Tenasserim Situation Update: Te Naw Th’Ri Township, May to September 2011
This report includes a situation update submitted to KHRG in October 2011 by a villager describing events occurring in Tenasserim Division between May and October 2011. The villager describes incidents of human rights abuse, including: arbitrary taxation by civilian and military government officials to fund state-organised pyi thu sit local militia groups and schools; conscription of villagers into a pyi thu sit; and the execution of Saw L---, a villager who had been forced to serve as a guide accompanying an active patrol column of LIB #558. The villager who wrote this report believed Saw L--- was killed in retaliation for an attack against that Tatmadaw column by KNLA soldiers, in which one Tatmadaw soldier was killed and several others injured. This report also documents some of the ways in which villagers respond to human rights abuse, specifically through attempts to engage and negotiate with local powerful actors to reduce or avoid demands for arbitrary payments levied against villagers.
Situation Update | Te Naw Th’Ri Township, Tenasserim Division (October 2011)
The following situation update was written by a villager in Tenasserim 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.
Government [civilian and military] personnel collect protection money from Karen villagers
On October 29th 2011, a Pewa area village head reported that [Tatmadaw] LIB [Light Infantry Battalion] #561 Major General Lar Myay Shwe demanded 70,000 kyat (US $90.90) and five baskets of rice (160 kg. / 352 lb.) from each of the villages in the Pewa area. These [demands] were made for the pyi thu sit [people’s militia] in K--- village. K--- is a village in the Pewa area of Te Naw Th’Ri Township. There are four villages located in the K--- village area. LIB #561 organised [villagers] to serve in the pyi thu sit in K--- village. Now, they [LIB #561] have organised 18 people [to serve in the militia] and given them weapons. K--- villagers did not want to serve as pyi thu sit, but they were threatened by the soldiers and forced to serve, so there was no other way but to do it.
Information gathered from Te Naw Th’Ri Township on May 24th 2011
Over thirty soldiers from LIB #558 led by Captain Myo Thaw Zin Oo came into the Pewa area of Te Naw Th’Ri Township and fought with KNLA [Karen National Liberation Army] Battalion #11 on May 22nd 2011. During the battle, one soldier from LIB #558 was killed and four others were injured. Because his soldier died and other soldiers were injured, [Captain] Myo Thaw Zin Oo killed a [villager] guide named Saw L---, 39 years old. Saw L--- was a villager from Ht--- village in Pewa Bplaw. A Pewa area village head, Saw W---, reported that Saw L--- left behind his wife, Naw T---, and four children, his youngest child being only two years old. The Burmese Army [Tatmadaw] soldiers [from LIB #558] ordered Saw L--- to guide the way for them when they went to clear [the KNLA] out of areas of Pewa that they wanted to clear.
Information gathered from Te Naw Th’Ri Township on September 21st 2011
The information I got from Bp'Doh Hs--- was that Saw Ha Bay [Saw Ha Bee] came to Kyauk Maing [6-Mile] village and ordered village heads and religious leaders to meet him and gave them a statement with three topics:
1. An invitation to [non-state] armed groups to [meet and negotiate] an end to armed conflict.
2. [Non-state] armed groups can contact people [political leaders in the Burma government] who control the division [Tenasserim Division].
3. If the first steps [above] are completed [making contact to set up negotiations], the government controlling the country will form a [negotiation] party in order to talk with people who want peace and cooperation in the future.
Information gathered from Te Naw Th’Ri Township on September 21st 2011
The information I got from Bp'Doh Ht--- was that Saw Ha Bay was ordered [by the Burmese government] to come and meet with [non-state] armed groups on September 21st 2011 and he met with a group that has already surrendered, the KPF [Karen Peace Force].
Information gathered from Te Naw Th’ Ri Township on September 23rd 2011
The information I got from Bp'Doh W--- was that on September 23rd 2011 Saw Ha Bay ordered 150 villagers from 12 villages to meet him. They discussed about how to repair schools, monasteries and bridges.
