Update by the Shan Human Rights Foundation
April 30, 1998
Since March 1996, the Burmese military regime has forcibly relocated over 1,400 villages throughout 7,000 square miles in Central Shan State. Over 300,000 people have been ordered to move at gunpoint into strategic relocation sites. No assistance has been provided to them.
The relocation program has intensified during 1997 and 1998, with new areas being forced to relocate, and existing relocation sites being forced to move again. Vast rural areas of 11 townships have been turned into depopulated “free-fire” zones.
During 1997 there was a sharp increase in the number of extrajudicial killings by the regime’s troops, with repeated massacres of villagers caught outside the relocation sites. In one township alone, SHRF has documented the killings of over 300 relocated villagers.
The villagers in the relocation sites are used for forced labour by the junta’s troops. They must workas porters, build roads, and perform tasks such as digging ditches or building fences at the nearby military camps without food or pay.
There are three main patterns of displacement for the relocated villagers. Most move to the relocation sites, and try to survive by selling off possessions, working as wage labourers, or even begging. Others remain hiding in the jungle near their villages, dodging army patrols to try and cultivate their old farms. Finally, there are those driven to desperation by the lack of food and security who flee to other parts of Shan State or to Thailand.
It is estimated that over 80,000 Shans have fled into Thailand during the last two years. Current Thai policy has denied these Shan safe refuge and the right to receive humanitarian assistance. Shan refugees have therefore been forced to survive as illegal migrants, seeking shelter and food at construction sites or on farms. Their already precarious situation has been worsened by the Thai economic crisis, which has led to a lack of work and increased arrests and repatriations by the Thai authorities.
This report details the devastating extent of the forced relocation program in Shan State that is continuing to this day. Hundreds of thousands of Shans have been dispossessed of their ancestral lands, cultural heritage and livelihood. The damage inflicted by the regime’s two-year relocation program will take generations to repair.
Call for Action SHRF calls on ASEAN, the United Nations, and other concerned international bodies to pressure the Burmese military regime to stop the forced relocation program and extrajudicial killings in Shan State and to allow the Shan villagers to return to their original homes without further abuse.
In addition, SHRF calls on the Royal Thai Government to allow the Shans fleeing this relocation program access to safe refuge in Thailand and the right to receive humanitarian assistance until such abuses are stopped.