Laid Waste: Human Rights along the Kanbauk to Myaing Kalay gas pipeline
May 18, 2009
*The original version of this report was modified on April 10th 2010 to correct a translation error in inset no. 2 on p. 12. The change is made to the name of the company that owns a cement factory that benefit from the pipelines output in Myaing Kalay, correcting the name Myanmar State Enterprise Company Limited (MSEC Ltd) to the Myanmar Sebwayei Corporation (MEC).
IV. Smoke and fire: militarization of the pipeline area
V. Dirty work: building the pipeline
VI. Life on the line: maintaining and protecting the pipeline
In November 2000, the military government in Burma1 began construction of a 180-mile pipeline running south to north across the country’s southern peninsula. Designed to supply cement factories and electricity generation projects, the pipeline carries the government share of gas produced by the controversial Yadana gas fields. The Yadana gas project – and a sister Yetagun project, which both transport gas to Thailand via a 40-mile overland pipeline – has seen intense international controversy; careful field research, public relations campaigns and legal battles have made clear that the project is responsibile for massive human rights abuses.2
Branching off the Yadana/Yetagun pipeline, however, is the much longer Kanbauk to Myaing Kalay pipeline. This pipeline originates near Kanbauk in Tenasserim Division and ends in Karen State’s Myaing Kalay, passing close to hundreds of villages and bisecting farms and plantations by the thousands of acre. Though it has received much less international attention, the Kanbauk to Myaing Kalay pipeline has been responsible for another expansive set of human rights violations. The following report documents these abuses.
Clearing the route for the Kanbauk to Myaing Kalay pipeline required the seizure of more than 2,400 acres of land from villagers, losses for which they received little or no compensation. Once the route was under control, villagers were forced to work as unpaid forced laborers on the construction of the pipeline itself, clearing timber and brush, digging and filling trenches and hauling materials. Nearly a decade after construction of the pipeline was completed, villagers continue to be required to work as forced laborers; not only must villagers work to help maintain the pipeline, they must stand sentry and patrol it, under constant threat of violent retribution should an attack or accident occur. Battalions of the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC)3 army have been present at all stages of this process, ostensibly to provide security but also to provide threatening supervision to villagers required to participate in the project. The construction, maintenance and continued protection of the pipeline have fundamentally relied on the SPDC army, whose deployments have tripled since construction began. Housing and supporting these troops has lead to its own set of abuses, and the battalions responsible for the pipeline have seized more than 12,000 acres of land as well as demanded daily support from local villagers. These “pipeline battalions” have also been responsible for a raft of violent abuses, including torture, murder and rape. In many cases, these abuses have been a deliberate part of SPDC pipeline security strategy. In other cases, these abuses have simply been the product of a SPDC army that operates without accountability.
This report is divided into three main sections. After a discussion of the national and regional background to the pipeline, the first section (IV: Smoke and fire) details the increased militarization of the pipeline area as new battalions were deployed to support the project. This section provides details on the land confiscation and forced labor during the initial deployment of pipeline battalions, and the abuses inherent in their continued presence. The next section (V: Dirty work) documents abuses during the construction period, including land seizures to clear the way for the pipeline and forced labor to build it. The closing section (VI: Life on the line) details daily life along the pipeline, including the constant threat of explosions and forced labor related to pipeline maintenance and security.
1 : The military government officially changed the country’s name to “Myanmar” in 1989, though neither opposition groups nor the international community have universally accepted the switch. The United States, United Kingdom, Australia and Canada, for instance, continue to use “Burma” rather than “Myanmar.”
2 : Much of this controversy was generated by the campaigns of Earth Rights International and the Burma Campaign – UK. See, Earth Rights International. Total Denial, July 1996; Earth Rights International. Total Denial Continues: Earth rights abuses along the Yadana and Yetagun pipelines in Burma, December 2003. Burma Campaign – UK. Totalitarian Oil: Fueling the Oppression in Burma, February 2005; Earth Rights International. The Human Cost of Energy, April 2008.
3 : Burma’s military government changed its name from the State Law and Order Restoration Council to the SPDC in 1997.
Information in this report is primarily based on field research conducted along the pipeline during the second half of 2008 and the first quarter of 2009. Nine HURFOM field reporters interviewed 69 subjects in four townships, including:
7 subjects from 4 villages in Mudon Township, Mon State
7 subjects from 5 villages in Thanbyuzayat Township, Mon State
20 subjects from 8 villages in Ye Township, Mon State
35 subjects from 10 villages in Yebyu Township, Tenasserim Division
HURFOM also drew extensively on the knowledge of 7 field reporters who reside inside Burma, as well as 4 stringers generously made available by the Independent Mon News Agency (IMNA). These resident reporters provided information on individual incidents, as well as invaluable context, background information, confirmations and assistance finding answers to targeted follow-up questions.
This report also includes information drawn from HURFOM’s extensive database, developed during 14 years of human rights documentation in Mon areas. In some cases information in the following report has already been published, either online in short incident reports or in monthly print issues of the Mon Forum.
HURFOM makes occasional use of quotations and information from IMNA and Kaowao News, two independent media organizations that cover the pipeline area. No incidents documented by HURFOM rely solely on information from these media reports. Gathering information and obtaining direct quotations from residents inside Burma is, however, intensely difficult and in some cases IMNA and Kaowao simply did good work that HURFOM felt added to the strength of this report. In all cases except comments from political leaders, names of sources have been changed for their protection. Rather than publish source names as a blank or series of dashes, however, HURFOM feels that it is important to put names to testimony so that it remains clear that the pipeline affects real people, not anonymous subjects or statistics. In cases where villagers requested anonymity, however, they have been listed as “anonymous.”
This report ends with 6 appendices, 5 of which are collections of individual documented abuses. These appendices should not be taken as comprehensive, and reflect neither the total number of abuses along the pipeline nor even the total recorded by HURFOM. Incidents included in the appendices are instead only those for which HURFOM has the absolute highest quality information, including confirmed eyewitness reports, victim testimony or exact details including the names and ages of perpetrators and victims. Appendix 3 should especially be taken as a selection of samples rather than a comprehensive audit, for at any given time many of the abuses on the list are occurring in multiple villages. Instead, Appendix 3 is designed to demonstrate the sheer breadth – and at times perverse creativity – of pipeline battalion “fundraising” efforts. In the case of Appendix 5, much of the information included was gathered independently by HURFOM’s Woman and Child Rights Project (WCRP).
A. Burma, pipelines and military rule Successive military governments have ruled Burma4 since a coup in 1962. Through the 1990s, the juntas waged an intense civil war against armed ethnic and prodemocracy groups and the Communist Party of Burma (CPB). Though civil-war level fighting subsided as major groups agreed to ceasefires or disintegrated in the 1990s, conflict continues in the country’s border areas. Across the rest of the country, meanwhile, the military government continues to treat the population as if it is an internal enemy. In perhaps the country’s most infamous moment, 5 in 1988 soldiers opened fire on hundreds of thousands of unarmed protesters, killing at least 3,000 people. Two years later, when the junta annulled the results of an election in which it suffered a crushing defeat, the international community began to enforce political and economic sanctions in earnest. Little has changed however, and 20 years after outcries over the events of 1988 and 1990 the international community continues to be shocked by the junta’s actions; in 2006, the United Nations again announced “grave concern” at the human rights situation in Burma:
[T]he Assembly express[es] grave concern at ongoing systematic violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms of the people of Myanmar; the continuing use of torture; deaths in custody; political arrests and continuing imprisonment and other detentions, denial of freedom of assembly, association, expression and movement, and the prevailing culture of impunity.6
In spite of international pressure, not to mention armed opposition that at times seemed capable of sacking the country’s capital, Burma’s military governments have clung to power. Though economic mismanagement means the government lacks sources of traditional revenue, it has largely financed its position through the sale of raw materials and commodities. The bulk of this income comes from the Andaman Sea, location of the lucrative Yetagun and Yadana gas projects. In May 1990, the British company, Premier Oil signed the first gas contract with Burma’s military government, which granted it permission to harvest gas from the Yetagun Gas Fields in the Andaman Sea. 7 Two years later, in July 1992 the French oil company Total signed an agreement to harvest gas from the Yadana Gas Fields, also in the Andaman Sea. 8
Both the Yadana and Yetagun projects are jointoperating agreements with the government-owned Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprises (MOGE), the primary corporation responsible for gas exploration and production in Burma since most sectors of industry were nationalized in 1962. As a result, a significant portion of the income generated by the projects flows directly to Burma’s military government, netting the SPDC 2.486 billion USD in 20089. This is down from the SPDC’s 2.7 billion dollar 2007.10 Notably, these figures are based upon calculations using the official government exchange rate, which registers 6 kyat as equivalent to 1 USD. 11 This overvalues the kyat by almost 200 times its market value, masking the substantially larger income earned for the regime by gas sales. 12
Even calculated at the official rate, income from the Yadana and Yetagun projects is the SPDC’s primary source of foreign exchange, making up more than a third of its exports for 2008.13 This revenue is crucial to the SPDC, whose fundraising opportunities are otherwise heavily restricted by strict international sanctions, including by the United States, European Union and Canada. 14 The bulk of the income does not, however, make it into services that benefit the people of Burma. The SPDC spends just 1.4 percent of GDP on education and health, a rate that is half that of neighboring countries and amongst the lowest of countries anywhere. 15 Predictably, Burma’s social services are amongst the worst in the world; only a quarter of children complete primary school16 and Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF) ranked the country among the world’s top-10 Humanitarian Crisis of 2008. The consequences for the population are dire; the country’s infant mortality rate is among the highest in Asia, at 7% for children under 1 and 10% for those under 5. These numbers are closer to 10 and 20% in Burma’s rural areas, 17 due largely to preventable diseases like malaria, diarrhea and pneumonia. 18 More difficult to treat conditions, meanwhile, go all-but ignored, and in what MSF calls “one of Asia’s most severe HIV/AIDS epidemics” only a small fraction of the estimated 240,000 people tested positive for the disease receive ARV treatment. 19
In spite of the steady income generated by the gas projects, not to mentionBurma’s abundance of other natural resources, Burma’s economy remains stagnant after decades of economic mismanagement by successive military regimes, beginning with the economy-wide nationalizations of General Ne Win’s “Burmese Way to Socialism.” The UN categorized Burma a “Least Developed Country” in 1987, a label the country has continued to carry for over 20 years20 even as other Southeast Asian countries have experienced economic booms. Its Gross National Income (GNI) per- capita of 220 USD is less than half that of Cambodia (480 USD), the country with the next-lowest GNI in the region and just a fraction of neighboring Thailand (2,990 USD) or similarly developing ex-colony Indonesia (1,420 USD). 21 According to the SPDC’s own Central Statistical Organization (MCSO), 70% of household income is spent on food,22 the highest proportion in the region and a solid indicator of the thin line separating households from times when they can feed themselves and times when they cannot. According to the World Food Program, a third of children suffer from malnutrition. 23 These numbers worsen markedly in rural areas; in 2006, a joint survey by the UNDP and MCSO found 50% of the population in rural areas to have incomes insufficient to pay for food and other basic needs.24
That income from projects like Yadana and Yetagun has not been effectively used to promote economic development should not be surprising. The SPDC is among the most corrupt regimes in the world25 and, in the words of one respected Burma economic analyst, “has little understanding of the dynamics of a market economy, and mistakes the building of roads, bridges, dams and other physical infrastructure as constituting ‘economic development’ in themselves.” 26 In the last few years, this mismanagement has manifested itself in egregiously high levels of spending on projects like a nuclear reactor27 and the construction of Naypyidaw, an opulent, built-from-scratch 4-5 billion dollar city to which the regime recently relocated the capital. 28
A substantial portion of SPDC budgetary expenditures, meanwhile, goes to funding the military, or Tatmadaw. Though accurate calculations are difficult because official figures are nonexistent or closely guarded, commentators estimate actual spending on the Tatmadaw to account for 25 to 40% of the national budget, or more than twice the percentage of GDP spent on health and education. 29 Importantly, this spending is further augmented by significant funds from military-owned economic enterprises30 as well as a “self-reliance” policy that encourages front-line battalions to procure supplies through commandeering and purchasing at government prices 31 The result has been a steady increase in the ranks of the Tatmadaw, which at more than 400,000 troops is now the second largest army in Southeast Asia, second only to Vietnam.
5 : The infamy of 1988 is now likely challenged by the military government’s response to Cyclone Nargis in May 2008, which consisted of such intransigence that thousands of lives were lost as international aid agencies struggled to gain access to affected areas. See, After the Storm: Voices From the Delta, EAT and Johns Hopkins University, March 2009.
6 : “Third Committee Approves Draft Resolutions on Human Rights in Myanmar, Belarus; Rejects Texts on Canada, United States,” United Nations Sixty-first General Assembly, Third Committee 51st and 52nd Meetings, November 22, 2006.
7 : Within a few years, Premier, the operator with a 27% share of the project, was joined the Malaysian company Petronas, the Japanese company Nippon and Thailand’s PTT -EP.
8 : The Yadana consortium is made up of 4 partners: Total, the operator with a 31.2% share, is joined by Chevron (Unocal prior to 2005), PTT-EP and MOGE.
9 : According to government figures, cited in “Myanmar’s foreign trade hits over $11 bln in 2008,” Xinhua March 21, 2009. This figure saw an interesting surge upwards in the last quarter of 2008, after the government announced income from gas to be just $1.69 billion over the first three quarters of the year. See, “Myanmar trade surplus shrinks as gas exports fall,” AP January 6, 2009.
10 : According to figures provided by the government-controlled Myanmar Times newspaper, cited in “Myanmar earned 2.7 bln dlrs from 2007 gas exports: report,” AFP April 8, 2008. A few months later, figures from the country’s customs department revised the figure downwards, to $2.594 billion. See, “Natural gas tops Myanmar exports in 2007-08,” Xinhua June 15, 2008.
11 : For more on the difference between the official and actual market values of the kyat, see Inset 4.
12 : In May 2009, the widely used black-market exchange rate converted kyat to dollars at a rate of 1,090:1. For analysis of the way the official exchange rate impacts government budgets, see Turnell, Sean. “Burma’s Economy 2008: Current Situation and Prospects for Reform,” Burma Economic Watch, Macquarie University, Australia, May 2008.
13 : According to government figures, 2008 saw exports totaling 6.413 billion USD. See, “Foreign trade breaks $11b barrier before end of fiscal year,” Myanmar Times, March 30-April 5, 2009.
14 : Renewed most recently by the European Union. See, “EU extends sanctions on Burma for another year,” Mizzima News, April 27, 2009.
15 : Turnell, 2008. See also, The Gathering Storm: Infectious Diseases and Human Rights in Burma, the University of California Berkeley and John Hopkins University, July 2007.
16 : Turnell, 2008; “Beyond the International Spotlight, Critical Needs in Myanmar Remain Unmet,” MSF Top Ten Humanitarian Crisis of 2008, MSF December 2008.
