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KHRG #97-01 Part 2/4 (Karenni)
UPDATE ON KARENNI FORCED RELOCATIONS
An Independent Report by the Karen Human Rights Group
March 5, 1997 / KHRG #97-01
*** PART 2 OF 4: SEE PREVIOUS AND SUBSEQUENT POSTINGS FOR OTHER PARTS ***
[SOME DETAILS OMITTED OR REPLACED BY 'XXXX' FOR INTERNET DISTRIBUTION.]
NAME: "Soe Reh" SEX: M AGE: over 40 Kayah Buddhist farmer
FAMILY: Married, 6 children aged 2 months to 15 years
ADDRESS: Daw So Kyar village (#61), Shadaw Township INTERVIEWED: 21/1/97
I arrived here during October. At first I went to Shadaw [relocation site].
But I had not enough to eat and I was afraid of the SLORC.
In my village there were about 70 houses. In June [on 31/5/96] the
SLORC sent us a written letter to move. When I saw the order I went to
Shadaw. The SLORC said that all the villagers must go within 7 days.
They said: "Stubborn people are not as hard as bullets!" Then we were
afraid and we left. We couldn't carry everything, so we carried first all
useful things like pots, rice, blankets, etc... Some of our things were left
behind. The SLORC only gave one week for us to carry our belongings. If
we took more than one week they would make problems for us. When we
arrived in Shadaw, we had not enough food and we felt sick. Even the
clothes and the blankets were not enough. All my paddy was left behind
and it was destroyed by the SLORC. Most of our animals were killed by
the SLORC. Only very few remained. When I got back to my village, I
could only see the bones of our animals. They killed our animals and
destroyed our rice barns. I felt so depressed and decided to come here.
Q: Why did SLORC move your village?
A: I don't know what to think about that. When SLORC ordered us to go,
we just went.
Shadaw was no good place to live. It was so dirty. We couldn't eat or even
sleep. We could only live on the ground. There were so many sick people.
Many died. Every day 2 or 3 people died. They died of fever, dysentery
and cold. I arrived in Shadaw in June and I came here in October. You
can guess how many months! I couldn't build any house. There was no
bamboo, no trees, not even leaves to make a roof. Every material was very
far away to get. The SLORC only gave us 200 shingles of leaves to make a
roof [enough to cover a roof about 7 feet square, and even these were
probably demanded from local villagers]. But some people could do it,
some people have some money and they could buy the materials to build
their house. But not me. So I went to stay with my relatives in Shadaw
[village]. I didn't stay in the new place [the relocation site] because
were too many sicknesses, and the SLORC forced the people who live there
to work for them. During the first month I was also included in doing work
for them. I had to build a fence for the army camp. I couldn't do this for
long, so I went to my relatives and stayed there.
We had to cut bamboo, make a fence around ourselves [surrounding the
relocation camp], clear a place to grow beans [for the Army], clear the
roadsides of the car road and repair the car road. They forced each family
to cut 100 bamboos for them. Each bamboo had to be 15 feet long. It was
for the old army camp but the SLORC ordered us to rebuild it. There were
two fences, one around the camp and one around us.
At first, the people built shelters around Shadaw town. People were staying
under the houses, in the kitchens, under the trees in Shadaw town. But
then the SLORC didn't allow that and forced the people to stay together in
one place. The new place is very close to the army camp. I myself stayed
there. Inside the fences, it was full of people. I don't know how many.
Maybe 1,000 or 2,000. SLORC didn't allow them to stay around the town.
Many people were so depressed and some escaped from there. Sometimes
they allowed us to go out, but very seldom.
