PHOTO SET 2000-A

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PHOTO SET 2000-A

Published date:
Thursday, June 1, 2000

The photos and descriptions below comprise Photo Set 2000-A, which shows some aspects of the human rights situation in Karen areas of Burma. This set consists of photos taken and gathered by KHRG since the publication of Photo Set 99-B in August 1999. The photos in this set were taken in Papun, Nyaunglebin, Toungoo, Thaton, Pa’an and Dooplaya Districts of Karen State and eastern Pegu Division. The photos have been divided under 7 headings (‘Village Destruction and Relocation’, ‘Detention, Torture, Shootings and Killings’, ‘Forced Labour and Extortion’, ‘Internal Displacement and Refugees’, ‘Landmines’, ‘SPDC Deserters’, and ‘Abuses in Thailand’), and by region within these headings. Brief synopses are provided below for each heading and region. More detailed information on all of the regions mentioned is available in KHRG documentary reports, many of which are referenced (with links provided) in the text below. 

 

Most of the photos in the set have been taken by KHRG human rights researchers in the field; where photos have been taken by other organisations this is noted. The photos have been chosen as a sampling, intended to show as many aspects of the situation as possible. Some details of people and places have been deliberately omitted from the photo descriptions where necessary to protect the villagers involved. While looking at the photos, please remember that they have been taken under difficult and often dangerous circumstances with low budget equipment, and quality is as incoming. In the photos of the dead, note that bodies decompose very rapidly in the tropical conditions present in Burma, so within a few weeks often all that remain are a few bones and some clothing.  Note also that when houses or rice storage barns built of bamboo are burned, they burn quickly with an intense heat that can melt glass and bend metal, and leave nothing in the end but a black square of ash. In contrast, when wooden houses are burned the pillars and other parts of the structure often remain. Karen houses are raised above the ground on posts and are often quite large, housing an entire extended family. They usually have leaf roofing, and the troops often set this alight and then walk away, resulting in many houses with the roofs burned off but the walls intact, particularly in the dampness of rainy season. 

Copies of the photo prints or digital copies scanned at higher resolution can be obtained upon approval from KHRG, by specifying which photo set and which photos and paying the costs involved. Organisations may download the images from the KHRG web site or use the prints for publication on a not-for-profit basis, provided they are properly credited; any publication for commercial purposes requires permission of the copyright holders. This can be obtained by contacting KHRG, or by contacting the copyright holders for those photos not taken by KHRG.Photos shown on this page (from top left): Photo #1-01 (credit: KHRG), Photo #4-50 (FBR), Photo #2-16 (KHRG), and Photo #4-09 (KHRG).This list does not attempt to give a comprehensive picture of the human rights situation in these areas; for more information on the situation, see the reports referenced in the summaries included below.

I. Village Destruction and Relocation

The destruction of villages and their forced relocation to military-controlled sites has long been a tactic of the Burmese Army in its efforts to bring the civilian population under control. However, in the past 3 to 4 years the regime has become much more systematic in its village destruction campaigns, in several cases declaring entire areas to be harbouring ‘insurgents’ and proceeding to destroy hundreds of villages at a time. In Shan State approximately 1,500 villages have been ordered to relocate and destroyed since 1996 in an attempt to undermine the Shan State Army; in Karenni (Kayah) State about 200 villages covering most of the state have been destroyed; in the hills of northern Papun District and eastern Nyaunglebin District, the regime’s troops can seldom catch the villagers to force them to relocate, so they have gone from village to village, shelling villages from the hilltops without warning and then burning every house and shed. In the process, another 200 villages have been destroyed since 1997. These attacks are carried out with the sole purpose of forcing the villagers out, and there are very seldom any opposition soldiers in the villages when the attacks occur. Many of the destroyed villages do not even have more than rare and sporadic contact with opposition forces.

Some of the villagers are forced by written orders to go to SPDC relocation sites, after which the Army columns destroy their villages, but most villagers know that they will receive nothing at the relocation sites so when they are ordered to relocate or their village is attacked they simply flee into hiding in the surrounding hills. After destroying the houses, the SPDC troops seek out and destroy the food supplies by finding and burning the paddy storage barns where the villagers keep their rice stocks, and in some areas trampling, uprooting or burning crops they find in the fields. In Papun and Nyaunglebin Districts and in Karenni (Kayah) State, the SPDC Army has stepped up activities to destroy villages and hunt out the internally displaced since November 1999, leading to new flows of refugees to Thailand from both regions. In northern Papun District alone, the Karen National Union (KNU) estimates that there are now 38 SPDC Battalions active in hunting internally displaced people, burning their shelters and landmining their villages. In Toungoo District, more hill villages are now being burned as the SPDC tries to force people out of the hills which they have difficulty controlling. Further south in Dooplaya District, the SPDC announced in November 1999 that all hill villages in Kya In township would be relocated and destroyed and their rice harvest confiscated, and these relocations are now ongoing.