17 : After the storm, 2009.
18 : Backpack Health Worker Team, Chronic Emergency: Health and Human Rights in Burma, September 2006.
19 : See, A Preventable Fate: The Failure of ART Scale-Up in Myanmar, MSF Special Report, November 2008.
20 : United Nations Office of the High Representative for Least Developed Countries. “Myanmar Country Profile,” June 2008 http://www.unohrlls.or /en/orphan/305/Accessed 4/1/2009
21 : UNICEF, Information by country: East Asia and the Pacific, http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/eastasia.html Accessed 4/1/2009
22 : Daw Malar Aung, Deputy Director (Statistics), Central Statistical Organization, Ministry of National Planning and Economic Development. “Country Brif Note – Myanmar” (Sic), Inception Seminar/ Workshop on Upgrading Statistical Capabilities on MDG Indicators, Trivendrum, 13-15, December 2004. www.unsiap.or.jp/mdg_project/ Inception/DOCS/CBN_Myanmar_016.doc Accessed 4/1/2009.
23 : The WFP also labels Burma’s status as “serious” on the Global Hunger Index, which ranks countries based on child malnutrition, rates of child mortality and the proportion of people who are calorie deficient. See the WFP’s Myanmar profile, http://www.wfp.org/countries/myanmar. Accessed 4/20/2009.
24 : Impact of the UNDP Human Development Initiative in Myanmar, 1994-2006. UNDP 2006.
25 : According to international corruption monitoring group Transparency International, Burma is the second most corrupt country in the world, ahead of only Somalia. Transparency International. “Corruption Perceptions Index 2008,” Transparency International, 2008.
26 : Turnell, 2008. Turnell goes on to describe the SPDC as “almost wholly predatory… not so much parasitic of its host as all-consuming. If in other countries ruling regimes behave occasionally as racketeers in skimming a ‘cut’ from prosperous business, then Burma’s is more like a looter – destroying what it can neither create nor understand.”
27 : Bertil Lintner, “Burma’s Nuclear Temptation,” Yale Global, December 3, 2008; The Guardian, “Russia to build atomic plant for Burmese junta,” May 17, 2007.
28 : The New York Times, “Built to Order: Myanmar’s New Capital Isolates and Insulates Junta,” June 24, 2008; The Irrawaddy, “Dragging Burma Back to the Past,” November 2008 – Volume 16 NO.11; BBC News, “Burma’s new capital stages parade,” March 27, 2006.
29 : Andrew Selth. Burma’s Armed Forces: Power Without Glory (East Bridge: Norwalk, 2002); David Steinberg. Burma, the state of Myanmar (Georgetown University Press: Washington, DC, 2002).
30 : The Tatmadaw controls a variety of business operations, including banks, construction, agricultural and importexport companies. The Tatmadaw-owned Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings, for instance, is one of the largest businesses inside Burma. See, “The Enemy Within,” The Irrawaddy, March 2000 Vol. 8 No. 30. For a discussion of SPDC army investments and the lucrative logging industry in Burma, see A Conflict of Interests: The uncertain future of Burma’s forests, Global Witness, October 2003.
31 : The SPDC is reported to have begun this “self reliance” or “self sufficiency” policy in 1996 or 1997. Front-line battalions are often poorly outfitted in terms of rations and other living requirements. Given the general lack of oversight or culpability for officers or soldiers, this has lead to abuse and exploitation as battalions seek to cover shortfalls. For details on the March 2009 policy change that replaced rice rations with a weekly payment of 800 kyat for rank and file soldiers, see “Lack of army food could lead to corruption,” Democratic Voice of Burma, April 29, 2009. For details on the general lack of support for rank and file SPDC army soldiers, see “Myanmar army document spotlights low morale,” Jane’s Defence Weekly, March 26, 2007. For other reports on the SPDC self-reliance policy, see Running the Gauntlet: the Impact of Internal Displacement in Southern Shan State, Humanitarian Affairs Research Project, Chulalongkorn University, Thailand, 2003; Myanmar Ethnic Minorities: Targets of Repression, Amnesty International, June 2001. For examples of the way the SPDC military “self reliance” policy results in villagers forced to support troops, see Internal Displacement and International Law in Eastern Burma, Thai-Burma Border Consortium, October 2008.
B. The Kanbauk to Myaing Kalay gas pipeline
The Yadana and Yetagun projects have received significant international attention, generated mostly through careful documentation of human rights violations by advocacy groups like Earth Rights International (ERI) and the Burma Campaign UK. 32 Beginning in 1996, ERI also began conducting a legal advocacy campaign, filing lawsuits first in the US that were soon replicated in Belgium and France. Receiving less coverage, however, is the government-owned pipeline bringing Total gas to domestic users inside Burma; as part of its contract with Total, MOGE is entitled to as much as 20% of Yadana’s production. 33 This gas is routed to two primary locations: first to cement factories in Karen State, and then onwards to Rangoon where it is used for electricity generation. 34 According to numbers released by Total in 2008, MOGE initially took less than half its share – 40 to 50 million standard cubic feet per day (mmscfd). In December 2006, MOGE increased this daily take to 100 mmscfd.
MOGE’s share of the gas must travel through 183 miles of 20-inch diameter pipeline, construction of which began in November 2000. This pipeline begins at the Total Pipeline Center near Kanbauk, a town in northern Yebyu Township, Tavoy District, Tenasserim Division. 35 The gas travels briefly through Yebyu, before passing into Mon State 41 miles further on. For the next 116 miles, it travels through 5 townships in Mon State before entering Karen State, arriving 26 miles later at twin cement factories in Myaing Kalay 36 From Myaing Kalay, some of the gas continues roughly west towards electricity generating projects in Rangoon, including a gas turbine power station funded by the Japanese government. 37
The Kanbauk-Myaing Kalay pipeline is an extensive overland pipeline, and passes through areas that are varied in terms of terrain, ethnic make-up and political situation. The majority of the pipeline takes more or less the same route as the Moulmein to Ye and Ye to Tavoy railway lines, which also run along the main road connecting Moulmein, Mon State’s capital, to Tavoy, the capital of Tenasserim Division. For approximately the first third of the pipeline, in Yebyu Township and southern Ye Township’s Khaw Zar Sub-township, the countryside is relatively mountainous and home to dense forests. This terrain has made it home for the remaining armed insurgent groups, who have dwindled since major groups like the Communist Party of Burma’s (CPB) last southern outpost finally disintegrated in 2000 and the New Mon State Party (NMSP) agreed to a ceasefire with the SPDC in 1995. Since construction of the pipeline began in 2000, armed insurgent activity has been mostly limited to the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) and small MNLA splinter groups. 38 Much of this area is classified a “black” area, making it a virtual free-fire zone for SPDC army troops and the site of some of the worst human rights abuses in southern Burma. 39
By Ye Town, 30 miles to the north of Khaw Zar Town, the terrain begins to level out and remains relatively flat for the next 80 miles, though mountains to the west are never more than a few miles away. These remaining three quarters of the pipeline pass through the northern end of Ye Township and into Thanbyuzayat and Mudon Townships, before skirting Moulmein and entering Karen State. Though activity by armed insurgents has also been reported in these areas, particularly in Lamine Sub-township north of Ye Town and as far north as Thanbyuzayat Township, 40 they are classified as “white,” and fully under government control. As the pipeline stretches towards Moulmein, then, it passes from a “black” free-fire zone where human rights abuses such as forced relocations and arbitrary killings are common to increasingly more pacified “white” territory, where the human rights situation is pressing though less severe. The pipeline chiefly traverses agricultural land, primarily paddy fields and rubber plantations, though plantations of betel nut, durian, rambutan, palm and other orchard products are also common, especially in the more mountainous southern areas. Fishing villages dot the coast, while in Thanbyuzayat Township salt is
produced in villages like Panga and Setse. 41 Though Mon State’s paddy fields and plantations are fertile and the area’s economy has been relatively stronger than other parts of Burma, it is by no means affluent. Baseline income for an average laborer in 2009 is just 50,000 kyat a month, or less than 50 USD. The area has also been hit hard by the global economic downturn, with the value of key crops like rubber dropping by as much as 75%.42
The pipeline area is primarily home to ethnic Mons, who more or less controlled the region for centuries.43 It is by no means ethnically homogenous, however, and is also home to ethnic Karens, Burmans, Indians and, in the south closer to Kanbauk, Tavoyans. Mon State’s relatively strong economic position vis-?-vis other parts of Burma means that it has also increasingly become a destination for ethnic Burman migrant workers from middle and upper Burma. 44
Preparation for the construction of the Kanbauk to Myaing Kalay pipeline began in 1998 when SPDC engineers first surveyed the route. Township Peace and Development Council (TPDC) officials, who are responsible for administering all government departments in each township, were required to participate and provide information about how many people lived and worked on land traversed by the pipeline. The route was then cleared and trenches were dug during 1999 and 2000, after which sections of the pipeline were delivered to the area, welded together and placed in the ground. From 2001 to 2003, villagers were required to cover the pipeline with soil. Pervasive human rights abuses have characterized all stages of this project – from its initial preparation to the ongoing maintenance and security efforts that sustain it. The first section of this report details the militarization that has accompanied the project, including the arrival of more than 20 new battalions to the area and the abuses that go hand in hand with the increased military presence. The second section details abuses during the construction process, which entailed forced labor and the confiscation of over 2,400 acres of land. The last section of the report explains the situation along the pipeline following its construction, and includes details on conscription of villagers who are made to repair the pipeline and stand sentry against attacks by insurgents. This section also includes details on the pipeline’s frequent explosions and ruptures, as well as the considerable abuses including torture related to post-explosion investigations.
33 : Total. Total in Myanmar: a sustained commitment, 2008. Downloaded from the Total website,
http:// burma.total.com. Accessed 3/1/2009.
34 : Total, 2008; U Kyaw Nyein, “MOGE Country Report for Myanmar.” Presented to MOGE, Undated.
35 : For more on the organization and administration of States and Divisions in Burma, see Inset 1.
36 : For more on the cement factories in Myaing Kalay, see Inset 2.
37 : According to a June 2006 evaluation by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the JICA-funded Thaketa gas turbine power station was poised to increase the amount of gas it burned, by drawing an additional 22 million MMSCFD later in 2006. Atsushi Tokura, “Ex-Post Monitoring for Completed ODA Loan Projects,” Myanmar Gas Turbine Power Station Project (Yangon), JICA June 2006.
38 : For more on the insurgent activity in the pipeline area as well as the NMSP and KNLA, see Inset 3.
39 : For more on “black areas” and the way SPDC counter-insurgency strategy hinges on targeting civilians, see Section IV, B.
40 : In March 2009, villagers in Thanbyuzayat and Mudon Townships were restricted to a 9 pm curfew after SPDC battalions claimed they had intelligence indicating 200 armed insurgents had entered the area. It is questionable whether a group of 200 could operate secretly in an area home to 5 Burmese army battalions and made up mostly of paddy fields and rubber plantations. Nonetheless, one resident interviewed at the time said he had recently seen 30 KNLA soldiers taxing a bus bound from Moulmein to Tavoy near Waekami village, Thanbyuzayat.
41 : Salt production in Mon State saw a boon in 2008/2009 following the May 2008 devastation of Burma’s primary salt producing areas on the Irrawaddy Delta by Cyclone Nargis.
42 : For more on household incomes and the economy in Mon State, see Inset 4.
43 : The last Mon Kingdom of Hongsawatoi, which encompassed Burma’s southern peninsula, as well as significant other portions of Burma and Thailand, fell to the Burman King Alaungpaya in 1757. For more on the early history of the Mon people, see Ashley South, The Golden Sheldrake: Mon Nationalism and Civil War in Burma (New York: Routledge, 2003).
44 : Increasing numbers of ethnic Burman workers and the families of SPDC soldiers moving to primarily ethnic Mon villages have led to some tensions. HURFOM interview subjects have complained about theft by the “new arrivals,” and reported fights between young Burman and Mon men. Villagers also complained that newly arrived ethnic Burmans are favored by authorities when conflicts arise, as well as given positions of authority in the local VPDC, militia or fire brigade. As a result, some villagers have cited Mon-Burman tensions as their reason for supporting continued insurgent activity by armed Mon groups. See, “Living Between Two Fires: villager opinions on armed insurgency,” The Mon Forum, HURFOM January 2009.
A. The pipeline, militarization and “self-reliance”
Construction of the Kanbauk-Myaing Kalay pipeline is inextricably linked to militarization of the pipeline route, which saw an increase of more than 20 new battalions assigned to the area beginning at approximately the time construction began. By 2003, a newly formed Military Operations Management Command (MOMC) No. 19, based in Ye Town, commanded 10 battalions tasked with guarding the pipeline, with an additional 11 new battalions and a total of more than 32 in areas along the pipeline. The influx of new battalions is highlighted in Maps 2 and 3, which contrast the number of battalions in the pipeline area before and after construction.
Military interests in the area partially explain the concentration of army battalions along the pipeline. Following a 1995 ceasefire between the SPDC and the New Mon State Party (NMSP), the largest armed Mon political group, the party retained control of 12 “permanent ceasefire zones,” which it administers and uses as a base for Mon National Liberation Army (MNLA) troops.45 Though the ceasefire agreement included stipulations regarding how close to NMSP territory SPDC army battalions could base themselves and operate, SPDC troops have repeatedly moved close to and even inside ceasefire territory. 46 NMSP sources have subsequently described the increased SPDC army presence in the area as designed to counter any potential MNLA resurgence. “They are trying to tie us up… The NMSP totally relies on the local people. When we go to a village, we have a chance to tax and also to set up communication and networks with the people. The Burmese authorities worry too much about that,” a MNLA major told HURFOM in February 2009. “Also, they would like to show clearly that there are more SPDC troops than in the MNLA. They do this so that the MNLA troops feel weaker in their minds [decreasing morale].”
Neither the continued presence of the MNLA nor the limited activity of other armed insurgent groups fully explain increased SPDC deployments along the pipeline. The strongest insurgent group on Burma’s southern peninsula is the KNLA, 47 whose 4th Brigade operates only in the area near the southern end of the pipeline and is chiefly relegated to north and eastern Yebyu Township, although there are also small operations in eastern Thanbyuzayat bordering with Karen State. The area that would become the pipeline route was relatively bereft of Mon insurgent activity during the construction phases, meanwhile, until the formation of the MNLA splinter group initially known as the Hongswatoi Restoration Party (HRP) in 2001. 48 But by the time the HRP began launching attacks the pipeline area was already largely occupied by the new SPDC battalions, making it unlikely that the HRP could have motivated the deployments. Today, no Mon insurgent group can field more than 40 men.
The best proof that the increased deployments are related to the pipeline project is, however, the simple fact that the new SPDC army battalions have been intimately involved in preparation of the pipeline’s route, its construction and subsequent security and maintenance. Many battalions are headquartered along or near the pipeline, in places far from the operating areas of active insurgents. This report will repeatedly document the involvement of these SPDC battalions in affairs related to the construction, maintenance and security of the pipeline, including specific mention of more than 10 battalions in testimony and incidents described below. Abuses were not limited to these battalions, however, and the others shown in Map 3 have also been responsible for pipeline security – and human rights abuses.