The relocation place is a flat area. It used to be untouched bush. Nothing
was ever planted there before. First we had to clear an area where we
could stay. Then SLORC decided that we had to clear another place to
live, and they used the first place to grow beans. The bean field was a
little far from the new place. I had to clear the new place too. But then
after one month, the SLORC forced us to move to a new place near their camp
and clear it again. As soon as we arrived we also had to cut bamboo and to
build a fence. My relatives saw me. They had pity on me and called me to
stay with them. They were already living in Shadaw town. When I left
Shadaw [to flee to the refugee camp in October], they had already planted
beans in the big place. Some people managed to build a house, but some
couldn't and they are trying to flee.
There was not enough food, so we went back to our own village to bring
back some food. Sometimes they allowed us to bring food if we had
nothing to eat. Only one person per family was allowed to go. If one time
was not enough, we could go a second time. I had to buy a pass for 2
Kyats to go back to the village. If our village was far, they would allow
us 2 days, but if the village was close they would allow only one day. If we
overstay the permitted time and the SLORC finds us along the way, they
will do to us whatever they want. My village was very far. If we start
walking at 6 a.m., we get there at 12 noon - at least 6 hours' walk. They
allowed us 2 days. But when we arrived in our village, SLORC had
destroyed everything and it was so depressing. Everything in the village was
completely ruined. Before we left, we had hidden some rice in the caves,
so we tried to get some rice from the caves. A little rice remained there,
so we could eat. Some rice was also left in some rice barns because the
SLORC hadn't found them.
My village was not burnt down, but if we try to stay there the SLORC will
burn it down. They do this when they see people staying there. More than
10 villages have already been burnt down. Some villages were destroyed -
they destroyed the walls and the rooves of the houses.
At first, they gave 6 milk tins [of uncooked rice] for 6 days [this is less
than half what an adult needs], but after one month they didn't give
anything. When the priest saw the people at that place, he talked to the
soldiers: "You called the people together here. Why don't you give them
enough food to eat? If you don't give enough food to them, I will try to
give some myself." Then the SLORC told him: "You can give, but you
have to give it to us first." But the priest didn't believe them, he said:
"If I give the food to you first, it will not go to the people." So the
priest couldn't give it any more. Then the people became really depressed
and tried to escape from that place. But some had a little money and could
Before, there were already some wells beside the stream but they were very
dirty. So we dug new ones to fetch water. There were many wells, more
than 10. SLORC said that they put some chemicals in the water to prevent
disease, but the people drank it and died.
Some people had malaria fever, others had dysentery. But almost all the
people who died, died of dysentery [possibly cholera, or dysentery
combined with something else; the symptoms are vomiting and diarrhoea].
Adults died, children died - but mostly children aged 7 to 9. I know about
one child - his mother died and his father sent him to the priest.
He was only two weeks old. There was a little clinic but when we got sick,
we couldn't get enough medicine to treat us. We didn't need to pay for it
but the medicines were not very effective, so some people went outside to
get good medicines and treated their diseases. Some went to the priest and
tried to get medicine from him. In other places, you have to pay 35 or 45
Kyats for one injection. No one died in my family. They were not
sick too often. Only once, one of my children felt seriously ill. I got
medicine from the priest and he got better.
I saw people being beaten but I didn't see anyone being killed. Sometimes
they arrested people on the road, then they brought them back to the new
place and beat them. They were beaten because they were found outside
without a pass or with an expired pass. These people were caught and
beaten. I saw three people like that. All three were men. They beat them
with a bamboo stick and kicked them all over. Their faces were swollen
and not nice to look at.
I escaped at a place on the other side of the gate. I broke the fence and
escaped. Some other people also broke the fence and escaped.
Q: But you were staying at your relatives' house in Shadaw town, weren't
A: The whole town of Shadaw is surrounded by a fence. The SLORC
soldiers have checkpoints, day and night. We escaped through the fence. It
is a new fence. After we arrived, the SLORC soldiers forced us to
surround the town with a fence. My wife and my children escaped together
with me at about 11 p.m. Five other families also used the same hole in the
fence. But there are other holes in the fence too, so many that I cannot
count them. Many families escaped that way. Two weeks after we escaped
from Shadaw, we arrived near here. At Tee Cha Ker mountain, we met
SLORC soldiers. They shot at us and we ran away and hid in a valley.
