Villagers bound, beaten and stabbed during interrogations in Tavoy

November 11, 2008

HURFOM, Thabyut-Chaung village, Tavoy Disttrict: The Burmese army continues to arrest, interrogate and assault ethnic Karens suspected of having contact with the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) in Tavoy District, Tenasserim Division. Four villagers were arrested on October 9th, bound to a tree, interrogated and beaten. One of the villagers was also stabbed repeatedly.

On October 9th at 10 am, Column #1 of Light Infantry Battalion No. 285, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Khin Maung Than, entered Thabyut-Chaung village and arrested Saw Pho Pha, 42 and Saw Htoo Bleh, 32. According to an eyewitness from the area, the two men were accused of having contact with the KNLA, bound and severely beaten.

“Burmese soldiers tied them to a tree, beat with them with a bamboo stick and struck them with their elbows during the questioning,” said the source. About two hours later, the commander asked relatives of the victims to pay 50,000 kyat each for their release.

After releasing Saw Pho Pha and Saw Htoo Bleh, at 1:30 pm Column #1 arrested Saw L. Swe, 25. Saw L. Swe was also accused of having contact with the KNLA. “As soon as Lt. Col Khin Maung Than and his troops got in front of Saw L. Swe’s house, they ordered him to come outside and then tied him up with rope. Then, three soldiers kicked his head and back many times while they asked him questions about whether he has ties to the KNLA,” said the source. “He denied the accusation but the soldiers did not believe him and continued to beat him seriously. Then, one soldier stabbed Saw L. Swe on his arms, chest, back and legs with an Army knife. His body was full with blood. Then, the Burmese looted his home and stole some of his family belongings, estimated to be worth 120,000 kyat. After the troops left his wife and relatives sent him to Myit-Tar Sut-township hospital.”

According to the same source, at 5 pm, Column #1 arrested and interrogated a fourth victim in Thabyut-Chaung, Saw Phe Doh, 35. He was also accused of being a KNLA supporter, beaten and then robbed of belongings thought to be worth 100,000 kyat.

The KNLA is the armed wing of Karen National Union (KNU), which has been in armed conflict with the Burmese military regime for decades. According to a highly ranked officer from KNU Liaison Office in Sangkhlaburi, the accused villagers are innocent. He added that neither the KNU nor KNLA has any underground links or informants in the area of Thabyut-Chaung village.

The area is under the administration of KNLA Brigade No. 4, but the liaison officer said that troops in the area have not launched any offensives recently. The assaults and interrogations have purposes beyond information gather, the officer told HURFOM. “The abuses the Burmese troops have committed against innocent villagers are only designed to grow fears among the villagers. And take unlawful extra income from the victims.”

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