SHRF MONTHLY REPORT
SHRF MONTHLY REPORT -- MARCH 2003
The efforts over the last few years of several international institutions such as ICRC, ILO, UNCHR and some governments, and lately Amnesty International, to directly engage with the Burmese military junta to bring about changes to the human rights situation in Burma seem to have resulted in bringing more confusion and fear to the people of Shan State.
Since about the time the ILO sent its inquiry teams to Shan State, there have been incidents of punitive actions by the Burmese army troops against the people who dared to complain about forced labour and other human rights abuses committed by the Burmese soldiers.
The people have been repeatedly intimidated and warned not to tell anything concerning the human rights violations perpetrated by members of the Burmese army to outsiders. In some cases, people were even told to accuse other armed groups that were active in their respective areas (see 12 Karen Mahouts ---).
In one of the incidents reported in this newsletter, 2 displaced villagers were severely beaten for talking about human rights abuses to members of the ICRC, and following the incident people in Lai-Kha and Kun-Hing townships were further intimidated. (see story # 7)
Thus, in addition to still having to endure more or less the same human rights abuses, people have become more confused and afraid to talk to anyone about them.
13-YEAR-OLD GIRL RAPED FOR 10 DAYS, FATHER AND HUSBAND TORTURED AND KILLED, IN KUN-HING
At the beginning of 2003, a 13-year-old woman was raped for 10 days and her father and her newly wedded husband were killed, while they were threshing rice at a remote rice field 8 miles south of Kun-Hing town, by SPDC troops from IB246.
On 28 December 2002, a patrol of more than 10 SPDC commando troops from IB246, known locally as Death Battalion, led by locally known broken-legged commander who was most notorious for killing innocent people in the area, arrested 7 villagers who were threshing rice at the remote rice field.
On seeing 2 army field jackets, which were fake Korean-made jackets worn by many people and sold in markets and towns everywhere in the area, dangling on a fence which enclosed a pile of reaped paddy plants, the SPDC troops accused the villagers of being rebels and seized, beat, tied up and took them to the military camp at Wan Lao village, about 1-1/2 miles south of the rice field. The villagers were:
1. Lung Thaak Khe (m), aged 50
2. Pa Naang Lu (f), aged 48, Lung Thaak Khes wife
3. Naang Ung (f), aged 13, daughter of Lung Thaak Khe and Pa Naang Lu
4. Zaai Na-Lin (m), aged 18, Naang Ungs husband
5. Zaai Thun (m), aged 25
6. Maha Tum (m), aged 40
7. Maha Wee (m), aged 50
These villagers were internally displaced farmers originally from Long Maw village (relocated) in Wan Lao village tract, which had been forcibly relocated to the outskirts of Kun-Hing town in 1996-97 by the then SLORC (State Law and Order Restoration Council) troops. They had gone to work at their original rice field near their deserted village when they were arrested by the SPDC troops.
At the military camp, the villagers were locked into bamboo stocks and interrogated for 4 days and nights. On 1.1.03, the SPDC troops released 4 of them but continued to detain Lung Thaak Khe, his daughter Naang Ung and Naang Ungs husband, Zaai Na-Lin.
Lung Thaak Khe and Zaai Na-Lin were further tortured and interrogated, and finally killed by the SPDC troops and dumped into the Nam Paang river, about 1 mile west of the camp. Naang Ung was tied up in a tent and raped every day for 10 days, from 2 to 11.1.03, by 5-6 SPDC troops each day, and was warned on her release not to tell anyone about the incident afterwards or else they would come after her and kill her.
However, although she was near dead from what she had suffered, Naang Ung secretly related her plight to some villagers and they went to look for her father and her husband. When they found their bodies in the water, stranded near the bank of the Nam Pang river, they were already decomposed and unrecognizable except for the clothes that were still on them. The villagers then pushed the bodies deep into the river and let the current carried them away.
Naang Ung herself never recovered from her ordeal, and died on February 4, 2003.
According to the local people, these were innocent displaced farmers who had been trying to survive by cultivating their original rice field at their old village, and the army field jackets that were used by the SPDC troops as evidence were of a kind generally worn by many people and were freely sold in many markets and towns.
12 KAREN MAHOUTS SHOT DEAD IN GROUP IN MURNG-NAI
On 21 January 2003, 15 Karen elephant drivers and wood cutters were shot at by a commando unit of SPDC troops from Kho Lam camp in Nam-Zarng township, at a logging camp in Kaeng Tawng area in Murng-Nai township. 12 were instantly killed and 3 escaped, one suffering an arm injury while escaping.