Later we started trying to come here again. The whole journey took about
15 days. Here it is better than under SLORC control. There are problems,
but we can stay in our house. Under SLORC, we cannot!
NAME: "Oo Reh" SEX: M AGE: about 40 Kayah Christian
ADDRESS: xxxx village, Shadaw Township INTERVIEWED: 12/96
["Oo Reh" was interviewed by a human rights monitor just after fleeing
Nwa La Bo relocation camp north of Loikaw. The 660 people confined in
the camp are mainly from Lawpita and Shadaw areas.]
In June 1996, the SLORC ordered us to move to Shadaw town within 15
days. When we arrived there, we had to sleep under the houses of the local
people. We couldn't stay like this. Our children were getting sick. That
is why we went back to our own village. After that, we received a warning
letter from SLORC again which stated that the troops will come and shoot
anyone who did not obey. We felt very afraid. So we immediately left our
village and our belongings, and we went to Loikaw. When we arrived at
Loikaw, they told us that we were not allowed to go back and they ordered
us to stay there.
We had to carry along our children, and we had to leave three old people
behind because they were unable to walk. We do not know whether they
are alive or dead. Once, when we got permission to go back and get some
rice from there, we saw that they were very sick. We proposed to the
Township LORC that we should be allowed to bring them. Do you know
what they replied to us? That we have to report to the Township LORC
when they die, but not now. How could we know, since we were staying at
Nwa La Bo? They are in xxxx village. We couldn't leave anyone to look
after them. No one dares to stay there. If the SLORC troops see them,
they will be beaten or shot. We told these old people to come with us, but
they were waiting for their sons to bring them. At that time, the SLORC
troops had already come twice and beaten these old people. They beat
them because they could not speak Burmese. The soldiers might have
asked them why they were staying there, but these old people could not
answer them in Burmese.
At this moment many people want to help us, but the SLORC gives no
permission to assist us. Monseigneur Sotero, the Archbishop of Kayah
State, planned to give us plastic sheeting for rooves, cooking pots and
blankets. He said that the cold season was coming up and that all the
refugees [internally displaced] would need to stay warm. But we need to
get permission before getting assistance, so we requested it of the Township
LORC officer. He replied that all the materials should be delivered first to
the Township LORC office and then they will be delivered to the refugees.
But if we put all these materials at the Township LORC office we will not
get anything. The officers would take it all for themselves.
The SLORC didn't provide anything there. We had to bring everything
ourselves. When we arrived at the bank of the Pon River, we contacted the
bishop and he sent two trucks to carry us. But then the SLORC asked us
why did we contact the bishop. Oh! If we did not contact the bishop, it
would have been very hard to bring our children and our rice. Each family
had to take along at least 3 or 4 children. We had to leave all the
behind. And the three old people.
The Township officer ordered us to grow beans. Each family had to grow
3 acres. When the beans were ready, the officer ordered us to harvest the
beans and share them out amongst the refugees. So all the refugees went to
harvest them happily, but then after we harvested them and put them all in
the camp, the Township LORC officers came and took all the beans away
by truck. And we got nothing.
We have to do labour for them. If any hard work needs to be done, they
order us to do it. If we do not work, we have to pay money.
The SLORC provides each adult with 2 small baskets of rice [about 3.5
kg.] per week and each child with 1 1/2 baskets per week. That is enough
rice, but we can only eat rice, no curry. We grew beans for curry but
SLORC took it all. Clothing was also provided by some organisations via
the SLORC. The Township authorities brought 20 bags of clothes to the
camp. They gave 5 pieces of clothing to each family, but we got the worst
quality clothes because they had already taken the best. Then they took
back the remaining clothes.
Health care! At first, they only gave us a few tablets. But now, no
medicine is available and the clinic is closed. The main disease is malaria.
