The Difficulties of Migrant Women

December 17, 2009

WCRP: In January 2007, 17-year-old Ma Than and her best friend Ma Cho, 18-years-old, left Khaya village, Pa-an Township, Karen State, Burma, and travelled to Mahachai Thailand. In hopes of earning better wages and providing for their families, the girls and 3 friends arranged the trip with a local broker. The broker promised them prosperous jobs and charged each 450,000 kyat for travel costs. Read more

Universal Children’s Day

November 30, 2009

WCRP: Universal Children’s Day commemorates the 1954 signing of the Declaration of the rights of the Child and the 1989 signing of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Both anniversaries are celebrated in various ways throughout the world. Read more

Burmese Migrants’ Children get a chance to study in Thailand

November 18, 2009

WCRP: Every morning around six in Mahachai, Thailand, dozens of children wearing matching white shirts and pressed blue or brown trousers anxiously wait on the side of the road. Soon the children will board a paused bus and head off to school. Read more

A Woman’s Hope for the Future

November 9, 2009

WCRP: Around 8pm, as I watched football with friends, I over heard a young child’s voice from the small neighboring house. “’Mom, I’m hungry.’ ‘Yes, when your father comes back home you can eat.’’ I peered out my window and saw a mother tending to her 5-year-old child as her two other children played with rubber-bands in the corner. The metal roof of their hut was covered in holes and the three loosely tied bamboo walls were falling apart. Read more

Burmese government action in advance of 2010 election

October 7, 2009

W ith the approach of the 2010 election, HURFOM believes that transparency in the Burmese military government’s role in election preparations is necessary.  By documenting the actions of Burmese government and its subsidiary groups throughout Mon state, HURFOM hopes to illustrate the deliberate and sweeping role the government plays in safeguarding its own power in the formation of the future “civilian” government. Read more

Life in the “black area”

May 22, 2009


“Have you seen anyone from the Mon rebel group?” “No.” “You are Mon rebel group supporter…” “No”. These kinds of questions and accusations are the sort you hear often now in Ye township and Tanessarim Division.

The New Mon State party has maintained the ceasefire with the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) it signed in 1995, yet villagers are still suffering from armed conflict in that area. The 14 year ceasefire had done little to dampen violence that has continued in Mon State and Tanessarim Division, where Mon and Karen rebel groups are still active.  Thus, still facing resistance, The SPDC has labeled these regions as “Black Areas”

And the villagers? Some have left home to find a safer place to live, while others still live in their villages and continue to hope that peace will come.

The villagers who remain at home suffer from a variety of abuses at the hands of both Mon rebel groups and the SPDC soldiers. Villagers have had to: pay an annual tax to Mon rebel groups and SPDC forces, face accusations of support from both sides, perform unpaid labor, perform uncompensated sentry duty in the village leader’s house both night and day, work as an unpaid porter, provide free meals to military soldiers,  and face restrictions on travelling and working in plantations – these are all abuses that occur regularly in the “Black Area”.

Suffering under the demands of Mon rebel forces by having to give an annual tax and provide free food, villagers face little option for resistance as any refusal can result in torture or execution. Torture has come in several forms; when caught going to work on their farms and plantations, villagers are arrested, bound, and left under the sun for several hours; they are beaten, punched in the face, and stuck on the arms with the butt or a rifle; or they are tied to the ground, and red ants are placed on their body. These are the types of abuses most villagers have had to face.

“We had no money to give them but I had to give them something, even if it meant that we had to borrow from someone else. We have to choose between money and life.” Said a villager from aleasakhen.

For one village, having been drained by filling the annual tax for the Mon rebel group, and providing them with food, SPDC forces then came and arrested people again. They were accused of being rebel supporters and tortured. With SPDC forces, the abuses are not the same; soldiers will detain villagers and punch and kick them, roll bamboo over their legs, put plastic bags over heads, perform water boarding, and cut the skin and put salt on the wound. These are the kind of abuses that come from SPDC forces. In this case, some of the villagers were executed outright, wile others were thrown in jail. For villagers who wanted to avoid jail, they could bribe the commander and were released.

