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KHRG #97-06 (Pipeline area)
RELOCATIONS IN THE GAS PIPELINE AREA
An Independent Report by the Karen Human Rights Group
April 20, 1997 / KHRG #97-06
[SOME DETAILS OMITTED OR REPLACED BY 'XXXX' FOR INTERNET DISTRIBUTION]
In February 1997, 5 villages in Kywe Thone Nyi Ma village tract of Ye Pyu
Township, Tenasserim Division were forced to move by SLORC: the
villages of Mae Taw, Cha Bone, Chaung Phyar, Mae Yaung and Mae
Than Taung. These villages lie just 10-15 km. north of the Yadana gas
pipeline being built by SLORC's MOGE oil company, French company
Total, and American company Unocal. American company Texaco is also
beginning work on the Yetagun pipeline in the area. The forced
relocations were conducted by SLORC Light Infantry Battalion #273,
which is directly responsible for gas pipeline security and is based in
Kanbauk, on the pipeline route adjacent to the oil companies' base camp.
LIB #273 also provides security for the base camp itself.
The gas pipeline is to run just south of the Heinze Basin, a large inlet on
the Andaman Sea coast. The 5 relocated villages lie near the coast just
north of the mouth of the Heinze Basin,while the pipeline is to come
ashore near Hpaungdaw, just south of the mouth of the Heinze Basin. The
reason given for the relocations was that there is a 'dacoit' (bandit) group
operating along the coast between these 5 villages and Hpaungdaw.
Ostensibly to seek out this bandit group and its stash of loot, SLORC
troops stormed Mae Taw village, tied up and tortured the village leaders,
disrobed, abused and robbed a monk, kept everyone in the village tied up
at the monastery for 4 days while they searched and looted every house,
then burned 4 houses and said that every villager in the region must move
to a village which has an Army camp. They then went to the 4 other
villages in the area to do the same, though they found many of the
villagers there had already fled after hearing what happened in Mae Taw
village. The 5 villages now lie abandoned, the villagers having scattered
to the large village of Kywe Thone Nyi Ma (on an island in the Heinze
Basin, with a camp of LIB 273) or northward to Ye or Thanbyuzayat.
There is a small group of armed men who operate a 'protection' racket in
this area; they are based on the sea and collect protection money from
boats and some villages along the coast. There are many such groups in
various parts of Burma, and in many other areas SLORC actively protects
and supports them in return for a cut of the takings, and because they tend
to undermine the activities of resistance groups in the area. SLORC's
brutal response against the villagers in this case, particularly when the
villagers have nothing to do with the bandits, is highly unusual and can
only be explained by the proximity of the pipeline project, which SLORC is
very anxious (and contractually obligated) to protect. There is also a
possibility that the bandit group is simply being used as a pretext to
relocate Mon villages from an area with easy sea access, via either the
Heinze Basin or the Andaman Sea, to the pipeline route. As is pointed out
by the 2 men interviewed in this report, the SLORC Navy and Army have
clamped down strongly on all movement of villagers in the area, both by
land and by sea.
The men interviewed also point out how the increased SLORC presence
created by the gas pipeline and the ceasefire (since 1995) with the New
Mon State Party are causing economic conditions in the area to worsen,
as SLORC clamps down on and takes over all economic activity in the
For further background on this area and the pipeline, see "Effects of the
Gas Pipeline Project" (KHRG #96-21, 23/5/96), "Forced Labour in Mon
Areas" (KHRG #96-20, 22/5/96), "Ye-Tavoy Area Update" (KHRG #96-
01, 5/1/96), and other related reports. The interview below was conducted
by KHRG in March 1997 with two men who fled Mae Taw village when it
was ordered to relocate, and are now internally displaced in another part
of Burma. Their names have been changed and some details of their flight
omitted in order to protect them. False names are enclosed in quotes;
other names are real. Some abbreviations used: SLORC = State Law &
Order Restoration Council, Burma's military junta; NMSP = New Mon
State Party, Mon resistance group which signed a ceasefire with SLORC
in June 1995; LIB = (SLORC) Light Infantry Battalion, with average
strength of 450-500 soldiers. The term 'village tract' refers to a group of
villages within a small area, with some form of central administration in
the main village (in this case, Kywe Thone Nyi Ma). It is sometimes
translated as 'village group' or 'village circle'.
