Shan Human Rights Foundation

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January - 2010

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COMMENTARY
        Although some people have cautiously expected the SPDC military junta to somewhat let up its repressive rule during 2009 to solicit support for its planned general election, which is likely to be held sometime during this year, this has so far not been the case.
        There have been virtually no indications even of the junta’s members’ intention or willingness to loosen their grip a bit to create a relatively free political atmosphere so that people who are willing could voluntarily participate in the process.
        Instead, they have used all kinds of threats and intimidation to force people to join the election and the junta’s top brass has earlier this month even warned people to make the correct choice.
        There have also been no improvements in terms of human rights violations committed against the people of Shan State by the members of the junta’s army and their cohorts.
        Gruesome gross human rights violations such as killing, rape, beating and various other types of torture have still been more or less frequent occurrences.
        Other gross human rights violations like arbitrary arrest, forced labour, extortion and looting, etc., have also been rampant. Extortion has especially become common place everywhere.
        This month’s issue carries reports on human rights violations that took place during the period around mid 2009, and covers various types of violations as can be seen in the following pages.
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VILLAGERS ARBITRARILY ARRESTED, TORTURED AND KILLED, IN LAI-KHA
        Sometime in early August 2009, 2 villagers were arbitrarily arrested and tortured, and later shot dead, by a patrol of SPDC troops from LIB515, at Kung Kawk Nawng Seng village in Wan Heng village tract in Lai-Kha township.
        Sometime during the first week of August 2009, a patrol of about 50 SPDC troops from LIB515 came to Kung Kawk Nawng Seng village in Wan Heng village tract, Lai-Kha township, and arbitrarily arrested 2 villagers in the village. Both villagers were men of over 40 years old.
        The 2 villagers were tied up and interrogated by the SPDC troops right in the village soon after they were arrested. After a while during the interrogation they were tortured by the SPDC troops. At one point, they were so severely beaten up with bamboo sticks that they were unable to speak for some time.
        After interrogating them for a couple of hours, the SPDC troops took the 2 villagers, with their hands tied up behind them, away with them as they left the village. Not long after the troops left the village, some villagers working outside the village heard 2 gun shots at some distance from the village.
        In the evening, some curious villagers went to the place where they thought they heard the gun shots and found the dead bodies of the 2 villagers. The villagers were shot at close range through the back and left with their hands still tied up behind them.
        The 2 victims were said to be from Ho Lom village in Taad Mawk village tract in the same township, which had been recently burned down by the SPDC troops in late July 2009. After their village was burned down, they had come to take refuge with their relatives at Kung Kawk Nawng Seng village.
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RAPE IN MURNG-KERNG
        In August 2009, one of two village girls who had gone to look for their cows was raped by an SPDC soldier from LIB313 at a remote place near Wan Keng village in Ho khaai village tract in Murng-Kerng township.
        On 5 August 2009, Naang Mya, aged 16 and Naang Seng, aged 8, who were sisters (not their real names), of Wan Keng village in Ho Khaai village tract in Murng-Kerng township went to look for their cows that they had let loose to graze outside their village.
        At a place about half a mile from their village, the 2 girls ran into a patrol of about 30 SPDC troops from LIB313 who had come to patrol Ho Khaai village tract area. The SPDC troops stopped the girls  and forced them to go with the patrol.
        After going only for a short distance towards Wan Keng village, the commander of the patrol ordered 4 of his troops and the 2 girls to stop with him at the side of a road, and ordered the rest of his troops to continue to Wan Keng village.
        After the other troops had gone away out of sight, the commander took the 16-year-old girl, Naang Mya, into a nearby bush, leaving Naang Seng with the 4 soldiers to wait at the side of the road while he raped Naang Mya to his satisfaction in the bush.
        After raping Naang Mya, the SPDC commander warned the girls not to tell anyone that they had been forced to stay with the SPDC troops before letting them go, threatening to come back and shoot them and their parents to death if they did.
        Initially Naang Mya tried not to tell anyone about the incident, for fear of her whole family being shot dead by the SPDC troops. However, Naang Seng, her younger sister, told their parents that she had been taken into a bush by an SPDC army officer.
