Shan Human Rights Foundation

July - 2010

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COMMENTARY
No Right to Security of Person

    The constant feeling of personal insecurity has been one of the common aspects of life for the people of Shan State over the last 4-5 decades under the oppressive rule of one of the most brutal military juntas in the world.
    Since the Burmese military seized power from a civilian government in 1962, Shan State has been put under martial law and treated as an occupied territory, and the people have also been treated so brutally by the military, which has been continuing to expand up to the present, that virtually no one, especially in the rural areas, is free from the constant fear of persecution by the military personnel.
    Arbitrary arrest, detention, torture, threat and intimidation, etc., have been frequent occurrences as the troops of the Burmese military have no qualms in using force to subjugate the people who they regard as little more than a source of free labour and extortion.
    While extortion and forced labour have been taking place on a daily basis, arrest, detention, torture, threat and intimidation, etc., have also often been used in requisitioning labour and extorting money and possessions from the people.
    In this month’s issue, there are reports about villagers being tortured until they lost consciousness, being detained and money extorted from them. In one incident, civilian guides and porters were threatened to be shot by a military patrol if it were to be attacked by Shan soldiers while patrolling in central Shan State.
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ARBITRARY ARREST, DETENTION, TORTURE AND EXTORTION, IN LAI-KHA
    In late November 2009, 2 villagers of Pa Mai Ho Mawng village in Naa Poi village tract in Lai-Kha township were arrested and severely tortured by SPDC troops from IB64 who also detained 2 other villagers and extorted money from them for their release.
    On 26 December 2009, a patrol of 12 SPDC troops from IB64, together with 4 members of a Shan ceasefire group, came to Pa Mai Ho Mawng village in Naa Poi village tract in Lai-Kha township and arbitrarily arrested 2 villagers.
    The arrested were Lung Zaai Suay (m), aged 53 and Zaai Gam (m), aged 40. They were accused of secretly spying and gathering information for the Shan resistance and interrogated, in the process of which they were so severely tortured that they both lost consciousness.
    The 2 villagers were repeatedly beaten, kicked and trampled on as they were interrogated by the SPDC troops who wanted to know where Shan soldiers were hiding in the area. As the villagers could not tell them what they wanted to know, the SPDC troops kept torturing them and stopped only when they both lost consciousness.
    The SPDC troops then arrested 2 other villagers, Aai Sa (m), aged 23 and Si-Ha (m), aged 22, and took them away with them as they left the village. After detaining the 2 villagers at their military camp for a couple of days, the SPDC troops extorted 1,000,000 kyat of money from their relatives for their release.
    The 2 villagers, Lung Zaai Suay and Zaai Gam, that had been severely tortured had to be taken by their relatives to be treated at Lai-Kha township hospital because they sustained serious internal injuries from the beating and torture. They were still at the hospital when this report was received at the end of 2009.
    According to local villagers, about 10 days earlier, a military camp in Naa Poi village tract, jointly manned by members of a Shan ceasefire group and a contingent of SPDC troops from IB64, was attacked by a group of Shan soldiers of the Shan resistance.
    There were complaints at the time among the villagers that under the SPDC troops’ supervision the Shan ceasefire soldiers were forcibly conscripting new members, but were demanding 300,000 kyat of money for each new recruit instead of recruiting them in person.
    It appeared that the non-ceasefire Shan soldiers attacked the camp of the Shan ceasefire soldiers and the SPDC troops because of the villagers’ complaints, and that was apparently also the reason for the SPDC troops to retaliate against the villagers, they said.
THREAT AND INTIMIDATION DURING FORCED LABOUR IN KUN-HING
    In late 2009, villagers of several village tracts in Kun-Hing township who were forced to serve as unpaid guides were threatened with harsh punishment by the SPDC troops from IB246 and LIB542 while patrolling the rural areas of Kun-Hing township.
    Since around mid 2009 up to early 2010 when this report was received, SPDC military patrols often forced villagers to serve as unpaid guides and at the same time threatened to harshly punish them if they were attacked by the Shan soldiers while patrolling the rural areas.
    One such incident took place sometime in August 2009 in the areas of Wan Phaai, Kaeng Lom and Ho Yaan village tracts in Kun-Hing township when a combined force of SPDC troops from IB246 and LIB542 patrolled the areas for several days.
    Sometime earlier, around mid August 2009, the 2 battalions were on separate patrols when they were attacked by Shan soldiers on the same day. The patrol of about 30 SPDC troops from IB246 was patrolling between Kaeng Lom and Saai Leng villages in Kaeng Lom village tract when they were attacked and 2 of them were wounded.