Some children are attending Nwa La Bo school. There are 95 students.
In Nwa La Bo camp, there are about 660 people. We do not expect more
to come because no one is staying any longer in our area. Now the SLORC
troops have already burned down our villages. A lot of refugees already
fled to the Thai border. Some are staying in the SLORC concentration
camps. Some moved to KNPLF area, others moved to SNPLO area in
Shan State and some are hiding in the jungle. For those who are hiding in
the jungle, it is very sorrowful. A lot of them have already died because
there is no medicine when they have malaria. They dare not stay here and
cannot go to the Thai border. About 40 people have died. Now, there are
very few refugees left in Shadaw camp. Most of them fled to the Thai
Now they do not allow us to build a temporary church in the camp. Most
people are Roman Catholic. We told them that if we are not allowed to
build a church, we will go back [to their villages]. We want to live as God
preaches. They do not even allow us to sing carols at night [the interview
took place shortly before Christmas]. Our priest comes in the morning and
goes back in the evening because the authorities do not allow him to live in
the camp. Finally we built a temporary church with plastic sheeting for a
roof, but the Township authorities ordered us to pull it down. So we did.
The next day, our leader went to see the bishop and told him about that.
The bishop complained to the authorities of Kayah State LORC. After his
complaint, we got permission to build.
Previously, the priest and 10 people came to live with us and organise
health care for the refugees. But the Township authorities didn't like them
to live with us. They prohibited them to stay. They said that they were not
included in the list, so they could not live with us. Why not included? The
priest was forced to relocate together with us [he was from one of the
relocated villages]. So we requested the authorities to find a place for the
priest and to build a church but they would not allow it. The priest had to
go and stay at the bishop's church [in Loikaw].
We tried to find work outside of the camp, but the authorities do not allow
us to work. They don't like us to get any income. They just want us to do
their work. The intelligence officer told us that we would have to stay in
the camp for at least 3 years.
NAME: "Kay Reh" SEX: M AGE: 27 Kayah Christian (Baptist) farmer
ADDRESS: xxxx village, Deemawso Township INTERVIEWED: 28/1/97
["Kay Reh"'s village was forced to move to Tee Po Kloh relocation camp
in June 1996. He was arrested there in August with 11 others, tortured
and detained for 3 months at 3 different army camps before escaping to a
refugee camp. Five of the 12 men arrested died under torture.]
I arrived here around the end of November, because I am afraid of the
Burmese. I was in jail before I came. One and a half months in #54
Battalion prison and then another one and a half months in #530 Battalion
jail. Altogether 3 months. They suspected me of being a company
commander for KNPP.
They arrested me when I was building my house in Tee Po Kloh
[relocation camp]. On 28th August 1996, about 70 or 80 soldiers from
#429 Battalion from Baw Ker and 8 MI's [Military Intelligence officers]
from #27 Battalion came to the front of my house and shouted: "Is there
anyone in this house?" The MI's were wearing uniforms like the Burmese
soldiers wear. At that time I was eating in the kitchen. They called me
pointed their guns at me and blindfolded me with a towel. Then they tied
my hands and my legs to my neck with ropes like a pig, abused me and took
me to their camp on foot [the camp of #429 Battalion near Tee Po Kloh].
When I arrived there, they interrogated me. They asked so many questions,
like: "Where have you hidden the guns?" "Whom do you know?" "Who are
your relatives?" "How many relatives do you have?" So on and so on, like
that. When I replied that I didn't know, they handcuffed me, punched me,
slapped me and tortured me.
They arrested twelve of us and said that we were especially important for
investigation. The others were from other villages such as Tee Po Kloh,
Daw Ta Dar, and Daw Ku. We were treated as dangerous prisoners and
we were accused of being UG [underground agents] of KNPP. So they
tied us to 12 poles, interrogated us and tortured us.
Five of us died from their beatings in Tee Po Kloh. They beat us with
green bamboo. They hit all over our whole bodies, including our heads.