TOPIC SUMMARY: Forced relocation (p.2,4-5,6), detention (p.2-4,7),
torture (p.2-3,6,7), torture and murder of 14-year-old boy (p.6),
abuse/disrobing/robbery of a monk (p.4), looting (p.2,4,5,7), burning
houses (p.4,5), other villages in the area (p.6), bandit gang (p.3),
extortion (p.5-7), forced labour as porters (p.5-7), porters for the Karen
offensives (p.7), railway forced labour (p.6), gas pipeline forced labour
(p.7), gas pipeline (p.5,6,7), travel restrictions (p.7-8), crop quotas
SLORC control of wood and other businesses (p.8), conditions since Mon
1) NAME: "Nai Thein Zar" SEX: M AGE: 46 Mon Buddhist farmer
FAMILY: Married, 4 children aged 2 to 13
2) NAME: "Nai Win Soe" SEX: M AGE: 43 Mon Buddhist farmer
FAMILY: Married, 6 children
ADDRESS: Mae Taw village, Kywe Thone Nyi Ma village tract, Ye Byu Township
Q: When did you arrive here [opposition-held territory inside Burma]?
1: On 24th February 1997. I couldn't stay in my village because the
Burmese forced us to leave our village. Now nobody is staying there
anymore. I had to leave - if I refused to leave I would be punished.
Q: How many houses are there in your village?
1: There are about 100 households in my village. All the people are Mon.
Q: When did the SLORC order you to move?
1: At the beginning of February the Burmese troops came into our village.
They forced all the villagers including women, children and the elderly
together in the monastery. Then the troops went out into the village and
they searched every house and looted some belongings and they burnt down
some houses. They also tied everyone together with rope in groups of 13.
They tied all of us like that in groups of 13, including all the women. They
didn't tie the children. But they specially tied up the village headman and
the young men and they beat them. They tied them and they beat them.
They also beat two women.
Q: What kind of beatings?
1: They tied us and then they asked some questions of the villagers. Some
villagers cannot speak Burmese, so they couldn't answer and they were
beaten. The village headman was also beaten and they cut his body with a
knife. They tied the villagers in groups, and then they beat them and
tortured them with a knife group by group. They did it inside the
monastery. When they were mistreating one group, another group of
villagers saw that and they were afraid and tried to get out of the hall [the
monastery gathering hall] and flee. Then the troops shot at them. One
man broke free and tried to flee from the monastery. They shot at him but
didn't hit him. He was afraid and stopped running. They captured him and
beat him several times in the head with their gun butts. They beat his head
from all sides. The whole of his head was bleeding and his face became
black. He had many wounds on both sides of his head. They also beat him
with a wooden stick on his thighs, and he lost consciousness. Then they
brought him back to the monastery. When I came here, he was still
receiving treatment and he could neither urinate nor eat any food, so I am
not sure whether he will recover or not.
They also arrested one man who works in the monastery [layman] and beat
him with a nail. He was one of the men who was in the monastery to help
the monk build the new building. The monastery was being built, and they
took a nail from a post and hit his head with this nail. The blood came out
of his wound for the whole night. The villagers worried that he would die,
so the next morning the soldiers treated him. He recovered, but not so well.
They also asked the women questions in Burmese. The women didn't
understand and didn't know how to answer, so the soldiers got angry and
beat them. Two women were beaten. Both of them were pregnant. When
the soldiers realised that these women were pregnant, they stopped beating
them and said, "If you were not pregnant, I would kill you!"
As for the men, they mainly beat the village leaders, 5 of them, and those
who tried to flee, another 10 men. Altogether, about 15 people were
beaten. Most of the village leaders are elderly. The eldest one is about
years old. Those who usually work in the monastery are old men.
Q: Why did the SLORC come to your village?
