Report Summary: The following reports are from missions conducted by two Karenni Free Burma Rangers teams between January and June of 2006 in Karenni State . The reports include information about the situation of IDPs and villagers, Human Rights abuses, Burma Army activities in the Karenni State, and the response of villagers and relief teams. The Burma Army, along with proxy groups such as the KNPLF and KNSO, remain active throughout the area of Karenni State these two teams visited.
Free Burma Rangers
Subject: Karenni FBR, Karenni 2, Maw Chee area field mission report.
As the subject matter mentioned above, we Karenni FBR team 2 submit our field mission report, for the mission beginning on 4 March to 7 April, 2006. We ask you to overcome the weaknesses and insufficiencies in this report and give us your advice, guidance, and suggestions. Our mission activities are as follows:
Saw ** ****
Team leader, Karenni 2 (Maw Chee area)
1. Team members and area
Prior to our mission we discussed the IDP and villagers’ situation with our local authorities and set our mission to the Maw Chee area, No. 2 and 3 township.
- Saw ** **** team leader and camera
- Saw *** ***** VDO camera man
- Saw **** *** medic
- Naw **** *** medic
- Saw *** *** Ler Bwa Koh district secretary
- Twenty soldiers security for the trip mission
Before we set out on our mission, we held a meeting with the local authorities and we gathered our supplies and laid down our mission area to No. 2 and 3 townships, Ler Bwa Koh district, Maw Chee area.
There are over 7,000 people in these two townships, of which we visited 5,374. During our mission we treated 1,088 people. The situation of our people was a bit better.
From January 2006 until the time of this writing, the SPDC troops from IB 337, along with KNSO and KNPLF forces were active in this area. During our trip we met many people who were sick, especially the children and elderly. We tried to explain to the villagers we encountered how things would improve if we joined hands and worked peacefully together. We also explained how important it is to build a good community between our people. We showed our love and gave them help, hope, and treated them with patience.
3. IDP Situation
Despite the lack of major operations by SPDC troops, KNSO and KNPLF forces, our people were still living in fear. The SPDC continually threatens the people, the people must hide their belongings in the jungle. Therefore, our people continue to face security, food, education, and health problems.
4. SPDC activities
Every week SPDC troops from IB 337, as well as KNSO and KNPLF forces patrol around Maw Chee town. On Feb 10, 2006 one of the SPDC soldiers from IB 337 deserted and joined with the KNPP army.
5. Villager Interview
Date of interview: 28/3/06
- Name: Naw T*****
- Age: 50 years
- Village: K** *** ***
- Nationality: Karen
- Occupation: farming
- Family status: three children
- Religion: Baptist Christian
On 15/4/98 until 2000 the SPDC troops conducted their operation very often at Toungoo district, Daw Hpa Koh township, Karen state. We don’t know the units of these troops. They asked the villagers to work for them, and any absences had to be paid for. Even some people who acted correctly were killed by the troops. Some women were raped by the troops.
On 6/6/05, the SPDC troops began to build their camp at Hpa Der Ka village. They asked the Hpa Der Ka villagers to bring the zinc sheets for them. When the villagers brought the zinc sheets and arrived at the way between Tha Daung and Hpa Der Ka Village. The KNU army took all of these away. Afterwards, the SPDC troops ordered the villagers to give them money, who brought the zinc sheets about 150,000 Kyats from each villager.
On 6/6/05, the SPDC troops commanded that no villagers were to fight them. They warned that anyone that fought would be asked to give up all of their money. If anyone was absent, they would kill villagers.
On 18/4/05 SPDC troops and KNLA fought each other between Ka Thaw Bweh and Ka Thwe Dee village. After the incidents, the SPDC troops asked for 300,000 K from Ka Thwee Dee village and 1,200,000 K from Ka Thaw Bweh village. On 25/4/05 SPDC troops saw villagers that went to the beetlenut field and killed four of the villagers.
6. Distribution of materials
We received the materials such as the FBR t-shirts, hymnal, bibles, Good Life Club t-shirts, blankets, and GLC warm clothes. We delivered these materials to community workers, churches, children, and villagers. We found the GLC childrens’ packages and school sports materials were greatly needed.
7. Education and health
When we set our mission, the school was already closed, but we still visited with the school committee and they suggested that we support them with sports materials, school materials, and food for the teachers. Because food is expensive, it is difficult to hire teachers for the children. Children and villagers were uneducated and asked for assistance with teacher materials. Many villagers face health, food, and accommodation problems. Even when they have money, they can’t easily purchase food because it is so expensive. They don’t have enough income for food and medicine.
