- Commentary: Forced Porterage
- The rampant use of civilian porters and stealing of livestock during military operations
- Villagers forced to be guides & porters, a cow shot, chickens stolen, a man beaten, in Lai-Kha
- Villagers forced to be porters, a pig stolen, chickens extorted, consumer goods forcibly taken, in Murng-Kerng and Kae-See
- Villagers conscripted as porters, cow shot and eaten, in Kae-See and Murng-Kerng
- The use of porters as protection and conscription of women as porters
- Women taken as unpaid porters in lieu of men in Kae-See
- Men and women forced to be porters and human shields, in Murng-Su
- Villagers forced to carry muskets and be porters in the vanguard, in Murng-Paeng
- Townspeople forced to be porters and human shields in Kae-See
- Forced porterage, a cause of displacement
- Excessive conscription of villagers and their vehicles for porterage causes them to flee, in Si-Paw
- The use of peoples animals during military patrols
- Villagers and their animals conscripted as unpaid porters, money extorted, in Murng-Pan
Forced porterage is one of the most brutal types of forced labour imposed on the people by the Burmese army troops in Shan State over the last 4-5 decades.
A practice in which people are systematically and/or randomly conscripted as porters and forced to carry heavy loads and walk with military patrols for days with little rest and food, forced porterage is the most feared type of forced labour.
Furthermore, the porters are exposed to dangers of stepping on landmines or being shot in the cross fire of a gun battle. In some cases, the porters are deliberately used as mine sweepers and/or human shields by the Burmese army patrols, as reported in this months issue.
Conscription of porters mostly take place in rural areas, but townspeople are also occasionally required to serve as unpaid porters, and sometimes even forcibly and randomly seized in the streets, markets and other public places.
When men are not available, women are also conscripted as porters. Vehicles and animals of the people are also conscripted to serve the military, which also often require civilian drivers and caretakers.
Although the Burmese military claimed that they had stopped the practice some years ago, on the contrary, it has continued to be frequently used by Burmese amy patrols, both in peaceful time and time of conflict, up to the present.
THE RAMPANT USE OF CIVILIAN PORTERS AND STEALING OF LIVESTOCK DURING MILITARY OPERATIONS
The rampant use of unpaid civilian porters and stealing of peoples livestock, which have been a long-standing practice of the Burmese army troops, have continued unabated up until mid 2011.
As military patrols roamed the rural areas of Shan State, which occurred virtually all the time at one place or another, they almost always forcibly took civilian porters and stole peoples livestock.
The following are some such incidents:
VILLAGERS FORCED TO BE GUIDES & PORTERS, A COW SHOT, CHICKENS STOLEN, A MAN BEATEN, IN LAI-KHA
In July 2011, during 15-16 days of patrolling, a column of Burmese army troops from IB286 and IB64 forcibly conscripted villagers to serve as unpaid guides and porters, shot a villagers cow, stole villagers chickens and beat up a villager, in several village tracts in Lai-Kha township.
On 3 July 2011, a combined force of about 60-70 Burmese army troops from IB286, based in Kae-See township, and IB64, based in Lai-Kha, came to patrol the area of Paang Saang village tract in Lai-Kha township and conscripted 4 villagers of Phak Khom village in the village tract.
The villagers were conscripted to guide the military patrol towards Taad Mawk village tract in the township. However, shortly after they left Phak Khom village, the 4 villagers were also forced to carry rice, cooking oil, salt and other food stuff, weighing about 15-20 viss (1 viss = 1.6 kg) for each of them.
After patrolling some areas in Taad Mawk village tract for some days the military column continued to Wan Thi village tract and stopped near Nawng Sur village where they shot and ate a villagers cow. After a few days, when they reached Zalaai Loi village in the same village tract, they released the 4 villagers.
The Burmese troops then crossed a main road and went to Wan Kyawng village, where they conscripted 2 villagers as porters, and continued to Zaang Kham village where they released the 2 porters and conscripted 4 other porters from that village.
The troops released the porters near Kaang Un village and circled back to Zizawya Khe village in Paang Saang village tract. After asking some villagers about the movements of Shan soldiers in the area, and having no satisfactory answers, the troops killed many chickens with catapults and took them away with them.
About 2 days later, the said military patrol arrived at Nam Hu Hai village, also in Paang Saang village tract, and severely beat up a villager after interrogating some villagers. The patrolling of this combined-force military column was said to have lasted about 15-16 days before they separated and returned to their respective bases.
