SHRF MONTHLY REPORT - JANUARY 2009
“Flourishingly Disciplined Democracy”
Even though it has been declaring that it is heading toward building a “peaceful, modern and developed democratic nation with flourishing discipline”, the Burmese military junta, SPDC, does not appear to be doing anything that could be indicated as being democratic, even under the definition of its own “disciplined” version.
After successfully procuring approval for its biased Constitution through a manoeuvred referendum in May 2008, it is now gearing towards holding a general election in 2010 to form a government that will greatly represent the well-being of the ruling military elites, rather than that of the people.
If it is to be credible at all that the election is going to be free and fair, at least to an extent reasonable enough to be recognized as being democratic within the scope of its “flourishing discipline”, the junta should have been loosening its grip concerning political matters.
However, instead of trying to create an atmosphere for those who want to participate to be able to express their genuine will, it is deliberately creating a climate of fear and intimidation, and of coercion and restrictions.
Instead of releasing the long and unfairly held political prisoners to participate in the current and coming political processes, it is sending more and more people who dare to speak their minds to unreasonably lengthy imprisonment. It has also been imposing more restrictions on various ceasefire groups and coercing them to support its own political agenda, without giving any consideration to their expressed political will.
The most sad thing for the people of Shan State is the fact that, under the current circumstances, it seems that the junta will most likely be successful in rigging the coming election as it has just done in the May 2008 referendum, perpetuating their suffering under various brutal human rights violations.
VILLAGERS RANDOMLY SHOT DEAD IN MURNG-KERNG
In early 2008, 2 villagers who were looking for their buffalos were shot dead by a patrol of SPDC troops from LIB514 near Pan Niu village in Waang Murng village tract, Murng-Kerng township.
Sometime in February/March 2008, 2 villagers of Pan Niu village in Waang Murng village tract, Murng-Kerng township, went out to look for their buffalos in the forest north of their village and were shot dead by a patrol of SPDC troops at a place about 2 miles north of their village.
On the day of the incident, a patrol of about 40 SPDC troops from LIB514 were seen passing through the forest by local villagers. A villager from a neighbouring Naa Mawn village, who was hunting birds in the forest, heard 3-4 shots of gunfire and ran back to his village, thinking there was a gun battle.
But when there were no more gunshots until 3-4 hours after the incident, the bird hunter and some other villagers of Naa Mawn went back into the forest out of curiosity to see what had taken place. They saw dead bodies of 2 young men covered with twigs and branches at 2 places not far from each other.
At first the villagers thought the bodies were of some sort of rebels, the casualties of the gun battle with the SPDC troops. But after closer examination, the 2 dead men looked familiar and the villagers thought they were from some neighbouring villages in the area, and informed the nearby villages.
On the next day, after some examination by some villagers from different villages, it was found that the 2 dead men were not rebels but villagers of Pan Niu village who had gone to look for their buffalos in the forest on the day of the incident.
They were sons of Lung Ti (m) and Lung Thawn (m) of Pan Niu village and were 25 and 18 years old respectively. One of them was hit in the chest by a bullet which went through the back and the other was hit in the head, and they both seemed to have died on the spot.
The bodies of the villagers were buried at the place where they were found and 7 days later a religious funeral rite was held according to their tradition at Pan Niu village by their relatives. However, the villagers dared not complain about the incident for fear of further abuses.
GANG-RAPE IN KUN-HING
In July 2008, a woman of Kun Kuay village in Kaeng Lom village tract, Kun-Hing township, was raped by 2 SPDC soldiers from LIB524 at her house as she tried to stop them from stealing her chicken.
On 2 July 2008, a patrol of about 40 SPDC troops from LIB524 came to Kun Kuay village in Kaeng Lom village tract, Kun-Hing township, and stopped in the village. In the evening, the SPDC soldiers roamed the streets in the village, stealing chickens from the villagers’ houses.
At one point, 2 SPDC soldiers were stealing chickens from under the house of Naang Ngern (not her real name) when she heard the noises, and she came down and tried to stop them. As Naang Ngern flashed her torchlight at the soldiers, who were catching chickens, one of them seized her and covered her mouth with a hand.
The other soldier also let loose the chicken he was catching and helped seize Naang Ngern and pressed her down to the ground against a pile of firewood right under her house. The 2 soldiers took turns and raped her to their satisfaction, after which they quickly left the place.
Naang Ngern tried to shout but could not make a loud noise because her neck was being squeezed by one of the soldiers all the while she was being raped. A woman in the house close by heard all the noises but was too frightened to intervene.
