CEASEFIRE TALK BUT IDPกฆs STILL SUFFERING
As 2004 begins we are hopeful that the worldกฆs longest-running civil war ‘ Burma’s กV will soon be over. Most of the victims of this war have been civilians living in rural areas. Every year, hundreds have been killed, ten of thousands of people from the Karen, Karenni, Mon, Shan, Arakanese and other ethnic groups have sought asylum in neighboring countries, as refugees or illegal migrant workers.
Widespread internal displacement, combined with government efforts to forcefully assimilate ethnic peoples, has led many to fear for survival of their unique languages, cultures, and traditions. The ethnic minorities, comprising one third of the Burmese population, suffered from a wide variety of human rights violations at the hands of the military.
In spite of this the Karen National Union (KNU) to show good faith and to encourage discussions that it hoped would lead the ruling Junta to democracy entered a voluntary
กงceasefireกจ in December 2003.
The KNU were under no illusions, as they understood that the Burmese Governmentกฆs proposed ‘Road Map’ lacked any real substance. There is no timetable, agenda, release of political prisoners or withdrawal of soldiers from ethnic areas.
Unfortunately as we go to print with this edition of CIDKP newsletter villagers in ethnic areas are still being persecuted by Burmese soldiers, landmines are still be used against civilians and people forced from their homes.
On 22 December 2003, the Karen New Year, Burmese troops attacked celebrating villagers near Kaw-ka-reik town in Karen State. Two battalions of Burmese army soldiers of Light Infantry Brigade 588, led by Major Ye Naing, fired six 60 mm motor rounds and about 200 rounds of machinegun. The troops looted sports uniforms, chickens, food and clothing from the celebrating villagers. Many shops were destroyed and the villagers attending the ceremony had to flee.
On Karen New Year Burmese troops forced relocated villagers from the Klay-soe-khee area and made them walk at the side of roads to clear landmines. The troops beat villagers, stole their animals and other valuables.
In spite of these atrocities CIDKP still hope the New Year will bring peace to Burma. It would be a crime if another generation of our young people have to miss out on education, health and the right to a peaceful and democratic life.
Beatings, killings and torture all in a days work
In Burma, many villagers, including young children are forced at gunpoint to build army camps, roads, bridges and carry food supplies and ammunition for the military. They have no choice. Refusal to work leads to beatings, death or jail.
Pwe Paw, a Karen farmer points to the bandaged stump of his amputated leg and says.’Until I stepped on a landmine the Burmese soldiers forced me to build roads, fences, clean their huts and cut the grass around the army barracks.’
In Karen State, it is common for villagers to be used by the Burmese Army as slaves. Men, women and children are forced from their homes to work for the military. According to a spokesperson for the Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG) Pwe Pawกฆs story is not unusual.
‘The Army regularly forces people to work for nothing. They call it volunteer labour, which is the same thing. People are taken from their homes to work as porters, to build roads and houses. People are also ordered to provide building materials and collect firewood. The army approaches the village headman to find porters and forced labourers for them or they use Burmese government sponsored cease-fire armed groups such as the DKBA to do their dirty work.
This can also place additional work burdens on the villagers as these groups also expect to use people to work for them as well as the Burmese army.
If these orders are carried out in crop planting or harvest seasons it creates a vicious cycle of poverty as many of the villagers have no time to cultivate their rice or vegetables. When farms are left unattended, because the army takes villagers away as forced labourers crops are destroyed by pests, wild animals or rice paddy just rots.
Pwe Paw explains that when he lost most of his crops the Burmese and DKBA soldiers came to his village and ordered the villagers to provide not just labour but also enough rice, vegetables, chickens and fruit to feed them.
‘We couldn’t obey their orders so we had no choice but to flee. They wanted us to build their barracks, carry their ammunition and feed their soldiers.’
More than 150 villagers made the dangerous crossing to the Thai Burma border. They had to avoid army patrols, landmines and fast flowing flooded rivers.
Many of these people face an uncertain future. The refugee camps are already overflowing with new arrivals as the Burmese army continues to hunt and kill Karen villagers. Many of these new arrivals are doomed to forage and find jungle hideouts along the borderline. Children are unable to get even the most basic education. Malaria, dengue fever, malnutrition and landmines are a constant life-threatening reality for these people. Pwe Paw says his future is uncertain. ‘Because of the landmine I don’t know how I can feed or work for my family. I don’t know how I will survive.’
‘They don’t need me now! ‘Pwe Paw paid for his forced labour with his leg.
Burmese Army Teaches
Naw Hsa Wah is not only a schoolteacher. She is also a medic and a farmer and is the hope of about 40 Karen students. Naw Hsa Wah says because of the threat of attack from Burmese army soldiers she has had to move her school to several different jungle locations during the year.