Confidential internal order documents obtained by HURFOM also provide irrefutable proof of the relationship between SPDC army battalions and the Kanbauk-Myaing Kalay pipeline. HURFOM has on file 7 documents specifically mentioning 6 battalions and their security duties relating to the pipeline, an example of which has been translated and included as Appendix 1. The document, distributed in March 2001 to at least 4 SPDC battalions49 in northern Ye and Thanbyuzayat Townships, lists its explicit goal as the successful construction of the pipeline. The document then goes on to detail each stage of the construction project, as well as outline areas to be secured by each battalion.
Though Mon and Karen insurgent activity on the southern peninsula would certainly have lead to a maintained and even increased deployment of SPDC army battalions over time, it is undeniable that a
significant portion of the battalions in Yebyu, Ye, Thanbyuzayat and Mudon Townships would not be
deployed in their current locations without the pipeline. The increased deployment of SPDC army battalions has, in turn, led to massive human rights abuses as the new battalions carry out the SPDC’s military self- reliance policy with rapacious fervor. The basing of new battalions from 1999 to 2003 alone resulted in the seizure of 6,000 acres of land, while the subsequent maintenance of barracks and army agricultural and economic projects has lead to the seizure of an additional 6,000 acres and countless instances of forced labor.Military self-reliance has also lead to capricious taxation of villagers, who are made to pay a variety of fees as well as see their possessions, equipment and agricultural products commandeered or simply stolen. Importantly, the simple fact that large numbers of troops now occupy the pipeline area has also meant that villagers have been subject to arbitrary and violent abuse, killing and rape.
45 : For more on the NMSP ceasefire, see Inset 3.
46 : Residents of the Tavoy resettlement sites in NMSP Tavoy District, Tenasserim Division, for instance, report that SPDC troops frequently enter their villages. Nai Maung, 60, Kyonebai village, NMSP Tavoy District: In this January , the Burmese troops arrived here two times already. But what they were looking for we cannot say. We are really afraid of them. Some of my neighbors told me there are some rebel supporters in the village. Because of them I think the soldiers want to observe the situation of the rebels. That is why they came to the village. If fighting happens in the village or near the village, we will have a big problem.
47 : For more on the KNLA, see Inset 3.
48 : For more on the HRP and other Mon insurgent groups, see Inset 3.
49 : Battalions listed in the confidential document translated in Appendix 1: IB 31, IB 62, LIB 106 and TB No. 4.
1. Land confiscation
The influx of SPDC army battalions into the pipeline area resulted in the confiscation of hundreds of acres of land as the army built bases and housing for soldiers and their families, and then commandeered agricultural projects to support them. In 2003, HURFOM released No Land to Farm, which extensively documented land seizures in Mon State, including those by newly arrived battalions. Over the course of 5 years from 1998-2002, at least 6,000 acres of paddies, plantations and homesteads were confiscated to make way for the bases and agricultural projects of pipeline battalions.50 In the years since 2003, pipeline battalions have seized another 6,000 acres. Information on both these sets of seizures are included in Appendix 2.
Saw Eht Htoo, Sanpya village, Ye Township:
As I know, the MOMC No. 19 has already deployed 10 military battalions in Ye Township. They have already confiscated many acres of land. Now, they claim that they confiscated land for new artillery regiments again. Most land in this area is owned by our Karen villagers. My land and plantations cost about 4 million kyat. They took it without paying me one kyat. Many other plantations cost more than mine. Nobody received any compensation.
Though Burma’s rules regarding land rights lack clarity because law in the country is generally by decree, land confiscation is perversely, arguably legal. Burma’s 1974 Constitution, which was the default land law for both the SLORC and SPDC, classified the state as the “ultimate owner of all natural resources above and below the ground, above and beneath the waters and in the atmosphere, and also all lands.”51This was reiterated by SLORC directives in 1988 and 1990 clarifying its full control over paddy land as well as land for orchards, brick and salt production and other uses. 52 Chapter I of Burma’s new constitution, approved in a widely criticized referendum in May 2008, 53 adopts virtually word for word language from the 1974 Constitution and maintains ultimate government control of land.
Nai Kao Talot, the Kundu and Arutaung village area, Ye Township:
From these confiscated plantations, the growers could produce many thousands pounds of latex and many hundreds of thousands of betel-nut and many thousands of durian fruits… Under the military dictatorship, there are no property rights. The civilians have no rights for the ownership of their lands. The government can confiscate land and properties whenever they want. Although [it is] heritage… land from their ancestors, they do not have the rights to own the land.
Land confiscation victims received no compensation or compensation at levels so low as to be akin to nothing at all. In a few other cases, villagers report being forced to sign “sale” agreements and accept “payment” so that the seizures had the veneer of legitimacy.
Replacement of seized land is difficult, and contingent on the unlikely chance that victims have sufficient capital – and can find land to purchase. For many, even purchasing land would do little to replace the loss. In most cases, this was because the army seized homes and properties passed down within families for generations. For many, the lost land also represented years of investment. A typical rubber plantation, for instance, requires 7 to 8 years of continuous investment in labor and inputs like fertilizer before the trees have matured enough to be harvested from and the project sees any return.
Nai Kyaw, 53, Phalein village, Ye Township:
My fruit plantations of about 3 acres of lands were seized by the local Burmese army based near my village. This is the reason I left my native village. I really feel painful, whenever I think about my land… I can still remember the day they… said that they are the soldiers from the battalion nearby and the reason they came to meet me is to let me know the land is no longer owned by me… Since then, I felt disappointed and hopeless at the same time. Finally, I discussed with my wife and decided to leave the village in order to find a new job for us to survive. Farmers with limited education and lifetimes of experience working in only a single sector found themselves struggling to find new work. Victims forced to become laborers had to enter a suddenly swollen labor market; a typical farm or plantation employs regular and seasonal laborers, who also found themselves without work following confiscation. After LIB No. 586, LIB No. 587 and LIB No. 588 confiscated over a thousand acres of land from 77 families in eastern Ye Township, for instance, an additional 100 permanent laborers and 200 seasonal laborers were left unemployed.
Ultimately, many were forced to go hungry, relocate their families or seek employment in neighboring
countries like Thailand.
Karen villager, 60, the Sanpya & Donphi village area, Ye Township:
I own two plots of land in the area. Now, the Burmese Army confiscated both plots. I have nothing to eat. My children cried when they heard that the army confiscate[ed] our land. We had no more food. Only my son, who is a monk, shared some food with our family.
Mehm Kon Chan, son of a land seizure victim, now working in Thailand:
When I was living in my village, I had no other job except working in my father’s rubber plantation. After my father’s rubber plantation was confiscated… the soldiers threatened us… [and] forced us to abandon our properties. Therefore, I communicated to my brother [the son of his uncle], who was working in Thailand, and as you see I had to flee the village to seek work in Thailand.
50 : HURFOM. No Land to Farm, 2003.
51 : Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions. Displacement and Dispossession: Forced Migration and Land Rights in Burma, COHRE Country Report November 2007.
52 : Nancy Hudson-Rodd and Myo Nyunt. “Control of Land and Life in Burma,” U Wisconsin-Madison Land Tenure Brief, April 2001.
53 : The government announced that the constitution was approved by an approval vote of 92.48% and 98.12% turnout of voters. This is a highly dubious claim, given that wide swathes of the Irrawaddy Delta region were at the time recovering from Cyclone Nargis, which had just killed over 130,000 people.
2. Forced labor
Villagers in rural eastern Burma are routinely required to work as unpaid forced laborers on development projects like roads and repairs to government buildings. This is true also in the context of the pipeline battalions, which have consistently demanded that villagers work on a variety of projects that range from building and maintaining barracks to working as porters carrying ammunition and supplies on army patrols.
During the initial period when new pipeline battalions began arriving, villagers were made to work as unpaid forced laborers providing materials and labor to aid the construction of new army barracks and headquarters. Villagers have described clearing land, cutting and hauling timber, digging bunkers, trenches and irrigation canals and constructing buildings and fences.
Villager, Kaloh village, Ye Township:
When we arrived to the new battalion site… we had to cut many young betelnut trees and gathered them to one place. The soldiers also sold the trees in the market to earn extra income for their battalions. Then we were instructed to clear the ground. We had to dig the roots of the betel-nut trees and fill the holes with dirt, and level the ground to construct the barracks. And one sergeant ordered us to dig trenches… I was forced to work there for five days without pay.
In the subsequent decade, villagers have been frequently ordered to help maintain the army living areas. As a result, villagers have had to provide quotas of materials like bamboo and gravel as well as work clearing brush and repairing bunkers and fencing. These types of projects are especially common following the rainy season, when villagers must repair damage done by the heavy monsoon rains.
Nai Soe, 40, Alaesakhan village, Yebyu Township:
I asked a Karen lady from the village why the Burmese Army gathered the men from this village… She said that the Burmese soldiers [from LIB No. 273] collected these villagers to build the battalion’s barracks and dikes.
One of the results of the SPDC’s military self-reliance policy is the seizure of thousands of acres of plantations and farmland. In the case of the pipeline battalions, over 12,000 acres of plantations and paddy fields have been seized since pipeline battalions began arriving in 1998.54 Adding insult to injury, in many cases victims have been required to work as unpaid laborers tending to the very land taken from them by the army.
Nai Naing Oo, Ye Town, whose land was seized by LIB No. 586 in 2005:
They [LIB No. 586] don’t even think how people survive and instead, they seized the land that belonged to our villagers. Those confiscated lands are full of rubber plantations. After they seized it, they are ready to make money from the confiscated lands because [all the work] was done by our villagers’ sweat.
Nai Ein, Arutaung village, Ye Township:
Just last year, the rubber plantation… belonged to my family. This year, the rubber trees belong to Burmese soldiers and the battalion base. They took my land to fund the battalion. Then a Sergeant came to me and told me to help them. They forced me to collect [rubber] in the morning and give them all of it.
In other cases, villagers were granted permission to work on their former land under the condition that they shared a percentage of the raw products or paid local battalions high fees. Every year since confiscating over 300 acres of rubber plantations in northern Ye Township in the early 2000s, for instance, LIB No. 586 has permitted former plantations owners to work their land if they made high payments or shared a portion of their products. In some cases, local battalions claimed that they were only carrying out orders issued by the Southeast Command in Moulmein. In these cases, however, villagers noted that the fees they were paying exceeded those ordered by the higher authorities.
Nai Shwe Hlay, 45, Ye Township:
We signed the contract… we were told we have to pay 950 kyat for [permission to harvest rubber].When we read the contract, we [saw] what was said differed with the contract. In the contract it was 700 kyat. The army officers told us that the contract was prepared by Military Operation Management Command No. 19 in Ye.
Pipeline battalions IB No. 31, LIB No. 343 and LIB No. 586 also earn income by operating at least 4 brick factories in Ye Township. Built on confiscated land, villagers in areas around the factories are made to provide wood for firing the brick kilns. In February 2009, for instance, IB No. 31 ordered four villages in Khaw Zar Sub-township55 to provide 130 kyin of firewood. 56 Every household in the villages had to provide one laborer, who had to work for a week cutting and hauling the timber to the factories, as well as pay for the rental of trucks to transport it.
Nai Ong, 40, Yindein village, Khaw Zar Sub-township, Ye Township:
We have been experiencing these kinds of abuses since almost ten years ago. The abuses are not only one at a time. They come on top of one another, for instance like with this firewood quota. We have to collect firewood to fill the amount needed [by IB No. 31]. Then, we have to pay for transportation fees.
Underscoring the way that military self-reliance is really reliance on local villagers, residents are subsequently required to buy quotas of bricks from the army factory, bricks that are priced above the market though they are of below market quality.
Though not part of military self-reliance, civilians are frequently conscripted as porters in areas where SPDC army battalions conduct patrols or offensives against armed insurgents. In spite of the high level of expenditures spent on the SPDC army, it is relatively low-tech and, particularly in the relatively rugged areas like Yebyu and southern Ye Township, relies heavily on foot patrols. This is a labor-intensive practice, and the SPDC army makes it possible by using civilian porters to carry ammunition and supplies. Civilian porters are also often made to walk in front of army columns, where they are the first to encounter landmines or ambushes, a practice dubbed “atrocity demining” by the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL).57
Nai Chain, Yebyu Township:
LIB No. 282 always used the porters as human-shields. The soldiers made the porters walk in front of the military column to trigger the mines. When fighting happened between the rebels and the Army, porters were used as human shields for the Burmese troops… The soldiers threatened us that if we refused to [willingly help] we would be killed… Sometimes, when the porters were not able to walk or caused a delay, they were severely beaten.
Nai Lot, 65, Mihtawhlagyi village, Ye Township:
In one month, I was forced three to four times to be a porter… It was difficult, and we were beaten all the time. According to my age, I was getting old and I could only walk slowly. But the soldiers kicked me and I fell down on hard stones and was injured around my eyes [a scar on his face is still visible]. I also witnessed a villager from Kyauktalin, a 40-year-old man, who was unable to carry their big basket and who was shot dead in the middle of the road. Out of fear, I had to flee from them.
Pipeline battalions made frequent use of civilian porters on security patrols during the construction process, the practice of which is described below [Section V, B2]. Conscription of porters did not end with the conclusion of construction, and battalions along the southern third of the pipeline continue to conscript civilian porters as they attempt to eliminate Mon and Karen insurgents. This portering typically takes two forms, with villagers sometimes conscripted for short periods during patrols in specific areas and sometimes conscripted for a month or more during sustained offensives. In many village, battalions also demand monthly “porter fees” of 1,500 to 2000 kyat, which villagers ostensibly pay in lieu of being conscripted, though residents of villages that pay the fees have reported continued conscription as well. 58
Nai Manoit, Asin village, Ye Township:
Since January 2008, when armed clashes happened between some Mon guerrilla soldiers and the Burma Army battalions, [the Burmese Army] have started forcing all of us to pay them this kind of monthly [porter] fee… But I don’t understand why they increased the amount of payment even though there are no more clashes between those groups in this area.
Nai Kyi Aye, 59, Kabyar village, Ye Township:
Before the pipeline started there were no troops in the village. Sometime the troops came but the troops could not catch villagers because villagers ran away before the military column arrived. If the military column could catch male villagers, they would take them as porters. The portering was for a long time. Villagers did not allow the military column to catch them easily.
In all cases, villagers are not compensated for their labor, though they are sometimes given the option of paying money to avoid working as unpaid laborers. For villagers who primarily survive as farmers and agricultural laborers, unpaid work for battalions is an exhausting addition to an already hard scrabble life. Making things worse, the army does not appear to have any sympathy for the scheduling demands of farming; workers are demanded at times when farmers have tasks that must be completed quickly, like harvesting orchard products before they become over ripe.