In areas where the SPDC is in control or is trying to further consolidate its control, the destruction of villages is also used as an intimidation tactic and as a punishment for failure to obey demands for forced labourers, extortion money, and materials. This frequently occurs in Thaton and Pa’an districts of Karen State.

Papun District

Approximately 200 villages have been destroyed in northern Papun and eastern Nyaunglebin Districts since 1997 as the SPDC tries to force villagers out of the hills to Army-controlled sites. Most of the villagers are now displaced and hiding in the hills, where an increasing number of SPDC Battalions (currently 38 Battalions in Papun District, according to the KNU) are hunting them out and continuing to burn and landmine their villages and food supplies. Villagers are now also fleeing areas of Dweh Loh township southwest of Papun, where SPDC troops have commenced a new wave of village destruction since March 2000. For further information see "Wholesale Destruction" (KHRG, April 1998) and "Information Update #2000-U1" (KHRG, April 2000), and photos in Photo Set 97-BPhoto Set 99-A, and Photo Set 99-B. KHRG will also soon be publishing a new report on this region.

Nyaunglebin District

The situation in the hills of eastern Nyaunglebin District is similar to that in northern Papun District (see related notes in the section above). For further background see "Death Squads and Displacement" (KHRG May 1999) and "Wholesale Destruction" (KHRG April 1998), as well as photos from Nyaunglebin District in Photo Set 99-A and Photo Set 99-B.

Toungoo District

The SPDC has been trying to force villagers out of the rugged and remote hills of Toungoo District for some time now, particularly to the heavily garrisoned new forced labour roads from Kler Lah (Baw Ga Li Gyi) to Bu Sah Kee and from Kler Lah eastward toward Mawchi in southern Karenni (Kayah) State. In the past year or more, this has increasingly resulted in the burning of villages and the shooting of internally displaced people in hiding in the hills. For further information see "False Peace" (KHRG, March 1999), and the photos of burned homes, uprooted crops and internally displaced villagers killed by SPDC troops in Photo Set 99-B and Photo Set 99-A.

Thaton District

The SPDC has extensive control in much of Thaton District, but there is still opposition activity. Villages are routinely and summarily punished for any perceived support of the opposition and any failure to comply with SPDC and DKBA demands for forced labour and extortion. For details see "Caught in the Middle" (KHRG, September 1999) and related photos in Photo Set 99-B.

Karenni (Kayah) State

In 1995 the SLORC military junta made a ceasefire deal with the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP), but then broke it by attacking the KNPP. Since then, the SLORC and SPDC have tried to undermine the KNPP by forcibly relocating and destroying approximately 200 villages which cover the entire map of Karenni (Kayah) State. Thousands of people went to SPDC relocation sites, while others fled into the hills to survive, where they are still fleeing SPDC columns who hunt them out. Since late 1999 the SPDC has increased its efforts to destroy any remaining village structures and food supplies and root out these villagers, and their circumstances are desperate. For further background see "Continuing Fear and Hunger" (KHRG, May 1999) and photos in Photo Set 97-A.

II.  Detention, Torture, Shootings and Killings

In rural Karen areas, villagers are routinely and randomly detained at Army camps and tortured without charge or trial, simply to interrogate them for intelligence, to punish them for failure to comply with orders for forced labour or money, or even to ransom them (see for example Photo #3-18 under ‘Forced Labour and Extortion’ below). Over the years KHRG has documented hundreds of such cases. The methods of torture used are diverse, ranging from beatings with fists, boots, bamboo or iron poles to rolling rifle barrels on the shins, slashing the body with red-hot bayonets, partial suffocation with plastic or nylon bags, water torture, and various forms of psychological torture. Many villagers have died under various combinations of these forms of torture.