1: The main reason that they gave to the villagers was, "In your village we
have no military base, so your village has to move to where there is a
military base". They also told the villagers, "You are the supporters of a
dacoit [bandit] gang which is operating in this area." They accused the
monk and the layman-in-charge at the monastery of receiving some funds
from these dacoits. Over one year ago, almost two years, one of these
dacoits used to stay in our village. He was not from our village but married
a woman from our village. He left a long time ago, never returned and
never had any contact with the villagers, even with his wife, for a long
When the troops came they asked for two dacoit men. Their main
questions were, "Where are these two men? Where do they stay?" As
these men hadn't come back for a long time, the villagers told them, "We
don't know. They haven't been here for a long time." They asked
everyone, one by one. I was tied up like everyone else, but I wasn't beaten
because I can speak a little Burmese.
Q: Why is the SLORC so afraid of these dacoits?
1: In other areas, like in Hpaungdaw area [where the gas pipeline comes
on shore], this group of robbers are also active there. They also rob
who travel in the sea. They used to take some hostages, maybe some
traders, and demand cash from these traders or businesses. But I don't
know why the SLORC came and asked our monk. He was building a
monastery and they accused him of using cash received from these robbers.
They took his donations that he got from the villagers. Many villages from
the village tract, even Kywe Thone Nyi Ma, had given donations to the
monk to construct this new building. The monk had just started to build the
buildings so he had a large amount of cash - not he himself but the layman-
in-charge. The monk takes responsibility to collect donations from the
villagers in his village and the surrounding villages for the construction of
the monastery, but when he receives the money he cannot keep this money
with him according to our religious tradition [monks are not allowed to
handle money], so he gave it to the laymen who work for him. The 5
village elders were managing the money. They had to buy the wood and
building material and manage the construction work. The Burmese troops
accused them of getting that cash from the robbers, but they never met the
robbers and the robbers had never been back to the village. The monk had
140,000 Kyats for the building work. I don't know who told them that the
monk had this money.
Q: How many monks are there in the monastery?
1: Only one monk.
Q: Did they beat the monk?
1: No, but they disrobed him. They took his robe off. They searched
everywhere in his monastery looking for where he put the cash, and they
also searched his body and his robe. They didn't find anything. The
donations were kept in one place, in a box at the monastery. They searched
everywhere in the monastery, and that same night they found the box with
140,000 Kyats and they took it. After they punished the villagers, the LIB
273 troops posted in Cha Bone village returned to Cha Bone and they
checked and made sure that the cash was from donations and not from the
robbers. Their higher officers told them that the robbers had 8 million
Kyats and the monk had very little money compared to that [the troops
believed the monk was hiding money for the dacoits], so after two days
they returned the money to the monk.
Altogether about 35 soldiers were in the village. They stayed in the village
for four days. For 4 days they kept everyone tied up in the monastery.
They didn't allow anyone to leave the monastery for 4 days. All the family
members were kept at the monastery, including the children. They would
only let one member of each family go to get food from their home, but
they told them not to cook the food in their house but to bring the food to
the monastery and prepare the food there. We were kept tied together all
the time, every day. We were tied hand to hand. So if you could sleep like
that, then you could sleep. But if someone needed to go to the toilet, the
whole group had to go. There were women's groups and men's groups.
They didn't tie the children but they didn't allow them to go outside of the
monastery compound. They didn't make any trouble for the building
workers at the monastery who were from other villages. They even allowed
them to continue building the monastery.
During that time they searched everything in the village, every house, house
by house. They took some of the villagers' belongings. On the last day
they also burnt down some houses, especially the houses of the village
leaders. Then they told us that we could not stay in our village anymore
and that we had to move. On the last day, all the belongings they took from
the villagers were gathered in the monastery. When they returned back to
Cha Bone, it was too much for them to carry. They carried some of it, then
they returned to the village again and told the villagers: "We are leaving
here, do not stay in this village." After that, the villagers felt they had
to leave. They returned to their houses and packed their belongings and
closed up their boxes.
Q: Where did SLORC tell you to go?