I am the only teacher in the village and I have to teach five classes. We don’t have too many resources. Students have only their exercise book and a pen to write with,’ she says.
Naw Hsa Wah’s husband is the village head man and also has the responsibility of treating and caring for sick villagers. ‘I have to help him when he is busy and go and give treatment to patients. I also have to teach school and find food for my family. I feel very exhausted at the end of the day.’But Naw Hsa Wah says it makes her feel happy and content when she sees her students show an enthusiasm for learning.
‘When the Burmese army comes, we have to flee to the jungle to hide. I then have to teach the class under the trees.’
‘what about our furture?’
Naw Hsa Wah’s experience is the normal for Internally Displaced People inside Burma (IDPs). In Karen State, getting an education is always under treat from Burmese soldiers.
According a Karen Education Department (KED) spokesperson Burmese army activity during the monsoon season is less, but when National Union districts, found that there are many schools with too many students and not enough trained teachers from primary school to high school level.
Due to the instability caused by the constant military threat from the Burmese army, villagers have to hide in inaccessible jungle hideouts. This creates a poor learning environment for children.
‘Although I have to live in the jungle I am very keen to learn. When I left my village I couldn’t take anything with me. I had to leave my beautiful home. We had to leave every thing behind. When I am grown up and have some education I will join our military and fight those who bullied me.’
But in spite of Saw Hsa Lay Moo’s enthusiasm to be educated many students cannot cope with the military threat, fear and the constant running. These children drop out and give up their school.
students cruel lesson
‘ Too many kids, too much work and not enough time. Teachers also have to cook dinner, care for the sick and fed the animals.’
Living on the run presents challenges beyond the imagination of most people. There is a shortage of basic living equipment. There are no blankets, clothing and getting enough food to feed a family on a daily basis is a problem.
Because of these difficulties many parents decide to keep their children out of school. They say they need their children to help them get food for their family needs. It is no surprise that many children decide to help their parents rather than to spend time at school.
Saw Lay Wah, 10, says.’ I have to look after my younger brother and sometimes I have to help my parents farm for food. I don’t want to stay in school anymore and I don’t want to learn. When I am grown up I will work as a farmer.’ Saw Lay Wah’s story shows how difficult it is for many internally displaced children to get an education.
In his short life he has already had to face many problems, particularly helping his family finding enough food for their daily needs. This hardship has destroyed his desire and interest in learning. Schoolteacher Naw Has Wah says that these childrenกฆs situation shows that it is important that an opportunity is still provided for children to learn.
Another serious barrier to internally displaced children getting an education is finding people willing to be schoolteachers. Although there are many people eager to teach, they do not have sufficient time to do so because of the demands placed on them to attend to looking after their own reach of many children in Karen State.
‘The future of our people depends on these children. But what sort of education can we give them when they have to learn on the run without books or classrooms.
Pregnant mother tired of running
Woman’s pregnancy ends in death of her baby!
Naw Thay, is eight months pregnant and is tired from running from Burmese troops. The last time the army attacked her village was in August. This time the soldiers burnt it to the ground. Naw Thay, to save her and her unborn baby’s life, has had to flee and hide in the jungle. It was the fourth time last year that the army forced Naw Thay, her two sons and the other villagers to leave.
Hugging her two sons she says. ‘When the Burmese soldiers were coming to seize us I had to carry my younger son who is four-years-old in front of me and on my back I had to carry all our clothing and food.’ Naw Thay is lucky that she able to reach the border and cross into Thailand. Many internally displaced people experience the same treatment as Naw Thay but are unable to escape the harsh conditions in Burma. Even basic health care is impossible to find.
Tee Eh, who works for an organization based in Thailand that is responsible for delivering basic health care to people inside Burma says.
‘IDPs have to faced and deal with various kinds of problems such as security, food and illness. They suffer mainly from diseases that include: malaria, pneumonia, waterborne infections such as diarrhoea and dysentery. Other areas of concern are reproductive health, mental disease, malnutritions and landmine injuries.’
According to the latest report from the Back Pack Health Worker Team (BPHWT) there are great causes for concern about the health of internally displaced people. There were 220,112 cases of malaria, 16029 cases of anemia, 9826 cases of worm infection, 8142 cases of diarrhoea, 5841 cases of dysentery, 4093 cases of pneumonia and 68 cases of mine injuries.
