From 24 February to 12 March 2002, a relief team , conducted a humanitarian relief mission to internally displaced Karen in the northern Karen State of Burma. Due to the attacks of the Burma Army there are over 2 million people displaced inside Burma. In the Northern Karen State alone, (Toungoo, Papun, Nyaunglebin and Thaton districts), there are now over 4,000 new internally displaced persons (IDP).
The Burma Army attacks, loots and burns villages and IDP hiding places every year, with the latest attacks in the Northern Karen State commencing in November 2001 and continuing up to this date, March 22 ,2002. Please see attached update. In the area the relief team visited there are now over 3,000 new IDPs. The team distributed medicine, cash assistance for food, school supplies, bibles, hymnals, cassette tapes, clothes, solar panels and Good Life club packs for children.
The team attempted to give love and hope to the villagers and IDPs in this area, holding clinics, training medics as well as joining the IDPs in worship services. The team was able to treat over 2,360 patients among the IDPs. The primary diseases encountered were malaria, ARI, ERI, dysentery, skin infections, and malnutrition. Victims of knife (accidental), gunshot and landmine wounds ( all by Burma Army), were also treated. The Burma Army is very active at this time, patrolling, laying landmines and attacking villages and IDP hiding places. The relief mission report follows.
Relief Mission Report:
02-24-02 Drive and walk to link-up point.
02-25-02 Walk, boat and walk to Northern Karen State. Walk through the night to Peh Leh Der. Spent the night.
02-26-02 Peh Leh Der. Papun district 25 homes. Last SPDC attack 1996-1997 10 IDP families living in the village Medical Treatment – 20 IDPs – Dysentery, upper respiratory infection, malaria, skin infections and vitamin deficiency. 100 other IDPs live in the area. IDP interview-Paw Say (silver flower), 27 yrs old.
Paw Say reports that her husband left their home in January 2001 to work in their rice field. On his way to the rice field he stepped on a land mine. The SPDC found him and decapitated him. Paw Say has a 1 1/2 year old daughter Ek La Htoo. Paw Say and Ek La Htoo live with Paw Sayâs parents. Paw Say lives in fear that the SPDC will return any day.
Tha Kre Doe Papun District
New IDP hideout. 30 IDPs living in the village. Within a 2 hour walk of a SPDC outpost.
Medical treatment – 1 IDP with badly cut and infected finger. Extensive treatment, so she may not lose her finger. 38 IDPs treated for malaria, ARI, ERI, malnutrition, dysentery and skin infections. Walked all afternoon and all night, passing through Tha-Oo-Der at 3am and continuing on to Tha-Da-Der.
2-27-02 and 2-28-02 Tha Da Der Papun District
Medical Treatment 300 IDPs treated. Upper respiratory infections, malaria, typhoid, skin infections, dysentery and vitamin deficiency.
Dental Treatment – 20 fillings and extractions. Dentist also trained local medics as well as medics who accompanied the team in extraction, drilling, filling and tooth restoration. Dentist was sick but continued to treat patients while receiving IV saline.
Church service held at local church. Attended by 200 IDPs and villagers.
3-1-02 Tha Oo Hta Papun District
After 1997 SPDC attacks IDPs fled to this village from Toe Ke, La Lay Gwaw, Pla Ko Kho and Kaw Whae. SPDC now controls these villages. They can not go back.
Medical Treatment-45 IDPs. Malaria, typhoid, vitamin deficiencies, upper respiratory infections, infected lacerations, and eye diseases.
3-2-02 Yae Mu Plaw Papun District
Over 2000 IDPs fled here after 1997 SPDC attacks.
SPDC activities- Units patrolling area: Battalion #241, Battalion #251, and Battalion #357. Outposts and bunkers throughout the area. Units are within 2 hours of IDPs.
Medical Treatment-750 patients – treatments – upper respiratory, skin infections, malaria, typhoid, dysentery, vitamin deficiencies, and one landmine victim (female), of a Burma Army mine.
Team treated patients, and led a night time community singing and prayer program.
3-2-02 IDP interviews
Saw Tachet: 80 years old, Po Chew village
He fought in World War II against the Japanese with Colonel Seagrim of the British Army. He was a soldier in the Home Guard Militia. His unit killed 10 Japanese soldiers. He reports fighting for 14 months.