1: They didn't say where we should go, but they said that we must stay in a
village where there is a military base. Most of the villagers moved to Kywe
Thone Nyi Ma village. LIB 273 has a camp there. Some moved to villages
in Thanbyuzayat township and Ye township [100-200 km. to the north].
Q: How were you all released?
1: They just untied us. And at that time they also burnt some houses - four
2: At that time, they burnt my house. When my house was burnt down I
was not there. I was in hospital. When I came back to my village, I had no
house and nothing left.
In my village, the village leaders are the elderly people who helped the
monk. My mother is one of them. She is old and works with the monk.
When I was hospitalised in Rangoon, only my mother was left in the house.
They forced my mother to go to the monastery. She is very old and did not
take anything with her from the house. I lost 100 baskets of paddy in my
house and all our belongings were burned up. I had a big house. To build
it I spent 150,000 Kyats. Everything was very good, like the furniture - I
lost everything, furniture, clothing, rice, fishpaste, salt ... and the
And because of the flames, about 6 coconut trees and durian trees also
4 or 5 days after they burnt my house down I arrived back at my village.
When I arrived with my wife, we couldn't find anyone in our village. My
mother and my children had all gone to Kywe Thone Nyi Ma. I found
Q: And what about you?
1: No, my house was not burnt. But they took everything they could carry,
like clothes, pots, tools, rice and animals. For the other villagers it
was the same. During those 4 days the soldiers killed all our chickens and
ducks and cooked very good curries for themselves. They had 10 porters
with them and they loaded the porters with our belongings. When the
troops left on the last day, we saw the porters carrying things with them.
We thought that they were carrying away just a few of our things. Only
later did we realise that a lot of things were taken from our houses.
First they loaded their porters with things like longyis [sarongs] and
villagers' possessions and made them go first. Then they took about 15 of
our own villagers to carry their equipment and ammunition that the porters
had brought when they first came. They had to carry everything to Cha
Bone village. According to the Cha Bone villagers, when they got there the
soldiers kept the old longyis and they had to load boats with all the
belongings of the Mae Taw villagers, and then these boats went to Kanbauk
[at the southern tip of the Heinze Basin - Kanbauk is the main village on
the pipeline route, much of the military assigned to the pipeline project is
based there and the oil companies' base camp lies just outside of
Q: Who were the troops who came to Mae Taw village?
2: LIB 273. These troops are from Kanbauk.
Q: Do you know about the pipeline?
1: Yes, I heard about it.
Q: Do you think that the problems of your village are connected to the
1: I think that the dacoit group is only a small one, so they cannot cause
trouble to the pipeline. The SLORC forced us to leave our village because
of the robber group, but I don't know whether or not this is connected to
Q: What about the other villages?
1: At that time, the troops that came to our village also killed one child
about 14 years old from Maw Gyi village. They suspected the boy of
having contact with the robber group, so they arrested him and brought him
along with them to Mae Taw village and other villages. They beat him.
They ordered the boy to show the houses of the robbers. The boy was so
afraid, so he just pointed out some houses at random. The soldiers climbed
into these houses and searched everything and couldn't find anything. So
they beat him again and forced him again to show the robbers' houses but
he really did not know. I don't know why they accused this boy of
supporting the robbers. I don't know his name. According to the xxxx
village head, during the whole four days that they detained the villagers
forced the boy to show the houses and beat him. They beat him so
seriously. He was suffering from many injuries on his body. It was
I saw him at the monastery. When I saw him it was on the first day, and
the boy had already been beaten and had many injuries. His hands were
tied to his neck. He could do nothing but walk. After 4 days they took him
back to Cha Bone village again, and two days later the boy disappeared.
The villagers there were sure that he was killed. They didn't see his body,
but they knew that he'd been killed because the boy had so many injuries
that he couldn't eat and he was suffering a lot. The villagers believe that
even if he had been released he could not have survived.
