SHRF MONTHLY REPORT
SHRF MONTHLY REPORT, AUGUST 2003
Although the Burmese military junta have announced that they will stop the rice procurement policy in the near future, a practice which has been worsening over the years until it is now virtually killing the farmers, there has not been any indication so far that the junta will ease the difficulties of the overburdened farmers in any way.
Earlier this year, farmers have been squeezed even harder than the previous years and forced to sell their rice quotas in full as had been previously designated, regardless of how poor the conditions of the rice harvest had been for many farmers, sometimes in a very unfair and brutal manner.
A farmer who was not able to provide his rice quota because of a very bad harvest was accused of defying the authority and shot dead by SPDC troops. (see the first story)
In addition to the unfair rice procurement policy which has reduced many once well-to-do farmers to destitution, displaced farmers who work at remote farms growing subsistence rice are faced with various forms of harassment by the SPDC troops, including killing, rape, looting and destroying of food supplies. (see following stories)
This year, the SPDC authorities have forced the farmers to grow a certain kind of rice which is to be sold back to the authorities at the rate of 400 kyat per basket. Failing to do so means paying in cash, 3,000 kyat per basket.
Included in this newsletter is a section briefly describing the lives of the farmers under the SPDC regime in Shan State.
A DISPLACED FARMER SHOT DEAD FOR BEING UNABLE TO PROVIDE RICE QUOTA, IN LAI-KHA
On 29 April 2003, a displaced farmer was shot dead by a patrol of SPDC troops from IB55, on the road just outside Phuay Hai village in Lai-Kha township, for being unable to sell his rice quota as demanded by the SPDC troops.
The victim, Zaai Zaam Pun, and his family were originally from Ter Leng village in Haai Seng village tract, Lai-Kha township, which had been forcibly relocated to the outskirts of Lai-Kha town in 1997 by the then SLORC (State Law and Order Restoration Council) troops.
At the time of this incident, Zaai Zaam Pun was living in Phuay Hai village relocation site with his wife and 2 children, 8 years and 6 years old, and earned a living as a subsistence rice farmer. He was required by the SPDC authorities in the area to sell 60 baskets of unhulled rice, but unfortunately his rice field had only produced 15 baskets in the last season.
When he was summoned by the SPDC authorities to sell his rice quota on 24 April 2003, Zaai Zaam Pun explained that he got only 15 baskets from his rice field and it had almost been consumed by his family, and that he also had no money to buy rice from others to fill up his quota.
A patrol of SPDC troops was then sent to search Zaai Zaam Puns house where they saw his wife and 2 children living in a small shabby thatched house and only 3 baskets of rice which he kept to be used as seeds for the next rice growing season.
The SPDC troops took away the rice and warned Zaai Zaam Pun that he would have to somehow find the remaining 57 baskets and fill up his quota no later than 30 April 2003, or face the consequences.
On the day of the incident, a patrol of SPDC troops again came to Zaai Zaam Puns house and when they did not find him nor any rice in the house, they asked his wife where he was. The wife told them her husband had gone to find rice and the troops left the village.
As the SPDC troops were leaving Phuay Hai village, they met Zaai Zaam Pun and some other villagers who were returning on the road outside the village. The troops asked Zaai Zaam Pun where the rice was so that they could come and collect it the next day.
Zaai Zaam Pun said that he was not able to get any rice for the quota, and even for his children to eat, he had to beg around and was only able to get 3 milk-cans of rice. The SPDC troops became angry and shouted at him, So, you dont want to sell us your rice?.
As Zaai Zaam Pun was trying to explain that he had tried as best he could but no one would lend him rice or money, the SPDC troops kicked at him and he fell to the ground. The SPDC troops then shot him dead at the side of the road east of Phuay Hai village.
After they had shot Zaai Zaam Pun dead, the SPDC troops warned the other villagers to tell people that Zaai Zaam Pun had actually resisted the government authority, otherwise they would have to face the same fate as him.
A DISPLACED WOMAN SHOT DEAD WHILE WORKING AT A FARM IN MURNG-KERNG
In early June 2003, a displaced woman who was working at a farm with her husband was shot dead by a group of SPDC soldiers who wore no insignias, at a remote farm in Murng-Kerng township.
