORC in the future.
I am from Thay Nyaw Chee village. My village has about 210 houses, altogether more than 2,000 people. It is in the SLORC-controlled area. SLORC soldiers come to my village often. Every time Karen soldiers have come to the village, SLORC soldiers come afterwards, to try to attack them. In the village, the SLORC soldiers always ask, "Who are the KNU [Karen National Union] spies?" They say the KNU has appointed 15 leaders in our village, and they ask who those 15 people are.
When the SLORC comes to the village, they call everyone to the meeting hall. Everyone has to go - only one person can stay at each house. This happened on September 4th or 7th of this year. Everyone was supposed to go, even the kids. As soon as we all got there, the SLORC called out some names from a list. Everyone whose name was called had to go forward and have his hands tied up. Then he was dragged outside by the soldiers. There were more than 300 SLORC soldiers, all from 404 Battalion, under Battalion Commander Myint Swe. I’m not sure where the names on the list came from, but I think they were given to SLORC by the men’s personal enemies in other villages just to get rid of them, or by informers just to get money, or because the villagers in Thrat village were angry because their pagoda was damaged.
They said, "Give us your guns and bombs. We know there are guns and bombs around. This is a rebel village. Give them to us now, all of them. If you don’t, everyone in the village, whether good or bad, all of you will suffer the consequences." They picked out Kyin Shwe and caught him. He’s just an ordinary villager and hadn’t done anything, but they fired off a gun next to him. They said to him, "If you don’t go find some guns and mines, we’ll kill you." They brought out a .22 rifle and an AK47, and said we had to go find weapons like these.
Then we had to come back for another meeting. They were very angry and swore at the villagers. They said, "You Karens aren’t faithful to Burma, your country. We aren’t just persecuting you because you’re Christians and of different religion than us. We know you have a church, and we know you have six M16 guns hidden in your church, but we won’t go in and get them because we respect your religion, and that would be disrespectful of your religion. But we’re really angry because we think it was one of you who damaged the pagoda in Thrat village." He didn’t really think there were 6 guns in the church - he just made that up. He also said there were 3 guns hidden in the pastor’s house, but there weren’t. He just made it up.
Then the meeting was finished, but they wouldn’t let anyone go until 7:30 at night, several hours later. The meeting had started at 1 p.m. Even though all the soldiers left and went back to their camp in Thrat village, they gave orders for no one to leave the hall until 7:30. I’m not sure why, I think it’s just because they were afraid the villagers would go tell the Karen Army, and the Karen Army would know the SLORC’s movements.
As for all the men they had called out and tied up, after taking them outside the SLORC accused them of being Kaw Thoo Lei [Karen Army or KNU], of feeding Kaw Thoo Lei, being spies for Kaw Thoo Lei, and being the backbone of Kaw Thoo Lei. While the meeting was going on, one of the men outside was hit and beaten until he was all bloody. Then they took him to his house where his wife and kids were, but he was so weak he couldn’t even say anything to them. They did this because they accused him of having a gun.
As for the others, they were all beaten in the school dorm. We didn’t see it, but we heard it. We heard, "Boof! Boof!", and we heard the screams. When the soldiers went back to Thrat village they took all the men with them. Later they were all killed brutally. A Thrat villager saw it all and told us. There was one man, Pati Aung Sein [age 60] - they gouged out both his eyes, then stood on his neck and probably broke it. Two of them stood on his neck, but still he wasn’t dead. Then they buried him alive. And there was another, Da Htoo [age 35], they cut off both his hands and sliced open his stomach. All of the others were killed too, but none of them were shot. They all had their throats sliced. The same night after the meeting the SLORC killed 3 of them, then 1 or 2 more each day after that. They spent about 10 days killing them all. Eleven men were killed. Their names were:
|Saw Da Htoo
Saw Ro Myo
Saw Pra Kay
Saw Tway Sein
Saw Leh Ma
Pati Aung Sein
Pati Saw Ma
Pati Po Meh
Sein Lu Shwe
Saw Shwe Baw
Saw Bee Bee
|Married, 2 children, wife now pregnant
Married, 5 children, wife now pregnant
Married, 7 children
Married, 5 children
Married, 7 children (4 already married) and grandchildren
Married, 5 children (4 already married) and many grandchildren
Married, 2 children
Married, 6 children
Married, 3 children
All of them were Sgaw Karen, village fruit planters, except for Saw Shwe Baw, who was very poor and worked as a day labourer. Sein Lu Shwe had been appointed by SLORC to be on their village committee, so every time they came to the village they asked him, "Are there any Kaw Thoo Lei in the village?" He always said no, but then there had been some fighting not far away, so they didn’t believe him anymore and killed him. After the killings, Thay Nyaw Chee villagers went to Thrat village, and the Thrat villagers showed us where the men were buried in 7 holes in the village and one by the seaside. The SLORC made their porters bury the bodies, and maybe they buried 2 or 3 men in each hole.