On June 1st 2011, for primary school funds in Ma Noh Roh, [Burmese] public education staff announced the collection of 3,000 kyat (US $3.90) per month from the parents of each student in Bokpyin Township Branch of Pyi Kyi Ma Daing Township, Ma Noh Roh village tract. Therefore, students’ parents were faced with a problem about sending their children to school. This meant that some parents could no longer send their children to school.
On May 29th 2011, Bokpyin Township Branch of Pyi Kyi Ma Daing Township demanded ‘Township’ funds from the following villages: Ma Noh Roh, Kheh Chaw, Lan Po Kan and Ywa Tha Ywa. Ma Noh Roh had to pay 250,000 kyat (US $324.68), Kheh Chaw had to pay 150,000 kyat (US $194.81), Lan Po Kan had to pay 300,000 kyat (US $389.61) and Ywa Tha Ywa had to pay 300,000 kyat.
 KHRG trains villagers in eastern Burma to document individual human rights abuses using a standardised reporting format; conduct interviews with other villagers; and write general updates on the situation in areas with which they are familiar. When writing situation updates, villagers are encouraged to summarise recent events, raise issues that they consider to be important, and present their opinions or perspective on abuse and other local dynamics in their area. KHRG’s most recent analysis of the situation in Tenasserim District can be found in the recent Field Report, "Militarization, Development and Displacement: Conditions for villagers in southern Tenasserim Division," KHRG, March 2011.
 All conversion estimates for the Kyat in this report are based on the fluctuating informal exchange rate rather than the government’s official fixed rate of 6.5 kyat to US $1. As of December 1st, this unofficial rate of exchange was US $1 = 770 kyat . This figure is used for all calculations above.
 Pyi thu sit, or ‘people’s militia’, are local militia groups composed of civilians recruited and trained by the Tatmadaw.
 Soldiers on active patrol frequently order or request village heads to accompany active patrol columns and guide them in areas that may be contaminated by landmines and/ or where non-state armed groups are operating; guides may be forced to walk at the front of a patrol column or may be forced to walk among soldiers. For recent incidents in which civilians guided troops, see "Thaton Situation Update: June to October 2011," KHRG, November 2011; "Villager executed in Papun District," KHRG, October 2011; and "Toungoo Situation Update: May to July 2011," KHRG, October 2011.
 Bp'Doh, a Karen term that literally means 'big', is commonly used as a prefix to the name of a senior or high-ranking member of a political or military organisation.
 Other media sources have also recently reported that Saw Ha Bay, or Saw Ha Bee, has been campaigning local community leaders in areas east of Mergui Town, where the KNU is currently blocking the construction of a highway linking Kanchanaburi in Thailand with the Ital-Thai deep-sea port currently under construction in Tavoy. See "Government ‘KNU peace offers’ designed to split," Karen News, October 2nd 2011; "Naypyidaw Sends More Troops to Tavoy Road Site", The Irrawaddy, November 10th 2011. Saw Ha Bay, or Saw Ha Bee, is a former Education Department Vice-Coordinator, who campaigned successfully as a Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) candidate in the 2010 election. KHRG has previously reported that, at that time, Saw Ha Bay demanded 40,000 kyat (approximately US $45.45) from every village in Tatmadaw-controlled areas of Te Naw Th'Ri Township in order to cover the cost of paper to make ballots, and was accompanied by Tatmadaw officers and representatives from the Yuzana Company, which has close links with the Tatmadaw. The head of the Yuzana Company, U Htay Myint, also ran for and won a seat in Parliament in the November 2010 elections, representing Tenasserim Division on the USDP ticket. See "Militarization, Development and Displacement: Conditions for villagers in southern Tenasserim Division," KHRG, March 2011.
 Formed in February 1997 after splitting from the KNLA, surrendering to and signing a ceasefire with the Burmese military government, the KPF controls some administrative areas in Three Pagodas Pass and operates a number of road and river checkpoints in the area of Three Pagodas Pass. After repeated rejections of Burmese government proposals to reform the KPF into Tatmadaw Border Guard forces, substantial elements reformed into Tatmadaw Border Guard troops in 2010. See Mizzima Election 2010 Factsheet: KPF.
Further background on the current situation in Tenasserim Division can be found in the following KHRG reports:
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