An eight-member relief team consisting of a team leader, videographer, medic, photographer and area leaders coordinated relief efforts to IDPs in Thaton District, Western Karen State Burma. The team met with leaders in the District before the trip and chose the villages in most need of the relief team’s presence. The team went to seven villages to encourage the people and bring emergency relief, gather information about human rights violations and Burma Army activities. The names of the villages are available but withheld for their security.
Civilians in Thaton Township currently have to build roads, send wood, bamboo, leaf and firewood to the Burma Army and the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA). Burma Army troops punish any villagers who do not send laborers or materials. Out of fear of recrimination, the civilians serve the Burma Army troops and cannot continue with their own work.
Three Shan men were used as porters for the Burma Army and escaped in an area where the relief team visited. The three men were interviewed by the team.
1- N.L., 34 years old, from M. L. Village, Thein De Township , Shan State. He was arrested and convicted of playing cards when one of his neighbors had passed away and given a 10 month sentence in jail at Lah Show.
2- E.S., 30 years old, from M. L. Village, Thein De Township, Shan State. His account is the same as N.L.’s.
3- S. M. H., 48 years old, H.L. Village, Thi Baw Township. He had a motorbike accident and was punished with a one and half year sentence at Lah Show Jail
The three men were used as prisoner porters for Burma Army LIB 120, which is under Burma Army DIV 33 and Battalion HQ located at Won Tho Town in the Shan State. The three escaped porters requested that the Karen leadership in Thaton District send them back to the Shan State Army (SSA). *The portersâ full names are available but withheld for their security.
HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES;
(a) 4 December 2004: The head of the Max Myamar company and the commanders of the South East Command (Maung Po) started a joint rubber plantation business. They confiscated civilian farm land for their own use. The resulting rubber plantation is 5,000 acres. The displaced civilians are now surviving by scavenging for wood, firewood, vegetables, fish and other basic necessities.
(b) 6 December 2004: DKBA 333, under commander Shwe Tha Lee, charged each saw mill in their area 50,000 kyat. The names and locations of the six owners who paid are on record but withheld for their security.
(c) 6 January 2005; DKBA 333 Battalion No (2) Sergeant Major Pah Kler Kay ordered 12 villages to give a total of 42,000 sheets of palm leaves. The names of the villages and specific number of sheets they were ordered to give are available but withheld for their security.
(d) 28 January 2005: Burma Army LIB 376 ordered upper NKT Village to give them a goat. The villagers complied.
(e) 30 January 2005: DKBA 333 Battalion No (2) Captain Dah Bu ordered 6 villages to pay porter fees. Each village is required to pay 15,000 kyats every month. The names of the villages are available but withheld for their security.
BURMA ARMY MOVEMENTS;
(1) In Tha Tun Township area the following (4) Battalions which are under DIV- 44 have taken position; LIB (9), LIB (3), LIB (8), and IB (2). From time to time the other A DIV- troops enter and replace these troops.
(2) Under normal circumstances, in the Thaton District, Burma Army DIV-44 keeps troops from 6 battalions under two strategic commands (3 battalions per strategic command). At present, the six battalions are;
- LIB 3
- LIB 9
- IB 8
- IB 2 (Lt. Col. Than Htun)
- LIB 102 (Lt. Col Win Naing)
- LIB 376 (Lt. Col. Khin Maung Oo)
Maung Maung Than is a leader in one of the Strategic Commands.
(3) DKBA 333 Brigade has taken position in Thaton District and Lt. Col Saw Be is the DKBA Battalion commander.
(4) The Burma Army and DKBA troops are conducting activities in Thaton District, including many human rights abuses disrupting the lives of civilians in the area.
(5) 15th February 2005; Burma Army DIV-33 and its 8 Battalions entered and replaced the previous troop in Lu Thaw Township, Thaton District. The replacement Battalion are-LIB 4, 11, 42, 76, 111, 119, 120, IB 2 and IB 30 (under Southern Command).