The victim, Pa Man, aged 51 and her husband, Lung Poo, aged 53, were originally from Wan Kyawng village in Murng Khun village tract, Murng-Kerng township, which had been forcibly relocated to the outskirts of Murng-Kerng town in 1997 by the then SLORC (State Law and Order Restoration Council) troops.
On the day of the incident, Lung Poo and Pa Man were working at their farm. When it was approaching noon, Lung Poo went to fetch water in a valley some distance away, leaving Pa Man alone working at the farm. As he was returning, Lung Poo heard 2 gunshots from the direction of their farm, so he did not go directly into the farm but went quietly close enough to find about 30 Burmese soldiers going around and searching the farm hut, talking loudly to each other. They did not wear any insignias, but there were only SPDC troops who spoke Burmese in the area.
Lung Poo then crept up a nearby hill where he could see the movements of the Burmese soldiers and waited until they had left for a while before he went cautiously into the farm. He saw his wifes body lying right on the spot where she had been working, shot dead by the Burmese soldiers.
The couple had already lost their 2 sons to the Burmese troops during the forced relocations in 1997-1998; both were shot dead by SLORC troops. The older son, Zaai Saw, aged 31, was shot dead in October 1997, and the younger, Zaai Ti-Ma, aged 28, was shot dead in March 1998, and now their mother had been shot dead by SPDC troops.
Lung Poo was deeply hurt by the loss of all the loved ones he had and by the way they were treated by the Burmese troops, and has become mentally disturbed since the death of his wife.
2 FARMERS SHOT DEAD WHILE WORKING AT THEIR FARM IN NAM-ZARNG
In March 2003, 2 farmers who were working at their farm were accused of being or helping Shan soldiers and shot dead by a patrol of SPDC troops from IB102, at a farm about 1 mile from Loi Aai village in Loi La village tract, Nam-Zarng township.
Lung Ta (m), aged 49 and Lung Kaw-Lin (m), aged 45, were both from Loi Aai village and they were working at their farm, about 1 mile away from their village, when a patrol of about 30 SPDC troops from IB102 came and asked them if they had seen Shan soldiers passing by that way.
When the farmers said they had not seen anyone else coming that way except themselves, the SPDC troops searched around the farm and the farm hut. After a while, some troops claimed they had found a bundle of M-22 ammunition in a basket in the hut and accused the 2 farmers of possessing it and of being or helping the Shan soldiers.
The SPDC troops then seized the 2 farmers, tied them up, took them out of the farm and shot them dead near a ditch at the edge of the farm. Their bodies were pushed down into the ditch together and covered with earth.
After that, the SPDC troops came into Loi Aai village and told the villagers that they had shot dead Shan soldiers and seized their ammunition, showing the bundle of about 30 rounds of M-22 ammunition which they said they would present to the commander of Military Tactical Command in the area as evidence.
Many local people who knew them well suspected that the 2 farmers had been framed by the SPDC troops even though they did not know why. As the victims were just simple farmers it was most unlikely that they could possess such ammunition.
A FARMER BEATEN TO DEATH WHILE WORKING AT A FARM IN LAI-KHA
On 5 May 2003, a patrol of SPDC troops beat to death a farmer who was working at a remote farm near Wan Naa village (relocated) in Paang Saang village tract, Lai-Kha township.
Zaai Si-Li, male, aged 35, was working at the farm when a patrol of about 25-30 SPDC troops from the base at Wan Zing village in Kae-See township came and beat him to death. His head was severed, cut in half and put in a cave south of Wan Naa village, and his headless body was left to rot at the farm near Wan Naa.
5 DAUGHTERS OF DISPLACED FARMERS DETAINED AND RAPED IN NAM-ZARNG
On 28 June 2003, 5 daughters of displaced farmers, aged between 13 and 16, who were helping their parents at a farm at Nam Wo village (relocated) in Nawng Hee village tract, Nam-Zarng township, were arrested, detained and raped for 2 days and 2 nights by a patrol of SPDC troops from IB66.