VILLAGERS FORCED TO BE PORTERS, A PIG STOLEN, CHICKENS EXTORTED, CONSUMER GOODS FORCIBLY TAKEN, IN MURNG-KERNG AND KAE-SEE
In July 2011, villagers of several village tracts in Murng-Kerng and Kae-See township were forced to serve as unpaid porters and their livestock and other property forcibly taken by the Burmese army troops from LIB514, IB287 and IB131.
On 7 July 2011, a patrol of about 50 Burmese army soldiers from Murng-Kerng-based LIB514 came to Wan Zaam Phak Phaet village in Murng Khun village tract in Murng-Kerng township. As soon as they entered the village, the Burmese troops shot and took away a large pig that was in a barn of a villager.
At about the same time, some other Burmese troops seized 4 villagers and forced them to carry the pig and other food stuff and continued to patrol the area, heading towards Kae-See township. After 2 days, on 9 July 2011, they reached Phaai Mong village in Murng Kaao village tract in Kae-See township.
The Burmese troops then released the 4 porters and conscripted 3 Palaung villagers of Phaai Mong village to replace them. They were Aai Awng, Aai Nung and Aai Kha, all male and about 30 years of age. After 3 days of portering, the villagers were released at Kung Lur village in the same village tract.
At about the same time, another patrol of Burmese army troops from Kae-See-based IB286 also arrived at Kung Lur village. The 2 groups then merged together and became a combined force of about 90 troops, and set out towards Nawng Sawm village tract in Kae-See township.
At Nam Zom village in Nawng Sawm village tract, the Burmese military patrol forced the villagers to provide them with 40 viss (1 viss = 1.6 kg) of chickens and conscripted 8 villagers to serve as porters, and headed back towards Murng-Kerng township.
At Phak Khom village in Waang Murng village tract in Murng-Kerng township, the said military patrol met yet another patrol of Burmese army troops from IB131. Together all the troops threw a drinking party, forcibly taking beer, whiskey and food stuff from the village shops without paying.
The 8 porters from Kae-See township were released after some days when the military patrol reached Paang Kaetu village in Paang Kaetu village tract in Murng-Kerng township. From there, the Burmese troops were said to have continued their patrol towards Tong Laao, another village tract in Murng-Kerng township.
VILLAGERS CONSCRIPTED AS PORTERS, COW SHOT AND EATEN, IN KAE-SEE AND MURNG-KERNG
In early 2011, villagers in Kae-See and Murng-Kerng townships were forced to serve as unpaid porters for many days by the Burmese army troops of Kae-See-based IB287, who also shot and stole a villagers cow.
In February 2011, a patrol of about 80 Burmese army troops from IB287, based in Kae-See township, came to Mai Hung Lurng village in Murng Kaao village tract in Kae-See township and conscripted 19 villagers to serve the military as unpaid porters.
After patrolling the areas of Murng Kaao village tract in Kae-See township and Ham Ngaai village tract in Murng-Kerng township for several days, the Burmese military patrol stopped at Mai Saang Kham village in Ham Ngaai village tract.
While stopping at Mai Saang Kham village, the Burmese troops released the 19 porters they brought from Kae-See township and conscripted 15 Palaung villagers from that village to replace them.
As they left Mai Saang Kham village, the Burmese troops split into 2 groups. One group headed towards Tong Laao village tract and the other continued to patrol the area of Ham Ngaai village tract, both in Murng-Kerng township.
In Ham Ngaai village tract, when the said patrol got near Pan Niu village, they shot a villagers cow and stopped in the rice field outside the village. The troops ate the cow and spent the night in the rice field.
The following morning, after the Burmese troops headed back towards their base in Kae-See township, the owner of the missing cow went to the place where they had spent the night and saw some evidence that it really was his cow that had been shot and eaten by the troops.
However, the owner dared not do anything about it for fear of further abuses by the Burmese army troops. It was a large cow which had taken him years to raise and worth not less than 200,000 kyat in the market, he lamented.
THE USE OF PORTERS AS PROTECTION AND CONSCRIPTION OF WOMEN AS PORTERS
During military patrols, civilian porters were often used as covers by the Burmese army troops, by forcing them to go in front of the troops, or/and putting each of them between every other soldier.