Many villagers are detained and tortured because they are caught trying to run from soldiers in order to avoid forced labour as porters. More commonly, whenever SPDC troops see a villager running from them they open fire, and many villagers have been maimed or killed this way. This is particularly true in areas where the SPDC has ordered the forced relocation and destruction of villages. Once the villagers have been ordered to leave, anyone seen in the area is ‘considered as enemy’ and shot or captured on sight. At present, SPDC patrols are moving through areas of central Shan State, Karenni (Kayah) State, Toungoo, Papun, and Nyaunglebin districts, hunting out villagers who are hiding in the forests and shooting some of them on sight. These patrols frequently fire mortar shells into areas of the forest where they think villagers may be hiding, and have also been laying landmines around some of the villages they destroy because they know that the villagers will return to forage for their belongings. In November and December 1999, SPDC troops patrolled the hills of northern Papun District, knowing the villagers would have to come out into the open ground of the hillside rice fields to harvest, and when they spotted groups of villagers harvesting they opened fire on them without warning, wounding and killing quite a few. With the new wave of forced relocations now ongoing in Dooplaya District, shootings are likely to increase there as well. The photos below show only a small sampling of the type of killings and physical abuses which are going on. For further documentation of detention, torture and killings, see the background reports mentioned under each region below.

Papun District

In their campaign to drive out and destroy many of the hill villages in Papun District (see above under ‘Village Destruction and Relocation’), SPDC troops often shell villages without warning before entering to burn them, enter the villages firing small arms, and fire shells into upstream areas where they think villagers may be hiding. Villagers are sometimes hit by all of these forms of fire. Since 1997, SPDC patrols have continuously hunted out villagers in hiding in the forest and have frequently shot them on sight. During the rice harvest of late 1999, these patrols specifically looked for groups of villagers exposed in the open as they tried to harvest rice from the hillside fields, and opened fire on people they saw harvesting. For more information on the situation in the area, see "Wholesale Destruction" (KHRG, April 1998) and "Information Update #2000-U1" (KHRG, April 2000), and photos in Photo Set 97-BPhoto Set 99-A, and Photo Set 99-B. KHRG will soon be releasing a new report on this region.

Dooplaya District

The relatively open and level terrain of central Dooplaya District makes it difficult for many villagers to live in hiding, and after the mass SLORC/SPDC offensive against the region in 1997 the destruction and relocation of villages was mainly on a local level involving only a few villages at a time. Most of the physical abuses involved the arbitrary detention, torture and in some cases execution of village elders for purposes of intelligence gathering and as punishment for failure to comply with SPDC orders. However, since November 1999 abuses have rapidly increased and a new wave of forced relocations is now underway throughout Kya In township, so the shooting on sight of villagers may soon become a more common phenomenon here as well. For more information, see "Starving Them Out" (KHRG, March 2000), "Dooplaya Under the SPDC" (KHRG, November 1998) and other previous reports, as well as photos in Photo Set 99-A and Photo Set 97-A.

Nyaunglebin District

The situation in the hills of eastern Nyaunglebin District is very similar to that in northern Papun District, with villages being burned and destroyed, villagers living in hiding and being hunted out and shot on sight by SPDC patrols (see above under ‘Papun District’). In western Nyaunglebin District, in the plains near the Sittaung River, the SPDC created execution squads known as the Sa Thon Lon Dam Byan Byaut Kya ("SSS Guerrilla Retaliation Units") in 1998. These units sought out villagers, both Karen and Burman, who had helped the KNU in any way whatsoever no matter how long in the past, and brutally executed many of them as a physical warning to other villagers. According to reports from the region, these units are still executing people, but fewer than before, and are now hiding the bodies of their victims instead of putting their heads on public display as they did in the past. For more information on the Sa Thon Lon and other aspects of the situation in Nyaunglebin District, see "Death Squads and Displacement" (KHRG, May 1999), "Wholesale Destruction" (KHRG, April 1998), and photos in Photo Set 99-APhoto Set 99-B, and Photo Set 97-B.

Karenni (Kayah) State

In 1995 the SLORC military junta made a ceasefire deal with the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP), but then broke it by attacking the KNPP. Since then, the SLORC and SPDC have tried to undermine the KNPP by forcibly relocating and destroying approximately 200 villages which cover the entire map of Karenni (Kayah) State. Thousands of people went to SPDC relocation sites, while others fled into the hills to survive, where they are still fleeing SPDC columns who hunt them out. Since late 1999 the SPDC has increased its efforts to destroy any remaining village structures and food supplies and root out these villagers, and their circumstances are desperate. For further background see "Continuing Fear and Hunger" (KHRG, May 1999) and photos in Photo Set 97-A.