Nai Soe, 40, Alaesakhan village, Yebyu Township:
At this time, most farmers in the village are busy with their own jobs. Farmers have been harvesting their paddy and some are preparing their lands to grow [beans] and other crops. Now, most of them have to stop their farm work and instead build dikes for the battalion.
Nai Nyein, 32, Khaw Zar Sub-township, Ye Township:
I have a lot of my own work to do during these days. I am a betel nut farmer, and this month is very important for me to produce betel nuts. Most nuts are ripe and it is the time to pick them, but I am forced to work here [repairing the road for IB No. 31] and I don’t think my wife can finish all the work on the plantation alone.
Villagers working for local battalions find themselves subject to beatings and abuse from soldiers, and describe being treated like chattel rather than human beings. In a not-so-unusual example that illustrates the degree to which villagers are exploited, villagers in Tow Tet Ywa Thit, Ye Township, were forced to pay for the cost of bullets used by a soldier from LIB No. 343 who fired over their heads following their late arrival to a forced labor project. Villagers injured in the beatings or accidents that occur while they are working are not compensated, and subsequently find themselves permanently struggling to survive. This is particularly true of porters, who face high degrees of danger as they brave landmines and ambushes.
Nai Seik, Khaw Zar Sub-township, Ye Township:
Everyday, the Burmese Army that is based in the village forced 10 villagers to work… The villagers were always beaten by soldiers. They beat at least one every day. There were about 3-5 soldiers guarding when the villagers were working. They beat the villagers if they did not like them. A week ago, when our group was forced to work, three men… were inhumanely beaten until nearly dead because they took a while to rest. While you worked on the construction, even if you felt tired you should not look up to the soldiers. If they saw you, they would come and beat you with sticks or kicks with their jungle-boots.
Anonymous, Khaw Zar Sub-township, Ye Township
Because… [the military] often used forced labor, we can’t do our own job. We don’t want to live here. But we don’t dare to oppose them. We were wounded sometimes in the forced labor field. But we don’t get the payment.
54 : See Section IV, A1 and Appendix 2.
55 : Villages confirmed to have been ordered to provide firewood for IB No. 31: Singu, Yindein, Yinyae and Toe Tat Ywa Thit villages, Ye Township.
56 : A “kyin” is a Burmese measurement, referring to a 10-foot square of wood stacked 1 foot high.
57 : ICBL. “Burma/Myanmar,” Landmine Monitor Report, 2008.
58 : In February 2009, HURFOM confirmed monthly porter fees being levied by IB No. 61, IB No. 62 and LIB No. 299 in Tamoh Kraing, Hangan, Duya, Abaw, Asin, Kaloh, Chaung Taung, Koe Mile, Kyaun Ywa, Demin Seik and Zebyutaung villages in Ye Township. A reliable HURFOM source that travels throughout western Ye Township also reported that every village in the western half of Ye is required to make similar payments
3. Taxation, extortion and commandeering
Pipeline battalions augment income from projects like brick factories and seized rubber plantations by forcing villagers to make a variety of payments. The combination of general corruption, lack of oversight and the demands of military self-reliance means that villagers continue to be forced to make a variety of payments to support the army, as well as see their property and agricultural products routinely commandeered, seized or stolen. Because villagers rarely have the option of directly refusing demands made by soldiers, virtually every interaction with the army carries with it the specter of making a payment of some kind. Details of over 70 instances of taxation and commandeering by pipeline battalions are included in Appendix 3.
In many cases, these payments are explicitly for the support of pipeline battalions. Villagers in a confirmed four townships along the pipeline are made to pay monthly security fees, which go to local battalions.59 For villagers not immediately proximate to battalions, payments and “donations” of food and agricultural products have to be made when patrols enter the area. This is particularly true of villagers in the southern third of the pipeline where the SPDC army continues to actively pursue Mon and Karen insurgents.
Nai Gyi, Khaw Zar Sub-township, Ye Township:
We normally pay about 2,000 kyat every month… But when the soldiers come, we have to give more money to our headman to pay for feeding them while they stay awhile in the village. 60
Villagers all along the pipeline have also been required to provide quotas of agricultural products and building materials. Though the SPDC officially ended a policy of forced paddy procurement in 2003, villagers continue to report being required to sell paddy at below market prices, provide paddy “donations” or pay for the right not to. After the 2008 harvest season, for instance, 4 townships, including sections of Mudon and Ye Townships through which the pipeline passes, were required to provide some form of paddy support.61 “Every family who has a paddy field has to pay. The soldiers said if people do not want to provide paddy, they have to pay 3,000 kyat of money,” said a farmer from Taung Pyin village, Ye Township.
Soldiers also routinely commandeer or steal villagers’ property. In Ye Township, pipeline battalions require villagers to provide them with trucks and motorcycles to use for personal and army business. Villagers are not paid for the use of the vehicles, which often represents a loss of business for people whose investments in the machines are often predicated on income generated by their daily use. Villagers are also sometimes made to pay for petrol, and are often left with damaged machines and no compensation. Consequently, villagers are understandably reluctant to loan out their vehicles, and say that soldiers treat them carelessly and provide no compensation for damage. “I bought my bike not so long ago,” IMNA quoted a young man in Yebyu Township during January. “But now my bike is nearly broken, because of soldiers and the headman.” Another source quoted by IMNA described similar damage, for which he was never compensated – even after lodging a complaint. “If you are going to come and ask about your motorbike again,” the source quoted the officer’s response to one complaint, “I will introduce you to my gun.” 62
Agricultural products and livestock are also frequently taken, especially in rural areas along the southern third of the pipeline. “Because of [LIB No.] 583 and [LIB No.] 591, my ox was stolen,” said a woman in Kyaun Ywa, in southern Ye Township. “When I went and met with the commander, he denied it and said it was not his troops. ‘You misplaced your ox,’ he said to me.” Another man in the same village recounted a similar experience: “I know for certain that a soldier from [LIB No.] 583 came and stole my hens. I saw with my eyes, but they deny it. Within two weeks, all 30 hens were gone.”
Nai Chain, 37, Yebyu Township:
They [soldiers from LIB No. 273 and LIB No. 282] looted belongings owned by villagers. I saw the soldiers go into villages like Byaw, Chabon and Maesantaung… The soldiers looted food, livestock like chickens, ducks, goats and even valuable belongings owned by local villagers. They were like robbers.
Villagers are also often made to pay for projects spearheaded by local battalions, whether they want them or not. Villagers report having to work as forced laborers and make payments to construct and repair roads, though these projects are sometimes necessitated more by the military’s desire for quick access to strategic areas than anything else. Villagers also report being made to pay for projects that never materialize, or were supposed to have received government funding. Villagers have also been required to pay for festivals and celebrations spearheaded by the army. In the second week of December 2008, for instance, 19 villages in Khaw Zar were required to purchase lottery tickets and help pay for a week of celebrations commemorating the IB No. 31’s 52nd anniversary. 63
Nai Kyin Naing, 28, Doebaung village, Khaw Zar Sub-township, Ye Township:
They collected at least 500 to 1,000 kyat [for the IB No. 31 anniversary celebrations]. Everything is by force. The other thing was they sold lottery tickets [mandatorily]. But I did not hear of anyone winning a prize in the lottery. For my family, I had to buy two tickets – one is for my parents and the other for my sister’s family.
Pipeline battalions extract income from local villagers in a variety of other ways that are less overtly explained as fundraising. Soldiers operate frequent road checkpoints, whose ostensible security functions are often belied by the fact that they sometimes appear to follow each other by just a few hundred yards. Entering Ye Town from the north along a road running parallel to the pipeline, for instance, requires passing through a total of 8 checkpoints, 2 of which are less than 600 yards apart. Exiting from the south of Ye Town requires passing through another 2 army checkpoints, separated by just 200 yards. Underscoring the economic rather than security motivation for the checkpoints, villagers returning from Thailand – villagers who are ostensibly flush with newly earned income – are targeted and made to pay extra at road checkpoints.
Maung Myint, Mudon Town, Mudon Township:
They [the military check point] know which vehicles are carrying travelers coming back from Thailand. And they always extort [extra money]… They don’t allow passengers to leave the gate if they are dissatisfied.64
A Kyaw, 30, Hneepadaw village, Mudon Township:
They told me to register my bike for 10,000 kyat. Then, they took down information about the brand of my bike and license number and gave me a card granting me permission to use the road. Each time I pass this gate, I have to show this card… 150 to 200 farmers from just Hneepadaw village use this road, and most of them ride motorcycles. The soldiers will make a lot of money.
Residents of villages that have been placed under travel restriction are often made to purchase permission to leave their villages and travel to work their farms, conduct business or visit family. These restrictions – and subsequent payments – are a frequent occurrence in the southern third of the pipeline as well as a not unusual fact of life as far north as Mudon Township.65 The restrictions create intense difficulties for farmers. Travel restrictions keep farmers from their farms, while curfews shorten workdays for owners of faraway farms and plantations, forcing them to hire extra laborers and leading to debt cycles. Rubber plantation workers face special difficulties, as they must tap trees at night before the heat of the day thins sap and it dissipates throughout each tree. “It is very difficult for us to work in that amount of time,” a rubber plantation worker told HURFOM after a nighttime curfew was enforced in Mudon and Thanbyuzayat Townships. “We just cannot finish our job.”
59 : 45 villages are confirmed to have been required to provide fees for the support of pipeline battalions:
Kalawthut, Kamawet, Seintaung, Doma, Kwankabwi, Settwe, Yaung Daung, Hneepadaw, Abit, and Kwanhla villages.
Paungsein, Kyarkan, Wagaru, Waethunkyaung, Waeyet, Waekali, Waekami, Sakhangyi, Kaleinpadaw and Waewinkara villages.
Baylamine, Lamine, Kaninkamaw, Mawkanin, Leinmawchan, Kundu, Sonnatha, Pophtaw, Chaung Taung,
Tumyaung, Balaingkee, Arutaung, Taungbon, Chaung Taung, Kaloh, Koe Mile and Hangan villages.
Lort Taing, Lae Kyi, Kayuktalin, Natkyizin, Yapu and Kaleinaung villages.
60 : See, “New round of capricious taxation in southern Mon State,” IMNA October 29, 2008.
61 : Paung and Chaung Zone Townships, both north of the pipeline, were also required to provide paddy.
62 : “Authorities commandeering motorcycles in Yebyu Township,” IMNA January 22, 2009. A captain from LIB No. 587 with a motorbike commandeered in Ye Township
63 : Villages confirmed to have been required to pay for the IB No. 31 52nd anniversary celebration: Ko Mile, Man Aung, Kwan Hlaing, Singu, Toe Thet Ywa Thit, Theh Khon, Yin Ye, Yin Dein, Win Tamout, Ma Gyi, Than Ee Kyaw, Mi Tar Ka Gyi, Mi Tar Ka Ley, Kyone Kanya, Do Baung, Pok Htaw, Yin Dein Lamwat, Kabyar Gyi, Kabyar Ley villages in Khaw Zar Sub-township, Ye Township.
64 : See, “Troops extort money from passengers at check points,” IMNA Sep 4, 2008.
65 : In March 2009, residents of every village in Mudon and
Thanbyuzayat Townships were banned from leaving their homes after 9 pm following rumors of armed
insurgent activity in the area. See footnote 40.
B. The “Four Cuts” strategy and arbitrary violence
The Tatmadaw has been carrying out a scorched earth campaign in the country’s ethnic areas since shortly after independence. In the mid 1960s, this campaign took a more organized form and an official new name: Pya Ley Pya, or the “Four Cuts” strategy. The “four cuts” refer to food, funds, intelligence and recruits. In application, the strategy is an attempt to sever the connection between insurgents and their civilian supporters by systematically clearing rebel controlled, “black” areas by killing, threatening and forcibly relocating villagers. Such areas became free fire zones, with all remaing residents assumed to be rebels or rebel supporters. The strategy has proven effective, and over the last five decades has been a determining factor in weakening large and powerful armed-groups like the CPB and KNU/KNLA.66
Though the Four Cuts strategy has since been officially discontinued, its shadow can clearly be seen lurking behind present-day SPDC conduct. This is particularly true in Yebyu and southern Ye Townships, where the SPDC army seeks to eradicate armed insurgents. There, villagers face routine surveillance and travel restrictions; villages are placed on nighttime or 24-hour curfews any time there are reports of insurgent activity. Households and entire villages also continue to be forcibly relocated. In November 2008, for instance, IB No. 107 forced over 60 households in Amae village, Yebyu Township to leave their homes after accusing the residents of supporting the Mon insurgent group lead by Nai Chan Dein.
Nai Chit Noy, Amae village, Yebyu Township.
One young man from the village asked the captain, ‘if you do this, where will we go to live?’… The captain replied, ‘you can go and live anywhere, but not in this area.’ After that, he grabbed the young man and hit him in the head with the butt of his rifle. Once the young man had fallen down, the captain hit the young man’s leg and it broke.
Villagers suspected of involvement with armed insurgents are also detained and interrogated. Soldiers use frequent violence as part of the interrogation process, and over the last 6 years, HURFOM has documented villagers being made to dig their own graves, bound and left in the sun, beaten, burned and subjected to “shin rolling” and electric shocks. Details on 39 instances of torture are recorded in Appendix 4. Soldiers also use violence to intimidate villagers into general compliance even if it provides no information, particularly following clashes with armed insurgents. Villagers have been arbitrarily beaten and had their homes and plantations burned down, while whole villages have been made to pay fines or be forcibly relocated. After a soldier was killed in a landmine blast in February 2008, for instance, troops from LIB No. 408 burned down all the betel and rubber plantations around Yindein village, Ye Township.
Anonymous woman, Toe Thet Ywa Thit village, Ye Township:
[A man from my village] was beaten on his back and legs with a bamboo pole. His face is covered with black welts from the torture he received. They [LIB No. 586] accused him of being a reporter for a Mon rebel group. They interrogated him and when they were dissatisfied with his answers, they beat him. We can hear him crying in pain, even from far away.
Civilians are also executed summarily, sometimes for being suspected rebel supporters or sometimes simply for working or traveling in a “black” area, dubbed to be under rebel control and, consequently, a free fire zone. Details on 29 killings are listed in Appendix 4. A few months after the forced relocation of Amae village, for instance, 3 people, including the former headmen, were executed by soldiers when they returned to their former village to retrieve abandoned property. 67
Anonymous, Baraung village, Ye Township:
We found his body [the body of Nai Maw, 35] at Dikekrok… Since he was arrested, we heard that he was seriously beaten by the soldiers [from LIB No. 583 and LIB No. 591] as a consequence of selling some pork to the Nai Bin rebel group. Finally he was accused of being a supporter of the rebel group and beaten to death.
Colonel Nai Pan Nyunt, leader of the HRP/MRP:
Killing and arresting villagers with inhumane torture is a common habit of the Burmese army. It is cruel and inhumane to our people. They [the SPDC army] brought the headmen from Magyi and Mihtawhla villages [in Ye Township] and killed them. And they lied to the villagers that headmen were killed in the fighting with our HRP.
