SHRF MONTHLY REPORT - SEPTEMBER 2007
SHRF MONTHLY REPORT - SEPTEMBER
Among the many methods used by the SPDC troop patrols in Shan State to extort money from the rural villagers, one occasionally used scheme was to accuse the villagers of secretly growing opium and threaten to forcibly relocate their villages, and extort large amounts of money from them.
The victimized villagers were usually those who had formerly been forcibly relocated and had known the hardship, and were very much afraid of being forced to move again. In such cases, the villagers tried their best to comply with the SPDC troops’ demands to avoid having to relocate again, whether they actually grew opium or not.
Even in cases where there were some villagers who actually grew opium, they did so because they were encouraged by the SPDC troops and/or their cohorts who were usually locally stationed and were collecting taxes from the opium growers. Even so, the villagers were still occasionally forced to provide large amounts of money by roaming SPDC troop patrols.
In this way, the Burmese junta’s troops have been able to keep the opium cultivation going while keeping the growers as poor as ever, and reap the profits from it while keeping an image of having nothing to do with the drugs business.
Other reports in this month’s issue describe about how an elderly man was killed and 3 young girls were gang-raped by patrols of SPDC troops, and many other gross human rights violations, e.g., beating, shooting, arrest and detention, arson and forced labour, etc..
AN ELDERLY MAN BEATEN TO DEATH AT A FOREST TEMPLE IN KUN-HING
In March 2007, an elderly man was beaten to death at a Buddhist temple in a forest in Wan Lao village tract, Kun-Hing township, by a patrol of SPDC troops from LIB524, based in Kun-Hing.
On 7 March 2007, Lung Ta Awng, aged 70, from Naa Mon village in Wan Lao village tract, Kun-Hing township, was beaten to death by a patrol of 45 SPDC troops from LIB524, led by commander Aye Thaung, at Wat Tham Keng temple in the forest 1-1/2 miles east of Wan Lao village.
Wat Tham Keng was a forest temple and used to be occupied by forest monks in the past, but it had been deserted for some time because no one dared to stay there due to the unstable situation in the area. However, there were still many Buddha images and other objects of worship at the temple.
Lung Ta Awng, being a pious Buddhist, regularly went to the temple which was not very far from his village once a week in the early morning to pay homage to the Buddha images and look after the place. He was on one of such trips when he was killed by the SPDC troops.
On the morning of the day of the incident, the said patrol of SPDC troops came to Wan Lao village and headed towards the east where Wat Tham Keng was located. It coincided with the day when Lung Ta Awng made one of his regular pilgrimages.
When Lung Ta Awng had not returned in the afternoon of that day, his relatives became worried and went to the temple to look for him. They found his dead body under a banyan tree near the temple, with bruises and sprains on the head, neck and all over the body.
One strange thing was that Lung Ta Awng’s corpse was wearing military fatigues used by Burmese soldiers, which were not the clothes he wore when he left his village, when he was found lying at the foot of a banyan tree by his relatives.
The villagers later buried Lung Ta Awng’s remains near Wat Tham Keng temple where he was killed and conducted a proper funeral rite for him. However, no one dared to complain about it although the villagers were quite sure who killed Lung Ta Awng.
3 LAHU GIRLS GANG-RAPED, A MAN STRUCK WITH A KNIFE, IN KAENG-TUNG
In April 2007, 3 Lahu girls from Naa Saai village in Tong Ta village tract were gang-raped several times, and a man was struck with a knife, by SPDC troops from the commando unit in Kaeng-Tung township.
On 13 April 2007, Naa Khaa, aged 15, Naa Nu, aged 15 and Naa Mi, aged 18 (not their real names), were gathering firewood outside their village, Naa Saai, when a patrol of about 30 SPDC troops came and forcibly took them away with them.
The SPDC troops were from a unit based in Kaeng-Tung, locally known as Commando Battalion, and were led by Maj Khin Thein. The troops had been camping at Naa Saai village and as they left the village on 13 April 2007, they took away the 3 Lahu girls they found outside the village.
The SPDC patrol went towards Murng Ing village which was about 3 hours walk away and stopped in a forest on the way. Commander Khin Thein then ordered one of the Lahu girls, Naa Khaa, to remain with him and told his troops to take the other 2 girls and go to a different place.
While Khin Thein raped Naa Khaa, Naa Nu and Naa Mi were gang-raped by the other SPDC troops until many of them were satisfied. After that, the troops continued to Murng Ing village, taking the 3 girls with them. The girls were again raped by the troops all night at Murng Ing.
On the next day, while the SPDC troops were busy with other things, the 3 girls pleaded with the villagers of Murng Ing to take them back to their village. The villagers took pity on them and persuaded a villager, Lung Kham, to help the girls.