A total of 1,088 patients were treated, with the breakdown as follows:
- ARI 137
- Pneumonia 42
- Malaria 63
- Dysentery 97
- B1 DFC 38
- MTV DFC 135
- Injuries 19
- Diarrhea 14
- Gastrietis 36
- Worms 99
- Skin Disease 68
- Other 148
- Total 1088
Our heart went out to the villagers, from their living conditions to their health. They are living in very hostile conditions in unstable settlements. Regardless, the villagers we encountered were filled with hope. Most of the villagers we visited were Christian and were very excited about our work. A major weak point was the size of our team. We were not able to do as much as we would have liked due to the transportation. We also have many strengths such as organizing villagers and explaining our mission. Many villagers were excited about our work and grateful for the assistance we provided.
We visited 20 villages and treated 1,088 people. Insufficient medicine, educational problems, and unstable living situations were the foundation of many of our problems. We believe that we can’t help the people without further support and we wish to extend and upgrade our children and youth program. We found that not only is this generation living in tragedy, but the next generation’s future is certainly gloomy. We encourage everyone to pray for hope and our ability to bring education, medicine, and peace.
Date: July 26, 2006
Group’s name: Karenni group 1 and 3
- *** *** -video/cameraman
- **** -information collector
- *** ****** -medic
- **** *** -security guard
- Members of group 3. ****** -group leader
- ****** -video/cameraman
- *** *** -medic
- ***** -information collector
- ****** -security guard
Location: Central region (Deemawso, Kaylya, and no. 3 province)
This is the trip’s narrative report of two Karenni groups trained by FBR in 2005. The groups set off on January 24, 2006 and worked in the central region of Karenni state. The teams returned on June 9, 2006 after completing its mission. As it was the first field experience, its members undertook many challenges during the trip. (Trip diary attached)
Summary of IDPs’ situation
Most of the inhabitants of the central region rely upon slash and burn cultivation and rainfall farming. Paddy, groundnut, maize, and corn serve as the major crops for the population. Locals also grow a few other crops.
Most families are struggling to survive from hand to mouth while a few harvest just enough crops for their own families from year to year. As a result of abnormal weather in 2005, people were unable to harvest their crops at the right time and farming crops only yielded half of the normal harvest.
Frequent oppression, intimidation, and mistreatment by the Burmese troops are the major threats that people face in their daily lives. They live in insecurity and fear. They won’t allow the team members to visit them in fear of arrest or mistreatment by SPDC’s troops; therefore, five or six of their representatives met with team members outside of the village. Team members never met with all community members to discuss and talk about the whole situation as needed.
People sometimes were arrested for investigation or to guide the troops while they were on their way to the work-field, which wasted their own work time. Burmese troops used to threaten, investigate, and mistreat people whenever the gunfight took place in or near their village, or if evidence (footprints) of the Karenni forces and their hideout were found nearby. For instance, a villager from Lawkukhu was beaten and taken away by Burmese troops after he struck a piece of signal iron alarming people not to make a fire while he was taking his duty on fire prevention agenda during summer time. The troops accused him of signaling the Karenni rebels that they were coming. Such actions taken by Burmese troops haunt the locals year-round.
The patrolling Burmese troops are used to behaving according to any whim, however they want. Consequently, among the people in the communities there is a lack of cooperation, trust, and consultation. Nobody wants to demonstrate leadership as a chief of his/her community in fear of SPDC troop’s oppression. Currently, the people rotate leadership for a measure of one month, three months, or six months among themselves. For example, there is no chief in Kaylya village tract at this time due to this situation.
All in all, people are extremely fearful and struggling to survive under the Burmese military rule without seeing any escape from their situation. An improved future and the end to their bitter suffering will not occur soon unless there is a peace settlement.
Human right violations:
It is obvious that people have been used for forced-labor on new military camp establishments, minors are conscripted into the army, and girls and women mistreated by Burmese troops throughout the country.
People living in Daw Phu and Daw Tamadu are banned by local Burmese troops from purchasing and storing food for their own families. People have to get permission from Burmese troops’ commanders and are limited in purchasing one rice tin per person within a month. People could never store enough food, and those who were found to purchase rice without permission were accused of having connections with Karenni forces. For such cases, the penalty was sometimes death.
The Burmese troops from division no. 55 jointly re-established their military camp with cease-fire groups in Daw Tamadu, Deemawso. Thirty-three people from Daw Tamadu, 25 persons from Daw Nyikhu and 15 persons from Daw Hsawpyah were forced to work on the new military establishment. In addition, Daw Tamadu villagers were ordered to provide 300 poles of log, and 200 poles were required of the Daw Nyikhu, while people from Daw Hsawpyah were demanded to provide bamboo and thatches. After the Burmese troops came in and encamped, people were not allowed to leave the village at night and limited from working in the fields. Land-mines were laid outside villages.
