A HIRED PORTER WAS SERIOUSLY TORTURED BY LIGHT INFANTRY BATTALION NO. 18

August 1, 2007

HURFOM

Ko San Win, a poor, 37 year old, daily wage earner from Three Pagoda Pass, a town on the Thai-Burma border, was seriously beaten by a sergeant while working as a hired porter for Infantry Battalion No.18. He was beaten up because, due to exhaustion, he was finding it difficult to carry his load of supplies. The following are details about how, from July 9 to 18, he had been tortured from while working on the frontline of the LIB No. 18’s military offensive in Karen Area.

“On July 9, 2007, a friend of mine asked me to work as a porter for Light Infantry Battalion No. 18, which is based in the Three Pagoda Pass area. I was to be paid 200 baht per day. At first, I refused because I had heard a lot of awful stories about the way porters were treated on the frontlines. Unfortunately, due to the closure of the Thai-Burma border and the lack of work in this border town, I decided to go along with the LIB No.18. The agent, who took me, along with 14 other porters, was Ma Saw Khin, a business lady from Three Pagoda Town. On July 9, before we left Three Pagoda Pass, she gave me 1,000 Baht for five days pay and said that after five days, the commander on the frontline would pay me the rest.”

“I was to march with Light Infantry Battalion No. 18, a group of about 200 soldiers led by Commander-Colonel Hla Min, to Mae-Zali village, which is about 30 kilometers from Three Pagoda Pass Town. I had to carry about 35 kilograms of food supplies. On the first day, we had to climb about five hills without having a rest. Even though I am a hard worker, I felt too tired to walk along with the troops. They kicked and verbally abused me several times. Later, I asked a soldier who was walking behind me for some water. Instead of giving me water, he insulted me and kicked me in the waist. The kick was so strong that I fell to the ground. Since that first day, I suffered from a severe backache and couldn’t walk as fast as the other porters. “

“The next day, my back was in such serious pain that I had to inform the sergeant (I could not get his name but I am convinced that he was a sergeant from Light Infantry Battalion No. 18 because I looked at the rank on his shoulder). After I told him about the pain, he became angry and started to scream “No Way!” while slapping my face. I tried to carry my load, but the pain was incredible. There was something seriously wrong with me but when I tried to explain my situation to the troops, they refused to listen and instead beat me over and over again. At the same time, I was dehydrated and had not eaten because the army did not give me enough food and water. The soldiers treated all of the porters in this manner. Some of the soldiers kicked us with their boots while others beat us with the butts of their guns. On the morning of the third day, four porters escaped. The commander of LIB No. 18, Colonel Hla Min, got angry and ordered his troops to shoot the escaped porters dead if they found them in the forest. He also warned the rest of us about what would happen if we tried to escape.”

“After we climbed another hill, it started to rain. It was quite a long rain and the road became very slippery. Due to the weather and road conditions, my strength began to fade. The pain in my back was growing worse. A porter from the group who understood my situation asked me to share some of my load with him. While I was giving him some of my load the sergeant stopped us and then, beat us both. He started beating me on my head, legs and body with the butt of his gun. Eventually I lost consciousness. When I woke up, I tried to move but I couldn’t. I tried to call to the other people but I realized that they had left me. I was alone in the forest. Later on, I began to remember exactly what had happened to me. They beat my head bloody. They also beat my legs with bamboo sticks and with the butts of their guns before they left. After waiting about three or four hours, I tried to get up but I felt intense pain in my legs and I fell down several times. It began to rain again. I got wet and began to feel dizzy. Again I lost consciousness.”

“When I woke up again, I was in a hut. I saw an old man and a boy. The old man spoke Karen and I tried to communicate with him in Burmese. Fortunately, he could speak some broken Burmese and he explained that he found me in the forest while he was looking for bamboo shoots and carried me to his hut. He said that the hut was very close to Mae-Zar-Li village and that he had no medicine to cure me. The next morning he went to Mae-za-li village and informed the village headmen of my situation. The headmen then contacted my family in Three Pagoda Pass Town. It cost my wife 2,000 baht to get me home. By the time I got to Three Pagodas Pass Town, I couldn’t move my body. My wife and some of my friends sent me to the private clinic. The doctor told me that my wounds were too bad to cure in his clinic and that I should go to the hospital immediately. Unfortunately we had no more money. We were also afraid of some security problems. Finally I got here with the help of a member of the New Mon State Party.”

The battalion had hired Ko San Win along with 14 other porters for 200 Baht a day. They left Three Pagoda Pass on July 9. According to the hired porters and Maesali villagers, the battalion has forcibly taken about 20 porters from the Maesali area. Ko San Win is being treated in the New Mon State Party’s (NMSP) Palaing Japan (Japanese’ Well Hospital ).

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