        Finally Naang Mya was obliged to tell her parents that she had been raped by an SPDC army officer who had 2 stars on each of his shoulders and was called Bo Kyi San Aye by his troops. However, the villagers dared not do anything about it for fear of further abuses.
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SEVERE BEATING, CAUSING LOSS OF CONSCIOUSNESS, IN KUN-HING
        In mid 2009, 2 villagers of Nawng Leng village in Kaeng Lom village tract, Kun-Hing township, were severely beaten up during interrogation until they lost consciousness, by a patrol of SPDC troops from IB296.
        On 21 May 2009, a patrol of about 17 SPDC troops from IB296 came to patrol the area of Kaeng Lom village tract and spent the night in Paang Sak village. At day break the next morning, the SPDC troops left Paan Sak and continued their patrol heading towards Saai Leng village in the same village tract.
        At a place called Khong Maak Mong, about midway between Paang Sak and Saai Leng, the SPDC troops ran into a group of Shan soldiers coming from the opposite direction and a fierce gun battle broke out between them.
        After fighting for about 20 minutes, the Shan soldiers retreated taking away with them some of their members who might have been killed and wounded, and leaving the SPDC troops with 3 dead and 3 wounded.
        As soon as the shooting stopped, some of the SPDC troops forced one of the civilian guides, who had been forcibly conscripted along the way, to lead them to a village that might be closest to the site of the battle, leaving some troops to take care of their dead and wounded.
        The SPDC troops were led to Nawng Leng village in the same village tract. They then conscripted a civilian tractor and sent it out to the battle site to bring all their wounded back to the village. Some of the troops meanwhile searched the village for anything that may look suspicious.
        After a short while, the SPDC troops arrested 2 villagers in Nawng Leng village. They were Zaai Nyaa (m), aged 49 and Zaai Khat (m), aged 25, and they were immediately taken to the centre of the village and interrogated by the troops.
        During the interrogation, the 2 villagers were severely and continually beaten with bamboo sticks by the SPDC troops until they both finally lost consciousness. They only regained consciousness a long while after the SPDC troops had left the village.
        The SPDC troops left the village with the tractor that had brought back their wounded and headed towards Kaali village tract in the same township, leaving the 2 villagers lying unconscious on the street in the centre of Nawng Leng village, not caring a bit what would become of them later.
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BEATING AND FORCED PORTERING IN MURNG-KERNG
        In mid 2009, a villager was severely kicked and beaten, and 7 villagers were forced to serve as unpaid porters for several days, in 2 separate incidents by the SPDC troops from LIB514, in Ham Ngaai and Khur Ongouy village tracts in Murng-Kerng township.
        In May 2009, a patrol of SPDC troops from LIB514 came to Loi Saai village in Ham Ngaai village tract, Murng-Kerng township, and inquired about Shan soldiers who they believed were active in the area. During the inquiry, the SPDC troops beat and kicked a male Palaung villager so severely that he suffered from a sprained waist and could not walk for several days.
        On 8 June 2009, a patrol of about 30 SPDC troops from the same LIB514 came by a forcibly conscripted civilian tractor to Om Taw village in Khur Ongouy village tract, Murng-Kerng township. From Om Taw village, the troops continued their patrol on foot until they reached Zong Lao which was a village of the Palaung people in the same village tract.
        At Zong Lao village, the SPDC troops conscripted 7 male villagers to serve as unpaid porters. The villagers were forced to go along with the troops for several days, from 8 to 13 June 2009, as they patrolled the rural areas of Murng-Kerng township.
        The villagers were forced to carry food stuff, pots and pans, and ammunition and walk in front of the troops most of the day with very little food and rest. When they were allowed to rest at night, they had to sleep on bare ground with no blankets.
        When they were released on 13 June 2009, many of them were suffering from severe exhaustion and sickness, probably malaria, caused by several days of insufficient food and rest, and exposure to the cold and mosquitos during the nights. It took them weeks to recover and cost each of them at least 30,000 kyat to treat themselves.
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EXTORTION FOR CONSTRUCTION OF STATE INFRASTRUCTURE, IN MURNG-TON
        In mid 2009, large amounts of money were extorted from villagers of Naa Kawng Mu village in Murng Haang village tract, Murng-Ton township, by the SPDC authorities for paving the main road that ran through the centre of the village.