    On the same day, another patrol, comprising about 30 SPDC troops from LIB542, was also attacked by Shan soldiers at a place near Nam Paang river between Paang Sak and Nawng Leng villages in Ho Yaan village tract, where one SPDC troop was also wounded.
    After the 2 attacks, the SPDC troops from the 2 battalions regrouped at Nawng Leng village and set out as a single patrol, comprising about 50 troops in all. They conscripted 2 male villagers at Paang Sak to serve as guides and continued to Kaeng Lom village in Kaeng Lom village tract on the same day where they spent the night.
    The next day, the SPDC troops took 2 more male villagers from Kaeng Lom village to serve as guides as they set out towards Pa Pha village where they again took 2 more male villagers. They continued on the same day to Wan Phid Wan Phaai village in Wan Phaai village tract and spent the night there.
    The next day, the SPDC troops took yet 2 more male villagers from Wan Phaai village to be their guides as they continued to patrol the areas until they reached Nam Pa Man village in Kaeng Lom village tract where several military trucks came to pick them up, and where they released all the villagers.
    When the villagers were conscripted to be unpaid guides, they were threatened by the SPDC troops that they would be held responsible if their patrol were to be attacked by the Shan soldiers. “You always said you don’t know right away whenever we ask about the Shan soldiers. Now you will know when a bullet hits you”, said the SPDC troops.
    If there had been any attack by the Shan soldiers during the said patrol, some or all the villagers would very likely have been severely punished or even shot dead by the SPDC troops, said a refugee who had been one of the said guides, and who had fled to the Shan-Thai border.
STEALING OF VEGETABLES AND INTIMIDATION IN MURNG-NAI
    In early 2010, villagers of Kun Mong village in Kun Mong village tract in Murng-Nai township were scolded and threatened with imprisonment by the SPDC military authorities of LIB569 for saying that their vegetables were stolen by some SPDC troops.
    On 1 January 2010, sometime in the evening, about 7-8 SPDC soldiers from LIB569, based northwest of Kun Mong village, came to the vegetables gardens of Kun Mong villagers and stole a lot of vegetables. They took cabbages, cauliflowers, green beans and other green vegetables, etc., put them in large plastic bags and carried them away.
    Villagers’ vegetables had often been stolen by the SPDC troops from LIB569, especially those from the gardens not very far away from the military camp, but the villagers dared not do anything for fear of retaliation. They also dared not stop the SPDC troops while stealing for fear of being shot by them, because the stealing took place mostly at night.
    However, the villagers usually talked and complained among themselves after such stealing incidents. A few days after the incident on 1 January evening, the villagers whose vegetables had been stolen were talking and complaining among themselves in the village when some SPDC troops accidentally overheard them.
    The SPDC troops must have reported it to their commander because soon after that several villagers who had vegetable gardens were summoned to the military camp. The commander scolded the villagers for accusing his troops of stealing their vegetables without evidence.
    He warned the villagers not to accuse his troops again unless they could catch them while stealing and even threatened to punish those who did with imprisonment. The villagers could do nothing except nodd their heads and quietly return to their village.
    It was learned that because of the stealing many vegetable farmers in Kun Mong village, especially those whose gardens were close to the military camp, not only could not grow enough vegetables to sell, which was part of their livelihood, but could not even get enough to be used as seeds for the next season.
FORCED CONSCRIPTION AND EXTORTION CAUSE PEOPLE TO FLEE, IN LAI-KHA
    In early 2010, villagers in Wan Heng and Paang Saang village tracts in Lai-Kha township were forcibly conscripted to serve as soldiers by a Shan ceasefire group under the supervision of the SPDC authorities in Lai-Kha township.
    In February members of the said ceasefire group came to Wan Heng and Paang Saang village tracts in Lai-Kha township and collected information on the populations of the village tracts. The purpose for collecting the information was to be able to conscript young people to serve in their group.
    At about the same time, orders were issued as to who were to be conscripted. However, if those who had been notified did not want to be conscripted, they could provide money instead, at an amount not less than 1,000,000 kyat for each person.
    The orders also said that if a conscripted person had not turned up or run away, his relatives would be held responsible and fined an amount of money 3 times more than the original amount. If he ran away while serving as a member soldier of the group, those who he left behind, e.g., his family and relatives, would be held responsible and punished severely.
    Because of that, many people in those areas, especially those who could not afford to lose their young family members, who were the only supporters of their whole families, nor pay the unreasonable fines, were said to have fled to other places including Thailand.