During 2002, 156,986 internally displaced people received medical assistant from BPHWT. According to villagers such as Naw Thay, the BPHWT is a great help to them and without them it would be difficult to solve the health problems of the internally displaced Karen people. Naw Thay had reproductive health problems from the stress caused by the constant running from the military during her pregnancy. A pregnant mother with two children, a girl seven years old and a boy two years old she was on the run from September 26, 2003. She had to cope with malaria and a chronic cough while she was still in her village Wa-klu-pu. While she was sick she did not get medicine or have money to buy medicine.
The Burmese army destroyed her paddy, leaving her without enough rice for her family. As she had to flee and hide from the army, she did not have time to find food. In one month she had to flee four times. While pregnant, sick and carrying her younger son and her belonging on her back it was a hard for her. She also did not have enough warm clothing or mosquito nets. The only medicine available to her was traditional medicine. Living with these problems and her fear of the brutality of the army she moved from place to place until she arrived at Mae La refugee camp in Thailand.
Hard work, no pay, no choice!
Many village and village tracts in Thaton districts had money extorted, were looted and used as forced labours by the SPDC army. Some villagers were also victims of extra judiciary killings and torture. The Burmese Army continues to ignore the rights of Karen people. Villagers are treated as animals. They are forced to work like pack animals. They are forced from their homes, denied the right to food and they and their children have to cope with the constant threat of starvation.
‘Forced labourers are worked until they bleed.’
●17 September 2003: DKBA troops led by Saw Bu Gay shot and killed a villager, Saw Po Sheh, aged 22, son of Tee Pa Paw of Shwe-oak-tha-waw-pya in Bilin Township.
●23 September 2003: as many as 34 DKBA troops led by Saw Tin Win came to Paw-ta-plaw area in Bilin twonship and arrested Ta-eu- khee villager Saw Ka Lah and brutally beat him and sent him back to Ta-eu-khee village. That night these same troops arrested Saw Kyaw Pay and Saw Tin Aye of Ta-eu-khee village at their houses and took them away. When they arrived at Ta-thoo-hta on September 24, these troops tortured the two villagers and ordered them to tell them where the KNU were. As the two villagers did not know, they were forced to suffer more torture.
●10 September 2003: Troops from SPDC LIB-20 based at Kar-ser-doe camp led by Bo Hlaing Kyaw Myint came to Sha-zee-bo village in Tan-ta-bin township and extorted from villagers six packets of noodle, one and a half viss of garlic and onions, one viss of chilli, 10 duck eggs, 10 packets of coffee cream, three bottles of kerosene, three packets of candle, 200 rolls of cigars, three packets of cigarette, two packets of snack and 15 pyi of rice.
●13 September 2003: Saya Htun Kying of SPDC IB-26 based at Gor-thay-doe camp forced four women villagers of Gor-thay-doe village, Tan-ta-bin township to carry food supplies to Naw-soe camp.
From August until the time of this report troops from SPDC IB-75 and 53 were undertaking military operations in Ler-kler-doe-kho, Ler-kler-doe-tha Ler-kler-doe-ka, Pa-weh-doe-ka, Klaw-mi-kho and Thay-tha-ya villagers in Than-daung township. As a result, villagers had to abandon their hill paddy fields and cardamom plantation and flee from their villages to jungle hideouts.
Many villages in this district such as Htee-per-khi, Plaw-nya-thee, Htee-moe-hta and Pa-ta-kaw-plaw were victims of atrocities by the Burmese army. They were used as forced labour, tortured and their homes looted. The villagers were denied their rights and some were killed.
●5 September 2003: Major Aye Cho Aung of SPDC IB-93 based near Taung-thone-lone village, order villagers to provide 100 pieces of thatch and 50 poles of bamboo. He also ordered the villagers to dig drainage ditches on both sides of the road.
●9 September 2003: troops from SPDC LIB-66 came to Ta-reat-po-wkee village and stole from villagers 30 viss of durain fruit jam and a gunny bag.
●7 January 2004: a woman was abducted and raped by sergeant Tin Shwe and another soldier. The men were under the command of Bo Aung Naing Oo of SPDC LIB 124.
Burma – land without rights
●8 January 2004: An SPDC soldier raped a girl,17, from Htee-wa-blaw village, Mya-waddy Township. The soldier was under the command of company second-in-command Bo Khin Maung Htwe of SPDCLIB 357 of South-East Com-mand Headquarters,
SPDC soldiers rape, torture, force labour, rob and burn villages!
‘They burnt our homes and taken everything.’
●13 January 2004: troops from SPDC IB 3 led by commander, Major Htun Ohn, LID 55 came to Kaw-lu-doe village, Lu-thaw Township and burned down Noo-thu-hta village and Kaw-lu-doe village tracts destroying the homes of 19 families.