Swe Lay Mu: 90 years old, Pa Hah Der village
He fought with Colonel Seagrim in World War II. He was a soldier in the Home Guard Militia.
He helped hide Colonel Seagrim from the Japanese. He reported that the English air dropped weapons for them. He reported that it has been many years since he has seen a foreigner. He heard we were in the village and wanted to meet us.
Nya Tay Mu: 80 years old,
Reports he also fought with Colonel Seagrim during World War II. He also was member of the Home Guard Militia. He was asked to fight for 6 months. He did not want to because he had to plant his rice crop. He was told if he fought the British would bring food. He was happy to report he fought and the British brought them food.
Relief team moves south east, over the Buko range and down to the Bilin river to IDPs from Nyaunglebin District.
On this day, 3 March, troops from BA division 22 attack and loot Ter Ber Pah village, east of our location. And on this same day, to the west of the Bilin river, BA LIB 364 burned down the villages of Kaw Hser, Saw Rho Ko and Thaw Keh Kho. These villages are a 1 day walk to the west of our location.
Relief team then arrives at the District school site (burned down by Burma Army on 11 Nov2001)
Nyaunglebin District, District School
Saw Dot Lay Mu (Guh Gu) General Secretary, Federation of Trade Unions of Burma
Last attack by SPDC November 11, 2001. 200 BA soldiers attacked the school and nearby village wounding one villager, ransacked and burned homes. Most villagers were attending church or just leaving church as attack began. Most villagers fled without being able to gather any personal items or property. As villagers fled into the mountains above the village the BA mortared their escape routes with 60mm and 81mm mortars. Homes not burned were looted and damaged beyond repair. 300 villagers have fled. The school was torn apart and all school materials looted or destroyed. School text books and hymnals were used by Burma Army to clean themselves after defecating.
Reports that the Burma Army (BA) are most active during rice harvest time. BA either steals or burns rice. BA are forcing IDPs to porter crew served weapons for them and construct roads. They are required to do this without pay and often without food. The BA officers eat first, soldiers second and if there is anything left the porters eat. One porter said that he got 5 spoonfuls of rice per day.
Guh Gu reports that the BA continues to attack the Karen people, inflicting more death, destruction of homes and villages and displacing more people daily. The SPDC is systematically reducing the size of the Karen Nation. He feels strongly that his nation needs the following immediately:
- Weapons and ammunition to protect their people
Interview with a porter/deserter who escaped from the Burma Army.
Sei Hein Thu: 20 years old, Lin Kein village. Shan Ethnic
Sei reports that in July 2001 he was working on his family farm cutting bamboo. He was approached by the Burma Army (BA), at gun point. He was forced to porter rice and ammunition. He reports it was quite clear to him that he did not have a choice. Four more villagers from his area were captured and forced to porter as well. He reports they traveled 30 miles the first day. Officers and soldiers were fed first and if there was any food left the porters could eat. Reports that often he ate less than a handful of rice each day. He witnessed brutality of BA daily – particularly beatings for little or no reason (asking for food or water). On December 7, 2001 three porters from his village approached him and asked him if he wanted to escape with them. He was too afraid and declined. On December 8, 2001, while the SPDC were not looking the three porters fled. The escape was quickly discovered . The SPDC hunted them down and shot and killed all three as an example to the other porters. Sei reports seeing the dead bodies before being forced to continue on. The porters were told by Captain Tun Tun BA Light Infantry Battalion #525 âjust do as you are told or this could happen to youâ.
Two weeks later the porters were sent to Ban Bong. They were given a choice to go home or join the SPDC. Sei choose to go home. The next day he was taken to see Captain Tun Tun. He was asked to join the SPDC. He informed Captain Tun Tun he was not interested. The Captain slapped him . The Captain was upset and claimed that Sei had told his soldiers he wanted to join the BA. He was then given a choice of joining the BA or going to jail. He choose to join the BA.
After 10 days of training camp they had little or no food or water. Every time they went into the jungle to void or defecate they had to remove all of their clothing to insure they would not run away.
During the training, a trainee tried to escape. The training officers forced the 200 trainees to severely beat the escapee. He was so severely beaten that he had to be hospitalized for two weeks. He was then forced to pay for his medical treatment. If the trainees did not participate in the beating of the escapee they were beaten by the training officers with bamboo canes.