III.  Forced Labour and Extortion

Forced labour, military extortion and looting continue to be the abuses affecting the largest number of rural people throughout Burma, and together they are artificially creating desperate poverty and depopulating villages throughout the agrarian societies that make up most of the country’s population. Forced labour and extortion are especially prevalent in regions where the Burmese Army is not occupied fighting armed enemies, and many villagers interviewed by KHRG have fled their villages specifically because of these abuses. Forced labour takes on myriad forms, including labour constructing and maintaining roads, railways, and dams, building and maintaining Army camps, acting as servants and sentries at Army camps, clearing roadsides, standing sentry along military access roads, sweeping roads for landmines, acting as messengers and guides for Army officers, forced labour farming for the Army on confiscated land, forced labour digging fishponds, logging, or baking bricks for the personal profit of Army officers, and many other forms. The forced labourers are never paid except in very few cases in urban areas where the labour can be witnessed by tourists, and villagers are usually forced to provide their own food and tools. In most cases it can only be avoided by paying money, but villagers face such a plethora of demands for forced labour that they end up with no money to pay to avoid it. Children are often sent because otherwise the parents have no time to work for food for the family.

Portering for the military is the most feared form of forced labour. Porters are saddled with heavy loads of munitions and supplies and force-marched through the hills, sometimes into battle situations. They receive little or no food and are often beaten, killed or left behind if they become too weak to carry their loads. As landmines become more and more prevalent throughout southeastern Burma, they are increasingly being forced to march in front of military columns to detonate landmines, particularly in Pa’an District of Karen State. Women and children are sometimes deliberately taken for this purpose. However, even in areas where there is no conflict, porters are taken by SPDC units to carry supplies and munitions in areas where there are no good roads. Usually porters are demanded on rotation from villages and grabbed from their farm fields by passing patrols, but whenever there is a need the Army also rounds up men from public places, such as markets, cinemas and train stations, in provincial towns.

At the same time as providing many forms of forced labour, villagers are also faced with demands from all the Army units in their area for extortion money, food, and building materials. Eventually many find they can no longer pay the money, provide the forced labour and still survive, so they have no option but to flee their villages. As a result, villages are breaking down even in areas far from any armed conflict. For more information, simply see any KHRG report; these abuses are so prevalent that they occur in almost every testimony we collect.

Papun District

In areas of southern Papun District which are at least partly controlled by the SPDC and in relocation sites, all forms of forced labour mentioned above are prevalent. In the northern half of the District where most of the villages have been destroyed, the most prevalent form of forced labour is portering under brutal conditions. Internally displaced villagers sighted by SPDC patrols are shot on sight, or if they are caught alive they are usually taken as porters. The SPDC has pushed a military access road through the northern part of the district since 1997, from Kyauk Kyi to the Thai border at Saw Hta. Villages along the road route were destroyed, and the road was built mainly by bulldozers under heavy military guard. However, villagers from the area are now being forced to do some work on it. For more information on the area, see also "Wholesale Destruction" (KHRG, April 1998), "Information Update #2000-U1" (KHRG, April 2000), and photos in Photo Set 97-BPhoto Set 99-A, and Photo Set 99-B.

Thaton District

The SPDC has firm control over large parts of Thaton District, and in these areas villagers have to do many kinds of forced labour on roads and at Army camps. They are also taken as forced labour porters to carry munitions and supplies to outlying camps, and to go with patrols penetrating into conflict areas. For more information on the region see "Caught in the Middle" (KHRG, September 1999) and photos under Thaton District in Photo Set 99-B.

Pa’an District

Forced labour has been used extensively in recent years to build and maintain a network of military access roads throughout the plains of central and western Pa’an District. In addition, the SPDC has gradually increased its military operations in the Dawna mountains of eastern Pa’an District, and to do this they have been taking more and more porters from the villages in the mountains as well as the plains to the west. This region is possibly the most densely landmined area in all of Burma, and villagers say that more and more of them are being taken as human minesweepers by SPDC patrols. Many villagers have told KHRG that this is now a leading cause of flight and displacement in the region. For more information, see "Beyond All Endurance"(KHRG, December 1999), "Uncertainty, Fear and Flight" (KHRG, November 1998), and photos in Photo Set 99-B and Photo Set 99-A.