On November 29, a buffalo from Daw Tamadu stepped on a land-mine laid by Burmese troops and died outside the village. On December 5, 2005 two villagers from Daw Hsawpyah were arrested by Burmese troops while they were visiting and using torch-light at night. They were taken to the military camp and detained there for five nights. The cease fire groups based in Hteepoklo ordered villages nearby to provide them with 60 poles of bamboo from each village and 3 logs and 3 sheets of thatch from each family. All items were demanded by April 15 at the latest.
SPDC troops’ activities
Previously Burmese troops from IB no. 102 camped in Daw Tamadu, Beemawso Township. Currently they are replaced by LIB no. 426 to take control of the area. Two cease-fire armed groups, namely Karenni National Democratic Army and Karenni National Solidarity Army, also jointly established their army camp in Hteepoklo and are controlling the nearby villages.
The Pruso-based Burma troops from LIB no. 428 and 531 used to patrol in the Hteepawso and Myoma areas. The subordinate battalions are taking part in rotations every three months to patrol the area. Sometimes troops from IB no. 102 also take part in this rotation. They used to base in Hteepyanyi. Now they regularly patrol in Markrawshe, Daw Lawkhu, Hteebyanyi, Kaylya, Hteetheku, Baw Kulei and sometimes in Daw Takle.
The Burmese troops also base in Pukrakhu and occasionally patrol in the Dopreh area. Villages located in the Kaylya area are being ordered to bring information about Karenni forces’ activities to the Pruso-based LIB no. 428 and 531 camps every weekend market day. They do not only demand information. Sometimes they also demand bamboo, wood and chicken.
The present strategy of Burmese troops’ movement is a bit different from the past. They used to patrol together with cease-fire groups such as the KNPLF and KNSA. They penetrated into areas by using the short-cuts without the knowledge of locals. This raised serious concerns with the people. People were arrested for investigation. Some were beaten and detained whenever gunfights occurred between the KA and the Burmese troops near the village. The troops imposed restrictions on the locals such as not using touch-light at night, giving villagers trouble when batteries were found and prohibiting people from leaving the village for farming.
Due to this situation, people urged the KA to avoid using gunfire near the villages.
Health and education situation in summary:
One-third of the schools are built by the Burmese regime in the central region with insufficient teachers. Teachers are not fully committed to teaching and only make it to school two or three days a week. Most teachers that are sent by the authorities come from churches. Due to this, schools used to be shut down on significant holidays. The teachers complain that the Burma government does not pay them a fair wage and exploits them.
One primary school is built for every two or three villages and even fewer middle schools are provided. High schools, on the other hand, are only found in the cities. The cost of schooling is very high and many people cannot afford it. In some villages a school building stands but there are no teachers to occupy it, making the school useless. One-third of children in the central area attend school but most of them end their education at the secondary level due to the high costs. In many cases, families cannot even afford to support their children. Sometimes the children have to work in order to provide the funds necessary for their education.
Only a few children finish their high school education due to the pressure to be at home and to help support the family. They do not understand how important, and eventually helpful, having an education can be. Due to this, very few educated people are found in these communities.
Clinics in this region are very rare. In Kaylya there is a clinic with a medic, but they do not have any medicine or facilities. Because of this, the medic purchases supplies with his own funds so that he has something to give his patients. This cannot be claimed as free medical care. The Hteepawso area has a similar situation where the medic cannot take care of any of his patients on his own. For an emergency, people have to travel to cities for treatment with high costs. Many people cannot make this trip or meet the cost and therefore do not get care.
In the winter of 2005, people of all ages were sick with an unknown disease. Luckily, only two deaths were reported. Starting in January, Karenni medics travel to the villages and administer care to the locals. During these trips people request more medication. The major diseases faces are malaria, diarrhea, TB, skin disease, hypertension, hepatitis, deficiency and gastric disorders. Between May 10 th and May 13th team members, accompanied by a medic from KNPP, brought in medication to these local patients. Giving medical care helped to gain much support from the villages and was seen as a productive way to gain people’s trust.
We have received clothes and other assistance from FBR with great appreciation. Unfortunately, we are unable to transport all these items during our trips. Instead we left them behind for poor families where we began our mission. We carried as much as we could to give to poor families in Daw Tamadu and Daw Phu village tracts. This brought great happiness to the locals.
