SHRF MONTHLY REPORT
SHRF MONTHLY REPORT -- MARCH 2005
Last month, an ILO high-level delegation was snubbed by the SPDC top leader while on a mission to discuss how to end forced labour and protect labour rights in Burma, prompting them to cut short their stay because they would not be able to accomplish anything without meeting with the concerned highest-ranking SPDC authority.
The SPDC top brass refused to see the ILO high level team citing the on-going so-called National Convention, in which he has not been seen actually taking any part, as his excuse, rendering the well-meaning effort of the UN body in vain and causing a waste of time and funds.
Over the last several years, the Burmese junta has time and again promised the ILO and members of the international community that they would stop using unpaid civilian forced labour and has even issued orders banning it. But in reality, the junta has shown little interest in actually stopping it.
Various types of forced labour, routine as well as occasional, systematically imposed on the civilian populations by the SPDC troops in Shan State are still going on unabated with no action ever taken against the perpetrators by the concerned authorities, let alone punishment.
In this months issue, apart from some incidents of killings, rape and beating, etc., a special section is given to incidents of forced labour received by SHRF during late 2004 and early 2005.
DISPLACED FARMERS SHOT DEAD WHILE REAPING RICE IN NAM-ZARNG
On 23 November 2004, 2 displaced farmers who were reaping rice in their farm were shot at by SPDC troops from No. 21 Military Operation Management Command (MOMC) in Kho Lam village tract, Nam-Zarng township, killing one on the spot and seriously wounding another who also died a few hours later.
Zaai Kaw (m), aged 37 and Zaai Tink (m), aged 30 were originally from Ton Hung Mawkzili village in Ton Hung village tract, Nam-Zarng township, which had been forcibly relocated to Kho Lam village relocation site in Kho Lam village tract, Nam-Zarng township, in 1996 by the then SLORC (State Law and Order Restoration Council) troops.
During the last rice cultivating time, the 2 men had gone back to stay at their old village and grow rice at their original rice field. Nothing happened until the rice was ripe and ready to be harvested, so they started reaping the rice.
However, on the day of the incident, while the 2 farmers were reaping rice in the farm, a patrol of SPDC troops from the Kho Lam-based No. 21 MOMC came and shot at them, killing Zaai Kaw instantly. Zaai Tink was hit in the stomach but managed to ran back to their village and died on the same night.
A FARMER SHOT DEAD WHILE FETCHING WATER IN MURNG-KERNG
In November 2004, a farmer who was harvesting his remote rice farm was shot dead by SPDC troops from LIB514 while he was fetching water in a brook in Ham Ngaai village tract, Murng-Kerng township.
On 18 November 2004, Wi-Sa-La and his family, from Khaai San village in Ham Ngaai village tract, Murng-Kerng township, went to harvest their rice farm some distance from their village. At around noon, as they took a break to eat their day meal, Wi-Sa-La went to fetch water from a brook near their farm.
A patrol of about 20-25 SPDC troops from LIB514, led by commander Myint Zaw, came and, without giving any warning or asking any question, shot from a distance at Wi-Sa-La as he was fetching water in the brook, killing him on the spot.
When the SPDC troops came near and saw that the person they had shot was just a farmer who had come to fetch water for his family who were working in the nearby farm, they hurriedly left the site without mentioning anything.
A VILLAGER SHOT DEAD IN NAM-ZARNG TOWN
In November 2004, a villager who was acting as an informer for the SPDC troops of IB66 was shot dead by them while he was collecting information at night in Nam-Zarng town relocation site, Nam-Zarng township.
Zaai Mawng Nyunt (m), aged 29, was originally from Haai Phak village which had been relocated to Nam-Zarng town in 1998. Because he spoke Burmese quite well, he did not like to work like other villagers but managed to survive by providing information for the SPDC troops in the area, especially the commander of company No. 3 of IB66, Khin Maung Lat, and getting something in return.
At one point, not very long before he was killed, the SPDC troops were said to have said to Zaai Mawng Nyunt, Mawng Nyunt, you are Shan. By acting as an informer for us, arent you being a traitor to your own kind, and how could you be trustworthy to us?.
On 19 November 2004, at about 10:30 p.m., while Mawng Nyunt was roaming and collecting information in the Nam-Zarng town relocation site, he was shot dead by SPDC troops who were patrolling the streets in the relocation site.
FIREWOOD GATHERER RAPED AND KICKED IN MURNG-PHYAK
In September 2004, one of 2 women who were gathering firewood was raped and kicked by SPDC troops of IB221, while the other escaped, in the forest near Nam Naang village in Murng Lung village tract, Murng-Phyak township.
On 15 September 2004, Naang Seng, aged 21 and her friend, Naang Man, both from Nam Naang village in Murng Lung village tract, Murng-Phyak township, went to gather firewood in the forest some distance from their village.