But as Lung Kham and the girls were leaving Murng Ing village, they were found and stopped by the SPDC troops, and taken to their commander. Commander Khin Thein pulled out the knife Lung Kham was carrying and struck him 3 times on the back and told him to go away.
The SPDC troops kept the 3 girls with them and raped them all night for one more night. The next day, on 15 April 2007, the troops came back to Naa Saai village and released the girls as they passed through the village.
Although their parents and the village leaders knew what had happened to the 3 girls, no one dared to do anything about it for fear of further abuses.
RANDOM SHOOTING, BEATING, CAUSING INJURIES, AT A RELIGIOUS CEREMONY IN MURNG-KERNG
In April 2007, a group of SPDC troops randomly beat and shot at people at a pagoda where a religious ceremony was being held, wounding more than 40 people, at Murng Laang village in Murng Yawn village tract, Murng-Kerng township.
On 1 April 2007, which coincided with the full-moon day of the fifth month of the Shan Luna calendar, Buddhist monks and people in Murng-Kerng township held a religious ceremony in which the topmost part, an umbrella-like gilded metal pinnacle, of a pagoda at Murng Laang village was installed, and there was a night celebration with many people making merit and enjoying food and games at the pagoda fair.
During the night, at around 11:00 p.m., a group of about 40-50 SPDC troops, who looked drunk, came into the pagoda ground where the fair was being held and randomly kicked and beat people at the fair, accusing and scolding people at the same time.
Frightened by the behaviour of the SPDC troops, people at the fair all ran away in different directions. The soldiers then fired their guns after the people who were running away, wounding many in the process, and continued to beat up those who were confused and did not know where to run.
There were more than 40 people who were wounded by the shooting and beating and had to be taken to Murng-Kerng township hospital on the same night, on trucks hired by the village leaders who were responsible for organizing the religious ceremony, after the SPDC troops left the place.
According to some witnesses, while the SPDC troops were beating and shooting at people randomly, some village elders and leaders tried to pleaded with them to stop. But the troops did not listen and even beat up 3-4 leaders, including the village tract headman, with their rifle butts, wounding them seriously.
After running amok for some time, the troops took what they wanted, e.g., whiskey, beer and other food stuff, from food stalls at the fair and left the place. However, the witnesses did not know the unit of the SPDC troops because they did not wear any insignia at the time.
HOUSES BURNED TO ASHES IN MURNG-KERNG
In March 2007, 3 villagers’ houses were burnt to ashes by the troops of a Shan ceasefire group, at Maak Laang village in Nam Hu village tract, Murng-Kerng township, causing great losses to and leaving nothing for the owners.
On 11 March 2007, a patrol of about 30 troops from a Lai-Kha-based ceasefire group, locally known as Murng Zern group, led by Maj Zaai Thoi, Capt Zaai Ti and Zaai Awng Neng, came to Maak Laang village in Murng-Kerng township.
The time when the ceasefire troops arrived at Maak Laang village happened to be the time when 3 village families were leaving the village to go to temporarily stay and work at their farms, and the troops became angry because they thought the villagers were deliberately trying to avoid them.
Out of anger, and knowing that they would be supported by the SPDC troops what ever they did to the villagers, the ceasefire troops burned the houses of the said 3 families to the ground. The victims were Lung Tern Khur, Lung Mon and Zaai Su, and their families.
Lung Tern Khur alone, who was the village tract leader, lost more than 5,000,000 kyat worth of property that included at least the following items:
1. A wooden house with all the furniture, beds, clothes, and household and kitchen utensils;
2. A sewing machine;
3. A wood-sawing machine;
4. A bullock cart;
5. A bicycle;
6. 220 baskets of un-husked rice;
7. 12-1/2 baskets of husked rice;
8. 10 baskets of soy bean;
9. 10 baskets of peanut;
10. 8 baskets of sesame.
ARREST, DETENTION AND EXTORTION FOR SHOUTING THIEF, IN TA-KHI-LAEK
In March 2007, in Ta-Khi-Laek township, a villager who shouted at a thief who was stealing his property, causing the thief to jump down from a house and accidentally kill himself, was arrested and detained by the SPDC police, and money was extorted from him as compensation for the thief who was an SPDC soldier.
On the night of 12 March 2007, at a time when most people were fast asleep, a villager of Me Hok village in Fang Min village tract, Ta-Khi-Laek township, woke up and heard a strange noise in his house. He quietly got out of bed and switched on the light, and saw a man squatting and prying open a box with a knife.
Realizing it was a thief, the villager shouted for help. The thief was also frightened by the villager’s scream and jumped down a window from the upstairs of the two-storey house. Unfortunately, the thief broke his own neck on landing and killed himself.
When village leaders and other fellow villagers came to the scene, it was learned that the thief was one of the contingent of SPDC soldiers from LIB526 who were stationed and taking security duty at Maak Laang village in the same village tract at the time.
