Shan Human Rights Foundation


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March- 2010

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“Crimes Against Humanity or War Crimes”

    Over the last decade or so there have been various terms used by groups and individuals from different sectors to describe the military atrocities inflicted upon the people of Shan State, and all the other ethnic states for that matter, by the ruling Burmese junta. The terms include “ethnic cleansing”, “genocide”, “crimes against humanity” and “war crimes”, etc..
    While “ethnic cleansing” has been the term frequently used by politicians and the media, “crimes against humanity” and “war crimes” have also often been uttered by human rights advocacy groups and individuals. Some academics have even asserted that it was “genocide” and put out comprehensive reports detailing various types of gross human rights violations to support their claims.
    There have also been some who favoured one of the terms over the others and produced strong arguments to explain why it was most appropriate to describe the gravity of the situation.
    For SHRF, however, all of those terms seem to be one way or another relevant to the situation in which all the ethnic peoples have been forced to live for the last 4-5 decades under one of the most oppressive military tyrannies in the world.
    Although SHRF is not in a position to decide which of the terms is most appropriately applicable to the situation in Shan State, it can strongly assert that, out of the experience of more than a decade of monitoring, many types of human rights violations committed by the Burmese military juntas have certain patterns, and have been systematically carried out.
    In late 2009, a man who was driving a mini-tractor carrying betel nuts, was shot dead by a patrol of SPDC troops from Nam-Zarng-based IB66, in Wan Zid village in Wan Zid village tract, Larng-Khur township.
    Sometime in late September 2009, a column of about 60 SPDC troops from IB66, based in Nam-Zarng township, came to Pung Thun village in Wan Zid village tract in Larng-Khur township. The troops stopped for the night in the village and stayed at a public pavilion near the village Buddhist monastery.
    In the evening, at about 8:00 p.m., villagers heard the sound of a mini-tractor passing through the area where the pavilion was situated and the voices of the SPDC soldiers, and immediately after that 2-3 shots of gunfire. After that, all went quiet again.
    After some time, some curious villagers sneaked up to where they could see the public pavilion where the troops were staying. They saw some SPDC troops packing up as if preparing to leave, and a mini-tractor parked at some distance from the pavilion.
    The SPDC troops left Pung Thun village during the night as expected by the villagers. After the troops had left, the villagers ventured near the mini-tractor and found a single flip-flop, with the other side missing, and a trail of blood leading away from the tractor. But they could not find anyone during the night.
    The next day, the villagers found the dead body of a man with bullet wounds about 50 yards from the tractor. He was identified as being a former headman of Wan Zid village named Taeng Taan, and he was said to be transporting betel nuts in the previous evening.
    It was obvious that Taeng Taan, a former village headman of Wan Zid, was randomly shot dead by the SPDC troops from IB66 who were stationed at the public pavilion in Pung Thun village at the time of the incident. However, no one seemed to know what to do about it when this report was received.