As the 2 women were gathering firewood a patrol of about 15 SPDC troops from IB221, led by Capt. Sein Lwin, came along and on seeing them, accused them of being wives of Shan soldiers and arrested them.
Even though the women said that they were just from the nearby Nam Naang village and their husbands were at the village, the SPDC troops did not believe them and, accusing them of telling lies, Capt. Sein Lwin dragged Naang Seng into a nearby bush. As the troops focused their attention for a moment on their captain and Naang Seng, Naang Man slipped into the thick undergrowth and escaped.
The SPDC captain then raped Naang Seng to his satisfaction, and kicked her 2-3 times before continuing their patrol towards Murng Pak village tract.
As the villagers were gathering and preparing to go after Naang Seng after learning about the incident from Naang Man who had escaped from the SPDC troops, Naang Seng came crying into the village and told the villagers that she had been raped and kicked by the SPDC troops.
Although the villagers knew the name and the unit of the SPDC soldier who had raped and kicked Naang Seng, no one dared to lodge a complaint with the authorities for fear of further abuses.
A MOTORCYCLIST BEATEN, MONEY EXTORTED, IN KAENG-TUNG
In late 2004, a villager who was driving a motorbike to the town market was beaten and money extorted from him by the SPDC policemen manning a checkpoint at Nam Laab bridge, about 2 miles east of Kaeng-Tung town, Kaeng-Tung township.
On 31 October 2004, Zaai Sai Paan (m), aged 36, from Nawng Paan village in Yaang Kaeng village tract, Kaeng-Tung township, drove his motorcycle to Kaeng-Tung town market. When he reached the said checkpoint, he was stopped by the policemen taking charge there.
The police said they would confiscate the motorcycle because Zaai Sai Paan was driving without a safety helmet and forcibly took it from him. Zaai Sai Paan repeatedly asked the police to give him back his motorcycle saying that nothing was wrong with it, and it had nothing to do with him not wearing a safety helmet.
One of the police officers, the leader of the group, became angry and beat and kicked Zaai Sai Paan severely several times until blood came out from the wounds in his head, and told him to pay a fine of 2,000 kyat if he wanted the motorcycle back.
Although he was released with his motorcycle after paying a fine of 2,000 kyat, Zaai Sai Paan had great difficulties driving it because of the injuries from the beating. Fortunately, one of his friends who saw him on the way helped him get to the hospital in Kaeng-Tung town.
The wounds in Zaai Sai Paans head had to be treated with 7 stitches. Later, he lodged a complaint with the SPDC authorities in Kaeng-Tung town for being unfairly treated by the police officer. But no actions have been taken regarding the case up to the time of this report.
FORCED LABOUR SITUATION IN LATE 2004 AND EARLY 2005
The following are some incidents of forced labour received by SHRF during late 2004 and early 2005. It is obvious that the use of forced labour with impunity by the SPDC troops in Shan State is still going on unabated, especially in the rural areas. Not only the SPDC troops but also their allies, like a Pa-O ceasefire group reported in this newsletter, have been able to use forced labour with impunity.
FARMERS FORCED TO SERVE AS UNPAID PORTERS FOR SEVERAL WEEKS IN MUNRG-TON AND MURNG-PAENG
In November and December 2004, 10 farmers who were reaping rice at a farm in Murng-Ton township were seized by SPDC troops from LIB519 and forced to serve as unpaid porters for 24 days after which their partly reaped rice was ruined, causing them to flee.
On 20 November 2004, a patrol of SPDC troops from LIB519 surrounded and seized 10 farmers, 6 men and 4 women, who were reaping rice at a farm in Wan Naa village tract, Murng-Ton township, and forced them to carry their things and go with them towards Murng-Paeng township.
The farmers had to carry heavy loads for 3 whole days until they reached Nam Paeng Lin village in Murng Pu Long village tract, Murng-Paeng township, and were forced to stay there with the troops for 17 days, and had to carry their loads back on their return trip, which took 4 days back to their base.
The farmers had to rest for about 4 days before they could go and look at their partly reaped farm which they had left when they were seized by the SPDC troops. Most of the rice was ruined and the farmers could only manage to secure some of it, which would hardly last them a few months, let alone until the next harvest.
Having lost their major means of survival the farmers were so frustrated that they all fled to the Thai border, reaching it sometime in late January 2005 and hoping to be able to survive somehow.
The victims were: Zaai Thi (m), aged 25, Naang Khawt (f), aged 19, Lung Khat (m), aged 47, Lung Maai (m), aged 45, Zin-Ta (m), aged 39, Nya-Na (m), aged 30, Zaai Seng (m), aged 29, Naang Yong (f), aged 31, Naang Thun (f), aged 33 and Naang Zing U (f), aged 35.