The next morning, on 3 July 2008, however, a group of about 7-8 village women went to the commander of the SPDC troops and complained about the incident. But the commander simply dismissed the complaints, saying that his troops would never do such thing, and the villagers could do nothing more about it.
VILLAGERS ARRESTED, DETAINED AND SEVERELY TORTURED AND BEATEN, CAUSING LONG-LASTING SEVERE INJURIES, IN MURNG-PAN
In July 2008, 2 villagers of Mawng Hawng village in Nam Terng village tract, Murng-Pan township, were so severely tortured and beaten by SPDC troops of LIB520 during interrogations that they lost consciousness several times and sustained severe external and internal injuries for a long time.
On 15 July 2008, Lung Phom (m), aged 50 and Lung Sai (m), aged 47, of Mawng Hawng village in Nam Terng village tract, Murng-Pan township, were arrested by SPDC troops from LIB520 and taken to a military camp at Kung Kaad village in the same village tract.
The villagers were interrogated by the SPDC troops about the movements of Shan soldiers in Murng-Pan area. The troops wanted to know where the Shan soldiers were hiding in the area; at how many places and how many of them, and who their leaders were. The villagers could not answer the questions and were detained at the camp.
The next morning, the villagers were again interrogated and, as they could not answer the questions, were kicked, beaten and tortured by the SPDC troops. Lung Sai was also poked on the back with a pointed knife and a plastic bag was put over Lung Phom’s head, causing them to lose consciousness several times. At one point, the commander of the troops struck Lung Phom’s face with a pistol, breaking some of his teeth.
The villagers were released in the evening only after several village and community leaders in the area came and pleaded with the SPDC troops and guaranteed that the 2 men were innocent villagers who really did not know about the Shan soldiers.
The 2 villagers were so severely tortured that they both sustained injuries which took several months to heal. Lung Phom was still suffering from internal injuries and was unable to work even at the time this report was received in December 2008.
A VILLAGER FORCED TO SERVE AS A GUIDE, BEATEN, IN KUN-HING
In July 2008, a villager who was being forced to serve as a guide was beaten on the head with a stick by the SPDC troops from LIB569, causing serious injury, in Saai Khaao village tract in Kun-Hing township.
On 16 July 2008, a patrol of SPDC troops from LIB569 came to Saai Khaao village in Saai Khaao village tract, Kun-Hing township, and forcibly conscripted a villager, Nan-Da (m), aged 28, to serve as an unpaid guide.
After patrolling Saai Khaao village tract area for a while, the SPDC troops asked Nan-Da that how far away the adjacent Wan Lao village tract was from where they were at the moment. But Nan-Da simply did not know and could not answer the question.
The commander of the patrol then became angry and beat Nan-Da hard on the head with a dry bamboo stick, splitting his scalp and causing it to bleed profusely. Nan-Da was left bleeding for a while before a military medic brought some medicine and treated his wound.
The military patrol then returned along the same route and released Nan-Da as they passed through Saai Khaao village. Nan-Da complained about his plight to his village community leaders, but no one could do anything about it.
A SICK MAN SEVERELY BEATEN UP IN KUN-HING
In July 2008, a sick man who was lying in his bed was pulled down from his house and beaten up by a patrol of SPDC troops from LIB524, at his house in Nam Kham village in Naa Poi village tract, Kun-Hing township.
Sometime in July 2008, a patrol of about 40 SPDC troops from LIB524 came and surrounded Nam Kham village in Naa Poi village tract, Kun-Hing township, and searched the village. All the villagers had gone to work outside the village except one man who was sick.
Su-Tae-Ya (m), aged 30, was sick and was lying in his house when some SPDC troops from the said patrol came and dragged him by the hand out of the house. The troops interrogated him about the movements of the Shan soldiers in the area and tortured him before they left.
Some villagers who saw the SPDC troops from afar told Su-Tae-Ya’s wife, who had gone to work at their rice farm some distance from the village, about it and said they were worried about her husband who they knew was in the village when the troops came.
When Su-Tae-Ya’s wife returned to the village after the SPDC troops had gone, she saw her husband lying unconscious outside their house with his head still bleeding. After regaining consciousness later Su-Tae-Ya related the incident to his wife, saying that the last thing he saw was a soldier rasing a rifle butt before all went black.
ARREST, DETENTION, DISAPPEARANCE AND CONTINUOUS HARASSMENT CAUSE PEOPLE TO FLEE, IN MURNG-PAN
At the end of July 2008, Long Kaeng village in Kung Keng village tract, Murng-Pan township, was deserted as all the villagers had fled after being continuously harassed and abused for about 3 months by the SPDC troops from LIB385.