The village headman of Me Hok then immediately sent a man to report the incident to the nearest police station, and the police came and took the body of the thief to the township hospital during the same night.
The next day, on 13 March 2007, the police came back to Me Hok village and interrogated the village headman and the owners of the house, Zaai Seng and his wife, Naang Maa, where the incident took place during the night.
After that, the police accused Zaai Seng of deliberately pushing the thief down from his house and causing his death, and arrested him. He was then detained at the police station and 300,000 kyat of money was extorted from him as compensation for causing death to the thief.
Zaai Seng was detained for several months and was only released in July 2007, after paying money to the authorities several times, according to villagers in Fang Min village tract, but the amounts of money paid were not known.
VILLAGERS THREATENED WITH RELOCATION, MONEY EXTORTED, FORCED TO SERVE AS PORTERS, IN KUN-HING
In March 2007, SPDC troops from LIB574 accused the villagers of growing opium, threatened them with arrest and relocation, and extorted a large amount of money from them, at Saai Khaao village in Saai Khaao village tract, Kun-Hing township.
On 8 March 2007, a column of about 50 SPDC troops from Murng-Nai-based LIB574, led by Maj Than Naing Oo, came to Saai Khaao village in Kun-Hing township and called up the village headman and some villagers to gather at the centre of the village.
The SPDC troops said they knew that villagers of Saai Khaao had been growing opium without permission and told them to choose whether they would like to be put in jail, forcibly relocated back to Kun-Hing town or pay a fine of money.
Saai Khaao village had once been forcibly relocated to the outskirts of Kun-Hing town several years ago by the Burmese junta’s troops, then known as State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC), and had been allowed to return by the SPDC authorities not very long ago.
The villagers then pleaded with the SPDC troops not to relocate their village again because most of them did not grow opium. But they admitted that about 1/3 of the villagers might be secretly growing opium in small amounts.
The SPDC troops then said that if the villagers did not want to go to jail or their village moved again, they needed to pay a fine of 2,000,000 kyat, and ordered the villagers to hand over the money by the next day, saying they would spent the night at the village and wait.
The villagers then called an emergency meeting and decided that the best way out for them was to pay the fine and collected money among themselves. However, by the next day, the villagers managed to come up with only 1,500,000 kyat, which was all they had at the moment.
For some reasons, the SPDC troops seemed to be satisfied with the outcome and took the money, saying they would collect the remaining 500,000 kyat next time around. As they left the village, heading towards Murng-Nai township, they took 5 villagers as porters to carry their pots and pans and other food stuff.
VILLAGERS ACCUSED OF SUPPORTING SHAN RESISTANCE, FORCED TO PROVIDE PIGS AND MONEY, THREATENED WITH RELOCATION, FORCED TO SERVE AS GUIDES, IN KAE-SEE
In April 2007, SPDC troops from LIB131 accused villagers of Wan Zong and Paang Zae villages in Paang Zae village tract, Kae-See township, of growing opium and supporting the Shan resistance, and extorted pigs and large amounts of money from them.
On the evening of 12 April 2007, a patrol of about 45 SPDC troops from LIB131, led by Capt. Kyaw Khin, came to Wan Zong village in Paang Zae village tract, Kae-See township, and stopped for a night’s rest in the village, and called a meeting of the village leaders and elders.
At the meeting, the SPDC troops accused the villagers of secretly growing opium and supporting the Shan resistance by not reporting the movements of the Shan soldiers to the SPDC authorities in the area, and ordered them to provide 50 viss (1 viss = 1.6 kg) of pork and 350,000 kyat of money as punishment.
The villagers immediately complied with the SPDC troops’ demands because they had no choice, for it made no difference whether they were guilty as accused or not, and any delay could even bring more abuses as they had learned from past experiences.
The next morning, on 13 April 2007, when the SPDC troops left Wan Zong village, they ordered 2 villagers to go with them and serve as guides until they reached Paang Zae village in the same village tract where they stopped to extort money.
At Paang Zae village too, villagers were accused of being sympathizers of and supporting the Shan resistance by the SPDC troops and forced to provide 300,000 kyat of money as punishment. The villagers immediately complied for fear of further abuses.
At both Wan Zong and Paang Zae villages, villagers were warned not to let the news of the extortion spread to other places, or else their villages would be forced to move to Kae-See town again. The 2 villages had once been forcibly relocated to the outskirts of Kae-See town by the Burmese junta’s troops several years ago and were only allowed to return not very long ago.
INCREASES IN TAXES CAUSE PEOPLE TO FLEE, IN MURNG-SU
Since early 2007, SPDC authorities in Murng-Su township have increased the amounts of taxes they had been collecting in the form of rice and money from the people over the last 3-4 years, causing many people to flee.