Some displaced farming families were taking turns helping one another to cultivate rice and soya bean farms in the area of their former village, Nam Wo, which had been forcibly relocated in 1996-97 by the then SLORC (State Law and Order Restoration Council) troops.
On that day, a patrol of about 40-45 SPDC troops led by commander Kyaw Myint from IB66 came and surrounded the farmers at their camp where several families were temporarily staying together.
The SPDC troops ordered the farmers not to leave their camp and stayed surrounding it, and picked out 5 young girls among the farmers and took them away to a different place.
The girls were repeatedly raped for 2 days and 2 nights by the SPDC troops before they were released and allowed to go back to their parents, who were being detained with the other farmers in their camp.
The girls who had been raped were (not their real names):
1. Naang Seng, aged 16
2. Naang Naang, aged 15
3. Naang Mya, aged 13
4. Naang Zing Mya, aged 13
5. Naang Law, aged 14
A BAMBOO SHOOTS GATHERER RAPED IN TA-KHI-LAEK
On 6 April 2003, a woman who was gathering bamboo shoots was raped by 5 SPDC troops from LIB526 in a forest near Saw Kong village in Murng Phong village tract, Ta-Khi-Laek township.
On the day of the incident, 3 women from Saw Kong village, Naang Sao, aged 19, Naang La and Naang Seng, went together to gather bamboo shoots in the hills outside their village. As they were digging bamboo shoots, a group of 5 SPDC soldiers suddenly approached them.
The women were frightened by the site of the SPDC troops coming towards them and they all ran away. While 2 of them managed to escape, Naang Sao was unfortunately caught by the troops.
The SPDC troops took turns and raped Naang Sao in the bamboo forest where they caught her. After all the 5 SPDC troops had raped Naang Sao to their satisfaction, they went away leaving Naang Sao alone in the forest.
On hearing about the incident from the 2 women who had escaped, some villagers of Saw Kong village gathered together and went in search of Naang Sao. The villagers found her sitting and crying alone in the bamboo forest and they consoled her and took her home.
Although villagers of Saw Kong had submitted letters to the SPDC authorities in Murng Phong village tract and Ta-Khi-Laek town, they had not yet received any response at the time this report was received in July.
RESTRICTION, ARREST AND EXTORTION IN TA-KHI-LAEK
Since late June 2003, people in Ta-Khi-Laek township have been restricted by the SPDC authorities from accepting overnight guests from Murng-Sart township. Anyone found stealthily keeping guests overnight would be faced with 6-months imprisonment.
On 26 June 2003, SPDC township authorities in Ta-Khi-Laek summoned all the village tract and town-quarter leaders in the township to a meeting and told them, .... you must go back and tell all the village and community leaders to tell their respective villagers and townspeople not to accept any guests from Murng Kok and Murng Lung village tracts in Murng-Sart township. If anyone from those areas are found staying overnight, the hosts, or the respective village or community leaders, if the guests have been registered with them, will be jailed for 6 months.
Although the SPDC authorities did not mention any reasons for issuing the order, it took place after 2 villages in Murng Kok village tract in Murng-Sart township were burned down by SPDC troops from Murng-Phyak-based IB221 on 25 May 2003 (See last month issue: SHRF Monthly Report, July 2003). Many people from the said 2 villages had fled to seek refuge at their relatives houses in Murng-Phyak and Ta-Khi-Laek townships.
On 16 July 2003, a villager of Kawng Mon village in Murng Ko village tract, Ta-Khi-Laek township, was arrested for keeping 2 guests from Murng Lung village tract in Murng-Sart township overnight at his house and put in jail, together with the 2 guests, in Ta-Khi-Laek town.
Although the said 2 guests were released after 3 days, after paying a fine of 2,000 baht of Thai money each, and ordered to return to their home in Murng-Sart right away, their host, Zaai Sri-Wun (m), aged 49, was still in jail up to the time of this report. The guests were said to be just the brother and sister-in-law of their host.