In early 2008, SPDC troops of LIB332, LIB520 and LIB385 (Artillery) forced the villagers of Long Kaeng village in Kung Keng village tract, Murng-Pan township, to cultivate rice for them on 120 acres of villagers’ farm land west of Murng-Pan town.
On 11 May 2008, one of the SPDC troops from LIB385, who were taking night security at the rice field, was shot dead by some unknown people while stealing vegetables from a villager’s garden in the area. After the incident, Long Kaeng villagers were suspected and abused by the SPDC troops.
By 16 May 2008, about 9-10 farmers from Long Kaeng village had been arrested and detained at the base of LIB520, and later at the base of LIB332, by the SPDC troops. From 7 June 2008 onwards, 3 of the arrested, Zaai Ni, Zaai Kham and Zaai Ti, disappeared after the rest were taken away and handed over to be detained by the police.
After that, virtually every night, groups of SPDC troops from LIB385 came into Long Kaeng village and randomly searched the houses and interrogated the villagers. Villagers were often accused of supporting or being informers of the Shan soldiers and beaten up by the SPDC troops who also stole whatever they wanted, including chickens, pigs, vegetables and other food stuff, etc..
Because of such unbearable continuous harassment by the SPDC troops, one family after another left Long Kaeng village and by the end of July 2008, all the 45 households have either fled to Murng-Pan town or other places, while some of them have made it to Thailand.
BULLYING, BEATING, DESTROYING OF PROPERTY, IN KUN-HING
In July 2008, SPDC troops from IB246 damaged CD players of the villagers and beat up one of the owners, at Saai Khaao village in Saai village tract, Kun-Hing township.
On 19 July 2008, a patrol of about 45 SPDC troops from IB246 came to Saai Khaao village in Saai Khaao village tract, Kun-Hing township, and stayed overnight in the village. In the evening, the troops learned from the villagers that there were 3 entertainment places which provided video-CD players for money in the village.
Saai Khaao was a medium size village with over 160 houses and because not so many people could afford their own video players at their houses, some villagers turned their houses into small theatres and entertained customers with their machines, and collected money from them.
At about 10:00 p.m. that night, the SPDC troops, about 30 of them, went to one of the places at the house of Zaai Pan-Ta (m), aged 35, and played and sang “karaoke” with his CD players. The troops roughly handled the machine; frequently changing the CDs and pressing the buttons so much that it broke down in an hour or two.
Zaai Pan-Ta tried to warn the SPDC troops when he saw them roughly handling his machine. But as the machine broke down, the troops became angry and one of them slapped him in the face and another one punched him in the face and on the head, and they left the place without paying for anything.
After leaving Zaai Pan-Ta’s house, the SPDC troops separated into 2 groups and each went to one of the other 2 entertainment places in the village. They did the same things at those places, singing karaoke and roughly handling the video players.
The owners were not harmed at these places because they were too afraid to say anything to the SPDC troops and simply let them do whatever they liked. The troops sang along until over midnight and left the places only after all the CD players had broken down, without paying anything to the owners.
Each set of video players and speakers was said to have cost their owners not less than 2,000,000 kyat, but the SPDC troops paid nothing for damaging them, and the owners dared not ask for any compensation for fear of further beating and abusing.
VILLAGES PUNISHED AFTER SKIRMISH WITH REBELS IN KUN-HING
In June 2008, after a short gunfight with a group of Shan rebels, SPDC troops from LIB524 arrested some villagers and extorted money and pigs from several villages as punishment in Kaeng Lom village tract in Kun-Hing township.
On the morning of 17 June 2008, a patrol of about 60 SPDC troops from LIB524, led by commander Yan Naing, came to Kun Kuay village in Kaeng Lom village tract, Kun-Hing township, and ran into a group of about 30 Shan soldiers who were in the village at the time.
A fierce gun battle broke out between the 2 groups in and around Kun Kuay village for about 30 minutes, after which the Shan soldiers retreated towards Naa Ke village and Paang Sak village, with the SPDC troops in pursuit, and finally disappeared into the jungles.
There was no casualty on both sides in the skirmish and the SPDC troops regrouped at Paang Sak village after the Shan soldiers had gone. The village headman of Naa Ke was called to Paang Sak village and together with the headman of Paang Sak were scolded by the commander of the SPDC troops.
The SPDC commander accused the headmen of the 2 villages of secretly supporting the Shan soldiers and as punishment ordered them to provide pigs for his troops. Villagers of Naa Ke had to immediately bring 2 pigs, big enough to produce not less than 50 viss (1 viss = 1.6 kg) of pork in all, and Paang Sak village had to provide 1 pig, capable of producing not less than 25 viss of pork.