Dooplaya District

Since occupying much of Dooplaya District in 1997, the SPDC has used villagers for many types of forced labour to build and maintain Army camps and other military infrastructure in the region. At the same time they have built a network of roads into the area to support the establishment of additional military camps. While villagers have been used for much of this forced labour, the regime also brought in hundreds of prison convicts in early 1998 who were forced to do backbreaking labour building roads under brutal conditions. Many of them died, but a group of them escaped at the end of December 1998 and told KHRG their stories. Some of these stories can be found in "Starving Them Out" (KHRG, March 2000, Interviews #37 and 38), along with other information on the situation in the region. See also photos in Photo Set 99-A.

Toungoo District

In Toungoo District of far northern Karen State, many of the hill villages have been destroyed and ordered to move to Army-controlled roads, leading villagers to flee into hiding. Along the Army-controlled roads, several villages (known as ‘peace’ villages) have tried to appease the SPDC by complying with all of their demands for forced labour, money, food and materials in return for not having their villages burned. However, these demands are so heavy that most of the villages have found that they simply cannot comply with them all, so they are sometimes punished by having homes burned and elders arrested, leading some of them to flee into the hills as well. For more details on the region see "False Peace" (KHRG, March 1999), Photo Set 99-B and Photo Set 99-A.

Karenni (Kayah) State

As described above (see under ‘Village Destruction and Relocation’), approximately 200 villages throughout the hills of Karenni State have been systematically destroyed by the SLORC/SPDC since 1996, driving thousands of villagers into relocation sites and tens of thousands more into the forests. SPDC columns still patrol these hills, burning whatever the villagers have tried to rebuild and capturing the internally displaced or shooting them on sight. Porters are brought from the towns or captured in the hills for these operations. For background see "Continuing Fear and Hunger" (KHRG, May 1999) and photos in other sections of this set as well as Photo Set 97-A.

IV.  Internal Displacement and Refugees

Anywhere from 2 to 4 million people are internally displaced in Burma, including those who have been driven out of urban areas without compensation to make way for foreign-owned factories, people who have fled their villages because they cannot provide all the forced labour and extortion money demanded of them, and those who have been forcibly driven out of their villages due to SPDC campaigns to consolidate military control over various regions. The photos below relate to the latter two groups, particularly those who have fled into hiding in the forest rather than to relocation sites, larger villages, or towns. At least 300,000 people have been displaced by the forced relocations in central Shan State, another 50,000 in Karenni State, an estimated 300,000 or more in Karen State, and many throughout Tenasserim Division. Many of those who go to the SPDC-controlled relocation sites as ordered find that they cannot survive there for long because they are given no food or medicine, there is no work to get food, and the Army uses them for forced labour, so they eventually flee back into the forests and hills near their home villages to join those already in hiding there. For people living in hiding in the forest conditions are desperate. They can only live in small groups of families for fear of detection by SPDC columns, who will shoot them on sight or take them as porters if they are found. They forage for jungle vegetables and herbal medicines and try to grow rice in small patches, fleeing from one shelter to another whenever an SPDC column comes nearby. In the hills of northern Karen State, where tens of thousands of people are hiding, temperatures drop close to freezing at night in January and February. Many die of treatable diseases or are shot by SPDC troops.

Even under these conditions, most people are desperate to remain close to their land and only head for the Thai border to become refugees when they no longer have any other option. However, on arrival at the border many of them are now blocked or forced back by Thai troops. As a result, some of them have formed ‘IDP (internally displaced person) camps’ just on the Burma side of the border. Since September 1999, three of these IDP camps - at Tee Ner Hta, Meh La Po Hta and Law Thay Hta, all in Pa’an District of Karen State - have been attacked and destroyed by SPDC troops. A steady stream of Shan, Karenni and Karen refugees are now attempting to cross the border into Thailand, often forced to sneak across the border to avoid discovery and forced repatriation at the hands of Thai soldiers. If they manage to find their way into a refugee camp, they are generally kept in ‘holding centres’ for months; then Thai authorities routinely reject their claim to asylum but still allow them to register to receive food in the camp. Over 100,000 Shan refugees have crossed into Thailand, where there are no refugee camps for them at all so they have to disappear into the illegal labour market. Over 1,000 more Shan refugees are now arriving each month, and the job market can no longer absorb them so life in Thailand with no form of protection from arrest and deportation is extremely difficult.

