Situation Update | Kyauk Kyi Township, Nyaunglebin District (May to July 2012)
The following situation update was written by a community member in Nyaunglebin District who has been trained by KHRG to monitor human rights conditions. It is presented below translated exactly as originally written, save for minor edits for clarity and security. This report was not received along with any other information.
Nyaunglebin District: Ler Doh Township situation
This situation update describes the situation from May to June in Ler Doh Township, such as the military's activities and the economic situation.
KNLA and Burmese military's [Tatmadaw's] activities
In Ler Doh Township, the Burmese military, which is MOC [Military Operations Command] #4, came and based [their camp] in the Ler Doh Township area. They rotated themselves in January 2012 and are based in the eastern part of Mu Theh. The Operations Command is set up in Hkler Soe place [on the hill]. They are active up to Ka Baw Too, which is on the border of Lu Thaw Township in Brigade #5 [Papun District], and Ler Doh Township in Brigade #3 [Nyaunglebin District]. In that MOC, there are ten battalions and we do not know the name of all of these ten battalions. We only know that under MOC #4, LIB [Light Infantry Battalion] #704 is the group that is active in Muh Theh, to Paw Khay Hkoh, to the border of Brigade #3 to Brigade #5. We do not know the other battalions' names.
On July 3rd and 5th, the Burmese military LIB# 704 Battalion Commander Nyan Win Aung forced Muh Theh villagers to go and build a bridge that crosses the Thay Nweh Loh River. The bridge was constructed so the motorbikes can go across on it. This bridge is [located] on the way from Muh Theh village to Poh Khay Hkoh Burmese military camp. MOC #4 is based in Poh Khay Hkoh Burmese military camp. Some Burmese villagers carry and sell things beside the Poh Khay Hkoh military camps. The Operations Commander himself runs a shop. Only the Burmese soldiers buy things from the Burmese people who carry and sell the things. There are no Karen villagers who will go and buy things there.
In the past, the Burmese military from Poh Khay Hkoh ordered things from the Burmese villagers who sell things, and because there was no bridge, they had to carry their motorbikes to the other side of the river and then continue to Poh Khay Hkoh military camp. Therefore, they constructed the bridge and they asked the villagers to go and help them construct the bridge. As village is close [to the river], the villagers had to go and build the bridge. Only B--- village is in the white area [government-controlled area]. The other villages such as V--- village, U--- village, S--- and T--- villages are in a black area [armed ethnic group-controlled area].
Currently, from Muh Theh village to Ler Doh town, the Burmese military based [there] are IB [Infantry Battalion] #60 and LIB# 351. The name of IB #60's Commander is Zarni Aung and his soldiers set up their camp on Hku Thay Soe Mountain in the western part of Muh Theh village. IB# 60 soldiers live in Muh Theh village and they set up a checkpoint and they asked for [money from] the people who run taxis [motorbike taxis] that travel between Muh Theh and Ler Doh. They [the soldiers] come and stay there [at the check point] until 9:00 pm and then go back to their camp. For LIB #351, in the past, their commander was Win Boh Shein but Win Boh Shein was promoted and we do not know the [new] commander's name of LIB #351.
The military group and the powerful people [groups], which are based in Nyaunglebin District, Ler Doh Township are: Burmese military [Tatmadaw]; Union Solidarity and Development Party [USDP]; KNLA Battalion #9 and police (KNDO) [Karen National Defence Organization] Battalion #3. After the ceasefire, starting from April to May, the KNU leaders did a campaign and explained to the civilians about the ceasefire. Their trip [campaign] started from Moo Township and to Ler Doh Township and then, they went step by step until Hsaw Htee Township. The trip took them one month and a half.
When they [the KNU] campaigned, the villagers also mentioned their needs so that the KNU will solve their needs, such as problems regarding land (for example, the land that the villagers were forced to relocate to; or the land that the owner wants to use it again). The land owners want to get the land back that is [currently being] used as a relocation [site]. The villagers who were forced to relocate also reported that they want to go back and live in their old village. They want to go back and work on their own land.
On July 1st, MOC #4's battalion, which is LIB #704 and is based in Hkler Soh came to B---, and they helped the people who are testing the stone situation [for stone mining]. This time, eight people came and there were two educated people. These eight people come from town. We are not sure which town the two educated people come from, nor what their ethnicity is. The eight people arrived in B--- on July 1st and, beginning on July 2nd, 3rd, and 5th, they tested the stones in the western part of Muh Theh area and the place name is Maw Day (forest). The kind of stone that they are testing is wolframite. When they started testing the stone on the first day, which was on the 2nd of July, they also invited a B--- villager, called Saw M---, who is about 35-years-old. The villager who went with them said that he does not understand what the two people were saying. Saw M--- said that the two people are very big, tall and white. The villagers guess that the two people might be Chinese and came from Nay Pyi Daw.