A contingent of about 20 SPDC troops was sent to a neighbouring village, Pa Phaa, from where they took 5 villagers as hostages to prevent Shan soldiers from attacking them. They declared that they would kill all the 5 villagers if they were attacked by Shan soldiers during the rest of their patrols in the area. The troops said that villagers of Pa Phaa were the ones who were feeding the Shan soldiers in the area.
Later money was extorted from the villages as further punishment:
1) 1,000,000 kyat from Pa Phaa village
2) 200,000 kyat from Kun Kuay village
3) 400,000 kyat from Naa ke village
4) 250,000 kyat from Paang Sak village
FORCED LABOUR AND EXTORTION IN CONSTRUCTION OF PUBLIC SCHOOL IN MURNG-TON
For several months, starting from mid June 2008, villagers of Mae Ken village in Mae Ken village tract, Murng-Ton township, were required by SPDC authorities of LIB519 to provide forced labour and money in building a new school.
Sometime in mid June 2008, the deputy commander of LIB519 called a meeting of Mae Ken villagers at the public pavilion near the Buddhist monastery in the village. The commander told the villagers that the village needed a new school building as the present one was so old and dilapidated.
He said that some funds for building a new school had been granted by the SPDC government and told the villagers to start dismantling the old one. Since then villagers of Mae Ken had to work in rotation to provide forced labour in constructing the school.
Furthermore, the villagers were not only required to provide unpaid labour but also to contribute money to the school building once a month, ranging from 1,000 kyat to 3,000 kyat per household, in accordance with their social and economic status.
Since there were over 100 households in Mae Ken village, a lot of money had been collected over the months and many villagers suspected that the school was being built using only their money and labour without any help from the government as stated by the SPDC authorities. This report was received in late September 2008.
GAMBLING DEN, FORCED LABOUR OF MINI-TRACTORS, USED TO CREATE INCOME FOR MILITARY, IN MURNG-TON
Since July 2008, a gambling den was ordered to be set up in Naa Kawng Mu village in Murng-Ton township by the SPDC authorities of IB65 in order to collect taxes from the gamblers as a means of income for the military battalion.
In July 2008, the deputy commander of IB65, Maj. Win Min, ordered the village headman of Naa Kawng Mu village to set up a gambling den in the village and collect taxes from the gamblers. The gambling den was to open 10 days a time and 2 times per month.
The headman was required to collect at least 100,000 kyat of tax money for IB65 per working day, 3,000 kyat for the police who were in charge of security of the gambling den and 3,000 kyat for himself, who was responsible for organizing the gambling den.
The gambling den was still functioning 2 times per month and 10 days per time when this report was received last month, at the end of 2008, providing a regular flow of income for the military battalion.
For many months, forced labour of villagers’ mini-tractors was also regularly used to gather firewood for making charcoal and bricks, which were sold to raise funds for the military, at Naa Kawng Mu village. Each day, 2 mini-tractors were required to provide the needed forced labour.
Tractor owners in the area, about 20 of them, had to take turns to fulfill this compulsory duty, and fuel for their tractors had to be bought with money collected from the villagers who had no tractors. This activity was still going on at the time of the receipt of this report in November 2008.
EXTORTION AND INTIMIDATION IN KAENG-TUNG
In July 2008, SPDC authorities in Kaeng-Tung township extorted large amounts of money from the people of Kaeng-Tung town, using threats and intimidation to make people comply.
On 7 July 2008, SPDC authorities in Kaeng-Tung town issued an order to the community leaders of all the 5 town quarters to collect money from the people in their respective areas to raise funds for social activities.
Money was needed for several social activities, e.g., organizing a women’s football tournament; organizing traditional ceremonies, such as paying respect to the elders, etc.; and helping the Maternity and Child Care groups with their expenses, said the authorities.
Since considerable amounts of money were needed for such activities, not less than 1,000 kyat was to be collected from each of the over 6,000 families in the town. As intimidation, the community leaders were also required to make a list of those who failed to comply with the order and send it to the SPDC authorities.
On 27 July 2008, SPDC authorities in Kaeng-Tung again organized a music concert and forced people to buy tickets and go to the concert without fail, stating that they were acting on an order from the Golden Triangle Regional Command.
Each of the 5 town quarters was required to buy at least 5 tickets, at the rate of 800 kyat per ticket, and people were required to actually go and watch the concert according to the numbers of the tickets bought by each quarter.
As a threat, the SPDC township authorities also added that they would not be responsible for any failure to comply with the order as it would be dealt with directly by the Regional Command.