Cha Bone village had to move after SLORC told them [to stay near a
military base]. In Cha Bone village, the men fled and the women collected
their belongings and started to move to Kywe Thone Nyi Ma. Chaung
Phyar village also. When the 4 other villages heard the news about Mae
Taw village, many of the villagers fled. They were afraid that the Burmese
would come and torture them like in Mae Taw village. Most of them
moved to Kywe Thone Nyi Ma and others went to other areas. So after the
incident in Mae Taw village, there were no more village headmen in the
other villages. The troops went around to the other 4 villages. They could
not find the village leaders and the men, and they ordered the women to
leave. [The villages which have been uprooted are Mae Taw, Cha Bone,
Chaung Phyar, Mae Yaung and Mae Than Taung, all in Kywe Thone Nyi
Ma village tract.]
Q: Do people in your area have to do forced labour?
1: Yes, we've had to work on the [Ye-Tavoy] railway for the last 3 years.
Every month we had to work at the railway construction site, and if we
could not go we had to give 3,200 Kyats and half a tin of rice [about 8
kg./18 lb.] every month. Sometimes we had to work twice in one month,
sometimes once. Usually we had to work for two weeks every month, one
person per family. Up to June 1996 we had to do this work. When the
rains started, we stopped. After the rainy season, we didn't have to do it.
In January they ordered each family to provide two kyin of crushed stones
and deliver that to the railway [one kyin = 10 x 10 x 1 feet, i.e. 100 cubic
feet]. If you could not do it you had to pay between 700 and 1,000 Kyats
for each kyin. Many villagers were afraid to travel to the railway and be
arrested as porters, so they paid the money instead.
After the rains stopped in September, we had to pay porter fees of 2,000
Kyats every month. Kywe Thone Nyi Ma village has a military base. They
don't call for any porters but we have to pay 2,000 Kyats. In the other
villages of Kywe Thone Nyi Ma village tract people also have to pay 2,000
Kyats per month. But when the troops come to the village they will still
arrest you. Also in my village - every month our headman has to send the
porter fees to Kywe Thone Nyi Ma but when they come to our village,
sometimes they still order people to carry. [In other words, LIB 273 has a
standing order that every village must send 2,000 Kyats/month 'porter
fees' but has no standing order for porters; they just come and catch
porters whenever they want them.] They usually take porters for up to
two weeks going from one village to another, and then they change with
other porters from other villages and you are released to go back home.
When I came here, they had already been arresting porters for the Karen
offensive but none of them had returned yet. [These are the current mass
offensives in Dooplaya District of Karen State, 150-300 km. to the
northeast, and in Mergui/Tavoy District of Tenasserim Division, 150-200
km. to the southeast - these are huge distances to take porters away from
their homes; there are reports that thousands of people have been taken
from the entire Andaman seaboard, from Moulmein to Mergui, to be
porters in these offensives.] I don't know whether they arrested anyone
from Mae Taw village for the offensive because it was happening at the
same time that we had to move. I heard that they arrested people mainly in
Kywe Thone Nyi Ma village, especially the visitors and the traders. They
caught everyone. Their base is near the road [the main north-south road
on the mainland], and when the passenger cars arrived from Tavoy or from
Ye, they stopped them and caught people. Also in the sea, they stopped all
the passenger boats and arrested the people to be porters.
The village chairman of Cha Bone was arrested at the end of January and
they kept him for 15 days. They beat him seriously. He nearly died. Nai
XXXX is the headman of Cha Bone. He is over 40. I don't know why they
arrested him. They detained him in Bauk Pin Gwin and Nat Gyi Zin. They
have a military outpost there. They detained him and beat him for 15 days.
His relatives looked everywhere for him, and after 15 days they found him
in the outpost near Bauk Pin Gwin. He had been tortured: his face was
beaten, and they covered his face and held his head underwater. When his
relatives came to fetch him they brought money for the military, but the
military did not accept it. They ordered them to bring four big boats full
paddy-husks to Bauk Pin Gwin because they have to make bricks for
railway construction. To bake the bricks they use paddy-husks for the fire
as well as wood. At the time they needed fuel so they didn't accept the
bribe. But now Nai XXXX has moved to XXXX, so now his
relatives have to collect the husk in that area, send it to
the road and then by lorry to Bauk Pin Gwin.