Sei was sent to Pa Knu Khu Line Infantry Battalion #256 for two months. He was then sent to Tau Ggy as a guard for the battalion commander. He reports that he began looking for an opportunity to escape.
Finally, one morning at 5:30 a.m., while on guard duty he fled. He moved through the jungle for 9 days with little or no food. He eventually came upon villagers. He explained his situation to them. He gave them his weapon and they took him to a KNU location. He is no longer afraid of the BA catching him. He said he hates the BA for what they did to him and his villagers. He feels they are oppressing the people. He simply wants to go to Thailand and enter a school. He hopes to return to his family someday.
Medical Treatment- 300 IDPs treated – Malaria, typhoid, skin infections, vitamin deficiencies, and dysentery.
Dental Treatment- 51 IDPs treated – 5 fillings and 46 extractions.
Interview of four defenders of November 11, 2001 attack on Kew Mu Der, Baw Kaw and Te Tho lo. Defenders: Saw Shell 45 years old Saw Ha Shwe 32 years old Saw Eh Moo 28 years old
On November 11, 2001, while attending church services, the villagers were alerted that the BA were in the area. Saw Shell, Saw Ha Shwe, and Saw Eh Moo decided to patrol the immediate area . Almost immediately they made contact with the BA. The weapons fire signaled the villagers to flee the area. The BA column numbered 200-250 soldiers. The Karen soldiers were able to slow the movement of the BA column due to them passing through a narrow ravine. Thus allowing villagers time to flee. Most villagers could not return to their homes and fled with only what they were wearing. The BA pressed the attack. Upon reaching the village, the BA called in 81mm mortar strikes on the escape routes of the villagers as they fled into the mountains.
The men report the battle lasted 2 1/2 hours. They report another soldier who fought with them was wounded in the leg and evacuated to another location. His name is unknown to this reporter.
These men report that they will not move to refugee camps. This is their state. They will evacuate if need be but will always return. They only want to live their lives peacefully with their families in their villages.
Aye Mey 57 years old Htoo Hta Lu village She reports she has survived 4 separate attacks by the BA.
2-99 Aye reports she was working in her rice field when she was caught in the middle of a fire fight . The BA and Karen soldiers were on opposite sides of the rice paddy she was working in and opened fire on each other. She fled without injury.
10-2-99 Aye reports she was harvesting rice when the approaching BA opened fire on her and other villagers working in the rice paddy. She was shot in the lower back but was able to escape.
10-17-99 Aye reports she and other villagers were hiding in the jungle when the SPDC came upon them and open fire. They fled without anyone being injured.
4-99 Aye was living in the village of Ba Wa Wah Kwee. The village was attacked by BA. Fortunately for Aye and the other villagers enough warning was given that they could flee without anyone being injured.
Aye reports living in 10 different villages since 2-99. She is constantly forced to flee the BA but reports she will not go to the refugee camps because this is her home. Aye says, âWe are like bamboo. We bend when we have to but will not breakâ.
3-5-02 Treated patients all day, 200 patients treated. Visited and prayed with IDPs in the surrounding area.
This night held a service of prayer and singing with 300 IDPs. Distributed the Good Life packs to children (postcard, toys, toothbrushes, combs ect), and distributed sporting equipment, school supplies, tracts, bibles, hymnals, toys, clothes, hats, and cash for the school. 88 students and 12 teachers total. âThe Burma Army destroyed everything, they even ruined our precious school books, I am very sad, what will the children do?â , said Calvin, a teacher at the school. The team joined the IDPs in song and prayer around a fire that night.
3-5-02 Saw Ber Htoo Nyaunglebin District Hsaw Htee Township Population-1,020 Last attack by SPDC November 11, 2001
SPDC very active in this area. Usually move in two columns of 50 to 200 soldiers.
Active units: the following are all in Division #33
6th Battalion Light Infantry Brigade (LIB) #119 Lt. Colonel Htu Nweh
- 2nd Battalion LIB #11 Colonel Htin Kyaw Thu
- 3rd Battalion LIB #42 Major My Int Soe
- 4 th Battalion LIB #111 Major Luagr Min Thein
- 5th Battalion LIB# 76 Major Zaw Min Htun
- 6th Battalion LIB# 4 Major Myint Thein
Above Unit Activities:
November 11, 2001 . Burned homes and entire villages. Stole personal property and food.