Before this activity happened, the Member of Parliament for Ler Doh Township whose name is U Nyan Shwe Win reported to the [Pyidaungsu] Hluttaw [at a meeting in Nay Pyi Daw] that stone testing was going to be carried out. The researcher [censored for security] met with the LIB #60 Battalion Commander and the Battalion Commander Zarni Aung told him about this issue.
Another thing is that U Nyan Shwe Win bought land to do business. He bought 7,000 acres of land between Ler Doh Town and Ler Weh Hkee, which is beside the Ler Doh and Hsaw Mee Loo vehicle road. Later, he bought a further 2,000 acres of land beside Ler Doh town. More than that, the places are those which the villagers from Khoh Poo village tract and Hsaw Mee Loo village tract [were relocated to]; [the villages are] Khoh Poo village, Hsaw Mee Loo village, Ta Ray Hkoh village, Htee Ya Hkee village, Ler Ka Taw village and Hee Doh village. The villagers were forced to relocate to Aung Soe Moe (in the past, it was called Ywa Shaung) during four cuts. The villagers who are from Maw Bger Hkee village tract were forced to relocate to Kyweh Chan relocation place. Villagers from these three village tracts were forced to relocate, but they were not given any land to do livelihood, so they have returned and do their livelihood in their old places until now. The lands that were bought [by U Nyan Shwe Win] currently are the villagers' plantation lands, such as betel nut plantation, durian plantation, mangosteen plantation, cashew plantation, betel leaf plantation, cardamom and dog fruit plantations. They also include villagers' hill fields. The Burma government, having labelled these lands as uncultivated land, sold them to the wealthy people but they did not ask for the villagers' agreement. As the trading [selling and buying of land] is not consulted and not discussed with the villagers, the villagers do not know whether their land is included or not. KHRG researchers from Hkler Lwee Htoo [Nyaunglebin] reported that when the KNU [Karen National Union leaders] went and campaigned about the ceasefire, they also explained to the civilians about the issue of the buying and selling of land.
Civilians' situation and their opinion
If we compare the situation of the past with now, because the Burmese military and the KNU entered the ceasefire, the villagers are able to live in the better situation, as they can travel a little bit more freely. For example, at present, checking at the checkpoint has stopped and villagers do not need a recommendation letter for travelling in the area or for going and working in their working place and sleep there [working place].
For the livelihood of the villagers from Ler Doh Township, their main livelihoods are: villagers from the mountain area do hill field farming and the other works that they get some income from are planting durian plantations, betel nut plantations, cardamom plantations, betel leaf plantations, mangosteen plantations and dog fruit plantations. These works are based on the plantation [harvesting] time. However, because the villagers did not get rights for sure to take care of their plantations carefully and they also did not get rights to plant more new plants, they only have the leaves and fruits of the old plants, which are not so good. Because the fruits and the leaves are not good, they do not get good prices. Therefore, the villagers have to face food shortages.
The other thing is that, currently in Ler Doh Township, because the Burmese military are based in their [the villagers'] farms and set up their military camps beside their working place, the villagers from S---, T---, U--- and V--- want to make their farming places and their plantations better, but they dare not go back and do it. The villagers want to go back and work in their place and they want the Burmese army camps, which are based in and besides their farms and in their plantation, to move back to their own places.
And the villagers from P---, Q--- and R--- also reported that the paddy from their farming places beside Hkaw Loh River and in Hkoh Kwee Lah Region was very good [in the past], but because of Kyauk N'Ga Dam, all of their farms are [now] flooded. The villagers from these three villages also reported that because of the ceasefire and peace process, they want [the Government] to reduce the construction of dams so that they will be able to work on their farms.
Researcher's points of view
According to the information above, now, the villagers are enthusiastic to go back and live in their own village and work on their own land. However, because the wealthy people came in and bought a lot of land, there is also concern about the loss of the villagers' land. In the past, the villagers were forced to relocate to the relocation places, but the villagers pleaded to get the chance [to work on their plantations in the harvest time, during which they would travel from their relocation sites], or they came back secretly so that they could work on their own land. For now, the powerful people work and the wealthy people are buying the land, so the villagers' working places have been lost; they do not have land to work on and there are only difficulties for their livelihood.