CHILD FORCED LABOUR AND EXTORTION IN LAI-KHA
    In early 2010, a 14-year-old boy was forced to fix a fence and money was extorted from his parents by members of a SPDC-sponsored ceasefire group, near Zalaai Khum village in Paang Saang village tract in Lai-Kha township.
    Sometime in January 2010, a part of a fence at an SPDC military camp near Zalaai Khum village in Paang Saang village tract, in Lai-Kha township, was destroyed by fire. Members of a ceasefire group manning a nearby camp then accused a villager of Zalaai Khum village of setting fire to the fence.
    At the time of the incident, the camp which was previously manned by SPDC troops was empty. The commander of the ceasefire group from the nearby camp, Zaai Kawng Leng, then said that he was responsible to look after the camp while the SPDC troops were not there.
    He accused Aai Thun, male, aged 14, of Zalaai Khum village of setting fire to the fence and damaging a section of it, about 6-7 yards long. Although Aai Thun denied the accusation, the commander forced him to build a new fence to replace the damaged one.
    Although Aai Thun had finally complied with his order and built a new fence, the commander extorted 35,000 kyat of money from his parents as a fine for letting their son commit mischief. After paying the fine, Aai Thun and his parents were also warned not to let other people know about the money.

MONEY FOR FORCED LABOUR IN NAM-ZARNG
    Since 2009 up to the present, people in Kho Lam village tract in Nam-Zarng township have been told to provide money if they did not want to go in person to do their routine forced labour duty, by the SPDC authorities in Kho Lam village tract.
    According to villagers in the quarter 4 of Kho Lam village, they could give money to the authorities to avoid having to routinely go and work as forced labour for the SPDC troops in their area.
    The villagers could either give the authorities 35,000 kyat of money at once to be spared from having to provide routine forced labour for the whole year, or give them 2,000 kyat per day every time their turns to provide forced labour arrived.
EXTORTION AND INTIMIDATION CAUSE PEOPLE TO FLEE, IN MURNG-NAI
    In late 2009, 2 villagers in Kaeng Tawng sub-township in Murng-Nai township, whose money had been extorted, were threatened to be put in jail by the SPDC troops and police for trying to file a complaint with higher authorities, causing them to flee.
    Sometime in August 2009, a group of 3 policemen and 6 SPDC troops from a camp in Nawng Hee village tract in Kaeng Tawng sub-township came to Wan Nawng village in Ton Hung village tract in the same sub-township.
    They went to a house where a truck loaded with lumber had just arrived. After asking people at the house some questions the police and the SPDC troops declared the lumber illegal and ordered the driver to drive the lumber truck to the military camp at Weang Kao village in Nawng Hee village tract.
    After arriving, the lumber truck driver was sent to call the owners of the lumber and the truck to come to the said military camp. The owner of the lumber was said to be Ta Puk of Wan Nawng village in Ton Hung village tract, and that of the truck was Zaai Suay of Long Sur village in the same village tract.
    When the owners of the lumber and the truck arrived, they were told that it was illegal to cut wood and to transport it without permission from the authorities, and were ordered to pay a fine of 30,000,000 kyat each.
    The 2 villagers were Shan and did not speak Burmese and could barely understand what they were told. So they quietly complied with the order without being able to say or explain anything about their situation. They had to pay the fines and signed up a few documents.
    After some time, on 3 October 2009, the 2 villagers visited Murng-Nai town and met a Shan friend of them who held a relatively high position in one of the government departments and related to him about how they had been treated by the military authorities just for gathering lumber to build a house.
    Their officer friend then said that there was a rule that a certain amount of lumber for personal use was permissible and that they should not have been fined so expensively. He also offered to help them file a complaint with the authorities in Larng-Khur township if they could bring their village leaders to support their claim.
    However, there was no one in their villages who dared to go with them for fear of the SPDC troops. The SPDC troops also somehow heard about it and told the police that the 2 villagers deserved to be put in jail.
The 2 villagers also heard about that and fled to other places, and they were still away when this report was received in early 2010.