One IDP killed – Po The Htoo. He is survived by a wife and 2 children. He left home to gather salt for his family. While returning home he was shot and killed by SPDC.
One IDP wounded.
3-6-02 Nyaunglebin District Hsaw Htee Township
November 11, 2001 the KNU security element protecting the Bilin river area and a nearby IDP hide site were attacked by the BA. 3000 people were displaced on both sides of the river. IDPs fled into the mountains and hid in the jungle. Most returned to their villages on November 25, 2001. One soldier was wounded defending his village and one villager killed (Po The Htoo) leaving a wife and 2 children. Two villagers have disappeared it is unknown if they were killed or captured. BA suffered 2 KIA and 2 WIA. A Burma Army helicopter evacuated the two WIA.
Current BA activity 20 miles away in southwestern part of district.
Radios are needed to better communicate to villagers movement of BA. This would give villagers more warning time to flee with belongings.
General Sha Minn of the KNU,â Burmese government is telling the world that they love all ethnic groups . But their actions against our people show the real truth.â The General wants the world to know the truth. The General wants the United States and Great Britain to punish the Burmese government. He reports Burma is the largest producer of methamphetamines in Asia and the largest producer of heroine in the world.
1-10-02 7th Battalion LIB#363 Column 1&2 Htee Bla village
Burned 24 homes. All property looted . No one wounded or killed.
1-30-02 Du Paw Lay Burned rice harvested and 1 home. Villagers fled. No injuries. Killed and ate 200 pigs. Burned one home. Stole 10 tins of rice, 30 sarongs, and 15 kilos of salt.
1-30-02 Naw Sahwe Paw village burned to the ground stole-5 kilos of tobacco, 1 bucket of sesame, and 5 baskets of rice.
1-30-02 Naw They Kahin stolen – 5 tins of rice, 2 knives, 2 cooking pots, and 5 dishes.
1-30-02 Eha Kaw Dablae village stole-5 tins of rice
1-30-02 Saw Eh kaw village stole-10 tins of rice and 2 cooking pots.
1-5-02 In 8th Battalion area of KNU BA Sa Tha Lone (Short Pants) received orders from Rangoon kill KNU sympathizers. Led by Major Than Oo Go Ma La Daw village BA soldiers beat a villager. Ordered other villagers to transport BA ammo and food in there oxen carts. Forced relocation of 703 villagers (126 homes).
2-8-02 8th Battalion area of KNU Kay Ook Paw village BA burned entire village and 10 homes in the area.
1-1-02 9th Battalion area of KNU BA entered 5 different villages and demanded 10,000 Kyat from each village per month. If not paid the villagers will be punished and the village head will go to jail or be beaten.
1-4-02 9th Battalion area of KNU BA LIB#35, 60, and 350. Major Thoo Ra Maung Gyi Forced labor from the villagers-portering and security. Villagers were made to walk in front of the BA column in case the KNU had set an ambush for BA. BA also demanding money that the villagers had.
1-12-02 9th Battalion area of KNU BA Commander Thet Khaing. Captured two villagers from To Ne De Dar . Beat them seriously. They had committed no offenses. Demanded that the village pay 10,000 kyat.
1-23-02 9th Battalion area of KNU BA under Commander Khaing captured 3 villagers from Kaw Tha Saw. Beat them severely and shot and killed them. No reason given. Other villagers fled. 1-29-02 BA LIB#350 with DKB troops Entered the village of Nu Kha. Opened fire and wounded 4 villagers. Injured Saw Hee and his two sons ages 2 and 4. Also injured (young girl) Naw Bay Tha 15 years of age. Took all personal property of villagers. Took all foreign money in the village. Forcing villagers to watch KNU and report movements to BA.
1-30-02 9th Battalion area of KNU BA LIB #361 led by Commander Khin Maunt Htawe entered Hol Loand Burned 20 homesand tokk everything in the village.