Village leaders are often particularly subject to abuse as they must deal with the SPDC army on behalf of their villages, a thankless task in which they are often punished for events over which they have no control. Compounding fears related to dealing with the SPDC army is the likelihood that villagers whose first language is Mon will be punished for misunderstandings or simply not speaking fluent Burmese. 68As a result, in Yebyu and southern Ye Townships villagers are reluctant to serve in village leadership roles. This is a marked change from traditional village life, in which it is a great honor to occupy a village leadership position. “The village headman becomes the ‘porter’ for the army,” Nai Pae, from Magyi village, Ye Township, told HURFOM, drawing an analogy between the treatment of the headmen and the way the army frequently forces civilians to carry supplies. In April 2009, for instance, LIB No. 107 executed 2 village leaders in Paukpinkwin, Yebyu Township, for supporting Mon insurgents. Illustrating the way that villagers often find themselves caugh tbetween the twin fires of the SPDC army and insurgents, the executions came less than 12 hours after Mon insurgents had executed two other village leaders for cooperating with the SPDC army. 69
Nai Dit, Paukpinkwin village, Yebyu Township:
I saw the army tie [two headmen from Paukpinkwin] to a coconut tree near a small hut on the farm. They questioned them for a while but I was too far away to hear what they said. Then they shot them dead. Afterwards Major Khin Mg Chin proclaimed loudly that they would weed out anyone from this area who supported any of the rebel groups… After the soldiers left the villagers gathered by the bodies, which were still tied to the tree. Everyone was distressed because four members of the VPDC had been killed in only twelve hours.
For villagers in Yebyu and southern Ye Townships, abuses like those described above are an inevitable, deliberate part of the SPDC army’s strategy for countering Mon and Karen insurgents; some abuses would in all likelihood occur without the pipeline. But the pipeline fundamentally raises the stakes, increasing the strategic importance of securing the area.
Unrelated to the Tatmadaw’s continuation of the Four Cuts strategy in Yebyu and Southern Ye Townships, however, is the reality that the basic presence of the SPDC army carries with it violence and abuse. In areas all along the pipeline route, villagers have reported beatings, arbitrary killing and sexual violence by the SPDC army. No amount of even the most perverse rationalization can connect these abuses to counter-insurgency strategy. Instead, they are simply the product of the army’s virtual impunity and the lack of accountability with which soldiers interact with local residents. In this sense, it is a simple matter of degrees: the more soldiers posted in an area, the more villagers are likely to suffer from arbitrary, violent abuse.
As a result, villagers have reported beatings and even killings for seemingly minor offences or because
soldiers have been drinking alcohol. In a typical example from April 2009, for instance, an officer from LIB No. 299 in Koe Mile village, Ye Township, severely beat the driver of a motorbike for driving through a puddle and splashing his wife. A second man on the motorbike fled the scene, after which the officer went to his home carrying a bottle of gasoline and threatened to burn the house to the ground unless the man came out of hiding and apologized. When the man came to make an apology, the officer beat him as well. 70
Nai Win, 37, Paukpinkwin village, Yebyu Township:
In 2002, three villagers were killed by soldiers from LIB No. 273 without reason… Nai Ha Rai was killed when he came home from the plantation, but a little bit late [after a curfew]. The soldier… shot him because the soldier was drunk. As for Nai Jews, he was in the VCD [Video Compact Disc] store. When he opened the door of the VCD store, the door hit the soldier. He prayed to the soldier to forgive him because he did not see him. But the soldier did not listen to him and shot him in front of the VCD store.
Woman in areas around army battalions face increased risk of sexual harassment and rape. In 2005,
HURFOM’s Woman and Child Rights Project (WCRP) released a report documenting 37 cases of rape by SPDC army battalions in Mon State, including 20 incidents by pipeline battalions.between the twin fires of the SPDC army and insurgents, the executions came less than 12 hours after Mon insurgents had executed two other village leaders for cooperating with the SPDC army.71 Since 2004, HURFOM and WCRP have documented another 21 cases of rape by pipeline battalions not included in the 2005 report. These are detailed in Appendix 5. More than half of the incidents involved girls of ages 17 and younger, including one victim who was just 10 years old. Villagers reported women being taken as servants and made to cook, clean and massage officers before being raped. In other cases, women were raped while they worked on rubber plantations or their homes. In at least one case, an officer ordered the victim’s husband arrested on specious charges so that his wife would be home alone. In the majority of the cases, perpetrators were not punished, though some families were threatened after complaining. In cases where villagers made a complaint, higher authorities occasionally promised trials, although in only one case has HURFOM confirmed substantial punishment for a perpetrator.
Mi Aye Yi, Amae village, Yebyu Township, quoting the mother of a girl raped by soldiers from IB No. 107:
My daughter is only seventeen-years-old. She was raped by seven soldiers… Those soldiers are not human. They are like animals. They are the same evil, both the captain and his solders. My daughter nearly died, and now she has tried to kill herself many times.
66 : For more on the way the Four Cuts strategy affected the course of civil war in Burma, see Martin Smith, Burma: Insurgency and the Politics of Ethnicity (Zed Books Ltd: London, 1993). For analysis of the Four Cuts strategy in Mon State prior to the 1995 NMSP ceasefire, see Ashley South. The Golden Sheldrake: Mon Nationalism and Civil War in Burma (New York: Routledge, 2003).
67 : See, “Three villagers killed after they defy a forced relocation order in Tenasserim Division,” HURFOM January 16, 2009.
68 : For more on abuses suffered by Mon speakers who cannot understand Burmese, see Inset 5.
69 : For more on the April 2009 events in Paukpinkwin, village, see “Mon rebels and SPDC army execute four village leaders in span of 12 hours,” HURFOM, April 9, 2009. For more on the way villagers must carefully negotiate the competing demands of the SPDC army and insurgents, see “Living Between Two Fires,” HURFOM 2009.
70 : See, “Officer beats villagers for accidental splashing,” IMNA April 21, 2009.
71 : See, Catwalk to the Barracks: Conscription of women for sexual slavery and other practices of sexual violence by troops of the Burmese military regime in Mon areas, WCRP and HURFOM, July 2005.
After the pipeline route was decided upon in 1998 and 1999, it had to becleared of homes, trees, farmland and other obstacles. First, this entailed the surveying and then seizing land through which the pipeline would pass. These land seizures, amounting to more than 2,400 acres, are documented in Section A and Appendix 6. Construction then began during 1999, when private companies including SMART and PEC72 cleared the route and dug trenches, using machine as well as human labor. With the pipeline route prepared, sections of pipeline were brought from Rangoon and welded together, then left for local residents to cover with soil. In the southern third of the pipeline, this included forced labor for construction as well as portering as villagers were made to carry supplies for soldiers tasked with providing security for the project. This is documented in Section B.
SPDC army battalions were involved in every stage of the construction process, conscripting laborers, patrolling the area and providing security for MOGE, SMART and PEC employees. Villagers report being forced to provide materials for soldiers, as well as work as forced laborers building army barracks and carrying materials as porters during army patrols. Further details on abuses of this nature, already discussed in Section IV A, are in the following Section B.
A. Preparing the pipeline route
1. Land confiscation, on the record
Before the pipe could be laid, SPDC army battalions, worried about security, required 50 feet on either side of the route to be cleared of everything that could aid or provide cover to potential saboteurs. Plantation owners were ordered to cut down their trees; farmers were made to abandon their paddies and gardens; villagers were made to abandon, move or, in a few cases, modify their homes. In 2002, a HURFOM researcher in Nainghlone village, Mudon Township, described seeing a house that resembled two long, narrow huts stacked on top of each other. The home belonged to family that lived halfway inside the 50-foot buffer zone, and they had simply cut what had once been a relatively large home in half.
Nainghlone village is the only village through the center of which the pipeline crosses, and its residents were made to clear just 10 feet on either side of the route. Along the rest of the route the larger 50-foot buffer remains in place. Affected villagers were given varying degrees of warning, with some receiving as much as 6 weeks to move and others receiving just 3 days. In either case, not only were villagers required to abandon homes and farms, but they were required to remove all traces of their one-time existence; villagers had to leave, and then they had to ensure that what they left behind was bereft of all trees, brush and homes.
According to confidential data obtained from the Myanmar Land Records Department [MLRD] in Mon State, over 2,440 acres of land were seized to make way for the pipeline in Ye, Thanbyuzayat, Mudon and Moulmein Townships. According to the MLRD, land seized for the pipeline can be roughly organized into four
A. Households and developed properties
B. Farm land, made up most of rice paddy fields
C. Plantations, made up mostly of rubber trees and orchards of betel nut, durian and other orchard products.
D. Wild lands.
Organized into these categories, the pipeline caused villagers in Mon State to lose a minimum of 130
household units, 1,190 acres of farmland, 1,065 acres of plantations and 185 acres of wild lands. For more details, see Appendix 6. Importantly, these are losses along only 2/3 of the pipeline; HURFOM could not obtain MLRD data for 60 miles of the pipeline route, including the section connecting Kanbauk to the edge of Ye Township in Mon State and from the edge of Moulmein Township to the end of the line at the factories in Myaing Kalay.
Nai Pai, 60, Kwanhla village, Mudon Township:
Three acres of paddy land out of 10 acres that I owned were destroyed forthe pipeline project. In reality, only 50 feet on both sides should be destroyed. I could use the rest apart from the 50 feet. But my land was split into two parts, so it became useless. And at that time, in Thanbyuzayat the commander of IB No. 3273… told me to not use this three acres of land because it is a gas pipeline restricted area… At that time, the market price of the land was 200,000 kyat per acre. The total sum of my loss was about 600,000 kyat. I felt it was unfair, but I have to be quiet and I did not dare to say anything.
Nai Win, 37, Paukpinkwin village, Yebyu Township:
During the pipeline building time, villagers had to work every day… and on farms and plantations near by the pipeline, soldiers did not allow people to work. In Paukpinkwin village there were six hundred households at that time. Around one hundred families lost their farmland and plantations.
2. The impacts of land confiscation and limited compensation
At the beginning of 2002, the MLRD records were used to provide limited compensation to some villagers in Thanbyuzayat, Kyaikmayaw, Mudon and Moulmein Townshipsbetween the twin fires of the SPDC army and insurgents, the executions came less than 12 hours after Mon insurgents had executed two other village leaders for cooperating with the SPDC army. 74 who lost their land, though HURFOM could not confirm how many households received payment. It would hardly matter if every single person that lost property to the pipeline received compensation, however, for in every instance of compensation documented by HURFOM the amount provided was insufficient. Villagers reported being given pittances, amounts that reflected neither the market price of their land nor the fact that they lost not just land, but homes and agricultural investments sometimes generations in the making. In other cases, villages reported being ordered to sign forms saying they received compensation, and then left empty handed.
Villagers who received compensation described massive shortfalls between the compensation offered by the SPDC and their actual losses. On January 9th, 2002, for instance, Thanbyuzayat TPDC and VPDC authorities as well as officials from the Ministry of Energy held a ceremony to compensate 7 households who lost land to the pipeline route. The villagers were provided with 18,000 kyat per acre, though local sources said market prices valued the land at closer to 100,000 kyat, plus additional losses for houses and investment in crops and plantations. In a similar ceremony in Mudon Town during the same period, villagers were compensated even less. Farmers were provided with 2,000 kyat per acre of land. According to local sources, in 2002 paddy land in the area was worth between 150,000 and 200,000 kyat per acre, in some cases representing a 99% percent gap between the compensation and actual land value. In spite of this, farmers were still required to attend the ceremony. One reported that his “compensation” did not even cover the cost of travel between his home village and Mudon Town. 75
Anonymous, Thanbyuzayat Township:
Nai Aung Shein’s family lost one acre of land and the whole of their house when the pipeline passed through into their garden. He had to destroy his house and moved into his relatives’ house in the same village, Waewinkara, and had to build a new house… He lost about 400,000 kyat for both land and house. He also lost another 100,000 kyat to build a new house by buying building materials…. But in the ceremony, he received only 18,000 kyat from the authorities for his one acre of lost lands… After receiving the money, the headmen of Waewinkara… took 5,000 kyat from Nai Aung Shein, at the end he received only 13,000 kyat. The village headmen also took a cut from the other families of 1,000 kyat to 3,000 kyat per family depending on the amount of money they received.
The result of the land confiscation for some was the loss of years of investment, as described in Section IV, A1; rubber trees take years of care before they are mature enough to sap, while orchard products like durian and cashews take even longer. For others, the losses represented homes and lands kept in the family for generations. In both cases, the shamefully small payments were insufficient to match the loss at market prices, let alone enable villagers to adequately replace their loss with new property and extended agricultural investment. In all the cases, even compensation at market prices would not change the fact that the land seizures and displacement were forced and against the will of local residents.
72 : Further details on the SMART and PEC companies could not be obtained by HURFOM, but they are mentioned in the confidential SPDC order document translated in Appendix 1
73 : Though IB No. 32 is normally based in Kyainnseikyi, Karen State, it came to Mon State temporarily to help with security for preparation and construction of the pipeline.
74 : Some residents in Ye Township were also provided compensation, but HURFOM could not confirm which villages or how much they received.
75 : For more on compensation paid to villagers who lost land to the pipeline, see “Kanbauk-Myaing Kalay Gas Pipeline and Negative Impacts to the Civilians,” The Mon Forum, HURFOM July 2002.
B. Laying pipe: forced labor during pipeline construction
1. Clearing the route and digging trenches
Villagers along the entire length of the pipeline were required to work clearing brush and hauling soil excavated by the private companies building the pipeline. The worst instances of forced labor occurred in the pipeline’s southern third section and southern Thanbyuzayat Township. Villagers were required to work as laborers, clearing brush and large trees, digging the pipeline trench and hauling soil. Orders issued by SPDC army battalions were relayed through village headmen, who organized rotating work parties. Each household in villages near the pipeline was required to provide one person to join village labor parties, which traveled to the pipeline site to work for spans of 3 days to as much as a month. In all cases, villagers received no compensation.
Nai Sain, 35, Sattaw village, Ye Township.
The villagers had to clean the place to put the gas pipeline and dig the ditch for burying the gas pipeline. The head of the village had to make groups of 7 or 8 villagers… [each group] was forced to work on the gas pipeline in turn. One group had to work one week. When the villagers went to work on the gas pipeline, they had to bring [tools] and food themselves… When the villagers worked on the gas pipeline, the soldiers from [LIB No.] 282 and [LIB No.] 273 guarded with guns.
Many villages in Mon State appear to be populated by children and their grandparents because large numbers of working age people are abroad earning in countries like Thailand. Households in such situations were not exempted from demands for forced labor, however, and had the option of either paying fees to hire a replacement or sending children or an elder.