UNFAIR HOUSE-PHONES ALLOTMENT IN KAENG-TUNG
    In early 2010, it was announced by the SPDC authorities in Kaeng-Tung township that out of 200 sets of house-phones, 30 would be sold to the people in the township at a price of 3,000,000 kyat, while the rest would be given to the military and the communication department.
    The said 200 house-phones were those that had been designated for Kaeng-Tung township by the central authorities at the time of the previous commander of the Triangle Command, Min Aung Hlaing, a few years ago, at the rate of 1,200,000 kyat per unit.
    However, because of several problems concerning the distribution and selling of the phones which had caused a lot of dissatisfaction among local authorities, Commander Min Aung Hlaing issued an order stopping all the activities and confiscating all the phones.
    This time, the new commander, Kyaw Phyoe, who had recently replaced Min Aung Hlaing, again took out all the phones and distributed them among the government departments and planned to sell some of them to the people.
    Out of the 200 phone sets, 150 would be reserved for the various military units under the Triangle Regional Command, 20 would be given to the Communication Department and 30 would be sold by lottery to the people in general at the rate of 3,000,000 kyat per set.
    Even before April 2010, during which the phones were supposed to be sold to the people, there were already almost 400 people who had applied for them although there were only 30 phones that would be available, at the time of this report.
    This had clearly shown how much people were in need of the phones and how unfair the concerned authorities were towards the people. While allotting only a very small number for the people, the authorities also charged unreasonably high prices for the phones, commented many local people.
FIRE VICTIM UNFAIRLY FINED IN MURNG-NAI
    Sometime around mid 2009, a woman whose house-shop had been completely consumed by fire was forced to pay a fine of 3,000,000 kyat of money by the SPDC authorities in Ton Hung village tract in Kaeng Tawng sub-township, Murng-Nai township.
    The said house was situated in Ton Hung village in Ton Hung village tract and it seemed to have caught fire at about 10 o’clock during the night when the owner was away at a religious ceremony being held at the village Buddhist temple on the day of the incident.
    It was a house-shop where there were a lot of dry consumer goods and other stuff such as oil and liquid fuel which easily catch fire and burn quickly. Because of that and the lack of proper means of fire extinguishing, although many people from the religious ceremony came to stop the fire, the house simply burned to ashes.
    The owner of the house-shop, a woman named Naang Nu who lived alone in Ton Hung village, lost virtually all her possessions in the fire. She was later summoned by the SPDC authorities and, instead of being offered any help, ordered to pay a fine of 3,000,000 kyat.
    The cause of the fire was unknown. However, many local people suspected that there could be no one other than the SPDC troops who dared to set fire to a house-shop right in the centre of the village. It was lucky the fire had not spread to the nearby houses, they said.

SITUATION OF ROUTINE EXTORTION AND FORCED LABOUR IN NAA KHAAN VILLAGE TRACT IN MURNG-NAI
    The following is a report on the situation of routine extortion and forced labour imposed upon the villagers of Naa Khaan village tract in Murng-Nai township by the concerned SPDC military authorities during the first half of 2010.
    Since the beginning of 2010 up to the present, money has been forcibly and regularly collected from the villagers of Naa Khaan village tract in Murng-Nai township. The money was collected about 6 times per month, amounting to about 30,000 kyat per household per month.
    The exact reasons for collecting the money were not made clearly known to the villagers. When asked, the money collectors would just say that it was for the concerned military authorities to use as necessary in discharging their duties to work for the well being of the people.
    In addition to money, the villagers of Naa Khaan village tract have also been required to routinely provide husked rice to the military for their regular consumption on a monthly basis. Each household has to bring 2 pyi (1 pyi = 3 litres) of rice to the leaders of their respective villages every month, from where it would be sent to the military base.
    The villagers also have to provide routine forced labour for the military. One mini-tractor from each village in the village tract has to routinely take turns and stay 24 hours a day at the military base to be used by the SPDC troops as necessary. Those without tractors also have to routinely clear the sides of the motor roads and railways.