Report from a relief team providing assistance to IDPS in Toungoo District, Northern Karen State. 22 January, 2005.
The Burma Army continues its attempts to consolidate its gains from the offensives of January-March and to extend its control of the area, especially along the Toungoo-Mawchi and Kler La (Yethogee Junction) – Busakee roads. Forced labor and portering is used to resupply the Burma Camps .
This report covers forced labor, the capture and reported murder of villagers (two villagers captured on 26 December, 2004 and bodies not yet found), attacks and looting of a village, and continued human rights violations and abuses of Karen people in Toungoo District, Karen State, Burma. This report was sent from the field on 22 January 2005 by a relief team now in the area.
1) IDPS in Hiding:
There are 440 new IDPs still in hiding and in need of rice. A relief team has been able to reach these IDPs and provide medical and limited food relief but the need for sustained food supply is critical.
Rice needs. Each time the Burma Army attacks an area or patrols near a village the villagers flee. At best, this disrupts their cultivation of rice and at worst completely stops it. Villages that are not attacked or oppressed by the SPDC can grow enough rice to feed themselves and have enough left over to sell. At this time there are few villages in the mountains of Toungoo District that can grow a large surplus of rice. This is especially true of villages that the Burma Army targets for attack. Once displaced, the villagers (now IDPs), lose the ability to cultivate thier fields.
The IDPs from Saw Wah Der village are a current example of IDPs who are hiding from Burma Army attacks and cannot cultivate their fields. The IDPs from Saw Wah Der need rice to survive the year. Due to the attacks of 26 December 2004, the villagers were forced to flee into the jungle. They cannot plant or tend their fields and are now relying on rice they were able to carry with them when they fled.
On average each person needs six 50 Kilo (110 lbs) sacks of rice per year.
For this group of 440 IDPs, that equates to 2,640 sacks of rice for one year. (Each sack cost 7,500 Kyats. 2,640 sacks x 7,500 Kyats = 1,990,000 Kyats or 40,000 Baht). This is a large sum of money, beyond the capacity of these people, and thus they will need to receive cash or rice assistance to survive. (There are over 20,000 IDPs total in Toungoo District Northern Karen State at this time. Almost every village has been attacked at one time or another and even those able to return to their villages are forced to flee again and again.)
2) Villagers taken Prisoner by Burma Army:
On 20 January; Two Karen villagers were captured by Burma Army troops from Battalion-LIB 60, Column #2 Commanded by Wey Pyo Pein. These two men work as porters carrying loads of supplies to villages. They were captured by the Burma Army troops and searched. One of their loads contained medicine (which the Karen are prohibited to have) and so they were both tied up and taken to Baw Gale Gyi. Their situation now is unknown. The two men’s names are: Saw Tha Day Kwa and Saw Pa Ka Raw
3) Forced Portering:
On 19 January, four Karen women were forced to carry military supplies from Ye Tho Gyi ( Kaw Tha Der) to the Burma Army camp at Naw Soe. Naw Soe camp is located south of Ye Tho Gyi on the Busakee road vicinity E 096 49 30
N18 50 00. The Burma Army regularly forces people to porter their loads to their camps. Four days before this, (15 January), four other women were forced to carry loads to the same camp, Naw Soe. (The names of these 8 women are on record but not released here to protect these women from retaliation.)
4) Resupply of Military Camps:
On 20 January, 17 trucks under Burma Army control entered Baw Gale Gyi with two infantry companys from LIB 92 , under the command of Kyaw Zwa Shwey. The trucks were loaded with rice for the camps. Three of the trucks carried porters and fuel.
5) Commandeering of Civilians and Vehicles for Military Resupply:
On 17 January, 2005 Strategic Operations Command (SOC) #1 . Commanded by Khin Soe gave the following order to villagers in the Kler Lah-Ye Tho Gyi area: “All local vehicle owners must donate the use of their trucks to send the rations for Burma Army camps on the Kler Lah- Busakee road. (descriptions and locations are item # 7 in this report).
“The civilians must find a way to get the rations to Busakee. If you have any breakdown, accident or fatality, we (Burma Army) will have no responsibility.”
The Burma Army Battalion LIB 48 sent 20 civilian truckloads of rations to Kler Lah for resupply of their camps on the Kler Lah- Busakee road.
6) Seizure of Land for New Army camp:
On 14 January 2005.Burma Army troops seized 273.9 acres in the area between Liet Tho and La Pae villages. This land will be used to build a new Army camp. The troops who seized the land are commanded by Pyeo Ko Ko Than from Southern Command based in Toungoo, Karen State, Burma.
From Earlier report:
On January 1, 2005, the Burma Army began construction of a new road from Thandaung to Leit Tho. This new road is part of a 5 road project the Burma Army is conducting in Eastern Toungoo District, Karen State.
i)Thandaung-Leit Tho road. Construction began on 1/1/05, and once complete will provide a more direct route from Thandaung to Leit Tho and on to Loikaw, Karenni State. Thandaung is a major Burma Army training area for artillery, mortar and counter guerilla training. The sound of heavy artillery and mortar fire of practicing Burma Army units can be heard as far away as the Karenni border everyday.
ii)Toungoo-Mawchi road. Construction is ongoing. All weather gravel road from Toungoo to vicinity Tha Aye Hta-Ha Toh Per- (N 18 54 E 96 50). Here it is a dry season only road due to wash outs and deep rivers-no permanent bridges beyond Tha Aye Hta.(The last bridge is at Tha Aye Hta and is a iron bridge from the British era). Forced labor and bulldozers are used on this road as the SPDC attempts to complete an all weather road to Mawchi in Karenni State. As of this report there are 13 Burma Army camps along this road between Toungoo and the Karenni Border. The newest camp, located at Ko Day, west of Yethogale, vicinity N 18 54 E 96 50 was constructed in April, 2004. The Burma Army patrols this road and conducts regular opertations against villages located near the road.
iii)Toungoo-Kler Lah-Busakee road. This road is now under construction using forced labor and one bulldozer. The bulldozer is now at Kaw Tha Der village.
