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December- 2010

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COMMENTARY: Extortion and Stealing of Livestock
        Systematically extorting livestock from the people is often bad enough to have negative effects on their livelihood, but randomly killing and stealing them at will is much worse. Nevertheless, the Burmese military troops have been doing both to the rural communities in Shan State for decades.
        Many military establishments, especially outpost camps that are scattered all over the rural areas of Shan State, have imposed on the people in their areas of control to provide them with regular supplies of various farm produce, including livestock.
        Among the livestock, chickens have been the most common and have to be provided routinely, usually on a weekly basis. Pigs have also been often demanded more or less on a regular basis, e.g., once a month or every few weeks. Cattle, especially buffalos and cows, were also needed to be provided for some special occasions, usually 2-3 times a year, or more.
        Apart from routinely extorting the said animals from the people by the military authorities stationed at certain locations, roaming military patrols and individual soldiers have also often randomly extorted, stolen or forcibly taken them away at will with completely no consideration for those who kept the animals, as reported in this month’s newsletter issue.
        Frequently losing their livestock has been one of the factors that have been badly affecting the people’s livelihood.
        Shooting and stealing of villagers’ cattle by roaming Burmese military patrols in rural Shan State have been one of the frequent occurrences which the troops have committed with impunity.
        For several decades, since the Burmese troops set foot in Shan State, such incidents have been taking place at one place or another where the soldiers have roamed on a more or less regular basis up to the present.
        It has also been one of the factors that have been making life difficult for the rural communities who were mostly farmers. Shan rural farmers have to depend on their cattle in many ways to work their fields and farms. Losing them usually means serious hindrances to their livelihood.
        The following are some such instances:

        In mid November 2010, 3 buffalos belonging to a villager of Mawk Zali village in Me Ken village tract in Murng-Ton township were shot dead, cut up and forcibly taken away by SPDC troops from IB277 and LIB519.
        On the morning of 17 November 2010, a patrol of about 50 SPDC troops from IB277 and LIB 519 came to Me Ken village tract area in Murng-Ton township by 2 military trucks. They stopped at a place near Mawk Zali village in Me Ken village tract and continued to patrol the area on foot, leaving their trucks parked where they stopped.
        The SPDC troops separated into 2 columns and went 2 different ways. After about an hour, at about 9 o’clock in the morning, both columns ran into some Shan soldiers and gun-battles broke out at 2 different places at about the same time.
        It was later learned that in the brief skirmishes the SPDC troops sustained heavy losses -- 2 soldiers from IB277 were killed and 4 wounded, and 1 soldier from LIB519 was killed and 3 were wounded. The Shan soldiers retreated into the mountains and their casualties were unknown.
        After the fighting, the SPDC troops returned to where they had parked their trucks, bringing with them the dead and wounded. As they came near Mawk Zali village, the SPDC troops saw a herd of buffalos and angrily shot at them, instantly killing 3 large buffalos.
        The SPDC troops continued to carry their dead and wounded to the trucks and returned to where they had shot the buffalos. They cut up the buffalos, carried them back and loaded them on the trucks, and drove back to their bases.
        The 3 buffalos belonged to a villager of Mawk Zali village and were worth hundreds of thousands of kyat. But the SPDC troops simply killed and took them away without even caring to tell the villagers, let alone paying for them, and the owner was too afraid to do anything about it.
        During September and early October 2010, SPDC troops from IB246, while patrolling several village tracts in Kun-Hing township, extorted and stole a lot of villagers’ livestock from villages they passed through or stopped to spend the nights. The following are some of such instances:
        On 13 September 2010, a patrol of about 40 SPDC troops from IB246 came to search the area of Kaeng Lom village tract in Kun-Hing township. When they got to Naa Ke village in the said village tract, the troops ordered the villagers to provide them with 20 viss (1 viss = 1.6 kg) of chickens.
        The SPDC troops stayed in Naa Ke village for some time, going around and asking the villagers if they knew anything about the Shan soldiers in the area. They left the village only after the villagers were able to find enough chickens and handed them over to them.