PEOPLE FORCED TO GROW CROPS IN ADDITION TO OTHER TYPES OF FORCED LABOUR IN MURNG-NAI
In January 2005, people in Murng-Nai township were forced to cultivate rice for the military by SPDC troops of IB248 on hundreds of acres of villagers rice fields in Murng-Nai townships. The people not only had to provide free labour but also free mini-tractors and provide their own food during forced labour.
About 300 acres of villagers
rice fields with good irrigation in Naa Khaan village tract north of Murng-Nai
town were chosen and the villagers in the area were forced to grow rice for the
military by IB248, based at Nam Maw Som north of Murng-Nai.
People with mini-tractors had to plough the fields using their own fuel and providing their own food, while those who did not have tractors had to work in sowing the seeds and planting the seedlings in the fields. The SPDC troops did nothing except provide the seeds and oversee the villagers work.
It was said that the villagers would also have to constantly look after the fields until the rice was ripe and completely harvested. Only then would the fields be returned to them to start growing their own crops. However, the villagers complained that since they could not nurture the soil by applying natural fertilizer, which they usually did during the cold seasons, the crops would certainly be poor.
This forced labour to cultivate crops for the military has been imposed on the people in addition to other types of forced labour. People are still required to provide routine forced labour in military camps such as clearing bushes and grass, clearing trenches, planting flowers, building fences and running errands, etc.. Mini-tractors passing through checkpoints near military camps are often forced to provide forced labour before they are let go. They have to transport bricks, fetch water and transport sand, etc..
PEOPLE FORCED TO STAND GUARD, MONEY EXTORTED, IN MURNG-PAN
Since January 2005, people in Murng-Pan town have been forced to stand guard day and night with the SPDC troops at the pagoda at Loi Noi village, in Murng-Pan township, on a rotation basis, 10 persons at a time, for 24 hours.
In January 2005, 10 people from each of the town quarters in Murng-Pan town were forced to undergo a short 10-day militia training course to reinforce the peoples militia force to stand guard at Loi Noi pagoda, because numbers of the existing militiamen were not enough.
After the training, 10 of them have been required to stand guard at Loi Noi pagoda for 24 hours at a time, on a rotation basis. Those who could not go for some reasons on their turns would have to pay 1,000 kyat to hire another militiaman to go instead.
Townspeople who are not members of peoples militia are required to provide money on a monthly basis in 3 categories according to their financial and social status, 1,000 kyat, 2,000 kyat and 3,000 kyat per month.
PEOPLE FORCED TO STAND GUARD IN TA-KHI-LAEK
Since December 2004, people in Ta-Khi-Laek township have been forced by township SPDC authorities to stand guard day and night with the SPDC troops, police and peoples militia in several village tracts in Ta-Khi-Laek township.
Villagers have had to take turns, 3 houses at a time for 24 hours, and guard strategic places and the entrances of almost every village with the SPDC troops, police and peoples militia in village tracts such as Murng Phong (a) and (b), Phang Min, Murng Kok, Ta Lur and Murng Laen.
Even though the SPDC authorities
said it was a combined effort to protect the village communities, the villagers
see nothing for them to be protected from and regarded it as a waste of time
which has been taking them from their livelihood.
People in other townships such as Murng-Phyak and Murng-Yawng have also been reported to be facing the same fate as in Ta-Khi-Laek.
FORCED PORTERAGE IN LAI-KHA
In late 2004, a man was forced to serve as an unpaid porter 18 times during a period of 4 months by the SPDC troops in Lai-Kha township, causing him to flee to the Thai border.
During a period of 4 months, from September to December 2004, Zaai Kham (m), aged 25, of Phuay Hai village in Phuay Hai village tract, Lai-Kha township, was forced to serve as an unpaid porter 18 times by the SPDC troops in the area, at least 3 days at a time. At one time, Zaai Kham had to serve 12 days in a stretch.
During the 4-month period, Zaai Kham had had no time even to rest, let alone to work for his living. It was simply too much for Zaai Kham to bear, so he took his wife, Naang Soi, aged 22, and fled to the Thai border.
According to the couple, in their village tract and surrounding areas, during 2004 and up to early 2005, villagers working in their farms were often rounded up and forced to serve as unpaid porters by the SPDC troops, mostly from IB55, for several days at a time, sometimes even up to 25-30 days.
PEOPLE FORCED TO STAND GUARD IN MURNG-NAI
Since October 2004, people in Kaeng Tawng area, Murng-Nai township, have been forced to stand guard at Regional Headquarters No. 3 and Military Operation Management Command No. 17 every night by the SPDC military authorities.
Each night, 4 groups of villagers, each group comprising 1 peoples militiaman and 2 ordinary villagers, altogether 12 villagers, are required to stand guard at the said 2 military bases, 2 groups at each place, at Waeng Kao village in Nawng Hee village tract and Nawng Ook village in Ton Hung village tract respectively.