FARMERS STILL FACE TREMENDOUS HARDSHIP AND THEIR FUTURE LOOKS GRIM UNDER SPDC RULE
The rice procurement policy practised by the successive Burmese military regimes over the last decades has eventually actually turned many of the once self-sufficient farmers into virtual beggars, leading miserable lives and facing a grim and uncertain future.
As the rice production of many farmers in Shan State has decreased due to various factors, including restrictions by the SPDC military authorities, flood, insects, bad weather, bad soil, etc., the burden of the rice procurement has become increasingly worse over the years.
The SPDC troops use various means including intimidation, apprehension and extortion to force the farmers to provide the demanded amounts of rice so that it is now virtually, and in some cases actually (see the first story), killing the farmers.
Looting of farms and destruction of crops, often coupled with rape and killings, by the SPDC troops are also rampant in relocation areas where displaced farmers try to grow subsistence rice and a few other crops in remote areas of their relocated villages.
Displaced farmers are also often killed, raped and otherwise abused by patrolling SPDC troops while working at their farms, usually at remote places in areas where forced relocations have taken place (see stories 2, 3, 4, 5,).
Although the current military junta, SPDC, have announced that they would stop the rice procurement policy in the near future, almost all the farmers do not appear to be convinced that it would do any good to them and suspect that the worst is yet to come.
The following are some of the reports received by SHRF pertaining to forcible rice procurement in several areas in Shan State earlier this year; and the forcible rice growing programs by the SPDC authorities in Shan State which indicate that what the farmers suspect could be true.
RICE PROCUREMENT PUTS FARMERS ON THE VERGE OF STARVATION IN NAM-ZARNG
During late February and March 2003, a patrol of SPDC troops from IB66, led by commander Naing Oo, came to Kho Lam village tract in Nam-Zarng township and ordered the farmers in the area to sell their rice quotas as designated by the SPDC authorities.
The SPDC troops came to buy their rice quotas in Kho Lam area every year, but this year they demanded about 2 fold more than last year. This year farmers who had their own rice fields were required to sell 8 baskets per acre, as opposed to 4 baskets per acre last year, at the rate of 300 kyat per basket, while it was 3,000 kyat per basket at the market.
Villagers who did not have any rice fields but cultivated small plots of dry rice farm were required to sell 8 to 12 baskets per household without fail, without counting whether they had that much rice even for their own consumption.
Granaries and houses of the farmers who were not able to fill up their designated quotas were searched. A few baskets of rice kept in the granaries as seeds for the next season were also measured and taken away all by the SPDC troops.
The SPDC troops also took the rice which the farmers kept in their houses for cooking their meals even though there were usually only 1-2 baskets, leaving only 4-5 pyi for each household, which lasted only a few days.
The farmers were thus stripped of what they had been relying on most for their survival. There was hardly a family who did not weep, especially those who were left with no money or other property.
UNFAIR RICE PROCUREMENT CAUSES DEATH IN KUN-HING
In early April 2003, a displaced farming couple was so unfairly forced to sell nearly 2 fold of their originally designated rice quota by SPDC troops from IB246 that the wife went into shock and fainted, and later died at a hospital, in Kun-Hing township.
Zaai Wun, aged 27, and his wife, Naang Seng Mawn, aged 25, were originally from Kho Ngawk village in Kun Pu village tract, Kun-Hing township, which had been forcibly relocated to the outskirts of Kun-Hing town in 1996 by the then SLORC (State Law and Order Restoration Council) troops.
The couple lived with their 2 children at the relocation site and during the last rice growing season they leased a plot of land from another farmer and grew rice. They were required to pay the land owner 36 baskets of the rice produced for leasing the land, and sell 44 baskets to the SPDC authorities at the rate of 370 kyat per basket in accordance with the rice procurement policy.
When the SPDC authorities came in March to collect rice quotas, the couple did not go to sell their rice because they had not yet paid for leasing the land and had decided to delay until they had paid the lease.
However, on 3 April 2003, even before they could pay the land lease, a group of 16 SPDC troops from IB246 came directly to their rice field and demanded their rice quota. When the troops saw there was about 120 baskets of rice in all, they forcibly took 80 baskets instead of the originally designated 44 baskets.