The road is a dry season only road that extends south to within 15 kilometers from Papun District, Karen State. During the dry season the Burma Army forces privately owned vehicles to carry supplies for the Burma outposts on this road. There is no remuneration for this and the vehicle owners must pay for all fuel and repairs.There are six Burma Army camps on this road. The north end of the Busakee Road departs the Toungoo-Mawchi (Mawchi, Karenni State) Road at Kaw Tha Der (Yeh Tho Ley) (N 18 54, E 096
50) and travels ~30 km south to Bu Sa Kee (N 18 44, E 096 57 ).
iv) The Ma La Daw, (In northern Mon township, just south of Toungoo District border) to Busakee, Toungoo district road. This road has progressed to the Play Loh river south of Tha Pyay Nyunt, but is still 20 kilometers short (southwest) of Busakee. So far there are two Burma Army camps on this road.
v) Pah Leh Wa to Klaw Me Der road. This is a spur road south off the Toungoo-Mawchi road. Construction continues on this dry season only road that penetrates into central Tantabin Township, Toungoo District. There are two Burma Army camps on this road.
8) New IDPs:
There are now 400 new IDPs as 70 families flee an ongoing operation by the Burma Army. There are 400 new IDPs hiding in the Saw Wah Der area of Tantabin Township, Toungoo District, Northern Karen State. This is southeast of the junction of the Toungoo-Mawchi and the Kler Lah-Busakee roads.
Vicinity N 18 53 E 096 50.
On 26 December, 2004 Burma Army Battalions IB 73 and LIB 439 attacked Saw Wah Der village, looting the village and capturing two villagers. The other villagers fled into the jungle. Two villagers captured were two men; Saw Ta Tam 38 yrs, with a wife and six children and Saw Tu Kru, 40 yrs . These two men were taken to the Burma Army camp at Kaw They Der. They have been reportedly executed but there is still no confirmation as of this date. The rest of the 400 villagers are in hiding now as the Burma Army Battalion IB
73 is aggressively patrolling this area. The villagers of Saw Wah Der as well as other IDPs from Yaw Tha Bei and Wah Baw Kee who had fled earlier are all in, scattered in small groups in the jungle.
Rice is running out and weakened by exposure, many are sick with malaria, respitry infections, diarrhea and typhoid.
9) Earlier attacks:
While many villagers have been able to return to their villages since the December 2004 attacks in west of the Kler Lah-Busakee road, some are still in hiding in Tantabin Township, Toungoo District, Northern Karen State. In addition to these attacks the Burma Army continues its oppression of civilians along the road running north to south from Kler Lah (and Yeh Tho Ley),east of Toungoo, a spur road off the Toungoo-Mawchi road), to Busakee, Toungoo Distinct. Forced labor, beatings and other human rights violations are now occurring in this area.
10) Earlier Forced Labor and Human Rights Violations:
1) Forced Labor, Physical Assault and Abduction:
January 14, 2005: From December 16, 2004 through this date, January 14, 2005, every family in the Klay Soe Kee area (vicinity the junction of the Toungoo-Mawchi and Kler Lah-Busakee roads), must provide one person to work on the roads. Men and women are forced to work everyday with no pay, under the supervision of Burma Army battalion IB 73.
On 13 December 2004, at Yeh Tho Gyi village: Burma Army LIB 590 took four men and seven women to serve as porters for the day. Burma Army LIB 590 released the women at the end of the day, but not before slapping their faces and firing several shots in their direction as they departed. The men have not yet been released.
2) Two Burma Army Battalions shoot a villager in nearby Mon Township and fire into a Christmas Celebration:
On January 6, 2005, Burma Army Battalion LIB 599 ambushed a group of villagers near Kwee Daw Kaw village, Mon township, Nyaunglebin District. This is the Karen township south of Tantabin township, Toungoo District, Karen State. One villager was shot and wounded but managed to escape. The wounded man is Saw Eh Doh Htoo.
On 6 December 2004, at Yeh Tho Gyi village: Villagers fled after soldiers from LIB 590 and 439 fired into their nighttime Christmas celebration from nearby high ground.
3) Human Shields:
On 4 December 2004, at Yeh Tho Gyi village, N 18 53, E 096 50: Burma Army Battalion LIB 439, under the command of Lt. Col. Aung Htay Win, took village headman Saw Lay Ber, Reverend Lawrence Bell, and teacher Saw Per Leh Htoo, and forced them to serve as human shields for two bulldozers making improvements to the Bu Sa Kee Road between Yeh Tho Ley to Yeh Tho Gyi villages. The north end of the Bu Sa Kee Road departs the Toungoo-Mawchi (Mawchi, Karenni State) Road at Yeh Tho Ley (N 18 54, E 096 50) and travels ~30 km south to Bu Sa Kee (N 18 44, E 096 57 ).
Medics operate on Karen man.
Old woman in hiding place.