Ma Shew Lion, 35, Mintha village, Yebyu Township:
When the pipeline project started we had to work as unpaid workers one week per month… for nearly 3 months. We had to bring food by ourselves. If someone could not go to work, they have to find a replacement. We have to hire someone. The price was so expensive – it cost 3,000 kyat [for one day]. That is why many women and children were involved as workers on the pipeline.
For many families, “replacement” fees of 3,000 to 8,000 kyat were simply too high a percentage of household income to be afforded. 76 With SPDC army battalions making virtually no delineations based upon age or gender, large numbers of men and women as young as 12 and as old as 70 were made to work.
Mi Nue Yin, 62, Paukpinkwin village, Yebyu Township:
Each household had to provide one person to work on the gas pipeline. The head of the village made a group for the forced labor. The groups worked 5 days per turn. Men and women, anyone who was over 12 years old, all worked clearing the place for the pipeline and digging the ditch. Though the companies contracted to build the pipeline used earth moving equipment to dig the pipeline trench in Mon State’s northern townships, villagers in the southern third of the pipeline were required to do much of the labor by hand, clearing brush, timber and root systems, digging trenches and hauling excavated soil. Backbreaking work at the best of times, villagers were made to undertake the tasks with only what tools they could provide, sometimes miles from their home villages and without provisions for shelter, food or health care.
Ah Hein, 27, Sinswe village, Yebyu Township:
While working on the pipeline… the whole village, people of ages between 17 and 70, both male and female, had to go there and had to bring food and materials from their homes. Villagers had to clear forest and dig the ditch for the pipeline. When villagers worked for the pipeline, the soldiers guarded them and did not allow them to take a rest. When villagers rested, soldiers shot over their head and sometimes kicked them too.
Villagers working on sections of the pipeline far from their villages faced added difficulties as they struggled both to complete the labor projects and provide themselves with food and shelter. Given little time to prepare living quarters, workers report having to sleep exposed and vulnerable to mosquitoes carrying malaria and dengue fever. Given that Burma is home to high levels of the world’s most virulent type of malaria, some of the exposed laborers consequently became infected. 77 Sick workers were given no medical treatment or respite, accused of malingering and threatened or beaten.
Ah Hein, 27, Sinswe village, Yebyu Township:
Villagers had to live in the forest and cook there and sleep there without mosquito nets. Some villagers got malaria. When the villagers got sick soldiers did not allow them to take a rest.
Nai Kyi Aye, 59, Kabyar village, Ye Township.
During working time… there was no medical care and if villagers got sick, the soldiers also beat them. They accused them of being lazy and beat them. If there was no one to replace [the sick] person, soldiers did not allow [the sick person] to stop working. The villager had to work until a replacement person came.
Nai Thoung, 36, Paukpinkwin village, Yebyu Township:
When the pipeline project started, villagers had to work to clear the forest and dig the ditch… They had no health care treatment and when they got sick the soldiers did not allow them to rest and ordered them to continue work. At that time, one man died because he was seriously sick with malaria.
2. Portering, commandeering and theft
Villagers did not only have to provide tools, materials, food and shelter for themselves as they worked as unpaid laborers: they had to provide for the soldiers securing the construction process as well. The soldiers, there to ensure the laborers worked as much as to secure the pipeline, demanded villagers provide supplies or simply took what they needed without permission or payment.
Nai Kyi Aye, 59, Kabyar village, Ye Township:
When the pipeline started more soldiers came to the village… Villagers not only had to work on the pipeline but they also had to… give food such as rice, vegetables, oil, onion, fish paste, salt and other things. Sometimes soldiers took alcohol from shops without paying. The headman had to collect money from villagers and give back to the shopkeepers. Sometimes commanders demanded money [and the] headman had to collect from villagers. Three women were also raped by soldiers.
Nai Sain, 35, Sattaw village, Ye Township:
They came with about 20 soldiers and changed the troops every 20 days. When they arrived at the village, villagers had to give chickens and sometime had to cook the food for [the soldiers]. Chickens and other animals raised near houses were grabbed forcefully by the soldiers. Additionally, when the IB came to the village, the villagers had to give money… for the cost of food. The headman of the village collected the money from the villagers, one household had to pay… each month 4 or 5 times.
Throughout the entire construction process – from surveying to completion – columns of SPDC army battalions conducted patrols in the area in attempts to locate and eliminate Mon and Karen insurgents in the southern third of the pipeline as well as around ethnic Karen villages in Thanbyuzayat. 78 Consistent with SPDC army practice, villagers were required to carry ammunition and supplies. In many cases, portering for army battalions formed a part of pipeline labor rotations organized by village headmen. As a result, many villagers returned from work on the pipeline only to be immediately taken as porters for the army.
Nai Tun Thein, 33, Lae Kyi village, Yebyu Township:
When the pipeline started there were more soldier columns that came to village… The headman divided villagers into groups and he sent them towork in a rotation system… While waiting for their rotation, villagers had to work as porters because military columns had to guard the pipeline and they needed people to carry things. Villager had to work on both the pipeline and portering.
Nai Thoung, 36, Paukpinkwin, Yebyu Township:
During the time after the pipeline started some villagers had to work as porters. Villagers had to carry food and bullets [for the soldiers]… Soldiers also used villagers to go in front of the line when the place was dangerous or if they thought it was a landmine area. During the time the villagers worked on the pipeline project, one young woman was raped by soldiers. The victim is Mi Min, 14 years old.The presence of SPDC soldiers during the construction created special difficulties for women, who faced sexual harassment and increased risk of rape.
Ah Hein, 27, Sinswe village, Yebyu Township:
Rape cases also happened while villagers were working on the pipeline. While villagers stayed in the temporary camp, the soldiers came to a woman while she was sleeping. She screamed and the men [workers] came and stopped the soldiers. Then some of these men were tortured by the soldiers. The soldiers tied them to a tree and beat them.
Nai Soe Naing, 35, Paukpinkwin village, Yebyu Township:
The soldiers at that time were from [LIB No.] 273 and [LIB No.] 282 under different commanders. They were very rude… During working time the soldiers were bad. If the old men could not work, they kicked them and where the young women were, they came to talk and sexually harass them. Also, three women were raped.Male villagers also faced abuse by soldiers, who acted with virtual impunity. HURFOM interview subjects described being beaten or threatened for little or no reason.
Nai Thoung, 36, Paukpinkwin, Yebyu Township:
Sometimes soldiers got drunk. During work time, if soldiers were disappointed with the villagers they just came and kicked the people without reason. Sometimes soldiers fired guns over our heads. Our villagers had to work on this project for three months without stop. There was no compensation for the people who had lost their plantations, farms and home gardens.
76 : For more on incomes in Mon State, see Inset 4.
77 : Burma is home to the highest number of malaria deaths in the Southeast Asia region. The area along Burma’s nearby eastern border, just 86 miles from the pipeline at its farthest point, is also home to some of Southeast Asia’s highest rates of plasmodium falciparum malaria infection. P. falciparum is the most serious of the four types of malaria and one of the world’s leading causes of death from a single infectious agent. For discussion of P. falciparum in general and in Burma specifically, see World Malaria Report 2008, Maru Aregawi et al, World Health Organization, 2009. For discussion of P. falciparum in eastern Burma, see “Prevalence of plasmodium falciparum in active conflict areas of eastern Burma: a summary of cross-sectional data,” Adam K. Richards et al., Conflict and Health 2007, 1:9.
78 : In Thanbyuzayat Township, the primarily ethnic Karen villages of Waekami and Sakhangyi received extra scrutiny because the SPDC assumed them to be supporters of the KNLA.
A. Frequent explosions and accidents
Residents who live along the Kanbauk to Myaing Kalay pipeline generally describe it as poorly constructed. Built by welding sections of approximately 30 foot pipeline, leaks, ruptures and explosions at the joints linking sections of the pipeline are common. “No one has the confidence to believe in the strength of the gas pipeline,” a villager told IMNA after a February 2009 rupture near Kamawet village, Mudon Township. “The joints in the pipeline have cracks in some places. It is very dangerous – it could explode near the village. Most of the explosions are not because of the rebels. They are just from the weak joints.” 79
Pipeline leaks are often ignored, and villagers report watching gas escape from the pipeline in submerged sections for months, without repair. “The gas that exploded this time was the gas that was leaking since the rainy season,” a Kawdut resident told IMNA after a large rupture north of Lamine in March 2009. “Nobody repaired the pipe even though the rainy season finished. That’s why the pipe could not stay [intact] any longer. That’s why it exploded.” 80
These slow leaks have resulted in at least 11 large ruptures, depicted on Map 4 and Inset 6. 81 Typically, these ruptures lead to thunderous rushes of escaping gas that villagers can hear for sometimes miles around. “We heard the sound of an explosion at 9 in the night,” said a woman from Lamine Town after a rupture in February 2009. “I thought it was a bomb explosion. After that, we heard a sound like thunder for about 1 hour.” 82 Villagers reported being afraid of the sound and unsure of its origin. After a 2002 explosion between Kwanhla and Yaung Daung villages in Mudon Township, residents fled to high ground thinking that a canal from the nearby Winphanon dam had burst. “The sound made fear for the villagers. It exploded… [and] made a big hole 3 feet in diameter and 5 feet deep in the ground below the pipeline,” described Nai Nyan Ong, 60, a villager from the area. “It made a big sound at that time. As it was the very first of the explosions, most of the villagers had never experienced anything like that. Most of the villagers who lived in that area ran away.”
In a development that perhaps best demonstrates the frequency with which the pipeline fails, seven years later villagers along some sections of the pipeline report that they are no longer surprised by the sound of pipeline explosions. “I heard a sound like thunder for about two hours… The explosion came again after it had already happened not even a full month ago,” said another woman from Lamine after the rupture in March 2009. “But we are not so afraid of it [anymore] because we hear leaks like that regularly.” 83
That some villagers have grown accustomed to the sound of pipeline ruptures does not, however, mean that others do not live in fear of such failures. Villagers have good reason to fear the ruptures. Pipeline explosions in which the escaping gas ignited, sometimes burning surrounding homes and plantations, have occurred at least 14 times, depicted on Map 4 and Inset 6. Villagers along the pipeline have been incredibly lucky that only a few explosions have spread into wider fires, the worst of which burned no more than an acre of rubber plantation. 84 The experience of villagers in Thaton Township, where the pipeline runs west from Myaing Kalay towards Rangoon, illustrates how the explosions can be much more damaging: on September 17, 2004, an explosion in Thamasaing village lead to fire that consumed 5 homes and a vehicle. “Houses belong[ing] to five families in the village were seriously burnt,” said an area villager. “The explosion threw [up a] huge fire which is higher than a tree and burnt five houses and a truck nearby.” No one was killed. Villagers received no compensation for their lost property.
79 : “Pipeline leak prompts massive gas release in Mon State,” IMNA February 6th, 2009.
80 : “Gas pipeline bursts after leak neglected for months,” IMNA March 2nd, 2009.
81 : Based upon independent documentation by HURFOM. Additional leaks and explosions have also received coverage by IMNA and Kaowao News. In the most extreme example of the frequency with which the pipeline fails, large failures occurred 3 times in a span of less than three and a half months along the same section of pipeline near Lamine Sub-Township, Ye Township. For IMNA coverage neatly tracing the ruptures, see “Gas pipeline fails near Lamine,” IMNA December 3, 2008; “Gas pipeline bursts after leak neglected for months,” IMNA March 2, 2009; “Gas pipeline bursts, less than month from earlier blast,” IMNA, March 17, 2009.
82 : “Gas pipeline bursts after leak neglected for months,” IMNA March 2, 2009.
83 : “Gas pipeline bursts, less than month from earlier blast,” IMNA, March 17, 2009.
84 : In March 2007, a blast 7 miles north of Ye Town set a fire that burned approximately 150 trees on an acre of nearby rubber plantation. See, “Gas pipeline blast burns rubber plantation,” HURFOM, March 27, 2007.
85 : “No compensation for the houses burnt by gas explosion,” The Mon Forum, HURFOM September 2004.
B. Abuse following explosions and accidents
Even more dangerous than the actual escaping and igniting gas are the reactions of SPDC army battalions, who sometimes blame large explosions on sabotage by insurgent “terrorists.” 86 In these situations, local residents suspected as insurgent sympathizers have been arrested, detained for long periods and tortured. Entire villages are also put under travel restrictions, and made to pay extra taxes and fees. “The villagers worry too much about the gas exploding again because they have had very bad experiences,” said Nai Nyan Ong, 60, from Kwanhla village in Mudon Township. “They worry very much about the next explosion. Including me, I also am very worried about that. Because wherever there is an explosion, the abuses occur.”
1. Arrests, detention, torture
Following one of the explosions, which SPDC officials blamed on an attack by armed insurgents, villagers suspected of aiding the attacks were detained, interrogated and, in some cases, tortured. In February 2006, an unknown group attacked the pipeline near Kwanhla village, Mudon Township.87 The attack caused a large explosion and fire, which villagers reported to be taller than a large palm tree and visible from over 10 miles away. Immediately following the explosion, at least 100 people were arrested, questioned and released, including farmers with land adjacent to the area and bystanders who had simply come to watch the gas burn.
Over the next few weeks, a total of 10 people including officials in the Kwanhla VPDC were arrested and taken away for extended interrogation. 88 Though none were ever charged, all were held until May. 89HURFOM could not independently confirm details of their interrogation, but overwhelming evidence indicates detainees in such situations are generally tortured [See, Section IV, B or Appendix 4]. Kaowao news, however, reported in February that a source within the family of one of the arrested VPDC officials said that the official was tortured until he suffered brain damage. “The secretary of Kwanhla village, arrested for suspicion, was tortured by electric shocks,” said Kaowao’s family source. “Now he has lost his memory.” 90 Even in the case of accidental ruptures rather than attacks, villagers have been threatened and abused. Following a leak in the same area near Kwanhla in September 2005, local VPDC leaders were threatened by the commander of AR No. 315, Major Thit Naing, who also had 6 soldiers publicly beaten for failing to maintain the pipeline. “The ugly military officer threatened to Yaung Daung village headman as, ‘your face is equal to my fist,’ that means he would like to [punch] the village headman because… the gas leaked out near his village,” another VPDC member present at a meeting called by Major Thit Naing told IMNA soon after.91
2. Travel restrictions and increased security
Residents are also placed under strict travel restrictions following ruptures and explosions. Villagers are sometimes prevented from traveling to areas near sites of explosions or leaks, ostensibly for safety because the gas is flammable. Belying the safety rationale, however, is the fact that villagers are also put on extra nighttime restrictions, and are unable to travel to farms or plantations at night.
After the blast in Kwanhla, Commander Soe Myint of LIB No. 209 informed VPDC headmen in 6 area villages along the pipeline that residents were not permitted to cross the pipeline and would be under a 6 pm to 6 am curfew. 92 “The Commander and village authorities declared that we must be punished [by a] beating… if they go close to the gas pipeline route [during the day time] and if anyone [goes close to the pipeline] at night time, they must be killed by shooting,” a HURFOM field reporter said in July 2006.