        In May 2009, Naa Kawng Mu village leaders were called to a meeting by the commander of IB65 at the military base on a hill west of the village. At the meeting, the commander said that he had received an order from the commander of the Triangle Regional Command.
        The order said that the main road that ran through the centre of Naa Kawng Mu village was to be paved with tar from one end of the village to the other and the commander of the IB65 was to see to it that the work was done, and the help of the people was to be used if necessary.
        The commander said that the villagers of Naa Kawng Mu who lived on the main road would only need to provide some money to help shoulder the costs while the construction work would be the responsibility of the construction department of the military government.
        The villagers would have to provide 2,000 kyat of money for each square-foot of the road sections that covered the areas in front of their respective houses. The paved road would be 5 yards wide and would be divided equally in the middle, of which each part would be the responsibility of the house situated on its side.
        In mid 2009, large amounts of money, between 100,000 and 150,000 kyat from each house, had already been collected from the villagers for the purpose. However, some time later only a small section of the road, about 240 yards, had been completed and the work had stopped.
        The work stopped because it had run out of funds and some more money would have to be contributed by the people to be able to continue it sometime in the future, said the authorities. Many villagers said that they had no idea how much more money they would still have to contribute until the road was complete.
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LOOTING AND DESTRUCTION OF VILLAGERS’ CROPS, IN KUN-HING
        In mid 2009, villagers of Kaeng Kham village in Kaeng Kham village tract, Kun-Hing township, were robbed of their vegetables and chickens by the SPDC troops from IB246 who also destroyed a vegetable garden and a corn farm.
        In June 2009, a group of more than 20 SPDC troops from IB246 came to Kaeng Kham village. Before getting into the village, the troops stopped at a vegetable garden some distance away and took all the vegetables they wanted. There were no villagers at the garden at that time.
        The SPDC troops did not take the vegetables properly, but pulled and broke vegetable plants and vines, and went around in the garden treading on vegetable beds, destroying a lot of vegetables in the process.
        After taking what they wanted in the vegetable garden, the SPDC troops went into a nearby corn farm and took some of the corn. They also did not take the corn properly, but broke a lot more corn plants than they actually could take, laying waste to a large part of the corn field.
        The SPDC troops then went into Kaeng Kham village with all their backpacks tightly stuffed with corn and vegetables. They left their backpacks at a public pavilion in the centre of the village and went around chasing and catching villagers’ chickens, using stones, sticks and catapults as their tools.
        After a while, the SPDC troops left the village with each of them carrying a full backpack and holding at least 1-2 chickens. As they left, the commander of the troops told the villagers in a loud voice that because of the Shan soldiers they would often have to endure this kind of punishment.
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MONEY REPEATEDLY EXTORTED FOR FUNERAL RITES, VILLAGERS HARASSED, IN LAI-KHA
        In mid 2009, money was repeatedly extorted from villagers in Naa Poi and Paang Saang village tracts in Lai-Kha township by the SPDC troops from IB287 and IB64, unreasonably using traditional funeral rites as excuses.
        Sometime in late April 2009, after some SPDC troops and members of a Shan ceasefire group were killed in a battle with Shan soldiers in Lai-Kha township, SPDC troops from IB287 and IB64 repeatedly extorted money from the villagers of Naa Poi and Paang Saang village tracts during a period of 3-4 months.
        Since among those killed were 2 high ranking officers, one SPDC soldier and one ceasefire soldier, the SPDC troops said they need to conduct traditional funeral rites several times for them until the 100th day of their death.
        During the 3 months or so period, the SPDC troops from IB287 went around and extorted money from the villagers of Naa Poi village tract at least 5 times. Each time they said they needed money to make merit and conduct a funeral rite and forcibly collected at least 2,000 kyat from each household.
        In Paang Saang village tract, the SPDC troops from IB65 also did the same to the villagers. During the 100-day period, not less than 10,000 kyat had been extorted from each household of the villagers of the 2 village tracts by the SPDC troops from the 2 battalions.
        However, the villagers did not know what the SPDC troops had done with the money when this report was collected in late 2009. They thought that the SPDC troops used funeral rites only as an excuse to extort money for their own use, which they had often done using several other excuses.