The 3 escaping mahouts found each other and ran to Kun Mong village in the area and told the villagers that they had been shot at by SPDC troops in their logging camp at Pa Pee old village (relocated), 5-6 miles north of Kun Mong.
There were 15 Karen mahouts and wood cutters at the Pa Pee logging camp on the day of the incident. It was around noon and the mahouts were taking a break and eating their day meal in a hut when a group of about 20 armed men in green military fatigues with no insignias came into the camp, 5 carrying M-22 rifles and the rest with assorted arms.
The armed men, who claimed to be Shan soldiers, forced the mahouts out of the hut and made them line up at about 20 yards from the hut. They accused the mahouts of logging without paying taxes and told them to pay as soon as possible.
The mahouts then said to the armed men that they were just hired hands and had no money and their employer who lived in Nam-Zarng town should be called if they wanted money, and said it would be good if they could communicate in Burmese because they did not speak Shan well.
When the armed men started speaking Burmese to them, the mahouts said that the armed men were not Shan soldiers but SPDC soldiers from Kho Lam village camp because they had seen them there as they passed through the village to and fro.
The armed men were stunned for a moment and suddenly fired their M-22 rifles into the line of the Karen mahouts and wood cutters, killing 12 of them, it was later learned, and 3 managed to escape by running into the nearby forest, one of them being hit in the arm as they were shot after.
It was learned that the surviving mahouts and the village leaders in the area were told by the SPDC military authorities to warn the villagers not to say that it was SPDC soldiers who did it, but to say it was the Shan solders. Anyone who defied this order would be severely punished and not only their property but also the property of the respective village and community leaders would be confiscated.
The employer of the mahouts, Zaai La Phae, who was also the owner of the elephants, was obliged by the No. 21 Military Operation Management Command (MOMC) of the SPDC to compensate the death of the 12 mahouts, and 4 of his elephants were also seized.
3 CATTLE TRADERS SHOT DEAD IN KUN-HING
On 27 December 2002, 3 cattle traders from Nam-Zarng township who had come to sell their cattle in Kun-Hing township were shot dead and their cattle stolen by SPDC troops from LIB524 in a valley called Huay Kawn in Kun-Hing township.
The 3 cattle traders, Zaai La (m), aged 32, Tae-Ya (m), aged 38 and Ma-La (m), aged 41, were from Paang Nim village in Kho Lam village tract, Nam-Zarng township. On the day of the incident they were taking 5 head of cattle together to Kun-Hing to sell them.
Two days later when they did not return home, their relatives came in search of them along the route usually taken by cattle traders in the area, asking villagers on the way whether they had seen 3 men with 5 head of cattle passing through.
When the relatives got to Paang Hok village about 2 miles south of Kun-Hing town, the villagers there told them that they had seen a patrol of SPDC troops from LIB524 with 5 head of cattle passing through their village the day before, but not the men. The SPDC troops said that they had shot some rebels on the way, and the villagers heard about 20 shots of gunfire in the direction of Huay Kawn valley before the troops came through their village.
The relatives of the 3 men then went to Huay Kawn valley and found their bodies, all having been shot dead the day before. They appeared to have run into the SPDC patrol and were shot dead instantly and their cattle taken away, because there was no trace of arrest or torture.
2 DISPLACED FARMERS SHOT DEAD, THEIR CATTLE STOLEN, IN NAM-ZARNG
On 1 December 2002, 2 displaced farmers who were working at their remote farm were shot dead by a combined force of SPDC and Lahu peoples malitia troops near Nam Hoo village (relocated) in Haai Laai village tract, Nam-Zarng township.
The 2 farmers, Zaai Kham (m), aged 35 and Zaai Mawng (m), aged 18, were originally from Nam Hoo village in Haai Laai village tract, Nam-Zarng township, which had been forcibly relocated to Kho Lam village relocation site in Kun-Hing township in 1996-97 by the then SLORC (State Law and Order Restoration Council) troops.
With permission from the local SPDC troops at Kho Lam village relocation site, the 2 farmers had been cultivating their original farm at their old village for some time when a patrol of SPDC troops from Wan Zing village military base in Kae-See township, together with some Lahu peoples malitia troops, came to their farm.
The 2 farmers were forced out of their farm and shot dead by the SPDC and Lahu militia troops, and the 2 buffalos they used to till their farm were also stolen away. Some other farmers who were working in nearby farms and had run and hidden when they saw the SPDC troops heading towards them, heard several gunshots.