They poured water in our nostrils and our mouths. They tied plastic over
our heads [so that we could not breathe]. They also sawed my legs with a
hand-saw until they were bleeding. I still have some scars from that. They
didn't feed us any food nor water. Some soldiers gave water to a few
prisoners that they pitied. I fell unconscious, I don't know for how long.
When I was lying face down, a soldier pulled me up by the hair and blood
came out from my mouth and nose, and then I tried to sit by leaning my
back against something. The soldier asked me, "What are you doing?" and
I answered: "I only see God!". Five prisoners from our group died because
of their torture. Only 7 remained. From my village, two of us were
arrested at the same time but the other one died of their torture. He was
with a big wooden stick when they captured him. He died at the army
camp in Tee Po Kloh - altogether 5 people died there. They caught us in
Tee Po Kloh, took us to their camp and killed us.
They tortured me for one day, from 3 p.m. until 3 a.m. the next morning.
Then they stopped torturing me because 5 of us had already died. Instead
they put us out in the hot sun without any shelter around, and finally they
put us all in sacks like pigs. They tied shut the top of each sack and
us into a truck to take us away.
They took me to the #54 Battalion lockup in Loikaw. They had arrested
more people, because altogether we were 64 prisoners in four cells. They
still tortured me in the jail. They called out of the cells those they
to beat. They hit us on the back and on the chest and they rolled bamboo on
our shins. There were 64 prisoners and four cells in the jail, inside the
army camp. We didn't do any labour because we were not allowed to go outside
the jail. In our cells, I didn't see anyone with chains. They put 7 people
in a small cell. I couldn't lie down and it was difficult to breathe. The
food was only one small plate of plain rice without curry, and the water was
very little too. They only let us drink a little amount of water at 7 p.m.
3 or 4 prisoners died in the jail. They were suffering from serious diseases
and some of them didn't have any muscles left on their legs. There was no
medical care and no clinic, so they became so emaciated because of the
Burmese that they died. All the prisoners were accused of being suspects
by the Burmese. They were all Karenni. I felt sick. I caught a cold
because there was no blanket. I couldn't sleep at night. We just slept in a
sitting position because the cell was so narrow.
Then they transferred us by truck to another jail, #530 Battalion jail,
because new prisoners were going to arrive there. That jail is about 8 miles
east of Loikaw. #530 jail was a little better because we had a little chance
to breathe fresh air. It was bigger than the other one. There were 27
prisoners in my cell. Then they divided us into two groups and put one
group in another cell, so it was a little more comfortable for us and more
spacious. The food was the same. I was beaten there too. We were
tortured by the jail wardens when they were drunk with jungle rice liquor.
They punched me, kicked me, pulled our ears and walked on our stomachs
with their boots while we were lying face up. We didn't wear prisoners'
clothes. I didn't have to work. Only the prisoners who were not suspected,
because they were not Karenni, had to work. They were Burmese and
some of them were soldiers. They had shackles on their legs when they
were going out of the jail to work. They were from SLORC and were
punished because they didn't obey the rules of the Army.
When I was in that jail, I was in charge of distributing the food to others
my cell. There were 3 doors and they only opened one of the doors when
they gave the rice. No one except me could touch the rice pot. Two
soldiers pointed a gun at us when they were passing the rice pot to me. I
took it. Then when we gave the rice pot back, I told my friend: "Survive or
die, I will fight them to escape from here. Otherwise, we will surely die in
this jail! I will hit the soldier with the gun and you will take on the
soldier with the rice pot." The soldier who opened the door had no gun and I
gave him the rice pot. Then the soldier who had a gun turned his back. I
punched him and he fell down. My friend punched the other soldier and he
also fell face down. While we were running, the other soldiers shot at us.