        On 21 September 2010, the same patrol of SPDC troops came to Sa Haang village in Wan Phaai village tract in Kun-Hing township and interrogated the villagers about the movements of the Shan soldiers for about 40 minutes.
        After interrogating the villagers and getting no satisfactory answers, the SPDC troops left the village and headed towards Kaeng Kham village tract. On leaving, they threateningly fired their guns into the sky to frighten the villagers.
        The SPDC troops reached Kaeng Lom village in Kaeng Lom village tract in the evening of the same day and stopped at the public pavilion in the village to spend the night. During the night, a lot of villagers’ chickens were stolen by the troops. Although the villagers heard noises and knew what was happening, they were too afraid to anything.
        On 8 October 2010, the same patrol of SPDC troops shot and took away a cow belonging to a villager of Son Saang village in Ngaa Teng village tract in Kun-Hing township. The owner later complained about it to the leaders of Kaeng Kham village tract, accusing the SPDC troops of having stolen his cow.
        Although no one dared to actually file a complaint with the military authorities, they later heard about the complaint made among the villagers. The concerned military authorities later sent words to the villagers saying that the cow was killed as a punishment for harbouring Shan soldiers in islets in the area.
        In July 2010, a farmer’s buffalo which he used to plough his rice field was shot and stolen during a noon break by a patrol of SPDC troops IB132, at a rice field near Taeng Nur village in Wan Haad village tract, Larng-Kur township.
        Shortly before noon on 15 July 2010, a farmer from Taeng Nur village, Lung Zaai, aged 50, let loose his buffalo, which he had used to plough his rice field the whole morning, to rest and graze in a meadow near his rice field, some distance from his village.
        Lung Zaai went back to Taeng Nur village to have his day meal and take some rest. In the afternoon, he returned to his rice field to continue ploughing it with his buffalo. But he could not find it where he had left it to graze.
        Lung Zaai went in search of his buffalo and came to a neighbouring village, Taeng Tai, and asked the villagers if they had seen his buffalo coming that way. The villagers said that they had not seen his buffalo but they had seen a group of SPDC soldiers going towards Taeng Nur village.
        The villagers said that they had also heard a rifle shot from the direction of Taeng Nur village not very long after the SPDC troops had gone. Lung Zaai then returned to his rice field and searched the surrounding areas more thoroughly for his buffalo.
        Before long, Lung Zaai found his buffalo in a shallow ravine not very far for his rice field, but only the head and some pieces of bones. The SPDC troops had apparently shot dead his buffalo, cut it up and taken all the meat away, leaving only the head and some bones behind.
        Lung Zaai recognized his buffalo as soon as he looked at the head and certainly knew that it had been killed and stolen by the said SPDC troops. However, he did not think he could do anything about it, and he had other things to worry about.
        Lung Zaai had to continue ploughing his rice field and he needed a strong buffalo to do it. Now as his buffalo had been stolen, he would have to hire one from other farmers to do the job. It meant that he had not only lost his buffalo but would also have to give up some of his rice to pay for the hired buffalo.
        In early 2010, pumpkins were extorted and a cow was shot and stolen by the SPDC troops from IB131, from the villagers of Zong Lao village in Khur Ong-uay village tract in Murng-Kerng township.
        On 21 February, in the late afternoon, a patrol of about 12 SPDC troops from IB131 came to Zong Lao village in Khur Ong-uay village tract in Murng-Kerng township and stopped for a rest in the village.
        As they came into the village the SPDC troops spoke softly and politely to the villagers, telling them not to be afraid. They were just doing their patrolling duty and would do no harm to the villagers, they said.
        After resting for about half an hour, the SPDC troops asked the villagers to give them one pumpkin each, and quietly left the village after they were given the pumpkins. The troops headed towards the west of the village where the villagers grazed their cattle.
        After a while, at about 5 o’clock in the evening, the villagers in the village heard 2 gunshots from the direction where the SPDC troops had gone. That evening, the villagers dared not go out to bring back their cattle, fearing it could be a gun battle.
