Rape of women found outside the relocation sites
Rape of women found outside the relocation sites
Having been relocated to designated sites, the villagers were not only forbidden to return to their former villages and fields, but were also limited to an area within a specified radius from the site, usually 2-3 miles. Areas outside this radius were regarded as "free-fire zones" by the Burmese military, where any villagers found would be considered as insurgents and shot on sight.
Such restrictions were naturally untenable for the villagers, whose livelihoods depended not only on access to their fields, but also to forests where sources of food, firewood and water were available.
From the outset, some villagers refused to go to the relocation sites, preferring to risk their lives by hiding in the forests near their old villages, where they hoped they could survive on hidden stores of food, and by cultivating secret plantations.
Other villagers went initially to the relocation sites, but then sneaked back to their old villages to try and retrieve some possessions, or else to try and do some secret planting of crops.
14% of the rape incidents documented in this report were of villagers who were caught in or near their old villages by patrolling Burmese troops. They were accused of being wives of insurgents, or of providing food to insurgents. They and other members of their families were tortured to reveal the whereabouts of the insurgents in the area. In many cases, following rape, the women were killed.
The victims were among the people who had been relocated to the town (of Kun Hing) from the outlying rural areas since 1996-1997. It was very difficult for them to subsist in the town, with no work and no farming land available, so many of these farmers had since August 1999 secretly built small huts near their farms to stay and rest while tending them and had been secretly going and coming until the day of incident. The troops with 26 forced civilian porters, searched along the banks of Nam Paang River, surrounded every hut they found and arrested the occupants, and burnt down the huts. 3 male farmers were gathered, tortured and interrogated one by one by the troops, who demanded to know the whereabouts of the Shan soldiers in the area. But the farmers denied knowledge of this. The troops kept interrogating them, beating and torturing them until each of them died one after another, and their bodies were dumped into the Nam Paang river. 2 women were taken with the troops for 2 days and 2 nights and gang raped by all officers and eventually shot dead. (case 97)
In several of the incidents, the women had actually requested and been given permission, in the form of a written pass, by the authorities to return to their old villages. This did not prevent them being raped and killed.
In May 1998, many villagers who had been forcibly relocated to Kho Lam had asked for permission from the SPDC authorities in Nam Zarng to go and work on the farms outside the village. 19 villagers managed to get a pass from the authorities in Nam Zarng as well as permission from the commander of the local military camp at Kho Lam, Capt. Han Sein, to work on the farms about 4 miles west of Kho Lam and they had been working on the farms from May to June 1998 when troops from IB 246 came upon them and shot at them from a distance. The villagers all ran away into the nearby forest without anyone getting hit and the soldiers left after searching the farms for a while. After a while, a woman and her uncle, presuming the troops had really left, went back to the farms to get their clothes and beds from the farm hut and return to the village. However, as they reached the hut, the soldiers came back and arrested them and beat her uncle to death. She was stripped of her clothes and raped many times before she was also shot dead in the hut. After that, the troops left the farms and went to Kho Lam. (case 49)
Even though the relocated villagers were supposed to be allowed to farm or forage in areas close to the relocation sites, 27 of the rape incidents in this report took place in the near vicinity of the relocation sites. In most cases, the women were caught while they were simply carrying out their usual daily tasks for survival, such as planting or gathering food, fetching firewood or water, or peddling goods.
2 girls aged 16 and 17, originally from Kung Sa village, relocated to the town, were grazing their oxen in a meadow about half a mile west of town. 50-60 troops from Co 3, IB 55, led by Capt Thein Win, saw the girls and arrested them. The troops secretly took the girls and their 4 oxen to their camp and detained them for 6 days and 5 nights, during which the 2 girls were repeatedly raped by the captain and his officers. The 4 oxen were also killed for meat by the troops. When the troops had to go out for another round of patrol, they took the girls with them and when they got to a remote place in the forest the captain ordered his troops to shoot them dead. (case 111)