There were two fences around the jail but they were opened in the daytime
for the officers to go in and out. Only the door of our cell stayed closed,
and it was only unlocked when the soldier came to give the rice pot for
dinner. Only the two of us escaped. First, we hid in the long grass and
bushes outside the jail fences while the soldiers were chasing us. I hid
there until 9 p.m. Then we moved again and reached xxxx village. I slept
one night in the paddy fields. I dared not leave in the daytime and departed
at 7 or 8 p.m. Finally I carried on to my village. I stayed there for
8 days and came here.
Last June  they ordered the villagers from xxxx [his village] to
move. They said that it was ordered by the gentlemen from the Army to
the Township LORC Chairman and then passed on to the Village Tract
LORC Chairman. The villages were Daw Put, Daw Pet, Daw Law Ku,
Daw Pru, Daw Bya, Tee Theh Kloh, Daw Ta Kleh, Daw Lyah Ku, Daw
Ku Siu, Daw So Ku,... About 11 or 12 villages moved to Tee Po Kloh.
The people were gathered inside a fence, a bit outside of Tee Po Kloh
village. They kept the people in a separate area. There was about one
furlong [220 yards] between Tee Po Kloh village and our area. The army
camp of battalion #429 was about 3 furlongs [660 yards] away, in a
separate place not inside the same area. They just guarded the fence from
the gates [they posted sentries at the gates in the relocation camp fence].
This fence had only 3 gates, where they watched for strangers. The fence
was built by the villagers when they arrived in Tee Po Kloh. We had to get
permission from the soldiers if we wanted to go out. We didn't need to pay
for the pass.
The SLORC ordered: "No one can say 'This is mine' or 'I am the owner'."
If someone says, "This is my bamboo!", SLORC will come and arrest them.
[This is apparently a threat against local villagers who protest that those
who have been relocated are stripping the area of bamboo.] "Everyone
can cut and get whatever they need to build a shelter", they said. So it was
not so difficult to get bamboo, but it was really difficult to get wooden
posts because there were no trees. The people could only build small
shelters. People could not go outside of the fences, neither could the
animals. When the situation was bad, if someone went outside the fence they
considered him as a stranger and shot at him. We had to build the shelters
according to SLORC restrictions. They told us how many bamboo would be
enough for each family. Then you could only count them and cut them down
according to the amount they said.
If one boh [big tin] of rice was enough for one person per month, they
would only distribute 8 kweh [bowls; 1 boh = 8 kweh = 64 milk tins] of
rice. They didn't allow us to go back to our village to get food. All our
livestock was left behind, such as cattle, goats, chickens, ducks, etc.
That's why we needed to buy rice from somewhere else.
In Tee Po Kloh I saw a lot of sick people. Some died. There was no clinic.
There was no school in the new place but there was one in the old Tee Po
Kloh village. I can't say whether the children can go to school or not
because it depends on their teachers.
Before I was arrested, the people had to do many things that the army
ordered them to do, but I don't know what happened when I was in jail.
For example, twelve people had to go to the army camp every day to build
their bunkers and trenches. They had to put big logs on top of the bunkers.
Twice I arrived back at my village. They didn't burn the village and they
didn't lay landmines but they took all the materials from our houses such as
the floorboards, the walls and the rooves, even the firewood. They killed
the livestock for their meals and took everything that looked nice for
themselves. I had more than 10 cattle. As for the whole village, the
villagers owned about 300 cattle and buffaloes. They didn't get the chance
to sell them, nor to look after them even for a short time. The SLORC
soldiers reported that they were going out on patrol to look for enemies.
They didn't, they just went to shoot and kill all the villagers' animals for
their food. I lost all, except two bullocks that I used. We could just take
few things along by cart when we first moved from our village to Tee Po
Kloh. Later, they didn't allow us to go out there again. The two bullocks
are still alive.
About 30 people escaped from Tee Po Kloh after they heard about my
arrest. Now I can't think of what to do.
- [END OF PART 2 - SEE SUBSEQUENT POSTINGS FOR PARTS 3 AND 4] -
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