This has become an extra burden for the villagers already overburdened with various other forms of forced labour and has caused many people to flee, explained Zaai Kham Sai, aged 30 and his wife, Naang Non, aged 27, who arrived at the Thai border in late January 2005 with 5 other couples from the same area.
FORCED LABOUR BY CEASEFIRE GROUP IN LOI-LEM, NAM-ZARNG AND LAI-KHA
For several years, people in areas surrounding the base of a Pa-O ceasefire group, in Loi-Lem, Nam-Zarng and Lai-Kha townships, have been subjected to unpaid forced labour by the troops at the base, which has become worse over the last 2-3 years and has caused many people to flee.
Since the Pa-O group, based at Loi Khe hill in Paang Long village tract in Loi-Lem township, made a ceasefire with the SPDC about 10 years ago, people in the villages surrounding the base have been subjected to various kinds of forced labour by the Pa-O troops.
There are about 12 Shan villages surrounding the base in the areas in Loi-Lem and the adjacent Nam-Zarng and Lai-Kha townships. People in these villages have been forced to provide forced labour occasionally by the Pa-O troops, in building roads between Lai-Kha and Loi-Lem 3 years ago for instance.
But the situation has become worse since 2 years ago when the Pa-O troops started to force the people in the area to grow crops for them. Over the last 2 years, villagers have been forced to grow different crops around the year, rice in the rainy seasons and corn, sesame, peanut and beans, etc., in the dry seasons.
Like the SPDC troops, the Pa-O troops provide nothing for the villagers. The villagers have to provide their own food and tools and work in cultivating the crops from beginning to end, from preparing the ground up to the harvest, without ever being paid. This has also caused many people to flee to the Thai border.
Some of the villages in the area are: Pung Nur, Pung Tai, Naa Mang, Haad Li, Mawkzali, Nawng Hee, Kun Saai Naa Loi, Nam Wo, Loi Yai and Tai Au, etc.. These villages are spread out in the 3 townships, Loi-Lem, Nam-Zarng and Lai-Kha.
PEOPLE FORCED TO ATTEND CEREMONIES IN KAENG-TUNG AND TA-KHI-LAEK
In October 2004, people in Kaeng-Tung township were forced to attend an opening ceremony, presided over by SPDC authorities, of a shopping building in Kaeng-Tung town, set up by an association of former Burmese soldiers, from 6:00 to 12:00 a.m., during which people had to do without food.
The shopping building was once a rice storehouse during the rule of the BSPP (Burmese Socialist Program Party) military regime. It was recently renovated and turned into a shopping building by the SPDC authorities and handed over to the Association of Former Burmese Soldiers.
It was a 2-storey building and had 11 compartments which were to be rented out to traders to open up shops at the rate of 30,000 kyat per compartment, and members of the Association of Former Burmese Soldiers would be the beneficiaries of the rent.
It was to be officially opened by the Secretary 2 of the SPDC from Rangoon (Yangon) on 13 October 2004 and an order was issued by the Kaeng-Tung SPDC authorities to all the townspeople and villagers in the township requiring them to attend the opening ceremony.
One day before the day of the ceremony, some traders in the town market were ordered to move their goods to the shopping building and stock up all the 11 compartments, and the traders were required to stay at the compartment-shops as if selling their goods during the opening ceremony.
On the day of the ceremony, 50 people from each of the town quarters and villages in the township, numbering about 500-600, were required to be at the shopping building at 6:30 a.m. without fail. Many people, especially those far from town, had to get up very early and rush to the site to be on time and had no time to eat their meal.
The ceremony ended at noon and only then were people allowed to return home to have their meal. SPDC troops were deployed at all the town entrances and all the vehicles coming and going were stopped by them from 6:00 to 12:00 a.m. until the ceremony ended.
After the opening ceremony of the shopping centre in Kaeng-Tung, the SPDC Secretary 2 and his entourage were supposed to continue to Ta-Khi-Laek township the next day, 14 October 2004, to inspect the newly constructed Thai-Burmese friendship bridge on the Thai-Burma border.
On 14 October 2004, in order to greet the SPDC Secretary 2, SPDC authorities in Ta-Khi-Laek ordered the people in the township to gather at the airport at 8:30 a.m.. About 400 people waited all morning until at about 2:00 p.m. when the authorities received a message from Kaeng-Tung that the Secretary 2 was not coming, but would probably come on the next day.
Accordingly, on 15 October 2004, the same people were again ordered to gather at the airport at 8:30 a.m. to greet the SPDC Secretary 2. However, at about 1:00 p.m., Ta-Khi-Laek township authorities again received a message that the Secretary would not be coming. Only then were the people allowed to return home.