It was the first field experience that we have ever made. Even though we came across challenges, team members used them as lessons and kept forging on.
We divided up into two groups and worked in two different areas. Some difficulties were due to a lack of equipment and a lack of experience. There wasn’t much intervention of SPDC’s troops during the trip activities. However, people were arrested and investigated by SPDC’s troops when the troops heard that the people were helping to purchase materials for the teams. They were accused by SPDC’s troops of having connection with the Karenni Army.
For more successful and efficient work in the future, we need to learn more skills and acquire appropriate equipment.
5. Information from interviewing villagers
People are forced to work on military bases
June 24, 2006
People in Pruso Township are forced to work on new Burmese military bases as the Burmese local troops expand their military camps.
In February the Burmese troops from IB no. 102 were ordered by Loikaw military control command to build a new military camp in Phukrakhu, Bohpreh village tract. Villagers from seven villages in Dohpreh village tract were forced to help build the new military camp. They were forced to build barracks, dig barkers, make fences, fetch water, look for firewood and cook for the troops. People also have to bring their own food while they are working on the military camp establishment.
Villagers were from Phukarkhu, Dohpreh, Weithutaw, Beso, Lyadu, Hteeduleh and Hteeduku. Those who failed to come had to pay a fine in cash or chicken.
Once each villager from Hteeduku and Hteeduleh was ordered to pay 30 viss of chicken for failing to go and work on the camp construction, as they were required to rebuild their own houses.
Even though the SPDC regime issued a statement and an order, no. 1/99, which prohibited its authorities from subjecting villagers to forced labors, the frontline battalions have ignored the order and continuously force people to work for the military. They are also forcing the villagers to pay high taxes.
A fire-watch guard torture by Burmese troops
June 14, 2006
In the last week of March, this year, Burmese troops from IB no. 102 arrived at Lawkukhu, Prusoe Township, and arrested a village’s fire-watch guard and beat him on the grounds of an accusation that he signaled village rebels that the Burmese troops were arriving.
As a rule in Lawkukhu, each family has to take fire-watch guard duty when the summer comes in order to prevent fire burning in the village at certain times. One day in March a villager who was on guard duty struck the iron piece, the signal that reminds villagers not to make a fire at that time. This signal coincided with the approach of Burmese troops (from IB no.102) to the village. Apparently, the Burmese troops arrested the guard and proceeded to beat him badly accusing him of signaling village rebels that the Burmese were coming. The troops then brought him to the base and detained him in a prison cell for a night. He was released the next day.
Innocent villagers tortured because of gunfight
June 14, 2006
Villagers from Kaylyar were arrested and beaten by Burmese troops due to a gunfight that occurred between Karenni forces and Burmese troops from IB no. 102 on February 19. The next day troops from IB no. 102 and 54 jointly came to Kaylyar village and arrested four villagers including the village secretary. The troops masked the village secretary’s head with a plastic bag then tied his hands behind his back and beat him with the butt of a gun. They were accused by the troops of giving information to rebels to attack the Burmese troops.
Villagers arrested because of a bomb explosion
June 14, 2006
On May 1 at 06:00 a.m. a bomb exploded on a road between Pruso and Demawso cities; villagers living nearby were arrested by the Burmese troops.
A truck with a heavy load driving from Loikaw ran over the bomb and it exploded. However, nobody was killed or injured from the blast. On the same day, Burmese troops from LIB no. 428 came and arrested 32 villagers from Hteekludaw, Hteepawso, Daw Nyekhu, and Hsolyaku that are located near the road. The villagers were brought to the army base and detained there for a week.
Villagers enter refugee camp at the border
May 29, 2006
About 60 villagers from 15 villages located in Demawso and Pruso townships made it to refugee camp no. 1 on May 29.
The fleeing villagers claimed that they were forced to work for the Burma army on a military camp establishment digging barker, making fences, and providing them with food. Moreover, they were threatened that their villages would be relocated if a gunfight took place in their vicinity. The common threat villagers received daily was that if they were found to be, or accused of being, rebel supporters or informers, they would be arrested and tortured by the Burma army. Their lives are insecure and they are struggling, and have struggled, to escape from this fear.
These villagers were mainly from Thaysoleh, Kadalah, Hteetheklo, Hteepoklo, Hteepawso, Daw Takleh, Daw Byaku, Kaylyar, Kawthamaw, Daw Paedu, Daw Nyikhu, Ngedaung (new), Daw Tataw, and Lawlyakhu. They are currently lodging at the holding center before the Thai authorities and the UNHCR comes for registration.