2-26-02 9th Battalion area of KNU BA LIB#349 and #361 invaded Ber Poe Kee village. Four villagers disappeared and have not been seen since. Burma Army units in this area: Light Infantry Battalions Location #26 In Taing #30 Pyin Beye #35 Thayawade #39 4 miles from Taungoo #48 Houk Htwin #53 Pauk Kaung #57 Shwe Kyin #59 Unknown #60 Tha Bo #73 Zayakyi #264 Phein Za Lauk #349 Shwe Kyin #350 Shwe Kyin #351 Kyauk Kyi #439 Ka Yaunt Kwine #440 Gye Oo #589 Shwe Kyin #598 Shwe Kyin The above battalions are under the control of Southern command which is based in Taungoo. The commander is General Tin Aye. Second in command is Colonel Thung Mg oui
3-6-02 to 3-7-02 Ler Wah Ko Der /Htoo Hta Loo/Kae Pha Medical Treatment – 530 IDPs Malaria, typhoid, dysentary, upper respiratory infections, skin infections, and vitamin deficiencies Dental Treatment – 13 IDPs 12 extractions and 1 filling. Church service with local pastor. Handed out bibles , cassette tapes, toys and coloring books.
3-7-02 to 3-8-02 Traveled to Maw Lay Ko. Upon arrival we heard 21 81 mm mortar rounds and machinegun fire striking Kwee Tu village, 4 kilometers to the south. The BA then looted and burned down Kwee Tu. Team attempted to go to Kwee Tu but were blocked by BA forces. Kwee Tu villagers along with the popualtion of neighboring village of Thay Ko Der and Lay Wah fled into the jungle north of Lay Wah. Over 400 new IDPs. (Note: Lay Wa village was burned earlier by BA troops from Division #33 on Nov 21, 2001. 3 Battalions of BA troops on a search and destroy mission attacked Lay Wa along with 10 other Karen villages in the Day Pu No area – Papun Valley. At Lay Wa SPDC troops shot 4 rounds of 60 mm mortars and hundreds of rounds of machine fire into the village. They then looted the village stealing clothes plates, tools, as well as livestock including 30 goats and 70 pigs. Two villagers were wounded by shrapnel in the attack. One villager was killed by gun fire and another stepped on a landmine laid by BA troops. The wounded men were Naw Kay Hae and Ta Mau Thoe. The dead were Pa Ta Roo (landmine) age 55 , widow with one child and Saw Nobel (gunshot), age 25, wife and no children.)
3-8-02 The team moved to Lay Wah to help the IDPs fleeing in that area. The BA continued their advance to Lay Wah and the IDP hiding place but stopped 1 kilometer short of Lay Wah. The relief team continued to treat the patients and act as a look out for the BA. Over 100 patients were treated including one young girl whose life was saved by the intervention of the medics. She had a acute respiratory infection, bleeding from the nose and vagina and was severely dehydrated. The team treated and prayed for and stayed with these IDPs for two days. The Ba unit nearby then turned west aaway from the IDPs and went to attack the villages of Kae Pha and Htoo Ht Loo, which they burned down on 12 March.
As of this report there has been no further news about the 400 new IDPs from Kwee Tu, Thay Ko Der and Lay Wa or the IDPs from Kae Pha and Htoo Hta Loo. They are hiding in the jungle with only the personal property they could carry.
3-10-02 Global Day of Prayer for Burma The team moved back to Day Pu No to join the people there for the day of prayer for Burma. A church service was held with singing, a message and prayer. Team prepares to move back out.
3-11-02 Team moves all night to border.
3-12-02 On March 12 Light Infantry Battalion #207 of the BA burned down two Karen villages. Kae Pa Hta and Htoo Hta Loo creating 500 IDPs. The location of 3 Battalions of BA as of 3-14-02: Tho They Der – 1 Battalion Daw Kaw Der (near Saw Pwe Der) – 1 Battalion Kae Pa Hta – 1 Battalion
3-12-02 The team arrives back.
Thank you all who prayed for us and sent the Good Life club childrenâs packs, as well as all the help for the medicine (over 2,360 treated), school books, bibles, hymnals, solar panels, tapes and other gifts. Please continue to pray for the IDPs who are still inside Burma and living in uncertainty and fear. Their faith and love in the face of extreme hardship and oppression is an inspiration to us. We thank God for these people and pray for justice, freedom and peace for them and all the people of Burma.
“De Oppresso Liber”