        Moreover, during the said period, the SPDC troops frequently patrolled the rural areas of Lai-Kha township and harassed the villagers who went to work their remote farms, accusing them of being informers of the Shan soldiers and interrogating and scolding them, and sometimes even beating and torturing them.
        Villagers of Naa Poi village tract said that most villagers who had farms far from their villages dared not go out to work them for fear of the SPDC troops. Only some villagers who had farms close to their villages were able to work. Because of that almost 2/3 of the farms and fields in Naa Poi village would be deserted during this cultivating season.
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EXTORTION FOR RELIGIOUS AND SOCIAL ACTIVITIES, IN KAENG-TUNG
        In August and September 2009, SPDC authorities extorted large amounts of money from the townspeople of Kaeng-Tung town for organizing religious and social events during the 3 months period of the Buddhist Lent.
        On 30 July 2009, all the community leaders in Kaeng-Tung town were called to a meeting by the township SPDC authorities. At the meeting, the SPDC authorities issued an order requiring the community leaders to collect money from the townspeople so that some religious and social activities could be organized during the coming Buddhist Lent.
        Every house in all the 5 town quarters was required to contribute at least 1,000 kyat to the authorities for conducting such activities. The money could be given directly to the SPDC township office or to their respective community leaders, but must not be later than September 2009, said the order.
        The authorities said that the money would be used to organize a religious ceremony in which robes would be offered to the Buddhist monks. Other social events like a women’s football tournament and a women’s traditional fashion competition would also be held.
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EXTORTION AND LAND CONFISCATION FOR ROAD CONSTRUCTION, FORCIBLE MILITARY TRAINING, IN MURNG-PAENG
        During the course of 2009, large amounts of money were extorted and several acres of rice fields were confiscated to construct a road, and villagers were forced to undergo military training by the SPDC troops of LIB528 and IB43, in Murng-Paeng township.
        During the course of the year, altogether at least 10,000 kyat of money had been extorted on several occasions from each household in Hawng Kaang village tract, in Murng-Paeng township, for constructing a road from Wo Long village to Wan Nawng village in the same village tract.
        Several acres of rice fields of the villagers along the path of the road had also been confiscated by the SPDC troops of LIB528 to make way for the construction of the road. The authorities were still planning to extort more money from the villagers when this report was received in late 2009.
        For several months, the SPDC troops of IB43 had also forced villagers of one village tract after another to undergo military training. Village tracts such as Hawng Kaang, Yaang Mai, Wan Phid, Murng Khing, Naa Nyawng and Wan Pek had already been given the training when this report was received.
        The training generally lasted about one week for each batch of villagers; every household had to provide one man to attend. Those who could not provide any trainee for the training, because they did not have adult male members or other reasons, had to pay a fine of 5,000 kyat for each missing trainee.
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MONEY EXTORTED FROM MOTORCYCLE OWNERS IN KUN-HING
        In mid 2009, large amounts of money were extorted from motorcycle owners by the SPDC military authorities of LIB524 and IB246, in Kun-Hing town and Kali village tract, in Kun-Hing township.
        During the whole month of May and early June 2009, SPDC troops of LIB524 and IB246 set up several checkpoints on the main road between Kun-Hing town and Kali village tract and extorted money from every motorcycle passing through those checkpoints.
        One such checkpoint was in Kun-Hing town at the head of the Nam Paang river bridge. At this checkpoint, motorcycles with licences issued by the authorities were required to pay 30,000 kyat each. Very old motorcycles without licences had to pay from 30,000 up to 40,000 kyat in accordance with the old-new conditions of each.
        Motorcycles of those who could not immediately pay the money were seized until the owners came back to retrieve them with the required amounts of money. New motorcycles without licences would either simply be confiscated or 100,000 kyat or so would be extorted for each.
        Another one was at a place about midway on the main road between Kun-Hing town and Kali village in Kali village tract. This checkpoint forced every motorcycle passing through it from both directions to provide 35,000 kyat, and it did not seem to care whether the motorcycle was new or old.
        Another checkpoint was at the entrance of Kali village in Kali village tract. This check point also extorted 35,000 kyat of money from every motorcycle passing through it. Moreover, the authorities also searched all the houses in Kali village and confiscated motorcycles without licences, or fined the owners 100,000 kyat for each of them.