There is no chance for villagers who make their lively hood through farming to go and work on plantations or cultivate their crop. It is only by the say-so of commanders that villagers are able to go and work; however when a commander orders them not to go they must stop immediately. They are unable to complain to the commander even during periods when crops must be harvested. Many villagers lose the opportunity to gain any food or income because they have to wait until commanders allow them to go and work again. When they’re given the opportunity to return to their farms and plantations, often they are too late and are only able to salvage a small portion of their crop.

“We invested our time, the whole year, on our plantation but I won’t be able to make a profit on it. We have to rely on our plantations and farms.  If we cannot work, where will our income and food come from?  If we make no money, how can we pay taxes and fill our stomachs?”, said another aleasakhen villager.

Nai Mon, who is 45 years old, explained soldiers had tortured him when he was under arrest. As he spoke tears came to his eyes.  He cried, unable to control himself recalling how he had been bound and left in the sun, on a hot day without wind.

At the time he had just been suspected. The soldiers had been restricting villagers from working their plantations or even traveling outside the village. He was severely abused by LIB No. 282 because of he was accused of being a Mon rebel supporter.  Detained for a day and night, he was tortured severely by being beaten and punched, having bamboo rolled over his legs, having a plastic bag put over his head, and continuous sleep deprivation throughout the night.

When the soldiers questioned him “Did you see Mon rebel group?” he answered “No” after which the abuses came one by one. “I always said no.”

The reality is that he did not meet with the rebel group, but the Mon rebel forces did walk across his land or one night camped out on his plantation. All of it was because soldiers simply suspected him.  He was detained and tortured, just like that.

“I dreamed to die at that time because it was so painful, I could not breathe, and my whole my body was in agony.”

After Nai Mon’s wife gave 100,000 Kyat to the commander, he was released.  To get the money his wife had to borrow from other villagers. Nai Mon has no idea how he can repay the money because he cannot go work on his plantation. If he could work on his plantation freely he would be able to return the borrowed amount with in a year. But nothing has changed, and Nai Mon does not know how long this will continue.

Villagers have also had to provide a workforce for soldiers to carry out tasks such as portering, unpaid manual labor, and sentry duty in the village.  The following work details were reported in aleasakhen.  A Commander demand that villagers clear brush around the army camp and improve the fence, which required at least seven villagers a day. Two villagers had to wait on and work at the head man’s house, collecting fire wood, carrying water, and guarding the house. Another two people had to go to the army camp and gather firewood, carry water, cook food for soldiers, post letters and buy liquor. Three villagers had to wait for a military column to work as porters.

But even more dangerous is when the military column searches for Mon and Karen rebel forces, and porters are forced to walk in a line in front of the advancing troops as mine sweepers, and to guard against ambush.
At night villagers have to perform sentry duty in the village. They are not guarding against crime from other villagers, but from potential attacks on from rebel groups.  Villagers have to inform soldiers when they see strangers and any kind of abnormal situation.

“Soldiers plan for us to die first.  We are their body guards that they do not have to pay for,” said one villager.

Villagers also face travel restrictions.  Caught traveling after 10 pm, a villager will be punished with fines, arrested, or tortured. Or sometimes the soldier will just shoot the curfew violator. In cases were a villager is fired on, but survives, soldiers will claim it was an accident, and insist that the villager pay for the bullets. A villager wounded in such a manner will receive no treatment, and in some cases villagers have died, but the soldier will remain unpunished.

These are lives of villagers who live an area neither controlled by the rebels, nor under complete control of the military, thus they all it a “Black Area”.  But other people always ask, what does “Black Area” mean? Is it for torture, killing, and abuses; or is it for the people who have guns, and ability to act at will, with impunity?

