DKBA soldiers burn down huts, detain villagers and loot property in Thailand
Following skirmishes on January 1st 2009 between soldiers from DKBA Battalions #999 and 907 and KNLA Battalion #103 in north-eastern Dooplaya District, DKBA troops crossed the Thai-Burmese border and have since been operating in and around Thai-Karen villages in Umphang District of Thailand's Tak province and harassing local villagers. This area also includes Noh Poe refugee camp, home to approximately 14,000 refugees from Burma, many of whom remain anxious about the ongoing military operations in the area and a potential attack on the camp.
On January 1st 2009, Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) troops from Special Battalion #999 and Battalion #907, under the command of Na Kha Mway and Saw La Po, combined to attack the base of Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) Battalion #103, under the command of Htee Nay Shee, situated at Ta Htoo Gkyo along the Thai-Burma border inside Dooplaya District, Karen State. On the same day, the DKBA soldiers then entered Thailand near Gklaw Htaw village, Umphang District, and have since that time been operating in and around Thai-Karen villages in the area. These villages include: Gklaw Htaw, Kler Pa Doh, Htee Koh Nee, Gkoh Kee, Gka Neh Lay and Ya Wa Gklo.
On January 3rd 2009, DKBA and KNLA troops fought at a location inside Dooplaya District, near Gklaw Htaw (a nearby village on the Thai side of the border). After the fighting, DKBA soldiers withdrew at approximately 11:20 pm. As the DKBA troops were returning to their base at Tha Waw Thaw in Kawkareik township, Dooplaya District, they burnt down the farm field huts of the Thai-Karen residents of Gklaw Htaw. One local villager described the incident to KHRG:
The specific details of the villagers and their farm huts and belongings destroyed by the DKBA on January 3rd 2009 are listed below:
Following the destruction of the villagers' farm field huts, DKBA soldiers set up a new temporary camp at a location near Gklaw Htaw, Thailand. Since setting up this camp, the soldiers have reportedly harassed local villagers and stolen their livestock, including ducks and chickens. Amongst other looted property, the soldiers stole 38 ducks and 15 chickens from Naw A--- and 3 sacks of rice from Naw N---.
On January 9th 2009, DKBA soldiers encountered Saw P---, a local Thai-Karen villager, travelling to his corn fields. The soldiers called to him, provided him with 5,000 Thai Baht [US $142.85] and then ordered him to purchase eight sacks of rice for the soldiers. The soldiers told Saw P--- that if he failed to return with the rice, they would burn down his corn field. However, the money was insufficient to purchase eight sacks of rice and Saw P--- therefore had to use 3,000 Thai Baht [US $85.71] of his own money to cover the entire cost of the rice.
On one occasion in January, the DKBA troops operating in Umphang District fired on Thai soldiers, apparently thinking that they were KNLA troops. A local villager described it thus:
Local villagers have reported to KHRG that DKBA soldiers remain active in and around Thai-Karen villages in Umphang District of Thailand's Tak province and continue to harass local residents. Furthermore, the information which KHRG has received regarding DKBA operations in this area supports similar reports that have recently come from other news sources. On January 19th, The Irrawaddy reported that refugees in Noh Poe camp (located in Thailand's Umpang District, southwest of Klaw Htaw village) were nervous about ongoing attacks between KNLA and DKBA forces operating near the camp. Also on January 19th, the Free Burma Rangers (FBR) reported that DKBA soldiers had conscripted Karen villagers living in north-eastern Dooplaya District - near the Thai-Burma border - in order to support ongoing attacks against KNLA positions and had crossed the border into Thailand to harass villagers residing on the Thai side.
Further to these accounts, KHRG field researchers have reported that DKBA soldiers operating on the Thailand side of the border have summoned local village heads and threatened them that if KNLA soldiers attack DKBA positions, then DKBA soldiers will proceed to burn down their villages. On January 12th 2009, DKBA soldiers warned village heads and deputy village heads from the Thai-Karen villages of Gklaw Htaw, Noh Pa Htaw Wah and Noh Poe and that, "If Kaw Thoo Lei [KNLA forces] shoot at us, we'll burn down all of your villages."
Despite the fact that the communities living in villages on the Thai side of the border are Thai-Karen (and thus have a legitimate expectation of protection by the Thai Army), DKBA soldiers have continued to harass them. Since the start of January, these villagers have continued to carry out their livelihoods - despite the ongoing and nearby military operations - because many of them maintain corn and other crops which require constant cultivation. Nevertheless, one villager expressed concerns about ongoing security threats:
 These are long-handled self-propelled (petrol-fuelled) ploughing machines used mainly to plough irrigated rice fields; the operator walks behind the machine.
 "Pictures of Oppression: Attacks, Displacement and Oppression in Karen and Karenni States," Free Burma Rangers, January 19th 2009.
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