When men were not available to be conscripted as porters, the Burmese troops also often conscripted women instead of men.
The following are some such instances:
WOMEN TAKEN AS UNPAID PORTERS IN LIEU OF MEN IN KAE-SEE
In March 2011, women villagers of Nawng Tao village in Murng Nawng village tract in Kae-See township were forced to serve as unpaid porters by the Burmese army troops of IB286 and Military Operation Command (MOC) No. 9, based in Kae-See township.
Sometime in early March 2011, a combined force of about 90 Burmese army troops from IB286 and MOC No. 9, both based in Murng Nawng village tract in Kae-See township, came to Nawng Tao village in the same village tract.
At Nawng Tao village, the Burmese army troops extorted 2-1/2 baskets of husked rice and conscripted 10 villagers to serve as unpaid porters. Since there were only women and children, and the elderly men, in the village at the time, 10 women of about 40 years of age were conscripted instead.
All the young men were said to have run away at the sight of approaching Burmese troops, hoping that they would be less brutal towards women and children. Although there were no scolding and beating, etc., as the men were usually treated, the women were taken as porters all the same.
The women were forced to carry the extorted rice and other food stuff and walk with the military patrol the whole day until they reached Long Yaang village on a main road, where they were released and told to go home.
About 2 days later, the said Burmese military patrol engaged in a skirmish with the Shan resistance soldiers in the area northwest of Murng Nawng village. The Burmese troops were said to have also taken women as porters in the area.
MEN AND WOMEN FORCED TO BE PORTERS AND HUMAN SHIELDS, IN MURNG-SU
In May 2011, villagers, both men and women, of Wan Saw village in Nam Lao village tract in Murng-Su township were forced to serve as unpaid porters and at the same time act as human shields by Burmese army troops based in Murng-Su.
On 3 May 2011, a patrol of about 100 Burmese army troops, from different units in Murng-Su, came to Wan Saw village in Nam Lao village tract in Murng-Su township and conscripted 6 men and 8 women to serve as unpaid porters.
The villagers were given a backpack each to carry and a couple of them were forced to go in front of the military patrol. The other villagers were forced to follow spread out among the troops, at intervals of 3-4 troops.
The Burmese troops went around to different areas of Nam Lao village tract every day, forcing the porters to take the same positions. The villagers believed that they were put in such positions to deter any attack by the Shan soldiers, or become human shields if they did attack.
On 5 May 2011, after patrolling for 3 whole days without any incident, the villagers were released, thinking they were lucky no to be attacked and become human shields.
VILLAGERS FORCED TO CARRY MUSKETS AND BE PORTERS IN THE VANGUARD, IN MURNG-PAENG
For several months in mid 2011, villagers of Murng Pu Long village tract in Murng-Paeng township were forced to arm themselves with muskets and act as the vanguard of military patrols as well as unpaid porters, by the locally based Burmese army troops.
During the said period, every time they went out on patrol, the Burmese army troops in Murng Pu Long village tract conscripted villagers, often about the same number as of the troops, to serve as unpaid porters and at the same time required them to carry muskets and march in the vanguard.
For instance, a patrol of 30 Burmese army troops often required 30 villagers with muskets to go with them. Each villager was given at least a backpack to carry and some of them were always required to go in front of the military patrol.
Since there were about 2 to 3 patrols a month with 20 to 30 troops in each patrol, and a few to several days a time, all the villages in Murng Pu Long village tract were required to work in rotation to provide enough forced labourers to meet the demand of the Burmese military.
TOWNSPEOPLE FORCED TO BE PORTERS AND HUMAN SHIELDS IN KAE-SEE
Since August up to September 2011, when this report was received, people in Kae-See town in Kae-See township were forced by the Burmese army troops to serve as unpaid porters and go with a military patrol.
The civilian porters were required to carry a backpack each and walked in front of each soldier, leading the way and becoming a cover for the soldier when attacked. The number of all porters taken from the town was not known.
However, the following 6 persons were taken from No. 5 quarter of Kae-See town: Lung Kyaw, Zaai Pun, Pu Awng, Thun Leng, Zaai Khur and Zaai Kham. They were all male of different ages, ranging from over 20 to 40 years.
According to people of No. 5 quarter who had seen when the incident took place, in early August 2011, a column of about 150 troops from several Burmese army units came to Kae-See town from the direction of Nam-Zarng township.