    In August 2009, a woman was gang-raped by 4 SPDC soldiers from LIB514 while she was working at her farm with her husband, who was also tied up by the soldiers, near Nawng Pok village in Taad Mawk village tract, Lai-Kha township.
    On 2 August 2009, a patrol of 25 SPDC troops from LIB514, together with 14 soldiers from a Shan ceasefire group, led by commander Myint Than Htet, came to Nawng Pok village in Taad Mawk village tract, Lai-Kha township.
    The troops stopped for a rest in the village and stayed overnight. At around 5 o’clock in the evening, 4 SPDC soldiers, led by Sgt Tin Aye, went out of the village to scout around the area. At a place about a mile from the village they found a small rice farm with a stilted hut in it.
    The SPDC troops saw 2 farmers, husband and wife from Nawng Pok village, Zaai Ti, aged 23 and Naang Ing, aged 21 (not their real names), on the hut and immediately seized them. The troops accused the farmers of being Shan soldiers and tied the husband up to a post under the hut.
    Sgt Tin Aye then went up and raped Naang Ing at gun point on the hut while the other soldiers stood guard below, with their guns pointing at Zaai Ti. After he finished raping Naang Ing, Tin Aye came down the hut and ordered the other soldiers to go up into the hut and rape her.
    After all of them had raped Naang Ing to their satisfaction, the SPDC troops released her husband. Before they left the place, the troops also warned the couple not to tell anyone in their village about the incident or they would shoot them dead.
    In June 2009, virtually all the villagers of Mai Sili village in Ho Yaan village tract, Kun-Hing township, were forced to gather at the same place in the village and interrogated, tortured and beaten up by a patrol of SPDC troops from LIB524.
    On 11 June 2009, sometime in the afternoon, a patrol of SPDC troops from LIB524 came to Mai Sili village in Ho Yaan village tract in Kun-Hing township and ordered all the villagers that were in the village at the time to gather at a place in the village.
    After all the villagers, about 30 including men and women, were gathered, the SPDC troops asked them several things about the Shan soldiers. They ordered the villagers to tell them about the situation of the movements of Shan soldiers in the area.
    The SPDC troops wanted to know how many Shan soldiers were active in the area; how they got their food; who provided them with rice; who showed them the way in the area and who helped them find their hiding places, etc..
    After asking for about 20 minutes and getting no satisfactory answers from the villagers, the SPDC troops became angry and started to torture the villagers as they continued to interrogate them. They beat the villagers, both men and women, with sticks, kicked them with their boots and grabbed them by the hair and brushed their faces against the ground.
    A couple who had gone to work outside the village came back and saw the incident, and immediately turned around and ran away out of the village again as fast as they could, throwing down all the tools and things they were carrying along the way.
    The SPDC troops left the village after some time, leaving many villagers with serious injuries. A few days later, when the said couple ventured back into the village, Mai Sili was virtually deserted because many villagers had fled to other places. The couple, for fear of such abuses, also left the village and headed towards the Shan-Thai border.

    In July 2009, the village headman and his deputy of Saai Khaao village in Saai Khaao village tract, Kun-Hing township, were arrested and severely beaten up, and a cow and a pig were extorted from them by the SPDC troops from LIB569, who also conscripted 2 villagers to serve as unpaid guides.
    Sometime in mid July 2009, a patrol of about 37 SPDC troops from Murng-Nai based LIB569, led by Captain Thet Htun, came to patrol the area of Saai Khaao village tract in Kun-Hing township. At a place about one and a half miles west of Saai Khaao village, the troops ran into a group of Shan soldiers.
    A fierce gun battle broke out between the two sides which lasted about 20 minutes, after which the Shan troops quickly retreated and disappeared. During the skirmish, the SPDC troops suffered heavy casualties, but the conditions of the Shan troops were unknown.
    Some time after the gun battle, the SPDC patrol came into Saai Khaao village, accused the villagers of being hard-core supporters of the Shan soldiers and arrested the village headman and his deputy. The SPDC troops interrogated them and ordered them to guide them to the Shan soldiers’ hiding places in the area.
    Because the headman and his deputy said they did not know where the Shan soldiers were hiding, the SPDC troops continued to interrogate them, beating and torturing them until they were near dead. After that, as a punishment, the SPDC troops forced the villagers to provide them with a cow and a pig and spent the night in the village, during which they stole a lot fo villagers’ chickens.
    The next morning, as they left the village, the SPDC troops forced 2 villagers to serve as unpaid guides and lead them by a shortcut way back to their base in Murng-Nai township. The SPDC troops also threatened to shoot the 2 villagers dead if they were attacked by Shan soldiers on the way. But luckily nothing happened and they were released after they safely reached Kaeng Tawing area in Murng-Nai township.
    Sometime during late June and early July 2009, the village headman of Pung Thun village in Wan Zid village tract, Larng-Khur township, was severely beaten on the head with a stick by a patrol of SPDC troops from Murng-Nai based LIB518.
    During the end of June and early July 2009, a patrol of about 30 SPDC troops from LIB518, based in Murng-Nai, came to patrol the area of Wan Zid village tract in Larng-Khur township. At one point during the patrol, the SPDC troops came to Naa Khaa village in the said village tract and stopped for a rest.
    The commander of the SPDC troops ordered some villagers of Naa Khaa to go and call the village headman of Pung Thun village in the same village tract to come and see him at Naa khaa village. The SPDC troops then extorted 5 viss (1 viss = 1.6 kg) of chickens and 8 bottles of rice whiskey from the villagers.
    While waiting for the headman of Pung Thun village to arrive, the SPDC troops cooked the chickens and enjoyed eating them with the rice whiskey. It took quite a while for the headman to arrive because the distance between the two villages was relatively far.
    When Pung Thun village headman, Zan-Da, arrived at Naa Khaa village, the commander of the SPDC troops, a Sergeant (name unavailable), called the headman to where he was sitting and drinking and made him sit beside him, and poured him a cup of whiskey.
    After drinking and talking for about 20 minutes, the SPDC Sergeant started to scold the headman for not being cooperative enough. Eventually, he accused the headman of being a supporter of the Shan soldiers who secretly fed them and helped them to hide.
    As he shouted his accusations at the headman, the SPDC Sergeant rushed to a nearby fire, where the troops had cooked their chickens, picked up one of the sticks of firewood and struck the headman so harshly on the head that blood streamed down all over his face, and he fell down.
    After beating up the headman, the SPDC soldier told the other villagers that this was just an example and told them to look and learn from it. As they left, the SPDC soldiers also warned the headman not to say that he was beaten by them if he went to the hospital to receive treatment for his wound.
    In late 2009, 2 cows were shot dead and stolen, and the owner was threatened away with gunshots, by a groups of SPDC troops from IB286, near Kawng Hung village in Naa Kaang village tract, in Kae-See township.
    In the morning of 4 September 2009, a groups of more than 10 SPDC troops from IB286, led by Cpl. Naing Oo, came by a conscripted mini-tractor to patrol the area of Kawng Hung village in Naa Kaang village tract in Kae-See township.
    Near Kawng Hung village, the SPDC troops heard the voice of a man driving a herd of cattle some distance ahead of them. They then stopped the tractor and laid in wait for the cattle herd in the bush at the side of the road.
    As the cattle got near them, the SPDC troops instantly shot dead 2 young bulls in the herd, and some of them turned their guns roughly in the direction of the man who was herding the cattle and fired 5-6 shots into the air, frightening him away into the nearby forest.
    The man was Lung Saw who was taking his cattle to graze in the forest outside of his village when the SPDC troops killed his cattle and shot at him. He ran into a nearby forest and watched the SPDC troops from a distance, hiding behind a tree.
    He saw the SPDC troops cut up his 2 cows and load them on to the tractor, while some of them stood guard some distance away on the road and pointed their guns at whoever happened to be heading that way and threatened them away.
    Lung Saw then ran back into his village and immediately told the village leaders what was happening to his cattle near their village at that moment. But no one dared to go near the SPDC troops for fear of being shot, and later also no one dared to file a complaint for fear of further abuse.