Ceasefire fails to stop the abuse
Since December 10, 2003, KNLA troops have observed the ceasefire agreement reached between the KNU and the SPDC. But the following reports show that human rights and truce violations by the SPDC troops are still being carried out in Karen State.
●18 December 2003: Troops from SPDC IB-92 led by battalion commander Win Min Htun looted, destroyed property, animals, household goods, farming equipment and food belonging to villagers in Klay-soe-khee village, Tantabin township.
●29 December 2003: While he was on his way to his betel nut plantation, Saw Say Per of Kaw-thay-doe village, Tantabin township, was arrested by SPDC IB-124. The troops struck him three times with a rifle butt and stole 10,000 Kyat.
●29 December 2003: Troops from SPDC LIB-439, based at Klaw-mee-doe, forced 10 Klaw- mee-doe villagers to carry food supplies to Pet-let-wa.
●29 December 2003: SPDC troops guarding a bulldozer, fought with KNLA troops at Haw-sha-day, a D-4 bulldozer was destroyed. Two SPDC troops and 2 Klay-soe-khee villagers, forced to go with the bulldozer, (1) Saw Oh Lay Kaw and Saw Nya Der, were wounded. Klay-soe-khee village head, Saw Ta Ku, who also was with the bulldozer, was blamed and brutally beaten.
●29 December 2003: 74 villagers who were forced to work as porters ran away. SPDC troops punished the villagers by ordering ed Kaw-thay-doe village to relocate within a day.
Karen villagers used as slaves
‘Karen villagers cross to safety.’
●29 December 2003: SPDC and DKBA troops combined to attack KNLA troops. On December 30 soldiers from SPDC LID-77 and a commando Unit of SPDC LIB 20 clashed with KNLA troops between Tha Saw Lor and Kay Lor rivers. A SPDC corporal and private were killed and two KNLA troops wounded.
●31 December 2003: Operation commander San Myint of SPDC LIB-439 ordered 20 villagers from Ma-la-daw village, Mon township to carry food supplies from Ta-ler-day to Tha-byay-nyunt camp.
●31 December 2003:
SPDC and DKBA troops in Paing-kyone, Na-boo, Don-yin and Hti-lon areas in Pa-an District forced villagers to build a road. Villages affected were Pi-ta-kha, Taungzun, Hteh-thoo Pa-ta Keh-kah and Noh-pyu villages. Villagers were forced to work on the road every day leaving no time to do
Burnt Boy Finds Hope
Dhi Klee in only eight years old but already heกฆs faced hardships well beyond his years. In April 2002, Burmese army troops (SPDC) attacked his villageกฆs jungle hideout. They killed his pregnant mother, his three sisters and brother.
His father Kho Noe took Dhi Klee and his only surviving sister กง Kan Kur กง and trekked for five days to the Thai Burmese border. They had to cross dangerously swollen rivers, avoid Burmese army patrols and landmines.
For many internally displaced children like Dhi Klee life on the run in Burma can be dangerous. Falling in flooded rivers, being burnt by jungle fires or any number of other accidents is likely to end in death. Kho Noe the father of Dhi Klee said his surviving son Dhi Klee, almost died four years ago when he was badly scalded from a campfire accident.
‘He was lucky. He knocked the boiling rice pot over himself. His burns were all over his back, but there was no medicine. He couldn’t sleep on a mat because of the pain. We had nothing but boiled banana leaves to wrap him up in.’
Dhi Klee slowly recovered but he still carried terrible scars from the accident. His left arm was welded to his side by an ugly patchwork of skin, muscle and sinew. His arm movement was restricted between his elbow and shoulder.
Dhi Klee was lucky when he reached the Thai side of the border he was sent to Mae Sot with his father by foreign NGO support. He had an operation by a Thai surgeon at Mae Sot Hospital to separate his arm from his side.To achieve this Dhi Klee had to undergo painful skin grafts. The doctor transplanted skin from his thigh to his arm and back.
One of the medics who looked after him after the operation said that his arm will become normal if he does exercises to strengthen it. As the pain wore off Dhi Klee was very happy because he could raise his arm for the first time since his accident. He could dress himself like a normal boy. He could also play football just like the other boys of his age. When he came back to the refugee camp after the operation, he thought his problems were all over.
Dhi Klee’s father was very happy for Dhi Klee, but he was sad and wanted to return to his village, to the place where his wife, son and daughters were buried. Kho Noe and his son Dhi Klee and his daughter Kan Kur He’s lucky to be live! Dhi Klee (left) after the operation and before (bottom right), have now gone back to Burma. Once more his future is uncertain. But heกฆs not alone many internally displaced like Dhi Klee, his father and sister are faced with an uncertain future.