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Cablegate: Burma: Shan Villages Burned, Forcibly Relocated

VZCZCXRO7017
PP RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHTRO
DE RUEHCHI #0125/01 2321036
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P R 201036Z AUG 09
FM AMCONSUL CHIANG MAI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1143
INFO RHEHAAA/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 0086
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 0011
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 0020
RUEHGG/UN SECURITY COUNCIL COLLECTIVE
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 0070
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 0066
RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI
RHMFIUU/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI
RUEHCHI/AMCONSUL CHIANG MAI 1226

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 CHIANG MAI 000125

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR EAP, IO AND DRL
PACOM FOR FPA
NSC FOR WALTON
GENEVA FOR RMA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PREF PREL MOPS BM TH
SUBJECT: BURMA: SHAN VILLAGES BURNED, FORCIBLY RELOCATED

CHIANG MAI 00000125 001.2 OF 002


Sensitive but unclassified; please handle accordingly.

-------------------------------
Summary and Comment
-------------------------------

1. (SBU)Burmese troops operating in Shan State burned 10
villages and forcibly relocated an additional 30 in late July,
according to Shan contacts in Thailand and Burma. Shan groups
also accuse the troops of other grave human rights abuses,
including arbitrary arrest, torture, gang rape, and arbitrary
execution, but have so far been unable to document those
charges. Up to 10,600 people may be affected by this latest
wave of violence. Contacts tell us that some plan to cross into
Thailand, but Thai authorities confirm that as of August 19,
none have done so.

2. (SBU) Comment: What sparked this violence remains a mystery.
Thai military and intelligence contacts speculate that the
regime's actions are retaliation for skirmishes between the
Burma Army (BA) and Shan armed groups two or three months ago,
which reportedly resulted in 12 BA fatalities, including that of
a Major. They note that families with links to the anti-regime
Shan State Army-South (SSA-S) are being treated particularly
harshly. A journalist, who has covered border affairs for many
years, chalked the repression up to the fact that the SSA-S
recently conducted an aggressive campaign opposing the 2010
elections in the same area. Whatever the cause, and regardless
of the exact number of individuals affected, the potential for
IDPs to cross into northern Thailand remains high -- an
eventuality for which Thai authorities tell us they are not
prepared. End Summary and Comment.

--------------------------------------------- ------
Villages Burned and Forcibly Relocated
--------------------------------------------- ------

3. (SBU) According to Shan contacts in northern Thailand and
Burma, BA troops burned 10 villages in central Shan State for
three days straight beginning on July 27. Thai-based contacts
estimate that 500 houses were burned, affecting between 2,000
and 2,500 individuals. On July 31, Burmese troops also ordered
an additional 30 villages in the same area to relocate. All the
affected villages are in the townships of Lai Hka, Mong Kung and
Ke Hsi -- east of the more well-known towns of Taunggyi and Pang
Long. Thai intelligence and military contacts in Chiang Mai and
Mae Hong Son Provinces told us they had received similar
information, as did a trusted media contact.

4. (SBU) According to our Shan contacts, they have obtained the
information about these latest abuses from victims via trusted
intermediaries. In some cases, victims used cell phones to take
and send pictures, hard copies of some of which our contacts
provided us with on August 18. An August 13 press release
issued by several Thai-based Shan groups alleged that victims
could overhear soldiers contacting their headquarters by radio
to update superiors on their operations, and to ask if they
needed to continue burning. The release also states that over
100 villagers have been arrested, tortured, gang-raped and
arbitrarily executed since the assault on these villages.

--------------------------
Where are the IDPs?
--------------------------

5. (SBU) According to Thai-based Shan contacts, a total of
10,600 people have been displaced by the burning and forced
relocation. Though Burma-based interlocutors cannot confirm
this figure, they agree that the number of affected villages is
approximately 40. According to the Shan Human Rights Foundation
(SHRF), some of the IDPs are attempting to cross into Thailand
(likely through Chiang Mai Province), but none have arrived to
date. SHRF alleges that BA troops are intentionally blocking
egress for these individuals in an effort to prevent news of the
human rights abuses from getting out, though military contacts

CHIANG MAI 00000125 002.2 OF 002


told us SSA soldiers have reportedly escorted some to the Thai
border. The IDPs are currently housed in a variety of
accommodations, ranging from tents in rice fields to
monasteries, according to SHRF. SHRF also reported that BA
troops were hindering the efforts of monks and others trying to
provide assistance, such as the Shan Literature Organization.

6. (SBU) SHRF also told us that villagers in the same area were
forcibly relocated in 1996-97, and that some returned only four
or five years ago. Some of those returnees built homes using
remittances from relatives in Thailand, they added. According
to Thai military and intelligence contacts, villagers who are
believed to support the anti-regime SSA are being singled out
for the harshest treatment -- killing, rape or torture. They
cited a July 28 incident in which three villages the Thai
consider to be part of the SSA's civilian support base north of
Mong Pan Township on the west bank of the Salween river were
burned. More information and pictures are available at
http://www.shanwomen.org.

7. (U) There are four Shan IDP camps, established since the
1996-97 displacement, which receive assistance from USAID
through the Thai-Burma Border Consortium. The camps, with a
current total population of about 6-7,000, are located just
across the Thai-Burma border adjacent to Mae Hong Son and Chiang
Mai Provinces. In addition, the Royal Thai Government (RTG) has
tolerated a small (population 600) refugee camp in Chiang Mai
Province, although it has formally determined the Shan are not
eligible for review by the Provincial Admissions Boards, the
Thai asylum mechanism. (Note: Other Burmese ethnic minority
refugees, such as the Karen and Karenni, are eligible for such
consideration.) These five camps will likely bear the brunt of
any new influx of Shan leaving central Shan State.

8. (U) This cable was coordinated with Embassies Bangkok and
Rangoon.
MORROW

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