Although the couple explained that they still needed to pay 36 baskets for the lease of the land and if the SPDC troops took away 80 baskets there would be only 4 baskets left for them, and pleaded with the troops to take only the designated 44 baskets, begging for mercy.
The SPDC troops however kept to their demand and forcibly took away 80 baskets. The couple was so shocked that the wife, Naang Seng Mawn, collapsed and fainted, unable to speak.
Although her husband, Zaai Wun, and their relatives took her to the hospital in Kun-Hing town, Naang Seng Mawn did not recover and later died. She was survived by her husband Zaai Wun, son Zaai Kam, 5 years old and daughter Naang Seng Ngern, 3 years old.
PREPAID RICE PROCUREMENT IN MURNG-NAI
In August 2002, SPDC authorities in Kaeng Tawng area of Murng-Nai township summoned the headmen and community leaders of all 4 village tracts in the area to a meeting and said they would buy 18,000 baskets of rice from the farmers in the area at the rate of 300 kyat per basket from the coming harvest, and handed 5,400,000 kyat of money to the headmen to pay the farmers in the area in advance.
Accordingly, in January 2003, farmers in Kaeng Tawng area handed over their rice quotas to the SPDC authorities in accordance with the prepaid amounts, but many farmers could not yet provide their rice quotas because their rice fields had yielded poorly due to various factors.
On 12 March 2003, the SPDC troops came and demanded that farmers who did not have enough rice to fill up their quotas pay in cash at the rate of 3,000 kyat per basket. Those who did not have the money had to sell whatever little valuables they had to pay the troops.
RESTRICTIONS ON RICE MILLS IN TA-KHI-LAEK
In late March 2003, SPDC military authorities in Murng Laen village tract, Ta-Khi-Laek township, issued an order banning farmers in the area from trading and milling their rice until all the farmers had sold their rice quotas to the authorities.
Farmers whose rice fields had been destroyed by flood and sand were not spared. Rice mill owners were warned not to function until further order; if noises from any running mills were heard, the owners would be immediately arrested.
RICE PROCUREMENT CAUSES FARMERS TO FLEE, IN KUN-HING
In March and April 2003, many farmers from Wan Lao village tract in Kun-Hing township fled after being forced to sell their rice quotas by the SPDC authorities so unfairly that it stripped them of all their belongings and put them in a very difficult situation.
During the last growing season, many rice fields had been badly destroyed by insects prompting the farmers to report this to the concerned authorities, who consoled them and told them not to worry, as their rice quotas could be reduced. But no one came to look at the conditions of the rice crop, which later yielded only about half the amount produced the previous year.
However, when the time to sell the rice quotas came, the SPDC authorities said they could not reduce the quotas because they would also have to do the same in other areas and forced the villagers in Wan Lao area to sell the originally specified amount, telling them to share the burden with all the villagers in the whole village tract.
Every house in the village tract had to provide a certain amount of rice, or money to buy rice, to fill up the village tract quota, after which many farmers had virtually nothing left to be able to continue making a living as farmers. Since then farmers have been fleeing one after another to different places.
FORCIBLE RICE GROWING PROGRAMS IN NORTHERN SHAN STATE
In several townships in northern Shan State, SPDC authorities have issued orders requiring farmers to grow only a specified kind of rice this year; any other kinds of rice grown would be removed and if grown the second time, the rice fields would be confiscated.
The farmers were required to grow only a particular kind of rice called something like DU.527 (Sin Shwe Li) on parts of their rice fields chosen by the SPDC authorities. The rice seeds were provided by the authorities, but at the price of 11,000 kyat per basket.
A certain amount of the rice produced was to be sold back to the authorities at the rate of 400 kyat per basket. But farmers who could not sell back the required amounts would have to pay in cash at the rate of 3,000 kyat per basket.
According to the farmers who had some experience growing such kind of rice in the past, it was a low quality kind and fetched the lowest price in the market; it did not grow without chemical fertilizer which destroyed the soil.
A lot of rice crops had been lost by the farmers when the SPDC authorities ordered them to start growing the said kind of rice, because farmers were forced to destroy some of their crops before they could be harvested.