        The next morning, when the villagers went to look for their cattle, they found that one of their oxen had been killed and its meat taken away, leaving only the head, the hide and the legs scattered around the mouth of a ravine.
        The villagers were sure that the SPDC troops who had stopped at their village and who they had given pumpkins the other day were the ones who had stolen their ox. It was a large bull and was worth more than 300,000 kyat, but they could do nothing about it.

        Sometime around the end of 2009 and early 2010, a buffalo belonging to a villager of Wan Pung village was shot dead by the SPDC troops from IB22, at the edge of Wan Pung village in Wan Pung village tract in Murng-Yai township.
        It happened that the SPDC troops could not take the dead buffalo because the site was too close to the village and many villagers had seen them in action. Many more villagers were also crowded towards the site after they heard the gunshot, causing the SPDC troops to quickly leave the site.
        However, the villagers later filed a complaint with the concerned military authorities who promised to give the buffalo’s owner 200,000 kyat as compensation. But the owner had not yet received anything up until around mid 2010 when this report was received.
        According to the villagers, it was a large buffalo and a castrated one, and could fetch not less than 700,000 kyat in the market. But it had been shot dead by the SPDC troops in an attempt to steal it, causing great losses to the owner.
        Chickens are one of the villagers’ property which have been routinely extorted, and often stolen, by the Burmese military troops, both roaming patrols and those stationed at numerous military camps and bases all over Shan State. Pigs have also been extorted and stolen, although somewhat less frequently than chickens.
        This has also been one of the factors that have been affecting the livelihood of the rural communities. Although it may not be serious if the incidents took place only once in a while, when they happened repeatedly and frequently over a long period of time, it inevitably became so.
        The following are some such incidents:
        In April 2010, a patrol of SPDC troops from Murng-Su-based IB287 and IB9 extorted and stole villagers’ chickens from several villages in Murng Khun village tract, and also shot and took away 3 pigs from Nam Neb village in Yaang Loi village tract, in Murng-Kerng township.
        On 7 April 2010, a patrol of about 30 SPDC troops, made up of troops from IB287 and IB9, based respectively at Murng Naang and Murng Nawng villages in Murng-Su township, came to patrol the areas of Murng Khun and Yaang Loi village tracts in Murng-Kerng township.
        In the evening of the same day, the said SPDC patrol came to Wan Kawng village in Murng Khun village tract and stopped in the village. During the evening, the SPDC troops went around in the village and forcibly robbed many villagers of their chickens.
        The SPDC troops cooked the chickens and ate their meal, and spent the night in the village. The next morning, on 8 April 2010, the troops left Wan Kawng village. Before leaving, they warned the village leaders to tell the truth when they provided information about the situation in their area to the military.
        In the evening of the same day, the SPDC patrol came to Kung Pin village in the same village tract, Murng Khun. They stopped to spend the night in the village and ordered the villagers to provide them with a basket of husked rice and 5 viss (1 viss = 1.6 kg) of chickens.
        On 9 April 2010, the SPDC troops left Kung Pin village early in the morning and headed towards Yaang Loi village tract in the same township. They reached Nam Neb village in Yaang Loi village tract around 10 o’clock in the late morning.
        The SPDC troops stopped at Nam Neb village for some time, during which they forcibly shot dead 3 villagers’ pigs and took them away. The troops not only did not give anything to the villagers for their pigs, but also warned them not to talk about it in any other places.
        In August 2010, a patrol of SPDC troops from LIB513 extorted chickens, rice and money from the villagers of Paang Hu village in Paang Hu village tract in Paang Long sub-township, in Loi-Lem township.
        On 28 August 2010, a patrol of about 45 SPDC troops from LIB513, led by commander Soe Maung, set out to patrol the rural areas of Paang Long sub-township. In the evening, the troops came into Paang Hu village in Paang Hu village tract and stopped for the night.
        On 29 August 2010, the SPDC troops continued to stay in Paang Hu village and ordered the villagers to provide them with 20 viss (1 viss = 1.6 kg) of chickens. But there were not enough chickens in the village and the villagers had to go to Huay Haep village, a neighbouring village in the same village tract, to get more chickens.