During the early 1990s, when the gem business in Murng-Su township was good, the Burmese junta’s troops in the area made a lot of money by taxing gem traders and miners, and they had been somewhat less stringent in levying taxes on the local people and farmers.
But in the early 2000s, the gem business in the area was not going well and it had become more and more difficult for the SPDC troops to get as much tax money from it as before, and they again turned back to stringently extorting money and rice from the local people.
Over the last 3-4 years, each household in the township has been required to pay annual taxes in the form of money and rice in 3 different categories in accordance with their social and economic status:
1. Each poor household had to pay 5,000 kyat of money and 20 baskets of unhusked rice;
2. Each less poor household had to pay 15,000 kyat of money and 40 baskets of unhusked rice;
3. Each least poor household had to pay 30,000 kyat of money and 60 baskets of unhusked rice.
However, in 2007, people have been obliged to also provide husked rice in addition to the existing taxes, also in 3 categories:
1. Each poor household had to provide 2-1/2 baskets of husked rice;
2. Each less poor household had to provide 5 baskets of husked rice;
3. Each least poor household had to provide 7-1/2 baskets of husked rice.
Furthermore, there have been some increases in the amounts of the tax money and people have been required to pay it on a monthly basis, instead of annually as before.
These taxes have been levied on the people on top of many other obligations imposed on them by the SPDC authorities. The situation has become much more difficult and many people who found it impossible to survive have fled to other places, including Thailand.
STEALING OF LIVESTOCK IN MURNG-NAI
Sometime in March and April 2007, SPDC troops from LIB576 shot dead, cut up and took away the meat of a water buffalo belonging to the villagers of Wan Kaad village in Kun Long village tract, Murng-Nai township.
One afternoon, a group of SPDC troops from a contingent from LIB576, stationed at Taad Long waterfall, shot dead a buffalo in a field near Wan Kaad village. As the troops cut up the buffalo and were putting the meat into their bags and baskets, some villagers of Wan Kaad came and saw them.
The SPDC soldiers did not say or do anything to the villagers, but quickly left the place, taking away as much meat with them as they could. The villagers recognized not only the SPDC troops, but also the buffalo killed, and told the owners, who wished to remain anonymous, about it.
The next day, the owners of the buffalo went to the base of LIB576 at Pa Saa village and lodged a complaint with the commander. A few days later, after making some inquiries, the commander gave the buffalo’s owners 20,000 kyat of money as compensation for the buffalo killed by his troops.
“If 20,000 kyat is not enough for your buffalo, we will give you more later. But don’t let the news of this incident spread around because it will damage the reputation of our battalion”, said the commander. The buffalo’s owners had no choice but to accept the money and returned home.
According to the local villagers, that buffalo could easily be sold at more than 100,000 kyat in the market, but the owners had nowhere else to make more complaint. The fact that the owners could muster up the courage to file a complaint with the SPDC commander in the first place was because the buffalo was the most valuable thing they had, they said.
RETURNEES FROM THAILAND ROBBED OF THEIR MONEY AND VALUABLES, IN MURNG-TON
In March 2007, 3 displaced villagers from central Shan State who were returning from Thailand were robbed of their money and valuables by a group of SPDC soldiers from LIB360, near Awng Lawng village in Pung Pa Khem village tract, Murng-Ton township.
On 26 March 2007, Zaai Kham (m), aged 37, Zaai Lu (M), aged 38 and Pan-Ta (m), aged 29, who had been working in Thailand for 2 years, returned to Shan State by crossing the border in Fang area in Thailand’s Chiangmai province to Pung Pa Khem area in Murng-Ton township.
After walking some distance the 3 returnees were stopped by a group of 6 SPDC troops near Awng Lawng village in Pung Pa Khem village tract. The troops were from a contingent from Murng-Paeng-based LIB360 who were stationed at Awng Lawng village at the time.
The SPDC troops asked the returnees if they were Shan soldiers and they said they were not Shan soldiers but ordinary villagers who were returning from working in Thailand. The troops then searched their bags and clothes and found 3 baht-weight of gold ornaments and 20,000 baht of Thai money altogether.
The SPDC troops then took all the gold and money from the 3 villagers and ordered them to continue their journey, and they continued to walk to Pung Pa Khem village without any money or food. Fortunately, the returnees were allowed to ride free on a cargo truck by a kindhearted driver up to Nam-Zarng town.
The 3 villagers were originally from Naa Pong village in Wan Phui village tract, Murng-Kerng township, whose village were forcibly relocated by the Burmese junta’s troops several years ago. Not being able to support their families at the relocation site, they had gone to work in Thailand hoping to bring back some money for their families after some time.
After working hard in a fruit orchard in Fang district in Chiangmai province, in Thailand, for 2 years, they had managed to save up some money and valuables and decided to return and give them to their families. But in fact they had ended up giving their hard-won earnings to the SPDC troops instead.