Papun District

Conditions are particularly difficult for the tens of thousands of people displaced by the SPDC campaign to destroy hill villages in northern Papun District. Many of them have been surviving in the forest for 3 years now, always having to dodge passing SPDC columns, foraging for food and taking the risk of being shot on sight. Conditions have recently become even more frightening because SPDC units have been landmining the ruins of their villages. An increasing number are now trying to get to refugee camps in Thailand, but the journey is dangerous and they face the risk of forced repatriation if discovered by Thai troops once they cross the border. For more details see "Information Update #2000-U1" (KHRG, April 2000), "Wholesale Destruction" (KHRG, April 1998), and an upcoming KHRG report on the region, as well as photos from Photo Set 97-BPhoto Set 99-A and Photo Set 99-B.

Nyaunglebin District

Conditions in the hills of eastern Nyaunglebin District are very much like those in northern Papun District, which are described above (under ‘Papun District’). Thousands of internally displaced villagers are living in hiding in the forested hills with little food and no medicines, dodging SPDC patrols which systematically destroy their shelters and food supplies. These people are even further from the Thai border, and for those who decide they can no longer survive in their home area they must pass through the devastated area of northern Papun District to reach Thailand, where they also face the possibility of forced repatriation by Thai troops. For more information on their situation, see "Death Squads and Displacement" (KHRG, May 1999), "Wholesale Destruction" (KHRG, April 1998), and photos in Photo Set 99-B, Photo Set 99-A, and Photo Set 97-B.

Pa’an District

People continue to flee villages in eastern Pa’an District due to village destruction, forced relocation, and increasing forced labour as the SPDC increases its military presence in the region. This particularly involves forced labour as porters for SPDC combat columns penetrating into heavily landmined areas, and the villagers are regularly taken as human minesweepers. Many of the villagers who have fled these abuses are displaced in the Dawna mountains, but many have also attempted to cross into Thailand. Since August 1999, they have had to play cat and mouse with the Thai Army, which regularly forces new arrivals back across the border. For this reason, over 5,000 of them have ended up in ‘IDP camps’ just on the Burma side of the border, most of them in the largest of these camps, Meh La Po Hta, which began in late 1998. In September 1999, the SPDC attacked one of these camps at Tee Ner Hta, causing hundreds of villagers to scatter into the forest or into Thailand. Then in March/April 2000, the SPDC attacked and destroyed Meh La Po Hta, which was sheltering approximately 4,500 internally displaced people, and Law Thay Hta, which was sheltering several hundred more. Most of these people have now fled into Thailand, where an uncertain future awaits them because Thai authorities do not want to accept any new arrivals to existing refugee camps. For more information on the situation see "Beyond All Endurance" (KHRG, December 1999) and the photos in Photo Set 99-A and Photo Set 99-B.

Dooplaya District

When the SPDC mounted a mass military offensive and occupied most of Dooplaya District in 1997, tens of thousands of people fled their villages and many tried to make it to Thailand. Just under 10,000 made it, but many more were cut off by the SPDC Army’s rapid advance and became internally displaced. Some of these people managed to reach Thailand later, but most returned to try to survive in their villages. Despite heavy demands for forced labour and extortion, most of them were still managing to survive, but in late 1999 the SPDC began a clampdown throughout Dooplaya, particularly in Kya In township. In a meeting with the leaders of 70-80 villages on November 25 near Kya In Seik Gyi, the Army formally announced plans to confiscate the entire rice crop, forcibly relocate all small villages, and summarily execute anyone who had worked with the KNU in the past 15 years. Since then, more villagers have been fleeing to become internally displaced, and several thousand have tried to enter Thailand. They report that people still living in the district are going hungry, surviving on taro roots because they have been forced to hand over all of their rice to the SPDC and do not dare face the soldiers every day, as ordered, to obtain their daily ‘ration’. The worst of the displacement in Dooplaya appears to have only begun. For more details, see "Starving Them Out" (KHRG, March 2000).

Karenni (Kayah) State

In 1995 the SLORC military junta made a ceasefire deal with the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP), but then broke it by attacking the KNPP. Since then, the SLORC and SPDC have tried to undermine the KNPP by forcibly relocating and destroying approximately 200 villages which cover the entire map of Karenni (Kayah) State. Thousands of people went to SPDC relocation sites while others fled into the hills to survive, where they are still fleeing SPDC columns who hunt them out. Most of those who originally went to the relocation sites as ordered have now fled those sites back to their home areas, because they had no access to food or work there and many were virtually starving to death. Since late 1999 the SPDC has increased its efforts to destroy any remaining village structures and food supplies and root out these villagers, and their circumstances are desperate. Most of them have little or no food, and many are dying of treatable diseases compounded by malnutrition. The trip to Thailand is extremely difficult and dangerous, and those who have managed to make the trip are finding it extremely difficult to gain entry to Thailand without being forced back by Thai troops. For further background see "Continuing Fear and Hunger" (KHRG, May 1999) and photos in Photo Set 97-A.

