Torture in Kyauk-kyi Township, Pegu Division

June 23, 2011

Burmese troops stationing in Kyauk-kyi Township, Pegu Division, ordered Karen residents living in Kyauk-kyi Township, to destroy their paddy-field huts built in their own paddy fields for security reasons. Giving strict orders those who refused to tear down their huts were tortured by troops from Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) No. 349 as punishment.From early to mid-June, residents from 5 village wards: Pat-ta-la ward, Wel-lar-daw ward, Thu-ka-bee ward, Aye-nal ward, and Inn-Nee ward, in total 26 villages, lying in the lowlands of Kyauk-kyi Township, Pegu Division, and working as local farmers, were ordered to destroy the huts on their farms. For those farmers working on their farm year round, growing paddy, beans and corn in seasonal rotations, the huts they built are as strong as or just like their own homes.

Assuming that ethnic armed groups would seek shelter in the huts, front-line troops from LIB No. 349, based in Kyauk-kyi Township, Pegu Division, ordered the farmers to destruct their paddy-field huts in their respective farms. The order given to destroy the huts was initially ordered in May giving a deadline by the end of the month.

Interviewed in early June, Saw Thuu Thuu, who works on his own four acres of farmland explained how he was forced to destroy his paddy-field hut and how his son was tortured by the Burmese government troops from LIB No. 349:

Even though it’s the paddy-field hut, it’s the same as a house in the village. For me, as most of my time is spent living there, on our farm, I spent lots of money on building it. It’s been built about three years now. That’s May, 4, when the Burmese troops marched to our farm. The village head also came along with them. I only knew the number of LIB after being told by other villagers. It’s LIB No. 349. They just passed through our farm, and totally they were about 20 men with their weapons. Ten of them were stationed about 100 yards away [from our farm]. The other troops came directly to our hut. They came together with the village chairman.

Then, a soldier, aged over 30, who I thought was a military/battalion officer gave orders and threatened me ‘Uncle’s [my] hut must be destroyed. No building should be built outside the village. It’s very important for the security. Destroy [the hut] right now. It’s not only uncle who should not have kept the hut but others also should not have their huts still standing. If [you do] not obey [as we order], you will see us.’ At the time, my middle son, Saw Ah-pu, who is 28, arrived. Asking what happened, he left to apologize to the group of soldiers who just left the hut. He went to ask them not to destroy the hut. Right there, one soldier who seemed like he was ranked as Sergeant, with black-colored skin, and whose name I did not know, kicked my son Saw Ah-pu in the back with his army boot. My son fell down right on the ground.

At the place, 3-4 soldiers came to step on Saw Ah-pu’s chest and neck with their army boots. And, stepping on Saw Ah-pu’s neck, the Corporal said ‘You want to make fun of our order. Remember this. Next time, when we come back and if your hut is still like this you all are dead.’ Then, he left the place [ after talking to Saw Ah-pu like that while stepping on his neck]. I helped get him up. His front teeth were almost broken. His mouth was also bleeding. And, as his chest was stamped on many times with the soldier boots, he could not rise. When our relatives came neighboring huts, we carried him right away to the village, and now he is getting much better as he is getting medical treatment by an herbalist. As I was afraid of their threat, I began destroying the hut that night and destroyed it all by the next day at noon.

The troops from LIB No. 349 who violently abused Saw Ah-pu were led by Battalion officer Myint Maung, a subordinate of Sec. Battalion Commander Major Yan-Win. When HURFOM contacted the chairman of Kyauk-kyi Township, KNU-controlled Nyaung-lay-pin district, HURFOM was able to confirm that the order it was Yan-Win who gave the order to burn down the local farmers’ huts even though the KNU has never stationed in that area.

Seriously injured, Saw Ah-pu is currently unable to work. He still experiences extreme pain in his ribs. He was interviewed in late June:

For me, being told to burn down my hut, I took my belongings and placed them right in front of them [the troops] and burnt the hut down. That’ was at noon on May 5th. I was told that Saw Ah-Sein who apologized so as not to burn down his uncle’s paddy-field hut, which is as far as a yell-and-hear [or a bit further] from my hut, was beaten by the battalion officer and his men with their gun-butts. And, they, the soldiers, took away their chicken from under the hut as well. Then, the Burmese soldiers themselves burnt down the hut. What they [ the government troops of LIB No. 349, column No. 2] said was that because there were huts built on the farms outside the village, the Karen armed groups from the jungle can come to hide there and can cook and have meals there. And they can get information. So, that’s why they ordered the destruction of the huts. …. Here, we have contacts with no armed groups. The armed groups have never come here either. This is just an unfair use of power ordering us to destroy the huts.

HURFOM confirmed the destruction of huts in other villages as well. In an area near Wel-lar-daw village, Ah-Thuu [his name is fake in order to protect his identity] who is 34 years old and works on his own three acre farm, explained how his hut was destroyed and how two farmers from near his farm were tortured by the Captain Ko Ko Lwin and his men of LIB No. 349.

Naw Sein Aye, a 65-year-old farmer from Inn-nee Village reported his own experience:

Afraid that we would be treated badly or tortured if we did not burn our paddy-field hut, we have to burn our hut down. That was May,5. The cost of the hut is 80,000 Kyat. But, now when we come to work on our farm, we have no place or shelter to take a rest. The Burmese soldiers accused us of being supporters of Karen rebel groups. But, they did not make any problem with me. I heard that some villagers were beaten up [by the Burmese soldiers].

Further abuses occurred. According to an interview conducted on May 15th, with Saw Htuu-lae, a 41-year-old resident from Thu-ka-bee village, LIB No. 349 led by Second battalion commander Yan-win, burnt down about 30 paddy-field huts, which had not been destroyed as ordered. The farmers who were working around there were also beaten up as punishments:

The Burmese soldiers ordered the destruction of the huts built on the farms outside the village since the beginning of May. The number of huts whose owners were afraid of the order and burnt their huts right off were quite a lot. Here, the Burmese troops arrived in the early morning on May 15th at the huts near our village. Not having destroyed their huts, the farmers had to run away from their farms when the Burmese troops arrived there. And, I think, the Burmese troops themselves burnt down about 30 huts. It was very smokey on the entire farm. I saw the farmers, Saw Taung-kyi, who is 55, and his two co-workers, who weren’t able to run away and were not only sworn at but also beaten up by the Burmese troops. They were also kicked by troops with the legs. They did it [swearing, beating up, and kicking] right in the paddy field. I also ran. So that’s all I saw. Now, the situation is getting better but there are no huts [in the paddy fields].

Destroying the ability of farmers to keep watch over their own paddy fields, Burmese troops from LIB No. 349 unjustifiably tortured villagers based on an accusation that was unfounded. Villagers who reported beatings and the commands to destroy their huts all mentioned that their areas are not frequented by rebel armed groups, and therefore, the destruction was unnecessary. Now, villagers in these tracts have to deal with long-lasting injury from beating and no shelter with which they can watch over their own fields. Losing money without the ability to work, villagers are also forced to do extra labor by having to transport themselves to and from the villages daily.

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