Systemic human rights violations along 180-mile gas pipeline in southern Burma, says new report

May 6, 2009

A 180-mile gas pipeline in southern Burma is responsible for human rights violations that are “systemic, shocking and ongoing,” says the Human Rights Foundation of Monland (HURFOM) in a report released this evening. The 100-page report, titled Laid Waste: Human Rights Along the Kanbauk to Myaing Kalay gas pipeline, details abuses along the entire length of an overland pipeline that traverses nearly half the length of Burma’s southern peninsula. [Media release in PDF Format]

Laid Waste details abuses committed by Burma’s military government as it has sought to construct, maintain and protect the Kanbauk to Myaing Kalay gas pipeline. The report includes details on the confiscation of more than 15,000 acres of land to make room for the pipeline – and support 30 army battalions tasked with protecting it. The intense militarization of the area, which HURFOM describes as “fundamentally due” to the pipeline, is responsible for abuses that range from rape and summary execution to the daily commandeering of motorcycles and chickens. Security efforts for the pipeline, meanwhile, entail conscription of villagers – some as young as 12 – who must work as unpaid forced laborers, maintaining the pipeline, guarding and carrying equipment for soldiers – at all times under threat of violent retribution for accidents or insurgent attacks.

“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,” says HURFOM. “But abuses along the pipeline are also a deliberate, calculated part of the pipeline security effort.” Highlighting the ongoing nature of these abuses, in the 5 days that have passed since printing the report, HURFOM has documented the execution of one villager and the burning of 36 homes. In both cases, the army committed the abuses less than a mile from the pipeline.

This report is released at a critical juncture. Intense competition for access to Burma’s abundant natural resources continues, with China recently agreeing to purchase gas that will be transported 1,200 miles across Burma. Debate on appropriate response to Burma is renewing, as the international community questions the wisdom of strict sanctions and considers potential for increased humanitarian support. In the foreword to Laid Waste, HURFOM’s director Nai Kasauh Mon welcomes the renewed discussion. But he urges caution and calls on the international community not to lose sight of experiences like those documented in Laid Waste. “Discussion is healthy and appreciated,” says Nai Kasauh Mon. “But there should be no question: projects like the Kanbauk to Myaing Kalay gas pipeline do not benefit the people of our country.”

Further details:

Full PDF copies of Laid Waste can be downloaded at: <>. Information on the 36 burned homes and summary execution mentioned in paragraph 3 can also be found on

Hard copies of Laid Waste, as well as print-quality photos for news publication can be obtained by emailing

Questions or requests for interviews in English, Mon and Burmese should be made by emailing or calling +66 (0)81 365 9140.


The Human Rights Foundation of Monland (HURFOM) is a Thailand-based non-governmental human rights organization founded in 1995 by a group of Mon youth, students and community leaders. HURFOM works to monitor the human rights situation in southern Burma, and publishes print and online news, lengthy reports and analysis of ongoing human rights violations. More information can be found at

Download full report [PDF, 17.4 MB]

Download report in five parts [PDF]
Part I [2.9 MB] | Part II [3.14 MB] | Part III [3.37 MB] | Part IV [5.15 MB] | Part V [2.96 MB]

A woman’s life, displaced on the border

March 3, 2009

Grass leaves cover the small hut and the floor is laid with bamboo. The poles are only the thickness of a thin man’s wrist. The hut has three rooms and it was built as many months ago. In the bedroom there is one blanket and two pillows; in the kitchen there are two pots and four dishes. A woman named Mi Kyae is sleeping on the floor as two children play on the ground near her. Their situation is not so different from the situation of many displaced people and refugees on the Thai-Burma border.

The New Mon State Party (NMSP) has had a ceasefire with Burma’s State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) government for around 13 years, but the villagers still suffer from war. Conflict is still happening in southern Mon State and Tanessarim Division because Mon and Karen rebels are active in the area. The SPDC calls the region a “black area,” and treats it as a free fire zone. Read more

Broken Communities: Just what the junta wants

September 25, 2008

I was born in Mon State, but recently traveled to Rangoon. I went to get a passport, but the moment I walked into the immigration office, I became afraid I would not succeed. Hundreds of people were crowded around – so many people it seemed as if a wealthy person was making a rice donation to the people.

The office is small and so crowded I felt as if I could not breath. A government official said that three hundred people apply for a passport every day; every person I talked to said they were trying to leave Burma. Read more

A town for no one

September 15, 2008

By Lawi weng:

The Three Pagodas Pass crossing on the Thai-Burma border has been officially closed for almost two years, . Many businessmen despair because they cannot trade, and many people despair because they cannot work. The Burmese town, former home to a burgeoning furniture manufacturing industry, offers little employment and many people have to cross into Thailand to earn eighty baht a day at a sewing factory. Read more

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