After some time when all was quiet again in the evening, the hiding farmers came out to look at the situation and found the 2 farmers shot dead at the edge of their farm, and their buffalos missing.
GANG-RAPE WITH IMPUNITY AFTER MORE THAN 2 YEARS IN MURNG-SART
Sometime in December 2000, Pa Naang Khawng (not her real name), aged 45, was raped by 8 SPDC soldiers from LIB580 in a tea plantation at Wan Kaat village in Murng Kok village tract, Murng-Sart township.
Although the commander of LIB580 had then promised to look into the matter and punish the perpetrators and compensate Pa Naang Khawng, nothing has happened until the time of this report, after more than 2 years.
Pa Naang Khawng, married and with 7 children, was plucking tea leaves alone in her familys tea plantation some distance from their village, Wan Kaat, sometime in December 2002 when 8 SPDC soldiers from LIB580 suddenly appeared from nowhere and gang-raped her in the tea plantation, and left immediately after they had all satisfied themselves.
Pa Naang Khawng then returned home and related her plight to her husband, Lung Kaa Kham, aged 50, and they went to the village and community leaders and reported the incident. When they all went to complain about it to the commander of LIB580, Aung Kyaw Htoo, he told them to return home, and promised to make an inquiry and take actions against the culprits and compensate the victim.
Even though it has been over 2 years now, Pa Naang Khawng and her family have not yet heard about any actions being taken against the SPDC soldiers, nor has she received any compensation.
RAPE IN MURNG-SU
Although it happened over a year ago, the incident seemed still fresh in the mind of the victim, Naang Sawng (not her real name), aged 38, when she was raped in a rice farm by 6 SPDC soldiers, who she knew only were from the military camp south of Wan Pin village in Murng Zaang village tract, Murng-Su township.
On 4 November 2001, Naang Sawng was alone in a hut at her rice farm when a patrol of 6 SPDC troops from the said camp came to the edge of the farm and called her to go to them. The troops asked her if she had seen any Shan soldiers in the area.
When Naang Sawng said she had not seen any Shan soldiers, the SPDC troops accused her of lying and sympathizing with the Shan soldiers and said they would punish her for that, and dragged her into the farm and all of them raped her among the rice plants.
When the SPDC troops left, Naang Sawng went back home and told her husband about it and they reported it to their village headman. However, when they complained about it to the commander of the said SPDC military camp, he said that it was not his men and no one had left the camp on the day of the incident.
BEATING AND INTIMIDATION OF VILLAGERS FOR TELLING TRUTH IN LAI-KHA AND KUN-HING
On 1 February 2003, 2 displaced villagers were severely beaten by local SPDC troops in Lai-Kha township for telling foreigners about the mistreatment of the people by the Burmese troops, and later people in Lai-Kha and Kun-Hing townships were intimidated and warned by SPDC troops not to tell foreigners about them mistreating the people, otherwise they would face severe punishment.
On 30 January 2003, a group of foreigners were allowed by local SPDC troops into a relocation site in the outskirts of Lai-Kha town to meet and interview the local people, most of whom were displaced villagers who had been forcibly relocated from other areas some years ago by the Burmese troops.
Some of the villagers were said to have told the foreigners, most likely members of the ICRC delegation working in Burma since their visit to the area coincided with the incident, about the ill-treatment of the people by the Burmese army troops such as forced relocations, unfair forcible rice procurement, shooting of livestock, forced labour, etc., including some cases of forced portering which took place some time ago. So they did not remember the exact dates and the army units that requisitioned them.
Two days later, on 1 February 2003, 2 villagers who had met with the said foreigners were arrested by the local SPDC troops. The troops accused the 2 villagers of defaming the Burmese army by falsely telling the foreigners about the Burmese soldiers abusing the people without being able to provide any evidence such as the dates and the army units, and punished them by beating with sticks until they were bleeding all over.
On 4 February 2003, a public meeting was held at the market place in Lai-Kha town by the SPDC military authorities, to which all the village and community leaders in the township were summoned. At the meeting, one of the SPDC commanders, Myint Zaw, told the people to deny any existence of human rights abuses committed by Burmese soldiers against the people, when asked by foreigners or outsiders.
Village and community leaders were told to warn their respective villagers not to say anything about human rights violations by the Burmese army, such as rape, forced labour, unfair rice procurement, stealing of livestock and vegetables, forced portering, forced conscription of vehicles, land and property confiscation and forced relocation, etc..