The restrictions caused intense difficulties for villagers, who needed to travel to farms and plantations. The nighttime restrictions caused problems for workers on rubber plantations and villagers with far-away farmland. The restriction on crossing the pipeline at any hour, meanwhile, created problems for all villagers who needed to travel to areas on the other side of the pipeline, including the substantial amount of farmland to the pipeline’s west.93
Nai Ong Ngwe, 47, Kwanhla, Mudon Township:
I have seven acres of paddy field near Kwankabwi village. To get my farm, I have to cross the pipeline. So, early morning I have to ask permission to cross the pipeline via militiamen. It is not easy and sometimes I have to pay money to get the pass from them. As you know, the beginning of the rainy season is very important for our farmers to plant the paddy.
Importantly, while the increased restrictions in Kwanhla relaxed after two months, they are the norm for villages in the southern third of the pipeline. In these places, even livestock are in danger when they approach the pipeline.
Kyin Kyi, 57, Natkyizin village, Yebyu Township.
Sometimes the soldiers shot oxen, buffalos, goat and pigs that went around the pipeline. After the soldiers shot them, the animals were eaten by the soldiers.
Villagers have also reported living in climates of fear and confusion following explosions. Such fear is understandable given the way, for instance, SPDC authorities cast about desperately for suspects following the 2006 Kwanhla blast; at least one villager who had simply traveled to the site to view the fire was arrested and interrogated. “The villagers are frightened. Nobody dares to trade and travel like they used to,” said one villager a full month after the 2006 Kwanhla explosion. “Everywhere there is silence.”94
Villages in the Kwanhla area were also made to provide increased numbers of residents to guard the pipeline, on top of the normal complement. Villagers had to build huts every 500 meters along the pipeline and provide an estimated 100 men from Kwanhla, Yaung Daung and Hneepadaw villages to stand 24-hour sentry duty. Three months after the fact, the increased requirements for sentry duty remained in place.
Nai Tone, affected village, Thanbyuzayat:
On February 7, 2006, IB No. 32 commanders ordered the village headmen from Kwanhla, Yaung Daung and Hneepadaw in the southern part of Mudon Township, to build one hut every 500 meters… along the pipeline route and instructed that 3 villagers needed to stay in one hut for 24 hours.
The SPDC has also mined sections of the southern third of the pipeline, where signs have been installed warning people “caution: landmines!” HURFOM could not independently verify whether mines are actually in place, and there is no evidence of any mine-related explosions to date. It would not be suprising, however, if mines have actually been laid. According to a 2008 report by the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), antipersonnel mines continue to be used by the SPDC; according to a 2004 report by the same group, Burma has one of the highest landmine casualty rates in the world.95 Mining of the pipeline is also characteristic of a focus on security that, as the English proverb goes, “loses the forest for the trees;” mining the pipeline may deter sabotage, but it also drastically increases the chance of an explosion born of accident rather than attack.
3. Taxes and repairs
Following leaks and explosions, villagers have also been required to pay for and participate in repairs. Within a few weeks of the February 2006 blast in Kwanhla, at least four villages were forced to pay taxes by AR No. 315 and IB No. 62, who said that they were collecting funds to pay for damage caused by the blast.96 Each household, regardless of income, was ordered to pay 10,000 kyat.
Nai Ngwe, Yaung Daungvillage, Mudon Township:
The soldiers said they were going to reinstall underground the parts of the gas pipeline which have been exposed by the explosion and they were collecting the money to meet the costs. They collected the same amount from each family… They collected 10,000 kyat from each household and as our village has nearly 500 houses, the Burmese troops received a lot of money from our villagers. I don’t think they will spend all these funds to repair the pipeline.
Then, in the third week of March, villagers in Kwanhla were again made to make payments related to the explosion. Officials from the Southeast Command in Moulmein traveled to the village and demanded money to reimburse MOGE for the value of gas lost in the fire. Households were made to pay between 50,000 and 100,000 kyat, depending on income. “The poorer villagers cannot afford to pay, they are borrowing the money to give to the authorities,” IMNA quoted a man from Kwanhla in a story on the issue in March.97 Villagers have also been made to participate as forced laborers on repairs to sections of the pipeline where accidents or attacks have occurred.
86 : See, for instance, “Three KNU terrorists blow up gas pipeline,” New Light of Myanmar, May 2nd, 2002.
87 : The SPDC has alternately accused the KNLA, the All Burma Students’ Democratic Front (ABSDF), the National Council of the Union of Burma and an individual NMSP member of launching the attack. Interestingly, prior to the explosion, the SPDC stepped up security and announced that a group of four Burmese men, two Karens and two Indian-Burmese men from Thailand were planning on attacking the pipeline in the area.
88 : Villagers arrested following the Kwanhla explosion included: Kwanhla VPDC chairman Nai Kon Seik and his wife Mi Pan; former VPDC chairman Nai Than Town; former NMSP medic Nai Tala Aie and his wife Mi Sajin; accountants in the Kwanhla VPDC office Nai Pai and Ma Win; villagers Nai Shwe, Nai Dort and Nai Win.
89 : All of the arrested villagers from Kwanhla were released after paying 1 million kyat and signing statements placing the blame for the explosion on NMSP member Nai Ong Janie, who had already fled the area after being accused of taking part in the attack.
90 : See, “Human rights abuses as result of gas pipeline explosion in Mon State,” Kaowao, February 8th, 2006.
91 : See, “Threats to Village Headmen for the Leak of Gas in Pipeline,” IMNA Sep 2, 2005.
92 : Villages confirmed to have been placed under travel restrictions following the 2006 Kwanhla explosion: Kwanhla Yaung Daung, Hneepadaw, Abit,Kalawthut and Phedaw villages, Mudon Township.
93 : For more on the consequences for farmers facing travel restrictions, see Section IV, A3.
94 : See, “Military targets villagers over gas pipeline explosion,” IMNA, March 10, 2006.
95 : ICBL. “Burma/Myanmar,” Landmine Monitor Report, 2008; ICBL. “Burma/Myanmar,” Landmine Monitor Report, 2004. Importantly, the ICBL also recognizes that armed insurgents including the KNU/KNLA, the “Karrenni Army,” the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army, the Shan State Army-South and the MRP continue to use anti-personal mines in addition to government forces.
96 : Villages confirmed to have been required to pay pipeline repair taxes following the 2006 Kwanhla blast:
Hneepadaw, Kwanhla, Wagaru and Yaung Daung villages, Mudon Township.
97 : “Military demands money from villagers for gas lost in
pipeline explosion,” IMNA March 19, 2006.
C. Maintaining the pipeline
Daily life along the pipeline is punctuated by SPDC security efforts ostensibly related to preventing future attacks. Travel restrictions are common, with villagers prevented from crossing the pipeline – and hence accessing their farms and plantations – during certain times. Residents of nearly every single village along the pipeline are required to aid the security effort. Villagers are required to guard the pipeline or pay “pipeline security taxes” and fees for the maintenance of militia forces that guard the pipeline. Villagers are also required to work as regular forced laborers, clearing brush and building fences along the pipeline so that attacks are more difficult.
1. Pipeline security duty
In the years since construction of the pipeline was completed, HURFOM has documented villagers being required to guard sections of the pipeline in villages near the pipeline in 4 townships through which the pipeline passes. 98 Interestingly, villagers have not been required to guard the pipeline every day since 2000, but rather are ordered to guard the pipeline for various stretches of time as, for instance, 8 villages in Thanbyuzayat were required to do for 5 months beginning in December 2008, mirroring a similar 4 month stretch in 2007.99 It is not clear why the pipeline security orders come and go, but local VPDC headmen are nonetheless consistently directed by SPDC battalions to provide daily complements of guards sufficient to monitor nearby sections of the pipeline. VPDC headmen subsequently organize guard duty rotations, and groups of villagers are sent to monitor the pipeline in 12 or 24-hour shifts. Every household in the affected village is required to provide someone to guard the pipeline, or pay a “tax” or “substitution fee” to avoid the guard duty.
Saw Nay, 45, Waekami village, Thanbyuzayat Township:
The Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Than Swe, 50, of Burmese Army IB No. 62 from Thanbyuzayat,
demanded we guard the pipeline. They set up a timeline [for patrolling periods] of at least the next five months, starting from this month. He [Lt. Col Than Swe] instructed our village headmen to send two villagers every day. Those who are absent have to pay 4,000 kyat.
Depending on the demands of the particular SPDC battalion, villagers are sometimes required to walk along the pipeline, sometimes required to stay stationary at designated locations. In many cases, villagers are also required to build and maintain small huts along the pipeline. In the area around Kwanhla, for instance, these huts are visible every 500 meters.
Nai Shein, 46, Sinswe, Yebyu Township:
After the gas pipeline finished, the villagers became guards for the gas pipeline. The villagers had to build two sentry huts themselves. Then, 4 villagers had to guard the gas pipeline security each day in turn… [If] the villager who had to guard the gas pipeline was found sleeping or not in the guard hut, they had to pay soldiers 2 to 3 viss of chickens.” 100
Villagers have reported varying fees required for the right not to guard the pipeline. Differing by only a few thousand kyat, however, the fees are consistently too high for many villagers to afford. For these villagers, even a few hundred kyat is the difference between eating or not, let alone making provisions for medical care and education.
Nai Akya, 35, Waekali village, Thanbyuzayat Township:
My duty will come soon. I don’t want to pay 4,000 kyat. That amount of money is enough to feed my family for two days. So, I have to go and guard the pipeline… Normally every year we are forced to look after this gas pipeline for no pay. Last year in February, we [the entire village] were required by [AR] No. 318 to take responsibility for the security of the pipeline for four months.
Nai Min, Kaleinpadaw, Thanbyuzayat Township:
The households that could not go and guard [the pipeline]… need to hire a substitute to perform the duty. If you could not… the village headmen ordered you… [to] leave the village immediately… We are in a difficult situation… day-to-day seeking money and food even when there is no instruction for guarding to the pipeline. We, the poor families, faced a difficult situation, if we go and guard we could face food-shortage problems. We could not pay the fine, 2000 kyat per day because we could earn only 1000 kyat per day.
Families subsequently find themselves in a desperate situation: they must either pay money they cannot afford, or send a family member to work. For many, the latter option is hardly better, for it means losing time that needs to be spent tending to farms and plantations. As a result, villagers report women, children and elders guarding the pipeline in the stead of working age male family members. For their part, the SPDC army battalions do not appear to make any differentiation based upon age or gender.
Nai Zaw Tun, Hneepadaw village, Mudon Township:
They [the SPDC soldiers] did not specify men, women or children. They said they want everybody to take responsibility in guarding the gas pipeline.
Maung Min Aung, 13, Yaung Daung village, Mudon Township:
I have to patrol the gas pipeline and the railway route the whole night [from 6 pm to 6 am), because my parents are too busy with their paddy farm.
Nai San, 35, Sattaw village, Ye Township:
In the village, for one day two villagers had been to guard the gas pipeline for security… Not only women, but also children who are over 7 or 8 years of age have to guard the gas pipeline.
Villagers guarding the pipeline find their duty fraught with dangers. By design, they are often posted in remote locations far from their villages, and must stay there through the night armed with only what weapons they can provide themselves. Women pipeline sentries posted in such situations face special dangers, and HURFOM has confirmed that a female pipeline guard was raped in 2003.101 For all sentries, regardless of gender, the specter of an attack by armed insurgents is fearsome; if they oppose armed insurgents, they are likely to be killed or injured. If they succumb to fear and leave insurgents unmolested, they will be punished with equal ferocity by SPDC army battalions. Villagers also face the constant prospect of punishments by SPDC soldiers dissatisfied with their performance, even if no insurgent activity occurred.
Kyin Kyi, 57, Natkyizin village, Yebyu Township:
Villagers were sentries for the pipeline. In Natkyizin, there were some who had to guard the pipeline in the nighttime, some in the daytime… The villagers who had to guard the pipeline did not have guns; they just had a bow and arrows or slingshots to protect themselves… During the sentry time, they had to walk the whole night. If the sentry fell asleep, they had to be punished. For punishment villagers had to pay in chickens. Some had to give money and some were kicked and punched in their faces. In 2006, two sentry men were killed by a rebel army group. Those two sentry men had no [protection] from soldiers.
Nai Thoung, 36, Paukpinkwin village, Yebyu Township:
While villagers took sentry duty if someone fell asleep and soldiers saw them, their punishment would be a punch in the face and kicks with army boots… If someone could not come for their sentry duty they had to be replaced with someone else, that is why some children and women were involved.
2. Pipeline security fees
Villagers are also required to make monthly “village security” and “pipeline security” payments. Alternately described as for the maintenance of local militia forces, SPDC battalions or general “security,” the taxes are levied by VPDC officials at the behest of local SPDC battalions. “We are not happy to collect your money, but we have to do this because of the order from the brigade,” a villager from Thanbyuzayat quoted his headman to HURFOM in December 2008. Households are typically required to make payments of 2,000 to 4,000 kyat.
Nai Win, 37, Paukpinkwin village, Yebyu Township:
Since the pipeline finished villagers have to pay for militia fees, soldiers food fees and security fees. For the militia it is 2,000 kyat per month and for the soldiers it is 1,500 kyat per month. For security fees it depends on what the military column demanded. If someone could not go and do sentry duty they had to… send their child.
In villages in Mon State, People’s Militia Forces (PMF) have been formed under the orders of local SPDC battalions.102 Volunteers are given basic training – and increased power and authority – by the SPDC army. In cases where volunteers are wanting, villagers are forced to join against their will. “The villagers had to draw lots for the people’s militia each a year,” Mi Nue Yin, 62, from Paukpinkwin in Yebyu Township told HURFOM. “Once a villager been chosen by drawing his lot, he had to be in the people’s militia for one year. If he did not want to join, he had to give 50,000 kyat for hiring a replacement.” In areas near the pipeline, PMF forces are sometimes responsible for organizing village sentries or guarding the pipeline themselves. Villagers, meanwhile, are required to provide for PMF forces in the same way they must provide for regular army soldiers as a part of the SPDC’s self reliance program.
Ma Shew Lion, 35, now a resident of an NMSP controlled area after fleeing Mintha, Yebyu Township:
After the pipeline finished another duty came… We had to the pay militia fee. In our village there are fifteen militiamen and we [each household] had to pay thirty baskets of paddy… If someone can’t give thirty baskets of rice a headman will detain them. Sometimes the headman put them in a prison cell. After we gave money or thirty baskets they allowed us go home.
Nai Sain, 35, Sattaw village, Ye Township
When the situation is bad [because there has been insurgent activity], the people’s militia comes to the village often. For each one time they came, the cost for their food was… about 5,000 kyat from each household. And the villagers had to give about 160 baskets of paddy for one year to the people’s militia.