Shan State 

An estimated 300,000 Shan villagers have been displaced by the SLORC/SPDC’s forced relocation and destruction of approximately 1,500 villages in central Shan State since 1996. Though this campaign was intended to undermine the Shan State Army, it has been ineffectual, so the SPDC has responded by expanding and intensifying it. The SPDC has expanded the area being relocated and has consolidated people into larger and larger relocation sites while providing no food or medicine, and no work except unpaid forced labour. The people in the relocation sites are desperate, so many have fled into hiding. SPDC units have committed several massacres of villagers trying to return to their home villages to forage, even those having permission passes to do so. People living in hiding are finding that they cannot survive any more, and over 1,000 people per month are crossing into Thailand to join the 100,000 or more who have already crossed. In Thailand there are no refugee camps for them, so they have no choice but to enter the illegal labour market. Shan refugees can now be found in the fruit orchards of northern Thailand, the building sites of Chiang Mai, Bangkok and other cities, and in bonded or slave labour in brothels, sweatshops, and Thai households. The steady flow of refugees has overflowed the northern job market, forcing Shan refugees either to live under desperate conditions or to seek work further afield in Thailand, which only makes them even more vulnerable to exploitation. For further information, see "Exiled At Home" (KHRG, April 2000) and reports by the Shan Human Rights Foundation available via the Shan web site (www.shanland.org). 

V.  Landmines

Landmines are a rapidly worsening scourge in several parts of Burma, particularly in Karen State. Research done by Non-Violence International for the Landmine Monitor (part of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines) estimated that there were more landmine casualties in Karen State alone in 1999 than in all of Cambodia. Worse still, Thai hospitals along the Burma border have treated as many mine casualties in the first three months of 2000 as in all of 1999. As a landmine hotspot, researchers now place Burma second only to Afghanistan in all of Asia.

Landmines are used both by the SPDC Army and by several resistance groups in Burma. Neither the SPDC nor any of these groups have signed the international treaty to ban landmines. In the past, SLORC/SPDC forces used mines mainly around the perimeter of their camps and resistance groups used them for similar purposes and to trigger ambushes. However, since the SLORC/SPDC captured much of Karen-held territory in 1995-97 and the KNLA adopted guerrilla tactics, the number of active KNLA troops has declined significantly, and the KNLA began making up for this by using ‘landmine warfare’; protecting base areas and supply routes with mines instead of troops, mining pathways to restrict the movement of SPDC columns, and mining roads against military supply convoys. The KNLA produces most of its own mines from basic materials such as piping, explosive, scrap metal or shotgun pellets, a detonator and a cheap battery. None of these mines are mapped or cleared; the KNLA tells villagers which areas and pathways are mapped, but this information doesn’t spread quickly enough and many villagers are wounded or killed by KNLA mines.

The SPDC responded to the KNLA’s increasing use of mines by radically increasing its own mine use. The Chinese government supplied the SPDC with a factory to produce landmines domestically so the regime no longer needs to rely on supplies of Chinese or American mines. The SPDC now produces two main landmines: the MM-1 and the MM-2. The MM-1 is a copy of the Chinese-made PMOZ-2 or ‘corncob’ mine, and the MM-2 is a copy of the Chinese-made PMN mine; both of these Chinese models have been heavily used in Cambodia. The MM-1 is buried until just the top of the detonator, topped by the small activation button, is at ground level; the MM-2 is buried so that the flat top surface is at ground level, and the entire flat top is the activation surface. MM-1 mines can also be rigged as booby-traps with tripwires, and are more powerful than the MM-2. [For more photos and descriptions of these mines, see Photos #P1-P5 in Photo Set 99-A.] SPDC troops are now laying thousands of these mines, particularly through the Dawna mountains of eastern Pa’an District, and their mine use now far exceeds that of the KNLA. The SPDC units lay mines along pathways used by villagers and never inform the villagers of their location. In areas where they have ordered villages to relocate, SPDC units are now landmining the ruins of many of the villages because they know the villagers will return, and they have also landmined rice fields to prevent villagers from harvesting their crops. The SPDC troops, particularly in Pa’an and Dooplaya districts, are now routinely using their porters to march in front of Army columns as human mine detonators. Women and children are sometimes gathered for this specific purpose, and many villagers have fled their villages in fear of this. At the same time the DKBA (Democratic Karen Buddhist Army, allied to the SPDC), not wanting to be left behind, have begun heavy use of landmines in Pa’an District.