    In August 2009, a patrol of SPDC troops from IB64 shot dead a cow and conscripted a displaced village couple to serve as unpaid porters to carry meat for them from Wan Saang village tract to Lai-Kha town in Lai-Kha township.
    On 7 August 2009, a patrol of about 37 SPDC troops from IB64 came to the area of Kawng Hung village (deserted) in Wan Saang village tract, in Lai-Kha township, and shot dead a villagers’ cow, cut it up and carried the meat away in their backpacks.
    The SPDC troops also arrested a village couple they found in the area and forced them to carry some of their backpacks as they returned to Lai-Kha town. The couple were Zaai Naan, aged 25, his wife Naang Li, aged 22, and their one-month-old baby.
    Zaai Naan and Naang Li were from Kawng Hung village which had been burned down only a few days earlier, together with many other villages in central Shan State that had been burned down and forcibly relocated by the SPDC troops during the end of July and early August.
    The displaced couple were forced to carry several backpacks on shoulder poles, while Naang Li also had to carry her baby on her back, until they reached Lai-Kha town, a distance of about 16 miles, where they were released.
    However, the couple had nowhere to return to and were stranded in Lai-Kha town. Fortunately, they were allowed to take shelter in a rice barn and were being provided with food and looked after by some kindhearted townspeople when this report was received in late 2009.
    In September 2009, a cow belonging to a villager of Wan Zid village in Wan Zid village tract, Larng-Khur township, was shot and stolen away by the SPDC troops from LIB578 who had come to patrol the area of Wan Zid village tract.
    On 8 September 2009, a patrol of about 45 SPDC troops from LIB578, led by commander Zaw Naing, shot dead one of the large cows in a herd they found in the area of Wan Zid village in Wan Zid village tract, Larng-Khur township.
    The SPDC troops cut up the cow and carried virtually all the pieces of meat away in their backpacks. They did not enter Wan Zid village but returned via Nam Naw village through which they had come and headed out of Wan Zid village tract.
    On the next day, after his herd of cattle came back with one of the large cows missing, Lung Thun (m) of Wan Zid village set out in search of it, only to find a place with signs that some animal had been killed and cut there.
    When he learned from the villagers of Nam Naw that they had seen many SPDC soldiers carrying a lot of meat in their backpacks when they passed through their village the other day, Lung Thun was sure that his cow had been stolen by those soldiers.
    Lung Thun was sure because at the time of the incident there was no other cow lost in the area, and no other military patrol came to the area except for the said SPDC patrol. However, apart from knowing that his cow had actually been stolen, he could not do anything more about it.