The SPDC commander said that there were some villagers who had told some foreigners during their visit, from 29 to 31 January 2003, about the Burmese army committing human rights abuses against the people. From now on, anyone found to have told about such things to outsiders would face severe punishment and their land and property would be confiscated. Their tongues could be cut off and they could be beheaded, and their families or even the whole groups could face the same fate.
In mid-February 2003, a similar meeting as above was held in Kun-Hing town and people were similarly warned. In addition, the respective village headmen of the villagers who talked about human rights violations would face a fine of 500,000 kyats and 3 years imprisonment; and the village tract headmen would face a fine of 800,000 kyats and 5 years imprisonment.
DETENTION, BEATING AND TORTURE OF INNOCENT VILLAGERS IN MURNG-SART
On 18 December 2002, 9 villagers in Murng Kok village tract in Murng-Sart township were arrested, beaten and tortured, and detained for 8 days, until 26 December 2002, by SPDC troops of LIB580 under the accusation that they helped 2 soldiers from LIB580 to desert to SSA-S (Shan State Army - South), which later turned out to be false.
On 16 December 2002, 2 SPDC soldiers from LIB580 deserted and 2 days later the battalion commander, Aung Kyaw Htoo, sent out a patrol of 17-18 troops and arrested 9 villagers in Murng-Kok village tract, accusing them of having helped the 2 soldiers to desert to SSA-S. The 9 arrested, 5 men and 4 women, were village and community leaders and the women were the wives of those who were not at their homes at the time of the arrest.
The 5 men were interrogated, beaten and tortured by the SPDC troops while the 4 women were detained and told that they would be locked up until their husbands turned themselves in. For 3 days, the men were put into bamboo stocks nailed to the ground and tortured by beating, kicking, putting plastic bags over their heads and pouring water into their mouths, etc., and interrogated.
When the villagers denied any knowledge of the 2 deserters, the cycle of torture was repeated. The torture and interrogation went on until 21.12.02 and the men were locked up, as were the 4 women, until 26.12.02 when they were all released.
It was later learned that the villagers were released only because the 2 deserters had been captured on that day by their own SPDC troops at Kuay An Ma village in Murng Kok tract, Murng-Sart township. The villagers, however, had badly suffered from the torture and had to seek medical treatment at their own expenses.
CHANGE OF RICE CULTIVATING PLAN FOR THE MILITARY GIVES MORE TROUBLES TO THE FARMERS IN KAENG-TUNG
In December 2002, SPDC military authorities in Kaeng-Tung township issued an order requiring farmers in each village in the township to grow 1 acre of rice for the military. A loan of 300,000 kyat could also be had for each village, with an interest rate at 10 baskets of unhulled rice by the end of rice growing season.
Accordingly, farmers had to prepare their rice fields to grow rice for the military. While the farmers were busy preparing -- some had already ploughed their fields which were ready to be sowed -- another order came out in January 2003.
The new order said that the 1 village, 1 acre plan had been scrapped and the rice field at Phaai Waeng village, about 2 furlongs north of Kaeng-Tung, would be used as a model rice field for the military instead.
The farmers were required to grow rice seedlings at their villages, make them into bundles with the tips of their leaves evenly cut and bring them to the model rice field to be planted. The seedlings had to be only of Shin Shwe Haw variety. The villagers had to buy fertilizer from the military, one sack per village, at 1,700 kyat per sack.
PEOPLE FORCED TO ATTEND AND BUY GOODS AT A TRADE FAIR IN KAENG-TUNG
From 14 to 20 January 2003, people in Kaeng-Tung township were forced to attend and buy goods at a trade fair organized by the SPDC township authorities, causing people to lose a lot of time normally spent on their agricultural work.
Most of the commodities displayed at the fair were consumer goods such as different kinds of beans, onion, garlic, cooking oil, cookies, several sorts of ready-made food such as dried noodles, etc., and clothes.
The commodities were from Burma, China and Thailand, brought there by several trading companies from Rangoon, Mandalay and Kaeng-Tung and Murng-Phyak in eastern Shan State, mostly owned by ethnic Chinese traders.
Each trading company had to pay the SPDC authorities 100,000 kyat tax per day for the fair and the SPDC authorities in turn forced the people in the area to attend and buy goods at the fair.
All the 10 village tracts in Kaeng-Tung township were forced to take turns to go and buy goods every day during the one-week long trade fair, causing a lot of trouble and wasted time for the local farmers, according to them.