IB No. 48 kills 3 in Pegu Division

December 17, 2009

HURFOM, Pegu: According to a former village resident, three Hsaw Law Kho villagers were killed and over a dozen more were tortured by Infantry Battalion (IB) No. 48, in Than Tha Bin Township, Thaungoo district, in Pegu division on November 5th.

HURFOM’s field reporter spoke to Saw Doh, a 42 year-old Saw Law Kho villager, one month later on December 5th in the Three Pagoda Pass border area. Saw Doh recounted the atrocities committed by IB No. 48 in his ethnically Karen village, which left him no choice but to flee to the region.

According to Saw Doh, in the first week of November 2009 IB No. 48 was ambushed by Karen National Union (KNU) soldiers near Hsaw Law Kho village. A large number of IB No.48 soldiers were hurt or killed in the attack. The next day the Hsaw Law Kho village headman received information that IB No. 48 planned to enter the village, and he warned Hsaw Law Kho’s male residents to leave the village to avoid being conscripted as porters for the battalion.

Saw Doh reported that on November 5th, IB No.48 attempted to enter the village, but were attacked en route by a second assault from the KNU; one soldier in the battalion was killed, and three more were hurt. After the ambush, IB No. 48  entered Hsaw Law Kho village, and arrested the village headman, 45 year-old Saw Kae Too, and two other male residents who had decided to remain in the village; these individuals were Saw Kae Doe, 25 years-old, and Saw Luu Kar 30 years-old.

Saw Doh then watched 40 soldiers from the battalion attack the three men, beating them with gun butts and kicking them several times. Next, the IB No. 48 commander ordered his soldiers to collect the female residents of Hsaw Law Kho village. The soldiers collected around 20 female villagers of various ages, as well as a large number of children.

The battalion’s commander accused the women of having family members in the KNU forces, demanding of the women, “where are your rebel husbands?”  The commander then insulted the women’s Karen ethnicity, after which the commander and soldiers began beating the women and children gathered before them with gun butts and bamboo rods, and kicking them. Some of the victims received head wounds or broken arms, and others received more serious injuries.

Saw Doh reported that the IB No. 48 commander then shot the three arrested Hsaw Law Kho male residents in front of the female villagers. Before leaving the commander ordered his soldiers to confiscate some quantities of rice and cooking materials from the female villagers’ stores.

According to Saw Doh villagers endure abuse, arrest, and forced labor at the hands of Burmese soldiers nearly every month, although the events of November 5th were the first incidents of execution. Burmese army battalions frequently harass villagers due to their Karen ethnicity, accusing their victims of being KNU supporters or KNU soldiers. Many villagers have already fled to other locations, and only 30 households remain in the village.

Most of the villagers in Hsaw Law Kho village rely on agriculture for their survival; farming rice, betel nuts, coconuts, and several types of fruit. Saw Doh reported that at the time of his departure from the village, most of the male residents had failed to return to the village. This individual also explained that following the death of the Hsaw Law Kho village headman, the remaining villagers were too frightened to leave the town’s boundaries to farm, and a food shortage had ensued; many of the villagers are reportedly making preparations to move to safer areas of Pegu division.

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