Q: Has there been any forced labour on the gas pipeline or in the army
camps near the pipeline?
1: For about one and half or two years they used the Kywe Thone Nyi Ma
villagers. After that, they didn't call them any more.
Q: Can the villagers travel freely?
1: Even to go to your farm, you need permission from the village headman
and then you have to show it to the military commander to get him to sign
it. If you don't carry your permission with you, they will punish you.
time we have to pay 45 Kyats to the village headman for that. Before, it
didn't used to be like that. They started this at the beginning of 1996.
only to go to your farm - wherever you go, if you want to go to town or if
you want to visit another village you need it. Without this paper, you can't
Q: What about the situation for the fishermen?
1: It depends on the area. In the area where the gas pipeline passes
through they have to give money to the Army. In Kywe Thone Nyi Ma
area, they have to give them I don't how many kilos of seafood, like fish,
fish paste, dried fish, and dried prawns once a year for free. Also, very
often when the troops come to a village they demand so many kilos of fish
from the villagers and the fishermen have to provide it. When the troops
come into any village of a village tract, the villagers from that village
have to provide everything for their military operation like pigs, rice, etc.
After the troops leave, the headman goes and collects cash in all the
villages of the village tract [to cover the cost of the supplies].
They have checkpoints along the seacoast. If you leave Kywe Thone Nyi
Ma and go south [towards the pipeline], you will meet one checkpoint.
The military check and do not allow the boats to travel at night time. When
you are sailing a bit far from the coast, they stop and check your boat,
because now they have many Navy ships and almost every island and
village close to the sea now has a military base. This increase has happened
especially since 1996. After the ceasefire [with the New Mon State Party],
they built new army posts in inland villages too.
Q: Is the situation in your village better after the ceasefire?
1: Worse. There has been no improvement. The situation now is worse
than before. Before the ceasefire, we didn't need to give them as much
money as now. Since the ceasefire more [SLORC] military comes to our
village, and they come very often, and we have to provide them with money
and labour. We cannot go freely to our farms or to other villages for our
work like before. Because of that, we've lost a lot of opportunity to work
on our farms, in the plantations and to conduct trade. We've also lost a lot
of our own resources. The military are doing business too. They force the
villagers to sell them rice for a low price. It's the same for those who
plant rubber trees, lemon and betelnut trees. They have to sell to the
military for a low price and the military takes all the profits. Before the
ceasefire we had to give 4 baskets of paddy per acre to the military, and
after the ceasefire it increased to 10-12 baskets of paddy that we are forced
to sell to them at government price. They give us only 98 Kyats for one
basket when the market price is about 500 Kyats. I have no rubber
only a rice farm, but the owners of rubber plantations presently have to give
taxes sometimes in money, sometimes in rubber. When you plant rubber trees
you have to wait for 6 years before you can collect some rubber, but even
the owners of 3-year-old plantations have to pay these taxes. The owners
whose rubber trees are still small have to pay 500 Kyats per acre.
Another big business of the SLORC is hardwood. They are cutting the
trees in our area and they don't allow the villagers to cut them. Before we
could go freely to the forest and cut a tree. Now they do not allow us to go
to the forest, but they cut the trees themselves. They've monopolised the
entire wood business. They made a list of the villagers who saw lumber, and
they force these villagers to sell the lumber to the military base at a low
price, not at market price. They put an outpost near the sea so they can
arrest the villagers who refuse to sell to them. For example, they give only
8,000 Kyats for one ton of hardwood, but if you sell this on the market you
can get 30,000 Kyats, 3 to 4 times more.
Q: Since the ceasefire has there been more or less forced labour?
1: The same, before and after.
Q: After the ceasefire, did the SLORC start any development projects in
1: I haven't seen any.
Q: Was it difficult to come here?
1: I brought my family along, and we could carry only our clothes.
Q: What are you planning to do now?
2: For me, I have nothing left and I have no money. My health is not so
good. I came here to get some food and to help my family to survive. I
will try to do some jobs here and earn some money. I didn't want to stay
- [END OF REPORT] -
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