As with the fees villagers are required to pay in other circumstances, the security taxes and PMF fees are sometimes too much for households to bear. “Now the value of many products from our farms is very low and we can earn only a low income. But the cost of the security fees is very high. Where can we get the money to pay the brigade?” Nai Kon Blai, a villager in Thanbyuzayat, asked a HURFOM reporter after villagers were made to guard the pipeline or pay pipeline security fees in December 2008. Another villager in the area, Nai Chan Blai, concurred: “If the costs continue like this, we will have to sell our farms and leave the village.”
Ma Shew Lion, 35, in NMSP controlled area after fleeing Mintha, Yebyu Township:
When our family was in the Mintha village we did not have enough food to eat. We worked so hard. We had to pay for soldier’s food and the militia’s fees. My husband was detained three times. We had no food to eat but we had to find food for soldiers. That is why we had to escape from Mintha village and live [in an area] under New Mon State Party control. This village is not very nice like our old village, but there is no torture and no taxes. All the food we get, we can eat.
3. Pipeline maintenance
The SPDC army also attempts to protect the pipeline by making attacks on the pipeline difficult. With this in mind, the majority of the pipeline is buried in ditches underground, covered with heaped earth aboveground or, in places like river crossings, surrounded by protective fencing. Ground on either side of the pipeline is also kept clear of brush, limiting cover for potential attacks, clearing lines of site for sentries and aiding the movement of patrols. Each year from June to October the monsoon season brings heavy rains to Mon State. The rains often carry away dirt and fencing, exposing sections of the pipeline. Following the rainy season – and often right before it, as a preemptive measure – villagers along the pipeline route are made to work as unpaid forced laborers reburying the pipeline and repairing fences.
Acting under orders from local SPDC battalions, VPDC headmen organize forced labor parties made up of workers from each household in villages in four townships.103 Villagers are made to collect stones and dirt, transport it to the pipeline and bury exposed sections.
Nai Sain, 35, Sattaw village, Ye Township:
In the village, for one day two villagers had to guard the gas pipeline for security. The villagers had to build the guard hut themselves… After the raining season, as the land is wet, if the gas pipeline comes into view, the villagers have to re-cover it.
Natural topography makes burying the pipeline everywhere impossible. SPDC battalions appear to view sections of the pipeline that cross rivers and streams as particularly vulnerable, and villagers are forced to maintain fences around the pipeline made of bamboo, wood and sometimes concrete and brick. HURFOM field researchers in Thanbyuzayat Township, for instance, estimate that the pipeline is exposed in a total of 28 places, including 8 stream crossings. Villagers in at least 12 villages in Thanbyuzayat104 have subsequently been required to work repairing fences by Military Training Center (MTC) No. 4, AR No. 315 and IB No. 62. On April 11th 2009, for instance, 200 villagers from 4 villages were required by AR No. 315 to bring tools and materials to rebuild fences in the area.105 Earlier in March 2009, LIB No. 299 and LIB No. 343 required an unknown number of residents to make similar repairs near 2 more villages to the south. 106 Though the projects typically only take a few days, materials like stones, timber and bamboo are not always available near repair sites and villagers must make extensive preparations collecting and transporting materials. As is common army practice, villagers were also given the option of paying fees to avoid working as unpaid forced laborers.
Anonymous, Thanbyuzayat Township:
[Villagers] were forced to cut many hundreds of bamboo… After the villagers carried their bamboo to the set places, again the army forced the villagers to fence the pipeline. When they made fences in each part of the pipeline, they used many hundreds of bamboo to complete the fence. In some place where the pipeline passes through on the stream, the villagers are forced to make fences even in the water.
In addition to being built with forced labor, the pipeline fences and earth heaped on raised sections of the pipeline also create problems for farmers by obstructing agricultural activities and causing flooding. Heaped earth, which covers the raised pipeline in almost all of Thanbyuzayat Township, acts like a dike and restricts the flow of water during the rainy season. Built along sections of the pipeline that cross streams or pass over topographic low spots, fences also obstruct the flow of water, encouraging streams to overflow their banks. In Kaleinpadaw village,Thanbyuzayat Township, the flooding was so severe that in 2006 a group of farmers organized the construction of a canal to drain the floodwater.
Nai Mangae, Kaleinpadaw village, Thanbyuzayat Township:
Soil in farms and paddy plants were destroyed by flood and wastes, which flow together with water. Many other farmers’ paddy plants were also destroyed and so they came together… to dig a water canal to bring the [extra] water away from their farms. The group of farmers [dug a] canal and they also hired some more laborers to dig together with them. One farmer said that each farmer had to spend about 40,000 kyat to hire laborers, to rent trucks to carry earth and for food. He also added, if they did not build that canal, they could not produce the paddy crops and their families could not survive.
Farmers with land divided by the pipeline are also prohibited from planting paddy or other agricultural
products within 50 feet of the pipeline. For farmers among those who more than 2,400 acres of land to the pipeline route, this sometimes means working a small section of land before undertaking the difficult task of moving equipment over the pipeline to work another small section. In situations where there are travel restrictions, this sometimes means traveling miles to cross at a designated crossing spot, and then returning on the other side of the pipeline to complete work just 100 feet from their starting point.
Anonymous, Kwanhla, Mudon Township:
Because of the gas pipeline route, my farm was divided in two parts. I have about 6 acres of land and about 4 acres are in the west of pipeline and the remaining are in the eastern part. [The pipeline creates] difficulties in ploughing the land before we can plant paddy plants… we often have to carry our equipment when we move from one space to another. These equipments are heavy.
Residents of villages along the entire length of the pipeline are also made to keep the route clear of brush, trees and undergrowth. The forced labor occurs at least twice a year, often at the start and finish of the rainy season. As is typical practice, villagers are required to bring their own tools, materials and food, are not compensated and must pay fines if they cannot or will not participate in the project.
Anonymous, Thangankyun, Ye Township:
The commander of LIB No. 586, Lt. Col. Ngwe Soe also forced all the villagers from Thangankyun village in the northern part of Ye Township for the whole day to complete clearing the bushes and small trees, which are in their village area… [The next day] LIB No. 586 forced the villagers from Kyonepaw village to clear the gas-pipeline route from 6 in the morning until 10 at nighttime… They found they could not complete [the project] and then [LIB No. 586] forced about 40 villagers from another three villages… to come and contribute labor in clearing the gas pipeline route from 8 pm in the evening of June 11 until 3 am on June 12. The conscription of forced labor was at nighttime. Why did the army force the villagers at nighttime? Because the next morning, a senior commander… [came to] check for the security of the pipeline.
Nai Htwee, Kwanhla, Mudon Township:
The militia force from Kwanhla village of Mudon Township forced 24 villagers from that village to clear the bushes, grasses and small forest from the area of their village to Paungsein village, which is about one mile… The villagers were forced for the whole day to clear these bushes and small trees. During this process, two militiamen from the village also guarded the villagers… Other villages in Mudon Township… were also forced to clear bushes and grasses along the pipeline route.
98 : 44 villages were confirmed to have been required to provide pipeline sentries:
Kwanhla, Hneepadaw, Yaung Daung, Kalawthut, Kawnkabwi, Doma, Settwe, Taungpa, Seintaung, Htaungkay and Abit villages.
Waekami, Anin, Kyaungywa, Waewinkara, Sakhangyi, Taungout, Peinnedaw, Kaleinpadaw, Waeyet, Hnapyaw Daw and Waekada villages.
Sattaw, Donphi, Hnin Sone, Arutaung, Kyaungywa, Kyonepaw, Balaingkee, Sonnatha, Kundu, Hnin Sone, Chaung Taung, Kaloh, Koe Mile, Hangan and Kaninkamaw villages.
Sinswe, Lae Kyi, Lort Taing, Kyaut Kadin, Natkyizin, Yapu and Kaleinaung villages.
99 : Villages confirmed to have been required to provide pipeline sentries in December 2008: Waekami, Anin, Kyaungywa, Waewinkara, Sakhangyi, Taungout, Peinnedaw and Kaleinpadaw villages, Thanbyuzayat Township. Notably, 2008 marked the first time Anin villagers were required to provide pipeline sentries. Anin is farther from the pipeline than the other villages.
100 : A viss is a unit of measurement used in Burma, equivalent to 1.633 kilograms or 3.6 pounds.
101 : See, Appendix 5 and Catwalk to the Barracks, 2005. Catwalk to the Barracks documents the rape of a 17- year-old girl from Kyauktan Kyauk Tan village, Ye Township, who was raped by a sergeant from LIB No. 587 in
February 2003 as she returned from nighttime sentry duty along the pipeline.
102 : At least 10 PMF troops are confirmed to be required in the following villages:
Mudon: Hneepadaw, Yaung Daung, Kwanhla
Thanbyuzayat: Paungsein, Kyagun , Waekali, Waewinkara , Waeyet, Waekami and Sakhangyi villages.
Ye: Taungbon, Arutaung, Balaingkee, Sonnatha, Chaung Taung, Hangan, Kaloh and Koe Mile villages.
Yebyu: Lort Taing, Kyauktalin, Kyauk Kadin , Yapu, Kaleinaung, Paukpinkwin and Mintha villages.
103 : Villages confirmed to have been required to provide forced laborers for pipeline maintenance:
Kwanhla, Hneepadaw, Yaung Daung, Kalawthut, Kawnkabwi, Doma, Kamawet, Taungpa, Htaungkay and Abit villages.
Waewinkara, Waekali, Kaleinpadaw, Sakhangyi, Peinnedaw, Sot Palaung, Gon Myint Taya, Waeyet, Waekami, Waethunkyaung, Thayagone, Hnapyaw Daw and Waekada villages.
Koe Mile, Kaloh, Seingyi, Balaingkee, Sanpya, Paiwan, Thingankyun, Taungbon, Kyonepaw, Balaingkee,
Sinpyan, Thayargone, Sattaw, Lamine, Hnitkayin, Leinmawchan and Baylamine villages.
Sinswe, Kyauktalin, Lort Taing, Lae Kyi and Chaught Gone villages.
104 : Villages in Thanbyuzayat Township confirmed to have been required to repair fences for MTC No. 4:
Waewinkara, Waekali, Kaleinpadaw, Sakhangyi, Peinnedaw, Sot Palaung, Gon Myint Taya , Waeyet, Waekami, Leinmawchan, Waethunkyaung and Baylamine.
105 : Villages confirmed to have been required to repair fences for AR No. 315:
Waewinkara, Sakhangyi, Peinnedaw and Waekami villages, Thanbyuzayat Township.
106 : Villages confirmed to have been required to repair fences for LIB No. 299 and LIB No. 343: Lemongyan and Baylamine villages, Thanbyuzayat Township.
The Kanbauk to Myaing Kalay gas pipeline is responsible for human rights abuses that are systemic, shocking and ongoing. A minimum two-thirds of the 180-mile pipeline route runs through land seized from local villagers, who lost more than 2,440 acres of homes, farms and plantations. Few of these villagers were compensated, and none were compensated fairly. Construction of the pipeline hinged on the labor of villagers, who pipeline battalions forced to work clearing dense jungle, digging trenches and hauling equipment. This work was without pay, sometimes for weeks at a time. Already toiling in exceedingly difficult conditions, conscripted pipeline laborers were subject to mistreatment by the soldiers overseeing their work, which included violent beatings and rape, all while being exposed to the world’s most virulent form of malaria and denied medical treatment. Throughout the whole construction process, battalions providing security conscripted civilian porters, who were made to carry ammunition and supplies as well as walk in front of army columns so that they would be the first to suffer the pains of landmines and enemy ambushes.
The entire construction process of the pipeline was made possible by the SPDC army. This involvement, as well as confidential SPDC documents obtained by HURFOM and the consistent basing of battalions near the pipeline, leads to a clear conclusion: the threefold increase in battalions deployed to the area over the last decade is fundamentally due to the Kanbauk to Myaing Kalay gas pipeline. A raft of human rights abuses has accompanied this militarization. In the initial years of the deployments, pipeline battalions seized over 6,000 acres of land to construct barracks, house soldiers’ families and contribute to military “self-reliance”. In the subsequent years, the army has seized another 6,000 acres [See, Appendix 2]. As with the land seizures to make way for the actual pipeline, villagers have not received fair compensation. Pipeline battalions have also forced local villagers to provide support, including levying taxes that border on extortion, demanding quotas of agricultural materials and commandeering or stealing livestock, agricultural products and personal possessions. Appendix 3 details 72 examples of this type. Separate from the data in Appendix 3, HURFOM has confirmed mandatory monthly payments for the support of pipeline battalions in 44 villages across 4 townships [See, Section IV, A3].
As a constant background to the exploitation born of the military’s self-reliance policy is the general impunity with which officers and soldiers abuse villagers. Testimony in this report describes beatings, murders and rape, particularly in the southern third of the pipeline and often for minor offences – or no offence at all. In the majority of cases, there were no repercussions for the perpetrators. Of the 62 instances of rape and sexual harassment detailed in Appendix 5, for instance, only 1 incident was followed by a confirmed, just punishment. Abuses of this sort, then, appear to be a matter of degree; the greater the concentration of soldiers and officers, the greater the number of abuses. In the pipeline area, both counts are high.
The abuses described above are the predictable result of deploying large numbers of soldiers and encouraging them to extract what they can from the countryside, without oversight. But abuses along the pipeline are also a deliberate, calculated part of the pipeline security effort. HURFOM has documented forced labor for maintenance of the pipeline itself in 45 villages in 4 Townships [See, Section VI, B3]. HURFOM has also documented forced labor for providing pipeline security guards in 44 villages in 4 Townships [See, Section VI, B1]. In all cases, not only do villagers receive no compensation for their efforts, they are made to pay if they wish to avoid conscription as unpaid forced laborers.
Along the southern third of the pipeline, these security efforts are augmented by an aggressive counter-insurgency. As with the antecedent Four Cuts strategy, battalions seeking to protect the pipeline from insurgents do so largely by targeting civilians. Villages are thus subject to frequent travel restrictions and curfews, and are constantly monitored for contact with insurgents. Villagers suspected of supporting insurgents are detained and interrogated, often tortured and sometimes killed. Appendix 4 details 68 examples of torture and killings by pipeline battalions, involving 632 victims.
Burma currently has two major overland gas pipeline projects. Abuses along the Yadana/ Yetagun pipeline have been widely reported. This report conclusively proves that abuses warranting similar attention occur every day along the Kanbauk to Myaing Kalay pipeline. There has perhaps never been a more important time for recognition that, in SPDCcontrolled Burma, gas pipelines go hand in hand with human rights violations: in December, China signed a 30-year contract agreeing to purchase gas from Burma.107At the end of March, the two countries agreed to transport that gas 1,200 miles across Burma, from the Bay of Bengal to southwestern China.108Construction has not began but, given the scale of the project, the process risks violations on a scale that will dwarf everything experienced on Burma’s southern peninsula.
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107 : The Irrawaddy. “China Signs Burmese Gas Deal for 30-year Supply,” December 26, 2008.
108 : The Irrawaddy. “China, Burma Sign Oil Pipeline Agreement,” March 27, 2009.