Five other men were also on the list. Saw Po Lu, 45 years old and father of 6 children, was also on the SLORC village committee as head of 10 houses. When he got to Thrat with the others, they put a plastic bag over his head and told him, "Tonight you will die". He said, "Please let me pray before I die". Then when the soldiers went away to drink, he prayed very hard, freed his hands from the rope, and ran away. He told me this himself two weeks ago. The rest of the villagers who the SLORC had appointed as village committee were also taken. They are Saw Francis, committee chairman, age 48, married with no children; Saw Shwe Myint, committee secretary, age 40, married with 4 children; Saw Ay Lay, age 25, married with no children; and Saw Than Shin, age 30, married with 2 children. These men were beaten along with the others before being taken away, and now they’re in jail at Tha Yet Chaun town. I know because their wives have gone to the jail and spoken to their husbands. The men told their wives that Intelligence Special Group #19 has not charged them yet because they didn’t do anything, so now the police are trying to find something to charge them with so they can put them in the real jail. For now, they belong to Myint Swe, the 404 Battalion Commander. As soon as they arrived in jail, the soldiers stopped feeding them. Their wives must send money to a friend in Tha Yet Chaun who can take food to their husbands, or else they’d starve. The SLORC won’t feed them anything.
After the killings the Thrat villagers came to Thay Nyaw Chee and warned us that if anyone thinks the SLORC suspects him of helping the KNU he’d better hide very well or run away far enough to be completely beyond the SLORC’s reach. They said the SLORC told them that they already have plans to kill about 30 more people in Thay Nyaw Chee village.
Since then those soldiers haven’t come back to Thay Nyaw Chee; only the soldiers from 25 Battalion at Beh camp have come 3 times. The first time, at the end of October, they were following 6 Karen soldiers who they thought would go to Thay Nyaw Chee village, but they never found them. When they were crossing the river, the SLORC troops saw 3 boys building a house, and the boys were playing around so they made faces at them. Then the SLORC troops accused the boys of being the Karen soldiers they were looking for and arrested them. The boys were Saw Eh Ghay, age 16, Saw Eh Nyo, age 17, and Saw Klo Htoo, age 22. Saw Klo Htoo’s brother was Saw Ro Myo, whom the SLORC killed in September. Some villagers went and told their mothers about it, and one of their mothers went after them. Halfway to Thrat she met some soldiers who sent her home again, telling her to come the next day. The next morning all the boys’ mothers went to Thrat. At first the Captain spoke to them very angrily, but then when he saw they’d brought 4,000 Kyat he got more friendly. Later that day the boys were released, but the Captain said, "Anytime we want to see these 3 boys they must come. They can’t leave the area."
The last time the commander of 25 Battalion came to the village, he showed my mother and many others a list with more than 10 names on it already, and said the best thing would be for these people to stay away from the village. He said, "I don’t want to kill anyone here because if I do you’ll all think ‘What about that man’s wife and kids?’ While my duty is around here I’ll do my best not to kill anyone in the village, but once I’m moved elsewhere and another comes, I can’t be responsible for what happens then." The troops from 404 Battalion will certainly come again too, but we can’t say when. When they do, they’ll kill everyone they have on their list of names, not only in our village but in all the villages in the area.
Now 403, 404, and 405 Battalions and Intelligence #19 Special Group are building a really big camp in the area. At the start of November, 403 Battalion ordered the villagers to give them 40,000 Kyat. Every house had to pay 200 Kyat. I’m not sure why they really wanted it, probably just to make life hard for the villagers. Now all the villagers are also being ordered to go and build their camp for them. It’s very hard for them to go, so they’ve offered to pay money instead. They are still having meetings with the SLORC to decide how much they’ll have to pay. Last month the SLORC also forced us to make an offering of 4,000 Kyat at the Buddhist temple for the monks’ robes. It was 4,000 Kyat for each village regardless of people’s religion, and every village had to pay. Every day we have to send 2 people to be guards at the SLORC camp, and they order us to send porters too.
We can’t stand to go anymore, so we pay 4,000 Kyat every month instead. The latest payment was just at the beginning of this month. We have to keep giving the SLORC money for many things.
Now the SLORC is giving militia training to all the Burmans in the villages, like a form of mandatory military service. No Karen villagers are trained. Many of the people in various parts in our village or with houses outside the village were all forced to move their houses along the road and in the centre of the village, so the SLORC can see everyone at once. This order came at the start of September, before the killings. Myint Swe, the 404 Battalion commander, also said to us, "If I ever have to come back here again [meaning if there’s ever any fighting or reports of Karen troops anywhere in the area], I’ll shoot and kill anybody I see in the village. Anybody - I don’t care."