        Although Huay Haep village was the nearest in the area, it was quite far from Paang Hu village and the road was not good for vehicles during the rainy seasons. Therefore the villagers could not make it back with the demanded chickens on the same day and only managed to get back the next day, on 30 August 2010.
        However, the villagers were not forgiven by the angry SPDC troops for the delay. Although they had received all the chickens in the demanded amount the SPDC troops did not seem to be satisfied, and they kept scolding and otherwise verbally abusing the villagers for some time.
        Eventually, the SPDC troops ordered the villagers to pay a fine of 200,000 kyat of money and 100 condensed-milk cans of rice as a punishment for the delay. The troops left Paang Hu village in the afternoon, after receiving the demanded money and rice from the villagers.
        It was learned that, the said SPDC troops continued to patrol the rural areas of Paang Long sub-township for several more days, extorting chickens and other food stuff and money from several other villages in the process. But the details of their activities were not available.
        In April 2010, chickens belonging to villagers of Nawng Wo Kawng Aai village were stolen by a group of SPDC troops from an outpost camp at Paang Phon village in Paang Phon village tract, Lai-Kha township.
        Sometime in April 2010, a patrol of about 8 SPDC troops, stationed at an outpost camp at Paang Phone village in Paang Phone village tract, came to Nawng Wo Kawng Aai village in the same village tract. It was in the evening just before the sun set.
        The troops spent their time going around in the village for a while and, after the sun set and it was beginning to get dark, went into several villagers’ houses and stole their chickens. The SPDC troops made off into the night with many chickens.
        At least 3 villagers said they lost a number of chickens in the said incident. One villager lost 4 chickens and the other 2 lost 3 chickens each, altogether 10 chickens. Some other villagers also lost some chickens.
        Although the villagers saw and knew that their chickens were being stolen by the SPDC troops, since it was not yet very dark at the time of the stealing, they simply dared not do anything about it. The villagers also dared not complain about it later.
        They said it was just one of the common occurrences and did not do great damage to the villagers. The situation could get even worse if they complained, they said, and they had already had some similar experiences in the past.
        In early 2010, a patrol of SPDC troops from LIB525 and LIB518 threatened to shoot a villager and extorted chickens from other villagers, at Nawng Tawnglaw village in Wan Zid village tract in Larng-Khur township.
        Early in the morning on 28 February 2010, 2 patrols of SPDC troops met at Wan Zid village in Wan Zid village tract in Larng-Khur township. One was a patrol of about 40 troops from LIB518 based in Murng-Nai township, and the other was a patrol of about 30 troops from Larng-Khur-based LIB525.
        The SPDC troops from LIB518 left Murng-Nai on 27 February 2010. They conscripted a civilian truck in Murng-Nai and came to Paang Keng village in Paang Keng village tract in Larng-Khur township. At Paang Keng village, they conscripted 2 tractors of the villagers and continued to Nam Tok village in Nawng Long village tract in Larng-Khur township.
        The said 2 patrols joined forces at Wan Zid village on the morning of 28 February 2010 and set out on foot towards Nawng Tawnglaw village in the same village tract. The said patrol, about 70 troops in all, reached Nawng Tawnglaw village at about 5 o’clock in the evening, tired and angry.
        The SPDC troops went from house to house and interrogated virtually any villagers they found in Nawng Tawnglaw village. At one point, some of the SPDC troops met Lung Nan-Da (m), aged 60, who was deaf and interrogated him.
        When Lung Nan-Da made no responses to their questions, the SPDC troops thought that he was deliberately defying them and became angry and threatened to shoot him. The troops would have shot him if some villagers who saw the incident had not pleaded with them and explained the situation.
        The SPDC troops then stopped interrogating Lung Nan-Da, but ordered the villagers to give them 20 viss (1 viss = 1.6 kg) of chickens. The troops wanted the chickens no later than 7:30 o’clock the same evening and the whole village had to act quickly to find the chickens in time.