The result is an increasingly desperate situation for villagers and internally displaced people, particularly in Papun, Pa’an and Dooplaya districts. It appears that most of the casualties of landmines are SPDC soldiers, villagers, porters during their escape from SPDC columns, and KNLA soldiers, in that order. For more details on landmine use, see "Beyond All Endurance" (KHRG, December 1999), "Uncertainty, Fear, and Flight" (KHRG, November 1998), "Dooplaya Under The SPDC" (KHRG, November 1998), "False Peace" (KHRG, March 1999), "Caught in the Middle" (KHRG, September 1999), "Starving Them Out" (KHRG, March 2000), "Death Squads and Displacement" (KHRG, May 1999), photos #P1-P6P29, and N21 in Photo Set 99-A, and photos #42-44 in Photo Set 95-A

VI.  SPDC Deserters

As the SPDC continues to rapidly expand its Army, desertions also continue to increase. According to those who have fled the Army, the regime now gets many of its recruits by conscription lotteries in villages and townships, and many more by forcing soldiers to bring in 5 new recruits before they are allowed to leave the Army at the end of their multi-year term of duty. To fulfil this requirement, many soldiers hang around markets and schools and coerce boys aged 13-16 to come with them by holding out the promise of a uniform, a gun, and a salary. Many boys sign up and disappear without their parents ever knowing where they went, while SPDC youth organisations such as ‘Ye Nyunt Youth’ also funnel children, particularly orphans, into the Army. Once in the Army, the boys are brutalised by officers who also steal much of their pay and rations and then order them to get their food from the villagers. Communication with their families is censored, and many of them are illiterate so communication is impossible. Many deserters have told KHRG that most of the soldiers in their unit would have liked to escape, but feared retaliations against their families and knew that they would be arrested if they tried to return home; they are also afraid because they have been told that resistance groups will execute them, which is very seldom true (resistance groups often execute prisoners, but not deserters). As a result, some soldiers reportedly commit suicide. Even so, the rate of desertion is increasing. For examples of the testimonies of former SPDC soldiers and other related information, see Interviews #17-18 in "SLORC Abuses in Chin State" (KHRG, March 1997),  "Interviews With SLORC Army Deserters" (KHRG, May 1996), "Testimony of SLORC Army Defectors" (KHRG, August 1994), "Comments by SLORC Army Defectors" (KHRG, June 1994), Order #147 in "SPDC & DKBA Orders to Villages: Set 2000-A" (KHRG, February 2000), and Order #D1 in "SPDC & DKBA Orders to Villages: Set 99-A" (KHRG, February 1999).

VII.  Abuses in Thailand

There are at least 1 million ‘illegal’ people from Burma in Thailand outside the recognised refugee camps. Many of these are ‘economic migrants’, people who have gone to Thailand seeking work because their families can no longer subsist in Burma’s destroyed and corruption-riddled economy. A significant proportion of these ‘illegals’ would also have valid claims as refugees, but cannot go to refugee camps because there are no camps for them (only Karen and Karenni people presently have any possibility of admission to refugee camps) or because they do not want to go to refugee camps, either from fear or because they want to make money to take back home with them.

These people have no status or protection whatsoever, and are therefore regularly victimised by Thai police, corrupt officials, and their employers. Many are in bonded labour in sweatshops, brothels or Thai households, while others do underpaid labour on construction sites, in farm fields or fruit plantations. Their employers sometimes refuse to pay them for some time, then either throw them out in the street or pay the police to arrest them and take them away. Upon arrest, they face imprisonment in an Immigration Detention Centre, robbery and sometimes rape by the authorities, and summary deportation. In the past year the situation has become even worse, with the Thai government launching mass waves of arrests and deportations in Thai cities and border towns. Even in the midst of all of these threats, some of these people have told KHRG that the measly $1 a day they can make in Thailand (about 25% of Thai minimum wage) is much better than what they could make in Burma, and that "Even if we are arrested, life in a Thai jail is better than life in Burma - at least we get something to eat".