    During November 2009, residents of Ho Nawng village in the municipal area of Lai-Kha town in Lai-Kha township were harassed and a large amount of money was extorted from them by the SPDC police authorities in the township.
    The victims were a couple, Lung Thun (m) and Pa Nae (f) (not their real names), both were about 50 years of age, whose 2 children had gone to work in Thailand. In October 2009, the 2 children had returned to Ta-Khi-Laek, a town in southern Shan State bordering Thailand, to verify their nationality as required by both Thai and Burmese authorities.
    Although their children were able to go through the nationality verification process without much trouble at Ta-Khi-Laek town, they who were staying in Lai-Kha town in central Shan State had to bear the brunt of the harassment of the SPDC police authorities.
    Not long after their children had given up their identities to the Burmese authorities, the police came to their house and asked a lot of questions and intimidated them, saying that they had let their children illegally go and work in Thailand without permission from the authorities.
    The police came every few days and on 6 November 2009 extorted 200,000 kyat of money from them as a punishment for letting their children illegally go out of the country. Not wanting to be continually harassed by the police, the couple gave them the money.
    However, even after they had given the money, the police still occasionally came and harassed them with many questions such as if they knew about other people who had gone or let their children go to work in Thailand, etc.. The police came many times during the month of November, as was learned when this report was received at the end 2009.
    In October 2009, SPDC troops of LIB516 manning a checkpoint at the Nam Teng river bridge north of Nam-Zarng town in Nam-Zarng township, on the main road leading to Kun-Hing township, extorted money from passing civilian vehicles, using various excuses.
    On 10 October 2009, villagers from Nawng Hee village tract in Nam-Zarng township went to Nam-Zarng town, with 3 tractor-loads of farm produce to be sold in the town market. At the said checkpoint north of the town, they were stopped by the SPDC troops.
    The SPDC troops searched their vehicles for illegal materials, but only found various kinds of farm produce, including mostly sesame. The SPDC troops then asked the villagers how much sesame they were transporting.
    When the villagers told them the amounts of sesame on all the 3 tractors, which amounted to about 500 litres in all, the SPDC troops said that such an amount of sesame could not be allowed to pass through the checkpoint without paying some extra taxes.
    The SPDC troops demanded 10,000 kyat from each vehicle. Although they were not carrying anything illegal, and they had already paid all the necessary taxes on their farm produce to the concerned authorities previously, the villagers did not want to argue with the SPDC troops for fear of more serious abuses.
    The villagers were allowed to pass through the checkpoint only after they had paid the demanded money. Later, they also learned that the SPDC troops had been extorting money from every civilian vehicle passing through the checkpoint all day on that day, using all kinds of excuses.

    In September 2009, a villager of Saam Khaa village in Nawng Hee village tract, in Nam-Zarng township, was forced by the SPDC military authorities to pay a large amount of money as a fine for building a new house without paying taxes.
    One day in September 2009, as a villager (name withheld) of Saam Khaa village was building a new house in the village, a patrol of about 22 SPDC troops came into the village and forced him to pay a fine of 300,000 kyat for building the house without informing the authorities and paying due taxes.
    The villager tried to explain that because it was only a small house which was worth no more than 1,000,000 kyat, he did not think it was necessary to ask for permission, and pleaded with the troops to reduce the amount of the fine.
    The SPDC troops then scolded the villager saying that whatever the villagers did they needed to inform and ask permission from the authorities and pay the due taxes. Those who failed to do so would be fined double the originally due taxes.
    Having no other choice, the villager had to find the money on the same day and give it to the SPDC troops, after which they left the village. The SPDC troops were from a contingent of troops stationed at Nam Maw Khao Saen village, on the road between Kho Lam village and Nam-Zarng town, at the time of the incident.