The Burmese troops conscripted many townspeople to serve as unpaid porters and spent one night in the town. The next day, the troops left the town in a column with a civilian porter between every other soldier. The 6 porters from No. 5 quarter had not yet returned when this report was received in September 2011.
FORCED PORTERAGE, A CAUSE OF DISPLACEMENT
Forced porterage often became a cause for displacement when being used so frequently in a single place for a long time.
When people had to give up so much of their time that they had little time to tend to their own needs long enough so as to bring them to the brink of starvation, they usually had no choice but to flee.
The Burmese army troops have been doing just that to many people in Shan State over the years.
The following is one such incident:
EXCESSIVE CONSCRIPTION OF VILLAGERS AND THEIR VEHICLES FOR PORTERAGE CAUSES THEM TO FLEE, IN SI-PAW
During early and mid 2011, excessive conscription of villagers and their vehicles to serve as unpaid porters by the Burmese army troops had caused many villagers of Wan Maw in Murng Tung village tract in Si-Paw township to flee to other places, including Thailand.
According to one of the families who had come to the Thai border in June 2011, after the ceasefire between the Burmese military and a Shan armed group in northern Shan State broke down in March 2011, a great number of Burmese troops were deployed to Murng Tung village tract area.
Since then the Burmese army troops had been forcing people in the area to provide them with vehicles and human porters to carry them and their things to different places to and fro so intensively and frequently that people hardly had time to tend to their own needs.
There were about 80 houses in Wan Maw village and each house had to provide either a man or a mini-tractor to work for the Burmese military several times a month and several days each time. The villagers required to go to different places in Si-Paw township and sometimes as far as Kae-See township.
To meet the demand of the Burmese military, the villagers had to work in rotation so fast that they hardly had enough time even to rest between their turns, let alone work to feed their families. After some weeks of such hardship, many villagers could hardly endure it and some had nothing left to eat.
When the said family fled, sometime in late May 2011, some other families had already fled to different places. They fled with only what they could carry on their backs, and abandoned the rest, including houses, farms and fields, livestock and other property.
THE USE OF PEOPLES ANIMALS DURING MILITARY PATROLS
In many places in Shan State, animals of the villagers, especially horses and mules, were often taken by Burmese military patrols.
At such times, a number of villagers were also often needed to go with the animals to feed and look after them.
The following is one such incident:
VILLAGERS AND THEIR ANIMALS CONSCRIPTED AS UNPAID PORTERS, MONEY EXTORTED, IN MURNG-PAN
In July and August 2011, villagers and their horses of Nawng Lur village in Huay Zoi village tract in Murng-Pan township were forced to serve as unpaid porters several times, several days each time, by the Burmese army troops of LIB520 and LIB577.
In July 2011, a combined force of Burmese army troops from LIB520 and LIB577, based in Murng-Pan, came to Nawng Lur village in Huay Zoi village tract in Murng-Pan township and conscripted 5 villagers horses, with some villagers as their caretakers.
The Burmese troops used the horses to carry many things including weapons, ammunition, food and clothes, and set out to patrol the areas south of Murng-Pan town. After patrolling the areas for 5 whole days, the military patrol got back to Nawng Lur village and the horses and their caretakers were released.
On 12 August 2011, the same Burmese military patrol came to Nawng Lur village and again conscripted 7 horses and their caretakers. The horses were made to carry several things as before and go with the troops.
For several days, the Burmese troops patrolled the areas of Paang Pi mountain ranges, taking notes of villagers farm lands, mostly small plots of land cleared for cultivation. The horses and their caretakers were released on 16 August 2011 when they got back to Nawng Lur village.
On 18 August 2011, the same Burmese troops again set out to patrol Paang Pi mountain ranges. This time they did not take horses, but conscripted 10 villagers from Nawng Lur village to serve as porters.
On the Paang Pi mountain ranges, the Burmese troops collected taxes from all the farmers who had prepared plots of land for cultivation. The amount collected was in accordance with the size of each plot, no matter what kinds of crop was or intended to be cultivated, except opium.
The Burmese troops told the villagers that cultivation of opium was banned. No one would be allowed to grow opium unless they paid appropriate taxes to the military authorities. Each farmer with a small plot of land would have to pay at least 100,000 kyat, many times higher than that of any other kinds of crop.